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Destination Chautauqua

Chautauqua named Best Small Town In America to Visit in 2014

March 27, 2014
By Daniel Swanson - , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

The town of Chautauqua has been named the No. 1 best small town in America to visit in 2014.

The Smithsonian Magazine, a publication focused on science, art, history and culture, has released the article, "The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014," by Susan Spano - this year specifying Chautauqua as the top town to visit.

The criteria for "best towns to visit" included communities with strong history, music, visual arts, learning, food, theater and science, with fewer than 15,000 residents.

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"It is quite an honor; I'm very proud," said Donald Emhardt, town of Chautauqua supervisor.

With such criteria, the article naturally centered upon the Chautauqua Institution, which encompasses all aspects of the criteria used in the search for "best small town to visit."

"A participant's summer day might start with coffee and a doughnut at Food for Thought cafe overlooking the pansy beds of Bestor Plaza, and then a walk out to the lake to hear 'Rock of Ages' piped over the colony from Miller Bell Tower," Spano wrote. "The 10:45 lecture is a high point, held in the 4,000-seat amphitheater, an 1893 landmark outfitted in later years with a booming pipe organ. In the afternoon there's golf, swimming, a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle book talk or a class on subjects such as the CIA, classical Greek or garden composting. Pack your slippers and take ballet."

George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer at Chautauqua Institution, said that the Smithsonian's readers - generally lifelong learners with interests in culture and arts - fit well with the goals of the Institution.

"Smithsonian Magazine has a broad circulation, both internationally and domestically. The demographics and interests of their readers are a perfect match to the Institution. This is a great endorsement for us," Murphy said of the article. "There is still enough time for (Smithsonian readers) curious about the Institution to have an impact on the upcoming season. I wouldn't be surprised if we have quite an interest coming from the article," he said, adding that many Smithsonian readers are frequent travelers.

County Executive Vince Horrigan commented on the importance of the Institution to the local area.

"Here in Chautauqua County we have a myriad of attractions. Chautauqua Institution is a true gem for learning," Horrigan said. "It's exciting to be No. 1 for the 20 best small towns across America to visit this year."

Horrigan agreed that the article could certainly attract regional visitors.

"This is a real center of pride for us," he said.

"This is an incredible and well-deserved recognition that sheds an international light on one of our county's great assets," said Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

Spano ended the article by writing, "As President James Garfield said when he addressed the Assembly in 1880, 'It has been the struggle of the world to get more leisure, but it was left for Chautauqua to show how to use it.'"

This is the third year the magazine has released an article detailing the 20 best small towns to visit.

To read the original Smithsonian Magazine article, visit



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