Grinnell may be “Coolest Small Town”

Budget Travel magazine is opening up the task of selecting its annual list of America’s Coolest Small Towns to online voters from across the globe. Out of the 22 finalists, Grinnell is one of the competitors seeking the title of “coolest”.

The magazine’s editors chose the contenders from among 152 reader-nominated towns with populations under 10,000. In addition to the online poll that will run through early March, the final selection of the ten “coolest towns” will be based on comments, photos and videos submitted by website visitors describing why their favorite town should be featured.

The competition is seeking “places that are kind of off-the-radar and aren’t tourist destinations, but are great places to visit and great places to escape to,” according to Media Relations spokesperson Lauren Gould at Budget Travel. “Now people are sticking to trips that are close to home, so [the contest] is a way to look at these small town treasures that wouldn’t normally be looked at by travel magazines.”

Gould said that Grinnell’s current position as a finalist is alone enough to validate Grinnell as a quality small town. “For a town to make it past the first round, there has to be a quality that sets it apart,” Gould said. “With Grinnell it was the history behind the town, and that it has really good architecture and has stayed true to that architecture for over a hundred years.”

SGA President Neo Morake ’09, who posted a link to voting on GrinnellPlans said that she was first alerted to the contest in an e-mail from Assistant Tennis Coach and frequent town-gown liaison Bill Menner. “I’m really excited,” Morake said. “If it’s more press for Grinnell it’s good, and the town is nice. There are a lot of things that you really wouldn’t get in a big city.”

Grinnell residents of both town and gown persuasion offered mixed predictions about Grinnell’s online popularity. “The winter’s pretty awful, but other times of the year it looks pretty nice,” said Nick Johnson, who grew up and lived in town until he left to attend Kenyon College this year. “It takes a certain kind of aesthetic to think Iowa’s pretty, one that not everybody has.”

“Grinnell’s cool for reasons I don’t think it has any control over,” said Emily Iwuc ’08, who lived in town for nine months after graduation and recently moved to Minneapolis. “It has a lot of cool people living in it, but the town itself isn’t that unique. I do think Grinnell’s a really cool place, I’m just not sure why it was nominated.”

Asked what his reaction would be if told that Grinnell had been voted the Coolest Small Town in America, Johnson said “I guess I would say, that’s cool. That’s where I’m from.”

You can vote for Grinnell at www.budgettravel.com.