Cleveland on small town list
by Rory Doyle
Mar 25, 2013 | 4136 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A local buzz is in the air after Cleveland was ranked No. 2 on the Smithsonian Magazine's list of "The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013."

The news broke Thursday and has been generating substantial interest in town and on social media outlets.

The prevalent monthly magazine, operating under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C, chronicles arts, history, sciences and popular culture.

This is only the second year the list has been published, as the Smithsonian extensively researched small towns and cities across America.

Only populations of less than 15,000 were considered and locations were required to have exceptional concentrations of museums, art galleries, orchestras, theaters, historic sites or other cultural blessings.

"This is outstanding — I think a number of us have felt this way about Cleveland for a long time," said Mayor Billy Nowell. "There are so many people here contributing to arts and culture and they make Cleveland such a special place."

The Smithsonian looked for towns that "boast heartwarming settings where the air is a little fresher, the grass greener, (and) the pace gentler than in metropolitan America."

And special attention was given to the people that make up these cities, as the introduction to the list cited a sign from the magazine's visit to Cleveland — “Be nice. The world is a small town.”

Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Judson Thigpen said a representative from the researching crew had been in touch with the chamber a couple months back, and he was thrilled to see the results when the list was finally released.

"Sometimes we take for granted what we have here," said Thigpen. "The list should remind us of the unique arts, culture and heritage that make Cleveland a place worth coming to see."

Thigpen hopes the ranking will draw some national exposure and boost tourism for Cleveland and surrounding communities.

"We may not be a big city with glitz and glamour, but people come here because they want to learn," he said. "I hope thousands and thousands of people will read about this and want to visit.

"One of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome is getting the word out of what we have."

The list's description of Cleveland pays tribute to a number of distinctive tidbits within city limits and surrounding towns.

Delta farmland, Dockery Plantation and the birthplace of American music, Po’ Monkey’s, U.S. Highway 61, historic downtown, The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, galleries, restaurants and Delta State University were just a few of the things receiving recognition.

A substantial note mentioned Cleveland's persistence as an authentic Delta town, proud of its roots "where historic markers are about as common as stop signs."

Bolivar County Administrator Will Hooker was also excited to see nearby county towns mentioned in the narrative.

"The recognition should give us a good sense of pride," said Hooker. "Sometimes it takes an outside entity to notice the improvements we've made throughout our communities.

"I'm very happy for the people of Cleveland and Bolivar County."

Reference was also made to GRAMMY® Museum Mississippi, expected to open on DSU's campus in 2015.

"The GRAMMY® museum is some of the biggest news we've had in recent years, not only in Cleveland but regionally and across the state," said Nowell.

Between new businesses downtown, the upcoming museum, a new president at DSU, a growing live music scene and now, the Smithsonian ranking, there is excitement around town.

"There's a lot of synergy going around right now," said Nowell. "A lot of people are excited for what lies ahead."

"I'm proud of everyone who's part of this community," added Thigpen. "A lot of different things that were mentioned make us so unique."

View the list at