H. Drew Blackburn / Staff Writer
For the second year in a row, mapmaker Rand McNally and national newspaper USA Today teamed up to discover the best small town in the country – and the winner was Denton, Texas.
Small towns competed in five categories: most beautiful, most patriotic, friendliest, most fun and best for food. Only places with a population of less than 150,000 could qualify for the contest. Denton squeezed by with its 117,187 residents, according to a 2011 U.S. Census estimate.
More than 2,500 people voted online for Little D, which edged out towns such as Danville, Ky., and Lewiston, N.Y.
Denton was also voted the friendliest town, the most fun town, the fourth-best town for food and the ninth most patriotic town.
Advertising senior Randy Romero said that he wrote to Rand McNally and USA Today explaining why he thinks Denton is a great small town.
“It definitely puts a spotlight on Denton,” Romero said. “Creative people come out of Denton, and the music scene is great.”
Dan’s Silverleaf owner Dan Mojica said that Denton’s eclectic mix of music venues and restaurants appeal to a broad range of people.
“The quality of life here is pretty good. Even though we’re growing, we still have a small-town atmosphere,” Mojica said. “We have the beautiful downtown Square, and you can drive ten minutes and be in the middle of the country.”
Mojica has been visiting Denton since the 1960s, taking up permanent residence in 1984.
Mayor Mark Burroughs said that he got the news of Denton being crowned the nation’s best small town from the mayor of another city, and as one would expect, he was pleased.
“I’m very proud of this city for wanting to do more than the minimum,” Burroughs said. He praised Denton’s environmental sustainability, noting that 40 percent of the city’s energy is generated by turbines at the Muenster Wind Farm about 45 miles to the northeast. Burroughs said that Denton is arguably the greenest city in the country.
With its two universities, proximity to a major metropolitan center in Dallas, and rapidly booming population, some are skeptical about Denton’s small town credentials.
“In my personal opinion, there is a line somewhere when a town becomes a city,” Burroughs said. “I tend to classify Denton as a small city.”
Creative writing senior Max Cohen said that he does not think Denton counts as a small town.
“It’s a college town. It doesn’t feel like it should qualify as a small town,” Cohen said. “I’ve been to other college towns. I don’t see where Denton is above them. It all seems pretty similar to me.”
UNT alumnus Graham White, a bartender at Cool Beans, one of Denton’s most popular Fry Street bars, said that it was nice for the city to get recognition.
“There’s a good music scene, good art scene, good food scene and just really good people,” White said. “There’s a lot of local businesses and a lot of small businesses up here, and people really like to support that. That’s one of the really good things about this town.”