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A tale of two cities?

Immaculate Conception (Montgomery City) 6th grader Elizabeth O’Keefe gets comfortable on the Capitol’s south side while sketching out the tulip-lined Fountain of the Arts and the Capitol building during the Diocese of Jefferson City’s annual Diocesan Sketch Day in April 2013. While the city was voted Most Beautiful Small Town by Rand McNally, Jefferson City didn’t even make the list of beautiful Missouri towns in Rural Missouri magazine.

Immaculate Conception (Montgomery City) 6th grader Elizabeth O’Keefe gets comfortable on the Capitol’s south side while sketching out the tulip-lined Fountain of the Arts and the Capitol building during the Diocese of Jefferson City’s annual Diocesan Sketch Day in April 2013. While the city was voted Most Beautiful Small Town by Rand McNally, Jefferson City didn’t even make the list of beautiful Missouri towns in Rural Missouri magazine. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Jefferson City — the most beautiful small town in the nation — isn’t even one of the most beautiful towns in Missouri.

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An abandoned Victorian house sits boarded up and in disrepair at 108 Jackson Street.

Those are the mixed signals sent out recently by two different organizations with annual “best of” awards.

In its “Best of the Road” contest, map-maker Rand McNally proclaimed Jefferson City the most beautiful small town in the nation last year. But last week, a Rural Missouri magazine readers’ choice survey picked Hermann as Missouri’s “most beautiful town.” Arrow Rock was the runner-up and Ste. Genevieve won the editor’s choice award. Jefferson City didn’t get a mention.

In describing Hermann, the magazine gushed: “Historic architecture. World-class wineries. Charming bed-and-breakfasts. Fun festivals. All this and more awaits you in Hermann, a German village tucked away in the Missouri River Valley. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or simple a day trip, you’ll fall in love with Hermann’s Old-World charm and hospitality.”

Jefferson City’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) hadn’t heard of the Rural Missouri survey, but seemed to take the results in stride.

“Although we feel privileged to be ‘America’s Most Beautiful Small Town’ according to Rand McNally, we recognize there are many other beautiful places in Missouri, and we are happy to share such an honorable distinction,” said Katherine Reed, the CVB’s communications manager, in an emailed response to questions.

Rural Missouri Editor Jim McCarty said

“thousands and thousands” of readers (he didn’t know the exact number) participated in the magazine’s 13th annual readers’ survey. Hermann won first place in the “most beautiful town” category in a landslide with several hundred votes. Jefferson City received 12 votes in the category, he said.

Since Jefferson City’s Rand McNally win, the CVB has constantly touted the Capital City as “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town” on its website and elsewhere. It doesn’t plan to stop using that tag as a staple in its marketing campaign.

Reed said the Rural Missouri survey specifically targeted readers of the magazine, while the Rand McNally competition was much broader, and that the win was achieved through both “a substantial community effort” and a panel of travel experts as judges.

McCarty said Jefferson City likely ranked fairly high, even with a dozen votes, since many Missouri cities only had five or six votes.

McCarty said there were some surprises in this year’s survey results, including in the “best pizza” category. Fulton’s Brooklyn Pizza, for instance, topped perennial favorite Shakespeare’s Pizza in Columbia by serving up authentic New York-style slices.

“They are the real deal,” he said of owners Brian and Karen Atkins. “These are New Yorkers, definitely.”

Jefferson City and Mid-Missouri businesses got nods in other categories in the Rural Missouri survey. Central Dairy was voted the best ice cream shop and Lutz’s BBQ was the second best barbecue restaurant. Burgers’ Smokehouse in California won “best AgriMissouri product.” Best state park went to Ha Ha Tonka in Camdenton. The Katy Trail was voted the state’s best trail.

For the complete survey results, visit www.ruralmissouri.coop.

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