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|Berkeley Springs artists Jonathon and Jan Heath|
New York City, Sante Fe/Taos and San Francisco/Berkeley took top honors for the second year in a row. All of the other top ten sites are major metropolitan areas except for Buffalo, NY, which ranked ninth. New Orleans beat out Berkeley Springs for the #11 spot.
MAC sponsors dozens of arts events each year, and more than 100 working artists live in Morgan County. The town has three major art galleries — Tari’s, Mountain Laurel and the Ice House.
Voters e-mailed or sent in paper ballots for the magazine’s survey, Mozier said. They had to answer questions such as “What are your favorite galleries?” and “Why do you think this is a great art town?”
More people voted this year than in the survey’s five-year history. Wendy Rosen, publisher of AmericanStyle, attributed the increase to the upsurge in cultural tourism, with travelers rating arts, heritage and cultural activities as one of the top five reasons for traveling.
“There is probably no one as small as Berkeley Springs on the list — period,” Mozier said. “I have to admit I’m a little disappointed. I wanted us to break the top ten. Maybe next year.”
Although Berkeley Springs lacks operas, ballets and symphonies, Mozier is unsurprised by the ranking. “When you consider the percent of the population engaged in the arts either as participants or audience, Berkeley Springs probably scores higher than New York,” she said.
“We are ardent supporters of all the good work MAC does in bringing people to Berkeley Springs,” said Sally Marshall of Travel Berkeley Springs. “Their art events contribute to the well-being of the tourism industry, making them an invaluable partner.”
Another magazine, Blue Ridge Country, named Berkeley Springs as one of the top retirement towns in the eight-state region. According to the article’s author, Gail Fleenor, all of the towns listed share a low crime rate, low cost of living, a four-season climate, good health care, outdoor recreational venues and cultural opportunities.
“Mountain Retirement: 20 Towns to Visit Before You Decide” appears in the July/August issue of the magazine.
This article was first published, in slightly different form, in the Berkeley Springs Journal-News. Contact staff writer Sherree Casper at 304-258-0114.