Columbiana Named the ‘Nicest Place in America’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The votes are in and Columbiana has been selected as the Nicest Place in America.

Reader’s Digest broke the news during a surprise event at the Main Street Theater Oct. 10. Those in attendance thought the crew from Reader’s Digest was there to shoot a promotional video for the Nicest Place in America contest, but were shocked when they were told that Columbiana had won, says Bruce Kelley, Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief.

“The place went crazy,” Kelley says. “Then, we double shocked them at the end with a video of the anchors of the Today Show saying ‘Congratulations, Columbiana. And don’t tell anyone until we reveal that the third hour tomorrow morning that you are the winner.’ It was really intense because they realized they were going to be on national TV.”

Kelley unveiled a giant poster of the cover of Reader’s Digest featuring Columbiana to the unsuspecting crowd. As the Nicest Place in America, Reader’s Digest featured Columbiana with a cover story by Jeremy Greenfield, who writes “In Columbiana, Ohio, nobody gets left behind, from blue-collar workers, to the wealthy, to folks who sometimes need a little extra accommodation.

Bruce Kelley, Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief, surprises Columbiana residents with the cover art for their issue. (Image: Andrew Rush, Reader’s Digest)

Started in 2017, the annual competition by Reader’s Digest selects 49 finalists from across the United States, this year from some 1,100 nominations. In July, Columbiana was chosen as the Nicest Place in Ohio after being nominated by Mary Lou Wilson, a resident whose grandson, Clayton Kerrigan, is a cast member at Main Street Theater.

Making the announcement was one of Kelley’s most memorable experiences as a journalist, he says.

“I felt like I was a part of a theater group myself because we kind of bluffed our way through to convincing them they might not win,” Kelley says.

“Living in the Nicest Place in America means you live in communities that are committed to kindness, trust and health,” according to the Reader’s Digest website. Among the panel of judges are Kelley and David Brooks, op-ed columnist for The New York Times and executive director of the Aspen Institute.

Read more on this story on our website on Saturday.

Pictured above: Columbiana residents gathered at Main Street Theater for the surprise announcement that the city had been selected as the Nicest Place in America. (Image: Andrew Rush, Reader’s Digest.)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.