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FORT SMITH STILL TOP 10 TRUE WESTERN TOWN

True West magazine recently named Fort Smith as a 2017 Top 10 True Western Town, giving the city a five-year streak of being named among the nation’s most historical cities.

By John Lovett // Times Record // jlovett@swtimes.com 

Fort Smith once again has been designated as one of the Top 10 True Western Towns by True West Magazine.

Fort Smith recently secured the No. 2 designation for 2017 just behind Deadwood, S.D., and now has remained one of the top-five designated destinations since 2013, when it was named the No. 1 True Western Town. This is the 12th year the magazine has awarded the honors.

Fort Smith will be featured alongside Deadwood and eight other destinations in the February issue, which hits newsstands Tuesday.

“The U.S. Marshals Museum project is a perfect example of how we are using our past to drive our future,” said Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotions Commission.

Historic sites like Miss Laura’s Visitors Center — the first former bordello to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places — attract thousands of Old West enthusiasts to Fort Smith, each year.

The Fort Smith National Historic Site also was designated as one of the nation’s “2016 Top 50 Historic Places Worth Traveling For” by FlipKey, a TripAdvisor company. This was tallied by online consumer research and reviews, a Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau news release states.

Among the reasons for Fort Smith’s position on True West magazine’s annual ranking are the legacy of Judge Isaac C. Parker, his feared and revered Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves and the stories featured within the walls of the Fort Smith National Historic Site, where visitors can view Parker’s famous courtroom, walk through the jail outlaws knew as Hell on the Border, and see a replica of the Fort Smith gallows.

“In May, Fort Smith Western Heritage Month helps visitors and locals alike relive the heritage through one of the largest rodeos in the region, mounted shooting and cutting horse competitions, gunfight re-enactments, special exhibits and art galleries, plus many other events,” the Fort Smith CVB release adds.

Adding to the contribution of Fort Smith being selected as a Top Western Town is the Fort Smith Museum of History, which displays 42,000 artifacts related to local history dating back to the founding of Fort Smith nearly 200 years ago.

“We are honored to be the only city that has remained in the top five for the last five consecutive years,” said Carolyn Joyce, tour and travel sales director at the Fort Smith CVB.

True West Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell said Fort Smith “is one of the great names of the Old West, a legendary place, especially in terms of outlaws and lawmen.”

Legris went on to say that Fort Smith continues to “build a bright future,” and the recent Top True Western Town honor shows that Fort Smith still has a “deep respect of our history.”

“While some communities see their histories fade away, we continue to celebrate ours with the same pioneer spirit of days gone by, and it’s gratifying to see that True West recognizes these efforts,” Legris added.

Editors base their selection on criteria demonstrating how each town has preserved its heritage through historic buildings, museums and other institutions, events, and promotions of historic resources.

True West magazine is in its 65th year of presenting true stories of Western adventure, history, culture and preservation.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, left, and state Sen. Jake Files, talk about the city being named Top True Western Town of the Year for 2013, before the first sign is installed along Garrison Ave on May 8, 2013. [TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO]