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Smithsonian Magazine names Great Barrington best small town in America

 Accordion player Tor Stumo, 13, is in harmony with Great Barrington’s acoustic music tradition. ( Jason Houston )

Accordion player Tor Stumo, 13, is in harmony with Great Barrington’s acoustic music tradition. (Jason Houston)

Smithsonian Magazine has released its annual list of the best small towns in America with a local town grabbing top billing.

The magazine named Great Barrington its top choice thanks to "big-city smart" meeting New England natural. Brattleboro, Vt. (11) and Brunswick, Maine (13) were the other two towns to make the list.

In part, writer Susan Spano had this to say about the Berkshire town:

At the forefront of the big-chain-grocery-store-defying, eat-local movement, Great Barrington is devoted to its family farms, farmers markets and co-op. Berkshire Grown, an organization that promotes the production and marketing of locally grown food, spreads the word with lectures by writers like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma and most recently Food Rules).

Great Barrington's latest unconventional endeavor is to mint its own currency, an experiment launched in 2006 aimed at getting people to buy everything?not just food? local. Almost 400 businesses in the area trade BerkShares bills; the 5 BerkShares note features W.E.B. Du Bois, the great African-American author and educator whose boyhood home just west of town is a National Historic Landmark.

Incorporated in 1761, around the same time as Stockbridge and Lenox, Great Barrington, too, attracted rich summer people who built Gilded Age mansions like Searles Castle, now a boarding school. But Great Barrington grew up as a mill and railroad center, its blue-collar ring never excised. About 125 miles from New York City, it attracts a hip crowd from the Big Apple, along with New Englanders and recent immigrants from Asia and Mexico.

You can see the entire list at the Smithsonian Magazine web site.