10 Tiny Towns with Big Tourism Dreams


Von Ormy, Texas

The popularity of zombie films -- both old and new -- inspired Von Ormy to hold its very own zombie-focused film festival. © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis
The popularity of zombie films -- both old and new -- inspired Von Ormy to hold its very own zombie-focused film festival. © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

Population: 1,000 [source: CensusViewer]

Of the 1,000 people residing in Von Ormy, Texas, just outside San Antonio, an abnormally large percentage should be in the movies.

Or so the town believes, and it's running with it. The mayor and a local film student teamed up in 2012 to found the Von Ormy Film Commission. The commission has two main goals: to promote the local directorial, screenwriting and acting talent; and to get themselves on Hollywood's "small-town backdrop" radar [source: Bailey]. Von Ormy wants to be the "location" in "shot on location."

To entice film lovers to the community, Von Ormy held its very first film festival in 2013 -- a rather timely zombie-focused one that includes both locally produced zombie flicks and classics like "Night of the Living Dead."

The San Antonio Zombie Response team was in attendance, just in case [source: Bailey].

Author's Note: 10 Tiny Towns with Big Tourism Dreams

Don't mistake this article as depicting something revolutionary. Small-town tourism is old news. In Europe, for instance, off-the-beaten path locales draw big crowds looking for something other than Big Ben and the Louvre. Pretty much everywhere in Europe has a long history, and that's the draw.

What I learned while looking for information on burgeoning small-town tourism around the globe, and especially in the United States, is that Europe has known for some time what other countries are just finding out: Not every tourist has a Mickey Mouse-loving 5-year-old. Local art, storied histories and "rural living" are becoming attractions in their own right. This list is only a taste of what has become a concerted marketing effort to draw people to places they've never heard of, and I focused on towns only beginning their journey into tourism promotion.

For a fascinating case study on marketing and revitalization, take a look at Braddock, Penn. It's the Levi's town you've probably seen in ads, and what they've done there is, from what I gather, rather ground-breaking. Tourism isn't the focus, but it's an amazing example of what rebranding (and a corporate sponsor) can do for a small, struggling town.

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