America's Most Patriotic Small Town
Ken Riege shares how winning a Rand McNally contest became part of Gallup's identity.
When Ken Riege, General Manager of the Comfort Suites in Gallup, found out that Rand McNally was hosting a contest to select America’s Most Patriotic Small Town as part of their “Best of the Road” series, he decided to nominate Gallup.
Entering the Contest
The first phase involved online voting for two months. The community rallied behind Ken's effort, voting daily, but ultimately coming in 2nd to Mandan, North Dakota. However, the top communities from the first phase of the competition were asked to submit a 600-word essay and a 3-minute video. With the help of friends from the UNM-Gallup English Department, a local videographer, and Medal of Honor recipient, Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura, Ken wrote an essay and compiled a video (see below).
The Results Are In
Several weeks later, in October, 2012, Ken received an email announcing the winner. Taking a deep breath, he clicked the link. Gallup won! He excitedly called his wife, who suggested that he share the news with the Mayor. News of the victory spread, inspiring pride in a community with a long tradition of military service.
How A One-Year Honor Became A Permanent Motto
The following year Ken planned to nominate Angel Fire. Unfortunately, Rand McNally decided to skip the contest in 2014. When he followed up in 2015, still planning to nominate Angel Fire, the representative from Rand McNally told him that they had decided to discontinue the contest. Ken responded, “the way I see it, you guys found the most patriotic small town in American, why search further?” They told him, “sounds good. Run with that,” so Ken called the Mayor to let him know that Rand McNally saw no need to continue their search. Gallup would retain the Most Patriotic Small Town in America title in perpetuity.
Veterans Exhibit at Comfort Suites
Gallup has a long tradition of military service and Ken is passionate about honoring the men and women who serve. As the manager of Comfort Suites, he has turned the first floor into an impressive tribute to veterans, with numerous exhibits and memorabilia.
3940 E Hwy 66
Gallup, NM 87301
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