The following article, Jason Aldean Gets Large Gift from Orange Beach Etched with 'Try That In a Small Town', was first published on Flag And Cross.
Jason Aldean might have some big fans in small towns, but they’ll have to go some to beat Orange Beach, Alabama.
Since Aldean’s anthem “Try That in a Small Town” rocketed up the charts over the summer, the Georgia native has been almost as well known for cultural controversy as for his country music.
But it was the combination of the two that won him the key to the city of Orange Beach — and it’s a key to remember.
It’s an actual key, but inset into a painting — set into the cylinder of a Colt .45 revolver on the background of an American flag under the words “Key to the City of Orange Beach.”
Beneath the gun, on two of the flag’s red stripes, are the words “Try That In a Small Town.”
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon presented the painting to Aldean in August, backstage at an Aldean concert at the Wharf Amphitheater in Orange Beach. Shortly afterward, Kennon posted a picture of the painting to Facebook.
The photo of the presentation was only posted on the city’s page on Thursday, though.
“I got busy and forgot,” Kennon told the Alabama news website AL.com last week, explaining the delay in a way probably only a small-town mayor could get away with.
Kennon wasn’t shy about responding to either the praise or the critics. To praise, he’s respectful and gracious. To critics, well — let’s say they don’t seem to bother him much.
“You’re advocating lethal fire guns as KEY to your city, Mr Mayor?” wrote one commenter, apparently a Canadian who gets nervous around guns. “God Almighty!”
Kennon responded: “[W]hy would I advocate a non-lethal firearm?”
“Your beliefs when put on display can hurt the businesses that are the real reason for the success of Orange Beach,” another wrote.
“If the tourist feel that the leader of this place is a gun nut that thinks a song sung about an imaginary small town is what this vacation destination is all about they will find a more welcoming vacation spot to spend their money in and pay those increasing lodging taxes,” the person added.
Kennon responded: “I have no problem with that.”
“This crap makes us look like a racist little hick town,” wrote another — apparently an Orange Beach resident.
“We are better than that,” the poster said. “We are a beach town that grows substantially in the summer and the people that come here are all races, colors, and religions. When they see garbage like this they will go to Destin or Pensacola Beach to stay far away from something we really aren’t. Well most of us anyway. Cut the crap, we pay a lot of money to live and host in this beach town and many of us don’t want to look like something some country singer made up to make money on.”
Kennon’s response was short: “Do you think for a minute I care what you think.”
Now, to be clear, Orange Beach, on the Heart of Dixie’s Gulf Coast, is a small town, with about 8,500 official residents, according to the U.S. Census. Still, it gets big enough when it fills during the tourist season. That peaks — naturally — for the Fourth of July weekend, when it has about 100,000 visitors.
But it sounds like Kennon, who’s been in office since 2008, knows the values in Aldean’s song depend on the quality of the people more than the number in the population on any given day.
Aldean’s song has staying power, too. On Monday, almost three months after the July video release and five months after the single first dropped on May 18, “Try That in a Small Town” was at No. 15 on iTunes Country Top 40 chart.
The mayor said the attacks Aldean faced to the “Try That in a Small Town” video — the network CMT dropped the video from its rotation because of the criticism — helped inspire the key.
“You know me, I don’t really care what people think,” Kennon told AL.com in August. “I did it because it was sort of a tribute to Jason Aldean and his wife speaking their mind, standing up for their values, and having no fear. Nothing I despise worse than cowardly mobs, and cowardly mobs that try to cancel somebody for, ‘how dare they have an opinion.’
“So it was just out of appreciation, appreciation of the city of Orange Beach, because most people here do appreciate him, the song and their stance. And this was our way of showing it.”
He showed the rest of the country, too.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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