Best Annual Event or Festival
South Carolina State Fair
Runner-up: Columbia’s Greek Festival
Maybe it’s the continually improving Pepsi Grandstand lineup. (The Band Perry last year? Shovels & Rope this year? Good stuff.) Maybe it’s the rides. (That Crazy Mouse is cool, man.) Maybe it’s the never-ending array of gastronomical delights — fried Snickers and fried corn dogs and fried Coca-Cola and fried everything. No, yeah, it’s definitely the fair food.
Best Art Gallery
701 Center for Contemporary Art
Runner-up: City Art
The niche served by the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is a relatively small one, but it’s also exceedingly important. The gallery hosts just what its name suggests: contemporary, cutting-edge exhibitions by local, regional, national and even international artists.
Best Local or Regional Museum
South Carolina State Museum
Runner-up: Columbia Museum of Art
This week, the State Museum opens its amazing new observatory and astronomy wing, not to mention its 4-D theater. And in the past year, it’s brought dinosaurs and Egyptian history to life here in the Midlands. Pretty cool.
Best Dance Company
Columbia City Ballet
Runner-up: Southern Strutt
Can the phrase “go big or go home” be applied to dance companies? We say it can be — because it basically encapsulates the philosophy of the Columbia City Ballet. Whether it’s the annual productions of Dracula and The Nutcracker or an entirely new undertaking, the City Ballet consistently goes all out in its staging and costuming. Sure, the dancers can dance — but when you see the City Ballet, you’ll see a show.
Best Dance Studio or School
Columbia Ballet School
Runner-up: Columbia Conservatory of Dance
If you hang around Columbia long enough, you start to learn that the city is full of hidden and surprising strengths. One such strong suit is its dance community, which boasts an impressive array of schools. The Columbia Ballet School, founded by Anita Ashley, boasts an impressive faculty that teaches a strong ballet curriculum that can also lead to jazz, tap, contemporary and more.
Best Visual Artist
Runner-up: Sean McGuinness (“That Godzilla Guy”)
Blue Sky wants you to adopt cats. And although his Adopt Me Now mural is no longer next to the Richland Library (it was painted over), you can still purchase prints online. He received the Order of the Palmetto for his contributions to the Columbia art scene in 2001.
Best Local Theater Company
Runner-up: Town Theatre
Trustus is the most fun, smart theater company around. Who else would tackle shows as diverse as Ragtime — an ambitious, Tony award-winning musical based on the E.L. Doctorow book of the same name, with a cast of 32, highlighting issues of race, class and sex in turn-of-the-century America — and Evil Dead: The Musical, in which audience members are squirted with large quantities of fake blood?
Best Local Theater Production
Les Miserables (Town Theatre)
Runner-up: Shrek the Musical (Town Theatre)
This 19th-century French novel has been adapted into films, plays, musicals and more. There’s no need to travel to Broadway, though, when you can observe the struggles of convict Jean Valjean right here in Columbia.
Best Movie Theater
With 14 stadium screens, the Columbiana Grande certainly is big, reeling in most every mainstream flick as soon as it comes out. And the location doesn’t hurt — Columbiana Station is flush with popular bars and restaurants like Wild Wing Cafe and the British Bulldog Pub making it easy to grab a bite before or after the show.
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