This year’s Best of Columbia issue marks the 25th anniversary of the annual readers’ poll, first launched by Free Times in 1989.
And make no mistake: Best of Columbia is a readers’ poll — we aren’t handing out awards to whoever spent the most money on advertising, nor are the writers and editors of Free Times deciding who gets the nod in any given category. The winners presented here are your choices. So, whether you’re thrilled or disappointed with the results, just know that the verdict reflects the will of the people.
The Best of Columbia poll has come a long way since the days of full-page, paper-only ballots. These days, voting is online-only and readers are voting in greater numbers than ever.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed, either: Your tastes have become more discerning, too. Though homogenous corporations still win in some categories, your choices overall have become more locally focused in the past few years, zeroing in on the things that make Columbia such an eclectic and charming city. Some people have argued in years past that we should ban national chains from winning; we’ve always said that the Best Of Columbia poll should reflect local tastes, not dictate them — and we’re glad to see that local tastes continue to evolve.
Of course, just like our readers, writers and editors are an opinionated bunch, too. So — just as we do every year — we have included Writers’ Picks in categories where we feel the voters might have overlooked a worthy competitor.
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