by Clellie Allen
WAKE FOREST — Six weeks, 5,000 ballots, some 50,000 individual votes. Everything came together in record fashion for the third annual Best of the Best reader’s choice awards Sept. 17.
Three years ago, in the middle of one of the worst economic downturns, Wake Weekly Advertising and Marketing Director Kathleen Jackson pitched the idea of Best of the Best to Publisher Todd Allen. With the Wake Weekly completely local-focused, having a Best of the Best contest seemed the right vehicle to highlight community businesses.
“As the voice of the community, this was the perfect move,” said Jackson.
Allen agreed. “People trust the Wake Forest, Franklin and Rolesville weeklies,” he said. “If we put our name and effort behind something like the Best of the Best, we felt confident that we could help contribute to building these businesses who were working hard to survive and even help them grow in the middle of tough economic times.”
It worked. The contest has expanded each year, with the number of ballots and individual votes being cast experiencing almost exponential growth — indicating that people love to eat, shop and play locally, said Allen.
“Wake Forest, Rolesville and the communities in Franklin County have experienced tremendous growth in the last 10-15 years,” Allen said. “But they have not lost that neighborly, small town feeling. Folks want to know their local merchants. Best of the Best capitalizes on those important relationships,” he continued.
More than 350 local business and community leaders turned out for the awards banquet which was held at Richland Creek Community Church and catered by Shuckers Seafood and Grill. All together, the finalists and winners from 124 categories were announced.
Some of the wins brought knowing nods, like when Pettyjohn’s won for best carpet cleaners.
But other winners were surprises.
Open only a few weeks, the Real McCoys, located on Rogers Road, won the best appetizer for their pork rinds.
Other fun wins included the Wake Forest Fire Department winning the Best Community Organization or Club and locally owned and operated Wake Forest Coffee Company beating out national coffee powerhouse Starbucks.
Next week’s edition of the newspaper will have a special publication listing all the winners and finalists across the 124 categories, plus a by-the-numbers section detailing some of the more surprising votes.
“There are just so many great businesses in Wake Forest, Rolesville, Wakefield and Franklin County,” said Allen. “When folks see just how many votes were cast and which categories were the most popular, they will be able to see what treasures they have in their own backyards.”
—see page 8B for photos from the banquet as well as the Wake Forest Weekly’s photo store.