Every year, we ask our opinionated readers to tell us about their favorite people, places and things in the Springfield area. Over the decades we've been doing this, we've continued to tweak both the process and the results issue to try to keep things fresh and interesting, and of course, the votes tend to reflect current trends. Last year, the category that received the most votes was TV personality, thanks to a show of community support for Joe Crain after he departed Channel 20. This year, we can only assume that people are eating their feelings during the pandemic as all 10 of the most popular categories are food-related, including best bakery, dessert and doughnut shop. The best place to go downtown involved getting food (Old Capitol Farmers Market) and both winners in the best new business categories were restaurants (Biscuits & Brunch and Jerk Shop Go).
Wondering how all this works? Here are the answers to the most common questions we hear:
Q. Are the results real? Don't you just pick your advertisers to win?
A. The Best of Springfield results are based on what our readers chose as the best, which is not always the same as what our staff would prefer. Just ask the advertising department, there are many winners who have never spent a dime with us and others who frequently advertise but failed to win their category. While advertising helps remind people to vote for you, it certainly doesn't guarantee the outcome.
Q. Why did national companies or chain stores win some of the categories? If you're a locally owned business, shouldn't you support other locally owned businesses?
A. See previous answer. We encourage our readers to vote (and shop) local, but ultimately, we don't control the votes.
Q. What's up with the staff picks, if you're not choosing winners?
A. Staff picks are intended to be humorous or thought-provoking but always focus on topics that were not part of the reader voting.
Q. Why wasn't ______ category included?
A. There are already more than 200 categories, so from a logistical perspective we have to consider the attention span of both the voters and readers. However, we do add and subtract categories based on reader interest and current events (we brought back the comedian category this year in response to reader requests and added several categories specific to the pandemic). Keep in mind that there needs to be at least four or five contenders in a category to make it competitive, so if you're asking for "Best battery store," "Best place to buy a musical instrument," or "Best auctioneer" (all actual requests we've had), we're taking that into consideration. If you think of a great category we've missed, email our associate publisher, James Bengfort, at email@example.com.
Q. Why wasn't _______ one of the options when I voted?
A. We hold an initial nomination round beginning in mid-August. The top five vote-getters in each category move on to the final voting. So if you want to lobby for a particular person or business to win, the time to start is in the nomination round.
Q. Why don't all of the winners have a write up this year?
A. We used to publish a short blurb on each of the top picks. However, we do have many repeat winners, and it can be hard to find something different to say each year. Starting last year, we switched to a format with longer (but fewer) profiles. We now try to highlight new winners and categories to make it more interesting and informative for the reader.
We welcome comments on this, or anything else in our publication, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. – Michelle Ownbey, publisher