By ROCCO MAGLIO
When we started the Hernando Sun eight years ago, to fill the void left by the closing of the Hernando Today, we knew we wanted to have a readers’ choice contest for local businesses. Often small businesses are so busy providing an exemplary product that they do not have a chance to reflect on what they have accomplished.
Readers’ Choice awards are a chance for businesses to be recognized by the community for the wonderful services and products that they provide. Often a business is only recognized after they are gone. I fondly remember the US Pasty shop on US 98, which has been closed for decades. They had chest freezers full of pasties which have a crust similar to calzones and are usually filled with meat and potatoes. They go from frozen to delicious in around 30 minutes so they were a low effort meal.
We wanted a symbol that people would recognize as special to Hernando. Our editor is an artist and she designed the mermaid that is unique to our readers’ choice awards. I sketched out some badly drawn ideas and she made the mermaid you see throughout the county.
Reader’s choice contests are a bit of a popularity contest, but they are also a chance for our readers to recognize their favorite businesses/events/organizations. Many businesses are surprised by winning, while others put tremendous effort into winning the contest.
The first stage of the readers’ choice competition is the nominations of businesses and that began on Valentine’s Day. Nominations will be accepted throughout the contest, but it is best to make sure that businesses are nominated by March 14th, so they are available during the full voting period. (Nominate online at: hernandosun.com/rc2023)
Additionally, only the top five nominated businesses will appear on the print ballot, so make sure to nominate your favorites even if they are already there.
The voting runs from March 20th to May 14th. The software we use for the contest allows voters to vote online once per day in each of the categories. The print ballots for a category will only appear once in the paper and therefore are weighted with a print ballot being equal to 10 online votes.
2022 Readers’ Choice
Last year we had a very successful contest. We had 738,911 online and print votes. We counted print votes as 20 online votes last year (this year it is half that). In 2021, we had a total of 146,879 votes. Last year we had 2,917 business/events/organizations that were nominated, which was more than double the year before where we had 1,271.
Last year the business to receive the most votes in a single category (it is possible for a business to be in up 3 categories) was Skintastics Salon and Spa Services with 18,540.
For 2023 we have added some new categories including Best Breakfast, Best Burger, Student Female Athlete of the Year, Student Male Athlete of the Year, and Community Leader of the Year. If there is a category that you do not see on the ballot, we can add it for you. Please email [email protected]
Readers’ Choice Award Winners
Winners will be released in print in the May 19th issue. You will also be able to view the winners online after May 19th at hernandosun.com/rc2023. In June, we will publish a Readers’ Choice wrap up section providing voting statistics and giving winners the chance to thank their supporters.
Winners are provided digital certificates via email (if they request it) and can purchase posters and banners through the Hernando Sun. Please be wary that winners may be contacted by a party unaffiliated with the Hernando Sun selling plaques or other unofficial readers’ choice merchandise. They will tell you that they are with Hernando Sun, but they are not. Hernando Sun does not vouch for anything sold through this third party impersonator.
You must fill out the form at hernandosun.com/rcwinners to request your free digital certificate and then we will respond with the certificate and a list of marketing materials that we offer. The email will come from one of our representatives with the @hernandosun.com email address.
We love seeing the readers’ choice certificates displayed as we frequent local businesses. We live and shop locally and it makes us proud to support the wonderful and unique businesses in the county.