5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … Happy New Year!
Cue “Should auld acquaintance be forgot .…”
Shoot off the fireworks, pour the Champagne, and kiss people (who actually want you to kiss them).
Yes, I am aware it is March, but in many ways, it is a brand new year.
Obviously, our world shut down in March of last year.
COVID-19 was downplayed at first. It was something that was overseas and then in an isolated pocket on the West Coast. It wouldn’t make it here. It couldn’t. But then suddenly it did.
On Friday, March 13, as I picked up my daughter from the last “normal” birthday party she was attending, parents were gossiping they had heard our school was going to be shut down. I dismissed this as nonsensical.
From the party, we headed to Orange Beach with my son for a tennis tournament. Business as usual. We had rented a room for the weekend. By the time we checked in, the tournament had been canceled.
Not really knowing what to do with ourselves, we stayed at the beach and tried to make sense of what was happening.
Looking out at those Gulf waters, it reminds you how with the hurricanes we are used to, it is easy to switch into panic mode as the winds pick up and the skies begin to darken, but with this, the threat was invisible and the skies remained blue.
It was hard to process.
Empty shelves at the grocery store helped. Wait, I can’t buy toilet paper, bleach or hamburger meat? Are we going to have to live off the land? I think I seriously had that thought at some point at the beginning of this. That this was the end of life as we know it. It was our Great Depression, and we would never be the same. There would be soup kitchens and we’d be hungrily trying to dig for radishes in our backyard. And we would not be able to give our children the lives we had dreamed of giving them — one that was better than our own.
Those fears were bolstered at Lagniappe because as businesses were ordered to shut down, they also pulled their advertising. We watched 18 years of blood, sweat and tears seemingly evaporate in a matter of days. It was terrifying and surreal.
Like many, not only did we have to worry about losing our lives but also our livelihoods.
Fast forward a year later and we are in a much better place. Vaccines are being administered and COVID hospitalizations and deaths are falling. Businesses are on their way back to “normal,” and we are starting to put events back on the calendar.
No soup kitchens or digging up root vegetables.
Pop the Champagne indeed. And make it the good stuff. It is a new day, a new dawn, and I am feeling good.
While March 2020 to March 2021 will forever remain to me “the beginning of the beginning” to the “beginning of the end” of COVID-19, in normal years, March is always the mark of a new year for Lagniappe too, as it is when our beloved readers’ choice awards, affectionately known as the Nappies, begin each year.
They have always been a major part of what we do.
At the very first ceremony in 2003, we handed out certificates we handmade (that looked terrible, I might add) featuring that now-infamous picture of a “fat Elvis” impersonator that prominently features his, um, family jewels busting through a bedazzled white polyester jumpsuit. I am not sure why we thought that was a good way to honor Mobile Bay’s “Best of the Best.” I am sure the winners wondered that as well.
The awards have steadily grown over the years. We started off with less than 100 categories, but every year we have people lobby us for new ones, and it is hard to say no — as long as there are enough businesses to compete in the category. We still get new category requests to this day and now we have over 300, which I know is insane.
But as I was corresponding with a publisher in Kansas City recently, I found out they had over 500 categories in their readers’ choice awards, so I felt somewhat better that we had not completely lost our minds … yet.
But speaking of adding categories, we do have a lot of new ones this year I think will be really fun and competitive. Check ’em out .…
Best Locally Brewed Beer
Best Local Brewery
*These aren’t completely new. We have had Favorite Local Beer in the past, but with so many new breweries and taprooms coming online in the last couple of years, we thought this was a better way to break this down.
Beauty, Health & Wellness
Best ENT Doc
Best Lung Doc
Best OB/GYN Practice
Best Tummy Tucker
Best Dental Practice (Mobile and Baldwin)
*The medical categories have really become some of the most competitive and are always among the top vote-getters, so we added a few more specialist categories this year. And though we kept Best Dentist and Best OB and Best GYN, we added categories for the best overall practice in these because many wanted to compete as groups rather than as individuals. Super Nurse is another favorite new category because as we all know behind every good doctor is a super nurse.
Shopping & Services
Best Commercial Real Estate Firm
Best Commercial Realtor
Best Accounting Firm
Best Tree Service
Best Roofer/Roofing Company
Best Heating & Air Company
Best Wedding Videographer
Best Wedding Venue
*These just break down some of the realty and accounting categories more clearly. And with the devastation Hurricanes Sally and Zeta brought this year, we had requests to recognize the services that helped many through those difficult times. And weddings also took a hit with COVID, so we wanted to recognize those vendors who had to pivot and please disappointed brides all year long.
Best Sports Camp/Clinic/Training Facility
Best Pediatric Group
Best Pediatric Medical Specialist
Best School Counselor
Best High School Football Coach (Mobile or Baldwin)
Best High School Basketball Coach (Mobile or Baldwin)
Best Overall Athletic Program
Best Overall Academic Program
*In addition to these new categories, all of the education categories were broken down into separate ones for Mobile Public, Mobile Private and Baldwin.
Best Porch Parade/Yardi Gras Décor (Theme/Street Name)
Best Local Company to Work For – Under 50 employees
Best Local Company to Work For – Over 50 employees
Mobile Bay’s Cutest Cat
Most Pet-Friendly Bar or Restaurant
Mobile Bay’s Best New Small Business (Under 2 years old)
Who/What Should Replace the Admiral Semmes Statue?
Best COVID Business Pivot
My Business is Awesome but I Don’t Have a Category (Business Name/Type of Business)
*We’ve had Best Local Company to Work For for several years now; we just divided it into under and over 50 employees. Since we had Mobile’s Most Adorable Dog last year, cat lovers convinced us to add one for their furry feline friends. And for those who want a category but somehow don’t have one yet, we added “My Business is Awesome but I Don’t Have a Category,” which is my personal favorite.
Best Art Photographer
Best Local Filmmaker
Best Local Author
Best Local Poet
Best Classical Musician (Name/Instrument)
Best Local Podcast
Best Social Media Influencer
Eats and Drinks
Best King Cake
Best Brass Band
Who will be the next U.S. Senator from Alabama?
The voting begins in the Nomination Period on Wednesday, March 3 at noon. You can vote once per day per category with each registered email address. During the nominations, you can vote for anyone in their respective categories. Nominations will end at midnight on Sunday, March 28.
We will tally the votes and the Top 6 in each category will be revealed on April 28. Voting in the FINALS will begin at noon and run through midnight on Sunday, May 23.
The Lagniappe Awards Issue will come out on Wednesday, July 21 and the ceremony will be on Friday night, July 23.
Happy voting! And remember, this is supposed to be fun!
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