PUBLISHER’S COLUMN | Best of Whidbey is fun and engaging

Voting for Best of Whidbey 2016 is under way.

The annual contest is a fun and engaging way for readers of the South Whidbey Record to pick their favorite businesses, foods, drinks,people and more.

Last year, nearly 3,000 people cast more than 69,750 votes online. Additional votes were submitted via the print editions of the South Whidbey Record, Whidbey News-Times and The Whidbey Examiner.

The premise of the contest is very simple: It is open to nominations in all categories. The entries that receive the highest number of reader votes are deemed the winners and recognized during a special event in July.

Winners also earn full bragging rights for the coming year.

There are some nominees who actively seek votes from their customers and friends, either in person or via social media. There are no rules precluding this. Again, the intent of the Best of Whidbey is to have fun, and engage people.

Although the Best of Whidbey has been conducted for many years by the Whidbey News-Times, the contest has adapted to a changing landscape, particularly in reaching more readers online. In its beginnings, all of the ballots were published in the newspaper, and had to be hand counted, a process that took days, sometimes weeks. The majority is now done online, though there will be ballots included in print editions of each paper, and both are tallied. Calculating results are now as simple as pushing a button.

To find the ballot online, you can either go to www.whidbeynewstimes.com and click on the “Best of Whidbey” button in the upper right corner, or you can type http://whidbey.secondstreetapp.com/l/Best-of-Whidbey-2016 directly into your search bar.

Voters must register. There are ways to track whether a particular computer has voted more than once. If you registered last year, you can type in your email address and password, or request a new password if you’ve forgotten yours.

This year, you may notice that there are already a number of nominees from the 2015 ballot — these were last year’s top vote-getters. Each category, however, remains open to additional nominations. A minimum of five nominations are needed to appear on the ballot.

Because last year’s awards luncheon was such a success, we wanted to build on that and create a fun summer evening event. This year, on July 22, we are holding an evening awards banquet at the Elks Lodge in Oak Harbor. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for information on how to obtain tickets.

As in the past, all of the winners of the 2016 Best of Whidbey will be announced in a collectible special section to be included in the Saturday, July 23 edition — the day after the awards banquet.

We know that many take the Best of Whidbey awards very seriously, and we appreciate that. Ultimately, we want everyone to have fun, and understand that no contest will ever be perfect in everyone’s eyes. What we strive to do is listen to our readers and all of the contest nominees, and make improvements in each passing year.

If you have ideas for how we can improve the Best of Whidbey, please feel free to email them to me at kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com

Now, log on and vote for your favorites. Online voting ends May 31.