Lessons of ‘Best of the Valley’: In a competition this strong, we all win

We’ve been doing Best of the Valley for enough years now to know the drill: Put the ballots out in February, wait several weeks, rush to count the results and put together an entire section letting folks know the annual winners.

Locals, business owners and officials take this stuff pretty seriously. The plaques often take a place of pride in offices and restaurants.

We took the contest online a few years ago, in an effort to prevent ballot-stuffing. It now takes us about two days to tally all the votes.

Going over the results last week, it was fascinating to see what changed since 2012, and what stayed the same. The numbers tell an interesting story.

People love their coffee, pizza, festivals

Some categories are more popular than others. But the real piles of votes came in surprising categories. Thousands for best pizza! Best coffee! And best Valley festival. Folks in North Bend really came through for Festival at Mount Si, though hundreds still refer to it as Alpine Days, seven years after the name change.

People love their jobs. And their teachers

North Bend and Snoqualmie might be considered bedroom communities, but hundreds of people who work here love their jobs, enough to vote their workplace as the Best Place to Work. Nearly 100 different venues are represented. There’s some real pride here, some good bosses. Good to know.

Ditto for the education category. More than 200 different teachers from Valley schools were represented. That means hundreds of parents in the Valley are impressed enough with their child’s educators to say they’re the best.

So many volunteers!

Unlike in some categories, there was no massive leader for the title of Best Community Volunteer. Nels Melgaard took it, for the second year in a row, but his margin wasn’t huge. We received votes for more than 100 different individuals (and a few businesses and organizations) in this category. That means that, in our handful of Valley communities, hundreds of people have made enough of a difference to earn the thanks and votes of their neighbors.

Ditto for Organization to Join and Local Non-Profit. Encompass enjoyed a big margin in the latter category, but otherwise, these were packed with variety. From Friends of the Trail to the Friends of the Library, from “Any PTA” to Veterans of Foreign Wars, and about a dozen Mount Si’s—senior center, food bank, music boosters, and onward—more than 100 non-profits and clubs were represented. Who knew we had that many?  The takeaway: This is a community that cares.

What’s in a name?

Then there were bloopers, the snide votes.  On “Best Park,” one customer voted, “all”. For Best City Councilmember or Mayor, someone simply put “No.” A political statement, perhaps?

That aside, when the counting is all said and done, and another Best of the Valley competition is wrapped up, I’d like to say to all who participated: Thank you for voting. Bragging rights are only part of this. There’s also a spur to excellence for all the pizza-makers, coffee brewers, city workers, teachers and bosses in the Valley. Folks watch, and vote, and your competitor may be hungry. Contests like these keep everyone on their game. All boats go up on a rising tide.


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