by JUDY HODGSON
Although the Journal is 10 years old, we are celebrating our second anniversary this month as a weekly community newspaper.
In 1993 when we were still a monthly, we ran a "Best of" contest just for restaurants. We had a tremendous response, it was a lot of fun, but there was so much ballot stuffing and tampering with the vote, we vowed never to do it again. (One restaurateur, who shall remain anonymous, actually helped his customers fill out the photocopied forms and mailed them back in identical envelopes, which must have cost him quite a bit in postage. It was a place frequented by out-of-county travellers, so it was fairly easy to call a few just to check.)
So why did we bring the contest back -- and expand it?
Because, we are told by other weekly newspaper publishers, it is by far their most popular, reader-engaging edition of the year. And, we hope, we have figured out a way to keep cheating to a minimum!
(We require that all ballots be submitted with the reader's name, address and phone number. This information is not for publication and will be destroyed after the contest. But it allows us to spot-check and verify suspicious ballots like we do suspicious letters to the editor!)
This year we did disqualify a few ballots -- particularly a group postmarked in Southern Humboldt with a first name only -- "Guido from Whitethorn" -- and no phone number.
All in all, it was a great contest and we appreciate all those who took the time to respond. As you will see, there were many clear winners and we are running their names without second or third places. In other categories, there were some close races where we felt the runner-up deserved mention as well.
Yes, we will do it again next year. We plan to drop some categories and add others, and we plan to revamp the ballot to make it very clear that this is a "Humboldt County best of" contest. Jesse Ventura may be your favorite politician and Al Pacino your favorite actor, but we want to know what you think about local people.
Drop us a note to let us know how you think we should revise the ballot for next year. We certainly plan to keep the questions on, "Hot-button issue of the year," which ellicit the most interesting responses. And we already have plans to accept e-mail and fax responses as long as they contain the proper identification.
Finally, we are still receiving ballots daily even though the deadline was 5 p.m. Sept. 19. Next year we promise to advertise the contest early so your choices will be properly counted.
VERY FAVORITE POLITICIAN? OK, who was the clown who voted for former President Jimmy Carter? This was strictly a local competition. There were a number of votes for all the obvious elected officials from Rep. Mike Thompson on down, but the clear winner was: Arcata Mayor Connie Stewart.
MOST ENTERTAINING CITY COUNCIL? This was very, very close. Eureka fell just a few votes shy of: The Arcata City Council
HOT-BUTTON ISSUE OF THE YEAR? The proposed casino in Blue Lake? Water for the Eel River? Soaring gas prices? CAMP raids? Medical marijuana? Even roundabouts made the list. All the above were on the minds of our readers, but top issues getting the most votes all involve the city of Eureka: the firing of City Manager Harvey Rose, Wal-Mart (big box stores) and No. ! ... The Balloon Tract. (One reader wrote, "What happened to the $3 million gift?")
BEST VOLUNTEER? Of the 138 ballots, there were an astounding 38 nominees. Top vote getter: Sally Arnot.
BEST TV REPORTER? Channel 3 Jim Bernard. Ok, technically he's a meterologist, but anchor Jane Rogers, also Channel 3, came in a close second.
BEST DJ? The Burlyman Dana Hall, who recently moved to Cool 105.5 on the FM dial. A close second: Gary Franklin of KHUM.
"Best Radio DJ" Dana Hall (aka "The Rock and Roll Burlyman") has been on air in Humboldt County since 1974 and on five different stations: KHSU, KATA, KRED, KXGO and most recently on KKHB, Cool 105.5 FM, where he can be heard from 6-10 a.m. weekdays.
BEST HAIRDRESSER? A ton of entries in this category, but the top vote-getter: Ric Warren, of Beau Monde, Arcata.
"Best Hairdresser" Ric Warren colors hair at Beau Monde in Arcata where he has worked for the last four years. Warren has been a stylist for 25 years and has trained in paris, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. He moved to Humboldt county to attend HSU, where he completed a Masters in Playwriting.
BEST NAIL ARTIST? No clear winner, honest. But we promise to bring back this category next year.
BEST TEACHER? Again, there were almost as many names -- from pre-school teachers to college profs -- as there were ballots. (Next year we will separate by grade levels and let all students have their say.) The favorite teacher of Journal readers? Kathleen Nunley, Salmonberry Farm Preschool at Trinidad Elementary.
Kathleen Nunley said she had no idea she was even nominated by the parents of her preschoolers in Trinidad.
BEST MUSICIAN? Errol Previde.
"Best Musician" Errol Previde, right, plays outside of Wildwood Music where he holds down a day job. Previde leads the jazzy blues combo the Errol Previde Quartet, performs duo gigs with the group's vocalist Christina Fernandez, and is part of the recently formed electric funk/jazz quartet, Infuscious.
BEST ARTIST? Duane Flatmo.
BEST ACTOR? Joel Agnew (although he should have been disqualified for voting for himself.)
BEST BAND? A little ballot stuffing was uncovered in this category. Near as we can tell, Journal readers were about equally split -- one might say, schizophrenic -- between their two top choices: For Dancers Only and Humboldt Freestyle Kings. (See color photo at top)
BEST WAITPERSON? Again, many names, but no clear winner in this category. We'll try again next year.
BEST THRIFT STORE? St. Vinnie's (Arcata and Eureka) was the clear winner.
Workers Alyce Adams, left, and Nicki Winfield said St. Vinnie's is so popular because people patronize the store for its social atmosphere as well as its bargains.
BEST VINTAGE CLOTHING? Vintage Avenger, Arcata.
"Best Vintage Clothing" Nancy Tobin is living her dream. "I love treasure hunting and arranging things. It's a hobby that I turned into a full-time job." Tobin moved to the area 12 years ago, graduated from HSU with an art degree and started Vintage Avenger in Arcata 1 1/2 years ago.
BEST BICYCLE TRAIL? Hammond Trail (No duh! This category will be retired next year.)
BEST BOOKSTORE? Northtown Books in Arcata followed by the Booklegger in Old Town Eureka.
BEST WEBSITE? Humboldtbuzz.com.
BEST BIRD-WATCHING? Arcata Marsh (*See comment under best bicycle trail.)
... and Food!
BEST ASIAN? A clear winner -- Tomo's -- followed by Kyoto in second place.
"Best Asian Dining" Sushi chef Cheiko Wilson assembles a California roll at Tomo in Hotel Arcata. Tomo's head chef Stan Snyder says people like the food there because it shows, "a mix of healthy food and aesthetics."
BEST MEXICAN? Luzmila's in Arcata and Valley West (although most of our readers had trouble spelling it), followed by Rita's in Eureka.
"Best Mexican Dining" waitress Irma Sierra, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, has been in Humboldt County 6 years. Luzmilla's operated in Valley West since 1989 and moved in 1996 to H Street in Arcata. Luzmilla's recipes? They came from her mother, who was from Jalisco.
BEST ITALIAN? Wow. A close race. The winners: Mazzotti's (Eureka) in first, Abruzzi (Arcata) second.
BEST SEAFOOD? A home run. Nobody close. Sea Grill, Eureka.
Holly Blackwood and Keith Sleby were waitress and chef before they decided to open their own establishment, the Sea Grill, in 1988. The secret to their long-lived success in the restaurant biz? Top quality and consistency.
BEST BURGER? Although 24 burger joints were nominated, including one vote each for McDonald's and Burger King, this category, too, is no contest. Stars.
"Best Burger" Stars hamburger chef Trevor Adkins has been working for owners Christine and Joe Dunn for 2 1/2 years. (Adkins had his star tattoos before he took the job.) The dunns operate two burger shops in Eureka and one in Arcata's Northtown.
BEST PIZZA? Live from New York (Arcata and McKinleyville). (Hey, some of the votes came from Eureka and SoHum! That's a long way to drive for a pizza!)
"Best Pizza" man Paul Amato makes a Godfather at Live from New York in McKinleyville. Amato, who really is from New York -- born in the Bronx -- moved to Humboldt five years ago and took up a decidedly West Coast sport -- surfing.
BEST CUP OF COFFEE? Although there was some confusion here between roasters and brewers, the winner is both: Muddy Waters, Arcata.
BEST LOCAL BREW? The top beer vote-getter was Mad River Brewing Co.'s Steelhead Pale Ale. The top brewery was Lost Coast with many votes for its Downtown Brown and Great White.
BEST BAKERY? Wow. Couldn't have been closer, but Ramone's, the perennial favorite, just edged out Brio.
BEST LUNCH SPOT? This category wins for the most entries -- 37 different nominations. The top vote getter -- a shocker -- was a brand-new spot chosen for good food and especially good prices: Arcata Pizza and Deli. Second place went to a cluster of favorites, all worth mentioning: Hurricane Kate's (Old Town Eureka), Rico's Taco's (Arcata), Hole in the Wall (Eureka and Arcata) and Japhy's Soup and Noodles (Northtown Arcata).
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH SPOT? The only absolute tie in the contest. Crosswind's (Arcata) and Waterfront Cafe (Eureka).
BEST ELEGANT DINING? (where $$ is no object). This is boring. We ran a "favorite restaurant" contest in 1993 -- with the exact same results. Larrapin' Cafe, with a very strong second place finish Carter House Restaurant 301. (Larrupin' owner Dixie Gorrell's comment at the time was, "Larrupin' really isn't elegant dining!")
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