You hold in your hands the culmination of weeks worth of voting, counting, research, photography and writing—the Best of Jackson 2008 issue. It happens to be the biggest issue of the Jackson Free Press ever—and hopefully something you'll be proud to keep around the house or office and refer back to for the ensuing months of this nascent year.
Please use this issue—use it to check out restaurants, nightspots, cultural events or other experiences you haven't considered in the past. Never been to a Fondren Theatre Workshop production? How about Sam's Lounge? Or Lefleur's Bluff hiking trails? Check 'em out!
Of course, the reputations that made so many businesses and individuals finalists in the Best of Jackson 2008 reader poll are also the culmination of a great deal of effort—days, months or years of great work by the businesses and people who are finalists in each category. And, of course, the first-place winners deserve special credit for their exceptional work. (There are exceptions, of course, but they'll be obvious—see categories such as "Biggest Waste of Taxpayer Money.")
We congratulate all of our finalists and winners this year—the stalwarts, the newcomers and even the upsets. It was a fun year of ballot-counting, thanks in part to the sheer number of people who participated this year by newspaper ballot or at jacksonfreepress.com.
Props go out to our lead editors in each of the four categories—Maggie Burks, Ronni Mott, Kelly Smith and Andi Agnew. Thanks also to all of the blurbists (is that a word?) who added their pithy comments and searing commentary to the entries—not the least of whom was our own intrepid reporter, Adam Lynch, who happens to have quite the sense of humor if you've never seen it in action. Thanks also to editorial interns Greg Williamson, Jana Mertens, Shaketta Toins, Jackie Tatum and Bailee Grissom for their help editing the blurbs and working on other JFP business while this thing has taken over our waking hours.
A major heap of praise is in order for Darren Schwindaman and his design team—production designer Christi Vivar and design intern Melissa Webster—for putting the blurbs, photos, ads, headers and everything else together quickly, carefully and artfully. They did amazing work with a small staff and deserve a pat on the back if you see them out and about. (In fact, one of y'all might want to go ahead and buy Darren a stiff drink.)
The Best of Jackson issue, of course, wouldn't be possible without advertising, so I hereby recognize the outstanding job that Stephen Barnette and Candice Hagwood did to bring in advertisers, along with all the work that Sales Coordinator Kimberly Griffin has done in support of the issue itself—as well as much of the planning for the Best of Jackson party.
Around the JFP offices we call this "Best Of" season, partly because we have a big issue to put out that makes it feel a little like we're in the midst of a holiday rush that no one else is experiencing.
And on top of all that, there's a Best of Jackson party to plan.
This year the Best of Jackson party will be at the new Mississippi Museum of Art on Sunday, Jan. 27, with the doors opening to the general public at 8 p.m. DJ Phingaprint is confirmed.
Before the Best of Jackson party on Sunday, though, there's another celebration worth thinking about—on Thursday, Jan. 24, former city Councilman Ben Allen, now director of Downtown Jackson Partners, is hosting a celebration to discuss all of the new and ongoing development that's happening in downtown Jackson and beyond. That event will be held at the TelCom Center on Thursday—RSVP for one of the few remaining seats by sending an e-mail to [e-mail missing]
In addition to a quick discussion of all the highlights of development happening around town, Ben will also be announcing a new initiative to "get the word out" on everything that's going well with Downtown Jackson and other urban-living neighborhoods in Jackson. And I'm thrilled to say that the JFP will have a part in that plan.
This week, the Jackson Free Press is announcing a new project—a new magazine called Boom Jackson. This annual, glossy magazine is being produced in conjunction with a number of sponsors including Downtown Jackson Partners, the Hinds County Economic Development District, the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a few others that I hope to announce on Thursday at the event. Boom Jackson will celebrate urban living, working and creating in Jackson, with an emphasis on downtown, Fondren, Belhaven and JSU-area developments.
In the very first issue of the Jackson Free Press, I wrote a story about the book "Rise of the Creative Class" and how well Jackson fared in the rankings of "creative class" cities of our size. Part of following that model is finding ways to let creative young people in on your planning, and taking even small steps to make your town friendly to the culture, nightlife, work and play options desirable to creative professionals—artists, teachers, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs—can be the key to its economic future.
Five and a half years later, it's clear that Jackson is full of exactly that sort of creative energy, with tons of positive thinking, making Jackson a better place to live and work. You can see it in the cranes—cranes on State Street in Fondren, on Pascagoula and Capitol downtown, on campus at JSU. You can also see it in the faces of the people who have the vision and the desire to be a part of something new and exciting.
That's the kind of thing that we want to celebrate, not only among ourselves, but also to others who might want to visit Jackson, relocate to it or invest in it—we're creative, we're unique, we're inclusive, and we're open for business.
It so happens it's a perfect "season" for such a celebration—"Best of Jackson" season! Here's to the Best of Jackson in 2008 as chosen by our readers—and to those visionaries working on bright ideas for our future.
Todd, I believe I can feel some excitement in this column instead of the usual reserve. Did you smell the annointed bottle or glass before you wrote this? Nontheless, it's a good job!
- Ray Carter
Thank YOU, Todd and Donna, for your important leadership in the Jackson creative community and for the extraordinary Best Of Jackson in 2008 issue! Jackie