Last night, I came across a Facebook post from a local DJ about Jacksonians needing to take advantage of every situation. In his brief but powerful message, DJ Scrap Dirty urged locals to step away from using excuses for not excelling in their individual niches. People should invest in building a future for Jackson, even if it means going elsewhere to develop skills and returning to share them. "Get all the knowledge & power then bring your ass back to Jackson & help push the movement," he wrote. The key thing, in his mind, is that folks come back and help build.
I'm sure many in the city share DJ Scrap Dirty's sentiment, either in part or whole, because in many ways he is completely correct. How would we expect Jackson to grow and be great without awesome people staying here or at least coming back?
His post made me reflect on many things, one of which is Best of Jackson, the Jackson Free Press's annual readers' choice awards. This year's process has been a bit different with the introduction of a nominations period and a finalists ballot, but our goal remains the same: to highlight and acknowledge locals in the Jackson metro area who are the best at what they do.
Since we released our list of finalists for the Best of Jackson 2014 awards last week, I have seen numerous social-media posts thanking voters and the Jackson Free Press as well as a few people bemoaning the entire process and our organization. I love reading all of the comments, positive and negative, because they exhibit folks' passion here in the metro.
Some people are grateful that others thought about them during the nomination period of Best of Jackson. Of course, all seem hopeful to go on to win the "Best" title. One person wrote that winning first place last year was one of the proudest moments of her career.
Even some of the negative posts' authors have to give props to the Best of Jackson awards and the JFP for doing them each year. While not everyone agrees with our editorial stances, they still seem to see the importance of honoring local greatness. Honestly and unfortunately, I don't find many other outlets that make that their mission.
People are passionate about their work and the work of those they care about. They want to be appreciated and recognized; some just seem to have a peculiar way of showing that. When they see that they did not win or, in this case, were not nominated (or even if they have been nominated in the past), some folks (and often ones who didn't vote) love to accuse us of solely covering advertisers or simply running a popularity contest for downtown and Fondren only. That's definitely not the case.
For the past three years, I've had the responsibility of helping sift through and count the Best of Jackson ballots. With the write-in ballot, I'd say it's pretty obvious that our list of winners and finalists is tamper-free. Not only are the finalists user-generated, but over the years we have put several rules into practice to deter and catch cheaters (and trust me, we've seen just about every method of attempted cheating at this point).
Anyone who thinks our reach is limited should check out this year's finalists. Under Best Barbershop, two South Jackson businesses, Custom Cuts & Styles and Southside Barber and Beauty, made it to the final ballot, alongside local businesses in Fondren and Madison. That's just one example, however, of the finalists' diversity. We implemented the two-tiered system this year partly to help give voters more of an opportunity to carefully consider who and what are the bests in town.
The idea is that, with a write-in ballot, folks often jot down the first thing that pops into their heads. But with the second round, they may notice a finalist they wouldn't think of right away that is equally or more deserving.
Best of Jackson 2014 features 134 categories of winners. With an ever-growing and changing city, the JFP strives to stay up-to-date and honor new and relevant happenings. We've taken out several categories to make room for new ones such as Best Music Festival. Some of the categories will live on in the form of occasional online mini-contests, along with fun categories such as Best Moustache or Best Beer Belly. And, of course, we are already thinking forward to our glossy magazine's special Best of Jackson issue, which takes over BOOM Jackson magazine for the May-June installment.
While we aren't publishing the final Best of Jackson 2014 ballot in this issue of the paper, it is still available online (at bestofjackson.com) for you to go vote. Instead, this week we have dedicated several pages to the Winter Arts Preview. For me, these events listings are just as important for us to publish. With 12 categories of events, no one should complain that they have nothing to do in the next few months in Jackson. Between going through these events listings and seeing the votes for Best of Jackson this year, I've been pretty inspired and enthusiastic about Jackson.
I hope that the Winter Arts Preview and Best of Jackson also inspire many others. The two only show a bit of what our city has to offer.
If you don't know what to do one day, check out one of the events we have in the paper or online at jfpevents.com. If you don't know who to contact about getting involved in something, look at all the finalists in the People section of Best of Jackson. Refer to them and what they've been up to for ways to get active in the community as well.
Remember, visit bestofjackson.com before midnight Dec. 15 to vote for Jackson's best people, businesses and organizations. The final winners will be announced in our Best of Jackson issue Jan. 22, 2014. To party with the winners and us, subscribe to JFP Daily at jfpdaily.com and keep Jan. 26 open on your calendar for a stellar party at a secret location to be announced next month.