It’s an election year, with both a provincial and a federal election on the calendar for Alberta voters in 2019.
But first, Lethbridge residents will be voting on matters closer to home.
It’s time again for the annual Best of the Best survey conducted by the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper. Voting began Jan. 4 and continues until Jan. 31 in the balloting to determine Lethbridge’s cream of the crop in dozens of business categories (along with a few non-business areas).
The popular reader-driven survey, now into its 24th year, continues to grow, with new categories added this year including best real estate brokerage, best vehicle recycler, best wine-making supplier, best property management firm, best cannabis store and best photo booth, to name a few. With the new additions, there are now more than 150 categories in which voters can participate, including 26 each in the Dining and Retail sections. Also new to the ballot are best new business in 2018 and best new restaurant in 2018.
Members of the public can vote once per day per category on the Best of the Best website, mybestofthebest.ca. This marks the second year for the revamped website which was designed to streamline the voting process and make it more user friendly.
The system also features the latest high-tech safeguards to protect against attempts to manipulate the results.
“We do everything we can to make it as valid as possible,” said promotions manager Falon Brovold.
The Best of the Best competition has come a long way from its humble beginnings when the survey featured about 20 categories and organizers hand-counted the roughly 400 hand-written ballots. Back then, the Sun Times was run by Ted Stilson, now the long-time executive director of the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone. Today, the Best of the Best poll garners more than 100,000 votes each year from citizens eager to have their say about their favourite local businesses and services. As the participation numbers have grown, so has the survey’s credibility with the public and the business community.
“This is as legitimate as it gets, just the sheer size of it,” said Brian Hancock, director of sales for the Sun Times/Shopper.
Final results will be made public with the publication of the Feb. 27 issue of the Sun Times/Shopper. The results, which list the top three finishers in each category, are not only eagerly awaited by the public, but by businesses, too.
“People like to see how they measure up,” Hancock said of the business community. “Others take it as a challenge, how we have to improve.”
The Best of the Best survey serves as welcome validation for the businesses which crack the coveted top three. As a previous Best of the Best winner noted, “It’s a confirmation that what you’re doing is well thought of by your customers and others in the community. It’s great feedback.”
The feedback isn’t only useful to the businesses, but also to people in the community seeking the types of services included in the Best of the Best results lists.
“This kind of becomes a guide to new people in the city,” said Hancock, noting the recommendations of fellow citizens can be extremely useful for newcomers in helping them find quality services.
Besides the wide range of business categories, the Best of the Best survey includes some just-for-fun categories such as best concert of the year, best park or best place to take the kids.
“There’s something for everyone,” said Brovold.