The first time I heard the words Best of Fayetteville, it was 1998. I had been working at Up & Coming Weekly about a year, and was still getting used to the light that Bill Bowman gets in his eyes when he has a really great idea.
I was sitting in my office editing something or the other, when he came into the building like a whirlwind. He yelled down the hallway of our office, which was then located on McPherson Church Road, and asked everyone to come into the conference room.
We all gathered in the conference room, waiting to hear Bill’s latest brainstorm. I remember the excitement in his voice when he started explaining the idea. For Bill, showcasing and putting the spotlight on our community is like breathing. So the idea of putting the businesses and people who make our community excellent on center stage was like Christmas and his birthday all rolled up in one.
We all agreed it was a great idea — but that was before we started to wrap our minds around how much work it would be and how much time it would take. We have always been a small staff, and there has never been more than four of us who have put the Best of Fayetteville issue together. If you look at the size of this paper, you can see why we all had second thoughts.
That first issue, we rolled up our sleeves, dug in and went to work. I would like to say it was easier than we thought or that we finished right on time, but I would be lying. It was a nightmare. Those of us on the production staff spent the whole week (day and night) and the whole weekend working on the issue. By the time it was done, I never wanted to hear the words Best of Fayetteville again.
When the paper hit the stands and we saw the reaction of the community, and in particular the reaction of the people who won, it made it all worth while. The Best of Fayetteville is more than a plaque that is hung on the wall of a local establishment. It is an accolade that can’t be bought. It must be earned. Cumberland County residents have high expectations, and for the winners of the Best of Fayetteville, earning the award is a true mark of excellence.
While we were preparing for this year’s Best of Fayetteville, a lot of research was done to see if we could find a 16-year winner. You might be surprised that we found more than one — we found six. Consistently, these companies have made the Best of Fayetteville list and have kept the faith and trust of the community. That says a lot about them and the services they offer.
If you made it to the Best of Fayetteville party on Tuesday at the TapHouse, you were able to celebrate with us as we recognized all those people, businesses and organizations in our community that make it great. And we will continue to celebrate those who have consistently made the list and the good things they bring to the community.
In case you are wondering, the approach of the Best of Fayetteville issue still puts a gleam in Bill Bowman’s eye and it still fills my heart with dread. I know that it will consume our staff and the words “working on the weekends” become a part of our vocabulary. I would like to say that I am surprised by the winners, but that wouldn’t be true. Having celebrated the Best of Fayetteville for 15 years (and now working through the 16th), I have an idea of what this community likes and admires in people, businesses and organizations.
And even though, I dread the work, I am happy to celebrate the sweet 16th anniversary of the Best of Fayetteville and the excellence it represents.