In the course of getting through the production of the 2023 Best of the Bay awards, my mind and body kept coming back to one thing: work.
Pretty much every single one of you reading this is being asked to do more of it, with less resources. On most days, you probably don’t get to check off as many tasks as you wish you did. When you go to bed, you might think a lot about that work ahead of you the next day, and your friends and family, and if you’re doing the right thing.
I think that this big ol' keeper of an issue, and the way it’s celebrated year in and year out, gives an excuse to answer that question with a simple, “Yes. Yes, you are.”
Across the critics and readers picks, there are close to 600 winners in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s 2023 Best of the Bay. For the first time ever, CL is also handing out certificates for second and third place finalists in the readers poll.
The awards represent the eclectic and varied tastes of CL readers and contributors. All told, more than 832,880 votes were cast in this year’s Best of the Bay awards (by contrast, Trump earned just 603,607 combined votes in Pinellas and Hillsborough County in 2020). Our winners and finalists—and everyone who made any of the voting rounds—should be proud that close to a million people in the Bay area cared enough about the work you do to spend time out of their day checking off a box for you.
They checked that box, or awarded a critics pick, because the work you do at your shop, studio, construction site, salon, restaurant, club, bar—wherever you make a living—makes their lives better.
And in a world where workers need more money, and we’re all finding new ways to work more efficiently to survive, we need to embrace anything that adds a silver lining to the daily grind. There are times when I feel like the grind of Best Of the Bay—with all the effort, vote counting, anxiety, etc.—takes it out of our team, but I can’t imagine what your own daily workload does to you and your families.
I can speak for the entire team at CL in saying that we’re beyond grateful for the opportunity to celebrate you (and with you at the party!) each year—this is our 34th year doing this with you. The work you do makes our work possible, and it makes our community the only place we would want to make a living.
With great pride and gratitude, welcome to Best of the Bay 2023. Thanks for everything.—Ray Roa
UPDATED 09/29/23 3:21 p.m. Commemorative Best of the Bay award plaques are available if you want them.