Best of Southern Utah returns with big changes for 2020; nominations set to begin Feb. 3

ST. GEORGE — Southern Utah is both an amazing place for travelers and the perfect community to live and work. It’s a melting pot of fantastic scenery, unique places to shop, top-notch restaurants, incredible services and countless opportunities for outdoor activities. But sometimes with so many options, it can be difficult to filter through the noise and know which one is the best.

Stock image, St. George News

The Best of Southern Utah competition – sponsored by St. George News, its parent company Canyon Media and title sponsor House of Hearing – is back for its second year to help locals and visitors spotlight the absolute best of the region, from the best hearing clinics to the best photographer – even the perfect place to woo a first date.

Nominations for this year’s Best of Southern Utah are set to begin online Feb. 3 and continue through Feb. 19.

Canyon Media General Manager Ben Lindquist said the response from the community for their inaugural year in 2019 was phenomenal, with 270,000 votes cast for over 1,000 of their favorite local businesses.

“We’re really excited about the response – not just from the community but the businesses,” Lindquist said. “We’re going to try and build it bigger and better every single year, to add whatever we can to make it a good win for businesses and also the consumer in the community that wants to know where some of the best places are.”

In this age of total connection, when businesses can often be held hostage by the latest negative Yelp review or Instagram post, Best of Southern Utah offers a chance for the community to let their voices be heard. Offering a listing of 184 different categories and subcategories, the competition provides a fair and honest way to help people find out things such as who their neighbors might think is the most experienced doctor, who offers sound legal advice and where to find a qualified, trustworthy mechanic.

“If you look through the categories, there are a lot of great participants,” Lindquist said.

For 2020, two more main categories have been added, with the full list as follows:

  • Activities & Entertainment
  • Business & Services
  • Medical
  • Schools
  • Food & Beverages
  • Shopping
  • General Services
  • Home & Garden
  • Vehicles & Services
  • Lifestyle & Beauty

As advertising professionals, Lindquist said it has been a lot of fun for everyone at Canyon Media to see how much energy the residents of Southern Utah put into highlighting these businesses, and there are plans to keep improving the process. After reviewing some great feedback last year, they have decided to step up their game for 2020.

Since credibility is vital in any competition, the entire voting process will handled by a third party, which Lindquist said keeps everything above-board, and there is no way someone can pull any tricks or manipulate votes.

“You want to make sure that you’ve got a company that can handle the voting and that can do it in a way that is easy and convenient for the voter – and ultimately, protect against any voter fraud,” he said.

President of News Operations Shane Brinkerhoff said another key element they focused on this time was making a few highly needed changes to the nomination process.

“We thought the process was a little cumbersome last year,” Brinkerhoff said, “so we decided to redo the ballot system to make it easier.” 

The online nomination process now utilizes a “build-your-ballot” type of system. Instead of having to go through the entire website to submit a nomination for their chosen category, users will be able to vote from one easy-to-navigate page.

We are excited about our new ballot system that should make the voting easier for the general public to be able to navigate the categories,” Brinkerhoff said. “We made it more of a 1-2-3 step process to submit your ballots across all the main level categories each day.”

It is definitely more user-friendly for people to make their daily free submissions, he said. Participants can simply click on a category, select a subcategory and then include it on the ballot. To make it even easier, every selected category is listed on the side of the page for that day’s submission.

Brinkerhoff said not everyone that wanted to be part of the competition was involved last year, and he hopes that people get ahead of the curve this time to nominate their favorite businesses and recognize them for their hard work.

“We’ve tried to really make some changes to the site that will make that easier for people to participate,” he said. “Whether you work there or are a customer, a fan, an owner — make sure you choose the category that you want and make sure you get your businesses nominated so they have a chance.

Last year, Canyon Media distributed over 20,000 copies of a magazine with all of the winners, and Lindquist said some people remarked it was one of the best publications in the community. This year they are making the publication bigger and better, printing in a larger 8 1/2-by-11 format and adding several new distribution racks around town.

“Encourage people to nominate, and of course, once voting starts, encourage them to vote for their business,” he said, adding that they have seen firsthand the extremely positive impact it has had on local businesses.

Lindquist and Brinkerhoff hope to continue making improvements to expand the competition’s reach and said they have even more exciting goals on the horizon for 2021.

Nominations for Best of Southern Utah begin Feb. 3. Voting on finalists will begin Feb. 24 and conclude on March 15, with the final results published on the website and in the magazine on June 3.

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