The Best of the Best in the Worst Year Imaginable
a few words about the latest edition of our annual Best Of poll
Since the Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll’s humble beginning back in 2007, we could never (in a million years) imagine a year like this one, plagued with … well, literal plagues and murder hornets and deadly bushfires, and so much more. Despite the rollercoaster of a year, this annual poll reminds us of the semblance of good that came out of the past year – the ways we’ve embraced a terrible moment in history and still found ways to highlight the good in it.
For the last 14 years, we’ve turned to our readers (that’s you!) to chime in with your favorite places to eat, favorite local bands, favorite spots, and favorite dishes in our annual poll, and this year – though it has changed our lives in almost every way imaginable – is no different. This poll is just one way for us to recognize the proliferation of incredible businesses, events, people, and places that make the Chippewa Valley one of the best places to live. Though this was a tough year, local businesses, organizations, and individuals somehow rose up – battered and bruised – to push our community forward.
This year’s poll is a snapshot, a time capsule of the Valley’s likes (and some of our dislikes). In a year – or five – we may look back on some of our choices with nostalgia or befuddlement. We may look back at our brand-new section, “Masking & Sanitizing” and remember just how awful it was to quarantine and social distance. And use hand sanitizer until our hands are raw. And watch as businesses faced the most challenging times they’ve ever faced. Or, we might remember the way our community came together, pivoted, and encouraged each other to grow. Either way, we hope to the stars above that we never, ever have to create a section like this ever again.
The beauty of the poll is that our opinions evolve. Things change. Every day, the Chippewa Valley becomes a better place to live through the voices and votes of those who live here, and the way we support each other. Because, really, the best burger joints or best parks aren’t going to be the reason this is a great place to live. It’s the people who populate those places and try new things and genuinely care who make our home here great.
With 315 questions, 7,558 options, and a record 12,868 voters, this is our biggest poll ever. A whopping total of 168,404 votes were cast. You read that number right: 168,404.
In these 96 pages, we’ve eschewed the bulk of our regular editorial content, covering all the latest events, music, books, art, eats, and Chippewa Valley happenings (don’t worry – that’ll be back in our next regular issue!) in order to get these poll results out there in print. With 315 questions, 7,558 options, and a record 12,868 voters, this is our biggest poll ever. A whopping total of 168,404 votes were cast. You read that number right: 168,404. A grand total of over 43,296 people have voted in one or more of our polls since over the past decade. Even more amazing: Some categories have had the same winner for every. Single. Year. You read that right, too. Grab a magnifying glass. Have Siri read it aloud. Ask you dog. Or, just check out the Hall of Fame on the next page for proof.
In the past 14 years, we’ve seen the Chippewa Valley change in ways we didn’t think were possible, with new restaurants, new businesses, new buildings, new opportunities, new people, and lots of new ideas. This issue celebrates all of that while looking to the future, ripe with possibility.
So to the more than 12,000 voters who took time to give their opinions: Thank you for letting your community know what you think. Because, really, what’s the use of having a best burger without anyone to eat it? We hope the results of this poll provide the opportunity for you to try something new. If something disappoints you, let people know! We should all strive to celebrate the things we have and to work toward achieving the things we don’t. That’s how places and people grow in harmony together.
It starts with being active and engaged, trying things, going places, interacting with both your neighbors and your friends. So without further ado, here are the best of the best – of the worst past year imaginable.