Last month, when Creative Loafing Tampa Bay closed down polls in the 2022 Best of the Bay awards, I noticed a big number: More than 500,000 votes cast. That’s a lot of people. Almost as many as the populations of Tampa and St. Petersburg combined—and certainly a much better turnout than the races for mayor in those cities.
All told, CL readers selected about 350 different winners across 10 categories: arts, entertainment, music, food, drink, beauty, wellness, goods, services, people and places. CL contributors added more than 150 Critic’s Picks of their own. All selections are collected neatly in this issue—into five sections below—but I was taken aback by the sheer humanity of it.
It takes so many people to get from the category suggestion process, to the compilation of votes, printing of the paper, launch of the winner URLs, and eventual distribution of the awards at our big party. This year’s getdown at the Hard Rock Event Center is rescheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6—and we're donating a percentage of proceeds to a mutual aid nonprofit.
That’s also because of humanity.
When Best of the Bay 2022 went to print, Tampa Bay was preparing for a more-or-less worst case scenario: our first direct hit from a catastrophic hurricane in more than a century. While the presses in Lakeland ran, everyone from Polk County to Pinellas was probably glued to whatever BOTB-winning meteorologist Denis Phillips was saying. Some were probably preparing for the unknown; others, totally immobilized by fear or the poverty they live with day-to-day.
By the time this paper hits the streets, we’ll have a clearer picture of how bad the damage is (some started to notice a more southern path for the storm, I hope that panned out). What I do already know, however, is that in the days between the production of this paper and Ian’s arrival, so many of you will have already shown everyone watching Tampa Bay exactly why we call this place home. You will have shown your own humanity by helping neighbors get back up on their feet. So many community members (in spite of their imperfections, laid out in some of the snarky picks in this issue) will have done their best to help each other get on.
So I’m happy and relieved to welcome you to Best of the Bay 2022. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m proud to call you my neighbor.—Ray Roa