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Huge crowd attends Leader's Best of the Best Banquet

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Marianne Dunavant receives a cermonial Miss Tipton County crown from Miss Mid-South Grace Burgess during First Friday coffee last week in Munford. Dunavant was voted Miss Tipton County by Leader readers. Photo by Jeff Ireland

The Leader’s first Best of the Best Banquet catered to a sold-out crowd at the Covington-Tipton County Chamber Center on July 29.

Best of the Best is the newspaper’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards presented to winners in more than 70 categories. Additionally, a youth of the year, man of the year and woman of the year award are presented to people who the newspaper’s readers feel made significant contributions to the community.

While the newspaper has conducted the Best of the Best RCAs for eight years, this marked the first banquet.

“Announcing the names in the paper without fanfare seemed anti-climactic,” said Leader publisher Brian Blackley. “This is a way to really honor those who were chosen as the best by the readers of the newspaper and puts the focus back the hard work and excellent service provided by people and organizations throughout the community.

If that was the point, Blackley said, the banquet was a terrific success based on attendance and feedback.

“We’re overwhelmed by the support of the community and the businesses and organizations who attended and were part of such a terrific night,” Blackley said. “We went all out to make sure we held an event worthy of those who are the Best of the Best in Tipton County and we’re very pleased with how it turned out.”

Managing editor Echo Day, who led many aspects of the event’s planning and preparation, shares the sentiment.

“The event went better than we could have imagined,” she said. “We appreciate the support of the community. It shows you still appreciate the work we do after more than 100 years and that’s incredibly rewarding. It’s a terrific experience that will help make the 2015 event bigger and better. We had a lot of fun and we think the folks there really enjoyed it."

Blackley said thanks are in order. 

“Making the night great would not have been possible without the hard work of a great staff, and friends like Lee Johnston and Dawn Johnston and Robin Sealy at the Chamber of Commerce and the help of businesses like Old Town Hall Cafe which did the catering, Hometown Flowers which provided the centerpieces for the tables, the Hadley House for decorating the windows of the Chamber Center and our friend Scott Oates for his assistance with the wine.

“Finally, Justin Hanson really went all out as the emcee for the event and made the night flow incredibly well. His professionalism, humor and entertaining wit can’t be overstated.”

The night was not without its hiccups, Blackley said. 

“The key criticism we’ve had is that the venue was too small,” Blackley said. “Frankly, we under anticipated demand and overbooked the venue, forcing some folks to tables in the upstairs area. We failed to see that issue, so next year we’ll have to make some changes, perhaps limiting the number of seats available to each business and organization. In a way, I suppose, that’s a good problem to have and for that we’re tremendously humbled and pleased. We’re very grateful to those in attendance as well. It really made for a nice, fun night.”

The Leader’s annual Best of the Best edition which will list the winners and include  photos from the banquet will publish Aug. 29.

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