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Best of Austin 2021 Cover

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Weird year, huh?

Technically, it’s been 16 months since our last annual (ahem) "Best of Austin" issue. We celebrated this issue’s 30th anniversary back in November 2019. I don’t have to tell you why we skipped 2020 altogether.

Even with the long break, I wondered if it was too soon to revive our "Best of Austin" awards, while we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, still grappling with so much loss and trauma. How do you begin to talk about "best" when we’ve just been through the worst year of our lives?

It was our readers, in fact, that convinced me the timing was right. You voted in our Readers Poll in droves: first the write-in, nominating ballot, and then the second, finalist ballot. 39,200 people voted in the second round – the most engagement we’ve ever had by a long shot. When I read the comments left in this round, explaining why you were casting particular votes, I truly got it: that you are so grateful. That every ballot cast was a thank-you – to an artist, a restaurant, a nonprofit, a plumber, and so many other people and places that lifted your spirits, made your burdens a little lighter.

35,000 comments. That’s how many comments you left. That is a lot of gratitude, y’all.

"Makes me feel less alone and feel like part of a community." A reader left that comment about the Chronicle, and it moved me in ways I can hardly describe. A sense of community hasn’t always been so easy to come by during these many months of social isolation and upheaval. But it’s what we’re always striving for here at the paper, and what I think you’ll find in these pages.

This year we celebrate 206 Readers Poll winners, almost 700 more finalists, and an additional 102 Critics Picks awarded by Chronicle staff and contributors. Whether you’ve lived in Austin for one day or 50 years, I guarantee you’ll find something in here that speaks to you. – Kimberley Jones

You love them. You really love them.
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