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From the Publisher: Back in Business

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Published August 3, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


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The coincidence of Vermont's hotly contested August 9 primary election and the published results of our Seven Daysies readers' choice awards seemed like an insurmountable cover design challenge. Especially given this year's whimsical Daysies theme: mythical creatures.

But illustrator Jeff Drew knew what to do on page one of this week's issue. He captured the political moment and gave it a twist — specifically, a trio of unusual "citizens" — in a single rendering that cleverly connects the two events.

In truth, this week's paper is all about voting. Seven Days is filled with letters to the editor from readers making last-minute arguments for political candidates, particularly those aiming to be our next congresswoman and the top prosecutor in the most populous region of the state. In deep-blue Vermont, whoever survives those primaries is well positioned to win the general election in November.

In the middle of the paper, a separate publication chronicles a different kind of contest: After a two-year hiatus, the Daysies are back in business. All the Best is the colorful culmination of a four-month process that involves creating competition categories, soliciting nominations from the public, two rounds of voting, tallying results, reporting on the winners and, finally, turning all of that into an eye-catching magazine.

It's more than a handy guide to everything Vermont has to offer, from brewpubs and bike paths to lodging and local theater. The Daysies are a measure of the strength and resilience of our local economy.

To be honest, we thought long and hard about whether to resume the contest. The pandemic closed a number of Vermont businesses and changed countless others — in some cases, forever. Many surviving enterprises are struggling with staffing shortages, inflation, supply chain issues and other ongoing existential challenges.

The last thing we wanted was to force them back in the spotlight prematurely.

But businesses wanted it. And a lot of them campaigned for votes — in some cases, harder than politicians running in the primary! Readers responded, and, just like in real elections, not everybody will be pleased with the results. That's democracy for you.

My guess is that the Daysies were a welcome distraction from the obstacles of operating during a pandemic — a sign of normalcy and continuity in our topsy-turvy world.

That's been true for Seven Days, too, though the whole thing seemed harder this year — in part because we hadn't done it since 2019.

Some challenges are perennial: The voting software we use merges nominations that are exactly the same, but slight variations are inevitable. So a small team of Seven Dayzers spends about a week looking at tens of thousands of write-in answers and combining "like" things. They might see "Three Needs," "3 Needs," "Needs" and "cool bar on Pearl Street." Or "Caledonia Spirits," "Bar Hill," "Barr Hill" and "that honeybee gin distillery."

Election integrity aside, it requires a lot of institutional knowledge about Vermont.

Then there's the time-consuming task of making sure that we have the correct name for each of the 1,000-plus finalists and that they do indeed offer what they're cited for. For example, a restaurant could be nominated for best eggs Benedict but not actually serve eggs Benedict. A favorite band might have broken up years ago.

We worried that there might be a lot of that this year — nostalgia-fueled voting — but it wasn't any worse than usual. The fact-checking never stops.

The Daysies celebrate the creative, hardworking Vermont businesses that make this state different from everywhere else in the country. We have our local economic ecosystem, and generous Super Readers, to thank for Seven Days' survival, too.

In recognition of that, and the hell we've all been through, this year's All the Best is smack-dab in the middle of the paper, where you'd usually find an in-depth cover story. To illustrate the special issue, Drew created a motley menagerie of creatures. Because from most angles — on the causeway bike path and in the voting booth — Vermont is a unicorn.