MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Bluff City’s biggest party to pivot this year. The Memphis Flyer’s “Best of Memphis” celebration, recognizing the greatest people, places and things in the Bluff City, will still happen but with a twist.
“It’s going to be a drive-thru event,” said Toby Sells, news editor for The Flyer. “We’ve never done that before.”
This year’s winners will drive through the Pink Palace parking lot to get a gift bag, food and drink, their award and take a quick photo.
“We’ll have music by Amy LaVere and Will Sexton there,” said Sells. “Winners will get to hang out for just a minute, then get back in their car and drive away.”
The first “Best of Memphis” poll was 27 years ago in 1993. Readers filled out paper ballots and mailed them back to The Flyer.
“When this was published,” Sells said pointing to an old, yellow-with-age copy of the original ballot, “Wayne’s World 2 was just out in theaters as was the Pelican Brief.”
Among the very first winners were John “Bad Dog” McCormick who won Best Radio Personality, and Rocky from Alex’s Tavern who won Best Bartender and Best Juke Box. The team at Huey’s won Best Burger that year...and every year since.
“So here’s the year’s Best Pizza,” Sells added. “And our voters said Pizza Hut was the No. 1 pizza in Memphis. We changed the category after that to Best Local Pizza Place.”
Seessel’s won Best Bakery. Blockbuster was the Best Video Store. And Goldsmith’s won Best Women’s Clothing. Those businesses, and the paper ballots, are a thing of the past. The poll is done all online now.
The first ballot had 73 categories. This year’s ballot had 173.
“We’re the oldest,” said Sells. “We’re the original. We’re the biggest. We have the most votes. And I think we have the best, most honest Best of Memphis poll in this city.”
And the “Best of Memphis” parties are notoriously fun.
“You know a huge part of ‘Best of Memphis’ over the years has always been the party," Sells said. "People look forward to the party.”
And even though the shindig will be different because of COVID-19, the bragging rights remain the same.
“We still want our winners to know that winning Best of Memphis is a huge deal,” Sells said. “And we’ll see them at the Pink Palace on Friday and hopefully make them feel pretty good.”
The "Best of Memphis party runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30. You can see live coverage starting at 3 p.m. on WMC Action News 5.
See a complete list of this year’s winners here, including some of your favorite WMC faces.