For a year like no other, we put together a Best of Halifax issue like you've never seen before. You will not find Best Coffee in these pages, nor the gold, silver and bronze winners for Best Spa. There is a distinct and deliberate lack of Best Place For A First Date, Best Comedy Night, Best Real Estate Agent and Best Nachos. Instead we're offering a collection of reasons we love the city. In 2020, the Best of just feels better this way.
This is The Coast's 26th annual BOH. The previous 25 all centred around the readers' choice awards, which is to say we asked Coast readers like you to pick the best shops and restaurants and people and places in Halifax. In 1995, the ballot was printed on a page in the newspaper version of The Coast and readers cut the page out, filled in their choices, then returned it to us.
It was like an election where each candidate was a write-in—and there were lots of candidates. We tabulated the vote by reading each ballot, doing our best to decipher inscrutable handwriting, and tallying the choices. Hard for readers to answer, hard for us to count, that very first Best of was nonetheless an instant success. A whole new way for Haligonians to celebrate Halifax.
In recent years, we've used a mammoth online survey—making it easy for people to vote in 200 categories—and a Best of Halifax win has become a widely recognized success symbol. Businesses display their awards near the front door; every so often you see someone's BOH plaque among other credentials in the background of a Zoom call. People work hard and compete for the honour, which is fun and maybe even useful in a thriving economy. Or any economy. Not so much when you swap out the economy for a plague.
At The Coast, we briefly considered cancelling this year's Best of Halifax, as countless other annual traditions were cancelled. But when in The Coast's lifetime has the city needed a boost more? So we built an online survey that invited people to share their experiences in the time of Covid, using write-in answers and Coast staff analysis just like in the early days.
Among other things, the survey gave readers a platform to speak directly to politicians and healthcare workers, and it asked explicitly what makes Halifax special, pandemic or not. The results are in the stories accompanying this note. You'll read a variety of pieces: direct quotes from individual readers, answers to survey questions, stories we wrote on themes we noticed across the entire survey. You might laugh, you may even cry, but mostly we hope you find a whole lotta love.