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Unlike many of you, I can remember the years when our fair city didn't have any newspaper honoring the best businesses and bands, restaurants and bars, media types and even the fools in our midst.

Of course, Colorado Springs wasn't so spread-out in those days. Then along came Briargate and Stetson Hills and Peregrine and Springs Ranch and so many more developments.

And, in 1993, along came the Colorado Springs Independent. When the Indy soon thereafter initiated its Best Of awards, more than a few wondered if the idea would work. It did, of course, and soon the daily paper started its own version.

We're convinced ours remains the standard. We've kept the spotlight on the people's favorites — with a smattering of complementary writers' picks — and our participation has been phenomenal. This year we counted nearly 6,000 ballots by mail or online. (The Gazette, suddenly enamored with the idea of increased reader participation, bragged about having 2,500 earlier this year.) And we didn't include several hundred ballots that were disqualified; we watch closely for anyone trying to stuff the ballot box or otherwise cheat.

So, in the end, we know our Best Of 2009 has more credibility than any copycat. And, like this metro area of 600,000 people, we've come a long way in 16 years.

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