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Best of Richmond 2001

Best local sports team

They're onstage 72 times a season here in Richmond. They're the Richmond Braves, and even if our illustrious baseball team did have a less than memorable season last year, we still love 'em. You can splurge on the top-dollar box seats at $8 a head, or sit with the peasants for $5. Either way, you can eat hot dogs and Cracker Jack on a warm summer evening, knowing that the best things in life may not be free, but they're damn cheap.

The cheap seats at a Richmond Renegades ice-hockey game may not be quite as cheap at $7 a pop, but the games are still bargain entertainment. Ice hockey has been called a combination of football and NASCAR, where people run into each other at pretty high speed. Whatever. It's a rush for fans and players and it keeps us coming back for more.



Best example of community good works that seem creepy: A Child Waiting

We think the idea of partnering community groups together for the purpose of placing children with adoptive parents is noble and pure and should be applauded. But in the hands of Channel 8 and Channel 12, clips introducing the kids come off like an adopt-a-pet segments for the SPCA. Attempting to jerk every heartstring, the segment features sappy background music any number of shameless ploys to induce a sympathetic "Awwww" from viewers. "Who do you like to draw, Deborah?" one child is asked. "My family," the girl responds. Reporter: "Maybe you can be in Deborah's next drawing."



Best thing to drive to Strawberry Hill races

After the transportation tangles you hit last year, it's difficult to tell what you considered in voting for the best thing to drive to the Strawberry Hill Races. Do we look for a good tailgating vehicle or is it more important to be comfortable in gridlock? Turns out there's a little of both. You like SUVs most of all for that open-the-back, spread-the-food, store-the-beer functionality.

Some readers had economics on their mind. Now that the races charge a flat rate per vehicle rather than per person, you have a strategy — pack 'em into the second-place winner, a bus. Other mentions include taking a helicopter or a horse. And for maximum DUI avoidance, some of you prefer to ride with someone else.



Best free entertainment

If it's free and it's the best Friday after-work jam session on the banks of the James, it's gotta be Downtown Presents' Friday Cheers. From May 4 through Aug. 31, young Richmond professionals love starting their weekends on the river, watching the sun go down on Brown's Island, as they ease into a few beers, good music and some good looks around. Downtown Presents director Christina Risatti says they'll open with Jimmie's Chicken Shack this year. She asks us to pray we don't get a repeat of last summer's rainy Friday nights. Friday Cheers brings in some hefty revenue for the city from the 5,000 thirsty music-goers attending each event. But it's not all gravy. They need the cash to cover the average $20,000 cost of each gig.

Runner-up in the freebie entertainment category is the well-seasoned 45-year-old Dogwood Dell concert series and fireworks display. More than 700 shells light up the sky over Richmond at the Dell on July 4, and the summer concert series draws about 150,000 to hear the best of local talent in a family atmosphere.



Best radio DJ to be right-sized out of a job in the past year

Your options were endless, considering the number of job cuts and programming changes that have hit Richmond airwaves since Clear Channel Communications merged with AMFM. Among the 16 or so DJ departures: Half of XL-102's Jeff & Jeff, Q-94's Lisa McKay, Big Al of Sports Radio 910-AM, WRVA's Lou Dean and Jerry Lund. You can hardly recognize anything anymore.

But it seems the one you miss most is Tim Timberlake, who on March 16 left a 30-year career at WRVA 1140-AM. He's glad you voted, he says. But he emphasizes that he wasn't right-sized. He left of his own accord. "I'm flattered I was thought of as the best of something but it was just timing for me," Timberlake says. "I've been looking for a point in my career to change gears anyway, and it just seemed to be the right time to make a change."You also didn't seem to mind that the married team of Jackie & Bender, formerly of WMXB 103.7-FM, weren't right-sized either. They left on Dec. 15 for KISS 106.1-FM in Seattle for a better market and to be closer to Jackie's family. "It was easily one of the most difficult decisions we had to make," Bender says by cell phone from Seattle. "We get dozens of [Richmond] e-mails a day still, through our Web site www.bendermornings.com."



Best local advertisement, best local actor

He pulls a never-ending sock out of his sleeve; he turns an open-toe shoe into a pump; he makes a shoe magically appear from behind his ear. He's Shoedini! And you love him, voting the Saxon Shoe-touting character (played by Mark Scott, named best actor this year), as best local ad. Saxon's strength is its voluminous selection, says David Owen, account supervisor for Saxon at Barber Martin Advertising, and the Saxon campaign communicates that in "intrusive, entertaining ways." Barber's Mack Calhoun, associate creative director and copywriter, created the Shoedini character, which also became the inspiration for Saxon's Web site, www.shoedini.com.

Other local ads that made an impression included Work Beer — no surprise, since the product is owned by Richmond advertising agency Work Inc. And you also like the "We Can Fix That" campaign for Richmond Eye & Ear Hospital.



Best waste of sophisticated weather equipment

Jim Duncan, you got most of the votes in this category, but don't take it so hard. Nothing personal, man. Hey, you are "sophisticated weather equipment," right? Frankly, we're a little befuddled by your win in this category. We were thinking about radar systems and fancy airplanes, not people. Here's a guess about what Style's readers might have been thinking when they anointed you: Maybe it gets old watching meteorologists stand in front of the camera night after night, pointing out the same gray, circular weather blob that's been heading up from the Gulf since as far back as we can remember. True, we need meteorology to help us plan the weekend and to warn us about hurricanes. But please keep it as short and sweet as possible. We just don't need cute transitional phrases, snappy banter or Doppler radar hype. Just the simple forecast.



Best Richmond social event

It's hard to imagine a bigger or better social event than Richmond's Easter parade. Thousands of people descend on Monument Avenue; it seems impossible to go more than a block without running into someone you know. The Easter parade is the quintessentially Richmond way to renew old acquaintances and make new ones.

Despite the move to Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Strawberry Hill Races came in second as Richmond's best social event. You can take the mud, cocktails and tailgating out of Richmond, but you can't … oh, never mind.



Best children's event

Last year they brought in snow before winter. (The theme was Canada.) Every year it's puppet shows and music and animals and art. Whatever the attraction, the Richmond Children's Festival, a free October event spanning an energetic weekend, wins this category hands down. There's no shortage of things to do, see, eat, smell, listen to and (gulp) learn. Kids flock to the hands-on activities while parents try to maintain stamina and humor. It's a stroller convention for a colorful cross-section of humanity, and one sure bet on this city's family calendar, sponsored by the Arts Council of Richmond.

The Richmond Children's Museum also wins in this category for its year-round programming and special events. Parents and grands who haven't discovered the colorful and stimulating Broad Street shrine for kids might take the plunge in the name of unconditional love. Excedrin is optional but recommended.



Best headscratcher: The Richmond.com/"Survivor" connection

We used to work in the same building with these guys and even we don't get it. Richmond.com, an internet portal for all things Richmond, for some reason has deemed itself the authority on all things "Survivor" as well. Last year there was a tenuous connection with Virginia Beach resident Rudy Boesch as a contestant. Still, the nonstop updates and tracking down of everyone Rudy ever bought a DQ Blizzard from was a bit much.



Best alarmist name for a weather forecast: First Warning Weather

The days of "Accu-Weather" are over. It's not enough to just be accurate anymore; TV weather forecasts must frighten you to the core of your soul. That's why Channel 8's Doppler Weather isn't taking home this prize. Don't these guys know weather is serious like a heart attack? Channel 6's StormTeam comes close (We picture Mike Goldberg and Tracey Lewis as brave tornado chasers in a little van tracking the eye of the storm and dodging flying Holsteins). But for sheer climate-related terror you just can't beat First Warning Weather on Channel 12. (Well, it might be a little scarier if it were our last warning ...) First Warning Weather has that "quick-get-to-the-basement-of-the-local-high-school" feel that the 21st-century newscast just can't survive without. By the way, next week will be 75 degrees and sunny. Consider yourself warned.

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