BOONE — Business owners and staff gathered on April 10 to celebrate top-notch community members at the eighth annual Best of the Best event presented by the Watauga Democrat.

This year’s Best of the Best accumulated more casted votes, additional categories and a larger number of attendees this year than ever before. The 2018 ceremony was sponsored by Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants and Highlands Bank.

Attendees gathered at the Alliance Bible Fellowship in Boone and enjoyed food by CR Catering as well as music by the Todd Wright Trio.

Gene Fowler, publisher of Mountain Times Publications, delivered the invocation for the event.

J.B. Lawrence — former Blowing Rock mayor and current client services executive at Highlands Bank — served as the night’s keynote speaker. Lawrence spoke about the importance of putting in time and effort in order to be able to claim to be the best.

“You don’t get to be best of the best by accident,” Lawrence said. “It takes a ton of work and commitment. Being the best takes sacrifice, and sacrifice means putting in the time to be successful.”

Lawrence told attendees that in order to have a successful business, staff need to know their products and services inside and out, coach employees on customer service, accept responsibility when things don’t go as planned and build teamwork skills in a non-stressful environment among employees.

“Please encourage those you work with,” Lawrence said. “We all like to hear kind words that lift our spirits. A stressful workplace does nothing for your business.”

Lastly, he said that Watauga businesses should work together as “none of us are as smart as all of us.”

Charlie Price, the advertising director of Mountain Times Publications, said with more than 300 people in attendance, he felt like the event had more excitement than in years past.

Price said there were six categories added to the list for an approximate number of 156 divisions, as well as close to 8,000 votes cast. He said due to an increase in the number of votes coming from the Watauga Democrat website, the event saw a great deal of new winners.

He said he is honored to be able to thank the business community for what they do.

“It’s an opportunity to relate to our merchants in a very positive way and congratulate them for what they have done to build a good environment in our community, an environment of friendliness, responsibility and community involvement,” Price said.

To view the full list of winners, visit the e-edition of the Best of the Best tab at

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