Over 330 guests, staff and servers packed Alliance Bible Fellowship for the ninth annual Watauga Democrat Best of the Best awards ceremony to celebrate the top tier of businesses in the Boone area on April 23.
Hosted by the Watauga Democrat, presented by Blue Ridge Energy and Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants and cosponsored by Farm Bureau of Watauga County and Ross Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, the results were read by Mountain Times Publications Advertising Director Charlie Price and Advertising Sales Manager Manuel Zepeda. The winners walked down the VIP red carpet to receive their award from MTP Marketing Consultant Nathan Godwin, and then took part in a winner’s photo booth to show off their accomplishments.
“The overwhelming response pays tribute to area businesses and their loyal customers,” Price said of the more than 7,000 people who participated in the Best of the Best voting. Price noted that voters were limited to one vote per category on each device.
A total of 81 award-winning businesses and agencies were honored at the event, with 91 awards in total given out, plus more for those who could not attend.
The evening began with an introduction by Mountain Times Publications Publisher Gene Fowler and an invocation by Zepeda.
After eating a meal catered by CR Catering of Boone and listening to the smooth sounds of the Todd Wright Trio, Fowler introduced the keynote speaker Julie O’Dell, who is senior vice president, chief administrative officer and ethics officer with Lenoir-based utility cooperative Blue Ridge Energy.
O’Dell’s speech focused on how to be the best.
“I’m a firm believer that it actually comes from within and that it’s deep rooted,” O’Dell said on what it takes to be the best. “We must desire to be the best and that’s absolutely a word you do not take lightly.”
“Nobody here is average tonight,” O’Dell added.
O’Dell shared quotes from the Bible and other books and influential figures.
“Leadership is nothing more than character with action, a conscious choice to just do it,” O’Dell quoted.
Self-control, kindness, honesty, being humble, listening to others, showing respect, showing appreciation to others, learning to forgive and showing unconditional love were the themes O’Dell asked the audience to focus on going forward.
“I am of the belief that ... the seven most important words in the English language are, ‘I made a mistake, I am sorry,’” O’Dell said.
Building character should be a lifelong practice, and will benefit everyone around you, O’Dell added.
O’Dell implored the crowd to avoid being average, saying it’s a failure of potential.
Fowler echoed O’Dell’s remarks.
“When you are the best, there’s only one place to go and it’s a struggle to stay there,” Fowler remarked.