The coincidence of the closely contested August 9 primary election in Vermont and the published results of the Seven Daysies Readers’ Choice Awards seemed like an insurmountable challenge for the cover design. Especially given the whimsical theme of this year’s Daysies: Mythical Creatures.
But illustrator Jeff Drew knew what to do on the front page of this week’s issue. He captured the political moment and gave it a twist – specifically, a trio of unusual “citizens” – in a single rendering that cleverly connects the two events.
In truth, this week’s paper is all about voting. Seven days is filled with letters to the editor from readers making last-minute pitches for political candidates, especially those aiming to be our next conventionwomen and the chief prosecutor for the state’s most populous region. In deep blue Vermont, whoever survives those primaries is well-positioned to win the November general election.
In the middle of the paper, a separate publication chronicles another kind of contest: After a two-year hiatus, the Daysies are back in business. All my wishes is the colorful culmination of a four-month process that involves creating competition categories, soliciting nominations from the public, two rounds of voting, tabulating the results, reporting the winners, and finally, turn it all into an eye-catching magazine.
It’s more than a handy guide to everything Vermont has to offer, from breweries and bike trails to lodging and local theater. The Daysies are a measure of the strength and resilience of our local economy.
To be honest, we thought long and hard about whether to resume the contest. The pandemic has shut down a number of Vermont businesses and changed countless others — in some cases, forever. Many surviving businesses struggle with staff shortages, inflation, supply chain issues, and other ongoing existential challenges.
The last thing we wanted was to force them back into the spotlight prematurely.
But the companies wanted it. And many of them campaigned for votes – in some cases, harder than politicians running for primaries! Readers responded and, like in real elections, not everyone will be happy with the results. That’s democracy for you.
I guess the Daysies were a welcome distraction from the hurdles of operating during a pandemic — a sign of normality and continuity in our upside-down world.
It’s been true ever since Seven daysalso, even though it all seemed more difficult this year – partly because we hadn’t done it since 2019.
Some challenges are perennial: The voting software we use merges nominations that are exactly the same, but slight variations are unavoidable. So a small team of Seven Dayzers spends about a week going through tens of thousands of written responses and combining “like” items. They might see “Three Needs”, “3 Needs”, “Needs” and “cool bar on Pearl Street”. Or “Caledonia Spirits”, “Bar Hill”, “Barr Hill” and “that bee gin distillery”.
Electoral integrity aside, this requires a lot of institutional knowledge about Vermont.
Then there is the tedious task of ensuring that we have the correct name for each of the over 1,000 finalists and that they are indeed delivering what they are quoted for. For example, a restaurant might be nominated for Best Eggs Benedict but not actually serve Eggs Benedict. A favorite group may have broken up years ago.
We feared there would be a lot of that this year – voting fueled by nostalgia – but it was no worse than usual. Fact-checking never stops.
The Daysies celebrate the creative and hard-working businesses in Vermont that make this state different from anywhere else in the country. We have to thank our local economic ecosystem and our generous Super Readers for Seven days‘survival too.
In recognition of this and the hell we’ve all been through, this year All my wishes is right in the middle of the newspaper, where you’ll usually find detailed coverage. To illustrate the special issue, Drew has created a motley menagerie of creatures. Because from most angles — on the pavement bike lane and in the voting booth — Vermont is a unicorn.