SOUTHINGTON — Around 860 people gathered at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville on Friday to celebrate hundreds of local businesses during the Record-Journal’s 20th annual Readers’ Choice Awards gala.
“We all know that local businesses drive our economy and for our community, this program allows them to learn about the local companies that they can count on for trusted products and services,” said Jaime Gianini, strategic sales manager of the Record-Journal.
This is the fifth year a gala was incorporated into the award ceremony. Gala attendees walked on the red carpet, posed for photos and danced the night away after the awards ceremony took place.
“We found that there was a need to really showcase the local businesses in our community and celebrate them as well as honor them for being the best of the best which is recognized by our readership,” Gianini said.
When it comes to determining which business is the winner of a category, Gianini said there were two rounds of voting.
“We have the nomination round and then we take the top five for each category and there are 282 categories right now and then the top five from there move on to the final round,” Gianini said, “We then have the public vote on those top five and we announce the winner at the gala but the winner and the top two finalists are all invited and are all celebrated because we’re celebrating the best of the best of central Connecticut.”
Sylvia Gonzalez, Miss Connecticut 2022, announced the 282 categories and their winners.
For some businesses and organizations, this was their first time being nominated for a Reader’s Choice award.
Krystle Blake, assistant executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden, said this was the club’s first time being nominated for an award. The club won the children & youth award for community organizations & nonprofits.
“We’re excited to be able to bring our team here tonight and celebrate the accomplishment,” said Blake, also a Meriden city councilor.
Other business owners have been attending the event for a few or several years.
Miss Chantel’s Star Dance Academy in Meriden has won the best dance school award in the past and this year won the best dance studio category.
“We’re excited to be outside of the dance studio dancing, having fun and bonding with our staff,” said Chantel Martin, director.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati of Meriden was representing Thompson Chocolate, a Meriden-based company, at the gala. Scarpati is the sales and marketing manager for Thompson, which won best candy store.
“Every year this event seems to get bigger and better so it’s just awesome to catch up with all of the local businesses and hear how people are doing,” Scarpati said. “It’s been a tough couple of years for everybody and so to have these businesses back here and these nonprofits that have given back to our community and survived COVID, it’s just awesome to hear the success stories.”
For all gala attendees, the night was full of celebrating their accomplishments, even if they did not necessarily win an award.
“It’s a fun night of celebration and everybody who comes here is here to celebrate how wonderful their business is and be with their team members,” said Liz White Notarangelo, Record-Journal publisher and executive vice president.