John Taylor, special publications editor

After all the pain Yakima Valley businesses have endured in the past year, it feels great to pause and celebrate some truly heroic accomplishments around our community. And because of the challenges we’ve all faced in recent months, it’s a special joy for us to present our fourth annual Readers’ Choice Awards, which honor your favorite businesses, organizations, events and individuals.

Sadly, pandemic safety restrictions delayed this year’s voting — and prevented us from holding our usual public ceremony to personally applaud the winners. But it sure didn’t dampen anybody’s enthusiasm for calling out the professionals who’ve gone the extra mile to deliver excellence under some of the most trying circumstances we’ve experienced in more than a century.

To our delight, more of our readers took part this year than ever before — 35,529 people cast votes, selecting nearly 200 winners in categories as diverse as Best Music Venue, Best Place to Take Kids, Best Plumber, Best Radio Personality, Best Shoe Store and so on.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Yakima Herald-Republic’s audience — via print and online — continues to grow, reaching more people than any other local media company in Central Washington.

But the awards have been different this year. Outstanding work had to be even more exceptional than in relatively routine years to win votes — so we added some special categories to highlight some of the over-the-top efforts our local businesses undertook to meet their customers’ needs during this time of crisis.

As in past years, first-place winners are receiving commemorative certificates they can hang on their walls, signifying the esteem in which their customers and neighbors hold them.

And especially this year, the winners and runners-up in all of the categories certainly have our congratulations and sincere respect. Clearly, they have yours, too.

John Taylor,

Special publications editor