Who's Number 1?

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

We want answers. To lots of questions. Questions about important stuff, like: Who makes the best pies, cakes and cookies in town? So, please send in your picks for the10 categories that constitute our 2007 Readersí Choice Awards. All votes must be for Virginia people, places and things. Entries are due by May 1, and should be sent to Readersí Choice Awards, c/o Cooperative Living, P.O. Box 2340 , Glen Allen, VA 23058-2340.

You may also vote online by going to our Web site, www.co-opliving.com, clicking on ďContestsĒ and following the directions.

For mail-in votes, include your name, address, phone number, and which electric cooperative serves you. If you are voting in more than one category, send each vote on a separate piece of paper (can be mailed together), and please: one vote per category. Now, to prime the pump, herewith are my selections in each of our categories. But my votes donít count; yours do! So get busy and vote, and look for the results in our August issue.

1) Best fried chicken from a store or restaurant

No question in my mind: The Homeplace in the breathtakingly beautiful Catawba Valley , about 30 minutes from Blacksburg . Their country ham, roast beef, home-cooked veggies and homemade biscuits are to die for, too.

2) Best local bakery

This is like shooting fish in a barrel, er, pies in a case. Mrs. Roweís in Staunton (near the intersection of I-64 and I-81) has the most heavenly pies, cookies, cobblers and sweet confections this side of, well, heaven.

3) Best golf course

I donít play golf, but then opining on things outside oneís sphere is something journalists do all the time, right? So Iíll vote for Poplar Grove in Amherst , the last course designed by the late Bath County and PGA legend ďSlamminí Ē Sam Snead. Iíve visited the course, and the rolling hills, streams, and lake and mountain views actually made me wish that I lived on a golf course.

4) Greatest Virginia-born athlete (living or deceased)

Iíll go for style AND substance here: Arthur Ashe was a great human being and humanitarian who also happened to be a great tennis player.

5) Best country store

Iíve visited a bunch and two leap to mind: Carterís Country Store near Leesville Lake in Campbell County , and Groveís Store in Somersville in Fauquier County . Both bring old-fashioned value and good vibes to patrons hungry for a good sandwich or just good conversation.

6) Best live music venue

If you like BIG (parking lot, seating area, stage and, of course, acts) itís hard to beat Nissan Pavilion near Manassas; if small and lively are more your style, then youíll love the authentic old-time mountain music at The Friday Night Jamboree at Southwest VAís Floyd Country Store.

7) Favorite local doctor

Iíll pick two gentlemen who are gentle men: Dr. James Priest, a caring, giving dentist from South Boston , and Dr. Robert Beatley, an old-fashioned family doctor from Reedville on the Northern Neck, both of whom bring compassionate medical care to all, regardless of circumstance.

8) Favorite teacher

So many wonderful mentors for each of us to choose from. My favorite is the late Bill Dietrick (who wrote a column for this magazine during the 1990s), who taught me a great deal as a teacher at the University of Richmond, and even more as a mentor and friend after college.

9) Best local newspaper

I especially love two, one east and one west. To the east, I love The Eastern Shore News, which does a great job covering the Commonwealthís often-overlooked presence at the southern point of the Delmarva Peninsula . To the west, I favor The Recorder, a sparkling little weekly that covers all the goings-on in Virginia ís least-populous county, Highland , and her slightly larger adjoining cousin county, Bath .

10) Prettiest college campus

Again, the Old Dominion has more than her fair share. Iíll vote for Sweet Briar College , in Amherst County . This all-girlsí college has a small enrollment of just over 700, beautiful Collegiate Gothic architecture, and rolling hills and mountain views that are stunning, whether clothed in spring flowers or draped in winter snow. (Disclosure: My daughter attends there, but that didnít prejudice my vote. Too much. Really.)


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