We are a culture of dabblers. The sprawling suburbanization of America has meant an inevitable dwindling of commitment to the idea of community. Long gone are the days when you could just gather up a bunch of your neighbors and work together to ostracize another neighbor because he was different, and needed to be taught a lesson.

-Dennis Miller

Welcome to the sixth annual REAL Best of Lexington.

We added the "Real" in the first year, because everybody had a Best of Lexington poll of some sort: tv, radio, and so on.

Then they tapered off.

Then they came back.

Now you see billboards all over town proclaiming "Kentucky's best" or "Louisville's best" Seems like everything from newsletters to webzines to shoppers and ad-rags have gotten in on the act.

To that, we respond with one word (two, if you pronounce them correctly): WHAT. Ever.

We've been at this for years now. We can spot a stuffer a mile away. We know when a dog is doing the voting at your house. We know your kids' names and we ruthlessly disqualified them. (Read the rules: you had to be 18 to vote. Just like in America. And you had to sign your name. Just like in America.)

You also had to fill out half the ballot. That meant you had to know, and care, a little bit about this town. You couldn't just fill in the name of your buddy's band and slide 14 ballots under our door.

If you did that we threw them in the trash. Hundreds of them.

In an unprecedented break with industry practice, we also outlawed online voting this year. You'd be amazed how many people have the time to invent 432 email addresses for themselves just in order to vote for their favorite book.

To vote, you also had to have a little bit of discretionary income and initiative: enough for an envelope and a stamp anyway.

Now. Do people campaign for votes (as one disgruntled eye surgeon wrote in to complain about last year, after he lost)? As far as we can tell: yes. Presumably because they care what Ace readers think.

We noticed many establishments promoting "pick up an issue and vote in Ace's Best of Lex."

Great. Voting is to be encouraged. Again, just like in America. We wanted a cross-section of the populace, and we got one. This year's oldest voter (at least the oldest one to disclose her age) was 71. Every neighborhood in Lexington was represented in the voting (along with some outlying counties). Professions included students, doctors, lawyers, bankers, architects, hairdressers, plumbers, and everyone in between.

No votes were fixed or solicited to favor an advertiser, a cousin, a boyfriend, or anyone else. The process wasn't mobbed up. And no one on the staff was allowed to vote. (No conspiracy theories to be found.) Ballots were tallied by interns and contract labor (who were kept sequestered in dark rooms, uninfluenced by the outside world. We turned the lights off and on every few hours like they do at poultry factories to increase their productivity).

Yes, you'll meet some "regulars" on the following pages. You will find some shocking upsets as well. OK...maybe not shocking, but possibly unexpected.

Other polls will come and go, but we (and the interns, who still have the shakes from nicotine and caffeine withdrawal) have, as always, worked very hard to ensure that this poll is a true reflection of the Ace readers' votes for the REAL Best of Lexington.

We hope you enjoy it. The voting commences again throughout August of next year. With the winners, again, announced the last issue in September.

See ya every Thursday, till then.

With utmost sincerity,

~Yer Pals at Ace Weekly