In the Loudoun Times-Mirror's Best of Loudoun contest, readers have the last word.

For years, Loudoun County residents have looked forward to participating in the Best of Loudoun contest to support their favorite local businesses, organizations, people and attractions, in hundreds of categories. It's the biggest contest of its kind in Loudoun County, with hundreds of thousands of votes cast annually.

(See past winners here: LoudounTimes.com/GoTo/BOLWinners.)

Nominations and voting

  1. Nomination round: The contest starts with a nomination round, where readers can propose business, organizations and names for all of the categories, including new categories This keeps the contest fresh, as new businesses and organizations come to the county and as existing ones change and grow.
  2. First voting round: In the first voting round, readers vote to winnow the big list of nominated businesses, organizations and attractions down to just the Top Five in each category.
  3. Final voting round: The excitement builds with voting on the Top Five businesses, organizations and attractions in each category! This is the final voting round, and from this will be crowned the Best of Loudoun.

Fair voting

Voting is limited to one vote in each category per person per day.

Even though we require sign-ups, we recognize that some people, in their enthusiasm, may be tempted to vote several times using different email accounts. Please note that voting under multiple email accounts violates the rules.

We do have systems in place to detect fraudulent voting. When we see evidence of fraudulent voting, we may eliminate all suspect votes at our discretion. In extreme cases, we will remove entrants, as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the key dates for 2021?

  • Nomination Period: Nov. 24-29, 2020
  • First Round Voting: Jan. 8-22, 2021
  • Final Voting Round: March 12-26, 2021
  • Winners announced: May 7, 2021

Q: I nominated my business, but I don’t see it showing up on the website in the list of nominees. Why is that?

If you’re looking at the site during the nomination period and don’t see a business you nominated, fear not! All valid entries are considered and reviewed. But in order for a nomination to show up on the site, we have to approve it manually. Because we receive thousands of nominations, we can get backlogged.

The good news is your business only has to be nominated once to make it to the first round of voting, assuming it met the guidelines. And if it did meet the guidelines, it does not matter if it showed up on the site during the nomination period.

Q: My business was nominated, and I saw it on the website during the nomination period, but it is not showing up in the voting round. Why?

See the guidelines below. After nominations close and before voting opens, our team does its best to vet all nominees. While your business may have appeared during the nomination period, our team may have determined it was ineligible for the voting round.

Q: I think my business should have made it to the first voting round. How do I register a complaint?

Email us at BOL@loudountimes.com within 24 hours after the first voting period opens. You must identify the category and tell us why you think your business should have been included.

Like most humans, we sometimes make mistakes, and if we have, we’ll add your business within moments of our decision.

Q: What guidelines are used to determine whether a nominated business qualifies for the first voting round?

Please see the sections below on "Nomination Guidelines" and "Category Exceptions and Special Notes."

Q: How are the winners selected?

Winners are those that received the most votes in their category. Finalists are those that received the second- and third-most votes in their category.

If there is a tie, we will announce both winners and/or finalists.

Q: Why does this contest allow people to nominate/vote every day?

The Best of Loudoun contest allows daily voting and nominations -- once per person per day per category -- because daily voting rewards entrants with passionate supporters. With a single vote per person, entrants with the best name recognition have a distinct advantage, as many voters skim over categories and cast their votes casually. Name recognition is an important part of finding the best of Loudoun, but we also want to reward the passionate loyalty some people have for their local favorites, which can be captured in daily voting.

Also: This contest is fundamentally about celebrating and supporting great Loudoun institutions by raising their profile and helping them gain new fans. With daily voting, the contest raises the visibility of those businesses and organizations that use it to reach out to new and existing customers to ask for their support, through advertising and through their own channels.

Nomination Guidelines

Our Best of Loudoun Team does its best to vet all nominees. Here are the guidelines we use, with exceptions as noted below:

  • Unless the category is labeled "Regional" or there is an exception noted below, the nominee must operate in Loudoun County. If the category is labeled “Regional,” the category is open to nominees from Loudoun and nearby counties. See below for specific limitations, because regional eligibility sometimes varies by category.
  • In some categories that are not labeled "Regional," businesses that are on the border of Loudoun County may be deemed eligible at our discretion.
  • Most categories are restricted to local businesses and organizations, in the sense of being locally owned and operated, not national brands, chains or franchises. Some categories, noted below, are open to national or regional businesses and brands. Small regional groups, at our discretion, may be considered local businesses in any category.
  • We reserve the right to disqualify a business or organization from a category that does not represent a significant focus of its activities.
  • Nominees must, in most categories, be open to the general public. (That is, no restrictive membership organizations.) Exceptions include golf courses.
  • Nominations for individual categories, like Best Bartender, must include the nominee's full name and place of business.

Application of our criteria is not an exact science. The Best of Loudoun uses its best judgment; if you think we’ve made an error, please email BOL@LoudounTimes.com.

Category Exceptions and Special Notes

Arts & Entertainment: All entrants must be located in Loudoun County. Note that in the Local Band/Musician and Performing Arts Group categories, entrants must perform in Loudoun County, but there is no residency requirement. The Photographer category is intended for professionals only.

Auto: Chains and national companies are eligible in all categories.

Body & Soul: Local businesses only, except in the Fitness Center/Gym category, where all companies operating in Loudoun County are eligible, including chains and franchises. Also, chiropractors are not eligible in the Holistic Health category.

Destinations: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), expect in the Hotel/Resort category, where all companies operating in Loudoun County are eligible, including chains and franchises.

Dining Out: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in these categories, where all companies operating in Loudoun County are eligible: Fried Chicken, French Fries, Frozen Treats, Pizza, Steak, Wings.

Health & Medical: Loudoun businesses only, except in the Best Regional Hospital category, which is open to hospitals in adjacent counties. Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in the Best Regional Hospital, Urgent Care Facility and Best Assisted Living categories, where national companies or franchises are eligible. In categories where we asked for practices, we try to exclude individual practitioners, unless they operate solo practices named after themselves. Also: The Plastic Surgery category excludes cosmetic dental practices.

Home: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in the following categories, where all companies and franchises operating in the county are eligible: Builder/Construction Company, HVAC Company, Lawn and Garden Equipment Store, Propane/Oil, Residential Real Estate Brokerage and Windows/Doors/Siding Company.

Kids & Education: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in the Tutoring Service and Child Care Center categories, which are open to any with a presence in the county. The Child Care Center category is open to licensed providers only.

People & Services: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in these following categories, where all entrants operating in the county are eligible: Home Cleaning Service, Insurance Agency, Landscape Services (Design and/or Build), Pest Control and Travel Agency.

Also, these categories are open to national brands or franchised businesses, as long as they maintain an office in the county: Accounting Service Company, Bank, Financial Planning Company and Mortgage Company.

The Insurance Agency category is open to locally based offices or teams of agents or brokers selling insurance directly to buyers. The category is not intended for individual agents, unless they are sole proprietors of an agency or brokerage, in which case that agency or brokerage may be nominated under their name.

The Nonprofit/Civic Support Organization category is intended for special service-oriented nonprofit businesses, not membership or professional organizations.

Martial Arts Instructors will not be included in the Personal Trainer category.

The Event Photography/Video category is intended for professionals only.

Pets: The Pet Boarding and Pet Store categories are open to national chains or franchises that operate in the county.

Shopping: Locally owned and operated businesses only (no chains/franchises/national brands), except in the following categories, where all companies operating in the county are eligible: Book Store, Furniture, Supermarket and Outdoor/Sporting Store.

We reserve the right to change these guidelines. Check back on this for current guidelines.