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

The contest starts with a Nomination Phase, to make sure we have all eligible contenders in each category. This keeps the contest fresh, as new businesses and organizations come to the county and as existing ones change and grow. The Nomination Phase starts in November.

And then we get to the voting, which proceeds in two stages:

  • In the First Voting Round (or Top Five Round), which takes place in December, voters narrow down the nominees to get Loudoun's Top Five contenders. Some categories may see more than 100 nominees, so this round makes the voting for Loudoun's Best more manageable!
  • In the Second Voting Round (or Final Round), which takes place in February, voters pick the very Best of Loudoun.
  • When all the votes are counted, we will announce a winner and two finalists in each category. Final winners are announced in March.

Daily voting

New for 2020, the contest allows each voter to vote once per day during the voting rounds.

Daily voting makes the contest a better gauge of reader preferences, because it rewards both the DEPTH of support for nominees as well as their BREADTH of support.

Here's why:

With one-time voting, "Best of" contests results tend to reflect simple name recognition. As casual voters flip through contest categories, they see names they know and they click on them, without a lot of thought. Simple name recognition is an important component of popularity, but it's not all that goes into making something truly the Best of Loudoun. We also want the contest to reflect passion!

Daily voting helps offset the power of simple name recognition by creating at least an opportunity for smaller businesses to compete by rewarding the passion of their supporters. Nominees that can encourage their supporters to vote more frequently can narrow the inherent advantages that accrue to longevity and general name recognition.

Fraud detection

Sadly, not everyone plays fair, and there have been cases where nominees attempt to cheat the system. Fortunately, our contest platform provides powerful tools for identifying fraud. We use a team of voting moderators to review voting patterns. Anomalies are brought to the attention of a neutral, out-of-market moderator who makes a final decision. We reserve the right to eliminate all suspect votes at our discretion.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Nominations must be reviewed and approved before they will show up on the site. During the Nomination Phase, it can take a day or two for our team to complete the review and approval process in some of the busy categories. After all, we receive thousands of nominees!

Q: Do all nominees make it to the First Voting Round?

Not necessarily. We review all nominees to ensure they qualify for the specific categories in which they have been nominated. Qualifications vary slightly by category, and the guidelines are described below.

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 answer above. 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: 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.

Qualification Guidelines

  • Unless the category is labeled "Regional," 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.
  • Most categories are restricted to local businesses and organizations; national chains or franchises are generally not eligible. Some categories, noted below, are open to national or regional businesses. Small regional groups, at our discretion, may be considered local businesses.
  • 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 membership organizations.) An exception is made for golf courses.
  • Application of our criteria is not an exact science. The Best of Loudoun team uses its best judgment; if you think we’ve made an error, email BOL@loudountimes.com.

Finally, these guidelines evolve as we encounter new and unusual situations. We reserve the right to change them at any time. Check this page for updates.

Category exceptions and special notes

Arts & Entertainment

Local businesses only, except in the Local Band/Musician, Performing Arts Group categories, where they must perform in Loudoun County but can reside outside of Loudoun County.

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 are eligible, including chains and franchises. To clarify its focus, the category formerly known as "Vitamins/Health Store" has been renamed to "Health Food Stores" and is open to local businesses only.

Destinations

Local businesses only, expect in the Hotels category, where all companies are eligible including chains and franchises.

Dining Out

Local businesses only, except in these categories, where all companies are eligible: Wings, French Fries, Fried Chicken, Pizza, Steak.

Health & Medical

In categories where we asked for practices, we try exclude individual practitioners, unless they operate solo practices named after themselves. Local businesses only except in the Regional Hospital Category.

Home & Garden

Local businesses only, except in these categories, where all chains are eligible: Builder/Construction Company, Tree Service.

Kids & Education

Local businesses only, except in:

  • College/University category, where the College or University can be located in Virginia.
  • The Education Enrichment/Tutoring category, where all chains are eligible.

Pets

Local businesses only except in the Pet Store category, where all chains are eligible. Pet Services category is intended for things like grooming, training, sitting and walking; services not covered by other categories.

Services

Local businesses only, except in these categories where regional nominees are eligible: Bank, Insurance Agency, Mortgage Company.

In the Financial Planning category, all companies are eligible, including national advisors.

Other guidelines for the Services categories:

  • The Bank category also includes credit unions.
  • The Marketing/Public Relations Firm category excludes purely advertising companies.
  • Appliance Repair Service does not include HVAC repair companies.

Shopping

Local businesses only, except in these categories where all chains are eligible: Furniture Store, Home Décor Store, Party Supply Store, Supermarket, Organic Grocery Store.