cover story: best of jax 2017

NEWS & MEDIA

Folio Weekly's BEST of JAX 2017

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Best Local Columnist
MARK WOODS
Favorites: Ron Littlepage, Claire Goforth
Again this year, our readers have named Florida Times-Union’s Mark Woods the Best Local Columnist. With a style that is thoughtful, reflective and somehow … reassuring, Woods can be enlightening, cutting or just good ol’-fashioned interesting. He kinda reminds us of a columnist from the Golden Age of Journalism who somehow fell into a time warp and wound up in 2017. His loss, our gain.

Best Local Writer
ELIZABETH RAVEN
Favorites: Mark Woods, Shelton Hull
In the shadows of the Sunshine State, author Elizabeth Raven was leading a quiet life as a veterinarian professional until one day a handsome stranger with a mysterious supernatural quality whisked her away on a journey to—oops!—we mean, she started writing a paranormal romance series set in St. Augustine. The author of the Matanzas Moon series takes some real local legends and blends them into enrapturing tales of adventure, mystery and love. She’ll cast a spell on you, for sure.

Best Local News Website
Best Local TV Morning Show
Best Local TV Anchor
NEWS4JAX.COM, CHANNEL 4 “THE MORNING SHOW,” STACI SPANOS
Y’all know that super-annoying whirling that your computer does trying to load the other news websites? No “buffering” at News4Jax.com, just hard-nosed reporters dishing up information about what’s going on in our world and beyond. It’s functional, useful and, best of all, NO POP UPS! We’re not at all surprised that they knocked it down for Best Local News Website again this year. And for an early-morning dose of news and entertainment, locals tune in to the Best Local TV Morning Show, Channel 4’s “The Morning Show,” where the Best Local TV Anchor Staci Spanos, a veteran who’s been with the station for 20 years (wow!), and her colleagues regale viewers with insights and information with just the right amount of cheer. No, you won’t get a sugar high watching this show. But you might actually learn something. We know, it’s a novel concept: Like its website, WJXT’s news programs enrich your life.

Best Local TV Newscast
Best Local Investigative Reporter
Best Local TV Weather Forecaster
FIRST COAST NEWS, KEN AMARO, TIM DEEGAN
Newscast Favorites: Action News Jax, News4Jax
Investigative Reporter Favorites: Jennifer Waugh, Nikki Kimbleton, Jim Pickett
Forecaster Favorites: Richard Nunn, Mike Buresh
Newsies know that when they need to get the most important news of the day without any of the nonsense, the best local program to tune to is First Coast News (also where one of Folio Weekly’s most beloved former staffers is an executive producer). Like the station’s consumer reporter Ken Amaro, who again captured the title of Best Local Investigative Reporter, seems our readers are “on your side,” FCN. Amaro, whose unmistakable glasses-and-stache have graced FCN’s airwaves since 1979, is a legit living legend—kinda like FCN Meteorologist Tim Deegan, who is quite possibly the local embodiment of Jim Cantore. But with much better hair.

Best Local TV Sports Anchor
Best Local Sports Radio Personality
DAN HICKEN
TV Sports Anchor Favorites: Chris Porter, Sam Kouvaris
Sports Radio Anchor Favorites: Brent Martineau, Brian Sexton
One might think that 30 years in the biz would mellow a person out. One would be wrong if they’re thinking of Dan Hicken, who is our readers’ fave sports commentator, whether he be on the picture screen at Action News Jax or over the airwaves on 1010XL or 92.5 FM. And—trust us—it’s not his singing voice that the Googans love. Make no mistake, however, Hicken may be knee-slapping hilarious with a voice only a mother could love, but he knows sports like Hugh Hefner knew babes: inside and out.

Best Thing to Happen in NEFL
DAILY’S PLACE OPENING
Favorites: HRO Passing, Art Walk
Here in Florida, we sure love us some live music, and with hardly a bad seat in the house—from what we’ve seen, it’s just good, better and best—Daily’s Place certainly deserves the title of Best Thing to Happen in Northeast Florida which Folio Weekly readers bestowed upon the venue. From easy parking to some of the nicest and most helpful staffers we’ve ever encountered, to swanky upgrades and easy-peasy parking, it’s clear why this accessible venue is bringing joy to so many concert-goers.

Best Local Radio Personality
Best Local Radio Show
Best Local Radio Station
MELISSA ROSS, “FIRST COAST CONNECT,” WJCT
Radio Personality Favorites: Mark Kaye, Ryan Green
Radio Show Favorites: WAPE “Morning Mess,” 1010XL “The Drill”
Radio Station Favorites: WAPE, 1010XL
Quality local news radio pulls a trifecta with WJCT. “First Coast Connect” and its much-loved host Melissa Ross are in it to win it as Folio Weekly readers’ faves, just another example of how WJCT is a powerhouse of news day in and day out. If there is any justice in the media, their Hurricane Irma coverage will rake in some serious awards. Their 9-months pregnant news director worked throughout and was rescued from San Marco in a boat! Ross spent 16 hours on the air! That kind of dedication is why, after joining the station in 2009, Ross was an instant game-changer for local news and radio. Over the course of her years in broadcasting, she’s won four regional Emmys and scads of Best of Jax awards—clearly the triumph of which she’s most proud. With “First Coast Connect,” Ross shines, inviting panel discussions on politics and even entertainment, somehow corralling all of the guests together in a cogent, informative and downright enjoyable listening experience. Viva WJCT!

Best Local Weirdo
JEREMY SPICER
Favorites: Kerry Speckman, Corrine Brown
While we’re saddened that each year serial killer hopefuls don’t win this category, we are equally relieved that said “local weirdoes” don’t show up at our office to prove their freaky-deaky weirdness. Thankfully, our salubrious readers choose whom they consider weirdest wacko of the First Coast. As a toymaker at Germ Spider Designs, weirdo hero Jeremy Spicer takes stuffed animals and repurposes them into more … how shall we say? … “diabolical” forms. (Cue cackling, thunder, etc.) A fan of creepy clowns, monsters and circuses, Spicer is renowned for making these macabre playthings; he also likes dressing up as a demented clown which, quite frankly, kind of plays off the whole Creator/God/Old Testament paradigm.

Best Reason to Love Northeast Florida
BEACHES
Favorites: Weather, Art Walk
Northeast Florida locals agree that our beaches are the perfect escape from everyday life. Our coastlines feature plenty of sunny shores to explore—and tons of sights, sounds and smells, most of them pleasant. There are beautiful beaches, natural wonders, cool resorts and plenty of culinary options for every taste. From quiet, coastal communities to the freshest catch in town, and smokin’ hot clubs, our beaches are bursting with outdoor activity and a vibrant nightlife scene. No matter where you live, it’s worth the trip to wiggle your toes in the sand.

Best Local Twitter Account
@JAXSHRIMP
Favorites: @TheSpecktator, @JaxArmadaFC
It’s the bottom of the fifth and you’re stuck at a wedding. With no access to a radio, what do you do? Just sneak a quick look at Twitter @JaxShrimp. The bride and groom will be none the wiser and you won’t have to sulk while your buds are drinking beer and eating hot dogs at the ballgame.

Best Local Facebook Page
JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Favorites: News4Jax, Only in Duval
Our readers know that a good Facebook page can, at times, be criminally underrated. So maybe that’s why you future perps and proud priors picked the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office FB page as the paragon of social media penal code-rocking branding. Boasting an impressive, if not arresting, 165K “likes,” a couple thousand mug shots and memes, along with eloquently staged PR pix, community warnings (at press time the crime du jour is apparently vehicular breaking and entering). One could easily “do time” well spent checking out JSO’s flow of law and order, which has a high/lowbrow cops-and-robbers sass rivaled only by the late Gawker (RIP).

Best Instagram Account
IGERS JAX
Favorites: Riverside Memes, Only in Duval
Hashtag your heart out, Jacksonville! In this, the age of selfies, it’s not enough that we look at ourselves 24/7; we now turn the lens on our favorite spots in our very own swamp paradise. Current highlights of the page include (but are by no means limited to) lots of flooded Jacksonville and destroyed Memorial Park photographs, dogs in sunglasses, and one amazing eclipse pic—especially meaningful for those of us who jetted out of work to see the rare event, only to get stuck sulking in a car hoping (and being let down) that the rain would stop. There are also a hefty number of shots of Downtown Jacksonville in case you can’t remember what the skyline looks like.

Best Reason to Hate Northeast Florida
WEATHER
Favorites: Driving/Construction/Traffic, Bugs
These last few weeks should serve as sufficient evidence for weather being the Best Reason to Hate Northeast Florida—lookin’ at you, Irma. With back-to-back hurricanes—thanks, global warming—and high 90-degree weather for 75 percent of the year, living in Northeast Florida is like living in a steamer trunk full of wet gym socks. On good days, you’re sweating your ass off, and on bad days, you have an oak tree in your living room.

Best Folio Weekly Cover Story
A WING AND A PRAYER,” BY CLAIRE GOFORTH
Favorites: “Queen of the Underground,” Josué Cruz; “The Summer of ’64,” Scott A. Grant
OK, y’all made us so proud with this one! Not only did Folio Weekly readers share their love for our editor by voting her story the Best Folio Weekly Cover Story of 2017, but you also spread that love to the delicate, and teetering-toward-extinction Florida grasshopper sparrow. It’s a lovefest! The story detailed the work of a coalition that includes the local White Oak Conservation, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, Florida Park Services and others racing to save these plucky li’l creatures.

Best Blog
SAN JUAN ANIMAL HOSPITAL
Favorites: The Specktator, Jacksonville Moms Blog
Sifting through the online onslaught can be time-consuming, so if you’re like many of us, you might wait to read blogs until a friend forwards you a great one. Well, consider this your official forward. The San Juan Animal Hospital Blog speaks to the reader, providing concise articles on a variety of topics. The content is current, making it a reliable source for pet care information, and categories divide posts by subject. The site also provides contact information for the hospital and a link to their webpage. Even better, there are plenty of animal pictures to see as you scroll through the pages. Who doesn’t love an adorable animal slideshow?

Best Use of Local Public Money
PARKS
Favorites: Roads, Beach Cleanup
If you haven’t visited every public park in the 904, you are fer realz missing out. Looking for woods? We got ’em all over the place. Needing historical knowledge? Check out Fort Caroline or Fort Mose. Wanna be awed by the wonders of nature? Get yer butt to the famed boneyard beach on Big Talbot Island, one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on the Eastern Seaboard. In the mood to chillax in a spring-fed pool? Spring Park in Green Cove Springs. Whether it’s biking, hiking, surfing, stargazing (Hanna Park—’nuff said), picnicking (umm … Treaty Oak Park, anyone?), or any number of other lovely outdoor activities, there’s a park for you.

Best Waste of Public Money
CONSTRUCTION
Favorites: Jacksonville Jaguars, The Courthouse
“Excuse me; is this I-95S or some kind of high-speed, take-no-prisoners, semi-psychedelic race through orange cones at 80 mph?” Well, dear tourist—your guess is as good as ours. Is Jacksonville’s much-touted growth simply an excuse to begin building, seemingly at random, concrete monoliths and giant, opened craws of unfinished overpasses, as haggard folks work overtime under midnight klieg lights? There sure are a lot of questions in this entry, aren’t there? We do know this: FW readers are way aggro when it comes to the “building side” of the city of Jacksonville throwing around money like a coked-up Peter Dinklage at a robotic stilts factory. Here’s a radical idea for community building: Aim that money toward people in need and abject poverty. Hint: They’re not in your hermetically sealed, 5,000-foot radius.

Best Local Environmental Abomination
ST. JOHNS RIVER
Favorites: Road Construction, Development
Welp, our readers clearly love the St. Johns River in ways that industry and JaxPort will never, ever understand. ’Cause they voted for the dredging and pollution affecting our dearly beloved river as the Best Local Environmental Abomination in a bigly way. See, the port’s hell-bent on dredging the river, scientists, citizens and Best Local Environmental Activist the St. Johns Riverkeeper be damned. The mysterious foam, algal blooms, fish kills, dead dolphins and salinity encroachment that resulted from the last dredging might be NBD to industry and the port, but to our beloved readers, those who pollute and drag our river bottom are Enemies of the People.

Best Local Environmental Activist
Reader Nominated Category: Best Local Environmental Organization
ST. JOHNS RIVERKEEPER
Best Local Environmental Activist Favorites: Adam Morley, Jim Alabiso
Best Local Environmental Organization Favorites: Girls Gone Green, White Oak Conservation
For the past 17 years, the St. Johns Riverkeeper has upheld its sole mission of being the conscience that defends and advocates for the protection and restoration of the St. Johns River. Each Keeper surely walks the walk; the Riverkeeper has blown the whistle on and responded to hundreds of pollution incidents, making both polluters and regulatory agencies accountable for violations. Educational programs have been presented at local schools as well as on the water, and their tenacious efforts have changed policy that has directly improved the life of our greatest natural resource.

Best Local Nonprofit
HUBBARD HOUSE
Favorites: Humane Society, Habijax
The safety of women and children in uncertain situations is the paramount concern of the volunteers and staff at Hubbard House, FW readers’ choice for Best Local Nonprofit. The second objective is making concerted efforts to empower these women through counseling to develop skills needed to stay safe. And the third pillar of the Hubbard House program is effecting social change through advocacy and education, to put an end to domestiv violence, including murder, against women and children, victims of this horrific epidemic. The 24-hour hotline is 904-354-3114, hubbardhouse.org.

Best Local Volunteer Effort
HABIJAX
Favorites: Beach Cleanup, Ana’s Angels
If a friend in need is a friend indeed, then HabiJax has helped out a lot of friends: more than 2,000 since its 1988 inception. The largest affiliate in the Habitat For Humanity network this year celebrates more than just being named the Best Local Volunteer Effort: In April, HabiJax received a generous donation of $1 million from Delores Barr Weaver to help it provide homes to those who otherwise would probably never realize the dream of owning a home of their own.

BEST LOCAL RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL LEADER
Joby Martin
Finalists: Stovall Weems, God
When it comes to our readers’ vote for best local spiritual el domo, thee people hath spoken. Pastor Joby Martin is the longtime leader of The Church of Eleven22, which has expanded from its original HQ at San Pablo (the site of a former Walmart) to new franchises in Baymeadows and Mandarin. Followers dig Martin’s blue-collar vibe towards preaching the gospel, and his devotion to the word is without question. A still-talked-about Folio Weekly cover story questioned Martin’s views on the “pray-the-gay-away” approach to LGBTQ congregants. Proving that the word of God trumps the words of an altweekly, Martin continue to be the main man of spreading the gospel to thousands. 

Best Local Trend
LOCAL BREWERIES
Favorites: Food Trucks, Duuvvvalll
Mmmm … beer. Smaller, more sustainable and more local sure seem to be among the trends that Folio Weekly readers get behind, and we couldn’t agree more, especially when hops are involved. With more and more folks getting into the fermented beverage business, it means there are better opportunities to craft fine beverages that are distinctly of this swampy corner of paradise.

Worst Thing to Happen in Northeast Florida
Reader Nominated Category: Best Local Gone Bad
Best Local Scandal
Reader Nominated Category: Best Chutzpah
Local Zero
Reader Nominated Category: Local Who Needs to Lay Low Indefinitely
CORRINE BROWN
Worst Thing Favorites: Hurricanes, Donald Trump’s Election
Local Who Needs to Lay Low Favorites: Gary Snow, Blake Bortles
Zero Favorites: Lenny Curry, Gary Snow
Scandal Favorite: Matt Shirk
It was the indictment heard ’round the region. Then, in May, it was the guilty verdict that rocked Northeast Florida. Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who lost her primary last August after 24 years representing Northeast Florida in the infamously gerrymandered minority access district, was found to have run a charity for kids as a personal slush fund that paid for things like private boxes at Washington Redskins games, Beyoncé tickets, shopping trips and much, much more. Brown is undoubtedly the most notorious person around, hence her crushing essentially every category the Folio Weekly crackerjack team has created for local villains—Best Local Gone Bad, Local Who Needs to Lay Low Indefinitely, Local Zero—and drama—Local Scandal, Worst Thing to Happen in Northeast Florida. But it’s her win for Best Chutzpah that most surprised the troops, though it shouldn’t have. After all, who can get away with delivering a speech about the Florida Gators to freakin’ Congress while decked out in an orange-and-blue ensemble that could make Tim Tebow do a double-take? Nobody but Corrine Brown. Beloved by some and loathed by many, she’s a force of nature the likes of which will not be seen in a long, long, long, long time … we hope.

Reader Nominated Category: Best Local Podcast
THE SHORT BOX PODCAST
Finalists: Another Round Jax, Downright Fierce Gaming
The Short Box Podcast is the only place you can hear a conversation about Dragonball Z, farm-fresh produce, Jack Kirby and why Netflix’s Iron Fist sucks. This weekly podcast has been around since late 2012 and has slowly but surely become one of the Jacksonville community’s go-to sources for geek-culture news.

Reader Nominated Category: Best Hair
KERRY SPECKMAN
Favorites: Angela Butler, Gina Stoney
If anyone but the magenta minx Kerry Speckman had topped our readers’ poll for Best Hair, we’d have to label the entire Best of Jax #FakeNews. It all started to raise money for a web design … long story short, she loved the rainbow hue so much, it’s kinda become her trademark. Though it was originally blue, she soon settled on pink in honor of her dear mother who died of breast cancer when Speckman was just 14. Today Speckman, aka The Specktator, is so enamored with her coif that it has its own Instagram: @Pankhurr. And a grateful 904 thanks Pat Cole of Total Hair Experience Salon for those glorious pink tresses and that sassy purple streak.

Reader Nominated Category: Best Mustache/Facial Hair
SHAD KHAN
Favorites: Adam Boulware, Alexander William Salas
While many locals, regardless of age or gender, bow to the Gods of Beardism, other types (ahem) see face-moss as a dire habitat of strange creatures, oily funk and forlorn peanuts. Alas, our dear readers ceremoniously bestow the Facial Hair Crown on the Most Interesting and Rich Person in the Room: Shad Khan. With a mustache that can, at turns, make him appear either mirthful or diabolical, Khan’s full-bodied mustache is a de facto mood ring of this lovable tycoon’s next move. Showing solidarity with the Jags after Trump’s recent outburst toward the NFL only added another whisker to our hearts.

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