THE BESTEST CHEERLEADERS

Just a few months after returning to Northeast Florida, I was interviewing a leading voice in the Jacksonville arts community for another publication. Of all the positive things I’d heard about this particular person, perhaps the most common characterization of him or her was as a “cheerleader for the city” and I asked about that distinction. The response surprised me. He or she didn’t care for the characterization, because as she or he put it, “cheerleader makes the subject sound like it’s challenged, or not deserving of support.” I found this to be a clever distinction at the time — in part because my experience is that cheerleaders cheer for both the undeserving (see: The Roar) and the deserving alike. If you’re one of the few who saw or read the interview when it was published, you know as well as I do that the interviewee was and is authentic in his/her enthusiasm for our region.

Incidentally, in the months since, I’ve heard the word “cheerleader” used often by people dismissing the exact behavior the arts community leader admonished. For some, just the idea of being passionate about the goings-on in Northeast Florida is evidence of forced or misplaced earnestness.

I don’t imagine that these conflicting feelings are unique to Jax, but the pessimism in this city, I’ll freely admit, can be suffocating. We’re five to 10 years behind. Our downtown is never coming back. We are too spread out. Too Southern. Too segregated. Too conservative.

Ever heard any of that?

Relatedly, of the criticisms of Folio Weekly I’ve heard over the years (of which there are more than I’d like to admit), perhaps there isn’t one I disagree with more than the complaint that we are purposely negative. I can assure you, we do not sit in editorial meetings and discuss ways of meeting our poopoo-on-things-that-people-like-in-Northeast-Florida quota. Doesn’t happen.

Skeptical: yup. Critical: sure.
Contrarian: absolutely.
Independent: You better believe it.

Alternative: that works, especially if you remember headbangin when Klinger played that new Candlebox tune on Planet Radio. For what it’s worth, every week for more than 27 years, this magazine has been giving you a snapshot of what’s happening in our region, good and bad, from live music, to arts and culture, to politics. If a subject is undeserving of support, we see it as our duty to challenge them (we feel our readers expect as much from us). And when they need a cheerleader, well, we do that, too.

And we’ve been doing it.

In 1991, Folio Weekly was the first publication in the area to offer readers in Northeast Florida the opportunity to vote for the Best of Jax. That year, our readers voted for their favorites in several dozens of arts and entertainment-related categories. Nearly 25 years later, you’ve chosen 168 winners in categories ranging from Best Barista to Best Local TV Weather Forecaster to Best Spiritual Leader (would you be surprised if Richard Nunn won all three?). We’ve counted (see: forced interns to count) tens of thousands of votes and you’ve given us a snapshot of what’s great here in the 904.

To be clear, Folio Weekly’s Best of Jax issues are uninhibited love-fests for our region. It’s PDA, only it shouldn’t make you nauseated. And more than anything else, this issue and the one that follows on Sept. 30 are a celebration of our area and all the people, businesses, and institutions that make it great. Taken as a whole, it’s one subject we don’t feel is challenged, or undeserving of our support.

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021

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