Winners of the Best of the Finger Lakes poll were recognized Thursday

CANANDAIGUA — There’s a lot to love about life in the Finger Lakes. Thursday night, the inaugural 2017 Best of the Finger Lakes awards celebrated 180 outstanding area businesses and attractions that help enrich that experience.

The Thursday night awards banquet, hosted by Messenger Post Media at The Inn on the Lake, was the climax of  months of polling. 

Following cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and a “tour of Italy” dinner buffet, Gatehouse Media Regional Publisher Rick Emanuel presented awards to 180 first-place winners, each of whom received an etched glass plaque.

“It’s a really special night because it acknowledges businesses, both large and small,” said Emanuel. “Any time you can do something to acknowledge what people do and the time and effort they put into their businesses, I think it’s well worth the energy. And I think the turnout tonight really proves they wanted to be here to support each other as well as be recognized themselves.”

The selection process took place in two rounds. Messenger Post Media readers nominated their favorite businesses and regional attractions in July and early August. Then from late Aug to early October, readers voted via online survey to choose from the nominees.

On Sunday, Nov. 12, first, second and third place winners will be showcased in the inaugural Best of the Finger Lakes magazine, distributed in the Daily Messenger, Wayne Post, Monroe County Post publications and on MPNnow.com.

Messenger Post Media General Manager and Advertising Director Beth Kesel was beaming as she looked from table to table on Thursday.

“We had 118,000 votes, so this is truly an honor,” she said. “I truly hope these people take pride in how they got here, because it’s a big deal. The best part of this is there were 118,000 votes and more than 109,000 emails, which tells us there wasn’t a lot of repeat voting. That’s a good thing. It’s a very clean way to do it.”

More than 200 attended the celebration Thursday, and Kesel said she anticipates double that number next year.

“It’s a very successful event with a lot of really happy business owners,” she said. “A lot of these people have not ever been honored. For example, nobody honors a funeral home — they just don’t. And Jimmy Johnson’s here from Johnson-Kennedy Funeral Home.

“It’s really neat for me because I get to see the customers I work with every day finally get some recognition,” said Kesel. “It’s really fun to see them all in one room together.”

Chef/owner of Otto Tomotto’s in Victor, Tim Archetko, was humbled by the vote of confidence. 

“To be honest, when we first found out we won, I was kind of taken aback,” said Archetko. “For the last 13 years, seven days a week, we just work as hard as we possibly can, and this is what it was all about.

“Obviously the community has embraced us over the past 13 years, and I’ve grown up with the community,” he said. “And not only that, our staff are the ones that make it happen every single day of the week. They’re the reason we’re here right now, and I can’t thank them enough and the community enough. It’s a lot of hard work, but I wouldn’t want to do anything other than this.”

For 43 years, Roger Egan has been bartending in Canandaigua. Thursday he was named Best Bartender of the Finger Lakes. He’s been everywhere and done everything, he said.

“I started at Gleason’s when I was 19, then went across the street to Charlie’s,” said Egan. “Then to the Niagara, then to Manetti’s. From Manetti’s to the Office and back to Manetti’s. Then to Schooner’s, then to Casa de Pasta. And I also did weddings at the Lakeshore House. I’m loving life.”

Delaware North Regional IT Director Steve Lutrario represented Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, which was named Best Buffet and Best Casino/Gaming Destination.

“We love what we do for the community, we love what we donate to the community, we love what we’re doing,” said Lutrario. “And going forward, we’re going to continue doing good things for the community.”

Among the winners in multiple categories were Belhurst Castle, Canandaigua Family YMCA, B&B Builders, Canandaigua Carpets, Canandaigua National Bank, Nolan’s, F.F. Thompson, Finger Lakes Dental Care, FLGR, Wegmans, Finger Lakes Community College, Eric’s Office, The Green Front, Lowe’s, Michelle’s Five Seasons, Mengel Metzger Barr & Co., Qual-Tech Automotive, Reinvention Brewing, T.J. Maxx and The Eye Care Center.

“There were some sweeping victories, there were some close calls,” said Emanuel. “I think this reinforces the effort that people put forth in their businesses.”

First, second and third place winners will be featured in a Best of the Finger Lakes 2017 publication on Sunday, Nov. 12, Emanuel said.

“That way people can see that they’re contenders for next year’s awards,” he said. “And they can truly feel appreciated again, because to rank first, second and third in some of these categories where there’s a lot of competition is impressive.”

Event sponsors were JFS/Curtze Food Service and Constellation Brands, which also provided wines to accompany dinner.