Best of Memphis 

Annual “Best Of” party continues to celebrate the city’s best.

It was a party (kind of) on wheels (kind of) but there was no doubt all in attendance were the best of Memphis.

The results of the Memphis Flyer's annual Best of Memphis survey hit newsstands last week. A hallmark of the awards (along with the annual arguments about the results themselves) is our Best of Memphis party.

The normal party is an annual, one-of-a-kind, exclusive celebration of all things Memphis with the best food, the best booze, and the best crowd comprising in equal parts of cutting-edge scenesters and top-level movers and shakers in business and politics.

click to enlarge Amy LaVere and Will Sexton (with Shawn Zorn on drums) perform - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Amy LaVere and Will Sexton (with Shawn Zorn on drums) perform

In the past, this party has pumped life into venues that were barely venues (or anything else) at the time. One Best of Memphis party rocked on the then-dead bones of the Tennessee Brewery. Another party found folks on the garage rooftop of the then-dim Sears Crosstown building (now Crosstown Concourse). Another retrofitted the then-shuttered Imperial Bowling Lanes into a party complex with bands and a burlesque show. It's a Planet Fitness now.

The party pivoted this year on concerns of COVID-19, of course. Instead of the throngs gathering under one roof to eat, drink, dance, and schmooze together, our winners drove their cars through the party at the Pink Palace Museum but with plenty to still celebrate.

They arrived at assigned hours to ensure small crowds and safe distancing. Winners received a Memphis Flyer goodie box at one station. They drove through to another for a Best of Memphis photo op. Some paused to give live interviews with WMCTV anchor/reporter Joyce Peterson and meteorologist Ron Childers.

After that, winners wound around the back of the museum to a west-side parking lot. There, they were treated with cocktail pouches, Beale Street Brewing beer, and barbecue popcorn from the Rendezvous. For about an hour, they could hang in their cars or in distanced groups to listen to a performance by Memphis artists Amy LaVere and Will Sexton.

In the cocktail line, Paula Raiford, owner of Paula & Raiford's Disco, wore her trademark glasses, smile, and a T-shirt featuring her father, Robert Raiford. This year the club won best nightclub, an honor Raiford said it's won for the last 11 years.

"I look forward to people voting for me, people thinking about me, and for people not forgetting about me," Raiford said. "Slowly but surely, you can get immune to it, but everyone's still keeping that little bright light on for me and I truly appreciate it."

Back at the goodie-box station, WMCTV sports reporter Jarvis Greer smoothed his tie and put his car in park. He's won the best sportscaster category every year since 1994.

"I'm just so proud and pleased that the folks in Memphis think that what we do is really good," Greer said.

Eric Vernon, owner of The Bar-B-Q Shop, adjusted his mask after a brief interview at the WMCTV tent. He said he didn't ask anyone — employees or customers — to vote for the restaurant.

"It feels good because I know we got here because of the work," Vernon said.

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