Prologue: And the Winners are

Who won? Who won? Who won for Best Garden Center? And what about Best Female Vocalist? Chicken fingers? Best Ice Cream?
I bet we all know who captured the Best Troublemaker title.
No matter who you were pulling for in this year’s Best of the Pine Belt competition, everyone is a winner, not just during this time each year, but year-round.
If this year’s voting process seemed a bit longer than usual, it was. We actually had our show dates snatched away from us on two different occasions and planning around an already jam-packed FestivalSouth schedule became a challenge. But like always, you were supportive and it didn’t affect the votes coming our way. 
Congratulations to the more than 100 individuals, groups, organizations and businesses who took home a BOPB honor.
The July issue of Signature containing the winners was released at the end of this year’s Best of the Pine Belt Awards Show at the Saenger Theater tonight (if you picked up your copy at the end of the show and are at home perusing through it) or June 28, if you’ve just picked up a copy since then. 
You now have a comprehensive list of all of this year’s winners. As always, we are amazed at how those of you across the Pine Belt get behind your favorites. How many votes were cast, you ask?
Just 743,543! 
Thanks for the part you play in this fun, but exciting, event each year. Can you believe we’ve actually been doing this for five years? 
On Thursday night (June 27), we added seven new inductees to the Best of the Pine Belt Hall of Fame. They included Father Tommy Conway, The Fokakis Family, Robert St. John, Cindy Pennington, Tommy ‘TBone’ Pruitt, Raylawni Branch and Nelson Haskin Jr.
In the August issue we’ll have a rundown of those awards, as well as the on-stage awards show recognitions. And oh yea, lots of photos from the Pub Crawl, Hall of Fame Dinner, Awards Show, Beer Fest and other FestivalSouth events. 
But for now, in this issue, in addition to the BOPB winners, you’ll also find a couple of ‘Meet the’ features on two winners – Rusty Keys and Chris Cook. Keys, the newly-appointed police chief at the University of Southern Mississippi, won Best Behind the Scenester and Cook took home the prize for Best Barber Shop. 
Our ‘Food with Friends’ crew reunited for a visit to Fairley’s Wings, which was recognized for having the Best Wings. You’ll read all about their dining experience.  
In anticipation of the Laughs4Life fundraiser at the beginning of next month, comedian Frank Caliendo graciously let us feature him as this month’s Sig Q&A. This issue also features the photography skills of Hattiesburg’s Danny Rawls, who was kind enough to share some of his photos, which will be included in a book he’s working on.
It’s hot, but keep smiling.

Beth Bunch is managing editor for Signature.