Hundreds of island businesses and organizations attended the annual Best of the Islands award luncheon at Sundial Beach Resort and Spa.
Over 3,000 ballots were submitted for this year's contest. Sanibel residents voted for their favorite businesses and organizations on the island using ballots printed in The Islander newspaper. Those ballots were later counted by an independent agency who announced the winner about a month after the deadline.
Winners and their guests were treated to a three course meal at Sundial and recognized individually with Best of the Islands plaques. There were 111 winners and 99 were in attendance on Tuesday.
Hundreds of islanders attended the Best of the Islands awards luncheon. Valarie Harring.
Jim Konig, advertising director for The Islander, said the luncheon was a way of saying thank you to the island for supporting their community newspaper over the last 40 years.
"But, I believe more importantly it gives the residents of the island an opportunity to vote for those businesses that go the extra mile, provide excellent service or products, and that are involved in the community," he said.
The amount of categories keep growing every year. Twenty five new categories were added to the comprehensive list of 2013 awards, ranging from Best Chef to Best Service Organization.
Sundial Beach Resort and Spa won Best Full Service Resort and General Manager Bob Kramm said it was because the community was beginning to embrace the resort.
"We're very proud of it because it means the community is once again embracing Sundial Beach Resort and the wonderful team of professionals we have here," he said.
Kramm was named general manager on June 1 after the resort finished a $5 million renovation project and opened to the public. Improvements were made to the lobby, main dining room, outside space was enhanced, and a new six-room treatment spa added.
"It's especially important because we've only been here since June and it says a lot for the progress we're making," he said. "From day one, we've tried very hard to make sure people knew we were sincere and professional, and we were fortunate to be so quickly embraced."
Bailey's General Store left the luncheon with five Best of the Islands awards, including Best Bakery, Best Deli, Best General Store, Best Grocery Store, and Best Wine Selection.
Richard Johnson, general manager at Bailey's, said there were two other groups on the island that helped Bailey's earn its collection of awards.
"We also have the best customers and the best staff at Bailey's," he said. "It's the staff and our customers who are really the winners here."
Johnson said his team has worked very hard to take care of customers, both residents and visitors, and he was glad the community recognized their efforts.
"I think this is the first time we've come away with five and we are real excited about that," he said.
The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club won Best Golf Course and Best Tennis Court. Leilani Sivsov, general manager of The Dunes, said the club is very active in the island community. They have won a Best of the Islands award every year for the last 14 years, she said.
Sivsov, who has been general manager for the last three years, said the club is so popular because it caters to everyone.
"I think we have the ability to offer something for everyone on the island, anything from the retired age group to kids learning for the first time," she said. "We have something for everyone."
Later this fall, The Dunes is hosting the 32nd Annual Taste of the Islands to benefit the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Nov. 10. They are also involved with Community Housing and Resources, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Sanibel Sea School, F.I.S.H. of Sanibel, and Play for Pink to benefit breast cancer awareness.
"I have a really good team: two great pros, both tennis and golf, a great chef this year, and this year we added the Taste of the Islands," she said.
Pinocchio's Original Italian Ice Cream and Geppetto's Beach Foodies won Best Ice Cream and Best Beach Food to Go, respectively. The businesses are owned by Tom and Donna Puma, who have won a Best of the Islands for Pinocchio's every year since they purchased the business.
"We've won every year since we owned it," said Tom Puma. "It's the quality of our ice cream. We make it ourselves, we make it fresh every day, and we try to keep everybody happy."
Pinocchio's, which consistently draws crowds of visitors and locals alike through its doors, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Tom Puma said that's one of the other reasons why they keep winning.
-The Oct. 2 issue of The Islander will feature pictures from the event. Visit cu.captivasanibel.com to order or view pictures.