It’s exciting to see new faces, filled with surprise and delight, clutching the signature red-and-white Best of Marathon plaques. It’s indicative of a growing, thriving town and a chance to recognize how we’re changing. Here’s a look at some of the new winners crowned during the 2019 Best of Marathon awards show held on Sept. 28 at the Marathon City Hall. It was a crowded room of 212 ticket holders who came for the camaraderie, and below of is a partial list of our “first-timers.”

Photos by BARRY GAUKEL/Best Photographer

Best Local Celebrity

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsRich Anderson is still scratching his head over the Best Celebrity win in 2019. “I don’t know how this happened, but if it helps me sell sponsorships for the CoralHead Music Festivals, that’s all right,” he said, laughing. (Personally, we think it’s because he looked better on stage than some of the aging rockers and because the concert proceeds benefit great causes, local and national). There are three CoralHead concerts coming up — the blues show on Saturday, Oct. 19; the rock and roll shows on Nov. 2 and Feb. 15, 2020.

Best Place to Have a Wedding

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsMarathon’s newest resort, Isla Bella Beach Resort, was honored with the Best Place to Have a Wedding in Marathon. The 199-room resort opened on the west end of Marathon in January of 2019. Isla Bella features a lushly landscaped spot, with a south-facing aspect right on the open ocean. The resort is lavishly designed and perfectly appointed for everything up to, and including, weddings.

Best Non-Profit

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsIt’s hard to win the hearts and minds of voters when you’re up against super cute dolphins and terribly vulnerable turtles, but the Florida Keys SPCA, operators of the Marathon animal shelter, did just that in 2019. Pictured are Tara Vickrey-McFarland, left, Tammy Fox and Jen Showalter with photo-bombing Keys Weekly’s Jason Koler. “We’ve worked really hard to be a responsive and compassionate member of the Lower and Middle Keys for four years now,” said Marathon shelter director Vickrey-McFarland. “It’s nice that our employees and volunteers have been honored for their hard work. They have earned this.” In addition to accepting her award on Saturday night, she was working a fundraiser for the shelter earlier in the day. See page XX.

Best Photographer

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsThe Keys Weekly staff was so pleased to see our staff photographer Barry Gaukel nominated as the town’s best shooter. In addition to covering sports and events for the newspaper, he has a thriving photo business with his wife Lori, and they also own Shady Palm Art Gallery. He said he was surprised by the honor. “But I did get asked five or six times whether I was going to the awards show, so that was a little strange,” he said, laughing. “But it was the only suspicion I had. Thanks, everyone!”




Best Salon

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsThe Sea Level Spa marked its second year in business with a Best of Marathon win for Best Salon. “I want to thank our customers who are super faithful and loyal and supportive,” said owner Heather Rouse, pictured center. The salon, located in Gulfside Village, is a full-service space for beauty for hair, manicures and pedicures, waxing, microblading and eyelash extensions.

Best Realtor

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsTeri Hiller was tickled pink to win the 2019 Best Realtor designation. And we put it down to her sparkly personality. We think fellow Realtor and colleague Sam Williams put it best when he said, “I have a feeling that Teri has a ‘Desperate Housewives’ edgy vibe, but she’s classy at the same time — kind of like a blond Charlize Theron.” She said she fell into the profession by accident but, apparently, it suits her!


Best Law Firm

First Time Winners Collect Their AwardsThere’s a first time for everything even when it comes to the law. “This is my first nomination and my first win,” said local attorney Bill Heffernan. “I am deeply honored to be of service to all my friends and neighbors in the City of Marathon.” Heffernan has been practicing law since 1972 and has resided in the Keys since 1988.


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