We have watched the Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards evolve from a small popularity contest in 2014 into a premier community spectacle over the past six years. And one of the most exciting moments for us is when the finalists, or top three in each category, are revealed for the final voting stage.

This year we collected nearly 4,000 ballots online—witnessing some familiar winners, along with many new faces who will be competing on the finals ballots this year. Now, more than 250 people, businesses and places will be beckoning for your votes and a chance to walk home with a Bubba Award at the July 20th Awards Banquet. Before the voting begins this Friday, June 28, here are a few highlights from this year’s nomination voting over the past two weeks:

What We Learned:

The people want Best Tattoo Artist and Best Chef on the ballots. We heard you … and you’ve got it! Look for both of them in 2020.

Campaigns Work! We noticed more than a handful of businesses campaigning on social media and other outlets — and the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Both Two Friends Patio and Square Grouper vigorously campaigned this year and you will see both of their names across the ballot.

A new rule will be in place for 2020. We originally decided to name the Bubbas the “Key West People’s Choice Awards” as opposed to Best “in Key West” to allow Key Westers to vote for any place — anywhere. With the popularity of the Bubbas now spanning the Keys, next year’s nominee period will include any top three vote recipient outside of the 33040 ZIP code—but in those cases, we will include a fourth recipient in that category from the 33040 ZIP code. Thus, three nominees from the 33040 will always be on every category.

By the numbers:

Two Friends Patio, Ocean Key Resort and Square Grouper were this year’s big winners in the nominee period. Among the three, more than 19 nominations were racked up and all three boast a recipient for Best Bartender.

Ties: Yes, even with close to 4,000 ballots, we had two ties in 2019. In fact, we have never had a nominee-voting period without at least one tie. To make it even crazier we had ties in Best Bar and Best Bartender in 2019.

Some Things Never Change – Some Finally DO

Howard Livingston has never lost “Best Local Celebrity.” He will be vying for a 6th straight Bubba Award this year. In fact, more than 8 of the 92 categories have seen one winner over the past 5 years. Will this be the year that a new Bubba winner emerges? (We know Bill Hoebee hopes so).

Yet all good things come to an end. Since 2014 Craig Cates has won Best Elected Official as the mayor of Key West. Now that he has termed out, this will open the door for a new Bubba winner – including our new mayor, Teri Johnston.

The Best Part

Remember folks, the voting is subjective. There is no BEST in Key West, because honestly, there are way too many incredible restaurants, people and places to choose from. And when the smoke clears each year, all of the proceeds from our sponsors, along with ticket sales and other donations, are handed to a local nonprofit. This year’s proceeds will be donated to Samuel’s House. And more than $75,000 has been donated since 2014. So sit back, vote … and have some fun in this year’s final round of voting.

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