Each year the Nisqually Valley News runs a contest called “Best of Nisqually,” where readers of the paper and our website www.yelmonline.com vote for their favorites, from food to people to services to shopping and more.

People first nominate and then after that phase gives us the top three in each category, they vote for their top choice. The nomination and voting takes about two months. In the past we would then produce a special section listing all the winners and runners up, along with their photos.

This year we mixed it up, with mini stories and lists and other surprises.

I think it is a fun read, but then, I had the opportunity to do most of the visiting that produced what seems to me a bit of the spirit of our area.

There’s nothing quite like getting out of the office to roam around the valley.

I spent time in the kitchen at Pizzeria La Gitana with chef and co-owner Alin Stancui and one of his cooks. It soon devolved into a discussion of food and the joy of cooking, with a satisfied agreement that perhaps the best way to pass the day is to cook for hours, invite friends over and spend time together doing the most basic, but best tasks: eating and talking.

I also visited Dylan’s Corner out by Lake Lawrence on Vail Road for the first time. It’s a cool stop, with surprisingly good food for a convenience store. They even serve Skippers.

I caught The Detail Girl working on cleaning a milk spill in the back of a SUV. Her story about black mold and maggots and a Cadillac are worth thumbing through next week’s special section.

I visited with Mitch from Safeway’s produce department, trying to take his photograph for the section. While he is just about the nicest guy around, I could tell he would rather let fruit spoil then act natural around the camera.

I caught up with Walt from Walt’s Tires, asked him for some tips on tire maintenance and oil changes. I’m pretty sure Walt knows I am due for a front-end alignment and he gave me his comfortable smile that also says, “You really need to take better care of your car.”

As stated above, we’ll release the winners and the vignettes that go with them in next Friday’s Nisqually Valley News.

If  you want to know ahead of time, this year, we have partnered up with the Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce and will be having a winners’ celebration at next week’s luncheon forum on Tuesday (see details in a brief business item on page A5).

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