From the Editors: January 2023
A toast to the Best of Erie
Have you ever proposed 30 consecutive toasts at a single feast?
At a traditional Georgian supra, a master of ceremonies called the tamada ("toastmaster" or "dictator of the table") might ask you to raise your glass just that many times, and finish every last drop while you're at it. Early on, you'll probably be drinking to the health of the living or for the souls of the dead — fairly standard ritual offering procedure. But after the tamada runs out of (or conveniently forgets about) obvious categories, it's anyone's guess. Just try to enjoy the khachapuri (cheese bread) and khinkali (dumplings) without khin-keeling over, whether from laughter or from excess.
Luckily, the toasting categories are already set in our annual Best of Erie Awards — 116 would be a lot for even the hardiest tamada. That's why we've democratized the process, asking you to choose the people, places, and things you'd lift your glasses for. Over half a million votes later, we have the answers, and we're just as eager to celebrate with you this year as we were in 2014.
Of course, communal bonding need not entail sharing of cups (or online voting results). We can welcome others in through the sharing of ideas. We can find common ground through the sharing of experiences, as Brandon Wiley has with his OpenedEyes organization (highlighted by Amy VanScoter). We can forge connections by offering up a platform (such as Penn State Behrend and Compton Table's As I Am art exhibit for LGBTQIA+ youth), an opportunity (Dafmark Dance Theatre's arts programs for the underprivileged), or a memory (thrift stores).
In addition to our Best of Erie winners, we propose a toast to all of the above. And although Georgian custom states that beer is only shared with enemies, we are forever proud to clink glasses with this issue's cover models and dear friends Jason and Nicole Lavery (interviewed herein by Jessica Hunter), named this year's Best Local Entrepreneurs for their extensive contributions to the Erie community — in the form of liquids (Dulachan, finally voted Best Locally Made Beer after years as a close runner-up) and many a solid (advocacy for women's education, mental health, area tourism, and more).
Making Erie a better place to be the best? We'll drink to that.