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|Best of Atlanta: Community|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|Thursday, 08 July 2010 00:00|
After two months of online balloting and more than 20,000 votes cast, we present the best of the best — our inaugural Best of Atlanta winners.
It all started back at the beginning of May, when we asked you, our readers, to nominate your favorites for dozens of awards in the categories of Community, People, Nightlife, Dining, Retail, Pet Services, Internet, and Outside Atlanta.
The top three finalists — or more, in the case of a tie — in each category made it through to the next round of voting. For the month of June, a multiple-choice ballot asked you to pick among the finalists for who really represents the finest in LGBT Georgia.
Thanks to everyone who voted, and congratulations to all of the worthy winners and runners up.
Local LGBT Nonprofit: Atlanta Executive Network
Atlanta is packed with hard-working LGBT nonprofits, and Georgia Voice readers voted the Atlanta Executive Network (www.aen.org) as the top of the list. Founded in 1992, AEN’s mission is “to create an all-inclusive environment for the development of career and social networking, education and dialogue for the LGBT professional and the greater Atlanta community.” AEN hosts monthly meetings, frequent networking luncheons and other popular events throughout the year. Second place went to MEGA Family Project (www.megafamilyproject.org). Atlanta Freedom Bands (www.atlantafreedombands.com) placed third with a difference of only three votes.
Local HIV Nonprofit: AID Atlanta
The winner for best local HIV nonprofit is also the city’s oldest. AID Atlanta (www.aidatlanta.org) was founded in the darkest days of the epidemic. Today, the Southeast’s largest HIV organization provides a variety of prevention, education and healthcare services for the diverse communities impacted by HIV, including specific programs for gay men, gay men of color, and black gay youth. It also hosts the annual AIDS Walk Atlanta, where other HIV groups also raise funds.
National LGBT Nonprofit: Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org) is the nation’s largest LGBT group, focusing on lobbying, education and outreach. This year, HRC’s many projects have included lobbying intensively for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” HRC’s Atlanta Steering Committee hosts the popular annual HRC Atlanta Dinner, and many other local events.
In one of the closest categories in these awards, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (www.glaad.org) placed second, trailing HRC by three votes. The Lesbian & Gay Band Association placed third.
LGBT Sports Team: Atlanta Bucks Rugby
The Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club (www.atlantabucksrugby.org) proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that gay men can be just as tough and play just as well as straight guys, while still holding hilarious campy fundraisers like the annual Purple Dress Run. Want to join in? The Bucks host a Mini Rugby 101 camp on Aug. 7 and the full Rugby 101 on Aug. 28.
House of Worship: Saint Mark United Methodist
Saint Mark United Methodist Church (www.stmarkumc.org) was one of the first Atlanta churches to end racial segregation in the 1950s, and in the early 1990s continued that tradition by being one of the first mainstream Atlanta churches to welcome lesbian and gay worshippers. That welcoming spirit continues today with the church’s Diversity & Social Justice ministry.
LGBT Event: Atlanta Pride
After decades of being held at the end of June, Atlanta Pride (www.atlantapride.org) moved to October last year, and this year is set for Oct. 8-11. But no matter when the mega LGBT fest is held, it remains Atlantans’ clear choice for the city’s best LGBT event. When else can you enjoy music, speakers, a parade, marketplace and even festival food — plus a hearty dose of community empowerment — with more than 100,000 of your closest LGBT friends?
Joining Hearts’ (www.joininghearts.org) annual pool party, set this year for July 24 at the Piedmont Park Pool, came in second; third place went to the annual summer vacation by MEGA Family Project (www.megafamilyproject.org), which takes place July 23-25 at Lake Lanier Islands.
Benefit: Toy Party
There’s nothing like a visit to the toy store to make you feel like a kid at the holidays, and every year Toy Party gives Atlantans the chance to shop for children in need, then enjoy a fabulous party made even more exciting by watching the mountain of toys pile up. Last year, more than 5,000 toys and gift cards were distributed to children through 19 benefitting organizations. For the Kid in All of Us (www.forthekid.org) puts on Toy Party, as well as Backpack in the Park, set for Aug. 1 in Piedmont Park.
Second place went to Uncork a Cure (www.arcatlanta.org), which raises funds for the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta; third went to Atlanta Cotillion (www.atlantacotillion.com), a fundraiser for AID Atlanta.
Live Music Venue: Chastain Park
A concert at Chastain Park (www.classicchastain.com) — with picnic, candles flickering and stars twinkling overhead — is a signature Atlanta experience. And in 2010, Chastain’s roster has included a long list of performers beloved by gay fans; upcoming shows include Mary Chapin Carpenter (July 17), Chris Isaak (July 24), Devo (July 28), Cyndi Lauper (Aug. 6), Donna Summer (Aug. 22), The B-52s and Blondie (Aug. 25), and Joan Jett and Billy Idol (Aug. 29).
Eddie’s Attic (www.eddiesattic.com) placed second, while Smith’s Olde Bar was third.
Theater Troupe: Actor’s Express
In a town packed with gay-inclusive theater troupes, Actor’s Express (www.actors-express.com) — led by openly gay Artistic Director Freddie Ashley — stands out for Georgia Voice readers. Actor’s Express’ last season included such gay-themed fare as “Fair Use,” a legal love story with a lesbian twist, and “Good Boys & True,” about a prep school student’s struggle to come out. The 23rd season is no different, including “The Judas Kiss,” about gay playwright Oscar Wilde’s trial for indecency charges, which bows next May.
Gay Getaway in Georgia: Savannah
The city of Savannah, of “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil” fame, provides travelers with a bit of history and Southern charm. Add to that the city’s bustling gay scene — gay bars like Club One (www.clubone-online.com), events like Savannah Pride (Sept. 11 this year, savpride.com), and the nearby, inclusive Tybee Island — to make a great getaway; happily Savannah’s LGBT residents are also becoming increasingly vocal in advocating for equality.
River’s Edge Campground (www.camptheriversedge.com) in Dewy Rose, Ga., came in second. Third went to Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast (www.stonehurstplace.com) in Atlanta, with honorable mention to Lumberjack’s Camping Resort (www.lumberjackscampground.com) in Unadilla.
Place for a First Date: Atlanta Botanical Garden
For Georgia Voice readers, there’s no better place for a first date than the Atlanta Botanical Garden (www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org), where you can get to know that special person while strolling through the beautiful gardens, exploring the new Canopy Walk, enjoying Cocktails in the Garden every Thursday from May through September, or bonding over a favorite musician with summer Concerts in the Garden.
Place for LGBT Families and Place to Take Gay Guests From Out of Town: Piedmont Park
Whether you want to picnic, roller blade, let the dogs run or play at the two playgrounds, grab the kids — or your out of town guests — and visit Piedmont Park (www.piedmontpark.org). The city’s premiere greenspace also hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, including Atlanta Pride, that offer fun for the kiddos as well as adults.
For Best Place for LGBT Families, Georgia Aquarium (www.georgiaaquarium.org) placed second, with MEGA Family Project (www.megafamilyproject.org) in third. For Best Place to Take Gay Guests From Out of Town, Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse (www.outwritebooks.com) placed second and third place went to Decatur Square (www.decaturga.com).
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