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About the Star Awards

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In The Winchester Star’s Star Awards, readers have the last word. 

For years, residents of Frederick and Clarke counties and Winchester city have looked forward to voting in this readers’ choice contest to support their favorite local businesses, organizations, people and attractions. We're proud to host it to recognize the places and people that make this region special. 

The contest proceeds in three phases – a nomination phase, a voting round and the winners and finalists announcement.

Nominations and Voting 

Nomination round: The contest starts with a nomination round, where readers can choose business, organizations and names for all of the categories, including new categories. This keeps the contest fresh, as new businesses and organizations come to the county and existing ones change and grow. 

Voting round: Anyone may vote once per day in any or all categories. The top vote-getter in each category will be crowned the winner, and those with the second- and third-most votes will be announced as finalists.


Nominees/entrants are prohibited from soliciting votes by offering payments or exchange of value of any kind. 

Voting is limited to one vote in each category per person per day. 

Even though we require sign-ups, we recognize that some people, in their enthusiasm, may be tempted to vote several times using different email accounts. Please note that voting under multiple email accounts violates the rules. 

We do have systems in place to detect fraudulent voting. When we see evidence of fraudulent voting, we may eliminate all suspect votes at our discretion. In extreme cases, we will remove entrants, as well. 


Q: What are the key dates for 2023? 

Nomination Period: March 1-7, 2023

Voting: May 10-16, 2023

Winners announced: June 21, 2023

Q: I nominated my business, but I don’t see it showing up on the website in the list of nominees. Why is that? 

 If you’re looking at the site during the nomination period and don’t see a business you nominated, fear not! All valid entries are considered and reviewed. But for a nomination to show up on the site, we have to approve it manually. Because we receive thousands of nominations, we can get backlogged. 

The good news is your business only has to be nominated once to make it to the voting round, assuming it met the guidelines. And if it did meet the guidelines, it does not matter if it showed up on the site during the nomination period.  

Q: My business was nominated, and I saw it on the website during the nomination period, but it is not showing up in the voting round. Why? 

See the guidelines below. After nominations close and before voting opens, our team does its best to vet all nominees. While your business may have appeared during the nomination period, our team may have determined it was ineligible for the voting round. 

Q: I missed the nominations period. Can I/my business still be entered in the contest? 

Late nominations may be accepted if received promptly after the nomination round closes. They will be reviewed as soon as is practical, and if they meet the criteria for their proposed category, they will be included in the voting round. 

Q: I think my business should have made it to the voting round. How do I register a complaint? 

Email us at specials@winchesterstar.com within 24 hours after the first voting period opens. You must identify the category and tell us why you think your business should have been included. 

Like most humans, we sometimes make mistakes, and if we have, we’ll add your business within moments of our decision. 

Q: What guidelines are used to determine whether a nominated business qualifies for the voting round? 

Please see the sections below on "Nomination Guidelines" and "Category Exceptions and Special Notes." 

Q: How are the winners selected? 

Winners are those that received the most votes in their category. Finalists are those that received the second- and third-most votes in their category. 

If there is a tie, we will announce both winners and/or finalists. 

Q: Why does this contest allow people to vote every day? 

 The Star Awards allows daily voting -- once per person per day per category -- because daily voting rewards entrants with passionate supporters. With a single vote per person, entrants with the best name recognition have a distinct advantage, as many voters skim over categories and cast their votes casually. Name recognition is an important part of finding the best of our area, but we also want to reward the passionate loyalty some people have for their local favorites, which can be captured in daily voting. 

 Also: This contest is fundamentally about celebrating and supporting great institutions by raising their profile and helping them gain new fans. With daily voting, the contest raises the visibility of those businesses and organizations that use it to reach out to new and existing customers to ask for their support, through advertising and through their own channels. 


Anyone may nominate, and businesses may nominate themselves. It only takes one eligible nomination in a category to make it to the voting round.

Our Star Awards team does its best to vet all nominees. Here are the guidelines we use, with exceptions as noted below: 

• The nominee must operate in The Winchester Star coverage area, which includes Frederick and Clarke counties in Virginia, and Winchester city. Businesses that are on the border of this area may be deemed eligible at our discretion. 

• Locally operated franchises are eligible in all categories. National brands are not eligible in most categories, except those noted below. Small regional groups, at our discretion, may be considered local businesses in any category. 

• We reserve the right to disqualify a business or organization from a category that does not represent a significant focus of its activities. 

• Nominations for categories that call for people to be nominated, like Best Real Estate Agent, must include the nominee's full name and place of business, and may be rejected if that information is not provided. Individuals may work for national brands.

• Individuals are not eligible to be nominated in categories that do not ask for a first and last name.

Application of our criteria is not an exact science. Our team uses its best judgment; if you think we’ve made an error, please email specials@winchesterstar.com.  


Around the Area: National brands are permitted in the Community Organization and Hotel Accommodations categories.

Arts & Entertainment: Note that in the Local Music Performers category, entrants must perform in the region, but there is no residency requirement. National brands will be accepted in the Movie Theater category.

Auto: National brands are eligible in all categories. 

Childcare/Education: National brands are eligible to be nominated in the Activities/Programs/Camp category.

Dining: National brands are acceptable in the following categories: Bagels, Beer Selection: Retail, Breakfast, Delivery, Family/Casual Dining, Fast Food, French Fries, Fried Chicken, Happy Hour, Ice Cream/Frozen Treats, Lunch, Pizza, and Wings.

Health/Medical: National brands are eligible in these categories: Hearing Aid Company, In-Home Health Care Services, Senior Living Facility, and Urgent Care Facility.

Home/Garden: In the Real Estate Company category, national brands are eligible.

Pets: National brands may be nominated in the Pet Store category.

Professional Services: National brands may be nominated in the Bank/Credit Union, Customer Service, Financial Planning Firm, Insurance Agency, Mortgage Lending, Nonprofit Organization, Rental Company and Travel Agency categories.

The Insurance Agency category is open to locally based offices or teams of agents or brokers selling insurance directly to buyers. The category is not intended for individual agents unless they are sole proprietors of an agency or brokerage, in which case that agency or brokerage may be nominated under their name. 

The Nonprofit Organization category is intended for social service-oriented nonprofit businesses, not membership or professional organizations. 

The Professional Photographer category is intended for professionals only.

Shopping: In the Convenience Store, Grocery Store, Hardware Store, Health Food Store, and Thrift Store categories, national brands are eligible. 

We reserve the right to change these guidelines. Check back on this page for current guidelines.