Established in 2005 by the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the awards highlight Bartow County's non-franchised restaurants, shops and attractions and are presented annually at The Arts Festival at Rose Lawn. Along with the Best Restaurant accolades increasing exposure for his business in 2009 and 2010, co-owner Johnny Mitchell is pleased that the People's Choice Awards focus on local establishments.
"It's an honor that our customers and friends believe in us and voted for us," said Mitchell, who opened Johnny Mitchell's Smokehouse -- 100 Covered Bridge Road in Euharlee -- with his wife, Jill, in January 2009. "It's just such a great honor, and we're so proud of that.
"[The awards] encourage people to stay in town. And everybody that's nominated, I think, it gives them an opportunity for people to go, 'Well, let me go try them. Let me see what they do over at [2006 winner] Appalachian Grill,' for instance, because they've come in second, I think, every year for a long time and they've done a great job. So it does give the public an opportunity to see not just the winner but everybody that's nominated and to keep the money local. So I'm real proud of that."
Individuals currently can vote for their favorites on the CVB's Facebook page. In August, voting will be available on the CVB's website, www.notatlanta.org, through midnight on Labor Day, Sept. 5. Only one vote can be cast per computer.
"What we've done this far is we kind of wanted to see what social media would do for us," said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the local CVB. "Since we rolled it out later in July, what we did was immediately post it on our Facebook and then [we found] other community businesses -- restaurants, shops -- and attractions that have pages on Facebook ... and [we] posted the link on their Facebook pages. [So currently] you can vote using Facebook.
"There is a link posted and all you do is just click it and it will take you right over to Survey Monkey, which is the engine we use to gather the data for us. It just went out Wednesday or Thursday of last week. There's been 147 votes thus far. There was like 912 total for last year's survey. So we're doing pretty good. That's a pretty good showing. We will eventually post it on our website, but that probably won't happen until after Aug. 1."
The winners of the survey will be revealed at The Arts Festival at Rose Lawn, 224 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. The accolades will accompany the CVB's sixth Hospitality Heroes Awards, which recognize instrumental current or former residents of Bartow County. While the People's Choice Awards are voted on by the public, the Hospitality Heroes are nominated by various organizations, with the victors selected by the CVB board of directors.
"We really do want it to be a locally-owned [business or attraction], something that you can only find here within our county. ... We appreciate the community's vote," Wheeler said. "We think it's very vital to have that local voice, when we are sharing information with visitors. The history of these awards really did honor some great businesses and some great attractions."
For more information about the awards, call the CVB at 770-387-1357.
People's Choice Awards History
* Best Restaurant in Bartow County
2005 -- D. Morgan's
2006 -- Appalachian Grill
2007 -- Hearth & Harvest
2008 -- D. Morgan's
2009 -- Johnny Mitchell's Smokehouse
2010 -- Johnny Mitchell's Smokehouse
* Best Shoppe in Bartow County
2005 -- Write on Main
2006 -- c.a.n.o.p.y
2007 -- Periwinkle
2008 -- Periwinkle
2009 -- Periwinkle
2010 -- Gigi's Hidden Treasures
* Best Attraction in Bartow County
2005 -- Booth Western Art Museum
2006 -- Booth Western Art Museum
2007 -- Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site
2008 -- Red Top Mountain State Park
2009 -- Tellus Science Museum
2010 -- Tellus Science Museum