At the Best of NH Party in 2003, I was busy overseeing the flow of performers appearing on stage (I'm entertainment chair for the event) when a woman approached me and asked if her daughter could perform some songs. We had a pretty loose schedule that year (we had dueling Elvises, as I recall) so I just asked, "Is she from New Hampshire?" The woman said no, but she assured me I wouldn't regret it.I gave my approval and listened long enough to be sure she was right, then got back to my post. All I recall about the skinny teenager with the big guitar standing alone on the Verizon Wireless Arena stage was that she had a great name for show business. I'm terrible with names, but this one I remembered: Taylor Swift.Over the years I would hear that name from time to time. Then, when it appeared alongside a photo of a tall, beautiful young woman on the cover of Rolling Stone, I decided I should make sure I wasn't dreaming. Creative Director and ace photographer Susan Laughlin dug through her archives and, sure enough, she found one great photo of a young Taylor Swift, 12-string guitar almost as big as her, singing for the Best of NH.We're now trying to get a copy of that photo to Taylor (or her mom) for her to sign so we can raffle it off at this year's Best of NH Party to benefit the NH Food Bank. That's not as easy as it sounds, since she's become the hottest performer in the country.This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Best of NH event and that's only one of dozens of amazing developments that have taken place over the years at what we like to call the state's "biggest block party."We'll be drawing upon that history as we pull together the biggest, best Best of NH Party ever. It's early to announce anything, but trust me, it's gonna be very cool. Although the formula has held strong for the past 10 years, we're going to shake things up a bit. You'll see.And even now, as we begin the process of collecting your votes for our Readers' Poll, the shaking has begun. You'll notice one important change in this issue. For the first time ever, there's no printed poll form for you to fill out. Most of you chose to fill out the form online anyway and it makes tallying votes much easier.After recording your picks for 10 years, we've gotten pretty savvy about them. So, this year we're taking the top picks from years past and allowing you to simply choose from a short list. If we miss your favorite, no worries. There's a spot for you to write it in. As always, popular choices that don't win are given consideration as Editor's Picks.And with so many choices to make, we're dividing the list into two phases. Voting on the first one - food and drink - starts February 1 and lasts until March 20. This will allow us the expand upon the other categories of shops, services and people. Voting for that starts March 1. So you'll be hearing a lot about the Best of NH this year as fans rally and businesses contend for votes. Visit www.bestofnh.com to get things rolling.And no fair voting for Taylor Swift as the state's best celebrity. Unless she decides to come back and perform an encore.
This article appears in the February 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine