The annual Best of Texoma reader’s choice awards are 15 years old and still growing. It has been offered in its present format for the last 12 years, and this year something new has been added.

Best of Texoma is asking for our reader’s input and suggestions as to what new categories should be included in the 2018 voting, which begins in January. A reader, randomly selected from all the suggestions offered, chosen or not, will receive $50.

Over the years, the voting categories have varied. Best of Texoma 2017 had more than 100 options and that number has been more or less in the past. Do you have a category you think should be considered? How about a category no longer offered that should be brought back? Let us know and you might be $50 richer.

Jonathan Cannon, the executive editor for Texoma Marketing and Media Group, the publisher of the Best of Texoma, explained the reasons for seeking reader input.

“Last year we looked over what categories have really engaged people and which ones didn’t. We want this to be about what people care about. … We’ll do that again this year, but we want reader input as to categories they would like to see or changes they didn’t like. …

“Last year we made a lot of changes, and we made those changes with the readers in mind. That’s why this process is so important. This is something we want people to turn to when they make decisions about businesses they want to consider or places they can go out to eat. We want Best of Texoma to help them make those decisions. “

Readers can submit suggestions online at The window for submitting suggestions ends Jan. 31.

The importance of the Best of Texoma Awards to the business community has taken on an import that probably was not expected when the program started. Joey Gunn, vice president of 12-time winner Knight Furniture of Sherman, explained.

“The first time we won it was for best downtown business,” said Gunn, the fourth generation in this family operation. “Furniture stores were not even a category then. Then we won for best mattress retailer, and furniture was still not a category. Finally, the third year, furniture was included, and we won in that. We’ve won furniture every year it has been a category.”

Knight celebrates its popularity with Texoma residents with a large sign in the front window of their downtown Sherman store that proudly acknowledges 12 years of Best of Texoma awards, but while the recognition is beneficial to the business, the award means something more to Gunn.

“It helps our business because people like to shop with winners,” Gunn said, “but that’s not really why I hang the sign. I hang the sign because I’m really, really proud that a community of our peers thinks that highly of us.

“Every time we won, it’s been an emotional experience that means a lot to us. Last year we won in both furniture and mattresses, and I can tell you, that in 2017 that was one of the best nights (the night the awards were announced at the Best of Texoma gala) in my life.

“We believe that we’re the experts in furniture and the experts in mattress retailing, and to win both categories, to have that confirmed is very satisfying. We work very hard and to have the community recognize that effort just means a lot. It really does, and the only thing better than winning Best of Texoma 12 times in a row would be winning it 13.”

When told about the chance to suggest new categories, Gunn, thought for a moment then responded. “I’m going to do a bad job describing it, but I’ll try,” he said.

“One of the categories I would like to see doesn’t have to do with selling a specific item or service, like furniture or a restaurant. It would lump all of the area’s businesses into one group and address the company with the best community involvement. It would recognize the business that best gives back to the community, no matter what sort of business it is.”

Good idea, and it might win Mr. Gunn $50 if he submits it. What about you? What are your ideas or suggestions?