For nearly two decades, the Best of Texoma awards has served as a way to recognize the best of the best local businesses, services and organizations in Texoma. Now in its 18th year, the awards celebration and magazine will be bigger than ever.

Based on the number of competitors in previous years, 2019 voter participation and input from a category nomination process late last year, 57 new categories have been added bringing the total number to 214.

“The Best of Texoma Gala is the largest event held in Texoma all year,” Texoma Marketing and Media Group Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriguez said. “The gala is a celebration of local business owners who work tirelessly providing exceptional products and services to their customers. This could be the one time of the year they get to enjoy and celebrate their accomplishments. We think they deserve to celebrate and be recognized for all their hard work.”

The annual Best of Texoma magazine, also the largest magazine in Texoma, and website will list the top three and first- place winners for categories ranging from dining to shopping and professional services, as chosen by residents of Texoma. This will allow consumers, both local and visiting, to make informed decisions about where to go for various goods and services across the region.

“The Best of Texoma honors are the truest form of word-of-mouth recommendations,” Rodriguez said. “BOT has become the authoritative voice on the best businesses within our community. For 18 years, it has been customers telling other customers why their favorite businesses should be top-three or first-place choices when searching for local goods or services.”

The new categories this year include eight categories in food and drinks, four related to entertainment, four related to financial and real estate, three in medical, eighteen in services, two in work and lifestyle, and 17 in shopping and commerce.

The winners for each category will be determined through three rounds of voting. The first round, which will be held between Feb. 4 and Feb. 13, will allow allow readers and residents to make nominations for the final ballot.

Returning from 2019, a second round of voting will be held for categories where there is not a clear top three. This round will run Feb. 18-20. This will allow the final ballot to have a top three in every category where there are more than two businesses represented.

The third round of voting will be multiple choice and allow readers to choose the first place from the top three nominees in each category. This final round will run from March 10-20.

“Best of Texoma is a recognition program that funds our mission of local journalism in our thriving and growing community,” Rodriguez said. “We ask that you show your support for your favorite business by voting for them.”

Paper ballots will be printed four times throughout the first round of voting and will be accepted via mail only and with a maximum of two ballots per envelope. The print ballot will publish in the Herald Democrat on February 5, 9, 11 and 13, The Bryan County news on February 5 and the Van Alystne Leader on February 7.

Online voting will be open for all three rounds at http://www.bestoftexoma.com, with a maximum of one vote per device per day per IP address. Votes that do not follow the guidelines will be deemed invalid and will result in the disqualification of all votes by that device or email address.

“We had more than 280,000 votes last year and that was up 20,000 from the prior year,” Rodriguez said. “We expect that number of votes to grow to over 300,000 year this. Texoma loves showing love to their favorite business.”

Winners of this year's Best of Texoma will be announced at the gala on May 2, and will be published in the annual magazine that will be included the following week in an edition of the Herald Democrat newspaper.

“We've outgrown any available event venue space in the community,” Rodriguez said. “Best of Texoma and All Texomaland — our sister event — are the largest and second largest events held in the community. Our attendance from last year is requiring us to look outside traditional venues. We are planning to announce the unconventional changes to our event location once all the details are finalized in the coming weeks.”