Omaha Magazine brings the community together for a night of drinks and celebration


Megan Fabry

A group of people at a party
Guests toast their success at the beginning of the soiree. Photo courtesy of Omaha Magazine

Omaha businesses gathered for the second annual Best of Omaha Soiree Nov. 7 at the Empire Room in Midtown to celebrate being voted the “best” by Omaha residents.

The Best of Omaha contest began 26 years ago as a fun way for the staff to involve the entire community. Through the years, it has evolved and become one of the most well-known contests in the city with companies vying for the coveted yellow Best of Omaha sticker to present on their window.

The contest allows only one ballot per verified email to ensure people can’t vote more than once, which helps maintain the integrity of the voting system. After the votes are counted, companies are notified and preparations are made for a party that celebrates the accomplishments of each business. In past years, Omaha Magazine held a festival that was open to the public. For the last two years, they decided to change it up with a closed event called the Best of Omaha Soiree.

“The soiree is a celebration of Best of Omaha winners,” publisher Todd Lemke said. “We wanted to turn it more into a celebration with business owners to be able to network and do business together.”

Senior Editor Tara Spencer was the primary event coordinator of the event. It was her responsibility to look after every aspect of the event – from where the food tables would be placed, to choosing the signature cocktail. The graphics staff was in charge of creating logos, banners and other materials for the soiree and Operations Officer Joshua Peterson helped oversee the planning process.

Last year, the party featured fire dancers and circus acts by Flowtricks. For the second annual soiree, they hired a DJ and human statues for guests at the party to take pictures with. They also included food and drinks from Best of Omaha winners such as philly cheesesteaks from Best Bison, avocado chicken salad from Smitty’s Garage, desserts from Cupcake Island and beer from Granite City Brewery.

The Best of Omaha contest helps businesses meet and create relationships that are advantageous in the long run.

“The event benefits local businesses by gathering together business owners who can then discuss their respective industries over a cocktail and celebrate the fact that they are part of the 3% of businesses throughout Omaha able to achieve the recognition of being a ‘Best of Omaha’ winner,” Managing Editor Daisy Hutzell-Rodman said.

Attending this selective and sold-out event helps bring attention to businesses in Omaha, but it also gives business owners a chance to spruce up and get out.

“People dressed up, stayed and engaged with fellow Best of Omaha winners,” Lemke said. “It brings me great joy to see business owners discussing best practices and congratulating each other.”