Of all the big editorial packages we assemble each year, none is bigger than “Top of the Town.” Spanning more than 30 pages in this year’s edition, it’s the product of a year’s worth of work by 15 staffers and countless invaluable interns.

For each of the past three years, senior editor Julie Dugdale has masterfully coordinated this massive project. She begins the process in January by splitting up 129 categories among the members of our team. At the same time, she oversees an online voting process that this year tallied thousands and thousands of votes from 8,500 readers. (You can see our readers’ picks, along with our editors’ choices, at 5280.com.)

Scouring Denver in search of the city’s very best in categories as diverse as Ethiopian cuisine (page 72), auto mechanics (page 168), and art galleries (page 79) is no easy task. For every winner, there are dozens that fall short (sometimes way short). And making sure that we consider as many contenders as possible often means bringing in support troops. Sometimes that means getting friends to help sample craft beers (page 76) or to tag along when evaluating comedians (page 92). But other times, it’s a whole lot less glamorous. Deputy editor Geoff Van Dyke “volunteered” his young sons Sebastian and Leo as test subjects for Kids’ Haircut (page 88). “I’ll just say that for a good part of the past year my boys looked like Dumb and Dumber with one ridiculous haircut after another,” he says.

Other categories required reinforcements for different reasons. Assistant editor Daliah Singer called on friends to help check out nominees for Eyebrow Wax (page 88). “You can only try out so many places before you don’t have any eyebrows of your own left,” she points out.

The end result is an issue that is a remarkable portrait of both this ever-growing city and, I’d argue, the talented team of journalists at 5280 who spent so much time exploring it. Dugdale agrees: “Our personalities really come through in what we pick,” she says. “We pour ourselves into this issue all year long, and it ends up being a blend of all of us, a reflection of all our strengths and interests and experiences. There’s a little bike geek, a little political cynic, a little haute couture, a little foodie, a little fitness freak, and a little beer connoisseur…which pretty much sums up the best of Denver right there.”

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2012.
Daniel Brogan
Daniel Brogan
Daniel Brogan is the founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of 5280 Publishing, Inc.