The best thing about the Best of East County party

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Throwing a good party is hard.

In the spirit of honesty, I have definitely thrown more than one shindig that went completely unattended (you would think I would have stopped trying after the first flop!). Once, in college, I invited several dozen friends over to help me decorate Christmas cookies. I made chili, whipped up some homemade hot cocoa and cleaned me entire house from top to bottom. Despite multiple RSVPs and unofficial promises to “stop by,” nobody came.

It is hard to put into words how taxing it is to decorate three dozen cookies alone.

I share this not to garner any kind of communal pity – it is a funny story, I have decided seven years after the fact – but rather to highlight the fact that, no matter how enticing the proposition, people often find reasons to stay in, especially when the night is rainy and the day has been long.

Not so the case with The Californian’s Best of East County readers poll award ceremony.

Despite the continuation of torrential rains that have turned our gorgeous, sunny San Diego into a sad version of Seattle (but without the infrastructure and the coffee shops), weather did not keep people away from what has become an annual affair.

Now, it should be noted that, except for sending a few personal invitations, I did very little to actually throw this party. Mostly I just marveled from my office doorway as other people on our team wrestled together details for food and fun, contributions for our swag bags and special plaques for our award winners.

Although I have freelanced for The Cal for years, this was my first time attending the Best of East County event personally.

I had heard that it is always a good time, that there is a red carpet and great food provided by restaurants in the community. And all that was true.

But what I was most surprised by, and pleasantly so, were the people who showed up.

Even as RSVPs came pouring in, I heard community members – winners, elected officials and regulars of the event alike declaring their avid anticipation for the event. Those who had to decline did so with genuine disappointment, saying that Best of East County is their favorite event of the year.

What an array of faces were at this party! Restaurant owners were bumping shoulders with local electeds while pageant queens welcomed and shook hands with community leaders, soccer coaches and business women.

Like the very best kind of party, the long day’s work was left at the door and everyone inside found common ground over glasses of wine and the exchanging of business cards.

Some might call it networking – I call it good neighborliness. And, frankly, it’s what makes the Best of East County awards celebration the best party in East County.

I have been to my fair share of ribbon cuttings on grand openings this year – all delightful, all a success. But what I loved about this party was the chance for our community to come together and talk like the neighbors we are.

Getting to know each other as people and not just as names on a business card or a ballot is a crucial ingredient in a healthy community and nights like these – even the cold and rainy ones – are a great way to begin the metamorphosis from “people who live in the same place” to neighbors in the truest form of the word.