The last time we published a Best of the Inland Northwest issue, on March 19, 2020, it was at the very start of the lockdown. We went from celebrating all the vitality in our local scene to, four days later, Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order on March 23. Our next issue said it all, with the headline "A Quiet Place" and a photo of a completely empty Main Avenue in downtown Spokane.
None of us knew quite what we were in for, but few thought it would be 15 months of lockdowns before science would come to the rescue with the miracle of vaccines. We kept on publishing Inlanders, and our region's local businesses kept at their stations as best they could, too. We rescheduled this, our 28th annual Best Of issue, to July instead of March, and now it serves as a perfect bookend. Just two weeks ago, on June 30, Inslee lifted all restrictions, allowing businesses to return to normal.
What was lost over the past 15 months has been a shared national tragedy. But what's been saved is precious, and you can read all about many of those places here. Keep in mind there are thousands of other local businesses and people who received reader votes this year.
Think of everything that came between. Every business and individual recognized by our readers went through profound challenges. Making it through to the other side was never guaranteed. First and foremost, it took hard work and dedication to their life's work. It often took the support of the local, state and federal governments, along with local institutions. And it for sure required you, the people of the Inland Northwest, who never waited for somebody else to step up. So many of you came out and supported these institutions in their time of need. You are part of these stories, too.