By KJ Philp, May 2016 Issue

An annual Echo tradition, the Readers’ Choice Awards were developed as a spinoff from the magazine’s Pride of Phoenix Awards that were, once upon a time, presented each year as part of the Phoenix Pride festival.

For this year, Echo made the decision to bring the awards ceremony back to its place of origin and presented the 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards on the Phoenix Pride festival’s Community Stage April 2.

The awards – dubbed the Sweet 16 in honor of both 2016 as well as the 16 all-new categories – continue the tradition of recognizing community favorites – from local leaders and performers to destinations for arts and entertainment – all of which were nominated and voted on by you.

During this year’s nomination period we received more than 7,000 individual nominations totaling more than 700 nominees. Needless to say, the competition is fierce.

Then, with more than 14,500 total votes for our 83 finalists, we’re proud to report that 2016 was one of the most competitive and successful years to date.

Now, it is with great pride and immeasurable gratitude that we introduce you to the 2016 Echo Readers’ Choice Award winners.

We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: thank you to all the readers, voters, nominees and finalists – and congratulations to this year’s winners – our community wouldn’t be nearly as amazing without you!

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Amazing Ally: LGBTQ allies are everywhere. We wouldn’t be the community we are today without them. This year our readers voted to recognize Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton as the best of the best. Thank you, Mayor Stanton, for taking a stand with us and for us!

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Get Involved: Paying it forward. Volunteering. Giving Back. Getting Involved. No matter what you call it, one in ten is your favorite LGBTQ non-profit organization or cause to be a part of.

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Local Trailblazer: They lead. They fundraise. They volunteer. They organize. They do it all. We asked you to nominate those you felt deserving of this honor and, of the top five finalists, you voted Barbra Seville the local trailblazer of 2016.

Take The Stage: While local music groups, theater troupes, countless drag shows/pageants and a variety of other staged productions were nominated in this category you told us The Barbra Seville Show at The Rock was your favorite.

The Star of the Show: From hosts/hostesses to DJs and drag performers to emcees, this was your chance to get your favorite local entertainer – Barbra Seville  – recognized.

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Raise the Bar: Our local bars serve as much more than just watering holes and Stacy’s @ Melrose is no exception. Voted as this year's favorite, you'll find a wide variety of events and specials (even a church service) recurring here.

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Happiest Happy Hour: Before heading home from a long day at work, our readers prefer to stop and wet their whistle at Kobalt's happy hour.

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FUNdraiser: Raising funs is a integral part of any organization, we asked you which local charity best puts the FUN in fundraising and you answered loud and clear: Phoenix Pride.

Mark Your Calendar: Of all the community events and festivals that take place throughout the year in the Valley of the sun, you enthusiastically proclaimed that the Phoenix Pride Festival is on your can’t-miss list.

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Mind, Body, Soul: When it comes to fellowship, support, worship, spirituality or Zen (center, church, group, congregation), you told us you prefer to head to the Community Church of Hope.

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Dazzling Advertiser: For more than 26 years, our advertisers have made Echo possible (and kept it free to you). This year, we you which ad campaign (featured in our pages) wowed you the most. Congratulations, Easley’s Fun Shop on a job well done.

Savor Local Flavor: You don’t have to be a professional foodie to know the most delicious spots to wine and dine, and according to our readers it's Fez.

Retail Therapy: From retail and services to entertainment and accommodations, our readers said the best place to spend their money locally is "shopping the curve" with Seventh Avenue Merchants Association (Melrose District).

Get Your Art On: We asked you to let us know the best places for taking in all forms of creative expression (galleries, museums, events, venues, shows) and First Friday, Artlink Phoenix came in No. 1.

Politically Correct: This was your ballot to let us know which elected official, political movement or campaign had the biggest impact on you throughout the past year and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling was the winner by a long shot.

Get Sweaty: Everyone has a favorite team, athlete, gym, sporting event or league, and you voted the Arizona Cardinals as your top pick.

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