Best Annual Event or Festival

South Carolina State Fair

Runner-up: Greek Festival

Sure, the State Fair can get crowded. Sure, your kids can run you broke playing all those carnival games. But, come on: It’s the State Fair! It’s got animals, rides, food, art shows and a ton of other things going on. Where else can you eat a fried Oreo while looking at a fun house with an airbrushed painting of Nelson Mandela dressed as Indiana Jones on it? Plus, its food events and bands keep getting better every year. Honorable mention: St. Pat’s in 5 Points, Indie Grits, Soda City Suds Week, Rosewood Crawfish Festival, SC Pride Festival

Best Art Gallery

701 Center for Contemporary Art

Runner-up: City Art

Working with minimal resources, the 701 Center for Contemporary Art nonetheless packs a punch in the local arts scene, hosting contemporary, cutting-edge exhibitions by local, regional, national and even international artists. Also organizes the annual Columbia Open Studios tour. Honorable mention: Tapp’s Arts Center, Gallery 80808

Best Local or Regional

South Carolina State Museum

Runner-up: Columbia Museum of Art

There has always been plenty to do at the South Carolina State Museum, but there’s really a lot going on these days. Last year, the museum opened a new observatory and astronomy wing, as well as a 4-D theater and planetarium. That’s added a whole new dimension to an institution that was already hosting touring blockbuster exhibitions, as well as exhibitions covering South Carolina’s cultural history, natural history, science, technology and art. Honorable mention: EdVenture Children’s Museum

Best Dance Company

Columbia City Ballet

Runner-up: The Southern Strutt

When you see a production by the Columbia City Ballet, you’re going to see a show. Whether it’s the annual productions of Dracula and The Nutcracker or an entirely new undertaking, the City Ballet consistently goes all out in its staging and costuming. It’s also the state’s largest dance company, takings its productions to Savannah, Charleston and more. Honorable mention: Broadway Bound Musical Theatre Company, Columbia Classical Ballet

Best Dance Studio or School

Columbia Ballet School

Runner-up: Columbia Conservatory of Dance, The Southern Strutt

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Columbia is a dance powerhouse, having produced not only Sara Mearns (principal dancer with the New York City Ballet), but also Brooklyn Mack (The Washington City Ballet) and Kate Harpootlian (So You Think You Can Dance), among others. How do we do it? Strong dance schools. The Columbia Ballet School, founded by Anita Ashley, boasts an impressive faculty that teaches a strong ballet curriculum that can also lead to jazz, tap, contemporary and more. Honorable mention: Palmetto Performing Arts, The Dance Dept., Broadway Bound Musical Theatre Company

Best Visual Artist

Ernest Lee - The Chicken Man

Runner-up: Blue Sky

“Be what you are, don’t be what you ain’t,” Ernest Lee once said. “Because if you be what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you are.” Lee has an outdoor, portable studio that he sets up at different locations around town, most frequently the gas station at the corner of Gervais and Harden streets. And while The Chicken Man is known for making colorful arrangements of his favorite fowl, Lee also paints dogs, cats, flamingos and celebrities. Honorable mention: Allison Fowler, Thomas Crouch, Sean McGuinness (That Godzilla Guy), Clark Ellefson, Jellykoe (Kelly and J. Spencer Shull), Dave Robbins

Best Local Comedian

Jenn Snyder

Runner-up: Derek Smith

Yes, Columbia has a comedy scene — and if you haven’t checked it out yet, then you owe it to yourself to do so. Jenn Snyder is one of the leaders of that scene, a veteran comedian who has brought her jokes to festivals and clubs throughout the Southeast and beyond. She’s also helped build a community of funny folks here in Soda City, working to get local comedians and venues connected with each other, all so you can enjoy a night out. Honorable mention: Topher Riddle, John Gibson

Best Local Theatre Company

Trustus Theatre

Runner-up: Town Theatre

Trustus Theatre prides itself on not only entertaining its audiences, but also challenging them. In the past year, it’s upended the aesthetics of a beloved musical (Godspell), helped a local band bring a biting folk-rock opera to the stage (The Restoration’s Constance) and hosted a series of plays exploring thoughts on gay marriage, among other bold moves — making the Trustus stage is a source of consistent excitement. Honorable mention: Columbia Children’s Theatre, Workshop Theatre, Village Square Theatre

Best Local Theatre Production

Godspell - Trustus Theatre

Runner-up: Evil Dead, The Musical - Trustus Theatre

The classic 1971 musical Godspell interprets the story of Jesus and his disciples through modern song, dance and improvisational storytelling. Cool? Cool. And Trustus did a bang-up production of it. Honorable mention: Sugar (Some Like It Hot) - Town Theatre, Young Frankenstein - Workshop Theatre, In The Red and Brown Water - Trustus Theatre

Best Movie Theater

The Nickelodeon

Runner-up: Regal Cinemas Columbiana Grande 14

Back in April, the Nick added a second screen — broadening its selection of offbeat indie flicks, critical darlings, and special screenings and events. Also in April, the Nick presented its ninth Indie Grits Film Festival, adding a clearer focus to one of the most exciting arts events in the Southeast. Simply put, the Nick rocks. Honorable mention: Regal Cinemas at Sandhills, AMC Dutch Square Nominee, Regal Cinemas at Richland Mall

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