Best Of 2020

Best First Step
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

BLM mural painted on Rosalind Avenue

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and few would claim that Orlando city leaders had anything but the best intentions in mind when they painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in letters 30 feet high on the surface of Rosalind Avenue. So we were very, very proud to see our city joining the national trend of proclaiming that Black Lives Matter in the most public way possible. But many residents, Black and white alike, question its utility. If the mural is a giant reminder to city and county staff of what they need to change in terms of policing and systemic racism, great, it's a first step. If there's no action following up the message, then it's an empty gesture, a pretty label slapped over an ugly history. Let's not let that happen.

Best 'Good Trouble'
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

Black Lives Matter Protests in Orlando

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade at the hands of police ignited an international response, and Orlando showed up. And continued to show up. And showed up even in the rain, in the defense of Black lives. Orlando protesters endured chemical weapons, military tactics, smackdowns and arrests at the hands of the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff's Department. Yet still, thousands marched, and shut down the streets consistently – they even shut down the 408! Most recently, "Our Budget Our Block" organizers staged five back-to-back protests demanding the Orange County Commission reject a $15 million proposed increase to the Sheriff's budget next year. In the words of the late John Lewis, this was "good trouble, necessary trouble."

Best Unwitting Predictor of the Year We'd Have
Photo by OW Staff

An enormous poo in Lake Eola Park

Jan 24-26, 2020

No one could have known on Thursday, Jan. 23, what evil spirits they would apparently awaken. Poop-shame prevention spray Poo-Pourri stopped in Orlando on their "Giant Poo Tour" and as part of the marketing stunt, they erected a 30-foot-tall inflatable turd on Lake Eola park's green grass – cute emoji version, not bad dog owner version – and invited people inside to "Let That Sh** Go." What a caca-ca-razy idea.

Best Picket Line
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

Unite Here Local 362

The workers of Unite Here Local 362, part of the largest union of hospitality employees nationwide – including those at the Mouse – have launched an effort to unionize HMSHost employees at Orlando International Airport. HMSHost employs nearly 800 people at 27 locations at MCO. Unite Here's request for a mail ballot election to unionize was denied by the company, but the workers keep on fighting. They've demanded Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer support their efforts to unionize. Neither City Council nor the Board of County Commissioners have the authority to do anything about the union election, but both mayors are members of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and Orlando is waiting to see what they'll do.

Best Noise Cancellation
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

Orlando Protesters Drowning out Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis had planned a stop at Orlando's OneBlood center to be his standard press spiel of pandemic-related misinformation and bizarre sports analogies. Instead, he was met with a classic Orlando welcome: fired-up protesters. They crashed his show to demand answers – to the lies, the failures, the record COVID-19 cases and deaths, at one point fittingly shouting, "You have blood on your hands!" The direct action made national and international news, and, even better, quite literally drowned out DeSantis' voice.

Most Embarrassing State to Live In
08-26-2020 1:00 am

Florida during coronavirus

As spring break season approached, our governor put his mask over his eyes instead of his nose and mouth, refusing to look at the reality of the pandemic until it was much too late. This state – a state with the second highest share of senior citizens in the country and 10 million international visitors per year – surged with illness and unemployment, and our government did sweet F.A. to help. The eyes of the world turned upon Florida, and those eyes are now clenched shut in disgust. We can all take a little "Florida Man" ribbing in stride, but when the world literally shuts its doors to us, it's time to think very hard about the representatives we are electing to serve the public.

Best Pilgrimage
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

Visiting Queen Weltin's annual superbloom

Even a pandemic couldn't diminish Orlando night-blooming cereus fans' anticipation to witness the alien beauty of Queen Weltin, a huge tree wrapped in masses and masses of Selenicereus grandiflorus vines near the corner of Hardy and Weltin in Mills 50. The Queen blooms fully only one night a year, a magnificent explosion of dazzling, magical floral splendor. There's nothing like it. And when it bloomed this June, a steady procession of devotees came, undeterred, reverent, socially distanced and respectful. Taking a moment of solace in knowing that beauty somehow endures. (If you miss out on the Weltin and Hardy bloom, spectacular cereus specimens can also be found in Mead Botanical Garden and Leu Gardens.)

Best Blue Checkmark
Photo by Lego Explore Orlando

Like a delightful gem sparkling amid the toxic trash heap of Twitter, former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy shines a beacon of progressive common sense. We're so used to being disappointed in our white, male, older public figures that we could hardly believe it was really coming from him, this steady stream of pro-woman, pro-BLM, pro-gun control, pro-accountability tweets from @realStanVG. But he finally got that Twitter verification, a tiny blue checkmark in the "plus" column of 2020.