Best Of 2020

Best Illuminating Attendance Record
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Cincinnati’s four-day, light-filled arts extravaganza that spread throughout downtown, Over-the-Rhine and spilled across the Ohio River into Covington drew huge crowds — even larger than the event’s first run in 2017. At least 1.25 million people — and perhaps as many as 1.5 million — attended BLINK from Oct. 10 to 13, 2019, according to estimates based on the city’s public safety efforts and reports from consultants working the event. That’s likely the biggest crowd ever to visit the city’s urban core. (About 1 million attended the event during its first year.) More than 150,000 people watched the “Future City Light Spectacular” opening parade. The procession featured 3,400 people representing 93 participating groups, according to estimates. The overall BLINK event, which spanned 30 city blocks, also included 50 artists, 39 dynamic projection mappings on various murals and the creation of 16 new murals across Cincinnati and Covington. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber estimates suggested hotels downtown saw 95 percent occupancy rates on the Friday the festival took place and 99 percent occupancy rates on that Saturday. Transit options also saw big numbers as attendees looked for ways to escape traffic. Cincinnati’s Metro bus service provided 14,655 rides from three park-and-ride locations over the four days of BLINK, while Cincinnati’s streetcar saw more than 43,200 rides over those four days, including 14,670 on Saturday alone. That’s not quite as many as the more than 50,000 who rode the streetcar on its opening weekend, but is much higher than the 26,000 who rode during BLINK 2017. “BLINK was designed to bring communities together,” said Tim Maloney, President and CEO of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, one of the event’s founding organizations. “This year we literally bridged our differences in a bigger, better, and brighter way. Thank you to everyone who has embraced BLINK in such an extraordinary way.” BLINK,

City Life
Illustration: Taylor Speed

Best Addition to Cincinnati’s Historic Union Terminal
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

In 2015, Hamilton County voters approved a levy to fund the massive undertaking of saving Cincinnati’s historic Union Terminal, and three years later, in November 2018, it reopened to visitors. Today, the Cincinnati Museum Center remains in the iconic building and a new occupant — the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center — has moved into a prominent spot in the terminal’s concourse mezzanine, formerly home to the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. Founded in 2000 by Holocaust survivors and their families, the Holocaust & Humanity Center’s small museum and educational programs were previously located inside Kenwood’s Rockwern Academy, a Jewish community school. The new center now has roughly three times more exhibition space than it had previously, and the location is especially poignant given that Holocaust survivors arriving after World War II got their first taste of the city when they entered Union Terminal. That history — plus countless others — is preserved thanks to the renovation. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate,;

2. Current at the Banks

3. 1010 on the Rhine

2. Fischer Homes       

3. Zicka Homes

2. Music Hall              

3. Cincinnati Art Museum

Best Building Impersonation of a ’70s T-Shirt Graphic
Photo: Kailtyn Handel

One day, there was just an empty field. Then, seemingly overnight, Rhinegeist’s new Camp Washington facility was present along Spring Grove Avenue looking for all the world like a racing-striped vintage motorcycle gasoline tank, one of those really rad three-quarter-sleeve T-shirts your dad used to wear while working on his Ford Grenada and drinking PBR, or well, like a can of Rhinegeist. Fitting. The dark blue building with the red, orange and yellow stripes is a warehouse and brewing facility for the bustling brewery, but despite its shiny newness, it fills us with a strange sense of nostalgia.

For years, Greater Cincinnati has suffered due to a bus system it has outgrown and crumbling roads and bridges. But there is a possibility to help remedy both of those issues: a ballot initiative called Issue 7 that would raise the county’s sales tax by .8 percent to increase bus frequency, add new routes and make some popular routes run 24 hours a day. Three-quarters of the estimated $130 million a year the 25-year levy would raise would go to bus service, while another quarter would go to infrastructure improvements throughout the region that benefit public transit in some way. According to the ballot language, none of the money could be used for Cincinnati’s streetcar. Should voters approve the levy, the .3 portion of the city’s earnings tax that pays for buses would be eliminated, per a citywide ballot issue that voters gave the OK by a wide margin. That would mean those who work in Cincinnati would pay $50 million less in taxes. The bus system badly needs more funding. It faced a $5.8 million budget deficit last year and needs many millions of dollars in investment to become better-functioning and connect more Greater Cincinnati residents to jobs and studies local officials say. The levy has drawn bipartisan support from progressive groups, noted conservatives and Cincinnati’s business community. If it passes, it could mark a new age for public transit in Greater Cincinnati.

2. Clifton                    

3. Over-the-Rhine      

2. Rose Lavelle           

3. Todd Portune         

4. Thane Maynard

5. Molly Wellmann

6. Bootsy Collins

7. Marty Brennaman

8. Bob Herzog

9. Tamaya Dennard

10. Pete Rose

Learning how to be yourself can be hard when you’re young. It’s especially difficult when you’re navigating questions about your gender identity. Last year, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit called Transform launched in the back room of Nancy Dawson’s makeup boutique BRIDEface to make that process a little easier for area transgender and non-binary youth ages 6 to 18 by opening up a free clothing closet. With the shop growing, the group started looking for a stand-alone location, and in early January, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to get there. Making the drive all the more poignant — and painful — is the fact that Dawson has terminal cancer. Transform has gotten a few big boosts from some big names along the way. Dawson’s husband Matt Zoller Seitz (a film and TV journalist) included information on the fundraiser in a tweet that was a part of his thread about Dawson’s diagnosis. Soon after, Seth Meyers, who hosts NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, shared the tweet and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical Hamilton, recorded a video promoting the fundraiser. “I think what you’re doing with Transform is incredible,” Miranda said in the video. “I think you’re going to change Cincinnati. I think it’s really laudable.” Transform,