Best of the Pinebelt

FestivalSouth Best of the Pine Belt 2020


Now in its 11th year, FestivalSouth’s Best of the Pine Belt competition, sponsored by Signature Magazine,  is back with several noteworthy improvements to the wildly-popular contest.This year, nominations in all categories will be accepted beginning Friday, Feb. 14 and will remain for 10 days only until the evening of Sunday, Feb. 23.

To nominate your favorites, visit, click on the best of link, and choose a category and enter your choices.

This year’s individual categories will be in just four groups: Music, Neighbors, Shopping & Business, and Food & Drink. Several new categories have been added this year including “Most-interesting Hattiesburger,” “Best Local Four-Legged Sidekick,” and “Best Beard.” 

“The nomination process is crucial to the overall success of the competition,” said David Gustafson, publisher of Signature Magazine and The PineBelt NEWS. “This year, the five individuals and businesses who receive the most nominations in each category will advance as finalists.”

Last year, more than 700,000 votes were cast to create the annual guide to the Pine Belt’s favorite people, places and things that make this area so great. As always, the complete list of winners will be featured in the festival program that encompasses the June edition of Signature Magazine.

This year’s finalists will be announced during a special Facebook Live event scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 from the WUSM studio on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi. In addition to the live streaming video, WUSM will carry the announcement live on air. Last year’s live finalist reveal event garnered more than 25,000 views and was shared hundreds of times across social media.

“In an effort to get everyone to ‘leap’ head-first into the 2020 BOPB voting season, we’re going to take a unique approach this year,” explained Gustafson. “We have listened to the feedback we have received over the years and have decided to limit the number of voting days in each category. This year, that works out to about 30 actual voting days in each category.”

This year, finalist voting begins at 12:01 a.m. on “Leap Day,” Saturday, Feb. 29 and all votes will count double for two days only until the end of the weekend on Sunday, March 1 when voting will close in all categories except for Music. Votes in those categories will continue to be accepted for two full weeks until Sunday, March 15 when Music voting ends and voting in the Personalities categories begin for another two-week period until Sunday, March 29.

Voting in the Business & Shopping categories will be open Monday, March 30 through Sunday, April 19. And last but not least, voting in the Food categories from Monday, April 20 through Sunday, May 3.

“On Monday, May 4, we’re going to open all of the categories and the final push for votes will be open until Sunday, May 17 when voting comes to a close in all categories, except for the ones that we’re giving out at the award show,” said Gustafson. “Voting in those 12 categories – and those 12 categories only – will continue for five final days until Friday, May 22.”

Eight days later on Saturday, May 30, downtown Hattiesburg will once again buzz with activity as Signature Magazine plays host to the 6th Annual Best of the Pine Belt Award Show at the Historic Hattiesburg Saenger Theater. The award show is a gala, red-carpet evening that is one of the highlights of FestivalSouth. Featuring special guests, award presentations, live music and much more, it is one of the hottest tickets of the festival.

Tickets will go on sale for the award show – and the annual Best of the Pine Belt Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony later this spring. 

FestivalSouth will announce its complete line up and begin sales for ticketed events on April 1. 


  • Nominations Open: Friday, Feb. 14 through Saturday, Feb. 23.
  • Finalist Reveal on WUSM: 6pm Thursday, Feb. 27.
  • Finalist Voting begins for ALL categories: Saturday, Feb. 29 – Sunday, March 1 (all votes count double).
  • Voting open for MUSIC categories: Monday, March 2 – Sunday, March 15.
  • Voting open for NEIGHBORS categories ONLY: Monday, March 16 – Sunday, March 29.
  • FestivalSouth season announcement, Wednesday, April 1.
  • Voting open for BUSINESS/SHOPPING categories ONLY: Monday, March 30 – Sunday, April 19.
  • Voting opens for FOOD/DRINK categories ONLY: Monday, April 20 – Sunday, May 3.
  • Voting resumes for ALL categories (all votes count double): Monday, May 4 – Sunday, May 17.
  • Voting for SHOW CATEGORIES ONLY: Monday, May 18 – Friday, May 22.


This project is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part,
from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.