May 21 2014 12:00 AM

The 7th Annual Top of the Town Awards crosses the finish lineA trained runner can crush a marathon — 26.2 miles — in around two hours. Ironman Triathlon athletes undergo about half a day of punishing perpetual motion to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycling course followed by a marathon run. But in the seventh annual Top of the Town Contest, hosted by City Pulse, and News 6, contestants endured a grueling nine-week, two-round race of ceaseless campaigning through tweets, Facebook posts and good old-fashioned glad-handing to make the grab for the medal. Or in the case of the business that racked up the most overall votes this time out, 55 years of dedicated customer service and quality goods. But we’ll come back to that.

The 2014 Top of the Town Awards continued its goal of recognizing everything that defines the best in local culture, from the top plumbers and car dealers to the creators of the finest local Asian cuisine, hairstyles and jokes.

The starter pistol fired for the two-round contest on March 19. The first heat consisted of a nomination round, for which any individual, business or location could be entered on the City Pulse website or mobile app and then voted on. We took the top five finishers from that leg and put them into competition for Round 2.

And finally, after 55 days of heated rivalry, the winners have been declared. Over the next 10 pages, you can see who can lay claim to being the Top of the Town: 88 categories of what gives Lansing its distinct personality. And hoo boy, are there some personalities.

After his previous win in 2010, WILX-TV’s Jason Colthorp usurped the crown of Best TV Personality from three-year reigning champ Evan Pinsonnault, morning anchor at WLNS-TV. (Pinsonnault’s consolation prize is taking top honors as Best Local Comedian, probably due in part to his hosting the locally produced variety show, “The Evan Michael Show.”) And after ruling the roost for most of the contest’s existence, Tim Barron (92.9-FM) didn’t even make the top three; he was dethroned this year by Alabama (97.5-FM).

Sometimes the story of the runners-up is just as compelling. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero came in second place in three separate races: Best Politician, Worst Politician and Best Marijuana Strain. We’re pretty sure it has nothing to do with Lansing’s decriminalization of pot last year.

Some categories were added to accommodate shifting tastes (Best Farm-to-Table, Best Craft Beer Selection) and trends (Best Marijuana Strain, Best Indoor Grow Store), resulting in a clearer view of the average Lansing-area resident. Some notable local features defied category but needed to be included anyway — Best Local Clusterfuck, Best Place to Enter an Altered State — so we included them as staff picks.

Last year, the top three vote getters were, in order, Soup Spoon Café, Golden Harvest and Horrocks Market. This year, Soup Spoon fell to third, Golden Harvest held strong at second and Horrocks made the leap to No. 1 with nearly 10,000 total votes across six categories — Butcher, Farm-to-Table, Local Grocery Store, Produce/Farmer’s Market, Wine Shop and Florist. Not bad for a business whose roots go back to the McKinley administration.

“My grandfather started his first fruit stand in Ionia County sometime in the 1890s, and my father opened this store until 1955,” owner/operator Kim Horrocks said, hanging out by the potted grape trees in Horrocks Market’s massive greenhouse. “Of course, it was much smaller then. I’m just keeping things going.”

Horrocks’ father, Jerald Horrocks, opened the business as a fruit-and-vegetable stand at 4820 W. Saginaw Highway on Lansing’s west side. Jerald Horrocks, who died last month at 91, watched his business that started as few hundred square feet grow into an 8-acre multifaceted commercial operation with three locations spread across the region and dozens of full- and part-time employees.

“Everything we sell here is part of 55 years of evolution,” Horrocks said. “My father was very proud of this place. He genuinely connected with people. He loved making people happy.”

Walking from the greenhouse stocked with flowers and vegetable plants through the store’s maze of fruit bins, meat coolers and metal racks loaded with specialty sauces, you’ll see people from all walks of life. Little kids dart past old-timers pushing shopping carts loaded with tomato plants. Young professionals have hand baskets stocked with Michigan craft beer and imported cheeses. The florist wraps a bouquet for an eager young man.

“Our rule is if we’re going to be in business, we want to be either number one or number two in that business,” Horrocks said. “And if we’re number two, then we’re going to be working to be number one.”