The Baltimore Sun’s readers have voted on what’s the best in the region from antiques to urgent care. This year’s winners include people and businesses recognized for outstanding service and customer satisfaction over the last year. Several businesses stood out from the crowd despite the downturn in commerce due to the pandemic.
Winners of the Readers’ Choice ballot were selected by readers in May.
For more categories, go to baltimoresun.com/best.
No Pix After Dark Podcast
Aaron Dante learned his storytelling skills as a kid during weekly dinners in Baltimore with his extended family. His eight uncles and three aunts would gather and take turns telling tales, each more outlandish than the last, but based on nuggets of fact.
“I learned how to engage people,” said the 41-year-old raconteur, who lives in the Waltherson neighborhood. “How to keep them on the edges of their seats.”
Three decades later, he’s putting the lessons he learned into “No Pix After Dark,” the weekly podcast that Dante, who works in real estate, puts together on evenings and weekends. The podcast’s name refers to the difficulty of taking photographs after sunset. “Only stories are good after dark,” Dante said.
No Pix After Dark is in its third season. Each of the more than 125 episodes is structured around an interview with a family member, friend, neighbor, community leader, local business owner or politician. Upon occasion, the podcast has featured folks who make national headlines, such as the Florida whistleblower Rebekah Jones, the scientist who allegedly was fired for refusing to censor Florida’s COVID-19 data.
Dante began the podcast in 2018 shortly after his eldest son, Lucca, was born.
“I wanted him to have something to remember me by,” he said. “I wanted him to meet all the great people I knew and hear about their trials and tribulations and how they overcame them.” (His younger son, Nico, is 7 months old.)
Over the years, Dante has found that personal stories often elicit the strongest responses from viewers. He interviewed his mother about her decision two decades earlier to withhold her cancer diagnosis from him because she feared he would drop out of college. (She has recovered and is doing well.)
He interviewed a couple who had suffered a miscarriage, decided to adopt, and overcame hurdle after hurdle before coming home with their son.
“I tear up just thinking about that podcast,” Dante said.
A question he asks every guest is: “Tell me about your favorite childhood memory.” His listeners respond to these personal glimpses, and it helps his interview subjects relax.
“Representation matters,” he said. “People like hearing stories about the people they know. When someone trusts you with their story, it is a great honor.” — Mary Carole McCauley
New episodes of the podcast are released at 8:30 a.m. Mondays at nopixafterdark.com and is carried on all major podcast platforms.
Activist: Kate Cook
Franca Muller Paz
Clergyperson: Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, Transfiguration Catholic Community
Rabbi Steven Schwartz, Beth El Congregation
Pastor Rod Hairston, Messiah Community Church
College athlete: Jared Bernhardt, Maryland
Terry Nolan Jr., Towson University
College professor: Mileah Kromer, Goucher College
Shawn M. Bediako, UMBC
DJ: Landis Expandis
DJ Kory with a K
Mr. Miles the DJ
Michael Pachino (DJ Mike on the Mic)
Instagram account: @bmorefood
Meteorologist: Justin Berk, Just In Weather LLC.
Ava Marie, WBAL TV
Tom Tasselmyer, WBAL TV
Amy Aaronson, WBFF
Oriole: Trey Mancini
Personal trainer: Jessica Kern, Inline barre
Jenna Scott, Earth Treks
Kelly Whelan, Maryland Athletic Club
Podcast: No Pix After Dark Podcast
The Enough Podcast, Anna Larimore
Harford County Living with Rich Bennett
Silver Linings Playback
Politician/government official: Bill Henry, Baltimore City comptroller
Brandon Scott, Baltimore City mayor
Zeke Cohen, Baltimore City Council, 1st District
Calvin Ball, Howard County executive
Radio host: Michael Eugene Johnson, WOLB 1010 AM
Tom Hall, WYPR
Reagan and Bethany, formerly of Mix 106.5
Bob the Paper Guy, WTMD
Radio station: WYPR-FM 88.1
WEAA 88.9 FM
Raven: Lamar Jackson
School principal: Kirk Sykes, The SEED School of Maryland
Tracey Ford, Maryvale Preparatory School
Jacqueline Williams, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
Craig Reed, Perry Hall High School
Sports talk show: Big Bad Morning Show 105.7
Stage actor: Megan Anderson, Everyman Theatre
Molly Cohen, The Acme Corp.
TV personality: Rick Ritter, WJZ
Deborah Weiner, WBAL-TV
Ashley Hinson, WBAL-TV
Twitter feed: Scan the Police // Baltimore City, @scanthepolice
Nick Frisone, @BaltMediaBlog
Phil Davis, @PDavis_LLC
Visual artist: Juliet Ames, Broken Plate
Charlotte Hager, @artebycharlotte
Writer: Laura Lippman
R. Eric Thomas