It has been a pretty wild year so far — even by St. Louis standards. In fact, as we were assembling this annual celebration of River City superlatives, it seemed every time we turned around there was another wonder to behold.

Like the letter St. Louis school board member Rochell Moore sent to Mayor Francis Slay in August. You remember the one: The LORD shall smite Francis Slay and anyone who helps him with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, yadda, yadda, yadda. Moore, you may recall, had earlier sought out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to let the paper know that a cup of coffee spiked with cocaine had been responsible for landing her in the psychiatric ward back in October.

If you ask us, though, it’s something in the water, and Rochell Moore’s not the only person drinking it. How else to explain the fact that in recent months not one, but two people have chosen to confess killings — to Post-Dispatch columnists? That has to be some sort of record.

Speaking of records, the 2003 Readers’ Poll almost certainly set a new high-water mark for ties — eight of them, from Best Coffeehouse to Best Place for Late-Night Dining to Best TV News Anchor. (There was also a bumper crop of election fraud. The less said about that, though, the better — aside from noting that our crack ballot-counting staff worked overtime to weed it all out.)

In the pages that follow, you’ll find nearly 300 highly subjective odes to our own favorite St. Louis things. Some you’ll already know about (you savvy St. Louisan, you). Some you’ll find yourself disagreeing with — but that’s what letters to the editor were invented for. And here and there, you’re certain to find a glittering new gem, not to mention a few you swore you’d never forget but did. Whether you seek the best place for a first date or the best bowling lanes (in a church!), the best worthy cause or the best bagel (in Chesterfield, and well worth the drive), the best lounge act or the best place to drown your sorrows after a lousy day at the racetrack, it’s all right here.

If we’re hard on St. Louis most of the time, that’s because we love the place and its quirky treasures and pleasures. And this week’s all about sharing the love.

So have at it!