Please excuse us while we toot our own horn and share a bit of exciting news for all of us associated with the Polk County Itemizer-Observer.The Itemizer-Observer received 27 awards during the 2013 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspaper Contest. The awards were presented at the organization's annual summer publisher's convention July 17-19 at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain in Bend.The 27 awards is the most the Itemizer-Observer has received from the ONPA in a single contest year in the newspaper's history. That number is simply amazing.Highlighting the recognition the I-O received was the 2013 Elmo Smith Award for General Excellence among weeklies in Oregon with a circulation of 3,001 or more. The award is the highest honor the I-O could receive in the contest. The newspaper also received the 2013 ONPA Sweepstakes Award presented for receiving the highest overall rating for a weekly newspaper regardless of circulation size in the contest.The Itemizer-Observer received seven additional first place awards: Best Special Section or Issue, I-O staff ("2012 Explore Polk County"); Best Headline Writing, Pete Strong; Best Graphics, Pete Strong ("Money Makers"); Best Sports Photo, Nicole Watkins (state track and field meet long jumper Gabe Rodriguez); Best Feature Photo, Pete Strong (Hot air balloons over Independence); Best Photo Essay, Pete Strong (Central boys basketball 2012 state championship); and Best Website Design, I-O staff (www.polkio.com).Second-place awards were presented to the I-O for: Best Coverage of Business and Economic Issues, Jolene Guzman and Craig Coleman; Best Enterprise Reporting, Nicole Watkins; Best Feature Story (General), Jolene Guzman; Best Headline Writing, Kurt Holland; Best Lifestyle Coverage, Craig Coleman; Best Sports Story, Nicole Watkins; Best Page One Design, Kurt Holland and Pete Strong; Best Graphics, Pete Strong; Best Feature Photo, Pete Strong; and Best News Photo, Pete Strong.The I-O received third-place awards for: Best Special Section or Issue (Dallas Summerfest 2012), I-O staff; Best Educational Coverage, Jolene Guzman; Best Enterprise Reporting, Jolene Guzman; Best Feature Story (General), Craig Coleman; Best Local Column Writing, Nicole Watkins; Best Writing, Nicole Watkins; Best Graphics, Pete Strong; and Best Sports Photo, Pete Strong.This year's ONPA Better Newspaper Contest was judged by members of the Utah Press Association.The 27 awards demonstrates the hard work everyone on our staff puts in each and every week to produce the best possible newspaper for you, our readers and advertisers. It is a testament to our commitment to serve our audience.But we also know that there is no better judge of our work than you. You're the reason we do this -- trying to provide what we believe is the best source of local news and advertising each and every week.