When we launched People to Watch last year, we started with a pretty simple premise: No speeches. We wanted to recognize the men and women who are working hard to make a difference in Columbus - the future leaders of this city - but we wanted it to be an antidote to the kind of buttoned-down awards ceremony that can quickly turn into a banquet-room snooze fest.

When we launched People to Watch last year, we started with a pretty simple premise: No speeches.

We wanted to recognize the men and women who are working hard to make a difference in Columbus - the future leaders of this city - but we wanted it to be an antidote to the kind of buttoned-down awards ceremony that can quickly turn into a banquet-room snooze fest.

Tonight's People to Watch party is about celebrating creativity and ingenuity, not handing out plaques. (OK, we do hand out plaques as well, but they're fun plaques.)

And based on the number and quality of this year's nominees, Alive readers understood exactly what we're looking for.

We received 230 nominations for this second class of People to Watch, and almost without exception they were excellent suggestions. The final selection was made by a panel of Alive staffers; it wasn't an easy decision, of course, but it was exciting to see so many worthy candidates, and to be able to pick such a deserving group of honorees.

Jennie Scheinbach and Ryan Vesler each took personal passions - vegan baked goods and vintage tees - and turned them into successful businesses. Brian Pitzer couldn't find the right low-cal beverage to give him a boost, so he invented his own caffeinated water.

The marketing company Yohannan Terrell started as an OSU student is now growing into a media empire that includes an online magazine and web portal.

Derek Grosso founded one of the city's biggest and most active young professionals groups. Mike Brown is working from City Hall to improve the quality of life Downtown and throughout Columbus. And Megan Kilgore's dedication as a volunteer means she's never too busy to help those in need.

Andrew Dodson, Max Lewis, Ben Miller and Erik Smith started Central City Recording to be more than just a studio for musicians; they want it to be a hub for the local scene, and a catalyst for spreading the Columbus sound far and wide.

Charity Martin-Via, meanwhile, is fostering a growing neighborhood scene with her cafe and art gallery in the revitalized King-Lincoln District.

Each of these honorees is thriving in a different way, but one thing they all have in common is that they're building connections throughout the community. Working together is a hallmark of success in Columbus.

"It seems like there's so much creative and collaborative energy here," Scheinbach said of this city. "Nobody has ever been like, 'No I don't want to work with you.' People are accessible and community-oriented, and it's awesome to be a part of that."

If you're not already part of that, we hope the People to Watch will inspire you to make a difference in your own way.

Please join us tonight to recognize this year's class and celebrate their accomplishments. There will be a few brief introductions, 12 fun plaques, tapas from Barrio and a champagne toast, followed by music from Big Bang's dueling pianos - and, we promise, no speeches.