An enthusiastic crowd, about half of which got into the spirit of the night and donned sparkly Mardi Gras masks, enjoyed hearty appetizers from The Porch restaurant and an evening of celebrating Sisters' business community and spirit.
Chamber Executive Director Erin Borla welcomed the guests and thanked the chamber board and volunteers who make things happen.
"These are dedicated individuals who want to support Sisters," she said. She also thanked major sponsor, Hayden Homes.
Three new board members officially began their terms. Victoria Graves from Three Creeks Brewing, Javier Luna from Rancho Viejo and Mandy Strasser from Hop N Bean will each serve three years.
Ann Richardson of the Sisters Folk Festival took over the helm of the board from Greg Willits of FivePine Lodge and Conference Center. Willits, who will stay on the board for another year as past president, presented Richardson with an emblem of her year. Looking at the neon-orange size 13 pair of sneakers, Richardson said, "These are some serious shoes to fill," and promptly put them on as she commenced her opening speech, recognizing and thanking outgoing and former board members.
The main event of the evening, the presentation of Chamber awards, began with the President's Choice, presented by outgoing president Greg Willitts. This award recognizes a person or organization that goes well beyond daily duties, contributing time and energy to the community. The recipient, Jim Cornelius, used "creative and intelligent ways to remind me to be the change I want to see," according to Willits. Cornelius was unable to attend, but had prepared a speech, ably presented by Richardson. She donned one of his trademark big hats, stood tall on a stepladder and in a passable imitation of Cornelius's style, expressed his thanks.
The Customer Service Award is selected by a committee of previous winners. It is a relatively new award and the winner keeps the trophy for a year and then passes it on. Richardson presented the award to Sam Hernandez and Cathy Warner of Central Bark and Groomingdales. Sam, humbled and surprised, quipped that "Kathy certainly works her tail off to make her customers happy."
The Nonprofit of the Year went to the Deschutes Land Trust and was accepted by Executive Director Brad Chalfant. He said, "Great things are coming in the next couple of years that will electrify this community."
The Volunteer of the Year highlights individuals who put time, expertise, blood, sweat and tears into the causes dear to their hearts. This year two men share it. Bob Collins and Cal Allen are founders of the Sisters Science Club, which Collins calls "a wonderful partnership between the club and the Sisters school system."
The Pioneering Spirit Award goes to an individual or business that expands the way Sisters is viewed across the state and beyond. Brett Miller is a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project and is an Army National Guard veteran who suffered injuries from an IED in Iraq.
"I try my hardest to honor those who aren't here. It means a lot that more than one person has spoken my name among you. I'm honored and humbled," he said.
The Citizen of the Year went to Chris Wilder, owner of Sisters Log Furniture. Wilder has been instrumental in coordinating aspects of the Cascade Avenue Project.
"We'll show what you can do with cooperation," he said.
The award is sponsored by Bend Media Group and High Country Disposal. A manly cruiser bike was presented to Wilder, which he said would come in handy getting back and forth between his two stores.
Sisters Business of the Year is Blazin Saddles, the bike shop owned by Jacquie Zanck and Casey Meudt. The award was revealed in a video highlighting the shop and the impact it has had on the community. The Bend Media group also contributed $500 worth of radio advertising.
Borla summed up the evening: "It sure is hard to pick winners in a room where everyone steps above and beyond."
The remaining awards are determined through a nomination process that is open for all Sisters Country at the end of each calendar year.
Nominations are reviewed by a committee of previous award winners. The committee makes the final selection and awardees are held in strict confidence until the annual Chamber Dinner. Awardees receive a hand-forged Sisters Country brand from Ponderosa Forge and Ironworks on a wooden plaque.
"It is incredibly difficult to host an event like this in Sisters Country," said Chamber Executive Director Erin Borla. "Throughout Sisters Country businesses, organizations and individuals go above and beyond every day. It's an incredible feeling to recognize some of those at this event but truly - I know this sounds cheesy - we are a special community; everyone is a winner."