"Under the Big Top"
Chamber Guests Were Greeted
With a Night at the Circus
by: Bobby McDonald
It was a night of fun, entertainment, and presenting accolades to some of Hopkins County's community servants, at Thursday night's 86th Annual Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Banquet, hosted in the exhibit hall of the Regional Civic Center. The program began with a wonderful brisket and pork tenderloin dinner, catered by Andy & Mary Lou Wright's Birthwright BBQ. Guests entered the Civic Center and were greeted with a ticket booth, cotton candy, and popcorn popping, as they proceeded to take a trip beneath the "big top," featuring "The Greatest County on Earth," of course, it portrayed living, working, and playing in Hopkins County!
Opening Thursday night's program, guests were invited to begin the evening with laughter, as everyone took a red clown nose and joined the circus theme of the evening!
Meredith Caddell, President/CEO of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce welcomed guest and introduced the Boy Scouts of Troup 66, who presented the colors and the NE TX Choral Society Trio, composed of Lydia Walden, Karey Brice, and Kim Baxter, who gave a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem. Pastor or First United Methodist Church, Pete Adrian, provided the Invocation for the evening.
Then, it was time for the "Ringmaster" to take the stage, as he performed a number of magic acts, selecting members of the audience to help him complete his performance. He was followed by a Contortionist and a Hula Hoop Artist, that "wooed" the crowd with extra-ordinary skills!
First awards of the evening was when outgoing Chairman of the Chamber Board, Scott Brown, took the stage and highlighted the year's accomplishments, and recognized outgoing directors, David Fenton, Shannon Brown, Sharla Campbell, Craig English, and Laura Brown. Current Chairman of the Chamber Board, Judy Gregg, presented Brown with the outgoing Chairman's Awards and introduced the current Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and members of the 2012 Banquet Committee.
Chamber Staff, Dana Wilhite and Meredith Caddell, were presented with red roses for their
untiring efforts in helping with the banquet and all the many facets of the year's work.
Sherry Moore, President of the Pilot Club, came to the stage and began to extoll the many virtues of two individuals, who deserved to be named Caregiver of the Year, as she stated that the qualifications of both candidates were so extensive that the club had decided for the first time in the history of the award to present two winners. Dorothy McCaig, who has been the principle caregiver of her husband, Raymond, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers, and Kayla Price, the caretaker of her aged aunt, were presented with this year's awards, to a standing ovation of the crowd.
Caregivers of the Year .......Dorothy McCaig and Kayla Price
The Sulphur Springs Downtown Business Alliance then presented the newest award of the Chamber's list of awards, the Growth and Renewal Award, as they presented the qualifications of a tireless individual, who continues to "rally the troops" in the Downtown Revitalization efforts. Rita Edwards was this year's recipient of the award.
Growth & Renewal Award......Rita Edwards
In making the presentation for this year's Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award, Meredith Caddell sited a team spirit, a constant volunteer, and a person willing to do anything asked, as she presented Sheryl Paden, for this this year's citation.
Ambassador of the Year.....Sheryl Paden
Judge Robert Newsom, representing the Leadership Class of 1994, was next to present the Community Pride Awards for 2011. Selected to receive these awards were two quite different entities in Hopkins County. The historic Reilly Springs Jamboree, begun 55 years ago by Bob and Joe Shelton in 1956, was presented the first award. The second selection was presented to Russ Nuss, representing the City of Sulphur Springs Capital Improvement Department, who is responsible for "re-constructing the downtown square, brick by brick!"
Community Pride Awards
Reilly Springs Jamboree and Capital Improvement Department
Next, in a change of the program, due to a significant ruse carried-out by Chamber of Commerce Staff and members of the Banquet Committee, Zach King of A&S Air Conditioning, presented the Small Business of the Year Award to a very surprised, Bobby McDonald, representing Front Porch News Texas. McDonald had been led to believe that his sister was winning an award, and had no idea that it was him being featured!
Small Business of the Year.....Front Porch News Texas
Lydia Walden, Education Committee Chair, then began to tell of the dedication, classroom expertise, and general devotion to children and the learning process as she introduced the 2011 Educator of the Year, Gina Latta, a longtime and devoted educator at Como-Pickton ISD. Latta's family surprised her by accompanying her to the stage, as she accepted the award!
Educator of the Year.....Gina Latta
Don Smith, with the Professional Ag Workers Association, presented the next award. He began telling of a man who had been involved in agriculture for all of his life, was a director of Dairy Farmers of America, and had been involved in both beef and dairy cattle operations in Hopkins County, as he and his wife have gone about rearing a family of three sons. The crowd soon recognized this year's recipient at Jerry Spencer, who was tapped for the 2011 Agriculturalist of the Year Award!
Agriculturalist of the Year.....Jerry Spencer
Pam Hollingsworth, of Beta Sigma Phi, took the stage for this year's 2011 Woman of the Year Award and began reading an extensive list of accomplishments for local radio personality, Enola Gay. In accepting the award, Gay produced an acceptance speech she had already written, and thanked a number of individuals from the stage, including her employer, Bill Bradford of KSST Radio, who was in the audience.
Woman of the Year....Enola Gay
Sheryl Paden, representing last year's Large Business of the Year recipient, Farmers Electric Coop, then took the center stage. She began to tell about this year's recipient, as she told that they had been forced to "lay-off" employees in the beginning of the year, but with a devoted staff of dedicated workers and a superior sales staff, the company had began hiring anew, by the end of the year. 2011 Large Business of the Year was announced as local industry, Clayton Homes, Inc.
Large Business of the Year.....Clayton Homes Inc.
Meredith Caddell, then took the stage and told that the Vision Award is reserved for only special times, when the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors want to denote something extra-ordinary in our community that shows an outstanding visionary effort. The Board had voted to present the award to the First Baptist Church Recreational Outreach Center, recently opened and called "The ROC." The center is for use by the entire community and will serve Hopkins County as an outreach mission of First Baptist Sulphur Springs.
Vision Award.....First Baptist Church "ROC"
The night's awards had built to the climax, as 2010 Citizen of the Year, Tom Sellers, made his way to the stage, and began an oration of someone who served the community, served his country, and then had a grand vision himself. He told of a man who was devoted to his family, his church, and his God, and wanted to recognize the many, many men and women who have protected our freedoms from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan. By this time, many in the crowd had "figured it out" but Clayton McGraw was still "clueless." But, once he recognized that the virtues were about himself, he became emotional. Clayton McGraw, tireless community volunteer and mentor for the Hopkins County Veteran's Memorial, was then named 2011 Hopkins County Citizen of the Year.
Following a wonderful awards ceremony and as the night began to "wind down," Chamber of Commerce Board Chair, Judy Gregg, once again returned to the stage and told the audience "the circus was about ready to leave town!" "If you're going to follow the circus out of town, you better get ready to go!" warned Gregg. "But, we hope you will stay and join us in another exciting year here in Hopkins County, The Greatest County on Earth!"
Judy Gregg warned those in attendance at Thursday night's banquet, that the circus was
about to leave town.......
Congratulations, Chamber Award Winners!!!