2016 Siuslaw Awards
A Royal Affair
9th annual Florence Area Chamber of Commerce event honors Florence-area citizens, businesses
By Jack Davis/Siuslaw News
A full house of 245 people gathered at the Florence Events Center Wednesday evening to celebrate the best of Florence during the ninth annual Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Siuslaw Awards banquet celebration.
More than 30 businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals were nominated for nine categories. A panel of seven unidentified judges from in and outside the Florence area selected the winning applicant in each category. All winners were kept secret until the awards presentation.
Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bettina Hannigan said, “I really wanted this event to reflect the level of integrity, honor and service that these people have dedicated to our community.”
Ron Caputo was selected as the 2016 Florence First Citizen.
During his acceptance comments, Caputo jokingly drew a lighthearted analogy to Florence as a kingdom, with himself as king, but then turned the tables on the role of king by saying, “I bow down to you, the citizens of Florence. You are my mentors. You make me what I am. You are the examples that I follow. I love Florence and I will give you this pledge. I will do everything I can to make Florence the best kingdom in the world and may each and every one of you live happily ever after.”
He added, “I am very humbled to join such a great group of men and women who are already first citizens. I will do my best to keep on doing what I do.”
College-bound Siuslaw High School senior Claire Waggoner was chosen from among a field of five high school students to become Florence’s Future First Citizen.
Waggoner said, “I am so humbled to have this honor and I am blessed to call Florence my home.”
City Lights Cinemas was presented the “Stu Johnston” Business of the Year Award.
Co-owner Michael Falter said, “It was a spectacular evening for Florence. I was honored to be a part of it.”
Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County received the Nonprofit Achievement Award.
Board President Michael Pearson brought many in the audience — and himself — to the brink of tears as he shared the struggles and triumphs of the club’s Cinderella-like recovery from almost insurmountable challenges. He credited the philanthropic generosity of John and Patricia Hardison and the club’s current leadership with saving the club.
The Innovation in Business Award went to Friends of the Florence Events Center (FEC), in part for the creative and profitable FEC 20th anniversary Dancing with Sea Lions fundraising event throughout 2016. Under the direction of FEC Marketing Specialist Jennifer Connor, the project raised more than $60,000 for Friends of the FEC.
Hoagland Properties was awarded the Excellence in Customer Service award for the local and national recognition the company’s two hostelry properties, River Town Inn and Old Town Inn, have received for customer satisfaction.
The Curb Appeal Award was given to Lovejoy’s Restaurant and Tearoom.
Laurel Bay Gardens co-owner and former First Citizen Lisa Walter-Sedlacek accepted the Community Caring Award for her business. Laurel Bay Gardens also provided willow branches for the evening’s decor.
As a special surprise, Chamber Ambassador Jean Hefty was presented with the Distinguished Service Award for her 18 years of volunteer work at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce and her role with the Visitor’s Center.
Pavilion Catering provided the meal of two types of pasta, three sauces, meatballs, chicken cordon bleu, breadsticks, salad and dessert.
Hannigan said, “We do represent an amazing community to have this many nominations and candidates. It is humbling to be surrounded by so many people of such kindness and generosity.”
A live-feed video of the event is available to view at Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s social media page at www.Facebook.com/Florence Oregon.