The Durant Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet Saturday evening at the Choctaw Events Center. The Mardi Gras Masquerade-themed event featured bright and flashy decor reminiscent of New Orleans’ most-famous party. A fortune teller and other performers entertained guests through the evening prior to the awards ceremony and a silent auction was also featured.
Chamber of Commerce members, business and industry owners and leaders, as well as dignitaries such as Durant Mayor Stewart Hoffman, Senator Josh Breechen and state Representative Dustin Roberts dined with guests on entrées with a Cajun flair, like Shrimp Etouffee, red beans and rice, salmon and spicy crab cakes.
Outgoing Chamber President Bert Davison passed the gavel to incoming president James Dry, who spoke and presented awards.
Following the dinner, the awards ceremony began with Durant High School teacher Jon Hazell receiving recognition as this year’s selection as Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year. Hazell gave a brief speech before the honorees were awarded.
The award for large business of the year was presented to The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and People First Industries received the accolade for small business of the year.
The Dean Samuel Spirit Award was presented to two recipients, Alvina Ralls and Jeremiah Lynch, with the volunteer of the year awarded to Jake Nichols.
Before closing the ceremony, three recipients were inducted into the COC’s Hall of Fame. Sharon Robinson, Billy Marr and John Massey were honored for their long standing relationships with the community and the Chamber of Commerce. Massey was unable to attend the banquet. Bert Davison, president of First United Bank, accepted the award on Massey’s behalf.
Following the awards ceremony, guests enjoyed dancing and games to round out this year’s successful and memorable event.
Maria Moore-Kass is a freelance writer for the Democrat.
Mardi Gras was the theme of the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet held Saturday evening at Choctaw Event Center.
James Dry, left, incoming chamber president, and outgoing (Ex Officio) chamber president Bert Davison shake hands and pass the gavel.
People First Industries received the small business of the year award at the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet. For more than 38 years, they have provided gainful employment and vocational training for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their motto is, “We are people first. Our disability is second.” Longtime board member and current president of the board Mark Swearengin, shown in back at the left, spoke on behalf of the company.
The Choctaw Nation was selected as the large business of the year. All employees attending the banquet were asked to walk up and accept the award.
Alvina Ralls, second from left, received the Dean Samuel Spirit Award. She was presented the award by Chamber Board Member Kyle McLemore, who is also a grandson of Samuel. Also shown are Bert Davison, Ex Officio, and current Chamber President James Dry.
Jeremiah Lynch, second from left, received the Dean Samuel Spirit Award. He was was presented the award by Chamber Board Member Kyle McLemore, who is also a grandson of Samuel. Also shown are Chamber President James Dry and Chamber Ex Officio Bert Davison.
Jake Nichols, center, received the volunteer of the year award at the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet. Also shown are Chamber Ex Officio Bert Davison, left, and Chamber President James Dry, right.
Sharon Robinson was inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. Also shown are Chamber President James Dry, left, and Ex Officio Bert Davison.
Billy Marr, middle, was inducted into the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. Also shown are Chamber Ex Officio Bert Davison, left, and Chamber President James Dry.
Chris Pierce is shown wearing a Mardi Gras mask while visiting with Martin and Linda VanMeter during the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Dancing took place after the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Ken Rainbolt is shown at the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Mardi Gras Masquerade Banquet.
Cathryn Phelps was one of many who dressed for a Mardi Gras theme at the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
The Choctaw Event Center was busy Saturday evening during the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Sharon Robinson is shown wearing her Mardi Gras outfit at the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.