Mexico Chamber awards dinner has new date, venue

Mexico Chamber awards dinner has new date, venue
Some of the crowd at the January 2020 dinner at the Elks Lodge. The date and venue of the awards dinner have been changed to April 9 at the Missouri Military Academy. [Dana Keller]
Dave Faries

In January the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce announced that a dinner to recognize its annual award winners would have to be rescheduled for sometime in the near future.
On Wednesday, the future became now.

Chamber director Dana Keller determined a new date and location for the postponed event, usually held in January, usually at the Elks Lodge. The Annual Dinner Meeting and Auction will now take place April 9 at the Missouri Military Academy’s Gymnatorium.

“We needed to have the biggest available venue,” Keller said, explaining the changed location.

Eight awards will be presented, which is enough to draw a crowd. So Keller had to juggle the demands of social distancing with the course of the pandemic, which seems to be on the wane in Audrain County, in going ahead with the dinner.

“The winners were chosen in November,” she said. “We told them ‘We’re going to honor you, but we don’t know when.’ ”

Keller says she made this week’s announcement with a mixture of relief and anxiety. The pandemic does that.

The annual meeting tradition dates back to the beginning. And the Chamber has photographs of past presidents dating back to 1917 decorating the walls of its downtown office. It’s likely the one’s serving in 1918 or ’19 dealt with similar frustrations.

“Don’t I wish there were notes – that could have been a big help,” Keller said with a laugh. “I’ll make certain to leave good notes for the next pandemic.”

Deb Hill-Haag, principal at Mexico Middle School, gets the big prize this year. She is recipient of the Col. C.R. Stribling Jr. Community Service Award.

“I am blessed to have been raised in a community full of strong role models who pushed me to dabble in so many worthy causes and don’t believe in the status quo,” Hill-Haag said.
Along with the honor comes a special mantel clock. Guests at the dinner don’t get a look at it, however, because it is presented gift-wrapped.

The Educator of the Year goes to Missouri Military Academy instructor Peggy Reynard. Todd Yager receives the President’s Award and Max Kennen the Philanthropic Award.

But it is not just individuals who are honored by the Chamber for their efforts toward the community. The Audrain County Health Department will be presented with the Civic Award. Janet’s Dance Studio will come away with the G. Andy Runge Ambassador Award and the Village Square Association picks up the Tourism Award.

The Chamber’s past presidents both nominate and vote on these awards. But at this year’s dinner, there’s something different – which seems fitting, given the circumstances.

Mexico’s Chamber hosts other events during the year, many of which were postponed or canceled in 2020. The annual Commerce and Industry Dinner was one of the victims. So Keller decided to add the E. Warner Williams Award, usually presented at the C and I affair, to April’s lineup.

The nominees for this award are Dagwoods, A&B Prescriptions, Allison Crowe Overhead Doors and The Carlson House.

Reservations are taken at the Chamber through March 19 and are $40 per person.

“The community is ready for this,” Keller said, noting that people are eager for events to return. “And we’re ready.”


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