Laughter bellowed from the back room of the the Lighthouse Inn Saturday as guests mingled in a party atmosphere at the North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.
As salads were passed out, keynote speaker Charles A. Pierce III, vice president of Unocal, discussed the future of gas exploration on the Kenai Peninsula.
"We believe there is very good gas prospectivity on the Kenai," Pierce said, adding that there is a sufficient market to justify the exploration.
He also explained that the gas reserves to product ratio for the Southcentral and Cook Inlet market will last about nine years.
"Normally that is a good signal to begin exploration," Pierce said.
He also assured the group that all oil found in the inlet is taken to the Tesoro refinery.
"It is all cycled back into the (local) economy," he said.
At the end of his speech, Pierce presented Billy Harris, chamber president, with a $5,000 check to fund chamber scholarships.
"A lot of kids at Nikiski High School will appreciate this very much," Harris said as he thanked Pierce.
The party resumed as drinks and dinner were served, and door prizes were given to guests.
At the end of dinner, Harris presented the 2000 chamber awards.
The Community Service Award was given to Sharon Burdick, a Nikiski resident since 1967. She has been involved with the chamber since 1989 and was the treasurer for the past seven years.
"It is time for somebody else to do that," she said, adding the 2001 treasurer is Susan Wilcox.
Burdick is dedicated to the community and involved with the Nikiski Senior Center, Nikiski Neighbors and helps with Nikiski Days every year.
"The award makes it all worth while," she said.
The next Community Service Award was presented to Harry Eaton, past chamber president and board member, for his contributions to the chamber and the community.
"Every time I needed something, I'd call Harry, and he always comes through," Harris said.
Eaton, the health, environment and safety manager at Unocal in Kenai, said he did not expect the award.
"It was a total surprise to me," he said.
Harris also complimented Eaton on the jambalaya he makes every year for Nikiski Days.
The Industry Award was given to BP for planning and implementing of the gas-to-liquids plant in Nikiski. Representatives from the company were not on hand to accept the award.
Chamber board member Dan Gregory presented the Business Award to Kenai Aviation for its service to businesses and citizens of the west side of Cook Inlet.
"They are kind of the classic small business," Gregory said, adding they help the citizens in any way they can.
Neither owner Bob nor Jim Bielefeld were present at the banquet to accept the award.
After the awards were presented, Harris passed the gavel to the new chamber president. Before stepping down from his 18-month post, he thanked chamber members and others involved for the success of the chamber.
"This organization could never work without the people," he said.
Harris then stressed how important the scholarship fund is to the community. He said the goal was to see that area kids are successful.
Scholarships are awarded to students in May.
"Our No. 1 big project is to put as much money as we can into our scholarship fund," he said.
With those words, Harris presented the new chamber president, Marty Anderson, to the group.
Anderson, president of Materials, Inspections and Consulting Inc. in Sterling, stepped up to accept his new appointed position.
Anderson said he has worked in Nikiski for 20 years and looks forward to being a part of the chamber.
"I am excited about being involved out here."
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