A capacity crowd filled the Soldotna Elks Club last week for the 44th Annual Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.
The gala celebration featured the re-united performance of the award winning gospel-singing duo of Robyn Sullens and Debbie Wells. Outstanding student and $1,000 scholarship awards were presented to Christina Colvin, Samantha Penner, Pehr Hartvigson, Amy Breakfield and Lisa Greenleaf. Receiving the Vera Horwath $1,500 scholarships were Naomi Miller and Ryan Staab.
The Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Donna Mortenson, who has been involved with numerous charitable endeavors since she arrived in Soldotna. Steve Horn, executive director of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, was honored for his devoted service to young people. Singled out as the Chamber Business of the Year was South Central Title Agency for their numerous contributions of time and resources during the year 2002. The Pioneer Award this year went to 42 year Soldotna resident Katherine Parker, former Cheechako News journalist and proprietor of the landmark Map Shop. Katherine and her late husband Charlie donated the land for the Soldotna Senior Center and Parker Park in the early 1960's, even before they had moved to the Peninsula. Receiving the award, Katherine said, "Soldotna is admirable in the ways they have managed to go forward. I don't think it's too big yet."
Merrill Sikorski attended the event intending on interviewing the award winners for his radio program called People Going Places and Doing Things on the Kenai Peninsula, but was left speechless when he was selected as the Person of the Year. Sikorski moved to the Peninsula from California in 1974 and was involved in various occupations including commercial fishing, oil field work and broadcasting, before being elected to the Borough Assembly in early 1980's. In 1985 in founded Sikorski Consulting, a public relations firm that created the award winning Caring For the Kenai environmental awareness contest sponsored by Unocal and Agrium. "Alaska has shared her wealth with many fortunate people, gold miners, fisherman, timber men, and oil drillers, but with me she has shared her greatest riches of all, the friendship of the people of this community, thank you," said Sikorski.
The next major event on the Soldotna Chamber Calendar is the Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, dinner, auction and fireworks, scheduled for Monday, March 17th. Parade starts at 1:00pm at Baileys Furniture and will travel to the "Y" in Soldotna. The family style Irish Dinner starts at 5:30pm at the Soldotna Sports Center. There are only 225 tickets available at the Chamber office, and the dinner has been a sold-out event for the last two years. Fireworks will start at 9:00pm.
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