The theme of the evening of the North Webster-Tippecanoe Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner was North Webster then and now. The emphasis was on how compassionate and caring business owners have continued to help the community grow, attract visitors and new residents and still exemplify the best of hometown values in the process.
The event was held Monday evening in the North Webster Community Center Banquet Hall, which was filled to capacity.
Community volunteer Jay Johnson was selected as the Person of the Year for 2012. He is very active with the local Boy Scouts and with the North Webster Lions Club, shepherding several young men through the Eagle Scout requirements and volunteering to do many jobs both visible and invisible with the Mermaid Festival and other Lions projects. He has also served as the “head spook” for the Boy Scout and Lions sponsored A-Maz-ing Haunted House for several years and volunteers for the annual North Webster Community Center Heart of the Community Charity Auction. He is also active with the local YMCA and the Wawasee Community Schools.
Although unable to attend, Johnson was presented the award earlier by chamber president Sue Ward. His wife, Sabrina Johnson, accepted on his behalf and noted, “When Jay received this award, he was something that he seldom is: speechless. I know he would also reflect on the fact that he is just one of many who volunteer in this community and that’s what it’s all about, community.”
Large Business of the Year winner was Dixie Sternwheeler Inc., a non-profit group that brought 12,000 visitors to North Webster in 2012 to cruise Webster Lake on the Dixie. Built in 1928, it is still in operation every summer, run primarily by volunteers, but employing 16 people during the season.
Board president Karilyn Metcalf said, “We won’t be anything without you, the riders. It’s great to be recognized at the state and national level but local support is what keeps the Dixie going. People have a passion for this boat that is passed down through the generations.”
Metcalf acknowledge former Dixie owners Sherry and Greg Van Pelt and the Dixie Sternwheeler board and crew for all their assistance.
Small Business of the Year was Artistry in Gold.
The featured speaker was life-long North Webster resident Phil Metcalf. A retired mathematics teacher and head of the vocational studies for Wawasee, West Noble and Fairfield schools, Metcalf now travels to the Mideast, Far East and Europe as an educational consultant. Besides reminiscing about growing up in North Webster and the impact various businesses had upon him, Metcalf highlighted several local visionaries who changed the shape and look of the area including H.K. Larsen, builder of Mid-Lakes Shopping Center; Homer Shoop, Loren Badskey and Chis Schenkel, the godfathers of Camelot; and John Augsburger, grocery store developer and owner.
The chamber’s scholarship winners were announced by Linda Land, North Webster American Legion Post 253 and scholarship chairman. David Ryl-Kuchar and Madison Hite work for the chamber scholarships, watering the town hanging baskets of flowers and changing and maintaining the chamber’s sign, south on SR 13.
Guests were welcomed by Sue Ward of Sue’s Creations, who also served as master of ceremonies.
For a more in-depth account of the event, see today’s issue of The Mail-Journal.