It was a night of humble tears, joyous laughter, and appreciative smiles on Friday, Jan. 15 as the 64th annual Oakdale Chamber of Commerce awards dinner boasted record ticket sales and the community braved the chilly weather to celebrate and honor the community’s best.
“This year’s record attendance of 300-plus (people) shows how supportive we are to each other,” Mary Guardiola, Chief Executive Officer for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce said of the event and the community. “Each year I am more proud of being a part of this community. Oakdale is filled with caring people.”
Current Chamber President Steve Knell said, “The nominees this year were and are the best of our community. They have given of themselves to better Oakdale and you can’t get better credentials than that.”
Lt. Lester Jenkins kicked off the evening by accepting the Director of the Year award as he finished his term of service and then Mayor Farrell Jackson shared some personal feelings regarding the selection of MaryAnne Heath as the Lifetime Achiever.
“There’s not a more deserving person to receive this award in Oakdale,” Jackson said of Heath as he called for another round of applause for the owner of the popular Moss Rose Bakery. Jackson shared memories of riding the school bus together growing up in Oakdale and then personally thanked her for her contributions to the community.
Heath, who sat quietly in the audience, dabbed her eyes as emotion overwhelmed her.
Heath took the stage after long-time friend Frank Clark introduced her, saying that receiving the award, “stopped me dead in my tracks.”
Her voice wavered toward the end as she offered her thanks to friends, family, community, the chamber and to God.
There were seven Oakdale youths vying for the title of junior achiever and there were actually three who took home top honors as Todd Medema, Korinne Baxter, and Nikki Kupper all tied as they edged out the competition.
Guardiola was particularly pleased to see the caliber of the Oakdale youths with the seven nominated.
“Each year it is great to see the youth of Oakdale and how they are involved to help others. As they become adults and live and work in our community they already have a base for community involvement,” Guardiola said.
The community service award was shared by Oakdale Community Sharing and the Citizens Auxiliary Police Services (CAPS) while business of the year was nabbed by the Oakdale Irrigation District.
Citizen of the Year was a tough one as there were three highly-deserving candidates, two of who are close friends but the final vote came down on the side of Greg Rivera.
Rivera, a man more comfortable with the behind-the-scenes work than the spotlight, other than when he is playing music with his band Remedy, took the stage with a smile but stated with a short grin, “If I had my guitar I wouldn’t be so nervous right now.”
In the end, he did all right, thanking his loved ones, family and friends.
Overall, the evening ended on a high note with many memorable moments.
Knell said of the evening, “I enjoy seeing people being appreciated for things they do. There were a lot of Kleenex moments at the event and that’s what made it both touching and enjoyable. To see the brightest and best of our youth; to recognize Oakdale’s up and coming leaders; and to honor those for a lifetime of giving is an emotional high. I enjoyed it all.”