Chamber of Commerce holds 125th annual banquet

by Charles Gerian

The Blackwell Chamber of Commerce held their 125th Annual Banquet this past Monday night, changing venues from the Kay Room on Doolin to the Blackwell Event Center at the Fairgrounds.

The banquet began with a welcome from outgoing Chamber President James Menzer who thanked the packed house for attending the night's festivities as they got seated and began on the dinner provided by Affairs to Remember catering service. The tables were also provided with bottles of red and white wine sponsored by BancFirst and Central National Bank.

Richard “Cap” McIlnay, Pastor for the First United Methodist Church (and Blackwell Journal-Tribune columnist), began the invocation.

“We are gathered here today,” he started comically, before asking the attendees to bow their heads in prayer.

Former Mayor Mark Cordell was the first presenter of the night and he got up to the podium to reveal the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award. Cordell, a winner of the Citizen of the Year Award himself, praised the Citizen of the Year as someone who “always puts the needs of others first” through their service on “countless committees” and joking that this individual can be found anywhere from Sudsuckers to the local Eggstravaganza.

“This nominee is always seen helping the needy, building up the downtrodden, as well as serving on countless committees while holding down a full-time job and being a dedicated spouse. This individual can be seen doing his job about might see him at the VFW or even Sudsuckers. You may even see him at the Fire or Police Station, the Easter Eggstravaganza, or the football field on a Friday night. He takes calls day and night, working for the soul of this community.”

The Citizen of the Year went to Richard “Cap” McIlnay who accepted the award with misty eyes and a choked speech of acceptance. Cap started with a joke about a man who lost everything in a flood only to find out that his story was dwarfed by the Biblical character Noah being in the proverbial audience.

“This audience, my audience, is Noah. So many of you humble me,” said an emotional Cap, “ever since my wife and I moved here we have felt so loved and welcomed by this community.”

Cap stepped down as the BHS Vocal group sang over the catered dinner.

Executive Director for the Chamber of Commerce John Robertson then took the podium to read the introductions and to recognize special guests in the audience before handing over the mic to President James Menzer for the “I Am Blackwell” Award.

Menzer spoke: “The I Am Blackwell Award goes to an individual, business, or organization that exemplifies Blackwell's community spirit, dedication, and achievement and benefits Blackwell as a community. Previous recipients include the Blackwell Regional Hospital, Hutton Pharmacy, and Melissa Hudson. This year's I Am Blackwell Award is not going to a single individual or a single organization...but instead recognizes a much larger group of individuals, businesses, and organizations that work together to unite our community. This idea has put Blackwell on the national stage and is already bringing a dedicated following to our city...The Barn Quilt Trail.”

James Menzer then called Cindy Oard to accept the I Am Blackwell Award on behalf of the Barn Quilt Trail. Oard made her way to the front of the room as Menzer detailed the origins of the barn quilt idea.

“This did start out as a Tourism Project,” Oard detailed, “the Blackwell Industrial Authority let us use one of their buildings and we opened this project up to the public to come and help us paint them and it was amazing, all the help and support we received.”

Oard then asked anyone who previously helped with the Quilt Trail to stand in recognition.

Dr. Aaron Neale of Blackwell Dentistry then took the stage to present the Blackwell Business of the Year Award to Hutton Pharmacy.

“This business goes above and beyond the help their customers,” Neale said, “The man accepting this award is an OU graduate but I think this community is beginning to convert him to an OSU fan.” Several comical jeers were directed his way from the audience.

“Him and the business together have done a lot for this community. They have generously donated half the merchandise to the Blackwell Children's Christmas Store last year and started the Annual Casino Night for New without further adieu I present Hutton's Pharmacy and Clark Bishop.”

“Wow,” a giddy Bishop started, “I'm shocked! Really, thank you so much! I'm honored to be here. I'm humbled. I don't even feel like we deserve this, we've been around for only a few years following in the footsteps of a great pharmacist and pharmacy owner Dennis Hutton. I don't think he's here but I want to thank him for setting up Hutton's and letting us be a part of this...allowing us to come in and living under the shade of a tree that we didn't plant. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I'm pleased to have my partner David here who brought me on in 2016. It feels like a lifetime, and in that I've gotten to know so many people and make so many new friends. I've become part of boards and do things I never thought I would. It's been fantastic.” Bishop then added “I never even dreamed of being a pharmacist at OU...Boomer Sooner, by the way.”

The next award was presented by Mayor T.J. Greenfield for Volunteer of the Year. Greenfield took the stage.

“This individual serves our community above and beyond,” Greenfield began, “always assisting in Chamber events such as Teacher Appreciation, Business of the Month, Easter Egg Hunt, and countless others. This individual has been a United Way member, Community Foundation member, 2017 Leadership Blackwell graduate, helped on the Tourism Board and, unofficially, I consider this person to be one of the Barn Quilt Picassos,” Greenfield laughed.

“This individual has also served as editor for the Owasso High School year book, a 6-A school with over 2,000 students where she graduated from in 2012. She volunteered at her hometown church helping with the youth group while honoring her degree at Oklahoma State University. She partnered with the Wings of Hope Domestic Violence Shelter in Stillwater and organized numerous events during that time helping to raise thousands of dollars supporting families affected by domestic violence. Her volunteerism continues into family matters as well...while most freshman would be spending spring break on vacation, she stayed to help with her grandma who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She routinely sends care packages to her brother deployed in Kuwait. She's called Blackwell home since 2015...on behalf of myself and the Chamber of Commerce i'd like to present the Volunteer of the Year Award to Emily Shields,” Mayor Greenfield welcomed her to the stage.

An emotional Shields tearfully took her plaque for Volunteer of the Year.

“I don't even know what to say, I've been in Blackwell two-and-a-half years now and it was a big risk coming here...I didn't really know anybody and, anyway, I've loved it. It's become my home. I love this community. It's given so much to me and it's my honor to give back to thank you so much.”

The tears didn't stop though, as Incoming Chamber President Megan Holden then took the podium to acknowledge Melinda Wynn as the Chamber Director of the Year.

“I can not tell you how excited I am to give this award,” Holden said, “but I always cry! Every year! So I'm going to try not to.”

Holden very quickly gave into her emotions as she recounted the times she would spend at Wynn's house with her daughter in their youth, and how watching her work effort then- and how it has not changed since- had inspired Holden from youth to adulthood. Holden praised Wynn for her fierce dedication, hard work, and determined attitude such as “calling on her lunch break for donations...something no one wanted to do.”

The night ended with Wynn accepting the award before letting Outgoing President Menzer speak one last time and Holden taking the stage again to thank everyone for coming out and looking forward to how the Chamber and Blackwell would grow and develop into 2019.