Last Friday night, STARS Theater and Arts Center decked itself out for the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce’s “Diamonds Are Forever” annual awards banquet. The theme of the evening was based on James Bond, and it was evident from the floor-to-ceiling banners designed and painted by Blythe Quinn and the bowtie decorations upstairs to the background music, the skits performed by STARS actors, the martini-inspired appetizers and the martini bar.
During the dinner portion of the event, Miss Toni Segool sang a number of Bond theme songs, including “For Your Eyes Only” and “SkyFall,” and more Bond music was provided by a trio of young string musicians. The Chamber of Commerce had a yellow Aston Marten on site for photographs, courtesy of Chad Price from Cary Reconstruction, and many Chamber guests came dressed as James Bond, Bond villains or Bond girls. The evening was topped off by almost 90 minutes of casino-style gaming and dancing under a disco ball. STARS Theater actors and actresses dressed up the event all evening by portraying specific Bond characters, which lent a more theatrical aspect to the event than in years past.
The highlight of the evening was the awards ceremony itself, held in the ballroom between the social hour and the seated dinner. Emceed by James Bond himself, the ceremony recognized the Chamber’s chairperson for 2012, Tom Williford, and outgoing Board members Durwood Lassiter and Chris Abbott. Durwood Lassiter also was awarded the “Chairman’s Award,” which is given annually by the outgoing Board Chair to someone who was instrumental to the Chamber under their leadership. Lassiter was praised for giving 150 percent while serving on the Board and continuing to serve in a variety of ways since stepping off the Board in December.
The Horizon Award for 2012 was presented to Betty Ann Crump, for her selfless leadership of the Chamber’s Ambassadors and her noticeable visibility in 2012. Her visibility was noticed by the Board, and Betty Ann became a member this year. The Professional Women’s Leadership Association (PWLA)’s “Woman of the Year” award was given to Robin WellingsLoftus of Edward Jones on Broad Street in historic downtown Varina. Robin was cited for her commitment to educating women about the benefits of planning for retirement and taking care of their finances, both through the Chamber and through a number of other civic organizations and church groups. The Ambassador of the Year award was awarded to Donna Friery, also of Edward Jones in Varina, for her commitment to the Ambassador program and regular attendance and attention to detail.
Mayor John Byrne introduced the concept of the “Business of the Year” awards, both in the small and large categories. Small businesses are defined by the Chamber as having less than 10 employees, and large businesses as having ten or more. Steve Tucker, recipient of the 2011 Small Business of the Year award for Granny’s Helper, presented the Small Business of the Year award for 2012 to Cindy Verian of STARS Theater and Arts Center for its “significant impact on the artistic culture of Fuquay-Varina,” its “reclamation of an historic property to give it a second life, and its willingness to assist the Chamber with candidate forums, meeting space, and fundraising assistance.”
Mark Doble, the 2011 recipient of the Large Business of the Year award for Aviator Brewery and Taproom, presented the 2012 award to Curt Sardeson of The Open Sky Group for its “20 percent annual growth per year, for encouraging its newer employees to move to Fuquay-Varina, for its commitment to championing other local businesses even though most of its customers are out of state, and its commitment to the Chamber of Commerce through sponsorships and a willingness to teach classes for Chamber members.”
The Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 2012 was James Spidle of Spidle Webs Web Design. James was selected by a nominating committee made up of the last five recipients of the award from previous years. The 2011 honoree, Mickey Smith, presented this year’s award to James, speaking to his intense commitment to the promotion of downtown businesses through his skills with internet marketing and social media promotion. Smith explained that James’ work with local nonprofits purely as a silent volunteer behind the scenes had long gone unrecognized, but that his work “significantly enhanced the quality of life in our community.” James Spidle is the current Chair of the Board of the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association (formerly called the Fuquay-Varina Revitalization Association).
Another significant award that was presented on Friday night was the 2012 Outstanding Service Award. Becky Medlin presented this award, explaining that every few years the nominating committee for the Outstanding Citizenship Award receives a nomination that stands out for the individual’s service to the town of Fuquay-Varina specifically. This year’s nominee was Naomi Riley, for her zealous commitment to the revitalization and vibrancy of our town’s two distinct downtown districts. Ms. Medlin lauded Naomi’s dedication to volunteer growth, to increasing high-quality events to attract residents to activities and establishments in the heart of the community, and to fostering unique ideas that put Fuquay-Varina on the map, such as the En Plein Air public art contest in April every year.
The planning committee of the Chamber’s awards banquet would like to thank Chad Price of Cary Reconstruction for the use of the Aston Martin, Tom and Linda Williford for their sponsorship of the event and the staff at STARS Theater and Arts Center for taking on a huge chunk of the event-planning details.
The Chamber’s next event will be SAVOR Fuquay-Varina, a signature culinary experience that will include a drawdown raffle event with a $5,000 prize. Only 200 tickets for the drawdown will be sold, and are now available at the Chamber for $100 each. Wristbands for the food, wine and beer-tasting portion of the event will be available in March for $20.
The Fuquay-Varina Area Chamber of Commerce is a private, voluntary non-profit organization of businesses and professional people dedicated to improving the economic environment of our community and fostering the development of business growth and prosperity. Through regular networking events, access to business resources, cooperative advertising, and a variety of dynamic community partnerships, the Chamber serves a robust membership of more than 450 businesses. Fuquay-Varina encompasses two thriving historic downtown centers affording access to a wealth of product, services and amenities, For more information about the Chamber, its activities, or how to establish your own business or home in our community, contact the Chamber by calling 919-552-4947 or visiting us online at www.fuquay-varina.com.