"Tonight is all about celebrating our award winners and chamber members," said Litchfield Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maggie Sinclair. "Thank you for being here."
More than 150 were in attendance for the 72nd annual awards dinner, held Thursday evening, March 28, at the Litchfield Community Center. The prime rib meal was provided by Milanos Catering of Hillsboro and the Litchfield Eagles Club manned the bar.
Prior to dinner, Sinclair introduced several special guests at the dinner, including Litchfield Mayor Steve Doughtery, City Clerk Carol Burke, city officials Lisa Montgomery, Shelly Herman and Tourism Coordinator Sarah Waggoner, along with Aldermen Dave Hollo, Cassidy Paine and Tim Wright. Other officials included Montgomery County Treasurer Nikki Lohman, Montgomery County Clerk and Recorder Sandy Leitheiser, County Board members Glenn Bishop and Jeremy Jones, Steve Bryant and Renee Wynn of the Litchfield Park District and 2018 Miss Litchfield Chamber of Commerce Andrea Priddle.
Joanne Van Leer of HSHS St. Francis Hospital gave the invocation for the meal about the importance of community. She will be leaving Litchfield to take a job at HSHS St. John's Hospital, but said she always felt very welcome in the Litchfield community.
After dinner, the evening's first award was presented by Jeremy Pattillo. He gave this year's Rising Star Award to current Litchfield Chamber of Commerce President Cory Evans, who also served as master of ceremonies for the program. Pattillo presented the award in the absence of last year's Rising Star Award winner Jessica Vickery.
"The community of Litchfield is lucky to have Cory Evans as a business owner and a chamber member," Pattillo said.
Evans recently purchased Country Financial from Anthony Marten in Litchfield. Prior to that, he worked for Mark Stieren at State Farm.
"I look forward to continuing to work with the chamber," Evans said in accepting the award. "I think this is such a great community that supports its local businesses."
The second award of the evening was the Special Recognition Award, presented by last year's winner Cheryl Nickerson.
She introduced this year's winner, Litchfield Tourism Coordinator Sarah Waggoner, who has worked for the city for the past four and a half years.
"I was very touched and I appreciate being nominated by all the hard-working individuals in our community," Waggoner said. "That is very humbling. Thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with you."
Last year's Business Person of the Year Award winner, Jim Hewitt of Allscripts, presented this year's award to Marty and Kara Steffens, longtime restaurant owners in the Litchfield community. The couple continue to operate Maverick Steaks and Spirits and partnered with Will and Michele Law last summer to purchase The Ariston Cafe from longtime owners Nick and Demi Adam. The Adam couple were in attendance at the dinner, and received a round of applause from the audience.
"It's been a little bit of a wild ride," said Kara Steffens of purchasing the Ariston Cafe. "But we have loved it. Thanks to everyone in the community for their love and support."
Her husband, Marty, was unable to attend the dinner, and Kara was escorted by their son, Mason.
"I can't tell you what it means to be part of a community that supports each other," Kara said. "Litchfield has become a stop on the map because of every small business in this community. It makes me proud to live in this town."
The final award of the night was the Citizen of the Year Award, presented to Rick Weatherford by Steve Bryant.
"It's an honor and a privilege to introduce this year's Citizen of the Year," Bryant said. "Rick is truly one of the unsung heroes of Litchfield. He's very humble."
Weatherford has owned and operated The Shine Shop in Litchfield. He's also active throughout the community as an avid Purple Panthers' athletics fan and organizer of benefit bowling tournaments. Bryant said Weatherford was instrumental in helping to install the new grandstand and concessions at the high school baseball and softball fields.
"A shock was like an understatement when Maggie called to tell me I won this award," Weatherford said. "It's been a privilege to do a lot of things in this community. When you need something done, everyone steps up to help."
Weatherford said he got started planning benefit bowling tournaments when a friend of his had cancer. He and other volunteers continue to plan a benefit tournament each year for a local cause, like Meals on Wheels or families needing help with medical bills.
"Bowling is one of my passions," he said, joking that even after all these years, he still wasn't very good.
Weatherford also thanked the community for its support of his business, The Shine Shop.
"It's a great community. That's why I'm still here," he said. "I grew up just hoping that some day I could give something back. Anytime there's a need, the city, the community, everyone pulls together. No matter what it is, we get it done."
Following the awards presentation, Evans introduced this year's Litchfield Chamber of Commerce officers. The slate includes President Cory Evans, Vice President Tiffany Jarman, Treasurer Jeremy Pattillo and Past President Jessica Vickery. Other board members include Perry Jackson, Cheryl Nickerson, Jimmy Gorowski, John Winans, Kelly Taylor, Mandy Jewell, Jim Timpe, Roberta Meyer and new directors Rachael Beckemeyer and Jessika Page.
Outgoing directors were also recognized for their years of service with a certificate, including Steve Bryant, Eric Johnson, Brenda Masters-Stout and Josh Maddaleno.
Before adjourning for the evening, 2018 Miss Litchfield Chamber of Commerce drew names for several prizes. John Blank was the lucky winner of four St. Louis Cardinals tickets, donated by Bank and Trust, as a raffle for the chamber. Dan Fleming was the lucky winner of the 50/50 raffle, which raised $600, and he donated his $300 back to the chamber.
The chamber also gave away four gift certificates to Coffee Xpresso and a $50 gift card to Petal Pushers.
In closing, Evans gave special thanks to Dawn Pezold, who was the previous executive director of the chamber for her help over the past year.
"Thank you to everyone for coming tonight," Evans said. "If it wasn't for all of you, we wouldn't be here."
For more information about the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce, call (217) 324-2533.