Merritt meets Memphis at gala

By on February 26, 2003

The Civic Centre was transformed into Memphis/Hollywood North for the 14th Annual Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Gala on Feb. 19.
The Memphis touch came from a 12′ X 18′ painting of Elvis (which is currently vying for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records) as backdrop, and a lively performance by Elvis Tribute Artist Jeff Bodnar. The Hollywood aspect was the awards ceremony in which over 200 nominees were whittled down to 12 winners in a dozen categories.
Robyn Cunningham, the chamber’s effervescent manager, and Saug Sekhon, president ,welcomed the record sellout crowd of 256 enthusiastic business people and their friends to the event in a ‘ballroom’ bedecked with balloons, soft-lighting and unique table centrepieces, featuring gold records, created by Ernie Jones. He also provided a life size golden Oscar to greet gala-goers at the entrance to the room.
The buffet dinner, catered by ABC restaurant, warranted accolades as did the cocktail piano of Ken Lienweber in the foyer.
Jeff Bodnar is the Amateur Spokesperson for the Pentiction Elvis Festival where he wowed the crowd last summer and will star again this year. He is also a Chilliwack based RCMP constable and confessed to suffering from strained vocal chords due to “yelling while chasing a criminal” in his real life role. Now, that’s an excuse not many Elvii can claim. The problem in no way affected his gyrations. And having a black-leather-clad hunk leap up on your table to sing eliminates any concern about hearing him hit all the notes. The performance warranted toe tapping, hand clapping, even a conga line. And then there were the love songs, sigh, at various tables and the gift, a la Elvis, of sweaty scarves to lucky admirers.
Between sets, Frank Rizzardo did his usual standout job as auctioneer and Donna Morrison, on behalf of her husband Rotary President Mike Morrison drew the lucky number from the hundreds of tickets sold by Nancy Ellingson for the 50-50 draw. Jim Gardner was the recipient of $360.
And, speaking of recipients, the Business Awards (each accompanied by a dramatic, improvised drum roll) were presented to the following outstanding people and organizations:
n Youth Entrepreneur
Rita Narang,
Javalanche Cafe.
n Volunteer of the Year
Frank Rizzardo
n New Business
Glen Herrington, Father’s Bakery
n Home Based Business
Melanie and Greg Johnson,
Second Avenue Signs
n Image
Malvina White,
Merritt Desert Inn
n Service Excellence
Das Kandola,
City Furniture and Appliances
n Community Booster
Bernie Kaluza, Overwaitea Foods
n Emergency Service Volunteer of the Year
Rob Godard
n Innovation
Gary Morrissey,
Work ‘n Play Clothing
n Professional Business.
Dr. Colin Gage,
Nicola Valley Chiropractic
n Tourism Operator
Saug and Kamal Sekhon,
Inn Towne Motel
n Business of the Year
Dawson Sulz,
True Value Hardware
Overheard snippets from the foyer:
“He’s been dead 26 years, let it go.”
“When I was a teen we used to dance to Elvis under my grandma’s willow tree. In the really hot weather the records would warp but we just kept on dancing.”
“We should form an Elvis fan club in Merritt and have gospel music concerts.”
“I’m pleased to have been nominated.”

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