The business social event of the year kicked off at the newly built Dunwody Lodge Tuesday night, bringing together Clewiston residents for a night of socializing, networking and recognition at the 66th Annual Chamber Dinner.
The night started at 6 p.m. with a social hour sponsored by the H. E. Hill Foundation. Ticket holders could indulge in a drink or two at the cash bar while schmoozing with their neighbors and taking in the taxidermy dotting the corners of the lodge’s main entrance.
Tables lined the sides of the foyer, displaying the prizes that could be won during the silent auction — gift baskets full of local honey and the Everglades’ most famous seasoning, Florida Gator paraphernalia and a certificate for a full day at the spa were just some of the prizes to be had.
The Presentation of the Colors by Clewiston High School’s Criminal Justice students began promptly at 7 p.m., followed by an invocation given by Chamber Director John Wellslager.
Dinner was served shortly thereafter — a buffet-style spread served on the terrace, featuring chicken cordon bleu and prime rib, complete with down-home southern fixings.
Nearly an hour later, dinner came to a close and the purpose of the evening — to recognize outstanding businesses and individuals in the community — was ready to begin.
The first award, the Outstanding Community Service Award, was presented by the city of Clewiston to the Clewiston Elks Lodge for their year-round fundraising efforts and commitment to providing scholarships for the community’s children.
The second award, the Lifetime Membership Award, was presented by the Chamber of Commerce to Asa and Betty Godsey. The Godsey’s moved to Clewiston from Virginia 13 years ago and since then have “immersed themselves in community events.” A tear-filled Bette Godsey accepted the plaque and thanked the Chamber for the honor.
The final award, the coveted business of the year award, was presented by the Chamber to the U.S. Sugar Corporation for being the area’s largest employee and largest benefactor. Robert Coker, senior vice president of public affairs for U.S. Sugar, accepted the award and thanked all of the retirees, growers and vendors for their support and dedication to the company.
Before the evening came to a close, the winner of the 50/50 raffle was announced. The winning ticket, chosen by reigning Miss Sugar Beth Barfield, was Clewiston’s own city manager, Al Perry.