MARION -- Tonight marks the 97th Annual Marion Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet and Auction. Social hour begins at 5:30 with dinner to follow at 6:30. The progam gets underway at 7:30.
What makes this dinner even more noteworthy than others past is that it will be the last as presiding mayor for Robert "Bob" Butler, who is retiring from his elected position at the end of this month after 55 years on the job. Butler will address the gathering tonight.
The annual Chamber of Commerce dinner is also a time to recognize those within the organization and in the community for their excellent work the past year.
• Three area businesses have been selected as finalists for the Distinguished Business Award. They are: Clearwave Communications, Heartland Regional Medical Center and House 2 Home Realty.
• Three area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Distinguished Member Award. The finalists are: Ashley Gott with Bank of Herrin, Mindy Reid with Banterra Bank and Celia Robertson with House 2 Home Realty.
• Three area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Mayor's Service Award. The finalists are: Gail Barger with Priority Staffing Group Ltd., Bill Nielsen with Flanders Electric and Mike Pinto with the Southern Illinois Miners.
• Three area young professionals have been selected as finalists for the Young Professional Leader Award. They include: Ashlee Church with Volkswagen of Marion, Heather Goines-Evans with Priority Staffing Group Ltd. and Erin Kopec with HireLevel powered by Extra Help.
• Three area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Citizen of the Year Award. They are: Beau Detrick with the Illinois Army National Guard, Deborah Frey with FreyWorks & Associates Consulting, LLC and BNI Mid America and John Markley with Centerstone.
• Two area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Lifetime Achievement Award. That duo is Admiral Nancy Brown and Fred Monroe.
• It was previously reported in the Marion Repubican that Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois has been selected as the Marion Chamber of Commerce 2017 Business/Industry of the Year.
• Nine members of the Marion Chamber of Commerce have been elected to the Chamber's Board of Directors for 2018. Each will serve on the Board from this February to January 2021. Eight are incumbents and one is a new board member. The eight incumbents are: Rodney Cabaness with Black Diamond Harley Davidson, Beau Detrick with the Illinois Army National Guard, Hayden Gardiner with South Porte Bank, Tracey Glenn with Peoples National Bank, Ted Gutierrez with Jackson County Mass Transit District, Megan Jones with Priority Professional Group, Mary Jo McCurdy with First Southern Bank, and Brian Ziegler with Clarida & Ziegler Engineering Company.
The new board member is Herby Voss with Heartland Regional Medical Center.
The entertainment for this evening's soiree features performances by Brock Bertling, a local pianist.
Bertling is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana. He started playing piano in church, nursing homes and malls.
He later moved on to venues, including exclusive parties in the Hamptons of New York, as well as being an America's Got Talent tryouts finalist. He has written and composed his own album and is going on a tri-state tour with his material. Now working as a freelance musician in Southern Illinois, he plays for parties and other engagements locally.
Also performing during the event will be Artstarts.
Artstarts Company, a non-profit, charitable community-arts organization devoted to making the "arts" accessible to young people in Southern Illinois, was founded in 2005. It is located at 104 S. Van Buren St. in Marion. Artstarts typically produces two musical theater productions annually.
The next scheduled performance is "Hunchback of Notre Dame" to be performed Nov. 16--19 at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
Entertainment is sponsored by Clearwave Communications.