Triplicate Staff

A successful year was celebrated and awards were presented Saturday night at the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner.

A sell-out audience of more than 200 people attended the event at the Tolowa Events Center in Smith River. Before introducing new Chamber President Linda Ging, outgoing president Lisa McKeown noted increased revenue from two major events in 2013, the Fourth of July festivities and the Sea Cruise car show, as well as a "record year" for the Chamber Visitors Center.

McKeown said a lot of credit belongs to the Chamber's new executive director, Jeff Parmer, but added he won't accept much praise, instead pointing to the many volunteers who help organize the events and run the Visitors Center. Speaking a little later, Parmer did just that, and singled out two volunteers for special recognition.

The major awards of the night included:

andbull; The Del Norte Pride Award, which went to Rick and Betty Littlefield, who opened an expanded health food store, Wild Rivers Market, in Crescent City.

andbull; The Business Leader of the Year, which was presented to Randy Hatfield, executive director of the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.

andbull; The Lifetime Achievement Award, which honored the longtime owners of the Fashion Blacksmith boat construction and repair company in the harbor, Roger Long and his late brother, Dale Long.

andbull; The Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award, which went to Kim Gillette.

In addition to Ging ascending to the presidency, other members of the Chamber's 2014 Board of Directors were also recognized. They include Ron Phillips, Roger Gitlin, Jodi Hoone, Karen Lyon, Amber Wier, Terri Colton, Cindy Vosburg, Kelly Schellong, Mike Costigan, Matt Westbrook, Sydney Clinton, Anita Janis and McKeown.

Del Norte Pride Award

The opening of Wild Rivers Market "brought a ray of sunshine to our retail grocery scene" in a year when three stores closed, Triplicate Publisher and Editor Richard Wiens noted in making the Del Norte Pride Award presentation to the Littlefields.

"This is a store like no other in Del Norte," said Wiens. "In a way, it's a brick-and-mortar version of a Farmers Market andhellip; it's also full of homegrown products."

The Pride award is presented annually to a business or organization that has improved the aesthetics of the community. Wiens noted that since 1986 the Littlefields have operated health food stores in three Crescent City locations, each time remodeling the site and improving the surroundings.

They opened Crescent Health Foods at the Y Shopping Center in 1986, Harvest Natural Foods at 265 L St. in 1992 and Wild Rivers Market last January at 450 M St.

Two months ago, the store unveiled a mural on the side of the building depicting a family of rafters paddling the Smith River. At the time, Rick Littlefield said he was pleased to contribute to Crescent City's "healthy portfolio of murals. It's our way of giving back to the community and raising the quality of life for everyone that lives here."

The Littlefields also own Eureka Natural Foods. In accepting the award Saturday, Rick Littlefield said he enjoys being part of the local business community and lauded the Crescent City Chamber of Commerce, saying it is "just as dynamic" as the one in Humboldt County.

Business Leader of the Year

After 25 years running it, Randy Hatfield and the Del Norte County Fair are practically synonymous, said Kevin Hartwick, a local accountant and community activist who made the Business Leader of the Year presentation.

Hatfield "has poured himself into the job and has had a huge impact on the fairgrounds during his tenure," Hartwick said, adding that Hatfield "continues to be one of the main reasons why people volunteer a huge amount of time to keep the fair running.

"His efforts to create a successful fair have created many jobs in this community, and countless for-profit and non-profit agencies look to the local fair as a key part of their yearly business and funding. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into the community as a direct result of the fair."

Currently, Hartwick said, "Randy faces one of the biggest challenges of his career as the state has eliminated funding for the fair. However, Randy is up to the challenge ... this man does not let lack of resources or time get in the way of completing a task."

In addition to running the fair, Hatfield has immersed himself in the community, serving on the Crescent City Council and the Solid Waste Authority Board, as well as playing active roles in service organizations, Hartwick said.

"Above all, Randy looks at this job as an opportunity to brighten the lives of others," said Hartwick. "Kids of any age who step onto the fairgrounds for many reasons have had their lives changed by opportunities Randy Hatfield has helped to facilitate."

Lifetime Achievement Award

In a poignant moment, Hartwick announced the Chamber's Lifetime Achievement Award was going to Roger Long, who was in the audience, and his brother Dale Long, who died in a car accident last year.

Following in the footsteps of their father, Edward (Ted) Long, the brothers operated a business that expanded from a welding repair shop to steel fabrication and sheet metal contracting, and finally to boat construction and repair at Crescent City Harbor.

"Since 1976, Fashion Blacksmith has maintained a steady workforce varying between 15 and 20 people," said Hartwick. "The business continued with new construction of boats and what they called 'shave and haircuts' - which meant cleaning and painting a vessel's bottom, changing the zinc anodes, and other general maintenance.

"Soon fishing vessels and tug boats from all over the West Coast, Alaska, and the Gulf Coast were coming to Crescent City to be worked over or cut in two, lengthened and widened. The ability to attract a large portion of the shop's work from other ports is clearly a huge economic engine in the local economy.Each major job the shop does requires a minimum of four to six months to complete.During that time the average number of crew people from the boat who live in the city is five. It has been calculated that the average amount of money spent in our community by out-of-town crews during a major job is $9,000 to $10,000 during those months."

The Long brothers, Hartwick said, "are the epitome of what makes Del Norte County great, how hard work and commitment equal success.

"They have also both been active in our community.Dale was a member of the Jaycees, Toastmasters, Elks Club, Del Norte County Historical Society and served for eight years as a Crescent City Councilman. Roger served for over 20 years as a volunteer fireman and as a board of director with the Crescent Fire Protection District.Roger has volunteered countless hours of welding and construction for the Historical Society, the county fairgrounds and others.Roger's horse shoe art in Smith River on Highway 101 has been stopping visitors for pictures for many years."

Roger Long retired about 15 years ago, but Dale Long was still working at Fashion Blacksmith at the time of his death. His son, Ted, still works there.

"The message to the community that our winners have sent us is that it is possible to dream a dream in Del Norte County and through hard work and perseverance have that dream come true," said Hartwick.

Other Chamber Awards

Often the first local faces that travelers to Del Norte see up close are those of the people who help run the Visitors Center, and this year the winner of the Volunteer of the Year award is Kim Gillette, who moved to Del Norte 18 years ago. She is known for her cheerfulness and helpfulness dealing with visitors in person or on the telephone, Parmer said.

Although she couldn't attend the dinner, she provided a written statement that read in part: "I have been amazed at how many people come to the visitors center to get guidance on what to see, do and where to stay and eat in our area. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and talking with them about their travels."

Parmer also gave out two surprise awards, one to volunteer John Ging, a longtime fixture at Chamber events who frequently serves as unofficial photographer.

"The majority of the photos you saw tonight during the slide show were taken by him," said Parmer, calling Ging "a dedicated Chamber ambassador who lugs a heavy wooden sign around once a month, sometimes twice or three times andhellip; to let people know that a social mixer is being held."

Other Chamber ambassadors recognized Saturday night included Patrick Bailey, Katie Berkowitz, Susan Calla, Lise' Hamilton, Samantha Kilen, Kassi Marques, Mary Messal, Mike O'Brien, Annamarie Padilla, Sharon Plack, Donna Pritchett, Kelley Schellong, Mimi Stephens, Mitzi Travis, Jennifer Wellman and Debi White.

A second unscripted award went to the Chamber's executive administrative assistant, Sharyn Loughry, whom Parmer lauded as "the glue that keeps the Chamber together."

"She has been employed with the Chamber since 2008 and I don't think she has ever been recognized publicly for her dedication," Parmer said. "She keeps me andndash; sometimes to my irritation andndash; on task with her constant reminders and questions, but that is a good thing."

Loughry called the Chamber "a great organization and great people to work for."