Bruce Croxon was surprised by one thing when he hosted the Whistler Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards on Thursday (June 26): none of the recipients seemed nervous.
“The thing that struck me is that every person who got up, whether it was a presenter or a recipient, was 100 per cent comfortable up here,” said Croxon, entrepreneur and alumni of CBC’s Dragon’s Den. “And that is so rare. I’ve seen it all: people shivering and shaking and not getting up. That to me says something about a community where people feel that at home with each other.”
The ceremony attracted a record-breaking 320 people to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler to watch the winners in eight categories receive accolades for their work in the business, art and volunteer communities.
Sue Adams, volunteer director of the Whistler Chamber, Audain Museum and Whistler Arts Council, was named Citizen of the Year. “I’d like to congratulate the other nominees and recipients tonight,” she said to the sold-out crowd. “I truly share this with so many people, and so many of you are in the room. Thank you for inviting me to share with you in the various good work you do in the community. I learn so much from every single one of you every day, so thank you for helping me to grow and do the things I do.”
Other winners included Gillian Rowan of Starbucks Village North for the Service Excellence Award - Small Business, Charles Steele and Steph Chapman of Ziptrek Ecotours for the Service Excellence - Large Business, Bob Deeks of RDC Fine Homes for Sustainability in Action Business Award and Chris Prior of Prior Manufactory Ltd. for the Innovative Business of the Year Award.
This year for the first time the Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture Award presented by the Whistler Arts Council expanded its scope to include not only organizations, but also individuals who have helped forward the arts in Whistler. Joan Richoz won that category for a laundry list of contributions that include starting the Whistler Public Library, serving on the board of the arts council for three decades and helping to develop festivals and events like the Children’s Festival.
“I’m so honoured and privileged to receive this award,” Richoz said. “I also want to thank the board, past and present, for their leadership and mentorship, to the businesses who provide the Whistler Arts Council with a lot of financial assistance and the community for recognizing the importance of arts and culture and how it makes us a better place to work, to live, to visit. I feel very, very privileged to receive this award. I’m one of many, many people who are out there furthering arts and culture in Whistler.”
Wayne Katz of LIGOMOZO Inc. (which includes Gone Eatery, Moguls Coffee House and Zog’s Dogs), meanwhile, was named the Business Person of the Year. “My mom used to say, ‘No man is an island unto himself,’” he said. “I never got it. A little older — OK a lot older — and a little wiser, I get it. I would not be standing here if not for my exceptional management team… To my friends, you know who you are, thank you for your support, knowledge and most of all, listening to me. Finally, thank you to my life partner Flora. As the old saying goes, all roads lead to finance and if you don’t know Flora is an accountant.”
The evening culminated with a new award to celebrate residents under 39 years old who are making a significant contribution to the community. The inaugural honour was given to Pepe Barajas of Infinity Enterprises (which includes the Mexican Corner Restaurant and the soon-to-open La Cantina).
“I’m very happy to have won this award, not because of the personal recognition, but because this is an opportunity to say in public thank you very much (to) the people who make me look good. That’s my staff,” he said. “A very special thank you to the Whistler community. They welcomed me in a very warm way. If it wasn’t for the weather I would feel like I was in Mexico.”