REEDLEY – Next month, step back in time to the 1940s with the Great Reedley Chamber of Commerce’s USO-style Business and Community Awards Gala, where local heroes will be honored amidst a backdrop of nostalgia and celebration.
At least seven awards recognizing businesses, entrepreneurship and community service will be presented at the gala on Feb. 24 at the Reedley College Student Center and Cafeteria. Community members can nominate the individual or business they believe deserves to be honored through an online form circulated by the chamber; the form closes on Jan. 25.
Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Erik Valencia said the award categories are kept fairly simple and are determined based on what the chamber has traditionally handed out. Award winners are determined by a committee and will be publicly announced on Feb. 1, according to the award nomination form.
“We have a meeting with the committee — and they’re made up of chamber members as well as community members — and we sit down and go through all of the nominations,” Valencia said. “We look at the criteria and see who fits in what.”
Valencia said that competition for each award can get tight, and so the committee has discussions around things like who has been active in the community for longer or what a nominee’s activity within the community looks like. The committee then votes and finalizes its decisions.
Award categories include citizen of the year, junior citizen of the year, entrepreneur of the year, community hero of the year, the Reedley Beautiful Award and business of the year, split into size categories for large and small businesses.
The chamber decided to scale the business of the year award because they noticed that there’s differences between large and small businesses that warrant separate categories, Valencia said. Depending on how many nominations are received for business of the year, the chamber might expand the category to include medium-sized businesses.
According to the nomination form, the business of the year award recognizes businesses that provide excellent customer service, have innovative products, exhibit community volunteerism and demonstrate their economic support for the business community. Businesses with 10 or more employees will be considered for the large business category.
The citizen of the year award is meant to recognize a Reedley resident who is actively involved in growing the community, through their volunteerism, leadership and vision for the city. The junior citizen of the year award is for individuals under 21 years old who are “committed to making life better for others in the community and who does more than is normally expected of someone their age,” the nomination form said.
An individual who demonstrates originality, has an innovative mind and who has taken a risk in business in the last year will be recognized for the entrepreneur of the year award.
The community hero of the year award is for someone who provides “extraordinary service to the people of Reedley” in a career capacity and who is, according to the nomination form, “dedicated, inspiring and makes a positive difference in the lives of Reedley residents.”
A business, group or individual who has positively impacted the aesthetic of the community, through projects such as public cleanup, graffiti removal or home remodels, qualifies for the Reedley Beautiful Award.
Valencia said the theme for this year’s event is “celebrating Reedley’s hometown heroes” and is modeled after a 1940s, USO-style celebration. The chamber has encouraged attendees to dress in 1940s attire and invited individuals who have served or currently serve in the military or in public service to wear their uniforms.
The gala will include a mixer where attendees have the chance to network with one another and connect with some local organizations, a dinner, entertainment and the presentation of awards. Valencia said that, as many community members know, he does have a background in theater and does “try to make it an entertainment evening.”
Tickets for the event go on sale on Jan. 22 and cost $75 for individuals who are not chamber members. The option to purchase a table at the event is also available, and tickets can be purchased at the chamber office located at 1044 G Street in downtown Reedley or by calling the chamber at 559-638-3548.
“It does sell out, so I do encourage people to get their tickets as soon as possible,” Valencia said.
The cutoff date to purchase event tickets is on Feb. 12.