Business leaders on Friday got a taste of Liberty complete with beer and wine tastings, live music and samples from local eateries during the annual Liberty County Chamber of Commerce banquet.
The event was held at Dorchester Village Civic Center and included performances from 3rd Class Citizens, who were joined intermittently by Charlene Parlett and Jessica Sittle.
“We’ve got restaurants out of our chamber membership. You get to vote on what you like best and then at the end, we’ll give an award,” chamber Chairwoman Susan McCorkle said. Last year, the meeting was a buffet held at Club Stewart.
Participants included Baldino’s Giant Jersey Subs, Club Stewart, Liberty Regional Medical Center, The Blue Fountain Lodge at La Quinta Inn, Southern Sweets, Jeff’s Candy Kitchen, Sunbury Crab Company and more.
“It lets us showcase our restaurants, it lets them advertise their business, you know, people can go and pick what they want,” said McCorkle, who is in her second year as chairwoman.
During the event, the chamber presented its annual awards to businesses of various sizes and to business and civic leaders of the year, which McCorkle said allows the group to recognize members and show appreciation for them.
McCorkle asked outgoing board members Parlett and Josh Wheeler to stand before introducing this year’s board of directors.
Then CEO Leah Poole gave out this year’s awards. Real-estate agent Jimmy Shanken won for self-employed business of the year, and Imprint Warehouse won for 2-15 employees.
Poole joked about how Imprint Warehouse launched a campaign to win and called it evidence of marketing’s effectiveness.
Vaden Nissan of Hinesville won for 16-35 employees, and SNF Chemtall won for more than 35 employees.
“I will tell you that this particular company had maintained a very active community involvement program, and they’re widely admired for their corporate citizenship,” Poole said of SNF, which subsidizes several Riceboro parks, events and programs.
Karen Bell won for chamber ambassador of the year, and former chamber chairman Kevin Thomas won for business leader of the year.
Hasit Patel, who owns La Quinta, won for civic leader of the year. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Hinesville, serves on the Convention & Visitors Bureau board and is known as an innovator. Poole listed several sponsorships Patel has offered over the past year.
The Dorchester Village Civic Center is designed for this type of event, offering community involvement, board secretary Julie Martin and President Barbara Martin said.
“We’re thrilled,” Julie Martin said.
“Our whole dream was to renovate this so that it would be used by the community, and it is being used by the community, and that just pleases us immensely,” Barbara Martin said.
“It looks great, they’ve done a tremendous job of decorating,” she added. The hall was lined with burlap sacks and long, dried marsh grass.