Chamber honors business gains
Olney turned out in force to celebrate homegrown businesses and the people who make them – and the community – run at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet at Durango’s Rustic Retreat on Feb. 1. The event drew about 250 people, including a cross-section of business, city and county officials and friends of the citizens who were honored for outstanding contributions to the community in 2023. Singer-guitarist Mando Molina serenaded guests as they mingled and enjoyed a fajita dinner catered by Dos Leones of Graham and a sopapilla cheesecake dessert by Shirley Jeter. The evening’s entertainment also included a silent auction.
Chamber president Tatum Wiley introduced the new Chamber board members for 2024: Dan Branum, Bree DeVries, Jonathan Rogers, Sonja Gray, and Luke Leonard.
The Chamber gave out five awards honoring citizens who went above and beyond for the City of Olney in 2023. The Volunteer of the Year Award went to the Olney Volunteer Fire Department, which contended with an extraordinarily busy fire season, capped off by the 900acre Campbell Fire last fall. Fire Chief Clint Pulliam picked up the glass trophy on behalf of the OVFD’s 29 volunteer firefighters.
The Pipeline Spirit Award, recognizing the person “who encourages forward motion in Olney,” went to American Legion #414 Post Commander Chris Garcia for his efforts to transform the post’s programming and facilities and to build its membership over the past year.
Barbara Larimore received the Pioneer Award for her role as a community leader, as a historian and preschool volunteer for 62 years at the First Baptist Church of Olney, as an artist and a columnist for the Olney Enterprise.
“You take whatever abilities the Lord God has given you and add your abilities and talents,” she said in accepting the award.
Olney Hamilton Hospital Board Chairman Dale Lovett received the Citizen of the Year award for successfully leading the hospital through the process of evaluating plans for a new hospital and passing a $33 million bond issue to fund it.
The Business of the Year award was presented to Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor, to recognize the ascent of the manufacturer of agricultural planes to a maker of sophisticated military aircraft.