A night of fun and celebrating business had some great moments as the Ponoka Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual business awards.
The packed gala event, held Oct. 20 at the Kinsmen Community Centre, held a few surprises for some winners this year among the eight categories.
Among the most shocked to be heading up to the stage was Ponoka Reddi Mart’s Debbie Walcheske, who was presented the Customer Service Person of the Year award.
“I wasn’t ready for this, really,” said Walcheske, who was nominated alongside Carey Harrison of ATB Financial and CIBC’s Marcelle Maki.
Walcheske started by thanking her manager for allowing her to do the job the way she feels it should be, “He gives me the opportunity to work in a stress-free, happy, awesome environment, to wait on my customers in the way that makes them happy.”
She also thanked the others who support her, the other very deserving nominees and, most of all, the customers.
“Without them I wouldn’t be here. They make my day, they make me smile and I try to make them smile back,” she added, choking back tears of joy.
The other prestigious individual award is the Business Person of the Year and for the second time in three years, Jamil Rawji of Ponoka Professional Pharmacy, walked away with the honour congratulating fellow category nominees, Greg Braat of Battle River Insurance and IGA’s Jim Hamilton.
“Both give a lot to this community and there are so many names out there that have contributed and made this community what it is. I’m hoping to be here that long so maybe I can pass this on to a second generation.”
Rawji added his wife remains instrumental in the success.
On the business operation side of the awards, the winners were a diverse group ranging from a relatively new business to ones that have been in Ponoka for many decades.
Direct Travel, a 35-year chamber member, was named the Small Business of the Year over the other nominees — Husky Ponoka and Ponoka Health Foods. Kalla Rakai, manager at Direct Travel, thanked everyone for the appreciation and the recognition.
Opening only in November of 2015, Vantage Physiotherapy Clinic was honoured as the Medium Business of Year with the other nominees being Integra Tire and Auto and Ponoka Physiotherapy and Acupuncture.
“We were just honoured to be nominated, so ‘thank you’ to the community,” said Kenda Butterfield. “We’ve been here only two years and been treated amazing by the community. I also have a great team, without which we would not be here.”
A long time business, which is now in its second generation of operation, won the Large Business of the Year award — Rowland Parker and Associates — with Legacy Ford and Altitude Laser Spa being the other nominees.
“From a small business grows a big business, I’m honoured to have up here my father Howard. We are very blessed to have him and Mike (Parker) around who helped start this firm,” said Tim Rowland.
Gord Parker thanked everyone for the support and recognition of the award.
In the Non-Profit Business of the Year category, the work of the Kinsmen Club of Ponoka was recognized over the other nominees, Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion and Ponoka County.
“We are very proud to serve the community and want to thank the town and county for their support of our Kinsmen Recreation Park project. We’re a small group, so to be recognized with this is quite an honour,” said Kinsmen Greg Braat.
Agricultural and industrial businesses are a huge part of Ponoka, which is why the Chamber hands out awards for these significant sectors of the community.
The Industrial Business of the Year went to Town and Country Supplies over finalists Alberta Flares Energy Services and Under Pressure Line Jetting.
Meanwhile Central Veterinary Clinic, which recently expanded with a new facility won the Agricultural Business of the Year over the other finalists, Cervus Equipment and Bobtail Nursery. Central Vet was also recently named by the University of Calgary as the top teaching veterinary clinic in the province.
“I just wanted to say the other staff weren’t able to be here and I would not be here without their backing,” said Dr. Trevor Hook, one of the vet partners at the clinic. “The award is a great honour and truly humbling.”