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News >  Idaho Voices

Chamber Choice Awards to honor area merchants

Patty Hutchens Correspondent

Although the Oscars are still several weeks away, this Friday, the red carpet will be rolled out at Sandpoint’s Panida Theater in honor of several local businesses, organizations and individuals who have contributed to the Sandpoint community over the past year.

The first annual Chamber Choice Awards, hosted by KXLY’s Rick and Teresa Lukens, will recognize more than 70 nominees for their role in making Sandpoint a great place to live, work and vacation.

“The board of directors (of the Chamber of Commerce) and staff really wanted to do something to recognize the excellence of our businesses in the community,” said the executive director for the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, Amy Little.

The group met and decided to host its own Oscar-style awards show – complete with red carpet, a pre-ward party and more.

“We are a small community, and our businesses do so much and do not receive the recognition they deserve,” said Little. “This event is a great way for us to provide a fun and unique way to bring everyone together.”

The 11 categories include business of the year, nonprofit organization of the year, employer of the year, employee of the year, citizen of the year and volunteer of the year.

“We will also have a green award which recognizes businesses that have done whatever they can to help the environment,” said Little.

The Chamber of Commerce has more than 600 members, and Little said she was shocked that more than 300 of its members casted votes.

In addition to providing a name to be considered for a specific category, the nominating party was required to write a brief explanation as to why they felt the person or business deserved to be recognized. This information was included on the ballots providing the members of the Chamber of Commerce with information on the nominees’ accomplishments.

Little said she can hardly wait until Friday to bring all the chamber members together and give them the recognition they deserve. The evening will begin with the pre-awards party from 5:30 to 6:45 at the Panida. There will be hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar and complimentary nonalcohol beverages. Guests will arrive in style and many will be dressed in formal attire for the event.

“North Idaho is really a come as you are place, but a lot of people are getting really dressed up,” said Little, who encourages attendees to do the same.

“Everybody who comes will get the celebrity treatment,” she added.

As part of its mission to promote, develop and support the business community, the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce also assists civic organizations and individuals. One of its functions is to offer its members opportunities to network and promote their businesses.

But Little said the chamber’s role is not limited to providing those programs, but to also acknowledge what these businesses and organizations have done for the people of Sandpoint. For instance, in recognition of contributions made to the youth, there also will be an award given for innovation and education.

“Some of those nominated in that category include the Carden School, Lake Pend Oreille High School, the Waldorf School and Drs. Forrest and Pamela Bird,” said Little.

Tickets for the event are $30 per person or $50 per couple. They are available by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 263-0887 and providing a credit card number. Little said all tickets must be purchased by Jan. 26. She hopes that people will come and help her thank those who have made the community such a great place to call home.

“It’s a great way for people to say thank you to all the wonderful businesses who do so much for our community,” said Little.

Contact correspondent Patty Hutchens by e-mail at
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