Saturday night’s Chamber of Commerce Celebrate awards ceremony brought local bureaucrats, politicians and other official types together with farmers, retirees and small business people together with black ties and red carpets to honor those who exerted the most effort to improve Morgan Hill and the Chamber last year.
Guests – just over 200 – arrived in suits, tuxedos, gowns, glitz and glamour to a camera crew and Chamber members pouring wine and champagne for mingling attendees who munched on bruschetta and other appetizers while perusing tables full of $20 raffle items donated by local merchants. The Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center’s Hiram Morgan Hill room, the site of the extravaganza, was decorated with shiny balloons and fresh-cut flowers.
The annual awards dinner, also a fundraiser for the Chamber, honored 2013’s Student of the Year Jennifer Gonzalez, Educator of the Year Bonnie Tognazzini, Volunteer of the Year Persis McGinn, Business of the Year Smart Products, Man of the Year Bob Snow and Woman of the Year Cricket Rubino.
Emcee Jim Carrillo prompted the guests to their seats by approaching random audience members, with the local public access camera crew in tow broadcasting live on surround sound and a 12-foot projection screen at the front of the ceremony hall, and urging them to answer local trivia questions about the annual Taste of Morgan Hill street festival, Fourth of July celebration and other topics.
Mayor Steve Tate was one of the first to take the mic, eagerly inviting the 2013 Chamber board – which includes five new members – to the stage before he swore them in.
Just after the crowd finished a dinner of beef, chicken, vegetables and salad catered by local caterer Catered by Diana, Carrillo queued the line of six Celebrate award winners, each introduced with recorded video preludes by their respective nominees, also broadcast on the big screen.
Accepting her Student of the Year award after an introduction by Sobrato High School teacher George Flores and Morgan Hill Unified Trustee Claudia Rossi, SHS senior Gonzalez couldn’t hold back tears of joy as she approached the microphone.
“I’m sorry – I’m a little touched,” said Gonzalez, a founder of Project Roadmap, 4.1-GPA holder and volunteer with the Chamber, Saint Louise Regional Hospital and St. Catherine Church.
The 17-year-old expressed her motivation to inspire and help others with a youthful energy and enthusiasm.
“We have the key to open the door to whatever we want to accomplish,” Gonzalez said. “We are the dictators of what comes next. The surest way to never fail is to believe in our dreams and success.”
Gonzalez completed her remarks by addressing her 14 family members in the crowd in Spanish.
Gonzalez and the five award winners who followed her were all met with standing ovations both before and after their acceptance speeches.
The glitz and glamour on the surface of the Celebrate awards ceremony did not dampen a determined playfulness among the ceremony’s attendees.
After Man of the Year Bob Snow accepted his award, the audience – at the urging of recorded nominator Amy Aochi and the live pleadings of Carrillo – encouraged him to remove the head cover without which he has rarely been seen.
Snow obliged, removing his cap and revealing a close-cropped haircut, prompting the crowd to erupt in applause.
In accepting her company’s award for Business of the Year, Doris Patterson, owner of Smart Products, which manufactures valves and pumps in Morgan Hill, described the hard work of her family and employees that have made the family-run business successful over the years.
“I’ve been asked several times, what ever made me think I could run a manufacturing company?” Patterson said. “My answer’s always been, ‘Why would I think I couldn’t?’”