GARY BOTTGER, who plays Captain Hook in the Elgin Opera House production of “Peter Pan,” poses for a picture along with his wife, Kate.
ELGIN — The red carpet was rolled out March 14 for the annual Elgin Chamber of Commerce Awards banquet.
A full sell-out crowd descended on the Elgin Community Center to honor the men and women who contribute to the community, but also to honor the upcoming 100th birthday of the Elgin Opera House.
With Captain Hook on hand to emcee the event and his nemesis Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys for entertainment, the awards banquet delighted attendees.
Along with the cast from Peter Pan, Rick Weatherspoon from XTreme Computing and Ty Bowen, an Elgin High School Junior working on his Senior project, presented a preview of the DVD they are compiling for the Centennial Celebration of the Elgin Opera House.
When the DVD is completed, it will be approximately one hour in length, detailing the history of the Opera House from 1912 until the present time. The finished product will be presented at the Centennial Celebration Gala on Sept. 22. The DVD will also be available for purchase with proceeds going to the Friends of the Opera House.
The evening’s festivities began with a silent auction, which raised approximately $1,400 for the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. Items were donated by over 40 businesses from Elgin and all over Union County.
Two guest speakers told their tales of the Opera House and what the building means to them.
Christine McLaughlin of Portland spoke of her time running the Elgin Opera House. She was in awe of the number of people in attendance with whom she has worked on Opera House projects in the past.
McLaughlin said that over the years she has visited many small town opera houses all over the country.
Her favorite is and will always be the Elgin Opera House. She emphasized the fact that the citizens of Elgin are lucky to have a building such as the Opera House.
It truly is a gem.
Terry Hale followed up McLaughlin’s speech with the current operations of the Opera house. Since he and his wife Stephanie discovered the house about six years ago, they have hosted 17 major theatrical productions and various live events.
“To put that in perspective, most amateur theater productions have the resources and bandwidth to produce one major production per year. That means in the past five years, we have done the work that most programs do over 17 years,” said Hale.
The Opera House has received almost $1 million in restoration grants, which has exceeded many expectations. Hale then asked for any current or former city council members to stand. He followed that by asking anybody who has swung a hammer or used a paint brush in the Opera House to stand. Again, he asked anybody who had participated in the technical operations at the Opera House to stand.
He followed that up by asking anybody who has ever performed on the stage of the Opera House to stand. About half of the crowd of 140 people were standing. He then followed that up by asking anybody who has ever bought a ticket to a production at the Opera House to stand.
Nary were a person seated, showing exactly the impact the Elgin Opera House has on the community.
The first award of the evening was given to Bill Ledbetter. He earned the “Young Man of the Year” award for his generous contributions to youth sports in the community. “Man of the Year” was awarded to Steve Oliver. He is heavily involved in the Elgin Lions Club, the Elgin School District and many other organizations within the community. While he is not technically an Elgin resident, in his thank you speech, Oliver did point out that he would like to be an “honorary Elgin resident”.
The “Young Woman of the Year” was awarded to Jessica Anderson. Anderson is an active participant of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce and has organized a clean-up day, watered flowers and found the fantastic lights that lined the streets around Christmas. Cindy Chandler was awarded “Woman of the Year”, chosen by the Elgin Women’s Service Club. Chandler stated, “my husband always said that my headstone would say Loving Wife, Mother and Volunteer”.
The “Business of the Year” was awarded to Teresa Martin of All For You Salon and More in downtown Elgin. Even while the economy has been on a downturn, Martin has expanded business to include a masseuse, gift shop, esthetician and more.
In a special award, WC Construction received the “Community Support” award, presented by Kathy Bonney of Community Bank. WC Construction has always contributed to the community, most recently by donating graciously to the Read to Succeed Program.
Heather Chandler is president of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce.