MASON CITY, Iowa - It's been a tough year for everyone, including some members that make up the Mason City Chamber of Commerce.
Each year during the Chamber's annual meeting, members share their contributions and progress have made over the past year. But for the 104th meeting, there was a bit of a different flair to it. Using the theme 'The Show Must Go On', the meeting was held at Cinema West, with attendees encouraged to dress up in black tie attire. The theme was chosen as a way to evoke the spirit of staying strong and adapting during these uncertain times.
In attendance at the meeting was Ann Papouchis, the co-owner of Northwestern Steakhouse. Since it opened by her husband Bill's father Tony in 1920, it has been kept in the family for 100 years. Like many other businesses, Northwestern was forced to adjust due to the pandemic; at first, the restaurant was closed for 10 weeks, but they were able to receive some money through the paycheck protection program, and reopened through curb-side service in May. This week, dine-in service resumed.
"I've been in tears many times, because the customers have been so happy coming in to eat. We've had really good feedback for carryout service, but the joy is really coming inside to eat."
This year, Northwestern was the recipient of the Business of the Year Award. With this being her first year in attendance at the meeting, Papouchis felt like the day shined.
"I feel like it was like Hollywood out here with the red carpet and backdrops and being able to get your picture taken! It was glorious! I'll have to go next year to see what a normal one looks like."
The theme for this year's meeting was inspired by the efforts to get actor Hugh Jackman, who is slated to play Harold Hill in the Broadway remake of The Music Man next year, to come to this year's Band Festival. And with everything going on in the world right now, Chamber program director Kativa Weitzel knew it was important to keep this message alive.
"Hollywood shut down, but we can't shut down. We have to keep going. We have to honor and value our community. That's what the Chamber is about."
To select the winners of the awards, Weitzel says it wasn't an easy process.
"We had so many nominations. The businesses nominate different businesses. We get so many nominations, and they're all so good that it's just like, 'can we honor all of them?'"
Going forward, Weitzel says this year's theme is a great tie-in to a forward thinking vision as society adjusts and the economy begins to rebound.
"'The show must go on' is going to be prevalent in the rest of 2020 and 2021, and we will incorporate it how we can. We're just ready to move on to the next thing, and quit holding back, and growing our community stronger, and North Iowa strong, for the rest of the time."
Recipients of this year's awards include:
Boss of the Year: Matt Curtis from Wayne's Ski & Cycle
Business of the Year: Northwestern Steakhouse
Worksite Wellness: Curries and Smithfield
Distinguished Citizen: Waldo Smeby