Chamber honors Hotchkiss' best

By Tamie Meck


During its annual meeting on Nov. 9, the Hotchkiss Area Chamber of Commerce honored the organizers of a successful first-year community event, a new non-profit that rallied the North Fork community to build a permanent home for a local family, and a local business for its continuing service and support for the community and its youth.

"This year was a little bit different, in that the chamber received a lot of nominations for all of the awards," said chamber president Nathan Sponseller. The winners "really rose to the top of a pretty impressive list."

In honoring its Citizen of the Year, "This year there was really no way to give it to one person," said Sponseller of co-recipients Marci Moore and Lynda Cannon. "We've known at the chamber that if you take on an event, that monopolizes a good portion of your year," said Sponseller. Moore and Cannon spent a tremendous amount of time and effort over many months to bring the first Farm to Fiddle Festival to Hotchkiss. "They are being recognized for their dedication to the community and for putting their personal time into making this town a better place to live."

The event was wildly successful in its first year, attracting a large crowd and more than 60 vendors. It has drawn numerous positive comments, said Sponseller. "It was a really impressive event, and it really started off as a nucleus of two determined people."

The day after the event, he said, "They were already coming up with ideas to make it better and grander and attract more people."

They may have gotten it going, said Cannon, "But it was a community effort." She and Moore gave credit to the festival sponsors and volunteers, and said they are seeking sponsors for 2017 and planning fundraising events this winter. "We want everyone to help if they can," said Cannon.

"We hope next year that it's bigger and it's better and we can find lots of sponsors to help pull it off," said Moore. "Wouldn't it be nice if some day it was as big as AppleFest and we get 20,000 people here to see what we have to offer?"

The 2016 business of the year award went to Hotchkiss Automotive and owners Ray and Kelly Katzdorn.

"Hotchkiss Automotive has become an institution," said chamber board member Katherine Colwell in presenting the award. Hotchkiss Automotive has been providing reliable services, from oil changes to overhauls, since 1999. The Katzdorns have also been active community members, supporting local sports teams, the Delta County Fair demolition derby, and as annual 4-H livestock buyers at the Delta County Fair. They have been chamber members since 2000, noted Colwell.

Ray is a Hotchkiss High School graduate and was an original Bulldog Booster member. He also led efforts to re-build the Hotchkiss High School "H" and is working with HHS engineering students to install solar lighting on it.

Katzdorn said his career in the automotive industry started when he received the only scholarship offered in the Colorado by American Automotive and Diesel. He owes that, he said, to "an awesome recommendation letter" from shop teacher Mr. Perry.

Son Parker was two months old when they opened the shop, said Kelly Katzdorn. "He's a senior this year."

The award for Non-Profit of the Year went to Hillman House, "For demonstrating how a community can come together to care for its own."

Ray and Celeste Waske formed the non-profit trust and led a community project to build Hillman House for the family of Mike Hillman, who became a quadriplegic after a fall from a ladder last May.

Right away, said the Waskes, money came in, and the community began holding fundraisers. People and businesses donated labor, services, expertise and material for the house. All of the workmanship and materials were high-quality. "It's just incredible how this came together so quick," said Ray Waske.

Behind the scenes, people brought water, food and snacks to the worksite, and showed up whenever they could to lend a hand, equipment or tools. "Without you guys and everybody in the North Fork Valley we could have never done this," said Waske.

And if it weren't for George Hartigan and Charlie Bishop, "We'd probably still be on paper looking at how we're going to do this."

The family moved into Hillman House on Nov. 3, and can remain at the house for as long as Mike needs it. When the Hillmans no longer need it, the trust will open the house up to someone else who needs it.

Board member Tom Wills presented the award, calling the Waskes' effort "amazing. This is something that brought our community together. Everybody across the board worked on this. It just shows how great this community is."

Funds are still needed for a few remaining projects and for ongoing bills, insurance and taxes, said the Waskes. Because Mike loves outdoor sports, they're organizing a fishing contest fundraiser next June, which they hope will become an annual event.

The meeting was held at ShadeScapes USA. Headquartered in an historic building on Bridge Street, the company offers innovative shade solutions for a global market. "We can have 18 employees, and we currently have 11," said co-owner and vice president of sales and marketing Jo Edmondson. "Hopefully we'll continue to grow."

"We're definitely open to having the building be used by the community," said Edmondson.Edmondson recently hosted two fundraisers for the Hillman House, the Gallery and Runway Benefit, which raised $2,500, and the Kid's Pasta Project, which raised $7,500. They also hosted the Farm to Fiddle wine-tasting event in August.

As part of its annual meeting, the chamber held board elections, re-electing Robbie Winne and Katherine Colwell to the board and electing Lynda Cannon to fill the board seat vacated by former Hotchkiss K-8 principal Carrie Yantzer.

The current board represents a cross-section of the community, said Sponseller, and its members are all willing to give of their time. After coordinating two major bike rides last year, the chamber had some extra time, said Sponseller. They used it to overhaul the Northforkvalley.net and Hotchkisschamber.com websites and to create a chamber brochure.

"I think we're really fortunate to be in a community where we are able to keep a full board and we have really active and engaged board members," said Sponseller. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."