The 2021 Du Quoin Chamber of Commerce awards were like none other, but Chamber President Abby Ancell thinks they were absolutely first rate.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it unwise to hold the traditional banquet in which the Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year and Emerging Business of the year are all honored.
With it impossible for the winners to come to them, the chamber went to the winners. Each day last week the chamber visited all five winners, feting them with lunch and honoring them with ceremonies.
"I thought it was a really neat way to honor everyone," Ancell said. "It was unique for several reasons. We couldn't have a regular gala, but this was also the first year we ever honored a group for Citizen of the Year instead of an individual. And this was a unique and special way of doing it.
The 2021 Citizen of the Year were hundreds of health care workers at Marshall Browning Hospital, the Perry County Health Department and the Du Quoin Community Health Center, for putting their lives on the line to care for a community in the grip of the coronavirus.
The Business of the Year was the Weekly-Press Newspaper, and the Emerging Business of the Year was Southern Homestead By Sassafras Woodworking.
The ceremonies were captured on video by Kelsey Kattenbraker and available on the chamber website.
"Going forward I have no idea what we're going to do," Ancell said.
She said both a traditional gala and the business visits have merit.
"I do think people like getting dressed up and getting together outside of working hours," she added. "But this year, I really enjoyed it. The businesses enjoyed it and appreciated it, and were made to feel special. I don't think we could have done it any better."