Most Friday nights, over 100 guests gather at The Milion Dollar Cowboy Bar. There's typically on-stage entertainment, hearty laughs, and occasional tears. Friday, October 25th, had all of the above. But from 5:00 - 7:30 PM, Jackson locals gathered for something other than a country band and western swing dancing. Over 100 of the most influential people in Jackson took to the historic pool hall and music venue to honor six business, groups, and individuals that made a true impact on Jackson in the past year.
After signature "Million Dollar Mules" from Grand Teton Distillery, a selection of beer and wine from The Cowboy Bar, and western-style appetizers from The Wort, Anna Olson, President of The Jackson Hole Chamber, stepped on stage to welcome guests to the 2019 Annual Awards Celebration. "After last year's event," Olson began, "we re-evaluated if we wanted to continue this event in the future." The award ceremony had been gratefully recieved by past winners and long-time locals alike, but in it's 54th year, The Chamber had seen a decline in nominations. After some deliberation, the staff and board decided the event must continue for the simple fact that "it's important". It's important to recognize those working hard to do right in our community. For employees, for business, and for Jackson.
After announcing the continuation of the ceremony, nominations came in higher than the past five years, and over 130 guests came to celebrate the following winners.
Ride for the Brand Award Winner: Bar J Chuckwagon / Wranglers
As one of the 10 precepts of the Code of the West, Ride for the Brand traditionally was about working hard, committing to your fellow team, and thinking about the greater good you are working towards. For the Chamber it is meant as a promise to represent the best interests of the business community and an invitation to be part of a group working for the benefit of Jackson Hole. A new award in 2018, Ride for the Brand was created to recognize a business that exemplifies the new Chamber Brand Promise of integrity, commitment, leadership, western legacy and a powerful contribution to our community.
The dedicated family was unable to attend the ceremony as they toured with the band, so they were recognized at a Jackson Hole Chamber Board meeting two days prior. "The Bar J Chuckwagon has always represented the western culture of Jackson Hole and have put so much into this community, economically and culturally” expressed Danny Shervin, JH Chamber Board of Directors, in the meeting. "For over 40 years, the Humphrey family has entertained visitors from around the world at the Bar J Ranch. They have entertained local, regional and national conventionas throughout the west and the world, taking the Jackson Hole brand with them. Founded by Babe Humphrey in 1977, the Bar J Ranch and Bar J Wranglers provide a western experience that families, friends and locals have enjoyed. Babe taught his sons, Scott and Bryan, the importance of family values and western hospitality for which the Bar J has become renowned. By providing an authentic, western, family experience at an extraordinary value, Scott and Bryan ensure that their family tradition is honored and preserved." As Scott and Bryan accepted the honor, they spoke with gratitude, "Before coming here, we asked our father if there's anything he'd like us to say on his behalf. He said, 'Just make sure they know how grateful and honored we are'."
Green To Green Award Winner: The Riverwind Foundation
This award is for the business that has show a commitment to the environment by prescribing to innovative and effective environmentally-couscious business practices.
When Ned Wonson, JH Chamber Board Member and Marketing Director at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, took the stage to announce this award winner, he started by telling of the award's importance. With Jackson Hole Mountian Resort as a previous winner of the Green to Green award, he was honored to pass it to the next business who shows passion for passing on a healthy home to future generations. Tim O'Donoghue, Executive Director of The Riverwind Foundation, accepted the award, and spoke of the projects they have completed, their goals soon to be accomplioshed, and the future of Jackson through intentional action.
An award for a star. An individual, under the age of 40, who is blazing the streets of Jackson with their innovation and service - both professionally and personally.
Alex Lemieux of The Wort Hotel and The Chamber Board had the honor to introduce this winner. And an honor it was. Alex spoke with excitement about the first time she met this true rising star, an experience that she, like many others, vow they won't forget. When Shelby Read from the Community Foundation was announced, her entire table of family, friends, and coworkers stood to applaud. But where others spoke of her with confidence and pride, she, herself, spoke with the humulity of a true leader. After arriving after many of her coworkers (because she was still working) she spent her moments on stage thanking others who helped her.
A small business doing big things. This award recognizes a small business of 10 employees or less that has achieved absolute excellence in all areas of operations and has contributed immensely to the Jackson community.
Owner of MADE and Mountain Dandy, and business neighbor of Valley Bookstore, John Frechette took a moment to share heartfelt words about Steve Ashley before calling him up. Frechette spoke about Steve with such admiration that several guests around the room began to choke up (this is where the tears came into play). He recalled how he would watch Steve as a mentor while he tried to start his own businesses, and how he hoped that his stores would see similar success. After Steve's name was announced and he made his slow walk up to the stage, he joked, "A slower walk makes for longer applause." Once he took the mic and caught his breath, he attributed the walk to "simply a conversation between myeslf and my heart." Then he began to tell the story of a 42-year-old bookstore as only the owner of a 42-year-old bookstore can. "January 1, 1977... that was my first day." He thanked his family, many of whom had traveled in for the occasion, his long-time employees, and ultimately the community of Jackson that gave him his success. As he made his walk back to his table, the entire room stood to thank him for his business.
This award recognizes a business that has truly made a positive impact on the community over the past year.
Tim Harland, past Board Chair of the JH Chamber of Commerce and do-it-all man of Jackson, graced the room with singing of "Jetplane" to announce this award winner. He spoke of the major achievements The Jackson Hole Airport has accomplished in 2019, including the stormwater collection project that recently made waves. When Jerry Blann accepted the award, he spoke almost entirely of the board and staff that make The Jackson Hole Airport award-winning (not only with this award from the Chamber, but also with Fodor Travel's "Best Tiny Airport" award earlier in the year).
Citizen(s) of the year... This award is based on activities benefitting the greatest number of people in the area, a singular accomplishment of great benefit to the community, or continuing service to the community over a period of time. Recipients of this award have traditionally been widely respected in the community for their personal qualities as well as their contributions. Previous winners include: Mark Barron, Bob McLaurin, Herb and Amy Brooks, Smokey Rhea, Paul Hayden, Clay James, Clarene Law, Cliff and Martha Hansen, and began in 1967 with Grant Larson. A long legacy...
This group lived up to the legacy. Chamber Board Chair, Kris Shean, thought about a long, detailed introduction for them, before deciding on short and sweet. "It's their story to tell," she explained. And tell it they did. When over 20 contributors to the campaign squeezed on stage, led by Jackson Hole Land Trust President, Laurie Andrews, they told the whole history of the time that an entire community came together to preserve a black of downtown Jackson. A story that Jackson history-lovers, Genevieve Block business owners, and long-time locals aren't likely to forget.
At the end of the evening, guests applauded, thanked the award winners, chatted with others, and headed back to busy work and family lives. The Chamber and its leaders expressed excitement about what next year's award winners and celebration have in store. Then the night ended has most nights at The Cowboy do - new friends and old leaving as one.
Nominations for next year's winners is now open! Click here to tell us who should be recognized in 2020. The Chamber will be accepting nominations all year until the selection committee votes on the winners in September 2020.