Main Street honors civic award members, volunteers at banquet

Cherokee Main Street had their annual meeting Sept. 28 at the Alfalfa County Fairgrounds.

The evening started off with a welcome from Margaret Smith, the emcee for the evening.

The invocation was given by Kari Roberts, and the Colors were presented by the American Legion.

The meal was catered by The Farmers Table.

Recognition of special guests took place with those guests being Representative Carl Newton, Mayor Karen Hawkins, City Manager Mike Jones and Miss Cherokee Royalty.

Jones gave a brief description of what the city has been doing over the past year.

The main street board, consisting of Kyle Spade, Clint Ream, Linda Warner, Paula Mahieu, Megan Rice, Terry Ryel, Margaret Smith, Mary Pat Cudmore, Tiffany Gould, Sammi Kildow, Sarah Bellamy, Adrienne Wessels, Lexi Pullan and Delana Hansel were recognized. 

The board recognized Cudmore for being named the Board Member of the Year.

Some new businesses and others that had reopened in new locations were recognized.

The list included The Mat, Tammy Harmon, Cherokee Floral and Gifts and Mitcham Livestock, LLC.

The night’s main speaker for the evening was Jason Paris, educator at Cherokee High School.

For his work in education, he has been recognized as a diamond coach by the National Speech and Debate Association, the Oklahoma Alliance for Arts Education Outstanding Drama Teacher, the Charlene Burton Coaching Award Recipient, the OSSAA 3A Speech and Debate Coach of the Year, and the OSTCA Young Speech Teacher of the Year. He has coached over 50 individual All-State award winners, five NSDA National Octa-Finalists, and one national champion.

Since 2013, Paris has directed four State Championship one-act plays and three State Runner-Up plays.

A graduate of NWOSU and New York University, Paris holds a Masters Degree in Theatre. Three of his original plays have been produced in New York, including Locker Room Talk, which won the 2017 Midtown International Theatre Festival, and for which his former student Avery Bagenstos won Best Actor. 

Paris has served in various capacities at Cherokee High School since 2002, and despite having graduated from Alva High School, considers himself a proud Cherokee Chief. He currently sits on the OSSAA Speech & Debate Advisory Committee..

The Cherokee Champion Award was presented to Amber Wilhite.

This honor went to someone who had served the community in so many ways. She served on the school board and has been an active volunteer for many years. She organized and took memory pictures for the July 4th celebration and the Santa Store. She’s a go to for organizing activities in the park on the fourth.

The Community Service Award was presented to Gina Waugh.

When Cherokee Main Street looks for someone for the community spirit award, they look for a person who goes all in for events as well as someone who watches out for the needs of the community family.

The recipient does not seek recognition. She is always there to “do the job”. This year’s award is presented to a mother of three and grandmother of seven. She is also known as “icee queen”, there’s a pretty good chance Gina Waugh would come to mind. Gina is a very active Cherokee Roundup Club member and attends the First United Methodist Church. She always helps with the annual Whittet’s Thanksgiving Dinner and she’s main street’s idea of community spirit.

The Community Spirit Award went to Ronnie Eckhardt.

For any community to be vibrant and successful, it takes special people who are willing to operate behind the scene, to quietly make things happen, to humbly solve tasks and just generally get stuff done.

The honoree of the 2020 community spirit award is a perfect example of that type of special person. He is a retired volunteer fireman, serving the Cherokee community for 20 Years. He has kept statistics for the Cherokee football team for many years, encouraging the boys and cheering on the Chiefs and has driven many homecoming queens in his convertible.

He has built and remodeled numerous homes, often volunteering his time and talents to those in need. He has built stages for performance events, shelving and cabinets for the school, benches for the city. His skills are too numerous to count. He is a leader in his church, serving as a deacon, a trustee and has helped with the church’s youth for years.

Eckhardt enjoys singing in the church choir and his quartet, sharing his love of music with others, as well. He sings a heck of a bass. You have seen him in the past involved with his two sons, Kyle and Kurtis, or possibly helping his wife, Karen, with her photography or attending current events with his two granddaughters, Kaylee and Natalie, or grandson, Miles.

He would say that his greatest blessings are his family and that is why he does so much for others.

This year, the community spirit award is perfectly awarded to an individual who brings his very best to this community.

The Educator of the Year went to Alicia Mitchell.

Main Street presented a new award this year. This honor is given to an outstanding educator. Everybody knows the schools, teachers and our children have had to adjust to a whole lot of new things as the school year began.

This awardee is in her eighth year of teaching. She has been honored twice with the teacher of the year award, selected by her peers. She loves music, art, theatre, kayaking and most of all, her school kids.

A mother of three, she and husband Brian are strongly imbedded in the community and its activities. She is a member of First Baptist Church, plays in the praise band, teaches in the youth department and resides in the original family home as the fourth generation.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Jim and Rozella Hadwiger.

The recipients of the Main Street Lifetime Achievement Award have called Cherokee their home for their entire lives, even when they were unable to live here due to active military service or when attending Oklahoma A&M College.

Jim was born in the house where they live today. As a proud graduate of Cherokee high, he was valedictorian of his senior class and manager of the mens’ basketball team. He always stood tall in his beliefs of faith in God, family, country and community.

Rozella was involved in music activities, including being a drummer in the band. She also played the piano and accompanied many vocal soloists. She was active on the debate team, although her kids believe she forgot everything she knew because today she is not at all argumentative. It was during her high school years that she began playing the organ and the church paid for her lessons and she in turn played for church services.

Her experiences there paid dividends for the school as she began playing for commencement exercises for the class of 1951. Her future husband just happened to be a member of that class. She continued to play for commencement exercises for a generation of graduations until the final time in 1980.

They remain avid sports fans and supporters of Cherokee Schools and they can be seen at many and various school events.

They were marred on October 10, 1954 at the United Methodist Church in Cherokee, spending the early days of marriage in Virginia Beach where he was stationed in the US Army. Upon being honorably discharged, they returned to Stillwater, where he completed his degree in agriculture at Oklahoma A&M.

In 1958, upon his graduation, they returned to a lifelong love of farming and ranching. In addition to helping with the farming and ranching operations and running the household, Rozella worked as a receptionist for a medical clinic for twelve years. She loved the people and they loved her.

Jim has been a lifelong member of the First Christian Church, where she joined him after their marriage. He is an elder emeritus and has served on the church board in various positions including president, vice-president, deacon, elder and Sunday school teacher and as a member of various committees.

She served the church as choir director, organist, pianist and on various committees.

They have been very active in Farm Bureau at the local, state and national level. Jim served as director for nine years and during part of this time as secretary. He received the distinguished service award after 60 years of membership.

Rozella has been active in the women’s division and helped create many Alfalfa County scrapbooks that competed at the state level. She is a former home extension member and has previously served on the Pioneer Spirit board. She currently serves on the election board.

Jim has been a member of the Cherokee school board and served for a time as president. He also previously served on the Farmer’s Home Administration committee and is a member of the American Legion of Cherokee. He was also a great seller of chamber of commerce memberships over the years.

They have one daughter and son-in-law and one son and daughter-in-law, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. If you asked this years recipients what Cherokee means to them, they would say it means everything because it always has been and always will be “home”.

The Citizen of the Year went to Kolby Arnold.

What does it take to qualify for Main Street Citizen of the Year? Let’s just say it involves supporting the community in a very visible and hard working way.

This year’s winner has taken the meaning of being a volunteer to brand new heights, lifting high the spirits of Cherokee and working hard to light up and decorate this town. Especially for the Christmas parade.

As a hometown boy and young entrepreneur, he “gets” the spirit of community and the love of service to Main Street and the community.

When there is a major task at hand, Main Street just says “call Kolby”. Kolby Arnold and K&J Construction are hometown supporters who are always ready to help Main Street and the community.

Kolby is a volunteer fireman and a member of First Baptist Church. He and his wife Kelli and they have three children.

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