FAIRFIELD — Networking and open space were the key words Thursday night during the 53rd annual awards ceremony of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Space was a feature of the open Donald V. Carter Hall Gymnasium at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfiel, where the event was held; and networking was a result of the easy mingling and hobnobbing the space afforded.

Chamber President and CEO and Central Maine Growth Council Executive Director Kimberly Lindlof didn’t have to use many words when telling Chamber members and visitors how much she liked the gymnasium, with high ceilings and colorful paper lanterns hanging from the rafters.

“Space,” she said waving her arms like a flying bird. “There’s space here. This allows you to network to congratulate the winners and to make your way around the room and meet new people, which is one of the focuses of the Chamber — to encourage business growth and to meet new people.”

Lindlof and Chamber Program Director Christian Savage said the group decided on a new format this year, using five caterers and two cash bar stations, rather than a formal seated affair.

“We decided to change it up a little bit this year so that it’s more of a networking event,” Lindlof said. “Instead of a sit-down with one restaurant, we have five different restaurants highlighted here tonight.”

Savage agreed, noting that early returns showed that attendees like the new format.

“We found that year after year a lot of the crowd showed up to congratulate recipients, the award winners, but we had such a large program there wasn’t enough time to really do so,” Savage said. “So we asked our membership what they like most about the event, and it was the networking, the socializing. They said shorten the presentation so we can focus on socializing and networking and get out earlier and give people a chance to talk with the winners afterwards, too.”

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce award winners were:

• Elias A. Joseph Award: Nicole Desjardins Seekins

• Customer Service Stardom Award: Seth Rogers, Maine Technology Group

• Community Service Project of the Year: Quarry Road Trails

• Rising Star Award: Jonathan Kent, Thomas College

• Distinguished Community Service Award: Don and Irene Plourde, Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate

• Business Person of the Year: TJ Bolduc, Advance 1 Cleaning

• Business of the Year: Amici’s Cucina

• Outstanding Professional: Danielle Marquis, Higgins & Bolduc Agency

Nathan Towne, newly hired marketing manager for Waterville Creates! sporting an authentic 1950s patch Madras jacket he said his father had owned, praised the Chamber event.

“I’m very impressed with the venue,” he said. “I’ve never been to KVCC before. This is a fantastic space for this. The Chamber does amazing events and the networking. I’m pretty excited about the new format to do a lot more networking, especially being new to the area.”

KVCC President Richard Hopper, a Chamber director, told the assembly Thursday night that the college is proud to host the event and grateful for such a large crowd.

“I’m very pleased how a college gym can look,” he said of the work done by fellow Chamber director Darleen Ratte in getting the place ready for Thursday night’s celebration.

“Waterville and the area of Fairfield and Winslow and Oakland — we’re at a point where we have folks in key positions,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy around development of the downtown area of Waterville, and we’re starting to feel that we are really positioned for things to take off well and this Chamber is instrumental to how that’s going to happen. I’m just very excited about what’s happening in our region.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow