OAKLAND — Eight Waterville area businesses and individuals were honored for their community contributions at a particularly glamorous 56th annual Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony.

The event took place Thursday evening at the Oakland barn venue Enchanted Gables, located on Hussey Hill Road. Previously, it has bounced around facilities that have included Kennebec Valley Community College, the Waterville Elks Lodge and T&B’s Outback Tavern.

“We relocated the event this year to Enchanted Gables, and this facility is second to none,” said Kim Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. “It’s allowed us to class up the event. … We’ve tried to add a touch of glamour.”

The large event space used to be an equestrian center before owners Jerald and Claritza Hurdle turned it into an event space last year. On Thursday evening, award winners and guests mingled, snacked and watched the ceremony on what was once was a riding ring.

“Horses would come here and do activities, and we’d play music for them,” Claritza Hurdle said.

The Hurdles put in “a lot of time and effort to make (this space) unlike anything in the area,” she added. Now there are crystal chandeliers mixed with architectural elements of a traditional barn, with visible wooden beams and stable doors. Claritza Hurdle said she and her husband offer discounted rates for nonprofit organizations such as the Chamber in order to enable them to have access to higher-end spaces.

“We wanted to provide something to give back to the community,” Claritza Hurdle said. “Nonprofits are always looking for venues, and finding one as beautiful as this — we wanted people to come and see that this is something they’re able to use.”

Lindlof said about 300 people purchased tickets for the event, which were sold at $55 apiece.

“This is such an important event to the Chamber,” Lindlof said. “It’s an opportunity to shine a light on the incredible businesses we have in our region and to celebrate what they’ve done in our community.”

The honorees were Bruce Harrington, of Maine State Credit Union, for the Elias A. Joseph Award; Maurice & Son Auto Body Shop, for Business of the Year; Jeff Forsythe, of Family First Funeral Homes and Cremation Care, for Business Person of the Year; James LaLiberty, of the Waterville Creates! board of directors, for Distinguished Community Service; Brandi Meisner, of Skowhegan Savings Bank, for the Rising Star; Victor Esposito, of  Vassalboro Community School’s Jobs for Maine Graduates program, for Outstanding Professional; Jessie Wing, a labor and delivery nurse at Northern Light Inland Hospital, for Customer Service Stardom; and RiverWalk at Head of Falls, for Community Service Project of the Year.

Day’s Jewelers provided female awardees and speakers with hand-picked jewelry to match their outfits.

“They came in in earlier this month. We talked about what they were wearing and tried to select pieces that fit their outfits and personalities,” said Hailee Paradis, assistant manager of Day’s.

Paradis estimated that the company lent the women a total of 20 pieces of jewelry, collectively valued around $120,000.

“We have to return it, but it’s still OK,” said Lindlof, donning a diamond necklace and bracelet. “It still works.”

If the items are not returned, “We’ll tackle them,” joked Deborah Worster, an office manager at Day’s. “We know where to find them.”

“It was wonderful to see their eyes light up,” Worster added on a more serious note. “It makes them feel special.”

Lindlof also arranged a personalized element that even the male honorees could enjoy. The Chamber partnered with artists affiliated with the Waterville Area Art Society and The Framemakers to create eight 5-by-7 paint or mixed media pieces to encapsulate the personalities of each awardee. Maurice & Son Auto Body Shop, for instance, received a painting of a red Chevrolet Camero. Winners were given the framed artwork — with a small plaque to denote their accomplishment — alongside their award certificates.

“I’m very excited,” LaLiberty said before the award ceremony began. “It’s a really nice thing to have the community I’ve lived in recognize me. It’s very humbling.”

“It goes back to my family and employees, for the support I get every day. It is a reflection of hard work from everyone,” Forsythe added. “That’s ultimately who the award is for, everyone at the company. I just steer it.”

Parsonage House, of Vassalboro, and Heritage House, of Skowhegan, co-catered the event. Hors d’oevures included lobster macaroni and cheese, chicken cordon bleu skewers, shrimp salad tartlets and braised short ribs with creamy Parmesan polenta.

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