Chamber gala, Jan, Joanne, chocolate


Have you gotten your tickets to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala and auction? The big event is coming soon (like in three days) and the gala committee meets today to finalize plans for this celebration.

The fund-raising spectacular is this Friday, Jan. 25 in the new-and-improved Palace Event Center, 2310 N Banner Road.

For many years, the facility hosted the annual Yukon Chamber banquet and many other civic programs, weddings and gatherings. After it closed several years ago, the chamber tried several different places for its large events.

It is great that the Palace Event Center is back in operation and thriving once again under the leadership of Dale and Tracy Bogle. More than 300 people are expected to come to Friday’s gala to honor the organization’s annual award winners, including Citizen of the Year.

Many of you remember when that building was home to Ernie’s Polka Palace, also known as Ernie’s Country Palace. It was known for its “floating dance floor.” I recall in the 1990s when the Yukon Jaycees would always go to Ernie’s after a long day working our booth at Czech Day in downtown Yukon.

As of Tuesday morning, reservations for Friday night’s chamber gala were enough to fill 39 tables. And more than 100 auction items have been donated.

The theme is “Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos” but you don’t really have to wear a tuxedo or even tennis shoes to attend. One gala committee member is even toying with the idea of showing up in a zoot suit.

Yukon’s chamber gala is always a great way to celebrate the past year and look forward to a new one. For many decades, it was called a “banquet,” but it’s been a “gala” for the past few years. Gala does sound fancier.

Whatever you call it, it’s a special night when “all the stars come out”.

One of those stars is Avery (Johnson) Moore, who is the Yukon chamber’s new president in 2019. It is apropos because Avery’s grandfather is Earnie Cornelius, a past Yukon chamber president who had an insurance office for many years at S 4th and Maple in downtown Yukon. Back in the 1960s, Earnie volunteered space in his building when the fledgling chamber needed an office.

The chamber grew steadily and eventually moved to a red brick building at S 5th and Elm that formerly housed the Yukon Public Library. A couple years ago, the chamber left for a new office inside the Event Center at 10 West Main … known to many of you as the old Snyder’s grocery store building.

Avery, who graduated from Yukon High School in 2007, was a member of the YHS Leaders of Tomorrow program that is celebrating 20 years this year.

Avery is now the director of business development for ECI Insurance in Piedmont and is a member of Oklahoma Young Agents, comprised of independent insurance agents under age 40.

Avery’s mother is Denise Johnson, who coordinated the Junior Miss program back in the early- to mid-‘90s when the state finals were here in Yukon. Avery comes from a great family who has been invested in Yukon for many decades. Her leadership will help the Yukon chamber surpass the 500 member-plateau.

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Did You Know? Jan Scott, Yukon’s outstanding parks and recreation director, will celebrate her 20th year with the City of Yukon in 2019. How time flies! How much has Jan’s leadership meant? Just check out all the parks, special programs and seeming non-stop activities at the recreation centers and you have your answer.

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Speaking of celebrating an anniversary, this year also marks the 25th year of Yukon Compassionate Hands. How apropos that this helping agency will receive its second accessible van in 2019. With two vans, Compassionate Hands will be able to serve more senior and physically incapacitated clients who need rides to medical appointments and the market. The demand for the “Care-a-Van” is there for sure!

The first Compassionate Hands’ director was Joanne Oltmanns, who served as a volunteer for a few months in 1994 before a paid director was hired. I recall the first Compassionate Hands’ office was at the Yukon Community Center before a house on S 6th was renovated and converted for the office.

One of Compassionate Hands’ past directors was Judy Miller, wife of retired District Judge-turned-Yukon City Attorney Gary Miller.

The current director is another Joanne, Joanne Riley, who was part of the Yukon Accessibility Commission back in the early ‘90s when I first moved to Yukon.

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Hardly a week goes by, it seems, without a special event in Yukon. Even with the holiday season behind us, our fine city has started 2019 in high gear with several major activities in January and February.

While city crews continue to disassemble the 425 Christmas light displays in the park, Yukon Parks & Recreation is getting ready to present one very sweet celebration.

Yes, it’s almost time once again for the Yukon Chocolate Festival. The annual sweet tooth’s delight will be Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore. This special pre-Valentine’s Day occasion will be from 1-3 p.m.