The Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce bestowed awards on its choices for the “stars” of Kilgore at its annual STAR Gala, held at Texan Theater on Thursday evening.

Awards were presented in a number of categories: Minority/Woman-Owned Business of the Year, IPR Award (Innovation, Perseverance, Resiliency), Business of the Year, New Business of the Year, the STAR Award and the 2021 Citizen of the Year.

Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jill McCartney welcomed guests to the event and took time to thank all Chamber members, board members, past and current chairmen and Kilgoreites for helping to make it through 2020, an unprecedented and unusually challenging year.

“Last year was crazy. A lot of us don’t want to remember it, but we can’t go without making a few comments on how 2020 shaped up,” McCartney said, asking restaurant and business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to stand and be applauded.

“I can’t even imagine what it was like not knowing from one day to the next day what was going to happen to your business,” she told those standing.

“Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for staying open, for hanging in there. One of things I always say is that Kilgore is truly one of the best places to live, learn, work and play and I will echo that for a long, long time.”

McCartney also thanked City Manager Josh Selleck, affectionately nicknamed “Bobcat Josh,” for operating a Bobcat forklift to keep city streets clear during the “Snowmageddon” event earlier this year, which effectively shut down the city for nearly a week.

Chamber Chairman Mark Robinson recounted the challenges, triumphs and changes that came since the last in-person STAR Gala was held in October 2019: The Kilgore Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau relaunched as the Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce with a refined focus and a new logo, the Chamber printed 12 “Chamber Connection” newsletters, hosted 10 ribbon-cuttings and launched the “I’m Here” campaign to support business members of the Chamber of Commerce.

Robinson recounted the efforts of the Chamber’s ambassadors who stayed in touch with local restaurants, noted the Chamber held a “State of the Community” luncheon, two golf outings, the “Women in Business Texas Tea,” the “Stars & Scars” off-road event and 11 well-attended “Morning Brew” events, all in the midst of the challenges posed by 2020.

On top of all that, the Chamber moved offices during COVID and stayed on track to keep things moving until successfully hosting the in-person gala Thursday evening.

“During the hard times is when our Chamber shines the best,” Robinson said.

Following the thanks and congratulations, McCartney took the stage to announce the winners of the STAR Gala awards.

For 2021, the winners are:

  • People’s Choice Award — QuickVisit Urgent Care
  • Business of the Year — Republic Services
  • IPR (Innovation, Perseverance, Resiliency) Award — Global Graphics
  • Minority/Woman-Owned Business Award — ARPCO Valves & Controls, LLC
  • STAR (Success, Tradition, Achievements, Relationships) Award — Kilgore Police Department
  • New Business of the Year Award — Kilgore Mercantile & Music
  • 2021 Citizen of the Year Award — Bob Davis, Jr.

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