The clatter of high heels and camera flashes welcomed guests to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce’s Celebration of the Stars.
The evening began with a presentation by the U.S Coast Guard.
Admiral Daniel Abel presented the perspective of a new Coast Guard recruit moving more than 2,000 miles from home
“But if that seaman apprentice and his wife and child from Salina, Kansas, get orders to Ketchikan, Alaska, they are coming to a community. They are coming to a community that embraces the Coast Guard. That’s what tonight is about. You folks have been recognized by the commandant of the Coast Guard, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives as a Coast Guard City. ”
Ketchikan joins 21 other communities across the country with the moniker, including two others in Alaska: Sitka and Kodiak.
The Ketchikan borough, city and chamber of commerce combined efforts to apply for the designation. Borough Mayor Dave Landis read from former Mayor Dave Kiffer’s application letter.
“As a tight-knit island community of 14,000 residents, we rely on the ocean to eat, play and make our living. Ketchikan is one of the busiest cruise ship ports in the U.S. and is nicknamed the salmon capital of the world, as we rank in the top 20 for commercial fishery landings. None of this would be possible without the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. “
The Coast Guard presence began in Ketchikan with its Alaska predecessor, the light house service, in 1918.
The evening continued with the presentation local awards. Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Isom presented the award to the 2015 Business of the Year.
“The name of this business says that it’s about what makes Ketchikan the robust outdoors place that it is.
Kenneth Perry and Eric Tyson accepted the award on behalf of Timber and Marine Supply. Entrepreneur of the Year went to the co-owners of Sweet Mermaids, Debi Hansas and Shirley Solaas, who after three years in business expanded and doubled their downtown space.
“It has been our pleasure. We’ve shed tears and look at our bank statements and go, ‘What the hell are we doing this for?’. It’s crazy. Shirley and I, we truly enjoy doing what we do.”
This year’s award for Outstanding Youth Leader went to Kelly Johnson the adult leader, of the Ketchikan Public Library’s Teen Advisory Group.
“They are amazing. I am so grateful to have the chance to work with them every month planning for their future, planning for our future. I am so grateful they keep coming month after month and year after year for almost a decade. Thank you.”
Outstanding Community Service goes to couple: Linda and Johnny Gilson for their work with the First City Council on Cancer, which provides financial assistance to residents with a cancer diagnosis.
Chamber Vice President Jason Custer presented the last award of the night.
“Our 2015 Citzen of the Year has been a resident of Ketchikan since childhood. Early in his life he worked as a choker setter logging for Ketchikan Pulp Company, a commercial seine fisherman and a seaman in the Bering Sea. His life took a much different turn in 1963, when he joined the U.S. Army, where he learned to fly Huey helicopters.
He completed two tours in Vietnam and received many accolades. Returning to Ketchikan, he founded and sold his own business, and held local office as Borough Mayor. Mike Salazar accepted the award surrounded by his family.
The evening ended with a live auction hosted by Bob Vincent, and music from the Rain City band.