The Ashland Chamber of Commerce held its 111th annual Dinner Celebration for 2017 with 250 guests in attendance at the Historic Ashland Armory on Thursday.

The theme for 2017 was "Celebrating Art in Ashland," honoring the vibrant fine art community in Ashland and the artists and organizations that support the arts locally. The theme was showcased through a short film “Hands,” which was commissioned by the Ashland Chamber, produced by Reel House Films and sponsored by Matthew Lloyd Haines (in support of Sanctuary One, a nonprofit animal/people sanctuary in Jacksonville), and the Thalden Foundation.

President Marie Lange from Ashland Homes Real Estate was honored and thanked for her two-term dedication and commitment to her role as president of the chamber. She handed the gavel to Mary Gardiner with SOU International Programs who will be president for 2017-2018.

The top awards presented were:

• Ashland Culinary Festival Top Chef 2016, Josh Dorcak: Dorcakis now a two-time winner of the Ashland Culinary Festival, recenlty won the "Iron Che" title at the Bite of Oregon in Portland and recently opened his own pop-up restaurant, MÄS.

• Green Business of the Year, White Dental Studio: Dr. Brandon White of White Dental Studio, which values green practices and is the first and only eco-dentistry gold certified dental office in Ashland.

• Retail Business of the Year, Ashland Greenhouses: Owners Kelly and Ben Brainard purchased the business in 2007. They provide a vast array of plants, testing each new product to the local area’s climate before putting it on the market. They teach classes and work with groups like the Soroptimist and Rotary clubs, sharing their knowledge and expertise with the entire community.

• Service Business of the Year, Ashland Art Center: The Ashland Art Center, founded in 2007 by Denise Baxter, in 2008 expanded to its current location at the historic Provost Building, where it offers space for artists to showcase and sell their work and take classes for artists of all skill levels, making creating art a reality for the entire community.

• Manufacturing Business of the Year, FlowJo: Flowjo, which moved to Ashland in 2003, develops software for researchers across the country in cytometry and single-cell analyisis. They are involved in the community through ScienceWorks’ recent Mini-Maker Faire and offer an excellent internship program for students.

• Emerging Business of the Year, Sammich & Pastrami Zombie, Melissa McMillan: Entrepreneur McMillan is a self-taught chef who has taken the culinary world by storm, both in Ashland with her flagship eatery, Sammich, but also in Portland with her food truck, Pastrami Zombie. She'll be opening Sammich in Portland as well. She recently won the People’s Choice Sandwich Competition at The Feast in Portland.

• Greeter of the Year, Rob Werfel: Werfel currently works for Ad Gorilla and is working with local startup ERNDO to grow the company. He is a longtime Greeter attendee and can be seen volunteering at almost every community event each year. He supports Chamber members and encourages businesses to get involved and network with fellow Chamber members.

• Chamber Volunteer of the Year, Bob Horton: Horton, originally from Worchester, England, moved to Ashland from the Bay Area after 39 years at Bayer Bio-Tech. While living in Carmel, he caddied a round of golf at Pebble Beach with Newt Gingerich and Leon Panetta. He is a wonderful volunteer and always available to pickup shifts when needed.

• Special Recognition, Judy Howard, Hanson Howard Gallery: The Chamber cannot celebrate art in Ashland without recognizing Judy Howard. She came to Ashland with her family in 1966 and taught art in Medford until 1978. She initiated the Artists in the Schools program and then opened Hanson Howard in 1978. She has served on the Oregon Advocates for the Arts Board and the Oregon Arts Commission. She served as a liaison between the state commission and Western States Art Federation. She received the Schneider Museum Award of Excellence for her contributions. She was on the Chamber board and Visitor and Conference Bureau, creating the first Taste of Ashland and later became president of the Ashland Gallery Association.

• Citizen of the Year, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara: O’Meara is a positive leader in the community and gets involved in a number of different capacities. He is patient, collaborative and willing to tackle tough issues. Through volunteer efforts he serves on the Ashland Health & Wellbeing Initiative Steering Committee and is on the Board of Directors for La Clinica. He is also the chair of the Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs CrabFest event.

• Honorary Life Member, Cindy Bernard: Bernard has served as President of the Ashland Chamber for two terms. She has served on and chaired multiple Ashland Chamber committees, including Legislative Committee Chair, Fire Prevention Task Force, Health & Wellbeing Committee, Annual Dinner Committee, Behavior Task Force, Emergency Prepared Business Program, Festival of Light Chair and served as the Chamber Liaison to the Climate Energy Action Plan.