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Chamber superstars unmasked at gala
A-Chamber Gala pic1
Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Membership Director Melissa Mayton, left, presents Cathy Holcombe with the Linda Williams Ambassador of the Year award Sunday night at Atlanta Motorsports Park. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

Winter weather may have postponed the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce annual gala, but the masked revelers still had a ball Sunday.

Dressed to the nines, many in formal gowns and tuxedos, partygoers arrived at Atlanta Motorsports Park's club house excited to be among the first to christen the new banquet hall in Dawson County.

"We're one of the first group's to hold a function here," said Christie Haynes, chamber president. "I want to thank Atlanta Motorsports Park, our caterers Water's Mill and all of you for being flexible."

In her state of the chamber address, Haynes highlighted achievements on 2015 and looked toward the future, which she said is expected to bring positive change in Dawson County's business community.

"I'm proud to say we are 413 members strong...and we will continually grow. The growth our organization experienced in 2015 is a direct reflection of the growth that is occurring in our community," she said. "We've witnessed a lot of dirt being moved over the past year. We're going to witness more in the coming year.

"While some people may argue that growth is inevitable due to our location along 400, I believe that the growth we are experiencing is a direct result of hard work and careful planning."

The masquerade ball also served as an avenue for the chamber to recognize members who went above and beyond during the last year.

Regina Varnado with United Community Bank was selected as the Jim Wallace Volunteer of the Year.

Cathy Holcombe was named ambassador of the year, an honor bestowed in memory of the late Linda Williams, who served as the chamber's longtime president.

New this year, the chamber also recognized an outstanding new member.

Soul Sisters Antiques opened not one but two new stores near the downtown Dawsonville square in 2016.

Also new this year was a surprise to the chamber's outgoing board chairwoman, Carla Boutin, who received the Don Gordon Business Leader of the Year award.

Visibly shocked by the recognition, she thanked those who support the chamber.

"I pray that we continue to dream big, work together on issues and move our community forward as we embrace the tremendous changes we have on our horizon," Boutin said.

Boutin then went on to present Carol Tyger with the chairman's award, going as far as reciting a poem she had written in her friend's honor.

The gala was the last official order of business for Boutin, who passed the chairman's gavel to 2016 chair Steve Melching.

"As we look forward to the New Year and beyond, I'm tremendously optimistic about all the new business growth and the new economic and tourism opportunities that are before us," he said. "The challenge for all of us is to keep our focus on what is truly best by harnessing our intelligence, energy and efforts to work together and lead our county forward."

In its 25th year, the gala is one of the chamber's most anticipated annual events and also serves as a fundraiser for the organization.