350 people attend 91st Annual Chamber Banquet

By Micah Choquette

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It wasn’t the first time Sapulpa Chamber had tried the “Dinner on Dewey” concept—a catered dinner served amongst friends in the middle of Historic Route 66 in downtown Sapulpa—but it was certainly better than last time.

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At least 350 people attended the 91st Annual Chamber Banquet event, and when each plate cost $70.00, that’s a great turnout.

Despite the triple-digit-heat earlier in the week, a cold front moved through the area late Wednesday, cooling down Thursday enough that it made the outdoor dinner downright pleasant. Whereas last year, attendees were scrambling for shade from the June sun, this year a cool breeze and the early September sunset, combined with the fall decor and outdoor lights strung across Dewey Avenue made for an almost magical experience.

As Chamber Board president Vickie Beyer kicked off the awards ceremony, lots of applause was given for Chamber President Janet Birnie, who, along with a host of volunteers, coordinated the banquet to make it the success it was.

As in each year, awards were given for the Sapulpa Chamber Volunteer of the Year, Business of the Year, and Citizen of the Year. This year, each award came with a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Congressman Kevin Hern.

Volunteer of the Year Award went to Betty Calley. “When I first got this job, Betty was the first person I called,” Birnie told the audience, adding that she subsequently asked Calley to be on a number of committees, which she readily agreed to do. “She has made this experience so much better for me.” Calley, who works for American Heritage Bank, has a love for the community is evident through all the boards, committees and volunteer groups she makes is a point to be a part of. Whether it’s Sapulpa Pride, the Christmas Chute, or the “Funk Fighters” cleaning crew, she always jumps at the chance to make Sapulpa better.

Sapulpa Chamber President Janet Birnie, left, stands with Volunteer of the Year Betty Calley. Sheri Waldrop photo.

A special change was made to the Business of the Year award this year. As Ron Hardzog invited Sherian Slyman up to the stage, Hardzog announced they were renaming the award after Sherian’s late husband, Ed “Tex” Slyman, the owner of Freddie’s Steak and BBQ, a Sapulpa staple for 60 years this year. Ed Slyman passed away in July.

Left to right: Dava Alcorn, Sherian Slyman and Darin Slyman hold a portrait of the late Ed Slyman at the 2022 Sapulpa Chamber Banquet. The Business of the Year award has been renamed in Ed’s honor.

“This award will now be known as the Ed ‘Tex’ Slyman Business of the Year Award,” Hardzong said. They presented a tearful Sherian with a custom portrait of Ed Slyman created by local artist Russell Crosby.

The newly-renamed award went to Carletti Dentistry for 2022.

Carletti Dentistry won Business of the Year at the 2022 Chamber Banquet.

The Citizen of the Year Award went to Joni Rogers-Kante, who couldn’t be there to receive the award personally, but recorded a “thank you” video to play the night of the event. Her husband Ben Kante was present to accept her award. In her speech, Rogers-Kante shifted the focus to all of the others in Sapulpa who “bring their ‘A Game’ to make sure we put Sapulpa on the map.”

Joni Rogers-Kante, Citizen of the Year, speaks from a pre-recorded video at the Sapulpa Chamber Banquet.

In addition to naming several individuals and city leaders involved in the efforts to grow Sapulpa, she gave special recognition to “the citizens of Sapulpa who been here for ten, fifteen, twenty years, keeping open their places of commerce so that the people of Sapulpa have a place to go, a place to work, a place to shop,” she said. “I think they are the unsung heroes of this effort.”

“If there’s anything I’m going to take away from this, we have been officially accepted as citizens of Sapulpa—I and my family—and that touches my heart. Thank you.”