The community's best and brightest were celebrated at the Whistler Excellence Awards last week, the annual black-tie event recognizing the innovators and leaders who make the resort hum.
Now in its fifth year, the gala held Thursday, June 9 attracted a record 450 attendees. Hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Community Foundation of Whistler, Arts Whistler and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, the awards honour excellence in the areas of service, innovation, sustainability, leadership in the arts, business and community service.
Long-time mountain patroller and tireless volunteer Cathy Jewett was named the 2016 Citizen of the Year, Whistler's longest-standing award first created in 1969.
"I'm incredibly honoured, especially with Heather Paul and Donna Savage (being nominated). I've volunteered with both of them, too," Jewett said.
A Whistler resident since 1976, Jewett has given back countless hours to the community and has had a hand in numerous volunteer organizations. Along with volunteering for a laundry list of local events, Jewett served on the initial executive board for Whistler's environmental charity, AWARE, and was instrumental in bringing a French immersion program to Spring Creek Community School as a member of the parent-advisory council.
"I had an example of volunteerism from my dad, who was a Boy Scout leader, but also, most importantly, the organization he was really involved with was Big Brothers," she said. "That was something that really cast the die and why I understand how important it is that parents set a good example and give their kids an opportunity to do things."
Grant and Hilarie Cousar shared the hardware for Business Person of the Year, owners of local catering company, Whistler Cooks, for the past 17 years. The Cousars are active mentors in the business sector, with Grant serving on the board of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce and Community Futures Howe Sound.
"(Grant's) rule has always been to include the community," Hilarie said. "I really believe that he has a very positive, strong voice in this community and it's not meant to be self-serving. He's truly a passionate person about helping the community in a positive way."
The Rising Star of the Year, recognizing an individual under 40 who has demonstrated outstanding performance and career progression in a management or leadership position, was handed to Alex Relf, who co-owns Peaked Pies with his partner, Kerri Jones. The couple will be selling their Aussie meat pies at a second location slated to open in Vancouver this summer.
"Building this business, Kerri and I literally put everything we had into it," said the 28-year-old Relf. "It's really pushed us into that position of leadership where you have to assume responsibility and make sure the staff and company are taken care of to keep everything going."
In the Champion of the Arts category, three-time nominee Stephen Vogler finally took home the win. Vogler is a local musician and writer who serves as the artistic director of The Point Artist-Run Centre and runs the Flagstop Theatre Festival each summer.
"I think (the grassroots approach) is how culture in any place really grows. It needs to emerge from the place and the people who live there," Vogler said. "(Culture) can easily dissipate with a fly-in, fly-out kind of approach. And as valuable as that is and as important as it is to our arts and culture to have acts and arts brought in, it's really critical to have something that is coming out of this place and out of the artists here."
Local organic juice and live food bar The Green Moustache, which now has two stores in Whistler along with franchises in Vancouver and Squamish, was recognized for its ethical, environmental business practices with the Sustainability in Action Business award, while the Innovative Business of the Year award went to Forlise, the Lululemon offshoot for men.
Mongolie Grill was singled out for stellar customer service in the large business category of the Whistler Service Excellence award, while Farfalla Hair and Esthetics took home the win in the small business category.