It was nearly standing room only at the 36th annual dinner and meeting of the Smyth County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night. Around 120 attendees packed the dining room at Riverfront Restaurant in Chilhowie to celebrate the past year and special awards.

Guest speaker Jenna Wagner with the Southwest Virginia Heritage Foundation offered a PowerPoint presentation on the new branding program in the region created to promote tourism and marketing as well as pride in the region’s many assets.

During the awards presentations, The Cabin at Main Street Christian Church in Saltville was announced as the overall winner of the 2016 Area Beautification Award.

Many years ago, the church members had a deteriorating cabin moved to the hill behind the church at 702 East Main Street. They have spent much time rebuilding and restoring the historical structure, recently completing the project. The cabin is a peaceful place for meditation and has one of the most stunning views in Smyth County.

District winners in the Area Beautification Awards over the past year were Gates Dentistry & Eye Physicians of SWVA in the Royal Oak District for improvements to the office building; McNeil Furniture in the Park District for improvements to the entrance;  South Fork Baptist Church in the Rye Valley District for flower beds around the church; General Dynamics in the Atkins District for the new entrance sign; Phillips Garden in the North Fork District for improvement to property and grounds; and Robbins Small Engine in the  Chilhowie District for improvement to store front and building.

Local students receiving the 2016-17 Tom Burkett Educational Scholarship were announced by Dr. Dennis Carter, superintendent of Smyth County Schools. The winners are:

Chilhowie High School -- Kaitlyn Howell, daughter of Tony and Debbie Howell. Kaitlyn plays the trumpet in the Mighty Warrior Band and loves to sing at church. She is a member of the Future Farmers of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Beta Club and the National Honors Society. She is a member of Smyth County’s Relay for Life and has helped raise money and organized activities for cancer research. She is active in her church youth group and volunteers regularly at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.

Marion Senior High School -- Trevor James Sheets, son of Jeffrey Sheets. Trevor runs in outdoor track and plays football for which he was awarded three letters. He is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and has passed the Accounting Basics Test from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute. He has volunteered his time for many school-based community service activities.

Northwood High School -- Claire Parkey, daughter of Holly Crase. Claire is involved in track, the Scholastics Bowl, the Foreign Language Club, forensics, FCCLA, the History Club, and the Beta Club. She served as the clerk of session for the LCPC, the junior vice president of the SCA, the senior class vice president, the student council president, basketball manager, and band manager. She was awarded the Crooked Road Conference runner-up in 2015 and winner in 2016. She was the Scholastic’s Bowl MVP in 2016, won third place in the conference for forensics in poetry interpretation and was part of the Lady Panthers state champion team.

The evening’s awards also included three inductees into the Smyth County Sports Hall of Fame. Stan Dunham, principal at Northwood High School and chairperson of the committee, announced the inductees: Don Rhea, athlete, coach and teacher from the Saltville area; Gene Walker, coach and teacher from the Marion area; and John Wayne Martin, athlete, coach, teacher and administrator from the Chilhowie area.

Chamber board members and top level members were recognized and Scott Hammond, 2016 president, handed off the duties to 2017 president Kelly Spencer Hill.

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