It wasn’t your typical Chamber banquet as people proudly sported brightly-colored plastic hats—on their heads or on their tails. But one lucky winner purchased enough hats and made enough lucky guesses to walk away with the $500 cash prize after the heads-or-tails contest during the Hats Off Celebration 2014 Ozark Community Awards Banquet Feb. 8.

Held at The O.C., the annual event is hosted by the Finley River Community Foundation and the Ozark Chamber of Commerce as a fundraiser and to showcase individuals in the community.

“We had a crazy, tremendous year and it’s only getting better from here,” Ozark Chamber Director Dori Grinder told the crowd of about 400. “A round of applause to all of you.”

While the dinner, catered by The O.C., networking and live and silent auctions kept the night entertaining, the real highlight was the awards presentation. The Finley River Community Foundation recognized Ozark School District staff as well as the Ozark Police Officer and Ozark Firefighter of the year. All award winners received a plaque and a $100 stipend from the FRCF to give to the charity of their choice.

The real surprise, however, came when the Chamber announced the winner of Business of the Year as Torgerson Design Partners, which has been instrumental in the Chamber’s new Enterprise Center.

“I’m excited. I love this community and I’m so glad to see that Ozark has momentum and I’m glad to be a part of that,” John Torgerson said. “We have many, many good things to come—both as a company and a community.”

Grinder said she was forced to “bold-face lie” to Torgerson to keep the award a secret.

“Having this company a part of the Chamber makes us feel like we have resources way beyond our means,” Grinder said. “…I know this team on a first-name basis because they help me with every single project the Chamber does. John not only has been on our board, but volunteered to be Chamber chairman not one but two years. This is well deserved. Thank you so much. Congratulations.”

In a unique twist, the 2013 Chamber Star of the Year, awarded by the Chamber of Commerce, and Citizen of the Year, awarded by the FRCF, were one in the same: Carl G. Hefner.

“We’ve never had a winner get awarded in both of these categories,” Grinder said.

Hefner, who has been a part of the Ozark business community for more than 30 years, said the award was unexpected.

“I am humbled by being selected for the Chamber Star of the Year and the Citizen of the Year,” Hefner said. “I have always enjoyed living in Ozark and supporting the community. The community of Ozark has been a blessing for myself, my wife and my family.”

Hefner and his wife Carolyn purchased Hixson Drug in 1979 and have been involved in the community ever since. Most notably, Hefner served on the Ozark School Board for 18 years and is the namesake of the Chamber’s newly opened Enterprise Center.

“Your commitment and leadership to this community is outstanding,” FRCF president Janis Creek said. “Congratulations for being Citizen of the Year.” 

Follow Amelia on Twitter at @awigton2.

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