HANNIBAL, MO. -- Hundreds of Hannibal business owners and employees filled the Rialto Banquet Center on Saturday night for the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce's 109th annual meeting and banquet.
With 340 in attendance, the meeting was the first large event the Rialto has hosted since it reopened New Year's Eve.
Chamber President Brad Kurz presented the Pacesetter Award -- the chamber's most prestigious award -- to Bobby Heiser, owner of Crescent Jewelry. Heiser was noticeably moved by the recognition. As he addressed the crowd from the podium, he noted how many of his friends have also received the honor.
"All I can say is, all you have to do is love Hannibal," he said.
Heiser played football for the Hannibal Pirates and played football in college on a scholarship. When his family needed his help running the family business, he transferred to Culver-Stockton College. Heiser spearheaded the football appreciation banquet.
He has been a member of the Elks Club and the Boat Club, harbor commissioner, chairman of the Board of Public Works, and Marion County Eastern District commissioner -- to name a few of the positions he has held over his more than 45 years of community service.
The James O'Donnell Funeral Home received the Civic Contributor Award for its steady support of athletic events. The contributions go beyond sports though, as the fifth-generation funeral home has helped the Hannibal Arts Council, Holy Family Church, Child Advocacy Center, Kids in Motion and many more organizations.
Two Community Betterment Awards were handed out during the ceremony. Clarity Healthcare and Hannibal High School both received the award for their efforts to bring a functioning health care center onto the campus of Hannibal High School.
Ken and Lisa Marks of the Hannibal History Museum received the second Community Betterment Award for their work in organizing the Big River ?Steampunk Festival. Since the festival began four years ago as a fundraiser for the museum, it has drawn more than 12,000 visitors from around the world to Hannibal.
Two businesses received the New Business of the Year Award. Shoe Sensation was recognized for its contributions to many different local philanthropies.
Before opening, Clint Harris approached the chamber and outlined his plan for giving back to the community. Shoe Sensation has provided free shoes for foster children, socks for veterans and active troop members and many other groups.
Patriot Painting was selected for the award largely because of the beautification trend it helped kickstart downtown. Many new businesses, inspired by the work of Patriot Painting, have repainted the facades of their buildings. Patriot Painting also painted V.F.W. Post 2446 for free and has been involved in several other community projects.
"We just moved to the area in 2010, and I can't tell you how much I love Hannibal," said Curt Linderman after he and his wife, Kimberly, accepted the award.