Cheers and tears fill evening of honor at 2023 Perham Area Chamber Choice Awards

The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce took time to honor the individuals who better Perham the community during the 2023 Chamber Choice Awards on Thursday, April 13.

Katie Boutiette kisses her father, Dave Howey, on the cheek after presenting him with the Volunteer Award at the 2023 Chamber Choice Awards.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
Kenny Nelson talks about the success and hard work of Bob and Charles Cavanagh, both of whom received the Hall of Fame Award at the 2023 Chamber Choice Awards.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

PERHAM — Generations of Perham community leaders continue to shine without any expectation of accolades or awards. Since 1985, however, the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce has gone out of its way to recognize these community members at its annual banquet and awards show. The 2023 Chamber Choice Awards returned to the Cactus Event Center on Thursday, April 13, with over 150 attendees ready to recognize and celebrate this year's award recipients.

"The Choice Awards is just a way for us to recognize our business community and residents and give them props for what they do," said Chamber Executive Director Nick Murdock. "We want to acknowledge people, and hopefully it motivates people to keep doing what they're doing and other people start doing what they're doing — whether it's volunteering or just being a good humanitarian. We just think acknowledgment is key to keep it going."

The recipients are always community nominated and chosen. According to Murdock and chamber Marketing Director Leah Monson (both members of the Nominations Committee), they get nominations of all kinds. It's up to the Nominations Committee to narrow down every single one of these, which is quite the task considering the sheer number that they get.

Becky Hoefs of MN Tru North (winner of the Small Town Spirit Award) announces — with Barb Lenius at her side — that MN Tru North will now sell the ice cream previously found at Ma's Little Red Barn.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

"From a committee standpoint, we're always kind of amazed when we sit down and start looking at the nominations," Murdock said. "(We're) like, 'Wow. There's a lot of people out there doing a lot of good stuff."

Monson added, "And there's a lot of people that have been nominated anonymously … That was a couple of winners this year. They didn't know until we told them. It's fun — heartfelt."


The evening of celebrations at the Cactus began with a social hour, followed by dinner and then the awards ceremony. Each of the recipients was met with thunderous applause from the crowd of attendees. As stories and speeches about each winner were shared, the audience couldn't help but laugh and cry, proud of their fellow community members and the hard work that they do.

After an emotional speech, Courtney Rooney holds up the Humanitarian Award, which was presented to her by Mary Karkela.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

"There's a saying that the community bank is a reflection of the community it serves, and that's very true for us," said Charles Cavanagh with United Community Bank, one of the Hall of Fame Award recipients. "Our success has been driven by the entrepreneurs, the business owners, the educators, the city governors and leaders in Perham and the other communities we serve … I've been fortunately involved in many state and regional banking organizations and been asked many times about how we do it here in Perham — how we've been able to be successful in Perham. I always say that it's the people out here, and we've just been able to contribute to the success. But it's been the people of Perham and the surrounding areas that have contributed to our bank's success."

The growth of the Chamber Choice Awards is yet another example of just how dedicated the community is. Kenny Nelson, during a speech at the beginning of the ceremony, mentioned just how impressive the attendance was in comparison to even just 10 years ago. The Perham community is always ready to come together to celebrate one another.

Award winners are as follows:

  • The Leadership Award: Brad Offutt
  • The Hall of Fame Award: Charlie Cavanagh and Bob Cavanagh
  • The Humanitarian Award: Courtney Rooney
  • The Volunteer Award: Dave Howey
  • The Best in Business Award: J & L Nutritional Consulting/Backyard Boarding and Playcare
  • The Small-Town Spirit Award: MN Tru North
Whitey Schuett earns laughs from the crowd as he shares stories of Bob and Charles Cavanagh, recipients of the 2023 Hall of Fame award.
Elizabeth Vierkant/ Perham Focus

The event was made possible thanks to all who attended, as well as the event's sponsors. The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce is very grateful that they're able to host this ceremony honoring their community members every year.

"Just a heartfelt thank you," Murdock said to all involved in the awards ceremony and banquet.

"Thanks for sponsoring," Monson added. "Thanks for doing the work. All these people we have (awarded), they're all listed on the (chamber) website. They've all impacted our community over hundreds of people, and there's more out there. So thank you to all the ones we haven't been able to honor yet."

For more information about the Chamber Choice Awards, its history and its previous recipients, visit . The Perham Area Chamber of Commerce can be reached at 218-346-7710 or

Elizabeth (she/her), 24, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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