(Lander, WY) — The Lander Chamber of Commerce has been recognizing noteworthy business owners and individual community leaders since the late 1990s through its annual Community Awards. Today the Chamber is announcing the 2021 winners in the first of several videos that will be released over the coming weeks.
“We’re excited to announce our 2021 Community Award winners, especially this year. COVID forced us to consider new ways to celebrate our winners for 2021,” said Lander Chamber Executive Director Owen Sweeney, “and our initial disappointment at not hosting our in-person luncheon turned into excitement; we had great fun filming and producing this video series — thank you, Brad Christensen! — and we expect our winners to gain much more exposure than in past years. We anticipate videos being a part of an extended annual celebration of our winners that in the future will always center around our in-person luncheon.”
The 2021 Winners
Anchor Award for surviving the challenge of time: The Oxbow Family Restaurant
Yvonne Patterson has owned and operated the Oxbow Family Restaurant for 27 years, taking it over from the McOmie family who ran it as The Commons. As the Oxbow’s name makes plain, Yvonne stresses the “family” in family restaurant, noting that her staff and customers are very dear to her, considering them to be part of her family. Many of her employees have been with her for the entire 27 years! She is most proud of her employees and this “very special community” for its loyalty and dedication. “I owe it all to my employees and the community for my continued success,” acknowledged Patterson.
Beautification Award for outstanding business appearance: Hayden Outdoors
Owner/Partner Bill Vacek explains that the inspiration for the beautiful renovation of 206 Main Street was to take the building back to the 1800s (when it was originally built) while adding some modern touches. “We wanted it to have that old hometown feel so when someone came in it was like a flashback to the ‘20s,” explained Vacek. “The bronze elk sculpture that adorns the facade was sculpted by wildlife artist and sculptor Jody Kroeger and cast by Eagle Bronze Foundry.” Bill plans to host an upcoming Business After Hours to showcase the building to the public.
Rookie of the Year Award for innovation and creativity: Lander Labs
Annie Cook founded Lander Labs to fill a gap in the scientific industry. Said Cook, “There weren’t any private specialized DNA laboratories in Wyoming and only a handful of woman owned labs in the U.S. I had hoped to start a forensic DNA lab, but COVID persuaded me to initially focus my DNA knowledge in a clinical rather than forensic setting.” Lander Labs has brought specialized science to community members at an affordable price, while also inspiring young people to enjoy science through lab tours and experiments. Annie is grateful to her team for sticking with her through the tough times and the “icky and sticky.”
Spirit of Lander Award for igniting enthusiasm through participation: Kendall Hayford, Lander Branch President, Wyoming Community Bank
Kendall is community involvement personified. He volunteers for the Lander Economic Development Association, Museum of the American West, Lander Ambassadors, Rotary, Lander United, Lander Presents, Boy Scouts of America, and is Co-Founder of The Great Lander Treasure Hunt. During COVID, Kendall, as Lander Branch President of Wyoming Community Bank, served as the key community leader assisting businesses obtain emergency CARES Act funding and selflessly training other financial institutions to process PPP and Wyoming Business Council emergency financial programs. “I played a role within my organization to assist as much as I could,” said Hayford. “Every banker across Lander and Fremont County who assisted in these efforts deserves a huge kudos.”
Lifetime Contribution Award for longstanding commitment to the community: Andy Gramlich
Andy came to Lander in the fall of 1990 as the temporary (90 days) CEO of the hospital. The people and the lifestyle were just right, and he is still working for Lander 31 years later. Andy has been the chair or a member of LEADER, LEDA, the Lander Community Foundation, the Assisted Living Task Force, member of a local bank advisory board, and currently is a board member of the Wyoming Economic Development Association. He is a certified flight instructor, drone instructor, swim official, and soccer referee. You may also know him if you are in the bike club or participate in the Senior Olympics (bike racing and triathlon).
Past Chamber Board President: Michelle Mazur, Elevate Rehab
Michelle established Elevate Rehab in 2013 as Fremont County’s first private, therapist-owned specialty practice focusing on dysfunction and disorders specific to the upper extremity. Now treating the entire body including the spine and lower extremities, Elevate’s team is made up of highly trained Occupational Therapists (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT), including the only Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) in Lander Valley and the Dubois area. Michelle has been a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors since 2015 and took over its leadership in the midst of COVID. “It’s been a great experience,” said Mazur. “I look forward to the growth in the future.”
More Videos to Come
“This announcement video is just the first among several more that will roll out in the coming weeks,” explained Sweeney. This initial video simply announces the winners; the subsequent videos will highlight each of the individual winners.”