LINCOLN CITY — A pageant queen who was swept off her feet by the town’s reception reigned over a banquet Saturday where Lincoln City celebrated its own with dazzling awards and heartfelt speeches.
The finale of a weeklong Community Days celebration, the awards dinner at Chinook Winds Casino drew about 250 of the town’s leading citizens who comprise the backbone of Lincoln City business, education, government and civic involvement.
For the 10th year in a row, the event was graced by Miss Oregon. Alexis Mather, 21, an Astoria native, was advised she’d be treated like royalty but was still unprepared for the warmth of her hosts.
“All my Miss Oregon sisters told me Lincoln City would treat me like a real queen, but you can’t imagine how wonderful this town and its people are,” said Mather, a talented singer who delivered an operatic aria and a rendition of “America, the Beautiful” to the banquet crowd.
“Just walking down the street, people would recognize me without my crown and come up and talk,” she said. “That’s never happened before.”
Shirley Hill, a member of the organizing committee, was Miss Oregon’s chaperone during a schedule packed with speeches at civic clubs, schools, retirement homes and a homeless shelter.
“I scooped her up the second she arrived and we were off to Bingo Night with the Girls Scouts,” said Hill, who escorted Mather through more than a dozen appearances.
Hill said Community Days, founded in 1960 and operated to this day by a loose-knit group of dedicated volunteers, predates the formation of Lincoln City. The local radio station, KBCH, sponsored the first awards for man, woman and couple of the year. The awards list now counts 18 categories.
“This is our 57th year,” Hill told the crowd as she opened the awards presentations. “I tell you, I love this place.”
Top business awards for 2017, which went to Charlotte Lehto Insurance Agency (Small Business of the Year) and the Lincoln City Schools (Large Business of the Year), which were represented by local educators Nick Lupo, Karen Bondley, Sandy Mummey, Majalise Tolan and Liz Martin.
Patrick Alexander, publisher of Oregon Coast Today and emcee of the event, was named Man of the Year. The crowd also stood to applaud the Woman of the Year, Taft High School Principal Majalise Tolan.
The Couple of the Year was Marc and Cheri McPherson. Presenter Bill Hall cited their dedication to supporting the fire department, saying, “With big hearts, they prove you don’t have to fight fires to be heroes.”
A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Heather Hatton. Last year’s winner, Sandy Gruber, mentioned Hatton’s long list of contributions as a civic volunteer and coach, saying, “The community is better because of you.”
All of the plaques and awards were unique, created in glass, wood or composite materials by artists or technicians, including students at Taft High School who are experts in the technology of their new 3D printer.
For Miss Oregon, the whirlwind week ended with the final presentation. She left the event to prepare for a May 12 benefit concert she is staging in Salem to raise money for a children’s hospital.
A child of divorce “who had to grow up quickly,” Mather has no time to waste on her way to a Ph.D. in psychology and a career helping other children through hard times.
“Being Miss Oregon has opened a lot of doors,” she said, certain that her singing talent could land a job on a stage or a cruise ship.
“But I want to work with children,” she added. “That’s what made this trip to Lincoln City so wonderful — those little kids who opened their hearts to me every time we stopped to visit.”
Editor's note: Reporter Rick Beasley was among the winners, earning the Mayor's award for his reporting on Lincoln City's government.