Hannibal Chamber honors Gaines at annual meeting

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Hannibal Arts Council Director Michael Gaines accepts the Pacesetter Award from Hannibal Chamber Ambassador Diane Addison at the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Meeting on Friday night at the Rialto. Several businesses, groups, and individuals were recognized at the event. Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — As Michael Gaines, director of the Hannibal Arts Council, sat in the audience Friday night listening to the description of the Pacesetter Award winner at the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce banquet, his ears began to perk up.

“It started hitting me when they mentioned Austria. I was like, ‘I went to Austria. I grew up on a farm. And I went to Mizzou.’ This sounds like my life,’” Gaines said with the award in his hand.

The Pacesetter Award recognizes an outstanding leader who is an inspirational example and brings long term benefit to Hannibal through the generosity of their time and talents.

Hannibal Chamber Ambassador Diane Addison presented the award. She commended Gaines for his work with the Hannibal’s FolkLife Festival, which under his leadership became a world-class festival.

“As executive director of Hannibal Arts Council, he has created countless opportunities for the community, especially our youth to engage in the arts,” Addison said. “Most of these programs are either free or at a very low cost. He offer generous scholarships, ensuring that no child is without access to the arts.” 

Addison told the group—which many did not know–that Gaines also serves as the Executive Director of the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies (MACAA). Addison highlighted Gaines’ humble way while working with the MACAA. 

“He barely even mentions the Hannibal Arts Council. Instead, he highlights the work of other entities at the table and their partnerships with the arts, which leaves everyone at the table feeling great about our community of Hannibal,” she said.

After the ceremony, Gaines smiled ear-to-ear as he was surrounded by family who sneaked in to watch him receive the award.

“This was humbling because I do what I do what I do not for an award, but at the same time, it is super nice to get recognized,” he said. “And it’s been a long week, so tonight was absolutely perfect timing.” 

The Business of the Year Award went to WiLoKi Dance Center. Hannibal Chamber Ambassador Jacki Thurman presented the award.

Multiple award-winning dancer and teacher David Jameson worked with Hannibal dance teacher Barbara Stewart and Karen’s Dance Academy. Jameson began teaching at Karen’s Dance Academy at 15 years old.

When Karen’s Dance Academy closed the dance academy in 2022, Jameson was concerned about where the 120 dance students would go. 

“He realized that this was his opportunity to lead others to dance and to God through a new studio,” Thurman said. “After much contemplation and prayer, the WiLoKi Dance Center was born.”

Thurman explained that the name WiLoki stands for wisdom, love, and Kingdom of God.

“Their vision Is to honor God through their work, ever increasing in excellence through patient persistence, striving to achieve the highest quality dance arts education for our students, teaching them life lessons through dance by fostering both moral and performance character,” Thurman said.

Jameson opened WiLoKi Dance Studio in January 2023 at 20 Northport Plaza in Hannibal, the dance studio offered core classes. In January 2024, WiLoKi began renovations that will allow them to offer a wider variety and increased number of classes for ages from toddler and up.

Thurman said Jameson found out he would receive the award at the dance studio.

“It became evident that they would not want to celebrate without the students and families who have also been a part of WiLoKi’s first year of success,” she said. “So we arranged to surprise them with the news of the award at the studio.”

Thurman read a statement by Jameson, who then joined Thurman for a picture.

“Above all I am thankful to God for leading us, providing for us, and loving us. I have a grand vision for what I would like to see WiLoKi come to the future and I pray God will lead us into that if it will be pleasing to Him.”

The Civic Contributor of the Year Award went to Kristy Trevathan. Trevathan has been part of the Hannibal Tree Board and countless other programs for more than 40 years.

“Her love for the Hannibal community is and has been her life for years. This year’s contributor has been rolling up her sleeves and putting in the work to make Hannibal more beautiful and better for decades,” the presenter said. “She has received accolades and honors such as the Chamber’s Pacesetter Award, but the 2023 nominating committee was blown away with not only the volume of nominations for this individual, but the profound impact that was evident by the content in the nominations.”

Trevathan was not able to attend the event, but her daughter Emily Trevathan accepted the award on her behalf.

One of two Community Betterment Awards went to Debbie Hays for her work as the founder and director of the Big River Comic Convention. The Community Betterment Award recognizes a project which was inspired by a specific need and made a difference within the community.

Hannibal Chamber of Commerce Board Member Scott Haycraft presented the award. Haycraft said the Big River Comic Convention, which is held at the Tabernacle Rec Center, provides a quality experience and has attracted 1,000s of attendees, continuing to grow each year. 

The 2024 event will take place April 19-20.

Haycraft said the family-friendly event feels like “you’re invited into people’s homes,” meanwhile offering high profile actors for patrons to meet. 

Hayes has also incorporated local businesses and causes into the event with food trucks and has offered financial support for the Northeast Missouri Humane Society through the event. 

“One of the expected benefits of this formation is Hannibal Heroes United, a group of like minded individuals dedicated to improving communities through their budget of consequence,” Haycraft said.

Hayes said she did not see the award coming, and tearfully explained how touched she was by the recognition.

“It’s just about to be our five-year anniversary. I have worked so hard and I couldn’t have made it what it is today without the support of the community and attendees. The celebrities who have  come to the event and have been impressed by what I have been able to do have also helped spread the word about the Big River Comicon,” Hayes said.

Hannibal Chamber of Commerce Board Member Justin Gibson presented the second Community Betterment Award to the Hannibal Piecemakers Quilt Guild. 

Gibson said the group does an incredible amount of charity work behind the scenes and has also hosted a growing number of events in Hannibal. 

The group provided quilts to 256 Quilts of Valor, which go to servicemen who were touched by war. They provide quilts to all veterans who go on the honor flight, and will provide a quilt to any veteran who cannot go on the flight.

They have worked with the Salvation Army, provided quilts for foster children, and have donated teddy bears and more.

Tina Landskroener, president of the Hannibal Piecemakers Quilt Guild, accepted the award.

McKenzie Disselhorst, executive director of the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce, said they were returning to an old tradition.

Since 2020, the annual meeting has been held during lunch in an effort to keep numbers down.

“This is the first evening event since the pandemic so we’ve always had an evening event. During the pandemic. We decided it was time to bring it back to an evening event. It feels a little bit more celebratory, I think in the evening,” she said.

Disselhorst said the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce has around 400 members, and they look forward each year to recognizing their members’ hard work.

“I think it is really important to bring everybody together to highlight some of the good things and the positive things. You can get drowned out with negative messages you hear, so it’s good to have at least one evening a year that we spotlight the positive,” she said.

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