As the 40th anniversary of Ukee Days came to a close on Sunday, Ucluelet dished out its three most prestigious annual honours: Volunteer, Citizen, and Business of the Year.
Nominees were announced just prior to Ukee Days and a voting booth was set up at the fairgrounds for locals to choose their favourite recipients.
The voters chose Lucia Lyons for Volunteer of the Year, Barbara Schramm for Citizen of the Year, and Reflecting Spirit Art Gallery for Business of the Year.
The Volunteer of the Year award is given out by the district to recognize exemplary community service.
According to her nomination biography distributed by the district, Lyons has been a dedicated volunteer during her Ucluelet life and has helped young local athletes succeed at baseball, soccer, volleyball and basketball.
The Ucluelet Secondary School librarian was also recognized for giving “countless hours” to Ucluelet Secondary School’s yearbook and for her assistance with the school’s annual Grad Auction.
“Lucia just cannot say no,” quipped her bio.
The long time local was elated to receive the award.
“This is amazing,” she told the Westerly. “I’ve grown up in this community and really if you want to get involved you’ve got to participate and I’ve been coaching and volunteering and participating in this community for many years and it’s really nice to finally get that recognition. Everyone can make a difference and I’m really happy to be a part of that.”
Sandy Rantz and the Wild Pacific Trail society were also nominated for the award.
Ucluelet’s Citizen of the Year award is given out by the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce and Barbara Schramm told the Westerly she was “shocked and very honoured,” to be nominated.
“I fell in love with this town 28 years ago and it just keeps getting better and better,” she said.
Schramm’s nomination bio said she has had a significant impact on Ucluelet’s status as a tourist destination through her work with Schramm Design and the Wild Pacific Trail – she is president of the WPT Society’s board and has helped shepherd the trail that winds along the Ucluelet coast and through the rainforest to its place as the top Trip Advisor attraction in the province.
“Her work with the Wild Pacific Trail society has been a crucial element in its ongoing healthy growth,” the nomination read, citing her graphic design and telephone directory as valuable community resources. Schramm’s design has been featured in ads for the Wild Pacific Trail’s summer program, which features guided walks along the popular pathway.
Heidi Shaw and Marcie Dewitt were also nominated for the award.
Voters pegged Reflecting Spirit Gallery over fellow nominees Creative Salmon and The Ucluelet Lodge as Business of the Year, which is also awarded by the Ucluelet chamber.
The gallery’s owner Signy Cohen told the Westerly it was a great feeling for her gallery’s 23 years in Tofino and Ucluelet to be recognized.
“It was a surprise; I’m feeling very emotional,” she said. “The artists involved and their support, and also all my great staff, I just want to thank everybody.”
Cohen’s gallery represents over 200 artists including local photographer Dian McCreary, who was thrilled to see Cohen receive Ucluelet’s Business of the Year distinction.
“She deserves it, she works very hard, this is her whole life to make this gallery go; it’s her dream,” McCreary said. “She started with a small gallery in Tofino and that’s been there for many, many, years and then she took a big leap to move into our community, and it enhances Ucluelet.”
McCreary said the gallery’s concept is unique and the business struggles to make a profit, especially during the winter, but Cohen pushes on through her dedication and devotion to the West Coast’s artists.
“I just know how hard she has worked, and how hard it is, and how easy it would have been at times to just say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ (but) she keeps reinventing and somehow through her spirit and her drive and her passion she makes it happen year after year,” she said.
The gallery’s name Reflecting Spirit means the gallery reflects the sprit of the artist and McCreary said it is a priceless space for local artists who would not otherwise have a venue to display and sell their work.
She said her work has been on display at Cohen’s gallery since about 1995.
“Without the gallery, I wouldn’t have a market. I have a website but you don’t really sell a lot on the web unless you’re very well known,” McCreary said. “I’m very grateful for what she’s done for my art.”