BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce's Annual Gala and Awards of Excellence are taking place next week, with a digital twist.

Because of the coronavirus, the Chamber had to push back its annual award ceremony, and opted to combine it with the annual gala, which will be held virtually. The event is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24.

"Typically, the gala is an evening event, but because we're holding it virtually, we wanted to change the format," said Abby Randall, the Chamber's executive director. "We'll be recapping the year and talking about Chamber highlights."

In the awards portion, the Chamber honor the following categories:

  • New Business of the Year.
  • Business of the Year.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year.
  • Health Workplace of the Year.
  • Community Impact Award.
  • Ambassador of the Year.
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"Everything got pushed back, so we are in the process right now of gathering the nominees and selecting the winners for the awards," Randall said. "This year, we're also going to announce on social media all the winners prior to the event. Then, during the event, the big reveal is still going to be the Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award. But, we'll still recap the other awards."

In 2018, CEO and President of Wells Technology Andy Wells earned the Charlie Naylor award. In 2019, scheduling conflicts pushed the Charlie Naylor Award presentation to the Chamber's gala. Last year's winner was Tom Welle.

"It's a really impressive group of people who make up the judging panel, so it's really an honor for local businesses to be recognized by their peers," Randall said. "We go through a process where we interview the nominees and really do a deep dive into new things that they have created for their businesses. For New Business of the Year, we learn what risks they've taken and what innovations they've made."

Along with ceremonial moments, the event will also feature procedural activity, such as changes to the Chamber's Board of Directors and the passing of the gavel to the new board chair.

To register for the event, visit bemidji.org and navigate to the "events" section. In total, the Chamber has 400 member businesses.