By Leonora Willett EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY — On an evening filled with jokes, memories and standing ovations, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce presented five awards to local community members at the 25th annual Black Diamond Awards Dinner.
Of the five awards presented, nominees for Emerging Entrepreneur were women, with the award going to Christine Lugo-Yergensen, owner of Sweet Buns Bakery.
Chamber CEO Brad Niva kicked off the night by discussing how the Big Sky community steps up when called to action. Despite being unincorporated without municipal government, Big Sky’s nonprofit organizations, businesses and other groups still work together. “It’s actually one of our greatest strengths that this community steps up and makes things happen,” Niva said.
Caitlin Quisenberry, vice president of operations and events at the chamber, set the tone for the evening. “We’re here tonight to tell the stories big and small of Big Sky with an emphasis on our community and our people,” Quisenberry said. Rather than featuring a keynote speaker, the chamber urged the audience to network among themselves and share their favorite Big Sky memories. “We encourage you to grow your community,” she said. “Grow your strong bonds.”
Taylor Middleton, president and chief operating officer of Big Sky Resort, described his adventures during his tenure, reflecting on the years and how far Big Sky has come. “Big Sky is better now than it has ever been,” Middleton said.
Following 37 years of operations, the chamber is launching new projects, including more childcare options for parents in the area, a Youth Internship program for Lone Peak High School students in connection with local businesses, International Workforce Visa efforts for J1’s and H2B work visas, and the Big Sky Chamber Health Insurance Program for chamber members. The organization is also focused on new data-collection projects for business development and future planning.
David O’Connor, executive director of Big Sky Community Housing Trust, addressed accessible workforce housing and the collaboration required to make that a reality.