The Hudson Chamber of Commerce capped a year of changes with its annual awards banquet on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Last year saw the chamber saying farewell to some of its staff, and welcoming both new and familiar faces, including Mary Claire Olson Potter as chamber president.

The endeavors of several community members and businesses were honored with the annual awards for volunteer, chamber member and small and large business of the year.

The chamber also paid tribute to business and community members it has lost. The Marie Blakeman award, given to one who exemplifies the community leadership of its namesake, continued the tribute, being awarded posthumously to Denny Darnold.

Community Volunteer

Lori Rayome was honored as the community volunteer of the year. The award is given to a volunteer in the community who has had a significant impact on the community with his or her service.

An employee of WESTconsin Credit Union, Rayome volunteers with Hudson Hot Air Affair, Relay for Life, Sharing Tree, Yellowstone Trail Event, Salvation Army, Hudson Food Shelf and more.

Tearing up at the podium, Rayome thanked her husband and fellow volunteers.

"I'm so truly humbled and honored," she said. "And I'm so shocked."

Chamber Member

The chamber member of the year was awarded to Amber Rykal. The award is given to a member who has been significantly involved within the organization in the last year.

Board of Directors Chair for 2018 Susie Halverson said Rykal has been "very, very, very active" in the Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival, as well as the Christmas Tour of Homes, ambassador program and more.

"She will greet you with the biggest smile and make you feel welcome to any event," Halverson said.

Rykal said she was speechless when she learned she received the award.

"My first thought was I don't need to get a reward to give back to the community," she said.

She said she's grateful for the award, as well as the lifelong connections and friendships made in the chamber.

Business of the Year

Two businesses, small and large, are honored each year. The businesses are judged on their staying power, response to adversity, innovative product or service, business philosophy and connection to community.

Small Business

La Rue Marche was honored as the small business of the year.

Halverson highlighted the fundraising efforts of the business, specifically the annual fashion show benefit, and its active role in the community.

Owner Val Aune said the award was a beautiful surprise.

She thanked her husband, kids and the team of staff, as well as her grandparents for instilling a strong work ethic in her.

"La Rue really wouldn't be who she is today without my tribe of people," Aune said.

Large Business

The Hudson YMCA was recognized as the large business of the year.

Presenter Mark Gherty said the organization is committed to helping meet the needs of the community, from mental health to food insecurity. The work is in the name of its cause "strengthening communities."

"That is what this organization does," Gherty said.

YMCA Director Chris Kost said 26 years ago when 12 individuals decided Hudson needed a YMCA, they were told it couldn't support one. Last year the organization saw half a million visits.

The focus goes beyond the building to what the organization can do in the community.

"This is just the beginning of what we're doing," he said.

Marie Blakeman Award

The final award of the evening was accepted by the family of Denny Darnold, retired Community Development Director for the city of Hudson.

Barbara Richardson, daughter of Marie Blakeman, said Darnold provided guidance for all the changes that occured in the community during his three decades in Hudson.

Darnold oversaw several annexations, 25 redevelopment projects, the St. Croix Business Park vision and a population growth that more than doubled.

"He was undoubtedly a man who could get things done," Richardson said.

His dedication made Hudson a better place, she said, though he would say his most important role was being a grandpa.

Darnold's family didn't realize just how much he did for Hudson until he was honored after his death.

"We really had no idea that his handprint was in so much of Hudson," his daughter Sarah Kariniemi said.

Jeanne Darnold said she was proud of her husband, and to be known as Mrs. Darnold.

"What a wonderful legacy he has left for this community," she said.