Stassen: Plenty of winners right here in Crookston.

Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Shannon Stassen gave plenty of pep talks in his former position as a U of M, Crookston Golden Eagles football coach. And seeing how the Chamber's 71st annual Dinner, held Wednesday evening at the Eagles Club, came on the heels of the Vikings' seasoning-ending loss to the Packers, he couldn't resist slipping a few gridiron analogies into his remarks to a crowd of about 80 people.

"Just so you know, the Chamber is an equal opportunity employer. We do hire Packers fans. Welcome aboard, Jason," he said, pointing to Jason Kremer, the Chamber's new administrative assistant/communications specialist/event coordinator.

Stassen went on to sing the praises of Crookston, noting that "when I look around Crookston, I see winners. We have a great team that wants to make Crookston better and has made great strides in doing so."

He disagrees with those who feel the city should be more like Grand Forks. "We are who we are and want to preserve that small-town, safe feeling. It's the people here who make it great."

Positive attitude is contagious, he added, urging everyone in the room to "always speak positive of Crookston."

In addition to the awards handed out every year, two special awards were presented at the dinner. Longtime business owner Dick Maves, who operated Eagle Drug for several decades in downtown Crookston, was bestowed a new lifetime membership in appreciation of his many contributions to the community. Stassen also recognized Tom Anderson, who organized the Ox Cart Days Battle of the Bands for several years before stepping down this past summer.

The other awards were:

• The Business Progress Award, which recognizes "a local business that exemplifies progress in building economic opportunities for the Crookston Community," was given to Eickhof Columbaria. The business moved into a much larger area in the former Phoenix building in Crookston's industrial park earlier this year. Owner Paul Eickhof said the business, which he and Jack Eickhof started in 1984, has gradually expanded since then, moving into larger buildings several times to accommodate its needs.

• Cycle of Threads owners Dawn Bjorgo and Jessica Shockman received the Business Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a "local business that exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation in the marketplace and creation of new economic activity." The mother-daughter team opened their upscale consignment boutique in the retail center on Sahlstrom Drive in February 2012.

• Outgoing Board Chair Brian Frisk presented the Chairman's Award for Outstanding Service to Nell DeBoer, whose term is up on the board. The award is presented to someone who "has demonstrated outstanding services to the Crookston Chamber and to the community. Their commitment to the community is evident through their service and dedication." Frisk said DeBoer has served on many Chamber committees.

"When she's involved, things get done," he said. "We've had many activities that probably wouldn't have been as successful or even happened without Nell's contributions."

Frisk later ceremoniously passed the gavel to 2013 Board Chair Kyle Page.

• ECFE Educator Francine Olson is this year's Partners in Education (PIE) Award recipient. The PIE Award is given to "an individual who has made significant contributions to Crookston's primary, secondary or higher, public or private educational system," The award recognizes efforts in service/volunteerism, leadership, community relations, commitment, innovativeness, loyalty, monetary contributions, promotion and interpersonal relationships.

In presenting the award, Marshall Olson (no relation) from the Chamber Education Committee said Francine has an "unparalleled passion" for kids, having started as a home child care provider when her own four children were young in the 1970s and eventually moving into employment with Head Start and the school district. Through the years, she has been involved in many organizations and programs that deal with children and is strongly committed to raising a community of mentally and physically strong, healthy kids.