NATCHEZ – The 2020 Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce winners were “exposed” Tuesday at the Chamber’s annual gala at the Natchez Convention Center.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, former Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce chairman Peyton Cavin said the gala and awards ceremony, which were originally scheduled to take place in November, had to be postponed several times.
The 2020 Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce winners include Lynn Fortenbery Jenkins, Natchez Woman of the Year; Walter Tipton, Natchez man of the year; Natchez Coca-Cola, Natchez Small Business of the Year; and John and Malan Parks of Park’s Places, Natchez Great Company of the Year.
While Matthew Hall has been the new chamber speaker since November, Cavin has not given up on the hammer ceremony – which was missed last year due to the pandemic.
This year, the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce is also celebrating 113 years of service to the Miss-Lou community and Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson issued a proclamation in their honor.
Tuesday night’s gala wouldn’t have been the same without a record of 18 different Natchez restaurants offering refreshments for the festivities – together serving a wide selection of their best savory appetizers, hearty entrees and decadent desserts.
Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson said each year the chamber names a Natchez Man and Woman of the Year and a Small and Large Business of the Year to recognize exceptional people and businesses in the community.
“They are nominated by the community for their vision, leadership, creativity, civility and dedication to Natchez,” Hudson said of the man and woman of the year.
Likewise, the chamber recognizes small and large companies that are “involved in promoting Natchez internally and externally”, who create a positive workspace for their employees and are also members of the Natchez County Chamber of Commerce. Adams, Hudson said.
Natchez Woman of the Year 2020
Lyn Fortenbery Jenkins, Natchez Woman of the Year 2020, is from Natchez and is heavily involved in the local tourism industry, Hudson said. She served on the chamber’s board of directors for seven years and was its chair in 2019.
“It’s an absolute honor,” Jenkins said. “I am happy to have worked with Debbie and Sela (Gaude) on the chamber and also happy to have been a member of the board and past president. … I am happy to represent Natchez and to be an active member of the community.
Jenkins started working at Dunleith Historic Inn in 2005 and continues to work there through the change of ownership as Deputy Manager. While the house was closed, she went to work for the Pilgrimage Garden Club, where she was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Stanton Hall and Longwood Museum Houses, Carriage House Restaurant and Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.
She is also involved with the Natchez Downtown Development Association, the Tourism Board of the Chamber of Commerce, and was chair of the Tourism Advisory Board of the Natchez Convention Commission. At the state level, she served on the Southern Hospitality Academy funded by the Mississippi Development Authority as a member of the board of directors and served on the board of directors of the Mississippi Tourism Association where she served as president and in 2015 received the MTA Member of the Year award from his peers.
She has participated in several community events.
She co-chaired the Natchez Food and Wine Fest Tasting Along the River, St. Jude’s annual benefit, and served on the Claws for a Cause fundraising committee at Trinity Episcopal Church. She helped coordinate the Natchez Humane Society’s annual benefit and is a member of the Krewe of Phoenix and the Pilgrimage Garden Club.
Natchesian Man of the Year 2020
Like Jenkins, Walter Tipton, the Natchez Man of the Year 2020, is also from Natchez and involved in Natchez tourism.
“Obviously it’s a great honor,” Tipton said of the award. “We have a wonderful community and it takes a village. I am humbled and I have a lot of great people working with me and I cannot accept anything without mentioning them. Congratulations also to Lyn (Jenkins). We both focus on tourism in our city and I think that will pay off. “
Tipton has worked to market Natchez since returning from Columbus in 1999 and was appointed by the mayor and council of aldermen as director of tourism management for Natchez, which included the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Natchez Department of Tourism management and development. In this capacity, he participated in the design and construction of the Natchez Convention Center, which was completed in 2002.
Tipton continues to serve as General Manager of the Convention Center and Natchez Grand Hotel and as a staff member of New Orleans Hotel Consultants. He also served on the board of directors of the Natchez Downtown Development Association, as president of the Mississippi Tourism Association and was active on the board of directors of the Natchez Trace Association and the Natchez Trace Compact for many years.
Hudson said Tipton is currently one of the local leaders at work on the Interstate 14 road project, which would connect Brady, Texas, and pass through Natchez leading to Augusta, Georgia.
As a dedicated Rotarian, he is involved in a number of community activities, most notably the annual Chili Cook-off helping Natchez Children’s Home Services. He is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Natchez, where he regularly attends the Men’s Prayer Breakfast.
Small Business Awards 2020
The 2020 Small Business Award recipient, Natchez Coca-Cola, has been operating in Natchez since 1906. It opened at 222 Main Street and is now located at 191 Devereaux Drive. Although Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. took over the business less than 20 years ago, their mission expresses a desire to remain local in nature, Hudson said.
“And we are lucky because Natchez Coca-Cola took this directive to heart, winning this well-deserved award because of the great contribution they have made to the local community,” she said. “Their influence for the many contributions to our community is vast. “
The company supports Alcorn State University, Copiah Lincoln Community College and Natchez Public Schools through various programs, such as the Coca-Cola Natchez Tricentennial Endowment Scholarship which is awarded to a graduate of Natchez County Schools -Adams as financial aid to Colin. The company participates in Relais pour la vie, Natchez Homeless Shelter Outreach, Natchez Balloon Festival, Bon Temps Classic Charlie Golf Tournament, Joe Fortunato-Allen Brown Golf Classic, Natchez Mudbug Festival, Natchez Lighting of the Tree and the Merit Health Storm Recovery Response. .
“More recently, Natchez Coca-Cola not only supplied merchandise for the House Golf and Tennis Tournament and the Natchez Bicycle Classic, but their employees also volunteered their time to organize and participate in these events,” said Hudson said. “We, the House, cannot say enough to describe what a great partner Natchez Coca-Cola has been to us.”
Large Company Award 2020
The 2020 Big Business Award recipient, Park’s Places – owned by John and Malan Parks – owns not one but three Natchez restaurants.
The husband and wife duo opened Magnolia Grill in 2009 and expanded to Pearl Street Pasta in 2015 and 100 Main in 2019, employing over 60 people.
“According to their employees, they treat their staff like family, often helping in a personal way,” said Hudson. “The couple encourage the staff to work together, to support each other and they always find the time to tell each employee every day what a great job they have done.”
They also give back to their community by participating in activities and charities such as the Claws for a Cause fundraiser for Trinity Episcopal Church and by organizing and sponsoring benefits for Natchez Stew Pot, the Natchez Adams County Humane Society and Junior Auxiliary and the Red Cross.
They have participated in past food and wine festivals, the Music Festival with young professionals Live @ 5 and the Natchez Bicycle Classic.
“Most communities are very fortunate to have a large, successful family business, but we here in Natchez have three special and unique places that we are fortunate to call our own,” said Hudson. “During the challenges posed by COVID this past year, this couple have found ways to stay open and serve the community while using pandemic precautionary measures for their staff and clients. “