Colorful piñatas, a performer in a flowing red skirt and pre-set tables decorated with hand-painted statuettes greeted guests Saturday evening at the the premier annual event of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Fiesta Gala.
The sold-out event, a dual celebration and fundraiser, welcomed 275 men and women from the business and volunteer communities. It also marked a changing of the guard.
Starting this week, the chamber will operate under a new chairman of the board and a new executive advisory board.
Outgoing Chairman Ivan Castillo, who was last year appointed to serve as a commissioner on the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, passed the metaphorical baton to Enrique Rivera, who has served as vice chairman.
The new executive committee will also include Claudia Howell as vice president, Liz Correa as treasurer, Martha Lopez as secretary and Alex Castaneda as president of the South Central Chapter, a newly formed region in the Magic Valley.
The state-wide chamber also gave a fond farewell and a surprise award to President and CEO Diane Bevan, who will be leaving the organization to lead the recently announced Women’s Business Center.
“I always thought I’d be at the chamber a lot longer, but the progress is going so much faster,” Bevan said as the event wrapped up with a fundraiser auction. “We are today where I thought it would take us five years to get.”
The chamber’s future
Castillo, who received the organization’s Excellence in Service honor at the event, also commented on the growth of the chamber. He recounted that when the chamber was started 11 years ago, he was told that it wouldn’t last six months.
“The best way to be a leader is to allow somebody to be behind me,” he said as he introduced Rivera with a wide grin and an authentic Cuban cigar. “It’s time for me to do this. It’s not my baby anymore, but it’s his.”
When Rivera took the stage, he spoke of what the future would hold for the chamber. He intends to focus on listening to members’ needs, providing them with the tools and networks they need to grow and on launching a new blog, vlog and podcast to spread the word about local Hispanic businesses, he said. He also plans to finalize the opening of a new branch in Idaho Falls and continue working with local city chambers to advance the needs of all businesses, he said.
In addition to welcoming new leadership, the chamber gave a handful of awards at the gala. The organization recognized:
- Small Business of the Year: Pantera Market #2
- Business Person of the Year: Ken Cortez, owner of Metalcraft, Inc. and founder of
the Jalapeño Open
- Advocate of the Year: University of Idaho, received by Executive Officer Mike Satz
- Additional Advocate of the Year: Norris Krueger
- Volunteer of the Year: Martha Lopez, secretary of the Executive Committee