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Monday, April 15, 2024
Spirit of Niagara celebrates community


The Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Spirit of Niagara Awards Tuesday, recognizing individuals and businesses for achievements and community contributions to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“It was a fantastic experience for everyone,” said Janice Thomson, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Nominees, winners, fellow business owners and staff cheered for each other throughout the evening at Queen’s Landing as each presenter gave heartfelt comments to each of the recipients.

“We had a real sense of camaraderie among all our business people and our residents who were here,” added Thomson.

“They’re not competitors – we’re all colleagues, we’re all in business together. We’re in the business of making Niagara-on-the-Lake shine.”

Nominations came through the public and business community before the Chamber of Commerce awards committee selected the winners.

The awards night honoured seven groups and companies that included the Christopher Newton Award for Extraordinary Vision in Business, the Peter Ling Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit, the Community Leadership Award, the Company Year Award, the Lord Mayor’s Award for Excellence, the Celia Liu Award for Excellence in Hospitality, and the Chamber of Commerce’s Chair Award.

Among the seven awards given out, Lord Mayor Betty Disero presented the Citizen of the Year award to Rainer Hummel of Hummel Properties Inc.

“He’s a fine choice for someone from the business community,” said Lord Mayor Betty Disero.

“He’s been very generous to the town through the Virgil Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce … And just all the good he does in the community with respect to the parks and charities.”

Hummel was shocked to receive honours of Citizen of the Year. He humbly suggested the award embodies someone who is a volunteer person and not necessarily a business person but feels strongly it should always be about giving back to the community.

“My community has given more to me than I can ever give back to it, and I think we always have to look at things that way,” he said, which came through in his acceptance speech.

“Every day we’re in business, every day we’re in a community but what can I do to give back.”

Hummel’s daughter, Raiana Schwenker, also took to the podium to speak to her father’s achievements and character in recognition of the award.

“Having my daughter show up and her very touching words, that probably meant more than anything else to me,” Hummel said.

“We all want to be proud of our children, and we have a bigger responsibility that our children are proud of us and things that we do. If they reflect on our children in a positive way, then those become memories for our children.”

Among the award recipients was Two Sisters Vineyards. Proprietors Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli took the honours of the Company of the Year award and spoke to the same sense of community pride.

“It’s recognizing that there is such a great sense of community here in Niagara-on-the-Lake … It’s an absolute honour to be recognized by our peers and the business sector,” said Angela.

“It’s amazing to be in a room where you’re inspired together with other leaders who share in the same level of sacrifice that we have all had … to be in a room with people that understand that, who persevere, it’s great to acknowledge that within ourselves.”

“Hard work, dedication and perseverance are things that we’ve been raised with, it’s in our blood … it’s nice to be recognized for our hard work,” added Melissa.

“They’re proud — even though many of them are shy, they’re proud, humble people to get their awards,” said Thomson.



Presented by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Spirit of Niagara awards honour residents who have made a lasting impact on the community. This ceremony started 28 years ago with one award for Citizen of the Year.

Christopher Newton Award for Extraordinary Vision in Business – Alfred Dyck, All Green Irrigation

Peter Ling Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit – Outlet Collection at Niagara

Community Leadership Award – Bob Mavridis, Corks and Orzo Restaurants

Company of the Year Award – Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Two Sisters Vineyards

Lord Mayor’s Award of Excellence (Citizen of the Year) – Rainer Hummel

Celia Liu Award for Excellence in Hospitality – Mark Torrance, Andrew Peller Ltd.

Chamber of Commerce Chair’s Award – Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council

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