Pajaro Valley Chamber Awards Gala
Guests mingle at the beginning of the Pajaro Valley Chamber Awards Gala in 2020. —photo by Johanna Miller/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture will host its 60th Annual Awards Dinner on July 30, with a return to the Crocetti Hall at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.

The event, which returned last year in an outdoor setting at the Fairgrounds, aims to honor and celebrate the people, businesses and organizations of the Pajaro Valley.

This year’s theme is “Sunshine Fiesta,” and will include a dinner, awards ceremony, auctions and more.

“We are really glad to be back,” said Chamber CEO Shaz Roth. “It’s just an exciting event that celebrates the people who make our community great.”

Awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award, Man of the Year, Woman of the Year, Business of the Year, Organization of the Year and Event of the Year. Award recipients are nominated by the community and winners are selected by a committee consisting of past winners.

Roth praised this year’s winners, which include Ken Schwan as Man of the Year, Driscoll’s as Business of the Year and the City of Watsonville’s Santa Tour as Event of the Year.

“The City really pulled it together during the pandemic,” Roth said. “They did such a great job making the community feel some of the holidays during that time.”

Lowell and Wendy Hurst are recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Woman of the Year will be presented to Rene Mello, and the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County will take home Organization of the Year.

“I’m learning things about these folks and groups that I never knew,” Roth said. “They do so much we aren’t always aware of. That’s part of the fun in putting together these annual awards—learning what amazing things people have done for this community.”

A number of local businesses donated items for the event’s annual auction. This includes a personal barbecue for 20 people hosted by Matt Ryan at the Watsonville Fire House museum; A stand-up freezer from Baker Brothers packed with locally sourced food and County Fair tickets; A day with Watsonville Police Chief Jorge Zamora; A progressive dinner at three homes off of Kelly Lake and more.

“We sometimes forget the people who give to the auctions,” Roth said. “This is a fundraiser. So we want to thank our local businesses for supporting us through their donations, which will bring people back to their stores.”

Doors will open at 4pm—a bit earlier than years previous. Roth said this was intentional, to allow people to continue their own celebrations after the event. The Chamber will be offering a list of local businesses people can visit.

“We’ve heard that people prefer getting out of the event a little earlier in the evening, because they also have their own parties,” Roth said. “We encourage people to continue their celebrations at local restaurants.”

In addition to the usual activities, the event will also include a brief live music interlude by Andy Vargas and his father, Javier Vargas. Roth said the appearance is a precursor to Andy Vargas’ fundraising concert in November, which the Chamber will be sponsoring.

“This is really a hometown celebration,” Roth said. “The best of the community each year comes together and celebrates the Pajaro Valley.”

“Sunshine Fiesta” will be held at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 East Lake Ave., Watsonville. Individual tickets are $100. Sponsorship tiers include Bronze (includes two tickets, plus your business name listed in event program and newspaper ads), Silver (four tickets, plus name recognition) and Gold (a table for 8 guests, name recognition, advertising on the Chamber website and verbal acknowledgment at the event).For information and to purchase tickets visit Read Pajaronian reporter Todd Guild’s article about this year’s winners at

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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