PALMER — The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman staff gathered with notable business owners and members of the community at the Palmer Train Depot on Wednesday to celebrate the 2019 Best of the Valley awards.

“It’s pretty powerful and it’s pretty inspiring,” Julie Estey, Director of External Affairs for MEA, said.

Numerous members of the community and their businesses from all walks of life were honored during an evening of food, fun and networking, filling up the depot with bustling activity.

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“The Valley has so much to offer,” Wick Communications Alaska Regional Publisher Dennis Anderson said.

Anderson presented the Persons of the Year. Normally it’s a person of the year. But this year, an entire group of people were recognized for their work following the historic Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake. Anderson recalled coming out from under his desk in his office thinking the Frontiersman would not have power for days, which would cripple the local newspaper. He was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise, thanks to MEA.

“Three hours later, we had power and we were printing in three hours,” Anderson said. “That was amazing and it was all about MEA and the fact that the infrastructure that they built over the years was just so incredible. It was an incredible performance on your part.”

Estey said that she felt humbled to be there with the best. She said that each staff member of MEA pitched in to make the difference.

“With MEA, I’ll accept this award on behalf of our amazing first responders who put their families and their own homestead second to make sure that the power came back up immediately,” Estey said.

Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse provided the food for the evening, including the crown of the banquet, a roasted pig that fed everyone attending.

Wick Communications Regional Marketing Director Tawni Davis said that she was born and raised in the Valley and is proud of it. She said that she took pride in being in the fastest growing region of the state with so many people working to ensure it’s also the best place to live.

“I thank you all for being here, so much, and for being examples and being leaders in our history and being the best, supporting each other and networking together to make sure that we’re all successful,” Davis said.

Taylor Jordan, owner of Black Birch Books, shared a view similar to many attending the event. She said it’s “critical” for local businesses to support each other in a place like the Valley.

“We are a small set of communities and we are so diverse. We’re bigger than we know,” Jordan said. “We make more of an impact together.”

Jordan said that her new bookstore placed second in the Valley, finishing behind Fireside Books. She sung their praises, saying how much they deserved the award and how great of a community partner they’ve been since she opened up.

“I love Fireside. I don’t know what I’d do without them. They’re outstanding friends and we do outstanding teamwork together,” Jordan said.

Mat-Su Regional Medical Center was one of the event sponsors recognized. Mat-Su Regional CEO Dave Wallace said that this event brought the community together in a very unique and synergizing way.

“To be highlighting the best of the Valley really makes it a dynamic and high energy event,” Wallace said.

There were more than 11,000 nominations for this year’s Best of the Valley, according to Davis. Awards were dived by category, recognized the top voted recipients of their fields.

Contact reporter Jacob Mann at Jacob.mann@frontiersman.com.

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