The Early Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual banquet on Monday evening, this year with a “Diamonds and Denim” theme as locals packed the Aldersgate Enrichment Center in Early.
    Over 250 area professionals enjoyed a dinner and watched as emcee Rex Tackett helped give awards to Early educators, residents and businesses.
    Two of Monday night’s biggest honors were for Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year. Shawn Russell took home Citizen of the Year honors after serving as the executive director of both the Early Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce for 2015-2016.
    Business of the Year honors went to Cullen’s Hometown Market, an Early grocery with fresh produce and local products. Cullen’s was honored as Early’s July Business of the Month, which made it eligible for the yearly honors.
    The evening concluded with remarks from new chamber board president Jamison Russell. He said the chamber would be reaching out in the next year to help local businesses thrive in the ever-changing modern market.
    “The day and age we live in now, everything’s on social media,” Russell said. “That’s how you get to know people. If your business is not … on social media, then you’re losing out on potential customers.”
    Russell said the banquet was another big success this year. “A special thanks goes out to everybody who was on the committee to hold this. It was a beautiful event, as always, and a fun thing to be a part of.”
    Chamber of Commerce membership director Michelle Cortez said she was pleased with the banquet, her first since taking the position. “We had a great turnout, our caterer did a fantastic job and I’m looking forward to meeting all our members that were there that I didn’t get to say hello to.”