The Ravalli Electric Co-op was named Business of the Year at Saturday's Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce banquet and awards ceremony The member-owned utility was praised for its customer service, including an innovative solar panel farm that went online last year.

A standing ovation was given to the Bitterroot Valley Volunteer Fire Departments, winners of the Volunteer of the Year Award. They were praised for their work on the Roaring Lion Fire.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Wayne Hedman, former owner of Bitterroot Drug and longtime supporter of community activities and business development.

Business Person of the Year award was shared by Pamela Kaye of Wild Mare Restaurant and Backroads Cider and Marie Christopher of Townhouse Inns. Pamela's business vision was noted and Marie was honored for efforts to publicize the Bitterroot Valley.

New Business of the Year was Lolo Peak Brewing Company.

The Community Asset Award went to Ravalli Service Corporation, helping developmentally disabled people in the valley.

The Economic Development award went to Hamilton's Farmers Market Co-op. The Spark Plug award went to DeDe Adams of Montana Basket Bistro and Unsung Hero was Mel Walters of the Stevensville Main Street Association.

Rotary Club of Hamilton took home the Community Service Award for their continuing support of the community, including the Backpack program for kids' weekend meals.

The Laurel Award was handed to publisher and writer Dale Burk for his dedication to the great outdoors and valley history. Burk asked the banquet crowd to support efforts to save and improve the Fort Owen State Park at Stevensville.

The awards banquet was Saturday, February 4, at the Bitterroot River Inn. Chris Edwards is this year's Chamber of Commerce President, taking the reins from past President Fenn Nelson.