Annie Sparling wins Chamber of Commerce Community Impact Award
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Annie Sparling of Blyth won the Goderich Signal-Star Community Impact Award last week, handed out virtually this year by the Huron Chamber of Commerce of Goderich, Central and North Huron through its annual Spirit of Success Awards.
Sparling has been heavily involved in the Blyth community in recent years, first working with the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) and then through the creation of the Blyth Community Betterment Group, which has taken on management of the Blyth Outdoor Market, the revival of the Rutabaga Festival and the Hometown Holiday Weekend. She has also spearheaded food drives and other initiatives throughout the community.
In an interview with The Citizen, Sparling said being told she’d won the award really “warmed her heart” adding that she feels most of the work she does in Blyth is done with groups of people lending a hand, so she didn’t feel she should win an individual award for the hard work of those groups. However, she said it was truly an honour to be named the winner of the award, especially with so many other worthy people receiving nominations.
“She brings to the table creative ideas, a keen business sense and an amazing ability to connect teams with the community,” one nomination said of Sparling. “She reaches outside her resources and seeks out the perspective and ideas of other key players from other communities and develops strong partnerships with municipal and county representatives that can benefit Blyth as a whole.”
Sparling worked to revive the Blyth Rutabaga Festival, which had been defunct in the village for a number of years, bringing it back last year to great acclaim. She and other Blyth Community Betterment Group members have also worked to promote the festival through smaller events and giveaways, such as leaving a rutabaga on every front step in Blyth for Mother’s Day and creating the Great Rutabaga Giveaway in partnership with the Blyth Food Market and Hubbard’s Rutabagas.
The nomination said that Sparling’s actions to promote the festival worked to connect people at a time when they were forced into isolation due to COVID-19, including a colouring contest, recipe share and a creative challenge.
Sparling and the Blyth Community Betterment Group also ran the Blyth Outdoor Market this year, taking over for the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) as a last-minute replacement. The market is now run by its own board. She also spearheaded the market’s efforts to create an online marketplace, which will continue into the winter.
Sparling was also a key figure in the creation of Blyth’s entry into the Pure Country Stompin’ Ground Throwdown video contest, which the village would eventually win, earning a cameo in a reworked Tim Hicks song.
Sparling’s win was one of a handful of awards handed out by the chamber as part of its Spirit of Success Awards. FauxPop Media was named Business of the Year, while Huron Optometric Centres won the Downtown Goderich BIA Award, Huron BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) won the MicroAge Basics Service Award, Windmill Lake Wake and Eco Park won the Tourism Goderich Hospitality Business Award and the Port Albert General Store and Pub won the Zehrs Goderich Retail Business Award.
Final winners were selected by a panel of three judges who determined the award winners from over 100 nominations, a record for the ceremony.