Chamber: Balloon Founder Edwards Citizen of the Year, other honorees

December 27, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly  

Santa Paula Times 

Citrus Classic Balloon Festival Founder Carla Edwards has been named Citizen of the Year by the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, two businesses are being honored, beautification honors are being given for the sprucing up of an older building and two teachers are being honored for their efforts in leading a youth group that has raised thousands of dollars to fight cancer.

Barbara Kroon, membership coordinator of the chamber, said Edwards was selected because of her vision, hard work and advocacy of the annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival. 

The 6th Annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival, held in July at Limoneira Soccer Fields, broke attendance records including more than 8,000 visitors who watched the Saturday evening Balloon Glow. 

Kroon noted that the festival is a unique attraction with “A magical quality that attracts money and people into town,” especially those that parked in the city and either rode the shuttle or the special Fillmore & Western Railway train that ferried visitors to the three-day event.

A Special Achievement Award is being given to Isbell Middle School Teachers Mark Robertson and Todd McWherter, who each year oversee the student organization known as The Cancer Crushers, which has earned thousands of dollars donated to the American Cancer Society. 

Each  year the Cancer Crushers work at many events and hold their own to raise money for the April Santa Paula Relay for Life, where members run, walk or stroll around the track at Limoneira Soccer Fields for 24 hours because “Cancer never sleeps...”

Being honored as the Big Business of the Year is Santa Clara Valley Bank, know as Santa Paula’s “hometown” bank created by the community in 1998. Small Business of  the Year is the new Go-Getter Books, which was opened earlier this year on East Main Street by brothers Mitch Freeland and John Freeland, who also offer an online store and special programs for nonprofits.

Kroon said the chamber Beautification Project of the Year Award is being given to Melgar Photo Studios, owned by Jose Luis Melgar. 

The photographer, although a tenant in the vintage building located at 951 E. Main St. invested in his business by beautifying the building “inside,” said Kroon, “and out!”

The Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Awards luncheon will be held Tuesday, February 4 at the Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum on Railroad Avenue, catered by Jason Collins of Plated Events. 

Kroon said Mayor Rick Cook will present his State of the City Address at the luncheon.

For more information, contact the chamber, 805-525-5561 or email

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