The red carpet was rolled out Thursday night for Cleburne Chamber of Commerce members and friends at their 87th annual membership meeting and awards banquet.

“This is an opportunity to say thank you to our members and to the community,” Cathy Marchel, chamber president, said. “We feel very honored to be able to present these awards to these people.

“It takes a lot of people to put on a banquet that has 440 people there.”

Committee members Shirley Johnson, Paula Hardy, Dr. Sharron Miles, Amy Martin, Gina Jones, Sandie Taylor and Debbie Bruner and the chamber staff all worked to plan, decorate and host the banquet.

“I think everybody was real happy that it was very entertaining, relaxing and organized,” Marchel said.

It was a night to honor different members of the chamber who excelled in service, giving and hard work.

Jim Woodard presented the Athena award to Linda Hall of First Financial Bank. The winner of the Athena award is said to be a woman who has given of her time and talent in a meaningful way and who has opened up leadership opportunities for others. Woodard said Hall was thoughtful, caring, godly, a leader and one who lives and teaches Christian principles.

Hall thanked God, her family and her co-workers, saying, “You can’t do something like this without the support of co-workers.”

The Citizen of the Year award was given to the “tag-team couple,” Troy and Nell Dixon. After accepting the award, Troy Dixon said, “This is a total surprise!” and he expressed thanks to his wife by saying, “She helps me get through every day.”

Nell Dixon, who retired in December after 10 years as chamber president, said she was “surprised and honored that [the award] was for us being a team.”

“It was so special that we would get the good citizen award as a couple,” she said. “We’ve been married for 42 years, and we have been a team for 42 years. This was great to get an award together.”

Of her husband, Nell Dixon said: “He has always been so supportive of everything I’ve done. He’s stepped up in a lot of different areas. He’s more deserving of the award than I am. He’s worked really hard on the Whistle Stop [Christmas] and decorating the park” and in other areas.

Nell Dixon said this was her first time to attend the banquet as a guest.

“It was different,” she said. “I said to somebody, ‘This was the first banquet I’ve been to that I didn’t have the responsibility that everything was taken down and paid for.’ It was relaxing in one sense, but then still, it hit home that [I’m] not right in the midst of it. It was just great to have the red-carpet treatment. It couldn’t have been better.”

Miles presented the Wall of Fame award to Maria Reed. In her acceptance speech, Reed said that when she arrived at the banquet, she could not help but notice “this town is unbelievably full of stars.”

Chamber Vice Chairman Brad Evans awarded the Golden Cups to Gina Jones of the Cleburne school district and Sandie Taylor of First Financial Bank. The Golden Cup award goes to members who have enrolled $1,000 in new membership.

Sheriff Bob Alford awarded the Johnson County United Way, represented by Executive Director Dianne Packwood, with the Community Service award for its participation in many organizations. Alford said the United Way has “touched every life in this room in some way.”

Ron Layland presented the Ambassador Emeritus award to Fred Bennett.

Susan Lee, ambassador chairwoman, presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Layland and the Ambassador Team award to Bennett’s team of Red Coats.

Elvis impersonator Michael Wroughton of Burleson and Cleburne High School’s One Act Company acted as hosts for the evening.

“The students did a phenomenal job. It just shows what talented students we have in our community,” Marchel said. “I’m so proud of how well the one-act play group did.”

Wroughton opened with a medley of “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.” Later, he sang a special song to Nell Dixon. The CHS students acted as stars including Joan and Melissa Rivers, the Bush daughters, Uncle Sam, the Hilton sisters and many others.

Allison Davis can be reached at 817-558-2855 ext. 2338, or

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