2011-11-10 / Front Page

Barb Smith Is Citizen of Year

By Josh Perttunen


Barb Smith Barb Smith Barb Smith, the event chair for the Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show for the last six years, was recognized as the Les Cheneaux Chamber of Commerce 2011 “Citizen of the Year” Wednesday, November 2. This distinction acknowledged her volunteer efforts in organizing the show and her service to the Les Cheneaux Beautification Committee and the board of the Les Cheneaux Historical Society.

When organizing an event as large and as significant to the community as the boat show in Hessel, activities and expectations can pull decision-makers in many directions, Mrs. Smith said. Her steady hand and organizational skills have provided the leadership to ensure that the event remains on course.

Committees work on multiple aspects of the show and their ideas are considered when making decisions.

“Some of the committees’ [leadership] have devoted 25 years or more to the boat show,” Mrs. Smith said.

Plans for the August show begin as early as January, Mrs. Smith said, and continue to October 1. Each year, the event relies on nearly 300 volunteers from the community. The efforts of these men and women must be coordinated as they sign up to take tickets, sell T-shirts, and direct the boats to their slips.

Mrs. Smith spent her first few years volunteering at the T-shirt tables. When the previous event chair stepped down, she was asked to assume that responsibility.

Attempting to put forth a successful boat show each year is an exciting challenge, Mrs. Smith said. She recognizes it is one the most significant events in the community.

“The goal is to make a profit,” she said. “The funds it takes in are put toward keeping the Les Cheneaux Historical and Maritime museums afloat. Its impact in the area goes far beyond that, though. With the business it brings in for restaurants, lodging, gift shops, gas, and other needs, I’ve estimated it can bring in between $1 million to $2 million.”

For all of these efforts, there is always one detail that remains out of the organizers’ control.

“Even though the committee works and strives to make it the best show it can be, the weather ultimately decides the bottom line,” Mrs. Smith said.

Even with some rainy outings the past several years, Mrs. Smith has noticed her volunteers and most boat enthusiasts arrive with upbeat attitudes. The weather, and the standout boats, make each show memorable.

“Every year is a different show,” she said, “with its own set of challenges and rewards. I learn something new each year. That’s what keeps me coming back. There is also a real thrill when the day of boat show is upon us. It’s an exciting day. I arrive at 5:30 a.m. just to watch the boats come in. It’s a high the whole day long.”

Volunteering always makes her happy, she said, whether it is organizing the show or getting dirt under her fingernails planting flowers for the Les Cheneaux Beautification Committee.

Since retiring to the area after a career in business in Illinois, Mrs. Smith has found the time to step in wherever her skills may be an asset.

“There are many little things that can be done to improve the community,” she said. “There is a lot that needs to be done and can be done. In retirement, my husband Bob and I now have the time to do what we can.”

Her efforts have been noticed by members of the Les Cheneaux Chamber of Commerce, each of who was given the opportunity to cast a vote for Citizen of the Year.

Margie Denoyer, who is a colleague in some of Mrs. Smith’s volunteer activities and one of her best friends, read from the list of comments that accompanied these votes, just before awarding Mrs. Smith her plaque.

Her “unassuming manner disguises an incredible work ethic and dependability,” Mrs. Denoyer said. “She is recognized as a positive force in the community. She has maintained grace and lent common sense to all of the organizations she has devoted her time to.”

“She has been spotted cheerfully digging in the dirt with the beautification committee, testing water quality in the bays with her husband, stitching with the Les Cheneaux Quilters Guild, reporting the finances and volunteering at Les Cheneaux Historical Association events, and at the helm of the Les Cheneaux Wooden Boat Show,” Mrs. Denoyer added.

Mrs. Smith’s father, Ted Simmons, received the Citizen of the Year award in 1983, for his multiple years of service with the ambulance corps.

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