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Ukiah Redwood Empire Fair kickoff dinner celebrates community leaders

Jul 05, 2023Jul 05, 2023

From the Redwood Empire Fair

Every year, the Redwood Empire Fair kicks off the beginning of “fair season” with a special VIP Awards Dinner, honoring local individuals, organizations and businesses for their community spirit and support.

The dinner was held July 15 in the fair’s Fine Arts Building. The Redwood Empire Fair Board of Directors presented awards to the Business of the Year, the Fairfield Inn; Industrialist of the Year, METALfx; and Media of the Year, KOZT Radio. This year’s Blue-Ribbon Award was presented to Marge Pardini, and Exemplary Service Awards were given to Mendo Parks and the Mendocino County Museum.

“We are honored to kick off the fair by honoring those who do so much for our community and who don’t always receive the recognition they deserve,” said Redwood Empire Fair CEO Jennifer Seward.

“The Fairfield Inn and Suites is being honored this year because of their commitment to our community and the community of visitors who visit Ukiah and Mendocino County and leave with a better impression than when they arrived,” notes Seward. Owner Jitu Ishwar, his wife, Paru, and their partner Anil Bhula have been hoteliers in Mendocino County for the past 25 years.

Ishwar has served as president of the Ukiah Chamber of Commerce. “Years ago, Marty Lombardi encouraged me to join the Chamber. While with the Chamber, I got pulled into the Main Street Program, Visit Ukiah and Visit Mendocino. We focused on putting the small budgets together and streamlining operations, which was helpful for everyone.” He has also served on the regional board of the Red Cross and is currently a member of the Advisory Board for Visit Mendocino County.

Bhula and his wife, Sharda, have been in the Ukiah area since 1989. They have two adult children and have been business partners with the Ishwars since 1998. During that time, they accumulated four properties. Bhula sits on the Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance board as a director. He is also on the Visit Ukiah team and an officer for the Ukiah Chamber of Commerce. “I am an active Rotary member and love to volunteer where I can,” Bhula notes.

METALfx received this year’s Industrialist Award. The company morphed from a local sheet metal fabrication business into a multi-faceted facility.

“They’ve been featured on the ‘Manufacturing Marvels’ Fox Business program and are known for their superior customer service, an ‘engineering first’ approach and their ability to do everything from welding, powder coating, punching, forming and CNC machining,” fair board member Casey Burris told attendees.

METALfx President, CEO and managing partner Henry Moss hails from Baton Rouge, LA. He and his wife, Kristy, have a daughter living in L.A. and a son who is currently on active duty in the Marine Corps. They are also the proud grandparents of one grandson.

Moss is a member of the Young Presidents Organization – a global organization of over 22,000 presidents and CEOs. He is an Advisory Board member for both Ukiah and Willits High Schools and an Advisory Board member for the city of Willits Planning and Development Committee

KOZT FM was the recipient of this year’s Media Award.

“For years, Tom Yates and Vicky Watts of KOZT have brought great rock and roll music to nearly every corner of Mendocino County, but one thing they also do is deliver critical, live updates during fires, floods, power outages and even heat waves like today,” board member Roberto Muniz told the guests. KOZT was this year’s recipient of the Media Award.

“If you’ve been to a state park in Mendocino County, you’ve probably witnessed the great work of Mendo Parks. Currently serving 10 state parks, the mission of Mendo Parks is to inspire and ensure stewardship of the state parks in Mendocino County,” Muniz states. Mendo Parks was the recipient of one of two Exemplary Service Awards.

Mendo Parks provides many of the enrichment programs the public is familiar with, such as Campfire Programs, Park Brochures, Latino Outdoor programs, and Junior Rangers. The award was accepted by interim director Scott Menzies.

Board Member Casey Burris presented the second Exemplary Service Award to the Mendocino County Museum. The award was accepted by museum Director Karen Mattson.

“Mendocino County Museum is currently celebrating its 51st Anniversary. Karen works with museum staff and volunteers, who act as stewards of the museum’s expanding collection of over 60,000 artifacts. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits and programs that educate and inspire awareness of the peoples, communities, and history of Mendocino County,” says Burris. The museum is supported by the Friends of the Mendocino County Museum, museum volunteers, and the greater community.

This year’s Blue-Ribbon Award was given to longtime Ukiah resident and stalwart volunteer Marge Pardini, who at 98 years old is still driving and still serving her community. She received a standing ovation for her years of service.

“Marge has been with the Lions Club since 1993, where she is known as the ‘Queen Bee!’ smiles Burris. “She was the secretary for 16 years. ‘It’s always fun, so it never feels like work,’ she says about the club. She was also awarded ‘Lion of the Year’ at both the Club Level and the District 4C2 Level, receiving an excellence medal from the Lions Multiple Districts and Lions International. Marge has received three International Lions Club President’s Certificates. And in 2018, Marge’s club initiated the Marge Pardini Philanthropy Scholarship Fund for High School Seniors who are dedicated to Community Service,” Burris continues.

Pardini and her husband chaired an annual Spaghetti Feed and Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner for Saint Mary’s Church for 14 years. “And if that isn’t enough, Marge keeps busy gardening, reading and crocheting. Please give a big round of applause for Marge Pardini, who’s been making a difference in the community she’s lived in since 1978 – for over 45 years,” Burris concludes.

The board also commended CEO Jennifer Seward for her quarter of a century serving the fair, noting that unlike many cities that have lost their fairs to economic hardships, the Redwood Empire Fair continues to be a successful and essential community enterprise. Seward in turn thanked her staff and the audience members, many of whom are lifetime supporters of the fair.

The theme for this year’s fair is “Jungle of Fun.” The fair runs from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6. For more information about the fair, visit, email [email protected] or phone (707) 462-3884.

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