For the past 21 years, many folks in Port O’Connor and the surrounding area have looked forward each February to a gala evening celebrating Valentine’s Day in style at the Annual Sweetheart Banquet. It was a time to dress up, enjoy entertainment and a fine dinner with your “sweetheart”, or by yourself, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Regrettably, the Sweetheart Banquet has come to an end.
To produce a banquet like this takes a lot of people. Advertising, design and print tickets and program printing, entertainment selection, ticket sales, purchase of foods, decorations and supplies – decorating, cooking, serving, and cleaning up – this is not a small task.
This work was done primarily by members of Port O’Connor’s First Baptist Church. As time has passed, the core volunteer group has declined due to age and health issues, and at a recent church meeting, it was decided that it was no longer possible to handle this work load, so the event has been cancelled.
The first “Sweetheart Banquet” was held in 1995 in the Baptist’s Church’s new fellowship hall. Doyle Adams and his wife, Bernice, decorated the hall and did most of the cooking. Wanting to hold the cost down so most anyone could afford it, they only charged $5 for a steak dinner.
That first banquet was attended by 55 people. It was such a success, that many others began attending, and in 2,000, the event was moved to the new Port O’Connor Community Center. Gratefully, the Center did not charge for its use. Limited by the Fire Code, the banquet was always a “sell out” with 200+ attendees.
Deciding that citizens who have done extraordinary service to the community should be honored, the Sweetheart Committee began in 2000, naming their “Citizens of the Year”. The first awards were given to Fire Chief Ed Lambright and EMS Brenda Smith. Over the years, the following awards were presented:
2001 – Margaret Jennings & Joyce Rhyne (Dolphin Talk); 2002 – Evelyn Lewis
2003 – Lucille & Edna Whittaker; 2004 – Grady Jean & Kenneth Clark
2005 – Marie Hawes; 2006 – Kathy Yearwood & Wanda Redding
2007 – Agnes Valigura; 2008 – Tom & Pat Ekstrom
2009 – Naomi Albright & Bob Allen; 2010 – Bill Tigrett
2011 – Silvia Martinez, EMS; 2012 – Shirley Gordon (POC Librarian)
2013 – Nancy Pomykal (Justice of the Peace); 2014 – Judy Anderson
2015 – Jim & Diane Cooley; 2016 – Erny & Joane McDonough
Through the years, various themes were selected for the banquet: Love Me Tender, Love Letters in the Sand, Fabulous Fifties, Getting the Scoop on Love, Mardri Gras Celebration, and Gun Fight at the OK Corral, to name a few. Entertainment ranged from local musicians to Barbershop Quartets, Mariachis, Gospel, and the Boogie Woogie Babes.
In addition to door prizes, special recognition was given to couples married 50 years or longer and a special gift was presented to the couple married the longest. A gift was also awarded to the couple married the least amount of time.
A highlight of the Banquet was when all the attendees would sing together, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. So here’s a chorus to you, Mr. Doyle Adams, for bringing the Sweetheart Banquet to us all these years!