Chris Rudolph of Waterfront Concerts greets award winner Risteen Bahr at the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce's annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Paper guitars and backstage passes greeted attendees at the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony as guests took their seats atop the Maine Saving Amphitheater stage for a rockstar experience. 

After a two-year hiatus, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce was once again able to hosts its award ceremony, but this time at the Bangor region’s largest entertainment venue and attendees were given the opportunity to sit where the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Backstreet Boys and Phish are all set to perform this summer. 

Left to right, Attendees celebrate the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022. Attendees celebrate the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

It was the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangor region industry leaders, government officials and nonprofits gathered for the awards dinner that recognizes businesses and individuals who exemplify service, entrepreneurship and business leadership in the Bangor area on Tuesday night. 

It was also an exclusive first look at the renovation work that is nearing an end at the popular music destination along the Penobscot River. 

The ceremony honored Northern Light Health, Penobscot Community Health Care and St. Joseph Healthcare as the three businesses of the year due to their service throughout the pandemic. It was the first time in the event’s history three businesses were selected to share the prestigious title, chamber president Deb Neuman said. 

Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce President Deb Neuman speaks at the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Typically, the event draws a crowd of more than 1,000 people, but this year it was scaled back due to the ongoing pandemic, with a little more than 300 guests permitted to attend, Neuman said. 

The seats for the event sold out in 20 minutes when they went on sale, she said. 

Gov. Janet Mills was in attendance for the event’s comeback and highlighted the economic progress she has seen in the Bangor region. Mills praised the resilience of the Bangor region and the rest of Maine throughout the pandemic.  

“You and I have been through a lot these last couple of years. A lot,” Mills said. “It hasn’t been easy, but with the help of people like Dr. Jim Jarvis and Northern Light and all the health care employees and staff here in the Bangor area and across the state, we’ve done it. We’ve done the best of any state in the country.” 

BANGOR, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills speaks at the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022. (Sawyer Loftus | BDN)

Maine has had one of the lowest death rates and highest vaccination rates in the country, and that is something to be proud of, Mills said. 

Mills also said Maine has one of the highest gross domestic product exports in the country, increasing in-migration of new residents and growth rates in the country and Bangor is a part of that. 

“I’m proud that Bangor is part of that. You’ve done a lot to contribute to that,” she said. 

In fitting with the night’s rock theme, Mills said the song that best represents Bangor is “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey. 

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling,” she said. “That epitomizes everybody in this room. You don’t stop believing and I’m so proud of you and proud to be here.” 

Left to right, Awards line a table at the return of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s annual award ceremony at the Maine Savings Amphitheater in Bangor, June 21, 2022; Chris Rudolph of Waterfront Concerts speaks at the return of the ceremony; Representatives from Penobscot Community Health Care, Northern Light Health and St. Joseph’s Healthcare speak at the ceremony. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The award recipients of the evening include Steve Schley, who was awarded the Norbert X. Dowd Award; Kerrie Tripp, who earned the Catherine Lebowitz Award For Public Service; Risteen Bahr was awarded the M. Jane Irving Community Service Award; United Way of Eastern Maine was named the nonprofit of the year; Suzanne Spruce was awarded the Arthur A. Comstock Professional Service Award; the company Gamenetics was presented the Bion and Dorain Foster Entrepreneurship Award; and Brian Hinrichs and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra received the Arts & Culture Award. 

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...