The ‘50s theme Tuesday was brought home by presenter Steve Aguillard in his original “letter” sweater at the Greater Orange Area Chamber’s annual banquet.

Honored among others were Orange businessman Larry David as Citizen of the Year and City Councilwoman Theresa Beauchamp as winner of the prestigious Athena Award.

Aguillard joked it was his first time to wear the sweater since high school “a couple of years ago.”

“That must have been a long two years,” replied master of ceremonies Gary Stelly.

Described as an educator, assistant principal and former mayor pro-tem who spearheaded the “Angel Project” to beautify downtown Orange at Christmas, it wasn’t long before the crowd knew it was Beauchamp, who had tears in her eyes before she rose to the stage.

Daughter of the late Orange legend “Cowboy” Adams, Beauchamp’s mother Marcel Adams is a former Athena recipient.

Beauchamp said she got the idea for the “Angel Project” after “seeing Jesus’ head hanging from a piece of duct tape,” and received enthusiastic support from Mayor Brown Claybar and other city leaders to go forward with the plan. 

“Orange is getting better and better every day,” she said.

Presenter Stephen Lee said the word “sacrifice” best summed up David, who in 2008 despite a flooded insurance office, helped families file claims after Hurricane Ike. Also noted were the thousands (literally) of hamburgers David has cooked for the Lions Carnival over the years; and his work as Santa’s helper and sometimes stand-in since 1979. 

David appeared in costume to accept the award and as Santa will finish out the Jaycees’ parade in Orange on Friday. “He is held in high esteem by everyone in the city of Orange,” Lee said.

“I’ve spoken at weddings and in church, but I can’t think of anything to say except thank you, I appreciate it,” David said.

Rose Simar received the Ambassador of the Year Award and the Orange Lions Club was named Non-Profit Community Service Award winner. Lions President Joel Ardoin accepted for the club.

Auto dealer David Self received the Business Community Service Award.

Dubbed by outgoing chairman John Gothia as “the heartbeat and soul of this town,” the chamber in 2009 fine-tuned financial reporting issues. One loss was the Mardi Gras Festival, he said.

“We just couldn’t fight the [bad] weather every year,” he said.

“That was one of the hardest decisions we made as a board.”

To compensate, he said, the chamber added more recipients to its annual scholarship banquet, updated the chamber Web site, became a sponsor of the Sabine boat races and will soon debut an inaugural golf tournament/small business expo. It was also decided to continue the Mardi Gras parade after eliminating the festival.

“Our chamber is strong and I’m excited about it and we’re going to continue to move forward,” he said.

Receiving the special Chairman’s Award was Steve Jones, who Gothia said sacrificed time and talent for the Mardi Gras Festival.

“He gave up his vacation,” Gothia said. “Some days and nights he slept out there (on the festival grounds) Anything he could possibly do, he did it.”

Other awards Tuesday include:

• The Orange Slice Award, given to an outstanding ambassador – Shirley Zimmerman. 

• Plaque of Appreciation, to Doug Allen. Zimmerman said “he even goes to chamber functions on his days off.”

• Top Membership Sales Award – Rose Simar.

Incoming chairman David Jones said the 2010 chamber motto is “Takin’ Care of Business.” He added that in this recession, the chamber faces challenges but still has “the opportunity to help businesses do better. There are a lot of good things in Orange.”