LAKE PLACID — The evening of April 13 at the Lake Placid Elks Lodge 2661 was jam packed with activity. Beginning at 5 p.m., members and guests mingled — all wondering who the recipients of the night’s community awards would be. At 6 p.m., it was time for a delicious dinner in the nicely decorated hall. Then, at 7 p.m., all attention was turned to the podium.

Grand Exalted Ruler, John Holbrook, was in charge of the solemn installation of new officers. Dressed in formal white tuxedos, and wearing insignia fitting of royalty, all the grand lodge officers took their places. Holbrook followed Elks’ traditions that began in 1868. One by one, 14 new officers were sworn in. One of the Grand positions was held by Sam Kissett, who has been an Elk member for 58 years.

Everyone in the audience who was not an Elk, was amazed at the formality of this event. Oscar Wagner, who had been serving as Exalted Ruler, turned his position over to Tom Grimmett. In turn, each outgoing knight, secretary, treasurer, trustee, esquire, tiler, and others removed their purple, velvet, jeweled collars and placed them over the head of their newly elected replacement.

Afterward, attention was focused on Pam Karlson, who served as the Community Awards Presenter. She explained that students in the 5th through 8th grades were asked to write an essay, with a title “What Makes You Proud of America?” The Division I winner, Olivia Florio, kept everyone in awe as she read her essay. Brady Boak followed with his Division II essay. They both attend Lakeview Christian School.

The other prize-winning writers were Ellie Smoak, Weston Hartt, Paisley Karlson and Joshua Schumacher. Holbrook announced that Paisley Karlson’s essay was chosen out of hundreds as the best one in the State of Florida Elk’s organization. She will receive her award in May at Disney World.

With all the solemnity of the evening out of the way, Karlson began her introductions with a joke aimed at each category: Here are the Community Awards:

Firefighter of the Year – Capt. Matthew Byler, Highlands Park Volunteer FD, for training others.

Police Officer of the Year – Officer Ryan Burress, Lake Placid Police Department, for drug and DUI arrests.

Town of Lake Placid Employee of the Year – Daniel Lawyer, Public Works Dept., for his work ethics.

Business of the Year – Miller Central Air, for its charitable work and good service.

Citizen of the Year – Sandy Pelski, Toby’s Clowns, and Past President of Ladies of the Elks.

As each award was given out, the recipient had a chance to say his or her ‘thank-yous’ to their families, their employers, etc. Citizen of the Year, Sandy Pelski’s comment brought applause as well. She said, “I love our town! I love our people; and, I always will!”

Outgoing Exalter Ruler, Wagner made the following in house presentations:

Elk of the Year – Caroline Pappalardo, for her volunteer work at the Lodge.

Exalted Ruler Award – Richard Genhart, for his devotion to the Lodge

Elks Officer of the Year – Evelyn Cresse, as secretary and volunteer work

Before the beautiful night concluded, more praise went out to the husband and wife combinations that keep the Elks Lodge going. The couples stood and were introduced to the crowd.

By the way, the official name of the Elks is Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE). The elk is a peaceful animal, but will rise in defense of its own in the face of threat. The Elks are a distinctively American, intensely patriotic, family-oriented organization that subscribes to charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity.


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