No Golden Acorns this year
• Menlo Park chamber skips annual awards banquet.
Fall will come and go this year without the 40th Annual Golden Acorn Awards banquet. The Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce decided to skip the community celebration in light of costs and participation levels.
"For the last few years the Golden Acorn banquet has been one of the events under review to determine if there is a more universal way to celebrate community contribution and leadership," Chamber CEO Fran Dehn wrote in an email to the Almanac.
"We have considered different approaches to recognition and venue choices to increase participation," she wrote. "Participation in all regards — nominations, selection, promotion (including media support) and patronage — needs to be increased."
The "Golden Acorn" title derives from the original Golden Acorn restaurant, a Menlo Park eatery opened in 1972 where the first chamber recognition dinners were held.
Last year the awards acknowledged community members for business excellence, community service, nonprofit programs and public service.
Two years ago the chamber started co-hosting the mayor's annual state of the city speech along with the awards to see if that would increase participation. That worked, sort of, according to Ms. Dehn — "it did indeed draw additional attention and interest, but not necessarily in terms of banquet attendance/support."
Reservations for the 2011 awards cost $100 apiece. "It was getting to the point where for a lot of people it would be cost-prohibitive," Ms. Dehn said, particularly for individuals buying tickets on their own rather than as part of an organization. "We want friends and families of the recipients to be able to attend."
She added that she missed holding the banquet this year, and hopes it returns. The chamber's board of directors will review the event again while planning for 2013.
Despite placing the Golden Acorn Awards on hiatus, the chamber continued efforts to honor community members this year. At its annual breakfast meeting in March, it surprised chocolatier Oscar Baile and Left Bank dining coordinator Charles Chapman with awards. The chamber also co-hosted the state of the city gathering at Stanford Park Hotel on Oct. 16.
"Volunteers are the backbone of the community, whether in a formal relationship such as city commissioners, or on an independent/individual basis," Ms. Dehn said. "We continue to embrace, encourage and recognize community leadership in all forms. Any suggestions on formal recognition are always welcome and appreciated!"