Officials and award winners gather at the Jan. 25 ceremony: (from left) King City Mayor Mike LeBarre, Jan Harkness, Phoebe and Tim Cheney, Kanani Barbree, Sen. Anna Caballero and Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez. (Photos by Ryan Cronk)

KING CITY — A few of King City’s finest community members and businesses were honored Saturday evening during the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture’s Annual Awards Dinner.

The Jan. 25 ceremony, hosted inside the Orradre Building at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, recognized Monterey County Dance Theatre and Artistic Director Jan Harkness as Friend of the Community, The Garden House as Business of the Year and Dr. Tim and Phoebe Cheney as Citizens of the Year for 2019.

Each of the honorees received a special award from Chamber President Kate Hestand as well as certificates of recognition from local dignitaries for their contribution to the community. Among those present were State Sen. Anna Caballero, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez and King City Mayor Mike LeBarre.

Friend of the Community

Harkness and the dance studio were the first to be honored that night as the 2019 Friend of the Community, which was presented by her son Brian DeCarli.

Monterey County Dance Theatre was originally founded by Harkness’ mother Pauline Hall in 1958 as the Pauline Hall Dance Studio. Harkness taught alongside her mother for 26 years until Hall retired, and then renamed the school to Monterey County Dance Theatre.

“Every now and then, something special happens. I didn’t think something so special would ever happen to me, just a little dancer in King City, Calif.,” Harkness said. “But I was led by my mother Pauline Hall, and she told me that I could dream anything, and if I dreamt it and I worked very hard, that I could get there — and she was right. My dream didn’t always go like I thought it would, but she told me that if I kept believing and kept trying, I would succeed, and I have.”

Harkness has taught thousands of students over her 36 years of teaching, which also includes Notre Dame High School in Salinas, Soledad-Mission Recreation District and after-school programs at Sacred Heart School. She was also the original choreographer for Director Ron Danko and The Western Stage at Hartnell College.

In 2019, Monterey County Dance Theatre performed the area’s first original ballet production, “The Nightingale,” and finished the year by presenting the 60th anniversary of “The Nutcracker Ballet,” which is considered one of the oldest “Nutcracker” productions in the United States.

Currently, 130 students attend the dance studio located in King City. Most of the students live in South Monterey County, from Gonzales in the north to Bradley in the south.

“I am so grateful to you,” Harkness told the audience. “I am so grateful to all the parents, to all the students and to my mother and to my lovely family for everything and every gift they have ever given me. I’m appreciative beyond words. I am humbled by this award. It means everything to me.”

Business of the Year

Ron Panziera presented the next award to The Garden House, which was named the 2019 Business of the Year.

The Garden House, currently owned and operated by Kanani Barbree, was established by Penny Barbree in 1997. The flower and gift shop was first located in a little house at 636 Broadway St. in King City, where it also offered a small outdoor plant and garden section.

In 1999, Kanani Barbree purchased the business, which quickly outgrew the original location. Four years later, in September 2003, The Garden House moved to its current home at 650 Canal St. The new location allowed the business to expand and offer a larger selection of outdoor plants, containers and yard decor for landscaping.

“I just want to say thank you to Ron, and I want to say a quick thank you to my incredible coworkers,” Kanani Barbree said. “We all know that The Garden House wouldn’t be much without them, and my family and friends also who always step in to help when I need them.”

Kanani Barbree and her team, including her best friend and life partner Blair Dani and longtime employee Wendy Davis, have filled the unique home with indoor plants, furniture and home decor, kitchen and culinary delights, baby gifts and other treasures. The family-owned business also offers such services as landscape design, floral arrangements, wedding and party planning and a wedding registry.

In addition, The Garden House is transformed into a winter wonderland every year during its annual Holiday Open House, which includes live music, wine tasting and food for customers, community members and colleagues to celebrate the season together.

“Thank you to the community very much for all of your support,” Kanani Barbree concluded.

Citizens of the Year

Lastly, Tim and Phoebe Cheney received their award for 2019 Citizens of the Year, presented by Suzanne Krause.

Over the years, the Cheneys have tirelessly dedicated their time, energy and resources to the betterment of King City, believing wholeheartedly in the inspirational quote, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” They continue to support many fundraisers in the community in addition to their volunteer work.

The couple have volunteered with the Adopt-A-Highway program for nearly 10 years, picking up trash along a two-mile stretch of Highway 101 each month. They are also involved with the quarterly citywide cleanups and King City in Bloom, which has taken on many beautification projects in town.

Phoebe Cheney also has distributed Meals on Wheels to the outlying areas of South Monterey County for 10 years and has been a volunteer at Sol Treasures for seven years.

“Tim’s not much of a speaker, but I don’t find that to be a problem,” Phoebe Cheney said in jest after accepting the award alongside her husband. “We sincerely thank the committee of the Chamber that selected us, and I say that 100 percent surprised. We still don’t believe it. Thank you for recognizing us.”

Outside of volunteering, Phoebe Cheney worked for 38 years with the Greenfield Union School District, where she was a teacher, pre-school director, vice principal and principal, among other positions. Tim Cheney was a veterinarian in various California communities before moving to King City. He has owned the King City Veterinary Hospital since 1976, providing medical care for pets in the area.

“My thanks to the pet people of King City and surrounding community for providing the opportunity to practice the profession that I love — veterinary medicine; to the hospital staff for providing the veterinary services you receive,” Tim Cheney said, “… and I’d like to give a special thanks to Trina Hearne for her many years of dedicated service and putting up with me; and to Phoebe, my wife, for putting up with my long work days and the occasional injured pet or sick pet that I end up taking home overnight. Thank you very much.”

King City Young Farmers catered the event, which also included silent and live auctions, a no-host bar from the Knights of Columbus and music provided by DJ Is-Real.

A total of $20,700 was raised during the live auction featuring Auctioneer Mark Wright and 13 items donated by the community. The item that received the highest bid at $4,100 was a prime rib dinner with beer and wine for 20 people, provided by the King City Young Farmers.

The Annual Awards Dinner is King City Chamber of Commerce’s premier fundraiser, with proceeds going toward chamber events and services for the business community.

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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