SHERIDAN — About 370 people packed into the WYO Theater Thursday night to recognize some of Sheridan’s most active citizens as recipients of the 2013 Keystone Awards.
And while all three honorees were honored individually, allowing them to enjoy their own personal moment in the spotlight, it may have been Homer Scott Jr. who most noticeably stole the show with his vocal rendition of “Friends in Low Places” with the help of a guitar duo accompaniment.
The performance drew an enormous cheer from the audience during an evening already marked by revelry and an appreciation for the elements that make the Sheridan community unique.
Artist and philanthropist Neltje and former Sheridan Senior Center Executive Director Ky Dixon were also honored for their service to their neighbors.
And while the evening belonged to those three, each recipient made a point of mentioning that their accomplishments would not have been possible had it not been for the involvement of others.
“It really is an honor, but I have to say that every time something good happens in this community there are hundreds of people who have stepped up to do their part,” Dixon said.
Following a run-down of her lifetime of achievements, Dixon said her work on behalf of the Senior Center was more a privilege than anything else.
“If you get the opportunity to do work that really makes a difference in people’s lives, it’s such a blessing,” she said.
Longtime friend Butch Jellis introduced Neltje, saying her personality made her perfectly suited to make a positive difference both in Sheridan and the West.
“Neltje is a person whose creative and free spirit matches the vastness of Wyoming,” he said.
Calling her a true citizen of the world, Jellis said her passion for giving made Neltje an ideal recipient of the award.
Neltje has an absolute commitment to the rights of people,” he said.
Following the ceremony, Neltje said the enormous turnout made her feel newly grateful for the community that surrounds her.
“It’s hard to put into words the sense of belonging and sharing that warms my heart,” she said. “I’m very touched and honored.”
And as for Scott — a man whose musical talents are now a matter of public record — he too said he was humbled by the recognition.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “The Senior Center did a great job of organizing it, and I’m tickled to death to be a part of it.”
For the first time in the history of the annual ceremony, a slate of area students were also recognized for their involvement Thursday.
With backgrounds in the arts, athletics, community service and rigorous academic programs, Master of Ceremonies Bob Grammens said the first class of the Keys to the Stone Awards made older Sheridan residents excited about the future of the community.
Winners included Patrick McClurg from Big Horn High School, Sara Ellingrod from Arvada-Clearmont High School, Caleb Ostheimer from Fort Mackenzie High School, Jin Kim from Sheridan High School, Sarah Maze from Tongue River High School and Kate Barlow from Sheridan College.
The evening’s events also featured performances by local artists, musicians and dancers.
A pre-ceremony reception was hosted by Red Velvet Bakery and Twisted Hearts.
All proceeds from the Keystone Awards benefit services of the Sheridan Senior Center.