Two local cowboys attributed their success to God, family, and friends last week during Hamburg Chamber of Commerce’s 59th annual awards banquet.
Jeremy Sparks and Chase Outlaw spoke to the crowd, and each told his story of growing up determined to rodeo.
Sparks said he was 14 years old when he decided to become a bullfighter so he could travel the world testifying about God. He believed that decision was put on hold after the attacks on 9/11/2001 because, like so many others at that time, he felt called to serve in the military. That, however, proved to be another step on the same path as the Air Force sent him to rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo., and around the world.
It wasn’t all crisp new $100 bills for Sparks, though, as he admitted that the sport and life brought crazy lows in with the highs of winning. He struggled with mixed up priorities and a too-big ego before finding himself broken. “But God never saw me as broken,” he said, because God was “always able to iron me out.”
He pointed to his favorite scripture, Romans 8:38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today.”
Sparks also said he wanted his children to know what he stands for and that he wrote the book “Go, West” for them. Any success he had, he added, came not from his talent, but from God.
Outlaw seconded that saying that without God in his life he wouldn’t be anywhere. With faith, he said, “you can do anything you set your mind to.”
He also touted the community saying that he was proud to call Hamburg and Ashley County home, and that his wife and family had kept in on his game.
Outlaw added that he was humbled to be recognized.
Others recognized included the Ashley County Good Citizens, Firefighter and Rookie of the Year, Officer of the Year, Man and Woman of the Year, Business of the Year, and the Spirit Award winner.
Good Citizens were announced by Imie Carpenter as Crossett’s Tim Anderson who was touted as a world traveler, family man, giver, and pastor; the Delta’s Jarod Williamson who was said to be a good worker that takes care of everybody; and Hamburg’s Tim Leonard who spends his time working for the church, the children, Hamburg, and all the community.
Hamburg Fire Department’s Rookie of the Year award went to Taylor Hattaway. He joined the department in June last year and proved himself to be dedicated to serving the community, eager, and committed to meeting all requirements.
The Firefighter of the Year was announced as Assistant Fire Chief Heath Breedlove for his “extremely vital role” and unwavering dedication to the department and community. Illness kept him from the banquet, however, his son Ryan was on hand to accept the award in his name.
Hamburg’s Officer of the Year award went to Sgt. Johnny Ethridge for his professionalism and his dedication to the department and the community. He has spent hours in training to become a certified instructor in law enforcement, radar, and sidearms.
Lifetime resident Betty Eubanks was named 2019 Woman of the Year. Her efforts serving Promise Land Missionary Baptist Church as well as her 46 years serving the school district were noted, as was her continuing determination to cheer on the Lions. She was said to be someone the younger generation should look to as they grow into community leaders.
Tim Outlaw was recognized as the 2019 Man of the Year. Another lifelong Ashley County resident, Outlaw was called tough, determined, hard-working, and selfless. While he is the father of two daughters, he was touted as the father figure to countless students and players.
For bringing a little corner of Hamburg back to life, Brandy Bowen accepted the Business of the Year award for Hamburg Pharmacy.
What was an empty auto parts store two and a half years ago is now a service-oriented pharmacy after Bowen decided to bring a piece of her own touch and expertise to the medical community in Hamburg.
This year’s Spirit Award to Ashley County Library was accepted by Holly Gillum for friendly faces and service in the wide variety of programs offered. Gillum and the library staff work on projects large and small, striving to make access to information available to everyone.
Garrett Kelley was also recognized during the evening for going above and beyond in his efforts for the Chamber, even “saving the day” during the Armadillo Festival and Paint the Town Purple events.