NASHUA – Hundreds of local businesspeople, community advocates, public servants and members of the city’s growing arts community sampled fine food and beverages in a Mardi Gras spirit Wednesday night, then capped the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce’s 86th annual gala with hearty applause for city icons and Nashua’s newest Citizens of the Year Charles and Meri Goyette.
The venue for the chamber’s 86th gala also showcased downtown’s newest residential complex, the Apartments at Cotton Mill, which opened just months ago in a refurbished, eight-story former mill building.
Meri Goyette “has done everything in her power over … 50 years to make sure artists and their work have a place – a very public place … in Nashua,” said longtime friend Casey Holt in introducing the Goyettes.
“One of our honorees was among the first people I met upon coming to Nashua in 1969. The other is probably, for some of you here tonight, the very first person you ever met,” Holt said, referring to his long friendship with Meri Goyette and the fact Charles Goyette delivered an estimated 10,000 babies during his decades as a Nashua physician.
Wednesday’s theme, “Bourbon Street in the Millyard,” featured what chamber CEO Chris Williams called “a night on the bayou” that organizers and attendees turned into a “full-blown Mardi Gras soiree.”
The “bayou,” in this case, was the Nashua River, which meanders past the venue on its way to join the Merrimack River on the city’s east side.
The gala was the third in a row to be held outdoors, an experiment that started in 2012 at historic Holman Stadium.
The 2013 gala, at which the chamber unveiled its new branding initiative called “Dare to Succeed,” took place in the chill of a late October evening on the grounds of the burgeoning Nashua Technology Park off Spit Brook Road.
It’s one of two sites – the other being the Millyard – that “represent the next 20 years of Nashua’s future development,” Williams said.
Longtime Nashua developer John Stabile, who purchased the Cotton Mill building several years ago, traced its history and shared highlights of the long process to turn it from an abandoned mill into its opening this summer.
The Goyettes, who are in their late 80s but remain as active and as involved as ever, became the second couple to be knighted Citizens of the Year since former Telegraph publisher Burtt E.