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2024 Award Winners

Der Burgermeister- Paul Beachnau

Paul Beachnau is the Executive Director of the Gaylord Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. A position he has held since the Bureau’s formation in 1987. Paul grew up in Gaylord and holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Michigan State University. His first job out of college was as the Executive Director of the Gaylord Chamber of Commerce in 1985. He was the youngest Chamber Director in the State of Michigan. During his tenure they formed the Gaylord tourism Bureau and held the dual role of Chamber Director and Tourism Bureau Director until 2017 when he transitioned his duties solely to the Tourism Bureau during a period of unprecedented growth.


Throughout his career he has served on the Board and as Chairman of the Michigan Association of Convention and Visitor Bureau’s, served in an elected capacity as an Otsego County Commissioner for 18 years, serving as Chair of finance and as Chairman of the Board. He is credited with forming the Gaylord Golf Mecca, a cooperative golf marketing program of 16 area courses that is patterned after Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and is the second longest golf marketing cooperative in the United States.


Paul has been an active Rotarian for 36 years and currently serves as the Secretary of the Northwest Regional Airport Authority which oversees all operations at the Traverse City Regional Airport, the third busiest airport in Michigan. Paul has two adult children Abby – 23 and Timmy – 22 who serve our country as Active Duty members of the United States Air Force. In Pauls free time you will find him out exploring the outdoors in all seasons of  Northern Michigan  with his beloved golden retriever – MAC.

Dar Award - George Sorenson

I'm George Sorensen and I was born in Dearborn MI. I moved to Gaylord in 1968 when my parents purchased the Alpine Motel. I graduated from Gaylord HS in 1980 and went to North Central Michigan College in 1985-1986. I moved to Alaska in 1982 to help my brother Chris Sorensen build houses for 2 years. I moved back to Gaylord in 1984 to help my parents with the motel. I moved back to Alaska in 1992 and stayed there until 2006. While in Alaska I had my 3 children. I moved to South Carolina in 2006 and have been here since. In 2015 I brought my children to Gaylord for my 35 th  class reunion. I was inspired after being at the Alpenfest l to want to volunteer. So, in 2016 I signed up to volunteer and have been doing so since. I drive 2000 miles round trip every year to help the community I grew up in. And 9 years later, still going strong. I've enjoyed volunteering so much that I bought a fixer upper in the Gaylord area so I can spend more time with the community. I plan on spending my summers here in Gaylord. I enjoyed winning the Swiss stone spitting contest, beating Rob. I also really enjoy the evening concerts. I plan on continuing as long as the Lord is willing.

Parade Marshall - Kaylyn Jeakle

As a newly married couple, my husband Dennis and I moved to Gaylord in June of 1994. We rented a tiny one bedroom house on Court St. As a kid, my family vacationed in Gaylord every summer, but I had never experienced Alpenfest until that July when cars were lined up to park up and down our street. Dennis and I walked down one evening t check it out. Once we experienced the concerts, Ethnic Alley fare, families dressed in Alpine dress and the community’s excited involvement we were hooked!

I am a serious nature and animal lover, so naturally my personal favorite Alpenfest event has always been the Pet Parade.  One year Dennis and our two children Lane and Reese dressed our Golden Retriever, Quinn in a dirndl and bloomenkranz. Quinn won best overall costume. That year, former teacher and colleague, Sally Anderson asked if I would be interested in taking over the Pet Parade as Director and I excitedly agreed!


The following year, another colleague and Alpenfest gem, Judy Hart asked if I would be interested in being on the Alpenfest Board of Directors and I humbly agreed. I have felt so fortunate to have spent 20 years as a member of this extremely hard working and dedicated board. I met so many wonderful humans by serving our community including three that I consider great pals who have passed over; Lois (Lo Lo) Skinner, Patty (Pat-Trisha) Dobrzelewski and Ted (Terrible Ted) Miller.


I have thoroughly enjoyed my years on the Alpenfest board and hope I’ve made a small ripple in our community for volunteerism. My sincerest thanks to our current Alpenfest committee for this incredible honor. I’d also like to acknowledge and thank my hard working family. Reese was three and Lane 5 years old when they and Dennis were drug downtown every summer to “volunteer” along side me before, during and after the festival.

A huge thanks to our one of a kind community! Please enjoy Alpenfest 59!

Honored Industry - Alpine Chocolat Haus

Bruce Brown as Der Chocolatmeister of Alpine Chocolat Haus started December 7th, 1985 in Gaylord, with my first location, then I started making my own chocolates in March 1986. I had the honor of being mentored by a wonderful woman who had been very successful in the chocolat industry with her husband since the 1940’s. Unfortunately, I was never able to meet him since he passed away in 1982. She was able to teach me the fundamentals of candy making and how to mix certain ingredients so that I would be able to make my own creations. In November 2006, my current wife Barbara Brown started helping me with the business.


In June of 2010 we opened our 2nd store in Boyne City, and in November 2010 we opened store #3 in Sault Ste Marie. In December 2013 we opened store #4 in Plymouth, and in November 2016 we moved our Kitchen from above the Gaylord retail location to the old post office building on Wisconsin Avenue. Most recently we partnered with another couple and opened our 5th store downtown Manistee in May 2023.


Why are we involved in Alpenfest? It’s a terrific community event that brings a lot of people to Gaylord from all over Michigan, even other states and countries, and we’re able to promote and highlight our beautiful Alpine Village.

What do we do for Alpenfest? Every year we donate monetarily, we donate our product to volunteers, the Queen and her court, and the vendors participating in the festival, and we also participate in Ethnic Alley, and host the annual Ice Cream Social. And most importantly, we try to showcase our community in the brightest light possible.

Edelweiss Award- Kari Jo Stefanski

Kari Jo Stefanski, Founder of The Karing Home Youth Project, has been an integral part of the Gaylord community since 2009 when she, her husband, and their boys ventured north. With a dynamic family of eight boys, four of whom were adopted in their teens, Kari Jo has remained deeply involved in the Gaylord schools and community.


A graduate of Specs Howard School of Broadcast Media and an attendee of the University of Detroit, Kari Jo’s dedication to community service is evident through her extensive volunteer work. She played a pivotal role in the Quarterback Club of Gaylord, spearheading fundraising efforts for the new Community Field. As the Chair of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors program, she continues to contribute to local initiatives. Additionally, Kari Jo is a valued Sales & Leasing Consultant at Serra Gaylord.


Kari Jo’s passion for supporting at-risk and homeless youth led to the creation of The Karing Home Youth Project (KHYP), where she serves as the Founder & Executive Director. The project aims to address the unique needs of each individual, helping them transition from instability to success. Central to KHYP’s mission is the provision of unconditional love and acceptance, guiding each young person towards becoming the best version of themselves. Inspired by her parents’ example of leading with God’s unconditional love, Kari Jo strives to break the cycle of neglect by fostering a safe and nurturing environment for every child. Her dedication extends beyond KHYP. Kari Jo has made significant contributions to Alpenfest, serving on the board and running the grand parade for six years and the walking parade for four years. Her leadership as Vice President of Alpenfest for three years further exemplifies her commitment to community celebration and engagement.

In recognition of her tireless efforts and profound impact on the community, Kari Jo Stefanski is being honored with the Edelweiss Award at Alpenfest 2024. Her unwavering dedication and compassion continue to inspire and create a thriving wave of positive change in the lives of those who need it most.

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