Judy Hiner, left, admires the award she received from David Foote and the Tucumcari Elks Lodge.
Judy Hiner, director of the Quay Council for Arts and Humanities, got a big surprise at the recent Tucumcari performance of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
David Foote, exalted ruler of Elks Lodge 1172, presented her with the Elks’ 2004-2005 Distinguished Citizenship Award.
“I thought I was going to break down,” Hiner said. “I thought David was just going to say something nice about the arts council. 650 people stood up and clapped for me and then David made me go back up on stage and acknowledge the standing ovation.”
During Hiner’s five-year tenure as director of the arts council, attendance has improved dramatically at special performances in town.
“When I started as director we had no budget and no prescheduled events,” Hiner said. “We now have a budget of $50,000. Back then maybe 150 to 200 people would show up for a play, but now we get around 650 to 700 people.
Hiner said Tucumcari residents are generous and she gets much needed help from numerous volunteers.
“You just ask them for support and nine times out of ten they say yes,” Hiner said. “For instance, our hospitality committee prepares free meals for all the artists who come to town for performances.”
Foote said it was his decision to choose Hiner for the annual citizenship award.
“She has given of her time, and it has been no easy task for her to get up in front of people to promote the arts and ask people for money for the arts,” Foote said. “It takes someone with a winning personality and a sharp stick to get people motivated about the arts in this town. She comes across as genuine.”
The arts council was founded in 1990. Recent performers the council has brought to town include an eastern European dance troupe, a musician specializing in Aztec songs, a classical Spanish music trio and an ever-popular Mariachi group.
Foote said Hiner and the arts council have been instrumental in changing the mind set of Quay County residents.
“People are now expecting quality when it comes to the arts,” Foote said. “They expect quality entertainment and now understand what quality entertainment is.”
Hiner said the citizenship award will be treasured.
“This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me except for having my children and grandchildren,” she said.