When Greg Cook died in December, Nevada City lost the best kind of friend it could ever hope to have.
His contributions to community life were many, including his suggestion that the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce sponsor a street fair in the weeks following Independence Day. From that idea came Summer Nights, first held in 1990.
Another Greg Cook idea was the Live Music Award, presented annually at the chamber of commerce installation dinner. The 2016 recipient is Chris Crockett, whose name will be added to the roster of talented men and women previously recognized.
I was bar manager at the National Hotel in the early 1980s when Chris was the regular Friday and Saturday night entertainer, so I was very happy when I learned the chamber would be honoring him. Chris represents what Greg had in mind when he approached his fellow chamber board members in 1992 with the idea of creating the award.
But how and why Greg came to make that suggestion actually dates back ten years earlier, to when the chamber of commerce established the Dr. Leland & Sally Lewis Awards for Visual and Performing Arts.
Here’s what happened 35 years ago:
In January 1982, I represented the chamber of commerce at a meeting of the Nevada County Arts Council. During the meeting, Lila Ward announced that NCAC was in need of space (preferably free) to establish a box office –– a clearinghouse for ticket sales and information involving all aspects of Nevada County art.
After attending that meeting, I suggested to my fellow board members that we offer a portion of our 132 Main Street office to NCAC for its proposed box
office, with the understanding that they would provide their own phone line, desk and volunteer.
The board enthusiastically supported the idea and the first Nevada County Arts Council Box Office was soon operating inside the chamber office. (In early 1982, the chamber had only one employee and the front office looked nothing like it does today, so there was plenty of room for another desk.)
Watching people drop by for tickets and information, and listening to the box office phone ring a heck of lot more than our chamber of commerce phone rang, reminded me daily of just how important art was to the local economy.
That summer I suggested to the chamber board of directors that we establish an award recognizing the positive impact art has on Nevada City commerce. And from that suggestion the Dr. Leland & Sally Lewis Awards were created.
When we first discussed the idea as a board, solo musicians and bands were obviously considered performing artists. But the first two recipients –– choir director Marian Libby and actor Fred Forsman –– kind of set the tone.
So after ten years without a saloon musician or band receiving the Lewis Performing Arts Award, a determined Greg Cook decided to do something about it. He suggested an award be established specifically for live music, and his fellow chamber of commerce board members supported the idea.
I suspect that sitting in the audience for over 20 years with Rona at his side as the award was being presented, Greg must have felt great pride in what he had done. And deservedly so.
After learning of his recent death, I got to thinking that the award should be named for Greg. It was his idea, his baby. So, I hope it becomes the Greg Cook Live Music Award.
By attaching Greg’s name to the annual presentation, it would join other chamber of commerce awards that currently honor Elza Kilroy, Stan Halls, Lee and Sally Lewis, and Lon Cooper.
In my opinion, it would be a fitting, lasting tribute.
Steve Cottrell is a historian, former city councilman and mayor and a longtime Nevada City resident. He now lives in St. Augustine, Fla. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.