Eureka Mayor Kim Bergel unveiled her picks for Business of the Year and Artist of the Year during last night’s Eureka City Council meeting. Out of the dozen businesses and artists selected for monthly recognition by the City of Eureka throughout 2022, Bergel hand-picked her absolute favorites … (drum roll): Fresh Freeze Drive-In and local drag queen Ultra Payne!

Bergel | Screenshot

Bergel took a moment to recognize each of the winners during Tuesday’s council meeting. She fondly recalled “many great memories” visiting Fresh Freeze as a child and, as an adult, visiting the iconic Henderson Center drive-in with her own children. 

“Fresh Freeze has been a huge part of my life,” she said. “When my parents dated one thousand years ago, they dated at Fresh Freeze. And when I was a little girl, I would go to Fresh Freeze after church every Sunday for those delicious corndogs. As a grown-up, I have two kids myself and we would ride our bikes to Fresh Freeze during the summer for ice cream and the best milkshakes in town.”

Fresh Freeze owner Paula Adams-Hamilton accepted a plaque and bouquet from Bergel and thanked the City of Eureka for the recognition. “This has been so fun for us – for me and the team at Fresh Freeze,” she said. “Preserving Fresh Freeze and keeping it around for many generations to come is my goal and I couldn’t do that without the support of the community.”

Fresh Freeze Drive-In owner Paula Adams-Hamilton. | Screenshot

Local drag queen Ultra Payne (A.K.A. Sky Celeste) was named Artist of the Year for 2022. Bergel thanked Ultra Payne for her contributions to Eureka’s arts community and for being a part of “such a multifaceted art[form].”

“When I think about drag, I think about the beauty in the makeup and … all the time it takes and the dedication to be so beautiful. I look at the attire [and] everything that you wear and how beautiful it is … . You’re like an art piece … but you also have this great presence about you, and you can perform. … It’s just fabulous. I’m just so appreciative to have you here with us today.”

Ultra Payne, dressed in a half black tuxedo and half off-the-shoulder ivory gown with her hair piled high in a black-and-white-streaked updo, graciously accepted the award and thanked the city for recognizing a drag queen as Artist of the Year.

“Eureka and Humboldt at large is just such a welcoming and inclusive place, even with everything in the world going on right now, especially regarding drag,” she said. “It’s very, very nice to know that I am a part of a community that is so accepting and welcoming of people who are so different than the “norm.” I am just very, very happy to be able to be a part of the bigger picture and to spread my art to so many different people.”

Ultra Payne poses with her Artist of the Year Award outside Eureka City Hall. Photo: Ultra Payne