Keith Johnson presented with the 2012 Harold Buschkopf Community Service Award
It took a clever story and a white lie to convince Keith Johnson to attend the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual award dinner, where he was presented the 2012 Harold Buschkopf Community Service Award.
“[Chamber executive director] Shari [Gray] told me the speaker they had lined up for tonight had backed out,” Johnson said at the Feb. 9 dinner. After the dinner, Johnson joked that he “had to tell all his friends [he] can’t trust anybody.”
The award annually honors a person who has made a verifiable contribution to the quality of life in the greater Woodstock area, whether or not the contribution has directly impacted the Woodstock Chamber.
Johnson said he and his wife, Nancy, are proud to be active members of the community, but he humbly downplayed his role in many of the events and organizations for which he was honored.
“It sounded like an awful lot when they started going over [my involvement],” Johnson said, but quickly pointed to the work of others as the reason programs such as the Woodstock Farmers Market and Off Square Music have been such a success. “I just really think I’ve sort of been involved the longest.”
In 1991, Johnson moved back to the Woodstock area after spending time away. He is the longest running WFM vendor — and is the current market manager — and is an original member and director of Off Square Music.
While Johnson cherishes his role with the farmers market and said it is exciting to see the market become a regular part of a farmer’s livelihood, he pointed to music as a true passion.
“I’ve always encouraged people to play who are not professionals,” Johnson said. He said it is rewarding to see younger musicians start out as beginners and grow into talented musicians.
Butch Schnulle, last year’s Buschkopf award recipient, noted that Johnson also is on the Woodstock Opera House Advisory Commission and assisted in fundraising and installing a sound system at Stage Left Café. He pointed to Johnson’s work as a substitute teacher at Woodstock School District 200 and as a tutor as other reasons he deserves the award.
The chamber received numerous nominations for Johnson to be named the Buschkopf award recipient. Many of the nominations came from people involved with the WFM.
“It is my conviction that the Woodstock Farmers Market has flourished mainly because of Keith’s absolute dedication to leading it forward from its modest state, when he became a part of the market, to where it is today,” said Richard Brook, WFM past-president, in his nomination. “Through his intelligent guidance the WFM is now recognized as No. 1 in its classification in the state of Illinois, and it is ranked near the top nationally.”
In her nomination form, Woodstock resident Tammy Kise said she considers Johnson “one of Woodstock’s greatest assets.”
“To see Keith walking around the Square on market day, it is easy to overlook what he has done for the community,” she said.
Mayor Brian Sager submitted a nomination form at the request of members of the Woodstock Farmers Market. He said Johnson represents the essence of the award.
“He lives a life of quiet, unselfish, dedicated stewardship, understanding it is incumbent upon all of us to work to make our community a better place,” Sager wrote. “As a result, he is constantly looking for additional ways to contribute to the growth and improvement of the quality of life of our residents. He then actively invites and calmly and constructively engages others in the process of turning vision into our collective reality.”