The 16th Annual Hiwassee Watershed Gala will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 29, 2024, at the Charles Suber Banquet Hall at Young Harris College. The Watershed Gala is an upscale social gathering that celebrates good water quality, still being measured in many rivers, lakes, and streams, and recognizes those who work to sustain it. This year’s event will be shorter and slightly less formal, featuring a menu of heavy hors d’ oeuvres, along with wine, beer, sodas, and water. Popular local musician Troy Underwood will provide his bluesy, soul, and folk sound for the evening. 

2024 Gala Menu

Heavy Hors D’oeuvres

Platters & Displays
Grilled Quail
Crab Bites with Dipping Sauce
Grilled Roasted Vegetable Board
Cheese Board with Various Cheese Spreads
Spinach Artichoke Dip with Assorted Bread and Crackers
Fresh Fruit Tray


Carving Station

Beef Tenderloin Carving Station with Rolls and Horseradish Mustard or Au Jus


Dessert Display

Sweet Street Gourmet Dessert Bar

Individual tickets that include a table seat are $50/each; individual tickets without guaranteed seating (high top tables available) are $40/each. Reserved tables for eight can be purchased for $360/each. A small number of volunteer tickets are also available for $20/each. Join us for an evening of laughter, fun, and camaraderie! The deadline for purchasing tickets is Friday, February 23. Click here to view/download a campus map with parking locations.

Charity Auction


The 2024 Gala Auction is LIVE! Online bidding ends at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28. Gala attendees will be able to bid on auction items during the in-person Gala event on Thursday evening, February 29. The auction features the best art and craft items made right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as unique opportunities to relax, dine, and play! Click the button below to browse and bid on online auction items.

The Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award

North Carolina water quality giant is namesake for the annual award.


Bill Holman was born and raised in North Carolina, graduating magna cum laude from NC State University in 1978 with a degree in Biology. He worked as executive director of the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund from 2001 to 2006. The NC General Assembly established the CWMTF in 1996 to help finance acquisition and restoration of buffers and wetlands, wastewater improvements, stormwater controls, greenways, and other water quality investments.

Holman served as Governor Jim Hunt’s Secretary of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources from 1999–2000 and as an Assistant Secretary from 1998–1999. Prior to service in these capacities, Holman is credited with helping to pass the Clean Water Responsibility Act of 1997, the Brownfields Cleanup Act of 1997, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund Act of 1996, the Watershed Protection Act of 1989, and numerous other environmental bills as a lobbyist for state and national environmental and conservation groups.

Legislators, lobbyists and news reporters ranked him as one of the top 10 most-effective lobbyists in the NC General Assembly from 1985-1997. Before beginning his career, he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1975. Holman directed Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions state policy program from 2007-2012.

Currently, he is the North Carolina State Director of The Conservation Fund. His current projects include supporting North Carolina’s conservation trust funds in the state legislature, protecting Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, establishing Headwaters State Forest in Transylvania County, and working with utility companies to increase protection of water supplies. Holman has received several awards throughout his career. Most recently, the Water Environment Federation presented its Outstanding Contributions to the Water Environment for Non-Members Award to Holman in 2014. In 2000, Governor Hunt awarded him one of the state’s highest civilian honors, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Other awards include 1999 Conservationist of the Year by the NC Wildlife Federation.

Bill lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife, Stephanie Bass, a writer and consultant.

Past Holman Award Winners

2023 – Mayor Andrea Gibby & the City of Young Harris, GA
2022 – Jason Chambers
2021 – David Liden
2020 – Brenda “BK” Hull
2019 – Dave Hering

2018 – Gilbert Nicolson
2017 – Bill Kendall & Barbara Mathis
2016 – Nancy Troxler
2015 – Tom Bennett
2014 – David Wood

2013 – Bonner Leaders & Nathan Hughues
2012 – Lucy Cole Gratton
2011 – Silas Allen
2010 – Lamar Paris
2009 – Jim Dobson

About the Holman Award Trophy

David Goldhagen of Hayesville, NC, was commissioned to create the Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award. Goldhagen’s unique painterly approach to art glass marries bold colors to brilliant, clear crystal in a clean, modern style.

Of the piece Goldhagen created for this occasion, former HRWC member and volunteer, the late Tom Bennett wrote: “The torso shape suggests the strength of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and the power of water. The glass represents the fragile ecosystem of streams and rivers – the color of the living things in it that must be protected.”

Goldhagen’s work may be found in the permanent collections of numerous corporations, museums and foundations. More at