Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede is, by his own admission, a huge sports fan.

But it was the arts that were on Brede's mind Tuesday night, as he handed out the first award at the annual event, which recognizes excellence in the local arts community.

"I'm a sports fan," Brede said. "We celebrate a lot of athletic teams, and that's important. But the arts are so important to our community. It makes us all so much better."

The award made by Brede, the Mayor's Award for Public Art, went to Greg Wimmer, whose murals are seen on numerous buildings around town, including the KROC radio building and the Blue Sky Dental office. Other nominees in the category were Stephanie Podulke and the late Mike Podulke, and Sharon and Greg Gentling.

The mayor's award was the first of nine Ardee Awards — named in honor of Brede's longtime support of the arts — announced at The Fete, the name of the event hosted by the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust.The event, held at Mayo Civic Center, was attended by 180 artists and arts supporters.

The evening included a keynote talk by the Rev. Nick Mezacapa, who has been involved in the arts as an actor and humorist.

"At the heart of it all, art is story, story is art," Mezacapa said. We are at our best, he said, when we live artistically in our daily lives and personal relationships.

The winners of the 2014 Ardee Awards:

• Excellence in Arts Education: the Rochester Art Center, recognized for a growing array of education and outreach programs.

• Outstanding Youth in Arts: Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota, which has given hundreds of young people the opportunity to learn and perform since its founding in 1992.

• Outstanding Volunteer in the Arts: April and Gary Dahl, who donate their time and talents to numerous events.

• Outstanding Greater Rochester Arts: The Great River Shakespeare Festival, based in Winona, which next month will perform with the Choral Arts Ensemble of Rochester.

• Outstanding Artist: Horacio Nuguid, a pianist and founder/director of the Rochester Chamber Music Society.

• Arts Collaboration: Rochester Civic Theatre and Rochester Diversity Council for the annual Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion program.

• Leadership in the Arts: Rick Kvam, founder of the Choral Arts Ensemble and the Honors Choirs of Southeast Minnesota.

• People's Choice Award: Irish Fest, which annually brings international artists and performers to Rochester on Labor Day weekend.

• Mayor's Award for Public Art: Greg Wimmer.

Each award winner received a bronze sculpture designed by local artist Karl Unnasch.