The McDonald’s restaurant in Belfast was the site of a small celebration Jan. 13 in honor of manager Valerie Stelline, who received one of the global restaurant chain’s most prestigious honors, The Ray Kroc Award.

The award, named for the McDonald’s founder and fast food pioneer, is given to the top one percent of McDonald’s managers each year. Figures for the current year weren’t available, but according to a representative of the company, 114 of the awards were given nationwide last year, and 140 the year before.

Stelline is the only McDonald’s manager in Maine and one of only six in New England and Upstate New York to receive the honor this year, which comes with a cash award, a trip to Chicago for a banquet and conference, and in Stelline’s case a surprise announcement.

The restaurant was gearing up for the lunch rush when restaurant owner Douglas Quagliaroli interrupted a meeting with local and regional representatives to give Stelline the news.

Stelline didn’t seem totally caught off guard — she knew she had been nominated for the award — but a firm handshake and a few moments later she brought a hand up to catch a tear on her cheek.

“I’m very proud. Honored,” she said afterward.

Stelline grew up in Bangor and currently resides in Levant. She started working for McDonald’s when she was 16, and over the next two decades worked at branches of the restaurant chain in Old Town and New Hampshire before returning to the area five years ago to manage the Belfast restaurant.

Quagliaroli nominated Stelline for the award, and on Friday he said her good work was evident in a range of areas, from sales and interesting local advertising ideas to the motivation of the staff working under her.

“Overall, her people development is excellent,” he said.

As her crew served customers at the front counter, Stelline and company passed out slices of cake to diners. One of these was Richard Ulmer of Belfast, who had overheard the news.

“It’s quite nice because it’s such a small place and there are so many McDonald’s [restaurants] in this zone that are much bigger. You’d think that one of them would get this,” he said. “But she’s a hard worker.”