Chamber kicks off 100th anniversary

The Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off a year-long celebration of their 100th Anniversary during their annual dinner held at the Eagles Club on Oct. 14. In preparation for the anniversary, over the past year chamber members and the community have learned tidbits about the chamber – past and present – through a monthly newsletter series entitled “1911: 100 Years from Now.”

One hundred and forty chamber members attended the annual dinner which included a reception with live music, more than 100 raffle prizes donated by local businesses, a review of the past year by the chamber’s president Jeremy Cordova and executive director Debbe Kinsey, and a look to the future by president elect Kent Reinhardt. Highlights included adding 29 new members so far this year, high member satisfaction, new programs and the success of their marketing program.

In addition, there were a few surprises in store for those in attendance. First, the chamber announced this year’s award winners to some surprised but happy recipients. The 2010 Business of the Year Awards were presented to Church Mutual Insurance and Dave’s County Market and the 2010 Hometown Business Award was presented to the law firm Ament, Wulf, Frokjer & Hersil.

Upon receiving the award for Dave’s County Market, Barb Haffemann emotionally talked about the values that she and her brothers learned about business from their father and about receiving a recent State award. But said, “receiving this business of the year award from the chamber means more than any award because it comes from the business members and customers of Merrill and that is who we are in business to serve.”

The chamber also announced Ambassador of the Year awards presented to Brenda Davis and Carole Cooper. Chamber Ambassadors take part in a variety of activities throughout the year from recruiting new business members to ribbon cuttings and working at chamber events. Both recipients this year took part in nearly every Ambassador activity and chamber event, truly reflecting the values of chamber ambassadorship.

Businesses were not the only ones surprised with awards; the Chamber staff received a special trophy from the Merrill Ice Draggers for the Best Chamber as a thank you for their work with the group over the past year.

Members in attendance also were treated to a “history lesson” with a skit by the Chamber Players: Doug Williams, Jay Stapleton and Dave Welch. The trio played the original incorporators of the Merrill Chamber of Commerce during the very first membership meeting in 1911. Using the first article of the original chamber Articles of Incorporation, the trio had some interactive fun with the audience noting that there were only male members of the chamber 100 years ago.

This year’s event sponsors were: Gold – Agra Industries, Courtside Furniture, Church Mutual, Lincoln Community Bank, Marshfield Clinic, Merrill Federal Savings & Loan, Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center, River Valley Bank. Silver – Park City Credit Union and Merrill Ice Draggers and Bronze – Associated Bank, Becher-Hoppe Associates, Bell Tower Residence, Kindhearted Home Care, Lincoln County Rodeo Association, Merrill Youth Hockey Association, RAJ Services, Rib River Bar & Grill, Strasman Electrical Wiring, and Systems Technologies. Auctioneer was Arnie Lange of Lange Auction Realty.

Beginning in January, the chamber will launch a year of monthly anniversary programs and events that will include a birthday celebration, an art-in-the park festival, a Taste of Merrill event and a Very Merrill Christmas promotion.

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