By Karen Butterfield
Union Missourian Editor
The Union Area Chamber of Commerce had a successful year in 2017.
Chamber Director Melissa Vogt said membership, growth and events all made the year successful.
Twnet-six new members joined the Chamber in 2017, for a total of 266 members by the year’s end.
“We actually ended the year with several interest requests for those interested in joining the Chamber,” Vogt said.
The new year also is off to a good start, she said, with four new members in 2018 so far.
The 2017 Distinguished Service Award banquet kicked off 2017.
“We had lots of great nominees and our winners were outstanding,” Vogt said.
The golden achievement award was introduced to recognize a leader in the community over the age of 90.
Winners included Distinguished Service Award honoree, Robert Schmuke; Outstanding Young Person, Gregg Jones; Shield for First Responders, Officer Mike Joyce; Outstanding Educator, Cheryl Savage; Outstanding Student, Josie Arens; and Golden Achievement, Frances “Bibs” Purschke.
This year’s event is scheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 3.
In June, the Chamber sponsored the annual Founders Day 5K/10K. While attendance was flat compared to prior years, Vogt said she learned some ways to improve the event, such as creating a different 10K route rather than having those runners do the 5K route twice.
Online registration will continue, which Vogt said will be improved to help make the registration process go smoothly.
The Chamber’s Sunrise Scramble was held in July at the Franklin County Country Club. The event saw significant growth with 96 players participating in the four-man scramble.
“Everyone had a good time,” said Vogt, noting that the event will take place again this year and she hopes to continue to grow it.
Proceeds from the golf tournament benefit scholarships for Union High School students.
In August, the Chamber held its second pub crawl, in which attendance doubled over the first year.
The theme was “Dark Side of the Moon” to coincide with the Great American Solar Eclipse, which also happened in August. In all, about 50 people took part in the pub crawl, which was held to benefit the Chamber’s community outreach programs, including the Franklin County Area United Way and Missourian in Education program.
The Long Haul barbecue was held in September. Union resident Ken Rohrbach was honored for his service to the community at the annual event.
The first Wingfest, held in October, was a tremendous success, Vogt said.
“We could not be more happy with how the first one went this year,” she said. “Friday night, we were standing there in awe at the amount of people who came out.”
In all, an estimated 1,200 people visited the event, held in front of city hall, over Friday night and Saturday. Vendors sold more than 800 pounds of wings.
Planning for the 2018 Wingfest is already underway. The event will be held Oct. 5-6.
The Chamber sponsors the costume contest at the city’s Halloween bash, which was popular in 2017, Vogt said.
In November, the annual Evening of Excellence awards were presented to local businesses and nonprofit organizations. Four local businesses and organizations were honored, including Fricks Market, Uniquely Union; the Disabled Veterans Memorial, Outstanding Community Project; Badge of Hope Ministries, Nonprofit of the Year; and the Union School District, Community Partner of the Year.
The Chamber hosted the Winter Wonderland Parade in December. This year’s event featured more than 30 entries “that were fantastically decorated and so festive,” Vogt said. “It’s always a popular event.”
In 2017, the Chamber launched a “Chamber Spotlight” program. Each month, a member is highlighted in the electronic newsletter, the Chamber Chat, and on the website and Facebook page.
“People like learning about their fellow members,” Vogt said. “It seems to be going over well.”
The biggest change in 2018 will be the combination of two banquets. The Long Haul and business excellence awards will be combined for the Evening of Excellence banquet to create a bigger audience for the recipients. The event will be held in November.
This year, Vogt will work to create a Shop Local Small Business Saturday event or a series of events.
A new event, a trivia night, will be held Saturday, March 10.
“After February we have a lull in events until Founders Day in June,” Vogt said. “This is something we decided to try this year to see how it goes.”
Details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Vogt has set her sights on growing the Chamber’s membership to 275 this year.
UNW Chamber review