by Danny Wade
The annual Chamber of Commerce banquet last Thursday evening was the place to be. Even though plans had to be changed on the fly when Mother Nature decided to rain practically all day long, members and guests were thrilled to attend.
This year’s banquet was supposed to be outside and in the middle of Main Street. With a break in the rain, the police department closed off a city block downtown. Rows of tables and chairs were set up.
“Everything was set up—tables, chairs, decorations, lighting,” said Humboldt Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Love. “Then the chance of rain increased. Then it really increased. Once it rained we decided to shut it down and move inside in the Opera House.”
Love said chamber board members were wiping down tables and chairs. Gibson County Economic Development Director Kingsley Brock chipped in. Looking back the next day, Love chuckled when she said every beach towel in Humboldt was used to dry off tables. They were using blowers to dry everything off to move inside.
Chamber Events Coordinator Beth Culpepper and Administrative Assistant Sydney Lopiccolo were doing everything possible to make sure the event continued within the original timeframe.
Even though rain dampened the possibility of having the banquet outside, the excitement of the crowd was anything but damp. It was if the sun was shining bright inside the Opera House as the social hour and banquet began. No one complained about having to move the event inside.
Once inside, guest enjoyed Crown Winery pizza appetizers, as well as water, tea, sodas and beverages. From the balcony of the Opera House, Blue Eyed Sun performed classic hit songs from the past to newer released music.
Chamber President Christy Crawford welcomed the crowd. Love also made a few comments and opened the buffet line for dinner.
Guests enjoyed barbecue pork and chicken, beef brisket, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and cornbread, and for dessert, chocolate cake and banana pudding.
After dinner, Love introduced the current board of directors. She next introduced the outgoing board members and invited them up front to accept gifts for their time serving on the board.
Next, Love invited Betty Langley to the podium. Langley served as president of the 83rd West Tennessee Strawberry Festival. It took two years to have the festival this year after Langley and the chamber were forced to cancel the Strawberry Festival in 2020.
Langley briefly spoke about the trying times in 2020 when the pandemic first hit and how hard it was canceling the festival. But, 2021’s festival was especially good with everyone yearning and eager to have Humboldt’s celebration returning.
Langley then asked her general chairman, Sherry Jo Smith, to come forward, where she passed the keys to the festival over. Smith is now Strawberry Festival president. Smith introduced her general chairman, Shane Lynch.
Love wrapped up the program with a short but touching state of the chamber speech. She talked about how the chamber had to rethink things when COVID hit. The chamber found ways to do things for the members and their businesses. Love joked and said they purchased a case of toilet paper in case businesses could not find it in the stores while binge buying became the norm. The chamber still has plenty of TP, she chuckled.
Love talked about all the excitement with new businesses and industry moving to Humboldt, including Tyson opening and now having 800 on staff. FedEx’s announcement of locating in the Gibson County Industrial Park with a new 337,000 sq. ft. building was another highlight of Love’s update.
With all the new economic development coming to Humboldt and Gibson County, Love said it took a team to get it done. She recognized Brock and his role in landing these new industrial project, along with Humboldt Utilities General Manager Alex Smith and the major upgrading and updating needed to supply utilities to these projects. Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes and Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon were both key players in bringing these projects to the area.
The event wrapped up with fun and games. Culpepper called out Bingo numbers. Each attendee received three Bingo cards to play. Four lucky winners won Chamber Bucks as prizes.
All in all, it was a great evening, even if dining on Main Street had to be canceled due to rain. Love, Culpepper, Lopiccolo, along with the chamber board, hosted a wonderful event. Hats off to everyone involved.