By Stephen Smoot
Pendleton County’s Chamber of Commerce held their April meeting last week at the town office. Much of discussion centered around preparations for Trout Fest early next month.
Elizabeth Scott, executive director, started by sharing the profit and loss statement. This included funds deposited from Trout Fest dinners, as well as approximately $5,700 received through sponsorship drives. The state provided a grant of more than $10,000 for Trout Fest as well.
She told the board that “in July, we were sitting at $4,200. As of last night, we were sitting at $7,525 and we picked up two new members. One is a business with 109 employees. The other is a home-based business.”
“We want new members all day long,” Scott said.
She announced the location of a new business in Franklin as well, a hair salon locating in the old theater building. “Her name is Haley and she’s really excited,” Scott said, adding that “she wants to do a ribbon cutting ceremony. They want to have it done this week.”
The new business owner relocated from Florida to establish her business in Pendleton County.
The board then briefly discussed individual memberships, which have become rare offerings from chambers in recent years. Scott explained that “we are the only chamber that I’m aware of that still offers individual memberships and I think we need to keep doing that.”
“Why would you want to join the chamber if you don’t own a business,” Scott rhetorically asked, “It’s the whole networking experience.” She shared the story of Gary and Mary Hess who joined as individuals. “They moved to the area,” Scott stated. “They retired and became farmers. They wanted to be a part of this area.”
“Next,” Scott said, “I want to give you a pageant report.”
The chamber, according to Scott, made between $1,500 and $1,600 in net revenues from the pageant. She added that “Saturday’s crowd was not as hectic as Sunday’s.” Sunday featured the youngest sets of competitors. On both days, a “crowd pleaser” fundraiser allowed for donations to be made to indicate the winner. “People were dropping hundred-dollar bills in the toddler contest,” Scott shared.
She also informed the board that silver sponsor Felicia Cook “brought most of the decorations from her house.” She also spent nearly $500 and only asked to be named a sponsor for her and her husband’s trouble.
Scott made multiple suggestions for improving the pageant experience. “We really need to support a small concession stand for next year,” she said. Although food and drinks besides water cannot go inside the auditorium, the event extended past the closing times of most local eateries. A family from Buckhannon attending asked at the event’s 8:45 closing where his family could eat.
She said that “if we did a 20-30 minute intermission, we could offer hot dogs, chips, and drinks at least.”
Additionally on Sunday, the event had more attendees than seats. Scott suggested that short breaks be put between the age groups to allow people a chance to leave after their child competed, if they wished.
Scott also provided an update on Trout Fest planning. The committee needs three more volunteers for set up, eight additional stream marshals for the trout rodeo, and more volunteers for cleanup on Sunday between 9 and 10 a.m.
Carolyn Simmons volunteered to make five homemade cakes for the Friday dinner. Donna Evick pitched in to make as many pies as necessary to feed the attendees.
On Saturday, Trout Fest will have a headquarters tent where attendees can buy souvenirs and also get assistance and information. Eighteen vendors have signed up, with six focusing on fishing and related products.
“We’re pretty prepared,” Scott said.
After Trout Fest, the late fall Chamber of Commerce dinner was discussed. “Believe me, my wheels are turning on that!” Scott shared, adding that the event will return to the Swilled Dog again in 2023. “We think that’s the best place to have it,” she said.
Almost 110 attended in 2022, but Scott provided an expanded vision. “My vision is that we will rent a tent. We’re going to get heaters. We’re going to open the garage door.” These changes would be needed to accommodate the 200 she hopes will attend this coming fall.
Finally, Scott implored the board to help her inspire more participation. “I want to fill up all of these chairs. I want people to interact with suggestions and comments.” She added that “the town council graciously lets us use their space, probably for the last seven or eight years, and we appreciate them.”
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