By Lana Clifton
Around 400 people attended the Bryant area Chamber of Commerce annual Winter Banquet on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The event was held at Pulaski Technical College South. A silent auction preceded the banquet. During the silent auction, Elvis tribute artist, Tony Witt, performed songs and mingled with guests.
Jack Carney of First Security Bank served as emcee. Before other announcements and awards, Carney said the Chamber board had decided to act on a rarely used part of the by-laws to present an honorary lifetime chamber membership. Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the Chamber, presented the membership to State Senator Shane Broadway as Carney thanked Broadway for his service to the community.[more]
“It is impossible to put into words everything that Shane has done for this community,” remarked Carney. “He has touched every life in this room, and we are proud to have him as a member of the chamber.”
Another award was presented to the business or organization of the year. According to Fields, there was little disagreement about who that would be. She presented the award to the Bryant School District stating, “This has been the center of what we are and who we are for many, many years.”
Superintendent Richard Abernathy received the award on behalf of the district. At that time he was honored personally as the Outstanding Member of the Year.
Jason Brown of Farmers Insurance and Kathy Pannell of Bank of the Ozarks both won a chamber award based on points for their involvement in and attendance at chamber events.
Carney introduced outgoing chamber president, David Hannah as an asset to the chamber during his time as president. “David Hannah had one of the most, if not the most, successful years in Bryant Chamber history,” said Carney.
Hannah said he enjoyed serving as president. “Despite the economy, we really did have a good year,” he reflected.
He gave much of the credit to those working on chamber projects. “What really makes this chamber work is the dedicated staff, the dedicated board members and the community leaders in this room tonight.”
Fields presented Hannah with a gavel and thanked him for his time as president.
Carney presented Joe Wishard as the president for 2010. “Joe is a tireless contributor to the Bryant Chamber,” said Carney. “We are excited to have his leadership for 2010."
Wishard shared his vision of Bryant as a community of continuing growth and change. He asked the audience to consider their own visions and to be engaged and supportive of the community. He further challenged them to conduct themselves well as they do business with citizens, to act as ambassadors of the community. He described the drive to change and grow in Bryant as something inevitable.
“Fasten your seatbelts, buckle up, get on board and hang on, because we’re going forward,” said Wishard.
The feature speaker of the evening was KATV newscaster, Christina Munoz, who came to speak about fellow newscaster, the late Anne Pressly, and how her life had inspired Munoz to take more joy in things. She said she came, not to talk about the events surrounding Pressly’s death, but to talk about her life. Munoz shared some quotes from the book, Making Memories: The Celebration of the Life of Anne Pressly, and described the contagious nature of Pressly’s friendliness. The book was available for purchase at the banquet.
According to Munoz, 100 percent of the books proceeds go to a scholarship in Pressly’s honor. Munoz said the book was born out of a desire to not let Pressly be forgotten. “We were desperate for people to remember her life and not her death,” she explained.
State Representative Ann Clemmer wrapped up the event by announcing the winners of the silent auction bids. Among the approximately 80 silent auction items donated were: an Oaklawn/Condo/Restaurant/Vehicle package donated by Landers Auto Sales of Saline County, a Tom Tom Global Positioning System donated by Heartland Community Bank and jewelry by Baker’s Fine Jewelry. According to Fields, the money raised from the auction will be used to support the chamber and all activities used by the chamber to promote Bryant and its businesses.
Banquet food was prepared by Pulaski Tech Culinary students under the direction of Chef Brian Cochran. Bryant High School students from the Future Business Leaders of America served the meal, and the BHS Air Force Junior ROTC posted the colors for the pledge and national anthem, which was performed by Justin Donaldson.