A stirring Chamber 2006 sendoff

Monday, January 16, 2006

From the start of Saturday night's McCook Chamber of Commerce banquet at the McCook Memorial Auditorium, you knew the event was going to be special. The decorations were spectacular and the auditorium floor was packed, forcing Chamber officials to set up extra tables to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Once the dinner program did get under way, highlights happened in rapid-fire order. To get the night rolling, Gov. Dave Heineman talked about the positive things happening in Nebraska, including 11 companies taking advantage of new incentives to create 3,000 jobs.

The governor, who lived in McCook when he was in grade school, and his wife, Sally Kanem, stayed for the entire program, with Heineman assisting the 2005 and 2006 Chamber presidents, Bob Bonge and Richard Stull, with the presentation of awards.

As it does every year, the Chamber came up with an outstanding group of individuals to honor for their contributions to the community. The crowd joined in appreciation, giving thundering applause for the award winners: Pete Graff, Ag Builder; Mayor Dennis Berry, Community Builder; McCook Work Ethic Camp, represented by Raleigh Haas, Community Service; Tom Davidson, Indianola fire chief, Public Servant of the Year; Rex Nelson, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp, Chamber Volunteer of the Year; and Sheri Sughroue, chairman of the Red Willow County extension board, McCook Area Volunteer of the Year.

One of the many touching moments during the awards' ceremony came when Sheri's children appeared behind her, holding roses, just after she received the volunteer award.

Also adding to the special evening were Richard Stull, this year's Chamber president, who spoke of the exciting things happening in the community and the positive way in which Chamber members are preparing for the future.

To cap the evening, generous bidders shelled out more than $7,000 for live auction items, plus many hundreds more for silent bid items. They money is key to help finance the Chamber's program of work.

All in all, the Chamber banquet was a stirring sendoff for 2006. There's no question about it: If the spirit and zest shown Saturday night continues throughout the year, thrilling things will be happening in the community in the year ahead.

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