Bryan Chamber Celebrates 70 Years

Past President Russ Davies of Andres, O’Neil & Lowe Agency passes the gavel to new Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce President Cindra Keeler of WBNO-WQCT Radio.

One Last Time was the theme for the 2017 Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet and the organization celebrated one last time at the old high school.

More than 250 people attended then 70th annual meeting celebrating the legacy of the founding in 1947. The evening witnessed the changing of the guard and the recognition of one the area’s longstanding companies.

Attendees were treated to tasty samples from area restaurants ranging from organic to Mexican to American to lasagna and ice cream for dessert. The Grand Plaza Mexican Grille was so popular it ran out of food before the dinner ended at 7 p.m.

Musical entertainment was provided by the Big Band Combo of Northwest Ohio.

A silent auction raised money for the chamber.

Emcee David Frazer led the crowd in a chant of “One Last Time,” to get everyone’s spirits up much in the same way a political rally would, he said. The high school is slated to be torn down this year forcing the chamber to find another venue.

“I hope you are pumped,” Frazer said humorously.

A highlight was the presentation of proclamations from Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor read by Lou Cook. The proclamations went to Outgoing President Russ Davies, incoming president Cindra Keeler and Executive Director Daniel Yahraus.

Yahraus talked about the Chamber’s history, from the transition from the Bryan Businessmen’s Association to the chamber in 1947 through the many projects the organization has helped bring to fruition including the underpass and the industrial park.

He pointed the audience to think about the upcoming 30th Business and Industry Show and the achievement of having 71 presidents over the 70 years. (The first year there were two co-presidents).

Yahraus thanked Davies for his year as presidents.

Yahraus went funny as well since he has been the butt of Frazer witty remarks for years. He wanted to find something special for Frazer and settled on a Trump wig. The audience loved it.

Davies said he wanted to stay on for another year, he finally accepted the one-year limit on presidents.

“Chamber presidents are like baby diapers,” Davies said. “They both need to be changed and for the same reason.”

Davies said he was the Barack Obama of the night and joked about how he and his wife would be getting into the helicopter on the field in back of the school and take off for tropical spots like Montpelier.

He also said he could brag about his crowd size with other presidents.

Davies said his year as president was a lot of fun and he believes the reforms the board approved last year will be felt by the membership for years to come.

“We want to help each business succeed,” Davies said. We will be the collective voice for the community.”

He closed with a poem titled, “It’s not Your Town, It’s You.” The poem speaks of the attitudes and feelings for a place is not made by the town, but by the person.

Keeler accepted the gavel from Davies and told the audience about how she rehearsed it at home.

“I nailed it at home,” Keeler said. “Can I get away with that?”

She recalled her start on the school board in 2007 and how she collected signatures. She was asked by a gentleman what her agenda was and at first she didn’t have one, but it dawned on her and she went into his business and said her agenda was to help business succeed.

“My passion is to see Bryan succeed in shopping local,” Keeler said. “Bryan is great now.”

The Bard Family won the Business Person of the Year Award for its commitment to the community, business community, chamber and its employees. The company employs 400 people who average length of service is 24 years.

Bard has celebrated 100 years recently and donated the fountain by the courthouse in downtown Bryan.

Pam Bard Steel said her company follows the sage advice of the Boy Scouts in leaving the campsite (town a little better than you found it.

“Every generation of the Bard Family has done exactly that,” she said.

James Pruitt may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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