When I joined the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce board a few years ago, I was impressed from the start at the dedication and loyalty that this organization has at its heart. With many members, board members and presidents contributing over the years, the chamber has been an often unsung hero of the small business community here. The Chamber Chatter has become our way of communicating to the community events in the past and those that are coming up.
Under the able leadership of the previous presidents, the chamber pursued many of its traditional roles, while exploring new innovations. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about this year’s chamber adventures, how they happened, and what they mean to the community at large.
Each month the chamber hosts an after-hours meeting for its members and guests. In addition to being a chance to reconnect with one another, this event, at one of the local businesses, gives the members a chance to give their input to the board members. At the monthly board and marketing meetings, everyone’s ideas can be represented and incorporated.
In March, the inaugural Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award was presented to Bill and May Munger, owners of Conanicut Marine. This award recognized their long-standing support of Jamestown and its community programs. Virtually no event in Jamestown happens without the Mungers’ involvement at some level. Their enthusiasm and loyalty to the town and its residents is a model for us all. Thank you Bill and May.
In July, the annual chamber Weenie Roast was held at Dutch Harbor Boat Yard. It was a great time to socialize with a beautiful view of Dutch Harbor, lots of food and an occasional beverage, ending with a spectacular sunset. We hope you can make next year’s roast and watch Charlie Petit and Jack Bertain as grill masters. This event also reminds us all of the great contribution that the marine industry makes to the island’s economy each year. Soon it was time for our annual fundraiser. This event has traditionally been a way for the chamber to raise money for a need here on the island, by sponsoring an event in a different location. This year it was a chance to help the community farm raise money to finish its new barn. Located off East Shore Road, and spearheaded by the daily efforts of Bob Sutton, his ever-present hat, and his team of volunteers, this huge farm raises produce that is distributed to food banks around Rhode Island. The amount of effort that Bob and his volunteers puts into this project is monumental, and is fueled equally by the love of growing things and the desire to do good. Our theme was Tuscan Night, with the food and atmosphere of the beauty of Tuscany right here in Jamestown.
The tent was put up on the farm, and dozens of volunteers made it happen. From food preparation and serving, to lighting for the evening, to bartending, and to the mundane task of setting up and taking down tables, all chipped in their efforts. A repeat performance by a zydeco band called Slippery Sneakers – look them up, they are wild – turned these 300 attendees into a bunch of teenagers at the prom! In the end over $5,000 went to the community farm, and the barn now has the best doors ever. Thanks to all of you for your efforts.
In the beginning of October, Conanicut Marine and the chamber, chaired by Deb Goyette of the Purple Door, sponsored the first of what we hope will be an annual visit by the Lynx. This replica of an American Privateer, based on the original Baltimore Clipper Lynx, brought the early days of our country right to our dock, where we could tour one of the ships that plied our waters in the War of 1812. The crew enjoyed the generosity of the town, and we enjoyed their knowledge of the ship and the history it represents. For those of you who went for a sail, it was truly a magnifi cent experience. See more on this vessel at privateerlynx.com.
In November, the annual Business Expo, held at the community center, offered a chance for the 270 small businesses in Jamestown to showcase their products and services to the town and each other. As members and guests milled about exploring tables, meeting one another, and sampling the local chowders from our restaurants, there was excitement that so many active businesses, both in stores and home-based, exist right here in Jamestown. The primary purpose of the chamber is to support the small businesses of our town, and an active small business environment it is. Our hope is that businesses will see that they may not have to leave the island at all for other business contacts, and we can keep our economy growing and healthy. The chamber has long supported “Shop Locally,” and it sure seems to be working. We encourage everyone to do so.
If that were not enough, here comes Christmas. The chamber board has worked hard for years to make this a signature event for residents and nonresidents alike. As you may have already seen, the decorations have already started to brighten the town street, hung by a team of volunteers from the Fire Department and the chamber. Our new street, sidewalks and lights will make the town even more fes- tive this year, and the Christmas tree is ready for its annual lighting and caroling party on Saturday, Dec. 3.
On that same day the Island Christmas events begin the holiday season. Santa Claus arrives by boat at 1 p.m. at the East Ferry docks, escorted by the Coast Guard with sirens and lights. From there he and Mrs. Claus will go up to Conanicut Marine’s Ship’s Store, where they will hear what your children want for Christmas, with pictures to commemorate the moment. (And don’t worry, the Clauses will tell you what the kids asked for later.) You can use chamber checks purchased from local merchants to buy your gifts or for stocking stuffers. Checks purchased on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 entitle you to a 10 percent discount when used at participating stores and restaurants. There is even a hayride to bring a true New England flavor to the day.
The merchants of the town will conduct a holiday stroll and open house on Narragansett Avenue, while at the Town Hall there is an exhibition by the Conanicut Island Art Association. Finally, the Christmas tree will be lit at 5:30 p.m., with Christmas music as well. Needless to say, the restaurants will be waiting to feed you and your family after such a day of festivities.
On Dec. 15, Phyllis Bedard, owner of Trattorria Simpatico, will host the Christmas party for Chamber of Commerce members and guests. Continuing on in the holiday spirit, on Dec. 18 she will have her restaurant open for our children as they get to dress up and enjoy the Teddy Bear Tea Party, their own special holiday event. See more at trattoriasimpa tico.com.
It has been wonderful year, and it isn’t over yet. Our annual membership drive is underway and we all hope you will join the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce and enjoy the friendships and successes we all share as we look forward to new adventures next year.
My role as president would never have happened without the unending support of the board of directors and the chamber volunteers, and especially Arlene Petit, our executive director. Tireless and unrelenting when it comes to the details, Arlene keeps us all on track. You can keep track of the chamber and our activities at jamestownrichamber.com.
My thanks to all of you board members, volunteers, and the membership at large for making my year as president such an unforgettable experience. My family and I extend our best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Christmas season and a prosperous New Year.