POINT CLEAR – While changes will have to be made to allow for COVID-19 precautions, the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce is going ahead with plans for the organization’s annual meeting in February.
The chamber’s 97th annual Awards Ceremony and Meeting will be held Feb. 4 at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear.
Casey Williams, chamber president, said planners are making adjustments to allow for social distancing and other precautions, but hope to move forward with the event.
“We are planning as if we are going to have it and then we will make changes as needed,” Williams said. “We will have a limited capacity this year based on the Grand Hotel and the standards that they have to adhere to.”
Williams said she hopes that the ceremony can take place as planned. After the last year, local businesses and other members of the Eastern Shore community should be recognized.
Our community, as a whole, has really come out and worked hard to support our business community,” Williams said. “It’s important to note that through all of the changes. Literally, the landscape changed as to what was needed and what was necessary and how businesses had to maneuver through all that.”
She said that in addition to a pandemic, the community had to deal with two hurricanes.
“You top it off with Hurricane Sally unexpectedly being so devastating and then Hurricane Zeta which kind topped off what wasn’t damaged by Hurricane Sally,” Williams said. “It really shows what kind of resilient community we have and how we learned from each other through that process and it makes you stronger. I’m really very, very proud of our community and our cities and our county and the way that everybody did the best they could throughout the year to keep things moving and I think that at the end of the day, we’ll be better for what we’ve learned.”
She said one potential change for this year’s meeting might be to present awards on video.
“We’ll be doing the awards and at this point, it may be that we video the awards and present them before that night so that you don’t have so many people coming up and down to the podium like we’ve done before, so we may make some changes to have the proper protocols in place,” Williams said.
Protocols include checking all the details of the event and making changes that are needed., Williams said.
“Every week look at what’s going on, what’s the environment and make the best decision every day and then go from there,” Williams said. “It’s a good exercise. It makes you thoughtful about every component. Where do people come in? How much room do they have to mill about? How do you do individual things like appetizers and the servers and all that? The Grand Hotel does such a great job with all that and they’re a trusted partner too.”
She said the chamber’s annual Jubilee Festival showed how large events can be adapted to accommodate coronavirus precautions and other unexpected setbacks. The festival was moved from downtown Daphne to Lott Park and then had to be rescheduled when Hurricane Sally struck.
“I was very proud of my team at the chamber,” Williams said. “Every single person really put a lot of thought into how this would work and how we could put it together and then the city of Daphne really worked to help us re-envision. It’s like, it’s been done this way for 30-plus years and now we’re going to completely change where it is and how we do it. It brought people together at a different level to talk about things and brainstorm and envision. So, I was very proud of that accomplishment for the year. Even once it was ready to do, Hurricane Sally hit the week before, so we had to postpone it and kind of regroup again to have it in October.”
The chamber is taking nominations for awards to be presented at the meeting. Nominations for Small Business of the Year, Community Leader of the Year and Non-Profit of the Year are being taken through Friday, Jan. 8. Awards will also be presented for will present awards for Ambassador of the Year, Young Professional of the Year and a Service Award winner based on involvement and dedication to the chamber’s goals and initiatives.