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Chamber celebrates its 80th with lumberjacks

June 13, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

To celebrate its 80th year, Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce will host two events this summer.

On June 16 there will be a lumberjack show. Three shows, in fact. "Why are we having a lumberjack show? There are no trees. We don't have any trees? What's fun about that?" These are the responses Chamber Executive Director Deb White heard when she first pitched the new idea of a lumberjack show in denuded Emmetsburg.

White assures all who come out on the 16th will have a rollicking good time. The lumberjack activities include log rolling, log cutting (single and 2 x 2), chainsaw cutting and pole climbing.

Kid Again Inflatable Fun Shows will furnish a bounce house for kids in the toddler zone. For kids of all ages, there will be the Hippo Chow Down. This is a replication of the Hungry Hippo board game. Amy Martini has organized dodge ball competitions. Northland Auto & Marine will give free boat rides on Five Island Lake. And there will be carnival games.

All events take place at Soper Lake.

The August 30 event is more traditional. The Farmer Businessperson Picnic will take place at the fairgrounds. The picnic reprises events of the forties and fifties when the community turned out to thank its farmers. White says the first event in 1800 had to be moved to the airport hangar because so many people turned out for the free steak and baked potato dinner.

This year's picnic emphasizes Emmetsburg's Ag community; she encouraged residents to bring and display their farm equipment. "We want to say thanks to our ag-related businesses," says White.

Food will be provided.

White joined the Chamber in August 2010. She owned a fabric store for 29 years but after machines removed the more time-consuming elements of quilting, White decided it was time to move on.

"The Chamber does everything that people think just get done," White replies when asked what the Chamber does. In 1933, when Emmetsburg's first version of a Chamber took shape, this meant working with the federal government to get the Emmetsburg Post Office built at a time when the average wage was 40 cents an hour.

In 1944, the Chamber hosted a contest to rid Medium Lake of its spectacularly dull name. Mrs. A. J. Swanton, whose husband ran the theater, came up with Five Islands Lake.

More recently, the Chamber worked with Economic Development and retail associations to demolish the derelict Wards building and erect a new building in its place.

White is part of the greater Iowa Chamber of Commerce Executives network. She says the network is an invaluable resource. When Montag Manufacturing wanted to ship product to the Ukraine, the government required the goods come with a certificate of origin to prove they were made in Emmetsburg. White reached out to her peers in Orange City for assistance. She learned the Chamber is the only entity that can sign off on certificates because it is an internationally recognized organization.

Of the many events she has organized or been part of, White says two stand out. In 2014, the Des Moines Register's Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) passed through Emmetsburg. "People who came to town learned all about Emmetsburg's hospitality," says White. She is most proud of how the various committees pulled together to make the event a resounding success.

The following year, the Chamber hosted Dream to Reality, a contest that awarded up to $18,000 to new business owners to launch a business in Emmetsburg. The result was Deja Brew.

White says the Chamber continues to focus on improving life in Emmetsburg. The young people who moved away are returning because they want to raise families here. White understands. She may have been born in Ottumwa but she is proud to call Emmetsburg home.



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