The Van Buren Chamber of Commerce celebrated June 4 its 60th Anniversary Banquet and Business Fair that featured more than 40 local businesses and organizations.
Booths filled the grand lobby of the Van Buren Fine Arts Center, with hundreds of guests making their way through the rows of exhibits. Participants showcased the various goods and services their businesses offer to the community, with many also hosting special giveaways and prize drawings for the event.
Established in 1955, the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce was formed by a group of concerned citizens who wanted to promote progress in the business and overall community. According to the April 26, 1956 edition of the Van Buren Shopping News, the group "was formed from the framework and through the efforts of the old Business and Professional Association."
The B&PA had existed previously to serve in a similar capacity to a chamber, but was in need of more extensive support from the community. The effort was spearheaded by Tom Lightfoot, owner of the Jones Seed Company. During the organization's formation process, Lightfoot was hired by the original B&PA board to conduct a survey to gauge the level of interest in establishing a chamber. His findings proved "optimistic," with his final report revealing 153 pledges, totaling $7,190 in initial contributions. In April 1955, the group came together to sponsor the official organization of the Chamber. From there, a 24-man board was elected to govern the new organization and from thus, the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce was born.
As part of its 60th Anniversary Celebration, the Chamber added a number of special elements to this year's event, including the creation of a Diamond Sponsor level. First Bank and Sparks Medical Center-Van Buren served as the inaugural presenting sponsors of the banquet. The Diamond Sponsors made it possible to add more "sparkle" to the annual banquet, with the addition of a Diamond Necklace giveaway. All those in attendance were given the chance to enter the special drawing. The prize was a 14 karat gold pendant and chain featuring an approximate one carat diamond cluster.
Lisa Huckelbury received the 2014 Iverson Riggs Memorial Award. It is the top award given by the chamber each year. A Van Buren native, Huckelbury is the business manager at Hawkins-Weir Engineers in Van Buren. She is a graduate of Van Buren High School and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Huckelbury is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Board, as well as a Commissioner for the Van Buren Housing Authority.
Other leadership roles have included serving as Treasurer for the Center for Art and Education board and Secretary of the Boys & Girls Club of Van Buren. She is a United Way volunteer, a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy and Leadership Crawford County. She has also played key role in the "Penny for Our Future" campaign and served as the Volunteer Chairman for Leadercast-Van Buren.
"As further proof Lisa's commitment to the community, she is currently a participant in the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas," said Van Buren Chamber Executive Director Jackie Krutsch. "The mission of CDI is 'to empower people with the knowledge and skills necessary to proactively improve the physical and human resources of their communities, thereby increasing the quality of life for all citizens.' At the completion of the course, she will be eligible to sit for the Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) Certification Exam. PCED Certification is a designation offered for professionals who have demonstrated knowledge and experience in the field community and economic development."
Beverly Johnson of Citizens Bank & Trust Company received the "Ambassador of the Year" Award.