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Our Events Build Community (Directors Corner Nov. 2023)

Events are community builders.  That’s the premise around here and if we ever needed reinforcement of that fact, the Great Columbia Crossing on October 8th really drove it home.

Here’s what I’m talking about: Our major events (Great Columbia Crossing 10k and the Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival) are off-season economic drivers, bringing commerce to our towns during traditionally slower times.  They are also fundraisers for the chamber, subsidizing our low membership dues and allowing us to do the important work of supporting the collective and sustained success of our local economy.

But neither of those things securely ties the chamber to those events or those events to the chamber.  In other words, the economic benefits could still exist if someone besides the chamber hosted those events and there are alternative – and arguably easier – ways of generating operating funds for the chamber.

Neither event is remotely easy to stage.  In fact, we’re already deep into the work required to host the Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival and that doesn’t start until April 26, 2024.  Planning for the next Great Columbia Crossing will begin even before the Crab Festival kicks off, including permits and coordination with over a dozen different agencies.

Knowing this, what is it that makes us keep putting on these two complicated and difficult events?  The not-so-obvious element that makes these events not only worthwhile, but mission-central to the chamber, is community building.  That’s one of the tasks that we’ve identified as necessary if we want our vision to come true of being a place where everyone can find meaningful economic opportunities, the others being connections and partnerships, leadership development, and storytelling.

With so many moving parts and so much collaboration required on both sides of the river, the Crossing really needs the community to come through and help us make this happen.

And, boy did you come through.  You, the dozens upon dozens of volunteers.  You, the agency staff, who cheerfully took on the extra workload.  You, the service groups who made big chunks of the work your own.  You, the local contractors we hired for security, traffic management, towing, and more, who did what you said you’d do and then some.  You, the participants who paid attention to the changes in our parking plan and in many cases even helped us out with the operations.  You, the member merchants who participated in the Clam Bucks program and provided great service and products to attendees.  You, the public who made our guest feel welcome and waited patiently for the bridge to reopen.

These are the parts of this event that both rely on and build community.  These are the parts of the events that make our events chamber events.

Speaking of Clam Bucks, we had a record number returned by participating businesses this year.  Over 12,500 tokens came back to us from the twenty-six participating member businesses.  Since we limit redemption to 5 tokens per transaction, that means that more than 2,500 sales were made to race participants in one week.  Because our goal is to not only drive commerce through events, but to spread it as far and wide as possible, this is a big win (and a trackable one at that).  One member put her 435 tokens into perspective for me, saying, “This represents eighty-seven customers who might never have come through my door.  Eighty-seven people we had the chance to wow and turn into repeat customers.”

This is chamber work. This is community building, economic development, storytelling, connection-building, and opportunity creating.

If you’re not tapping into all the opportunities available through our events (and myriad other efforts), please talk to us and let us help you do so.  Membership is not an expense, it’s an investment, and we can help you make it one of your highest yielding.

Now, let’s get to work.