By STEVEN NALLEY
The Maben Chamber of Commerce will hold its biennial banquet 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at the First Baptist Church of Maben.
Maben Mayor Larry Pruitt said tickets can be purchased for $20 each by calling Maben City Hall at 662-263-4212. Semi-formal attire is recommended, he said.
Shawn Nygard, chamber president, said this is only the chamber’s second banquet, and it provides an opportunity to recognize new businesses in town and other area businesses which have enriched the community. Unlike banquets past, he said, the recognition will not come in the form of awards.
“Last time we gave out around 40 or 50 different awards,” Nygard said. “This year’s is more focused on enriching the community, not as much on recognition of leaders in business.”
In the two years since the previous banquet, Nygard said the chamber has much to celebrate. In 2011, Maben began hosting a farmer’s market with the chamber’s assistance, he said, and the chamber has also continued to offer college scholarships and assist with such annual events as the Christmas parade and the Maben Day in the Park. Also, he said several new businesses have come to town.
“We have a new fitness business in town called F.A.T. Co.,” Nygard said. “We’ve also had ... an independent store called The General Store. It’s a second-hand grocery type of thing.”
Pruitt said a lot of Maben businesses lost to the recession have returned and they are now holding their own. He said he appreciates the chamber’s support for both businesses and students.
“The chamber has done so much giving back to the community with the scholarships,” Pruitt said. “We’re very fortunate to have some good students here. Maybe one day (they will) become successful and return to Maben.
“The chamber works so hard,” Pruitt added. “They always do a wonderful job on (the banquet) for being (in) a small town. We thank the Baptist church, also, for letting us use the facility.”
Nygard said the banquet’s guest speaker is Dolphus Weary, president of the Rural Education and Leadership Foundation, which connects economic and technical resources with rural Christian ministries.
“His mission is to encourage unity in the community,” Nygard said. “He came from a small Mississippi town. His purpose in speaking is to encourage the young folks and the old folks in this town to encourage and strengthen their community.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting night,” Nygard added. “I think the speaker’s going to bring an interesting message about leaning on each other in small towns. I think he’s going to bring that in a way that the people accept it and are encouraged by it.”
Finally, Nygard said Maben country and bluegrass group A Long Way To Go will perform at the banquet.
He said the venue has a 225-person limit, and as of Thursday, only 140 tickets were sold. Tickets must be purchased by Wednesday, he said.
“Last time we set up for more but didn’t have as many turn out,” Nygard said.” We didn’t sell but about 120. It caught us a little off guard. This time we decided we should be a little more cautious in our efforts.
“We’ve already outsold the last time, and we have pretty good indications that we’ll sell (more tickets),” Nygard added. “Some didn’t purchase tickets; they just gave donations.”