About 130 people showed up at the John Day Elks Lodge for the Grant County Chamber of Commerce’s annual installation dinner on Nov. 8.
Rancher Jack Southworth, serving as master of ceremonies, recalled how Grant County looked 80 years ago when the chamber was first organized and how much has changed.
State Sen. Ted Ferrioli delivered a short talk filled with humorous quips and later led the installation ceremonies for Bruce Ward as the chamber’s new president and for the chamber’s board of directors, including new directors Sally Knowles and Elaine Livran.
Ferrioli began by noting that Grant County is home to this year’s 2A state volleyball champions.
“I find it amazing how often athletes of Grant County take top honors,” he said.
Ferrioli, who is leaving the Senate to take a seat on the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Council, said he relied on groups like the chambers of commerce for information to take to the legislature — especially considering the size of Senate District 30, the largest in Oregon — and he urged chamber members to continue what they do.
“You are the heart of the community,” he said. “You probably don’t realize how much power you have.”
John Day City Manager Nick Green, who spoke to the chamber a year ago shortly after moving here from the Seattle area, tried to provide a thumbnail history of the city’s accomplishments over the past year in less than a minute — but he needed a 30-second extension.
Looking forward, Green said he will issue an executive vision document in January and the first of what he plans to be an annual state of the city address in February. He said he hopes the address will elicit public feedback.
Green said a design contract for the Innovation Gateway project will be signed in March, and a new river trail will be dedicated in the spring. He also said he wants to figure out a way to replace the public swimming pool.
Chamber Office Manager Tammy Bremner described a busy year that just concluded, which included tens of thousands of visitors during the eclipse and the Rainbow Gathering. She said the chamber planned for 10,000 eclipse visitors, but more than 20,000 showed up.
“It was a great success because we planned ahead,” she said, noting that the chamber later received numerous emails and letters from visitors thanking the community for a great experience in Grant County.
Bremner said about 3,000 people have downloaded a travel app from the chamber’s revised website, adding that about 2,000 came from China.
“That’s probably because of the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site,” she said.
Ward said his strategy for promoting tourism to the Grant County area would be based on promoting John Day because of the city’s name recognition across the United States. He said he wants to link John Day to its sister cities of Ontario, Vale, Prairie City and Prineville and to promote Highway 26 as the preferred scenic route across Eastern Oregon.
Outgoing president Jerry Franklin characterized Bremner and Ward as the chamber’s “Energizer bunnies.” Ward presented Franklin with a plaque in recognition of his longtime support of the chamber.
Ferrioli recalled how the outgoing president put John Day on the map in 2010 when a white supremacist group attempted to establish a headquarters in John Day: “Jerry Franklin told the skinheads to go to hell.”