By Jesse Wood
Awards are certainly nice, but affirmation from the community is even better.
After the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives announced that the Blowing Rock Chamber was named the “Outstanding Chamber of the Year” for North Carolina and South Carolina at its annual management conference on Oct. 20, the phones at the Blowing Rock Chamber office rang off the hook.
“We were overwhelmed by the number of emails and phone calls that we’ve gotten from the community to congratulate us on this award,” said Blowing Rock Chamber Events Director Billie Rogers. “Not only is the award special but acknowledgement from the community just furthers that … We think we are doing a good job, but more than that the community thinks we are doing a good job and that’s even better.”
According to the CACCE, the award recognizes “organization excellence” and significant achievements or accomplishments initiated or led during the past 18 months.
In a two-page nomination letter submitted to the CACCE, the Blowing Rock Chamber was lauded for enticing 50,000 visitors to the village for events such Art in the Park, Blowing Rock Winterfest, Savor Blowing Rock and Symphony by the Lake.
“Our events are very successful financially and have longevity,” the nomination reads, noting that Art in the Park is 54 years old; Symphony by the Lake nearly 30 years old; Savor Blowing Rock, a wine/beer and food festival, 12 years old; and the Blowing Rock Winterfest, 18 years old.
The nomination letters mentions that most of these events have received special recognition as a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Association, among other awards or recognitions for both the town and chamber events.
The nomination letter also cites a five-star review online: “A group of seriously hard working folks who do their best to help make Blowing Rock as successful, fun and hospitable as it is beautiful! Doing all they can to make your experience as fabulous as your memories.”
The Chamber’s Village Foundation, a nonprofit that can accept different kinds of donations, has contributed to community projects such as the festive winter lighting and the Laurel Lane improvement project.
Blowing Rock Chamber was chosen as the top chamber from among 100-plus chambers in the two-state region, but that wasn’t the only award or recognition that Executive Director Charles Hardin and staff came away with.
Hardin was named “Carolinas Certified Chamber Executive” and the Blowing Rock Chamber was recognized as a “Carolinas Accredited Chamber.” Hardin noted that these certifications “took a lot of hard work.”
Only 24 chambers in North Carolina and South Carolina have received this “prestigious” designation, as the association described the certification. Blowing Rock was given this award this fall along side Boone and Greater Smithfield-Selma Area chambers in N.C. and the North Augusta Chamber in S.C.
The CACCE awarded the “Outstanding Chamber of the Year” Award to multiple chambers in different classifications: under 700 members and more than 700 members.
Both Hardin and Rogers praised the small staff of paid employees and dozens of volunteers that have contributed to a successful chamber.
“Well, we are extremely honored to be the Chamber of the Year for North Carolina and South Carolina and it shows the depth of professionalism of our team and all the hard work they’ve put in to get that award. We are all excited about that,” Hardin said.