WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Concluding with a riotous turn by five-time West Virginia State Liars’ Contest winner Bil Lepp, the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner and meeting also featured a trio of awards and plenty of networking opportunities.
Around 220 people — including local leaders of business, education and government — gathered for the event Friday night in The Greenbrier resort’s Colonial Hall.
Named the chamber’s Nonprofit of the Year was the Greenbrier Humane Society, founded in 1965 and still making a difference in the community through a successful spay and neuter program and much more.
“They’ve given us a wonderful shelter for homeless animals,” proclaimed chamber President Cathey Sawyer as she presented the award.
Warner Music School was honored with the New Business of the Year award, and Fritz Glasser, owner of Fritz’s Pharmacy, was named Business Leader of the Year.
Explaining why he chose to remain in Lewisburg after “rolling into town in a pickup truck” during a frenetic State Fair week many years ago, Glasser said, “The people are really great. We’ve got the best people.”
The pharmacist said the most effective health advice he knows to offer is, “Be strong, and be positive.” Those two attributes, he said, “will do more for you than medicine does.”
American storyteller Bil Lepp kept his audience in stitches for more than half an hour at the conclusion of the chamber event. From shorter tales about skunks visiting a camp cabin and a young man in search of the ideal “mountain princess” to a rambling yarn that took listeners into a jointly operated Methodist/Baptist vacation Bible school and then on to a woolen sock filled with pennies and back to the Baptist church’s infamous bat-filled belfry, Lepp’s stories certainly lived up to their reputation.
In between the heartfelt awards presentations and Lepp’s side-splitting tales, attendees dined on grilled filet of beef and crab “Oscar,” prepared by The Greenbrier’s culinary staff.
There was also some time to peruse an information-packed annual report for 2018, which revealed that the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce now boasts more than 300 members.
Over the past year, the report indicated, the chamber conducted ribbon-cutting ceremonies for six new businesses, as well as holding forums and informational programs, staging a Career Day for students from area high schools and sponsoring a job fair that attracted around 75 job seekers.
MEGA Business — the chamber’s signature event — was once again well-attended, according to the report. It saw more than 60 vendors and 1,000 attendees.
But that event is due for some freshening up next year, when it gets a new name — Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce Business Expo — and its date is boosted higher on the calendar, from early November to Sept. 26.
Highlighted during Sawyer’s remarks, the 34-year-old chamber’s mission is threefold, according to the annual report:
• To support and promote businesses in the Greater Greenbrier Valley and provide programming to increase members’ business.
• To sustain a positive business environment.
• To preserve the quality of life for businesses and residents in and around Greenbrier County.