Tourism, and the economic impact it makes on the Grand Lake area, was the central focus of the 2018 Grove Area Chamber of Commerce banquet.

The event, which took place on Thursday, July 19, at River Bend Casino in Wyandotte, brought together chamber members from across the community to recognize the accomplishments of the past year.

Dick Dutton, executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, was the guest speaker for the event.

Dutton spoke to the crowd about the various ways tourism generates economic development and brings in a cross section of individuals into the region. 

Dutton has served as the executive director of the state's tourism department since 2015.

During the awards portion of the banquet, Chamber President Donnie Crain and this year's outgoing chamber chairman, Jeff Dozier, presented Dr. Larry Stout with the Bob Uttley Volunteer of the Year.

Crain said Stout is a "well known and respected leader" within the Grove community. 

He credited Crain for his efforts in working to revitalize the downtown area which laid a foundation for the current efforts now taking place.

"The amazing work he has done over the years to revitalize our beautiful downtown area," Crain said. "[Makes] it the vibrant busy place it is now and a true asset and gem for our community.

"[It's] and area whose best years [are] still ahead."

This year's ambassador of the year award went to Kristi Blood.

Crain said Blood's work in the past year has been "an amazing example of what it truly means to be an ambassador."

"She attends most, if not all of our many Chamber events, from business after hours, ribbon cuttings, bi-monthly luncheons," Crain said. "She has helped keep the Chamber visible to the community by having liked and shared hundreds of Chamber Facebook posts this past year."

Crain said Blood was an "awesome ambassador" in the past year and well deserving of the award.

Cindy Hefner was named the Chamber's Board of Director of the Year. 

"Her passion for Grove and Grand Land and the Chamber of Commerce was evident from the beginning," Crain said. "What a great ambassador for the community.

"Whatever we, as a Chamber, are involved in, she's there. Whether it's setting up and tearing down after events, supporting new events and promotions, or providing leadership to our awesome Leadership Grove program, you can always count on her."

Crain said in whatever role Hefner is in, she "is a leader, whose knowledge and insight are invaluable."

Other honors included recognizing the outgoing directors: Darren Cook with Darren R. Cook Attorney at Law for three years of service; Angie Medlin of Bank of Grand Lake for six years of service; and Brenda Newnam of Grove Public Library for six years of service.  

Outgoing board chairman Jeff Dozier was recognized for his service, while incoming chairman Kim Shearer was passed the gavel and talked a bit about her vision for the next year.

Other incoming officers for the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce include: 

Amy Napier, incoming chairman (for 2019-20)

Ellen O'Dell, treasurer

Jeff Dozier, immediate past chairman.

Directors for 2018-19 include: Dustin Able, Terra Apperson, Robert Rupp, Ivan Devitt, Elizabeth West, Wanda Endicott, Angela Hamilton, Bill Keefer, Sandra Martin, Joy Justice, Mike Williams, Andy Stewart and Steve Williams.