Parking spaces were at a premium Wednesday evening, Jan. 31 at Randy Calleja's south side eatery and banquet facility when the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce took over for its Annual Meeting and Awards Gala.

"The theme at this event is the Roaring 20's ... and roaring is a good word to describe the state of the New Richmond Chamber. Roaring like a freight train," proclaimed Chamber Executive Director Rob Kreibich.

A crowd that would have made the Great Gatsby feel right at home set an all-time attendance record for the event. Well over 400 members and their guests threw prohibition to the wind while networking and perusing an appetizing selection of silent auction opportunities to start the evening. Between bites of a top-notch dinner, audience members managed to confirm the Chamber's new 2018 Board of Directors along with officers Larry Gee - President, Kim Gorres - Vice President and Candy Peterson - Treasurer.

Outgoing President Marie Gremore reported the Chamber grew by more than 50 members for the third consecutive year bringing it to the brink of 400 members.

Kreibich announced he expects the Chamber to surpass 400 members in 2018 while implementing improvements and offering new opportunities.

"This may be the year we top 400 members, which would make us the largest chamber for a city under 10,000 population in the state of Wisconsin. We are weeks away from launching a modernized new website. We are creating a new community calendar you are going to like. We are continuing our overhaul of the Park Art Fair with more family activities, more food booths, and a New Richmond's Got Talent event Saturday afternoon. Finally, we are doing our first ever joint chamber trip to Italy with Travel Leaders and the Menomonie Chamber," said Kreibich.

If you wanted dessert, you had to bid on it and cake was the only item on the menu. The evening's main event, the much anticipated Desserts (Cake) Auction began with a bang as guest auctioneer Scott Coolidge (Patriot Heating, set the bar high awarding the first cake to Bosch Packaging Technology, Inc. with a winning bid of $3,350. Bosch representative Candy Peterson claimed the first cake "Glimmering Chandelier Style" donated by Ready Randy's Sports Bar & Grill / R & D Catering.

"We are still calculating the totals, but the dessert auction was one of, if not the best, one we have ever had. We sold 10 cakes and the initial one went for around $3,300, which is the most we have sold a cake for," said Kreibich. "We also set a record for the silent auction. All of that will allow us to spend more money to attract tourists to New Richmond and to support our other endeavours. 2018 is already off to a great start for us."

Ever wonder why admission to the Park Art Fair and Fun Fest are free? The Gala is the Chamber's single largest fundraising event with funds paying for a wide variety of events during the year including the Park Art Fair and Fun Fest.

The evening's festivities concluded with the awards ceremony. Veteran Chuck Mehls took home 2017 Citizen of the Year Award.

"Congratulations on 50 years of dedication and service to your community. Chuck Mehls, New Richmond Citizen of the Year," announced Kreibich.

The Chamber also recognized John Soderberg with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedicated work on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge.

Business and Member Awards went to:

Small Business of the Year - Threshing Table Farm owned by Mike & Jody Lenz.

Medium Business of the Year - St. Croix County Abstract & Title Co., owned by Robert and Spring Loberg.

Large Business of the Year - Bosch Packaging Technology, Inc.

Non Profit of the Year - Big Brother Big Sisters of the St. Croix Valley.

Linda La Kosky-Eng took home Ambassador of the Year while long-time chamber member Jackie Rivard took home Chamber Member of the Year. Kreibich recognized outgoing board members Debbie Calleja and Jill Gorres for their service and thanked recent Chamber addition, Member Services and Events Coordinator Michelle Scanlan, for her contributions to the Chamber and community.

"We're off to a great start in 2018 with 15 new members signed up in the first 31 days. Tomorrow we'll continue our quest for 400 members but tonight, we want to celebrate just how far we've come thanks to all of you who've played a big part," said Kreibich.