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WATCH: Rachel Sauvola named Citizen of the Year at annual chamber dinner

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Ready Randy's was packed with members of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Jan. 25, for the annual dinner and awards gala. (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)2 / 10
Greg Christenson (left) of Frontier Ag & Turf accepts the award for Medium Business of the Year from chamber President Marie Gremore. (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)3 / 10
Patty Berger, the 2016 New Richmond Citizen of the Year (left), and incoming chamber president Marie Gremore (right) congratulate 2017 Citizen of the Year Rachel Sauvola (center). (Raymond T. Rivard photograph)4 / 10
Members of the VFW Post 10818 in New Richmond were on hand to accept the chamber's Non-Profit of the Year Award. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)5 / 10
Judy Monette (left) is presented the Chamber Ambassador of the Year Award from Chamber President Marie Gremore (right). (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)6 / 10
Outgoing Chamber President Steve Massey (left) with incoming President Marie Gremore. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)7 / 10
Members of Fantastic Sams New Richmond Salon gathered after the announcement that the business was named Small Business of the Year. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)8 / 10
Angela Olson (left) was honored as the Chamber Member of the Year. She is pictured with Chamber President Marie Gremore. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)9 / 10
Scott Soderberg (left) accepts the Large Business of the Year Award from Chamber President Marie Gremore (right). (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)10 / 10

The growth within and around the city of New Richmond is being reflected in the growth of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce.

That fact was on display last Wednesday, Jan. 25, when a record number of member business owners, employees, friends and acquaintances filled Ready Randy's banquet hall for the annual chamber dinner and awards ceremony.

A total of 355 members attended the event to enjoy the networking, the food, drinks, auctions and the announcement of several major awards, including the Citizen of the Year.

"This event is the signature chamber event, a chance for members to network and have a fun evening among friends," chamber Executive Director Rob Kreibich said after the annual dinner.

Like last year, the number of records that were broken was impressive - such as the attendance and the number of businesses that have joined the chamber over the course of the past 12 months.

When Kreibich opened the evening's event from the speaker's podium, attendees were well into their steak dinner.

"Welcome to the annual meeting and awards gala, or as some like to call it—the cake auction—that yearly occasion to celebrate the New Richmond area business community—how far we've come and the exciting year ahead," Kreibich said. "This is our Super Bowl of networking and cake-making, where you can do a year's worth of networking, and sugar consuming, in one evening."

From there, Kreibich, outgoing chamber president Steve Massey and incoming president Marie Gremore kept the program moving along.

"You are part of history tonight as we welcome 355 attendees ... a new record for this event. They say there is strength in numbers, so ... the state of the New Richmond Chamber is strong and getting stronger. I keep telling Randy and Debbie Calleja this wall must come down ... then we'll expand and put up a new wall and yes, have Mexico, I mean the chamber, pay for it," Kreibich quipped.

In addition to announcing Gremore as this year's chamber president, Kreibich also announced the hiring of Michelle Scanlan as the chamber office's newest hire, introduced city officials in attendance and provided thank yous to all the sponsors that made the evening possible.

"[The annual dinner] has now become one of the premier chamber dinners in western Wisconsin, and for a community this size, that says a lot. It sends a message that this chamber is active and that this community is a great place to start, expand or locate a business."

Kreibich also recounted the accomplishments of the past year by the chamber.

"2016 will go down by almost every measure as the best year this chamber has ever had: 56 new members, record attendance at many of our events, 28 ribbon-cuttings and groundbreakings, statewide news coverage in Minnesota and Wisconsin, to name a few achievements. These are not my accomplishments, but yours. The chamber is a collection of many moving parts and I'm just the air traffic controller ..."

From there, Kreibich set the sights on the coming year and the potential for continued growth of the chamber, followed by the announcement of several awards, concluding the night with the announcement of the Citizen of the Year.

The awards

The complete list of award winners is as follows:

-- Chamber Ambassador of the Year—Judy Monette

-- Chamber Member of the Year—Angela Olson

-- Chamber Small Business of the Year—Fantastic Sams New Richmond Salon

-- Large Business of the Year—First National Community Bank

-- Medium Business of the Year—Frontier Ag and Turf

-- Non-Profit of the Year—New Richmond VFW

-- Citizen of the Year—Rachel Sauvola

Bringing people and business together is Kreibich's rallying cry, the passion he feels for making New Richmond a great destination for business.

"You could feel the momentum and energy in the room as we looked back on a record setting year and look forward to 2017 ..." Kreibich said after the event. "[The next year] will include the historic St. Croix River Crossing event, a 50th anniversary Park Art Fair, and perhaps resurrecting a holiday parade downtown. We are also on pace for another 50 new members in 2017 as we strive to hit 400 members in the near future."

And in concluding, Kreibich said of the night: "It's a nice event to highlight deserving chamber members, community members, businesses and non-profits. There are incredible success stories to share and the annual dinner provides the perfect venue to salute people making a difference in our community."