By Steve Guntli
The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce capped off a year of growth and change with its annual general meeting (AGM).
On November 6, chamber members filled the Ferndale Events Center to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and look forward to the future.
“We started with a very aggressive business plan,” said outgoing chamber president Jeff Carrington. “We were counseled to pare it back, to be a little more conservative, but we were stubborn, and as a result, we put together some of the best festivals we’ve ever seen.”
The chamber sponsored five festivals over the summer, revamping and expanding a few old favorites and introducing new ones. Discovery Days became Discover Birch Bay Days and Crab Fest, shifting the festival to late August to capitalize on crabbing season. Though the first day of the festival was cut short by a sudden windstorm, Carrington praised the festival’s volunteers, who came back the next morning to clean up and prepare for the second day.
This summer also saw the expansion of the Sandcastle Competition, Birch Bay Kite Festival and the Birch Bay Music Festival, and the introduction of Roll Back Weekend.
Chamber membership rose 100 members in 2014 to 242. Carrington said the chamber has now become the second-largest chamber of commerce in the county, behind only Bellingham.
Chamber members elected four new directors for the board. Jesse Creydt, Sarah Weightman, LaVinia Reneau and Toni Sutherland were elected to replace Carrington, executive secretary Carrie Beck and directors Pam Hansen and Gary Gibbons. Current vice president Mike Kent was also reelected. The board will assign officer positions at a forthcoming chamber meeting, said board director Wayne Diaz. Carrington said he would stay involved with the chamber and act in an advisory capacity for the next chamber president.
Several other events are still planned for the winter. The Ring of Fire and Hope, in which locals light flares around the periphery of the bay, is scheduled to return on December 31, followed by the Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day. The chamber is also promoting the Bay of Lights, encouraging businesses and residences along Birch Bay Drive to decorate their exteriors with Seahawks-colored holiday lights. Carrington said the plan is to keep the lights up from November 25 through the end of the year, or through February if the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl.