Chamber limelight shines on Kathie Alley

January 17

The closest Greg Walden got to politics in a Hood River appearance Thursday night was a joke about having the same hairline as Vice President Dick Cheney.

Walden, the Hood River native and U.S. Congressman, emceed the Hood River Chamber of Commerce Installation Banquet, an event with a “Night at the Oscars” theme.

But the banquet was about people who serve the community out of the limelight. Politics and movie stars were far from the forefront in the event at Columbia Gorge Hotel.

The star of the night was Kathie Alley, named Chamber Member of the Year. Walden recounted Oscar Night history during the program, including some of the shortest acceptance speeches ever.

In that spirit, Alley said a brief “thank you,” and curtsied to the crowd of nearly 200 people.

The event rolled credits for the people who helped 2003 be among the most successful years ever for the Chamber, said outgoing president Pat Graham.

“We had more new members and more revenue than ever,” said Graham, costumed for the evening in, fittingly, “gaffer,” one of the background people in movie credits.

Jean Harmon, the 2002 Chamber Member of the Year, introduced Alley by describing her as “among the people you never hear about.”

“Our winner (Alley) is a long-time chamber member but she is not always in the spotlight, but always working hard.” Alley, who with her husband, John, owns Odell’s Mid-Valley Market, was heavily involved in Chamber business retention programs and has been a key organizer of the Chamber’s Harvest Fest for several years. Alley was the Chamber president in 2002.

Harmon said Alley has been integral to the annual Odell Fiesta event, a bicultural event held in September, and has been “a great help” in fostering the two-year-old Heights Business Association as well as the Upper Valley Business Association.

The banquet was a time to look backward at the year’s accomplishments and to recognize the work of new and retiring chamber directors, ambassadors, and Hood River County Visitors Council members.

Chris Strader was installed as 2004 president, and Blaire Carr was introduced as Ambassadors’ president. Alley is 2004 president-elect, Diane Rhodes is secretary-treasurer, and serving as vice presidents are Stu Watson, Ray Felton, and Joanie Thomson.

Graham said Strader is a “good guy to know because he has a connection to beer.” Strader is pub manager at Full Sail Brewery, and he and his wife, Julie, own Hood River Jewelers.

Strader, dressed in a tuxedo, used the brewing theme to craft his remarks: “like a good beer culture, the Chamber needs to be nurtured all year long.”

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