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Planning (new-normal-style) for the 95th Annual Chamber Membership Luncheon

August 31, 2020

Planning (new-normal-style) for the 95th Annual Chamber Membership Luncheon


   Just when you think you have the whole major event planning process down to a science, the world suddenly and dramatically goes topsy-turvy. But after taking everything into consideration – and I mean EVERYTHING – the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce is proceeding with the 95th Annual Membership Luncheon on Friday, October 2.

With that being said, it won’t be like the previous 94.

For those that are thinking it, no, I haven’t attended all 94. (Very funny.) But I’ve come relatively close, having attended every one since about 1992. That will make this one my 28th, either as a guest, staff member, business member, board member, or board president.

The annual chamber banquet used to be one of about three major events in Charlotte County. It kicked-off the social season with a formal gala for more 600 guests, followed a couple months later by the CARE Ball, and the Heart Ball. That was about it. The old Municipal Auditorium was the site of some fabulous events back-in-the-day.

A few years ago the chamber event was changed to a business luncheon type of banquet, which is now very appropriate. What used to last for hours with fine-dining, speeches, live bands, and dancing has now been whittled down to 90 minutes, give or take. Business attire has replaced tuxedoes and ball gowns. The Municipal Auditorium went away with Hurricane Charley, but thank goodness that gave us our shiny new Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center.

The event center staff is working with us to make sure our 95th is done well within all health and safety protocols. What has become a luncheon banquet for 300 the past few years will be limited to 160 attendees this year. Even though there can be no pitchers on the tables, pre-set plates, or buffets stations, we ARE going to celebrate our New Chamber Year – 2020/2021. Even with social distancing a-plenty, and tables of four instead of 10, we will make it a fabulous celebration of our members and the business community.

And cake. There will be cake … a big 95th Anniversary celebratory cake!

I got ahead of myself. The 95th Annual Luncheon of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce menu consists of Chicken Picatta (sautéed Chicken Breast, finished with lemon and caper beurre blanc sauce) served with roasted red potatoes, asparagus, dinner roll, and bottled waters with individual iced tea packets, followed by the aforementioned marble and cream 95th Anniversary cake. There will be a full bar (it IS a Friday) with only debit/credit card payment accepted. Again, seating is very limited, and the reservation deadline is September 25.

The luncheon is $75 per person or $275 for a table for four.

Those that can’t attend, or don’t feel comfortable attending, can watch live on our Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

August new members

   It is very heartening to realize that more and more businesses understand what the chamber does for them, but what they do by supporting the chamber and our many activities and actions on behalf of the business community.

Please welcome our August new members: Brandon’s Pressure Washing; Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Sarasota; Big C Restoration; Alliance Financial Group-Brian Simon; Isabel and Annabel’s Mexican Restaurant; and Paradise Behavioral Health.

We hope they will come to our 95th as we start our new adventures into Chamber Year 2020/2021.

New-normal event planning

   Every event planner has their standard lists. Select the date, book the venue, send out the invitations, coordinate with the vendors, develop the agenda, and proceed. Each one of those lists has its own set of drop-down lists to pull together the perfect soirée.

Well, there is a whole lot of event planner angst in the world right now. What is right, wrong, healthy, safe, appropriate, new, fun, or dumb are all things to be sorted for an event. And if you’re thinking about event cancellation insurance, also picture insurance underwriters laughing collectively in your face.

The best insurance is to do the best you can with the current facts. And eating cake also helps.


Teri Ashley is the executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, now in its 95th year. She can be reached at 941-627-2222 or at