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River focus of Concordia Chamber dinner, awards

VIDALIA — The Mississippi River and its impact on Concordia Parish will be the theme surrounding the Concordia Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards diner and celebration Thursday evening.

The theme, “A River Runs Through Us,” was chosen to represent the endless opportunities the river offers for the parish and surrounding areas, chamber executive director Jamie Wiley said.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

“There was a small group of us that got together, and we kept talking about what this area means and what makes us so viable, and it’s the river,” Wiley said. “Practically everything we have going for us stems from the use of the river, and it’s like a highway of opportunity for us all.”

The evening will feature three guest speakers: Vidalia Port Director Wyly Gilfoil, Concordia Economic Development Director Heather Malone and local historian Corinne Randazzo.

“The trio will make a short presentation regarding the past, present and future possibilities the river offers the area and the community,” Wiley said. “We wanted to highlight how important the river has been for us in the past and how it will continue to be important in the future.”

Gilfoil, who was named the city’s port director in 2012, said he will speak about the importance of maritime commerce for Louisiana.

A record $25 billion worth of agriculture commodities shipped from Louisiana ports in 2012, almost half of the South’s total, according to a report released by the Southern United States Trade Association.

“What it boils down to is the opportunities it provides for Vidalia and Natchez,” Gilfoil said. “Louisiana has five of the top ports in the nation and 32 operating ports within the state, so there’s a wide range of opportunities the river and ports can offer us.”

The city is nearing completion of its 40-acre port facility off Louisiana 131, which is expected to be moving agriculture products onto barges as early as this fall.

Concordia Economic Development Director Heather Malone said she will discuss recent projects the parish is working on that take advantage of the river.

“It’s such a great natural resource and has played such a big role in our community,” Malone said. “I’ll talk about some of the projects we have from the agriculture side to the tourism opportunities that have and will continue to benefit our area.”

Randazzo said she will discuss the river’s past importance on the area.

“I’ll be speaking about how the early settlers used it up to the Spanish and French settlers,” Randazzo said. “There’s just so much to cover.”

Four awards will be presented after the speakers’ presentations: volunteer of the year, male Concordian of the year, female Concordian of the year and business of the year.

“The volunteer of the year doesn’t have to be a chamber member this year and that’s something new we decided to change,” Wiley said. “We also decided to split up Concordian of the year into male and female categories.”

Individual tickets to the dinner are $70.

The following table sponsorships are also available:

• Platinum sponsorship — 8 seats, preferred seating and complimentary wine for $1,000

• Gold sponsorship — 8 seats for $800

• Silver sponsorship — 4 seats for $400

• Cocktail sponsorship — 2 seats for $250

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served from 6 to 6:45 p.m.

A silent and live auction will also be hosted with auctioneer Barry Maxwell.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 318-282-0620.

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