Energized and now debt-free, the Merchants Association of Columbia County plans to move forward in 2006 with more community events to benefit those in need, said association President Ben Ivey during Tuesday's officer installation banquet.
"(This year, I expect) bigger crowds, better events and helping more people because that's what we do," Ivey said. "That's the whole (purpose) for this organization is helping people. If we can figure out more ways to do it, then that's well and good."
Looking to the future, Ivey said the association will consider adding concerts and a spring circus, but added that Tuesday was the association's first meeting of the year and more deliberation is required.
He also said future changes to Columbia Road and William Few Parkway could require changes to the layout of the fairgrounds and county fair with an expanded midway and more attractions.
"I'm hoping we're going to add another animal act, or maybe two more animal acts and that's what the people like," he said.
Ivey told the members he was unsure of coming back as president this year until he was reminded of the good in the community association events had achieved. He mentioned the scholarships awarded five Columbia County students from the proceeds of the annual golf tournament, the success of the county fair and Christmas parade.
"All in all, we didn't have that bad a year," Ivey said. "We didn't accomplish everything I would have liked to, but we didn't have a bad year."
The fair grossed more than $150,000 and the association was able to pay off debt on their properties, he said.
"We were not the board members that borrowed all the money years ago, but by George we are the board members that paid it back," Ivey said to cheers from members as he ripped up the bank note.
During the meeting, the members swore in Ivey, Billy Becton as treasurer, Bobby Harrington as president-elect for 2007, Adam Meister as secretary and Mike Zapata, the past president. Also sworn-in were lifetime directors Becton, George Kelley, Ted Lane and Alvin Postell and board members Stanley Crozier, Graham Ellison, Forrest Maddox, Butch Powell, Pam Randall and George Sleister.
Tommy King, the owner of King Funeral Home and Columbia County's coroner, was named 2006 merchant of the year. Powell was named director of the year and Zapata was honored with the president's award.
The Merchants Association supports charities such as the Columbia County Foundation for Children, the Red Cross, Camp Rainbow, Project Wish and the Children's Miracle Network.
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