LAKE PARK -- Local business members gathered Thursday evening in celebration of the ninth annual Membership Appreciation Dinner hosted by the Lake Park Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

Attendees enjoyed a social hour with eclectic live entertainment from the band Highway 41 of Dasher, followed by a buffet-style dinner.

Board Member Sandy Sherill welcomed guests and said "thank-you" to all chamber members who help make Lake Park a desirable place in Georgia.

Many local officials and representatives attended the event, including commissioners from Lowndes and Echols counties and State Rep. Ellis Black.

Black introduced the guest speaker, Terry Johnson of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Jonhson gave a short presentation on the ruby-throated hummingbird, which breeds most commonly in the eastern half of North

America and is often seen in Georgia.

"Everybody loves a bird," Johnson said, "Whether it's a cardinal in the winter or a bluebird in the spring."

Attendees received advice on how to attract hummingbirds and maintain areas to encourage longer feeding.

Various board affiliates gave awards and recognition to many Lake Park business members.

Representatives from Sam's Club presented a $2,000 check to Rhonda Barnes, the chamber's executive director, and Sherill, part of the Wal-Mart "Good Works" incentive.

"What a wonderful surprise," Sherill said. "This will certainly help us do the great work we do for this area."

Six third-through-fifth-grade coloring contest winners were presented with various awards, from savings bonds to goodie bags.

First place winner Jenna Musgrove received a $100 savings bond from Park Avenue Bank.

The children's artwork was judged by the Department of Economic Development, and some pieces will be used on a future Lake Park road sign.

Billy Langdale, board member for the Department of Transportation, told the chamber many crape myrtle trees and wild flower plots would line Lake Park's section of the interstate, making the area more inviting for passing drivers.

"I hope we can make Lake Park more beautiful than it is today," Langdale said.

The chamber presented yearly awards to the following businesses:

Retail Business of the Year went to the Dress Barn; Travelodge received the Lodging Business of the Year award; Restaurant of the Year went to the Farmhouse restaurant; New Business of the Year went to Lake Park Pharmacy; Bill Touchton received the Community Partner of the Year award; Entrepreneur of the Year went to John Reed of Southwind Sporting Clay; Media Partner of the Year went to RTG Media; Business of the Year went to Van's Cabinet Shop; and Person of the Year went to J.C. McMullen Sr.

The chamber also recognized Walter Newsome for his consistent dedication to furthering local projects and causes.

Sherill said the chamber is currently working to develop a booklet to give newcomers and Lake Park visitors.

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