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About Us: Fifty Plus Years and Going Strong


By Rusty Fleming

The history surrounding the South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce can be presented in a very short story, including the original board members, Isac Smith, Kenneth Snelling, Earl Morrow, Roy Radschweit, William Shaw, W.W. Anderson, Gus Makres, and president George Howell, but there is so much more which has transpired over the last fifty plus years.

There have been at least three name changes; originally the Disney Chamber of Commerce, then the original name change to the South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, later known as the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, and recently a return to the South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

The organization's first president and visionary who championed the need for a south-end chamber of commerce was George Howell. George and Gladys had migrated to Tulsa from Missouri, where George had accepted a sales position with the Bauch & Lomb Eyeware Company.

Later on, they would purchase Grand Lake property near Disney and establish a local newspaper, the South Grand Laker.

Through his efforts and others, the chamber was incorporated with the State of Oklahoma on February 10th, 1970.

Interesting details included in the incorporation included the original yearly dues schedule; unmarried not in business $3, married not in business $6, small business $12, and industrial $24.

For many years the general membership met on the third Thursday of each month, with the Board of Directors meeting before the general meeting. The ladies were encouraged to bring a food dish and the meeting more closely resembled a social event than a business meeting.

From that meager start, the chamber enjoyed a high point membership of some 400 plus and today has an active membership of nearly 300.

In 2013, the chamber established the Barbara Conner Achievement Award, which goes to the member supporting the chamber above and beyond the call of duty.

The late Barbara Conner is credited with being instrumental in guiding the chamber from a sleepy, rural organization to one of the largest and most influential chambers in the state. She served the chamber in many capacities, including President and Executive Director, and was also appointed to the Grand River Dam Authority Board of Directors as an at-large appointee representing lake interests.

Her energy and enthusiasm for the chamber are legendary.

This yearly award which bears her name has always been highly anticipated as each calendar year comes to a close. Former winners include many of Grand Lake's movers and shakers and is an ongoing tradition.

There is also an annual Grand Laker of the Year Award which historically recognizes the member judged to have the most positive impact on the Grand Lake area and support for the chamber.

Simply put, the Chamber's goal is to promote the wonderful businesses and great opportunities at Grand Lake o' the Cherokees in Northeast Oklahoma.

Come to play and we know you'll want to stay!

If it is about Grand Lake, you can bet the South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is involved and leading the parade. Whether it's fun stuff like events and promotions or not-so-fun stuff like lake issues, the Shoreline Management Plan, or changes to the lake rules that would impact members and the public, know that there will be chamber members involved and looking out for the best interest of the chamber, and all of Grand Lake.

For additional information of any kind, including membership opportunities, call the Chamber at (918) 782-3214 or contact the Chamber HERE.

Meet our Current Chamber Board of Directors

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