Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce: Chamber shares plans for new year

The Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce has plans to make 2016 an exciting year by returning all eight of its annual events, including the always popular Gear-Head Get Together that attracts crowds of people with its collection of mechanical odds and ends.

“There are people in town from the early morning until late at night. It has a state-fair atmosphere,” said chamber treasurer Kathy Hennen of the four-year-old event that has doubled in size every year since it started in 2012.

But Gear-Head isn’t the only festivity the local chamber of commerce has in store for the community come the new year.

“Our mission is to improve the vitality of the community, making Maple Lake a great place to live and do business,” Hennen said, and that is just what they aim to do.

The group’s second largest event next to Gear-Head is the St. Patrick’s Day parade and it’s the party that gets everything started.

The fun begins on March 5, with the Irish Pre-Party at the American Legion Post 131. This is the chamber of commerce’s biggest fundraiser, its proceeds benefiting the eight major community events the group hosts throughout the year.

It is also when the community recognizes the commodore, the parade’s Grand Marshall and the chamber Business of the Year.

There is a dinner, silent auction, drawings and other forms of entertainment including an act by comedian Roger Radley this year. And best of all, everyone is invited, Hennen said.
March 12th is the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This durable tradition has never been canceled despite the temperamental early spring weather in Minnesota.

“We’ve had every kind of weather there is,” Hennen said. “From 70 degrees one year to below zero. One year a snowstorm the day before dropped a couple feet of snow, but the city cleared off the streets and people were climbing over snowbanks to get around.”

What started with 30 to 40 parade entrants has now grown to more than 100 with visitors coming from all over the state to see it.

Also that day is the chamber’s annual spring craft sale at the Maple Lake Elementary School. This is another large fundraiser for the organization that helps make the rest of the year’s festivities possible, including the June 4th, All City Garage Sale.

On August 20, the much anticipated Gear-Head Get Together takes place.

“It used to be that the parade was the biggest event of the year, now this is the biggest,” Hennen said.

She described the event as much more than a car show, in fact, she knows of no other event in the area quite like this one. Part car show and part swappers meet, it attracts collectors from all over the world to view and show off their unique items, and those are basically anything that involves a gear, motor or engine, Hennen said.

“It’s for anybody interested in things that run, or don’t run for that matter,” she said, noting that the event has had everything from car and boat engines to airplane engines on display.
In addition to the scenery, there is also food, music, dancing and a show.

“One year we had a guy jumping his motorcycle over cars,” Hennen said, and in 2014, a motorcycle stunt driver attracted large crowds.
On October 31, the chamber hosts its annual Business Trick or Treat. This event dates back to 2008, and it, too, has grown every year, attracting more than 200 costumed children to downtown businesses for a treat to put in their bags.

On November 12, the Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce hosts its other major fundraiser, the fall craft sale, then in December, Santa comes to town for the annual Christmas in Maple Lake.
In 2015, the chamber boasted its largest membership ever, with 89 businesses from all over the area, not just Maple Lake. By belonging to the chamber, businesses get certain perks, including a free float entry in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and discounts to advertise on the city’s finger signs.

Members can also be involved in the business bucks campaign which encourages people to shop locally, Hennen said.

“The Maple Lake Chamber of Commerce is all about helping the community and local businesses,” she said.