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Chamber 'after hours' set to unite three cities

If you're a Chamber of Commerce member or a potential member, The Inn at Horse Heaven in Prosser is the place to be Thursday, Jan. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m.

A first-time tri-chamber After Hours Social has been scheduled to bring together the Prosser, Grandview and Sunnyside communities.

After hour socials are not a new concept with chamber members in those cities, but they have not always been well attended. In fact, the Prosser Chamber of Commerce dropped theirs due to lack of attendance, while Grandview and Sunnyside struggles on with half a dozen or so showing up for informal monthly gatherings of business representatives.

"The chambers have been so protective of their turf, they've lost sight that we're all together and we feel those barriers need to come down," said Jacob Van Pelt, marketing manager for The Inn at Horse Heaven, where the first of three annual After Hour Socials will be held, and one of the promoters of the idea for three chambers to iron out a concept that could benefit the entire Lower Valley.

"We're hosting the first one," said Van Pelt. "Grandview will have one in June and Sunnyside in the fall."

According to Van Pelt, the idea for a combined chamber gathering originated with Gary Heslop, a CPA and past president of Prosser Chamber of Commerce.

"He thought, with brand new executives coming on board the chambers in each community, it was time to put something together. Since I work a lot with the tourism bureau and it sort of fits in with the nature of my job, I became involved, along with Fred Lamb, who's from Prosser and director of tourism" said Van Pelt.

Those new chamber directors-Jim Milne of Prosser, Lynda Jo Gross of Grandview and Mary Ann Bonny of Sunnyside-are supporting the idea and working toward making the Jan. 19 gathering in Prosser a gala affair.

The refreshment tables will be laden with wine, cheese, chocolates and hors d' oeuvres.

Chandler Reach Vineyards of Benton City and Kestrel Vinters and Pontin Del Roza Winery, both of Prosser, will be pouring the best of their vintages, and the cheese will be Dairy Fair of Sunnyside's offering. At least one chocolatier, Anna LeBlanc of Prosser, will provide her specialties, some of which will also be among the door prizes that organizers are planning to give away every 15 minutes.

The Inn at Horse Heaven will award a grand prize of a stay in its honeymoon suite, and Sunset Coach Tours will award a wine tour for two at some point during the two-hour event.

"There will be other prizes and businesses involved as we put this together," said Van Pelt.

And there will be music.

""We'll have K and J Jazz, a traditional jazz duo from Richland," said Don West, general manager of The Inn at Horse Heaven.

All chamber members or potential members are being invited to the evening gala. Special postcards, fashioned by Marnie Gibbs of Prosser from a flyer announcing the event, are being sent to current chamber members in all three cities.

Linda Hartshorn, owner of Dykstra House in Grandview, is helping the organizers make sure every guest is registered. She has donated the guest book that will list all those who attend this first-but not last-elaborate tri-chamber After Hours Social.

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