"We've had a really busy year," said Detroit Lakes Chamber President Carrie Johnston at the start of Thursday night's Chamber of Commerce Celebration and Awards Banquet

Indeed. Johnson explained that the Chamber's year officially ends in June, which means that since last year's banquet, the community has witnessed its first ice harvest since 1971, followed by the building and tearing down of a 32-foot-high Ice Palace on the city beach, where King Isbit reigned supreme during the community's 2018 Polar Fest celebration.

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This year-long project brought upwards of 15,000 visitors to the community in January and February - and earned the Ice Palace Committee the Chamber's 2018 Tourism Award.

"The Tourism Award is given to an organization who deserves to be recognized for their efforts to promote our region to tourists," said Johnston. "This year's recipient took a big idea and made it even 'cooler' - though they jokingly called themselves the Ignorant Optimists Club, they planned for over a year to be sure that every detail was well thought out and explored.

"The Ice Harvest, History Tours, Ice Palace and Palatial Playground brought an additional 15,000 visitors to an already busy Polar Fest week," she added. "Over 500 volunteers and sponsors spent many smiling hours in below zero weather to build a project worthy of a king."

Other honorees at the banquet were Rising Star Award winner Barb Zahasky of Mainstream Boutique, and Chairman's Award winners Jackie Buboltz of Essentia Health St. Mary's (individual) and Sanford Health (business).

Of Zahasky, Johnston said, "Each year the chamber honors a member whose leadership and willingness to contribute makes them shine. This year's rising star was nominated because of her work on the Art Crawl in downtown Detroit Lakes. She brought the idea to the Promotions and Events Committee three years ago and is committed to its success."

Buboltz was honored, Johnston said, because of her "commitment and service to the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. She always has a positive attitude for our community, schools and businesses."

Buboltz also helped to launch the Chamber's new LEADERship Detroit Lakes program," Johnston added, noting, "She was committed to helping design a quality program and be sure that each participant was connected with a mentor that would help the participant reach their goals."

Neither Buboltz nor Zahasky were able to attend Thursday night's celebration, which was held at the Holiday Inn.

Last but not least, Sanford Health was recognized "for their commitment and service to the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce," Johnston said, through being active on the Chamber Board of Directors as well as encouraging its staff to be active in community events, fundraisers and health initiatives.

Also recognized were incoming Chamber board members Amy Wolf of Lake Crest Resort, Brittany Nordick of BTD Manufacturing and Peggy Akers of Hannahers, along with retiring board members Kristina Seifert and Lori Blonigan.

The last bit of business for the evening was the "passing of the gavel" from outgoing Chamber board chair Marjorie Berg of West-Kjos Funeral Home to 2018-19 chair Kelley Nowell of Rural MN CEP/Workforce Center.

After that, many of the attendees adjourned to the Holiday Inn Beach Bar, where Tim Eggebraaten performed and a drawing was held for a free pontoon ride around Detroit Lake. Bill Livdahl was the winner of the pontoon ride.