Good times.

"Hey, Bob, get out of my way!" Bob and I ham it up at the Chamber in Nampa.

The following column first appeared in the Idaho Press-Tribune:

My husband Bob and I recently went on a cruise aboard the “Ship of Opportunity.”

Now, this wasn’t a real cruise — it wasn’t on a real ship and we didn’t glide out into the sea. But we got “lei-ed,” ate rich Caribbean food, had a couple of cocktails, a lot of fun — and that Ship of Opportunity was as real as it gets.

It was the Nampa Chamber of Commerce’s annual shindig, Tuesday May 12 and for all of you who didn’t or couldn’t make it — you missed out on one heck of a good vibe.

And, while Bob and I live in Boise, for that night, we felt as at home as if we were on our neighbor’s front porch or plopped on a couch in their living room. The goodwill, high hopes and camaraderie were all palpable.

And the entertainment — well, what can you say when you’ve got so much high-powered talent in one room? There was Sonny and Cher crooning “I Got You, Babe” (actually, Sonny was Greg Mayes from Premier Alliance Financial Co. and Jeanine Fitzgerald from Advertising That Fitz was the husky-voiced Cher, and both sported spot-on S&C duds and wigs).

Tommy Dorsey made an appearance — hizzoner Mayor Tom Dale played the part, plying the trombone AND singing.

Sean Connery stopped by, played by a droll and goateed Brad Solberg, from Magic Valley Bank, who traveled all the way from Twin Falls to surprise Chamber president and CEO Georgia Bowman-Gunstream with a few 007 quips — and a rendition of “Georgia On My Mind,” natch.

The Supremes —29 of ‘em! — strutted their stuff as The Musettes, with a very blonde Diana Ross at center stage, performed a medley: “Baby Love,” “Stop in the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” complete with stock Supreme hand jives, dance moves, and, oh, yeah, the grapevine.

Bob and "Diana Ross."

“Momma’s Billy Bob” (Greg Mayes back for a very odd, pretty hilarious and not quite totally uncomfortable hillbilly moment encore) didn’t as much wow the crowd as stun them — in a good way.

And, ending on a high note: Gloria Gaynor as played by admissions counselor Carly Peck from Northwest Nazarene University. She performed a heart-thumping “I Will Survive,” bringing the crowd to its feet as we all jumped in and sang along.

Here’s the point of the whole thing that struck me, and Bob, too: this was not your run-of-the-mill, rubber-chicken, boring-speeches business-gathering kind of night. It was a positive, uplifting evening, reflecting the Treasure Valley community with genuine, heartfelt goodwill. And the proceeds went to good causes, too: a mentoring program and scholarships.

Favorite quotes of the night:
“Just like everyone in this room, I’m optimistic,” said outgoing Chamber Chair Greg Braun.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities that await us in the next year,” said incoming Chamber Chair Hollie Lindner, who went on to quote from a Danish proverb: “With hope and strive, we will continue to thrive.”

The evening’s mood was not necessarily an accident.

It was a way to push back the negative and bring out the positive, Bowman-Gunstream said, referring to the hard times many have felt due to the economy.

“The whole town’s not going to shrivel up, die and go away,” she said. With a good business plan in place and a forward-thinking, positive attitude, things can change for the good. “I think, I hope, that our community has felt the very worst of it,” said Bowman-Gunstream.

As for that Ship of Opportunity… “We decided this year, with the economy, people needed to have a good time and be able to talk and to laugh,” Bowman-Gunstream said. “As a business community, we all came together for the good of the community. It was all planned, all planned — so that everyone would leave on a real high.”

“I will survive. Hey, hey.”
— Gloria Gaynor

Jeanne Huff currently blogs at boisegoodnews.wordpress.com. She has been a writer and editor with the daily newspaper industry, most recently working at the Idaho Statesman. Send e-mail to her at jeannehuff@gmail.com.

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