Header image alt text

2017 Brainerd Lakes Chamber Celebration of Excellence Annual Dinner

  • Share:
Name: 2017 Brainerd Lakes Chamber Celebration of Excellence Annual Dinner
Date: November 16, 2017
Time: 5:00 PM - 9:30 PM CST
Registration: Sorry, public registration for this event has been closed.
Event Description:
The Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Widseth Smith Nolting invite you to celebrate the Business Excellence and Business Legacy Awards, Leadership Experience Class of 2017, and the big winner of the Destination Downtown Business Challenge. In true Paul Bunyan fashion, the entire event will be "Larger than Life!"

Individual tickets ($50) may be available upon request. Contact  Sue Galligan 218-822-7119 sue@brainerdlakeschamber.com.

Suggested Dress Code: A
range from Business Formal with a flair of flannel (pocket square, tie, scarf) to head-to-toe flannel LumberJack and LumberJill! Have fun with it!



The Blue Ox Business Academy's Leadership Experience Class of 2017 will be recognized. The Leadership Experience is a nine-month program (10 full days!) that develops and inspires emerging leaders through experiences that help them to better understand themselves and their connections to a thriving community. 

Leadership Class of 2017:
Ted Abear (Deerwood Bank), Karen Bartholomaus (Crow Wing County), Ryan Bengtson (Nor-Son, Inc.), Toni Bleser (Hy-Tec Construction), Becky Borash (Crow Wing Power), Stefani Bourassa (LINDAR Corporation), KC Brager (GrowthZone), Trish Exsted (Crow Wing County), Lonnie Faacks (Grand View Lodge), Josh Henline (Anderson Brothers Construction), Roy Hurin, CPA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP), Rick Jaehnert (Avantech), Sarah Jennissen (Central Lakes College), Noah Kaufmann (Midwest Security & Fire), Nate Lebeck (Life Link III), Vanessa Lofquist (Cuyuna Regional Medical Center), Nikki Lyter (Brainerd Dispatch), Brian Moon (Easy Riders Bicycle and Sport Shop), Michael Moroni (CTC), Brent Morris (Widseth Smith Nolting), Seth Neistadt (Brainerd Lakes Chamber), Nathan Norton (Nor-Son, Inc.), Jeff Osborne (Bremer Bank), Darin Owen (Clow Stamping Company), Joshua Rardin (RiverWood Bank), Amber Schlegel (Brainerd Pubic Schools Foundation), Patrick Sharbonda (Crow Wing County), Chad Shogren (Pequot Tool & Manufacturing), Mikayla Skarolid (CTC), Sarah Smith (Confidence Learning Center), Michael Steichen (Essentia Health) and Tim Walker (Pequot Tool & Manufacturing).


Every year the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce recognizes an outstanding business for its entrepreneurial spirit and accomplishments. The Business Excellence Award shines the spotlight on one Brainerd Lakes Chamber member who has displayed our values in the following ways: Leadership, Workforce, Innovation and Community. Presented by Brainerd Dispatch, the 2017 Business Excellence Award will honor CTC - Consolidated Telecommunications Company!

CTC is committed to providing advanced communication solutions, with the highest quality of services, for our customers. CTC employees inspire one another to support and strengthen the communities we serve.  CTC's vision is to be the premier provider of communication solutions providing products and services that enhance our customer’s personal and professional lives.  CTC has had a long and foundational relationship with the Brainerd area. CTC has demonstrated a commitment to growth by investing in a technology and communications infrastructure with a focus on economic development, education, healthcare, and the wellbeing of the community.



The Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce will present the Business Legacy Award to an individual who has achieved exceptional business success in his or her lifetime. We seek to recognize inspiring leadership that transcends business and leaves a legacy of community and economic vitality for generations to come. Present by RiverWood Bank, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber's 2017 Business Legacy Award will honor Arnold S. Johnson!

From his humble beginnings driving on the iron range, Arnie Johnson moved to Brainerd and began working as an insurance agent. He founded Universal Pensions, Inc. (UP) in 1975 when IRAs first became available to individual savers. He grew UPI from a solo enterprise to a business that has provided jobs to thousands of workers in the Brainerd area, employing more than 500 at the time UPI was sold in 2001. Arnie successfully founded or acquired several businesses in recent years and currently owns Integrated Retirement, a company that provides training and content to financial organizations that deliver retirement plan products and services. Arnie has been and continues to serve the Brainerd community through his leadership on numerous boards and his philanthropic efforts.



Presentation of the Destination Downtown Business Challenge   winner! Destination Downtown is a unique business competition to advance the economic revolution of Downtown Brainerd. With a Community prize package worth more than $50,000, the Business Challenge will provide an awesome advantage to entrepreneurs seeking to start or expand a business.

Three Finalists for the Destination Downtown Business Challenge:
Brainerd Distilling Company, Handcrafted Spirits (Bill & Lisa Desrocher)
Bill and Lisa Desrocher’s business dream is to create products of exceptional quality and authenticity, offering unique flavor profiles that pair perfectly with Brainerd. By providing memorable experiences highlighting the art and culture of craft spirits, Brainerd Distilling Company aims to become its own destination, drawing in all sorts of curious customers and connoisseurs.
Last Turn Saloon, Event Center, Brew Pub & Restaurant (Ed Mattson)
Ed Mattson’s dream is to return the business to its former glory, expanding it to include a large events center suitable for weddings, parties and business meetings. He is also planning an original brew pub and first-rate restaurant that serves up local fare and imaginative dishes, including breakfast. 
Purple Fern Bath Company, Bath & Body Boutique (Brenda Billman-Arndt)
Aspiring entrepreneur Brenda Billman-Arndt envisions an uplifting hub where people of all ages get in on the fun, attending unique parties and workshops on how to create whimsical soaps, scrubs, lotions and “bath bombs” (fizzy orbs that turn everyday baths into sought-after experiences).



Paul Bunyan ($1,000 - Limited / Only 2 Left)
Paul Bunyan is LakesPROUD and wants YOU to join him by celebrating in your support to our successful regional campaign while sitting among our award winners and sponsors! There are only 10 tables available, so act now!

  • Reserved table and dinner tickets for 8
  • Table located up front and near the stage
  • Funds help support our LakesPROUD regional campaign
Babe the Blue Ox ($750)
Enjoy the evening while sporting your buffalo plaid with Babe the Blue Ox and pals!
  • Reserved table and dinner tickets for 8
  • Table located in the 3rd and 4th rows
Lucette ($600)
Paul Bunyan's girlfriend, Lucette, loves a good time and guarantees a fun-filled evening for you and your guests!
  • Reserved table and dinner tickets for 8
  • Table located in the middles rows



Refreshment Tickets
Treat your table guests to complimentary beverages. Purchase tickets in advance and pick up at the registration table when you arrive. Tickets good for: nonalcoholic beverages, beer, wine and all mixed drinks.
  • 1 Drink per Guest (8 total) $80
  • 2 Drinks per Guest (16 total) $160
Pre-Set Wine with Dinner at Your Table
Serve your guests two bottles of wine and enjoy the program without having to leave the table.
$50 / 2 Bottles. Choose two:
  • Bread and Butter Chardonnay
  • Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio
  • Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir
  • Beringer Founders Estate Merlot
 Support the LakesPROUD Movement
Help us keep it local! www.lakesproud.com
  • $50 LakesPROUD Donation
  • $100 LakesPROUD Donation
'Larger Than Life' Showcase Basket
Provide an eye-popping 'Larger Than Life' Showcase Basket that can include promotional items, products, flowers and/or assorted goodies that inspire oooh's and aaah's while marketing your business! Each Showcase Basket will be prominently displayed and given away drawn to lucky winners at the conclusion of the event. Mark your Showcase Basket with your business name and drop it off at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber Administrative office, Crosslake Chamber or Pequot Lakes Chamber by Monday, November 13, 2017. (Suggested value $100)

CLICK HERE to print the event flyer.


5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

  • Social Hour (appetizers and cash bar)

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

  • Celebration of Excellence Welcome - Sponsored by Widseth Smith Nolting
  • Recognition of volunteers, committees, and retiring board members
  • Graduation of the Leadership Class of 2017
  • Plated Dinner
    • Salad
      • Roasted Sweet Keeper Squash Salad
        • pecans | brussel sprouts | beets | dried cranberries | baby kale | Irma"s poppyseed dressing
          • Northwoods Organic Produce: Pequot Lakes, MN
          • St. Petes Cheese: Faribault, MN
    •   Supper
      • Irma's 1983 Pot Roast Dinner
        • beef short rib | seasonal vegetables | bordelaise duck confit hash
          • Yellow Rose Organic: Sebeka, MN
    • Dessert
      • Pumpkin Macaron | Fresh Berries
        • Sweet Life Bakery: Pequot Lakes, MN
    • Featured Growers, Farmers and Makers
      • Wildl Acres Farms, Pat & Kelli Ebnet
      • Patchwork Faqrms, Gayle Harris Stevens
      • Northwoods Organic Produce, Farmer Dave
      • Yellow Rose Organic, Larry Heitkamp
    •  Chefs
      • Jordon, Sous Chef Irma's Kitchen
      • Gwen Imgrund, Garde Manager Chef Cragun's Resort
      •  Brian Diumenti, Executive Chef Cragun's Resort                     
  • Business Excellence Award Presentation to CTC - Sponsored by Brainerd Dispatch
  • Business Legacy Award Presentation to Arnie Johnson - Sponsored by Riverwood Bank
  • Destination Downtown Presentation and Winner Announced!

Music for the evening will be provided by the Blue Moon Jazz Quintet. Live jazz and popular music played by a professional ensemble with drums, upright bass, guitar, trumpet and saxophone. You will love the bright sound of jazz standards, funk and blues.
Chris Fogderud (Trumpet, Vocals)
Mike Sommerness (Saxophone)
Greg Breen (Bass)

Malcolm Rosenberger (Drums)

Jim Olsen (Guitar)


The Brainerd Lakes Chamber will present two awards at its six-annual Celebration of Excellence on November 16th - the traditional Business Excellence Award, which goes to an outstanding local business, and the Business Legacy Award, which celebrates individual lifetime achievements as well as community and economic contributions. 
For both awards, a nomination/application process was announced in June 2017. After the deadline passed in mid-July, a ten-member volunteer selection committee independently scored and discussed each applicant before choosing the recipients.
Past recipients of the Business Excellence Award include:

  • Widseth Smith Nolting (2012)
  • Crosswoods Golf (2013)

  • Grand View Lodge (2014)

  • Ultra Paws LLC (2015)
  • Just for Kix (2016)

Past recipient of the Business Legacy Award:
  • Stewart C. Mills Jr. (2016)
Event Media:
Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake
Sports Centre

11000 Cragun's Drive
Brainerd, MN 56401

Date/Time Information:
Thursday, November 16, 2017
5:00 p.m. - Social
6:00 p.m. - Leadership Experience Class of 2017
6:30 p.m. - Plated dinner
7:00 p.m. - Celebration of Excellence program
Contact Information:
Sue Galligan 218-822-7119
Individual Tickets ($50) available upon request. Contact Sue Galligan 218-822-7119 sue@brainerdlakeschamber.com to purchase

Paul Bunyan
Table ($1,000)
Babe the Blue Ox Table ($750)
Lucette Table ($600)
Individual Seats ($50/1)
Refreshment Tickets ($80/8 or $160/16)
Pre-Set Wine (2 Bottles/$50)
LakesPROUD Donation ($50 or $100)
'Larger Than Life' Showcase Basket ($100 Suggested Value)

Set a Reminder:
Enter your email address below to receive a reminder message.