An evening at Oak Alley

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

By David Vitrano


VACHERIE – Of all the plantations in the River Parishes, perhaps none conjures images of the Old South like Vacherie’s Oak Alley Plantation. One could easily imagine southern belles sitting on the mansion’s veranda sipping mint juleps.

These guests may not have been southern belles, but the juleps were flowing at the River Region Chamber of Commerce’s last distinguished social event, held Thursday at Oak Alley.

Such events are held quarterly, according to Chamber Executive Director Chassity McComack. She said the organization tries to vary the location among St. John, St. James and St. Charles parishes. The last one, March’s Luck of the Chamber event, was held in LaPlace.

This time, however, the event offered more than just a chance for networking. Attendees could make an entire afternoon of it if they so chose.

Activities kicked off around 4 p.m. when chamber members could relax at the plantation for a while and take free tours of the mansion.

Then, a sales seminar, led by Bob Annoni of Sandler Training was offered. The evening concluded with a social that included the aforementioned juleps, plenty of food and, of course, networking.

“It was another creative idea from our committee to bring more people out,” said McComack.

She said about 175 people registered for the event, and about 60 took part in the seminar. There was also a chance for businesses to achieve a little more visibility by sponsoring a table.

McComack said, “We sold out on tables in two weeks.”

McComack gave credit to her staff, especially administrative assistant Janine Herrington, for the success the organization has enjoyed of late.

“We’re doing very well. We’re extremely busy,” she said. “Everything has just been significantly fast-paced.”

McComack said the organization, given the size of the area and the present economic situation, has added about 20 new members so far this year.

McComack said the spike in membership is due in large part to the leadership of Vice Chair Henry Friloux.

She said the function of the organization has also evolved recently into that of an information hub for the community, especially in light of the ongoing oil disaster.

“I attribute a lot of that to our energized membership,” said McComack.

The next distinguished social event, “Bridging the Gap,” is Sept. 23 at a location still to be determined in St. Charles Parish.