Wadena Chamber of Commerce to host appreciation banquet

The chamber's Community Appreciation Banquet will be Saturday, March 11, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3922 in Wadena.

2016 Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appreciation Banquet
Award recipients gather for a photo at the 2016 Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appreciation Banquet.
Contributed / Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce

WADENA — Gratitude is just good business — at least Dana Cantleberry believes so — and she would know.

The executive director of the Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce said the chamber will honor several people and businesses at its Community Appreciation Banquet on Saturday, March 11.

“I'm big on appreciation,” Cantleberry said. “I think what this does to honor our community businesses and individuals — to showcase what they do for our community — is very important and so that’s what this banquet will do.”

The last time the banquet occurred was five years ago. The lack of an executive director and COVID-19 were the reasons the event has not been held since then, according to Cantleberry.

“There are quite a few categories this year just because of the absence of the banquet in recent years,” Cantleberry said as she sat in the historic Wadena train depot that is home to the chamber office.


Dana Cantleberry (edited).png
Dana Cantleberry is executive director at the Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce
Barbie Porter / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Kelly Wong will receive, for example, the Bob Zosel Award at the March 11 banquet at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3922 on First Street Southeast. The Zosel family owned the hardware store on Jefferson Street South now occupied by Weber’s Wadena Hardware Co.

“He recorded a lot of the history of Wadena,” Cantleberry said of Zosel. “He was a community-minded individual who put Wadena at the forefront of everything that he did, and he was very proud of his hometown. And so he kind of represented the spirit of Wadena.”

Zosel has been gone since 2011 but his historical writings remain with many, etched on the historic metal plaques found on several downtown businesses, according to Cantleberry.

Bob Zosel
Local historian Bob Zosel, a World War II veteran, kept a record of the history of Memorial Day observances in Wadena. He encouraged others to remember veterans on the holiday.
Contributed photo

“Kelly is the branch manager, here, at Magnifi Financial,” Cantleberry said of the 2023 Bob Zosel Award recipient. “And she is behind Empty Stocking (Fund), a fundraiser at Christmastime for families in need. They get Christmas presents, food for a meal and warm clothing.”

Tickets for the Community Appreciation Banquet are $25 each and include dinner, appetizers and a drink. The menu features ribs, walleye, baked potato, green beans, dinner roll and red velvet cake.

“They get a nice sit-down dinner,” Cantleberry said of ticket purchasers. “From six to seven is the social hour. And at seven o'clock is a dinner and at eight o'clock is the program.”

The program will include the Cornerstone Award, for example, which will go to Brink’s Jewelry/Gayle Tabery.

Photo of the Day: A diamond view
Gayle Tabery, owner of Brink's Jewelry in Wadena, looks through a microscope.
Zach Kayser / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“Gayle Tabery owned Brink's Jewelry for 32 years but also worked for Brink's for 10 years prior to owning it,” Cantleberry said. “She retired … but we wanted to celebrate her commitment to being — and it was downtown, right on the corner — a cornerstone business.”


The chamber plays a key role in organizing several annual events and activities for the Wadena community, such as the summer celebration “June Jubilee,” a unique Halloween-season “Wadena Zombie Run” and the long-running annual holiday showcase the “Christmas Festival.”

“I just think it's important to be grateful and to be appreciative and I think oftentimes we maybe don't say it enough. Well, here's our opportunity to do that,” Cantleberry said of the chamber’s appreciation banquet.


“We want to celebrate these individuals and these businesses for their efforts and their volunteerism and contributions to our community … and hopefully to inspire others.”

The 2023 community awards will be presented as follows:

  • Outstanding Businesses – Oma's Restaurant & Bakery and Kern Laser Systems.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit Award – Kyle Davis.
  • Outstanding Educator – Lori Grendahl.
  • Community Volunteer – Diane Peters.
  • Community Service – Luther Nervig, Ron Greiman and Dan Sartell.
  • Outstanding Nonprofit – Wadena Area Food Shelf.
  • Cornerstone Award – Brink's Jewelry/Gayle Tabery.
  • Bob Zosel Award – Kelly Wong.

Purchase tickets for the Community Appreciation Banquet at the chamber office at 100 Southwest Aldrich Ave. or call 218-632-7704 to reserve your seats.

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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