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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Austin HornbostelCalifornia Area Chamber of Commerce president Kayle Kiesling presented Brandy Brockes with the Past President Award at last Thursday’s meeting, honoring her work as Chamber president during 2020.

The Ozark Ham & Turkey Festival is making a comeback in 2021.

The California Area Chamber of Commerce, at its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, discussed the early progress of planning for the 31st edition of the annual event. The Chamber's planning committee met for the first time this year on March 1, setting the date for Sept. 18, the third Saturday of the month.

The festival will return to its usual format, a one-day event centered around the Moniteau County Courthouse with vendors on N. High Street. Last year's festival was canceled and replaced with a Ham and Turkey "Celebration," facilitated by area businesses and focused more on the community than the usual format, which brings large numbers of out-of-town visitors to California.

Longtime committee chairman Brad Baer is stepping away from the role after a number of years; he'll now work closely with the new chair, Brandy Brockes, and co-chair Rita Hammerly, who's also served on the committee for many years.

The festival planning committee meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month and invites input from members of the public.

In more immediate upcoming events, the Chamber-sponsored annual Easter Egg Hunt is coming up later this month; the event is set for 1 p.m. March 27 at Proctor Park. The rain date for the event is April 3.

In other business from the Chamber's regular March meeting, the group voted to approve funding a Missouri Boys State sponsorship for $500 out of the Chamber's Ham & Turkey Festival fund. The Chamber also voted to approve a $2,500 donation to California Progress, Inc.'s veterans' memorial that will be housed at Latham Family Memorial Park, plus an additional $500 to the park project.

On the financial front, the Chamber will soon begin sharing scholarship applications with California High School seniors, starting around April 1. This year, total scholarship awards to be given will be capped at $2,000.

The group also discussed various changes to its standing committee structure, including amendments to committee chairs and members. Part of that discussion centered around expanding the Chamber's publication and marketing committee to help come up with ideas promoting businesses among the Chamber's membership; one idea floated was introducing a publication with a notated business map to help visitors to the community find more businesses of interest to patronize.

The group also discussed the possibility of bringing on someone, perhaps via an internship, to help with the Chamber's social media presence. For now, the group will put together a job description, and possibly target bringing on someone like a graduating high school senior planning to study marketing in college.

The California Area Chamber of Commerce's next regular meeting is set for 8 a.m. April 8.

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