William H. Harris, a Vinton businessman, had a vision of how a Chamber of Commerce could serve Vinton and its businesses. After organizational meetings and conferences by Vinton business leaders and Mayor W. Ross McGee, the Vinton Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting on April 17, 1950. Mr. William H. Harris was named the Chamber’s first president. The president and other officers were announced at the first initial meeting of 93 charter members – held at the Vinton War Memorial.
Among many activities during the first year, the Chamber sponsored ‘Santa Claus coming to Vinton on the train’, followed by Vinton’s First Christmas Parade. The Parade has become a long-standing Vinton tradition that is sponsored by the Chamber and held the Thursday after Thanksgiving. The Chamber also purchased Vinton’s first Christmas lights for $150.
For many years, the Chamber held residential and commercial Christmas Decoration contests and is continuing the business Christmas decorating contest today. There was an event called “Holly Days” at the Vinton Farmer’s Market for several years. The Chamber has always played a big part in Vinton’s Christmas season.
On March 17, 1951, the Vinton Chamber of Commerce became incorporated. Over the years, the Chamber has been involved in many Town projects with the Mission always directing the way. With a growing number of Chamber members, we continue to support the Town community and local businesses. The membership is now over 200 strong. If you would like to get more information or join the Chamber, give our office a call, 540-343-1364, or visit our website, www.vintonchamber.com.
• The Chamber took a leading role in getting a local newspaper for Vinton. The first issue of the “Vinton Record” was published on November 20, 1952, with a subscription drive-by Chamber effort.
• The lights at the athletic field of the original William Byrd High School came from the Chamber.
• Another first, we co-sponsored the First Annual Vinton Dogwood Festival and paid the initial cost of incorporating the festival for Vinton and planted dogwood trees throughout the town.
• The Vinton Chamber has always been active in promoting the town from “Clean-up, Paint-up, Fix-up” week – to advertising the town thru all types of media – to appearing before state commissions for road improvements and completion of the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.
• The Chamber has published various publications such as brochures and maps for the community promoting the businesses and activities. And, then, the Vinton Image was created in 2003.
• The Chamber has always played an active role in economic/business development in the town and continues this role in support of the Downtown Revitalization efforts.
• One project the Chamber participated in for economic development was the Vinton Farmers’ Market. The Chamber provided funding and input for the architectural fees and for the permanent lighted changeable face sign. Since then, the Chamber has sponsored many activities at the Farmer’s Market.