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Chamber enjoys Red Carpet Gala

Cars drove down a winding rural road that wrapped around a weathered barn and a large pond to The Jefferson, one of Oxford’s newest event venues Thursday night.

It was the setting of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Red Carpet Gala.

Guests entered the building walking over a red carpet and joined others at the black-tie event wearing gowns with sparkling sequins and jewels. Some danced to music by The Bouffants in one room, while others sampled food from a signature event called the Chamber Chef Shuffle.

Eupora native Holli Ratcliffe has lived in Oxford the past 20 years and served as a Chamber of Commerce board member the last six years.

“I’m very supportive of our chamber,” she said, “and this is such a fun event. They did their first red carpet event last year. It’s a neat chance to get dressed up and have fun, and a bit more relaxed than your typical business environment.”

Ratcliffe said this is the first event The Jefferson has hosted.

“I don’t even think they are completely finished, but they went ahead and squeezed us in on the calendar,” she said.

Pam Swain, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the gala was created last year as part of the chamber’s 75th anniversary celebration activities.

“It was so well received,” she said. “We had so much response from those who were there, and from those who missed it who wanted us to please have it again,” she said.

They decided to make it an annual event.

“The Jefferson joined the chamber, and we were able to talk with them and say we’d love having the opportunity to have the event at a premiere location,” she said. “It adds a little intrigue and another dynamic to it. We have been working very closely with them.”

Swain said the chamber held its annual meeting luncheon yesterday.

“Our Red Carpet Gala follows it up the next day,” she said. “It’s just a celebration of Oxford and Lafayette County.”

Swain said the event featured food from 10 local restaurants.

“Some of them are even cooking it right in there tonight,” she said. “The chefs are actually right behind the table. And then on the other side of the building, we have The Bouffants, and everyone’s dancing.”

Around 400 people attended the event.

“We’re just really celebrating the community that we live in, the success of our Chamber of Commerce and how lucky we are to live here,” Swain said.

Kate Rosson, gala chair, said people loved the event so much last year, they had to bring it back.

“Our chamber membership spoke up,” she said. “They said it was phenomenal.”

Rosson said they were surprised by the turnout last year of a little more than 300.

“This year, we have right at 400,” she said. “I’m astounded with the growth of it. I think every year, we’ll get a little bit bigger.”

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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