Chamber Stories News Archive

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Honorees at the Huron Chamber of Commerce’s annual recognition night were, (l. to r.) Sharon Barnes, Andy White, Kelli & Chris Wechter, Mike Heydinger, Christine Crawford and Dr. Marianne Socha

A full-house crowd turned out to share their reminiscences of the Showboat recently. The landmark restaurant with the panoramic view of Lake Erie and the Huron River was the theme of the Huron Chamber of Commerce’s “Celebrate Huron” recognition night at Mesenburg’s Plaza Place. Chamber president Matt Cummings and director Sheila Ehrhardt introduced the honorees.

Members of the Claus and Mesenburg families, who operated the Showboat for more than two decades after its opening in 1971, were honored for their part in Huron’s rich history. They displayed photos and memorabilia from their archives. Former employees and people who have fond memories of  life events that were held at the restaurant shared  several large outdoor signs, the actual front door, and even a red leather menu featuring a seafood buffet for $5.95 and a top sirloin dinner and wine for two, at just $8.95.

Winners of the “Bright Star 2013” awards included: City Manager Andy White honored for his vision, enthusiasm and hard work in forging a new and better community, one in which all residents can thrive and enjoy this “Great Lake Place.”

Two longtime businesses were recognized: the Pied Piper ice cream stand operated by the Wechter family for 61 years and Marconi’s Italian Restaurant, founded by the Martello family half-a-century ago.

Christine Crawford, a Huron transplant who has enthusiastically pitched in to help numerous civic organizations was cited for her work in establishing Water Safety Day in 2007, an annual outdoor field day for all of the city’s third- and fouth-grade students. After visiting a Coast Guard helicopter, actually rescuing a member of local dive team and completing seven different teaching pods, each student receives a life vest. More than 1,600 of them have been distributed to date.

Dr. Marianne Socha was lauded for her countless hours of veterinary service donated in caring for creatures great and small, whether they be patients of abandoned and  abused animals. She volunteers her expertise and the Erie County Dog Pound and to the Back to the Wild organization.

Veteran English teacher, Mike Heydinger retired in 2002 after influencing the lives of many Huron High School students during his 37-year tenure. A year later, he established the HHS Alumni Association, an active group of thousands that generates funds for scholarships and plans reunions for classes going back to the 1940’s. He publishes a 38-page quarterly newsletter filled with photos of HHS happenings. He is also a member of the boards of the McBride Arboretum at BGSU Firelands and the Huron Education Foundation.

A woman who has quietly pitched in to help with most of the civic projects that have gone on in Huron for half-a-century received the Unsung Hero Award. Sharon Barnes, a longtime member of the Huron Board of Education, is well known nationally for her work in plant composting and food recycling programs, but always finds time to work on local efforts, such as the Huron Historical Society and the city’s Bicentennial Celebration.

Committee members included: Bruce & Sharon Miller, Christine & Randy Crawford, David & Jacquie Clark, Doug & Gretchen Studer, Matt Cummings, Jackie Gebelle, Joe Dike, John Ehrhardt, Sandy & Wayne Foster, Rhonda Funderwhite and Sharon & Chuck Malone.

Chamber Celebrates Huron’s Finest With Numerous Awards

Pictured l. to r. are Tom Jr. and his wife, Sarah, and Matt and Dawn Solberg. Not pictured are their uncle Mike and his wife, Connie. Tom Sr. and his wife Betty were unable to attend.

Six groups of deserving citizens were honored at the Huron Chamber of Commerce’s “Celebrate Huron” gala on Saturday, March 10 at Mesenburg’s Plaza Place. Chamber President Bruce Miller, Director Sheila Ehrhardt and Rotary President Christine Crawford introduced the honorees.

The event was opened to the public in effort to once again create an annual recognition night for all Huron residents, not just Chamber members. Guests vied for prize-filled balloons, an opportunity to beat the dealers in a live gaming event, numerous raffle and door prizes.

Honorees included: The Solberg Family, Ralph Pisano, The Christmas Ladies, Rev. Tom Holzaepfel, and Derrick Chennault.

Huron Lagoons Marina, a third-generation family enterprise for the Solbergs is celebrating its 50thanniversary.  It was named “Business of the Year.”


Long-time Huron attorney and former Municipal Court Judge Ralph Pisano was honored for his six decades of service to the community. He shares one of his many anecdotes with Terry Meissner, a craps dealer during the Las Vegas-style gaming at the party.


The Huron Rotary Club and the Chamber teamed up to honor Ralph Pisano, the senior living members of each organization. The former Huron Municipal Court judge has been practicing law in the community since 1951.






Past Chamber President Doug Studer presented the “Unsung Hero Award” to Huron City Schools Superintendent Fred Fox. A Huron native, he chose to return to the helm of the local schools “because of his love of our community,” said Studer. “One way or another, we and all our children, have been touched by Fred’s dedication to Huron.”

In 2008 a trio of local women decided that downtown Huron could using some sprucing up at Christmastime and set about initiating an innovative “Adopt a Lamppost” drive. Sandy Otterman, Beth Fisher and Julie Sowecke, with the help of Huron Street Department crews, decorate downtown lampposts with fresh greenery and red velvet bows. Thanks to generous donations, they have plans to illuminate the greenery next year.

The recipient of the “Star Award 2012” was the Rev. Tom Holzaepfel, a person who has dedicated his life to helping others. As pastor of Lighthouse Assembly of God Church, he has a full-time position shepherding his flock. But her also reaches out to needy people of the area, running a food pantry at the Huron church, as well as the local unit of the Salvation Army.

The Community Beautification Award went to a business owner who has lovingly spruced up what was already a Huron landmark. From the stately white rocking chairs on the front porch, to the hand-carved wooded brown bears that can be found around the property, Derrick Chennault has made the large red building at the corner of Cleveland Road and Huron Street, once again the landmark it was when known as Wileswood Country Store. His business, Eastwood Environmental, and the Huron Chamber, have offices there.

Committee members planning the event included: Jacquie Clark, Christine Crawford, Sandy Foster, Sharon Miller and Doug Studer.

Implosion Marks New Beginning In Huron History

By Sheila Ehrhardt, Chamber Director


Even in the afternoon, the fireworks display celebrating the ConAgra implosion, created a spectacular show for the thousands of people waiting for the 3 p.m. blast.

We began writing a new chapter in the history of our town with the implosion of the ConAgra facility on Sunday, Jan. 8. This was an event that has been on the minds of Huron residents for many years now.

This is but the latest in numerous upgrades to our community that have come to fruition in the recent past. Our schools have undergone a reshuffling of grades to various buildings, resulting in better behavior by happier students. And a wind turbine, donated by Craig and Tim Rathbun, has resulted in tremendous energy savings for the school district.

A new bridge on Cleveland Road West is just a part of the completely new roadway and infrastructure installed this summer from the boat basin out to Rye Beach Road. Many other streets in the Old Plat area have also been resurfaced.

The boat launch ramp on the Huron River has now been open for a full season and it has proven to have a positive impact on local businesses. The ramp lot is filled with trucks and trailers each weekend as fishermen take advantage of the great fishery that lies just offshore.




Mark Wilbern of Advanced Explosives Demolition Co., shows Max Hinton how to push the trigger to set off the blast. Max’s wish was to someday “blow up a building.” On Sunday, he did just that. Looking on is Eliya Kelly, whose very own business card reads “Future Blaster.”

The gigantic town celebration on Sunday drew 30,000 to 35,000 people to any spot that they could find along the river and on the east and west sides of the Huron River bridge. It was truly a community effort to put the plans in place for so many visitors in less than three weeks.

I’ve seen this type of grass-roots cooperation during times of crisis, such as the flood of 1989 and the blizzard of 1978. But to see people come together in the good times to put together such a massive part was just an absolute delight.

Doug Studer took on his P.T. Barnum role once again, coordinating the many facets of the event. When we realized the monumental logistics of getting so many people into such a small space, Fred Fox generously allowed us to use the high school parking lot and provided four school buses to shuttle people over to Jim Zima’s front yard at Great Lakes Diesel to see the big blast.



Thar’She Blows!! As the eighth set of blasts goes off, the stately fron wall of the grain warehouse begin to sag and the connecting bridge begins to fall to the ground.

People offered use of their downtown driveways to friends and dozens of area law enforcement personnel spent several hours on Sunday getting traffic into and out of the city so efficiently. Our hats off to interim Police Chief Nick Zappa for coordinating all this. City Manager Andy White and all of the city employees pitched in to deal with a greatly increased work load as our little beach town became the focus of area and national media.

All of us were captivated by Max Hinton, a very small, unassuming little boy with the courage of a giant. The City and the Chamber put together a basket of Huron mementoes for the Make-A-Wish child and his two siblings. Mike Ryan, a jewelry artisan, donated pieces made with our Lake Erie lucky stones for the entire family and councilman Brad Hartung had two Tiger shirts imprinted with the lad’s name. Max’s name went up in lights thanks to the folks at First Federal Savings.


ConAgra Falling

Like so many matchsticks, the walls of the 8-story grain warehouse came tumbling down. But when the dust settled, the north wall of the building, displaying a Harvest States Milling sign, was still in one piece. The silos will come down shortly.

It was truly heartwarming to see so many people work together in less than three weeks time over the Christmas holidays to make this once-in-a-lifetime event so memorable. But more importantly, we now embark on determining the very best use of this invaluable piece of waterfront property. We must all work together to come up with a redevelopment plan that will be a year-round boon to businesses, a delight for shoppers, an attraction for boaters and a place where families can take a leisurely walk along a tree-lined path bordering on the river.


These are exciting times that will write the next page in Huron’s history.