By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Preparations are underway for what could be the area's most unique social event of nine decades: the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce's (MRCC) 90th Anniversary Gatsby Gala to be celebrated Friday, May 2, 7 p.m. to midnight, at the Marlborough Country Club.
Susanne Morreale Leeber joined the MRCC staff as membership director in 1987, and has served as president and CEO since 1991. She appreciates the chamber's rich and ongoing history as an advocate for the region's business community.
“The chamber was originally the Board of Trade in 1924,” she explained. “Back then, the mayor told people at a big meeting that he wanted more support for the business community, so the Board of Trade filed its paperwork as the Chamber of Commerce.”
According to Morreale Leeber, MRCC membership now reaches 52 communities with the bulk from Marlborough and Hudson.
“We are the Route 495 chamber of choice today,” she said. “Back then, there was no 495. There was Route 20 – and it was dirt. We'se evolved and the chamber has grown with its services to our community.”
Among tangible contributions, she cites the MRCC's funding to erect the John Brown Bell Tower in Union Common in 1965 and the reconstruction of the gazebo at the Walker Building in 1999. Each has become a landmark in the recently designated Marlborough Downtown Village Cultural District.
Morreale Leeber foresees a festive Gatsby-themed celebration.
“I's looking forward to seeing people come dressed in vintage clothing,” she said.
Yesteryear's ambiance begins in the parking lot with a 1929 Ford Coupe and a 1931 Ford Sedan provided by Jim Hickey of Marlborough Savings Bank, the 2013 MRCC board chair.
Headlining the celebration is the Dom V Swing Out Big Band led by Domenic Valarioti of Marlborough. Guests will also be entertained by the Marlborough High School Jazz Ensemble directed by Gary Piazza.
Professional dance instructors Maria Tsoutsis and Zak Kofos will be joined by other hoofers to do the Charleston and Lindy Hop. Partygoers can accept invitations to partner with them.
Food stations will include hors d'seuvres, pasta and turkey carvings. Guests can take home a memento of the gala, thanks to a photo booth.
Men's Wearhouse at Solomon Pond Mall is offering $40 off rental of 1920s-period tuxedos by referencing “5146993/MRCC.” Additionally, $5 will be donated to the MRCC's scholarship fund. Orders placed by April 25 will avoid a rush delivery fee.
This year also marks a new chapter in MRCC's history. Honoring a recently retired staff member, the chamber has introduced the first Catherine Gregory Mogavero Business and Professional Association (BPA) Award. The recipients are Ashley Beauchamp from Marlborough High School and Abigail Mangsen from Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. Mogavero worked with MRCC in various capacities since 1999 and as executive vice president from 2006 through 2013.
“We'se always trying to further the BPA,” Morreale Leeber said. “They'se our future business people.”
Another MRCC milestone is its 40th annual Premier Golf Outing scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, at the Marlborough Country Club. New this year, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest to help children attend the summer camp program.
The Gatsby Gala committee chairs are Emily Greenwood, Lucy Servidio and Mary Jo Nawrocki. Jackie Smith is MRCC's program and event manager.
Gala tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 508-485-7746 or online at marlboroughchamber.org.
Morreale Leeber is proud that the MRCC's mission has continued throughout 90 years.
“In 1924 the mayor had said, “We need to work together,'” she noted. “The chamber still exemplifies that motto: “Working together works better.””