The Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for its annual banquet on March 8, and this year’s keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Robert J. Darling of the U.S. Marine Corps.

When America was shaken by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Darling was the White House Airlift Operations Officer and stood shoulder to shoulder with America’s top leaders in the White House bunker complex as unprecedented leadership decisions were made on behalf of Americans in a moment of crisis.

Darling is the author of “24 Hours Inside the President’s Bunker, 9/11/01” and was a Cobra helicopter pilot, as well as the Marine helicopter Squadron One presidential pilot for President Bill Clinton.

The event marks the Chamber’s 131st annual banquet and will be presented by Tyson Fresh Meets Inc. Festivities will be held inside the cafeteria of Horace Good Middle School, 1412 N. Main St., and the event will begin at 6:30 p.m. after doors open at 5:30 p.m. Samy’s Spirits and Steakhouse will cater the event.

Each year, the Chamber recognizes its membership for their support and dedication to the community by bringing them together for a night of fine dining and entertainment.

“Finney County has continued to grow over the past year, and our business community is vital to that success,” said Myca Bunch, Chamber president. “The banquet gives us a chance to recognize and celebrate the people and organizations working hard to create a positive impact within the community.”

During the banquet, the Chamber will present four awards to recognize local businesses for their outstanding entrepreneurial achievements in the following categories: Small Business of the Year (0-20 employees), Business of the Year (20+ employees), Emerging Business of the Year, and Non-Profit of the Year.

The Chamber will also present the esteemed “Award of Merit” to one citizen who has exceeded the standards in their commitment to the Chamber and its goal of promoting local business. This year marks the 34th year of the award, which is kept secret from the recipient until the night of the event.

A silent auction will be held during the banquet and will feature an assortment of items from local businesses.

Banquet tickets became available Feb. 1 to all Chamber members and are $50 each. Corporate tables are available for $500, with seating for eight. For more information, call the Chamber office at (620) 276-3264 or visit the Chamber website at www.GardenCityChamber.net.

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.