First published in the Dec. 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
While the celebration was very much in the present, with best wishes being exchanged for the future, it was clearly the past that was highlighted as the Burbank Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Road Kings of Burbank to present last week’s holiday mixer at the Gordon R. Howard Museum complex.
Festively decked out, and most definitely in the mood for yuletide partying, a gathering of close to 200 mixed and mingled amongst the displays of items chronicling the city’s history, from the eras of Native Americans and Spanish Rancheros pioneers, to those of agricultural development, aviation, aerospace, the California car culture and the entertainment and media industry.
The roots of the Gordon R. Howard Museum, located on the east side of George Izay Park, trace back to its founder, Mary Jane Strickland, the city’s first public information officer and daughter of a Burbank police chief.
During her tenure with the city, Strickland became dismayed by the loss of Burbank’s historical records, photos and artifacts. She also began to realize that there were many inaccuracies that had replaced factual history. In order to correct those concerns, Strickland developed what she herself called “an obsessive passion” to document and preserve the history of Burbank for generations to come.
Until her death in 2015, Strickland was the “go-to” source for anyone in need of information on Burbank’s days of yore. She was also the person, who after doing diligent historical research, made it clear that the correct term for residents of Burbank is “Burbanker.”
Among the notables that enjoyed the evening’s meal catered by Handi Market, perused the museum’s items, and exchanged holiday greeting were state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, and Councilmembers Bob Frutos, Sharon Springer and Nick Schultz.
Other special guests in attendance included Carey Briggs, who serves on the museum’s executive board and is a member of the Burbank Historical Society; Road Kings President Bruce Borst, Shari Rang, who after a two-decade-plus career with the chamber, retired in 2013; and Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas.
“Coming into 2022, our focus at the chamber will be to support our small business community,” Keyser Thomas told the assemblage. “We all know they have taken a hard hit over the past two years, and we want to do everything we can to lead them into a thriving future.”
Keyser Thomas, who took on the role as the chamber’s CEO this year, stressed the fact that, along with the organization’s signature events, 2022 would see it institute new programs. These events will be based on her goal to better connect the community and highlight the importance of how the chamber and every entity in the city must work together to create vibrancy.
“To me, the Burbank Chamber of Commerce is not just about the business community,” said Keyser Thomas. “It is about how every company and business — from the major studios down to the smallest businesses — are in a partnership with the city of Burbank, the school district, our nonprofit organizations, faith-based community and every resident. We must all be open to listen to one another and accept the value of everyone’s input and opinions. That’s what makes for a thriving community that provides long-term benefits for everyone.”
As a part of what the chamber will be soon instituting, Keyser Thomas said they are looking at doing a special gala specifically for the city’s small and medium-size businesses and a business showcase event.
“There are over a thousand media-related companies in Burbank, so while The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. are an important part of our community, there are so many other businesses that we want to highlight, recognize and promote,” she said.
Keyser Thomas said they will also be making their mixers more inclusive.
“We want everyone to join us, whether you are a chamber member or not,” said Keyser Thomas. “It’s a great way to meet people from all walks of life.”
The chamber will also host monthly events called “What’s Brewing in Burbank,” which will feature special guest speakers at various locations. “They will be sort of a throwback to the time when people would gather in a public place, and over coffee, discuss things and learn about what is going on and happening in the community,” Keyser Thomas said.
Saying that the plan is for these events to be informal gatherings in which people can get to know people they may not otherwise cross paths with to ask questions and voice their opinions and concerns, the chamber is tentatively planning their first one to take place in February with Mayor Jess Talamantes at the Hotel Amarano.
For more information on “What’s Brewing in Burbank” and other upcoming chamber events, visit burbankchamber.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.