Local Syndrome: Mixing It Up

By on May 9, 2018

The relevance and redundancy of Jackson’s best happy hour

(Ryan Stolp)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Ah, the beloved Chamber Mixer. We’ve all been to at least one, and we’ll all go again. The locations shift, the catering varies, but the premise remains the same: one local business or nonprofit member of the Chamber of Commerce hosts a networking event complete with food, libations and a gaggle of valley residents.

As described by the Chamber website: “Each Chamber Mixer is a unique experience that showcases the hosts and partners while helping attendees easily make conversation with new connection [sic] and old friends.”

But one has to wonder, in a town as small as Jackson, how much more connecting with one another can we do? Are Chamber Mixers so crucial to community building that they must be held once a week? Or do they get a bit, dare I say, redundant?

“I’d say I’ve been to over 250 mixers,” Director of Special Events Maureen Murphy said. “Ten years of Mixers.”

The cost is $300 for a member of the Chamber to host a mixer, which includes marketing as well as personnel at the event. The host is responsible for any form of food, drinks or entertainment they would like to provide for attendees. The events usually begin at 5 p.m. on a Thursday and last a couple hours, during which time people can come and go as they please, eat a little, drink a little, and, ideally, network with one another.

Unsurprisingly, an event with free food and booze attracts raccoonish moochers more interested in networking with the cheese platter.

“Oh, of course there’s freeloaders,” Murphy said with a laugh. “And we know who they are. Anyone who hosts a Mixer knows who they are.”

While they are perfect opportunities for members to link up with one another, the Chamber Mixers are jokingly called the best happy hour in town. Among myself and my friends, I’ll confess that we have used them as launching points to pre-game before a dinner reservation or movie venture. I’ve networked in the past, but admittedly, it often feels like once you’ve been to one Chamber Mixer, the others appear a bit like the same party inside different walls.

But Murphy said the crowd has changed a bit. There’s the crew that comes to everything, the older locals and all those people, but recently there’s been a younger demographic. Lots of young business owners and young professionals who want to break into another world of business, she said.

The crowd size varies from 150 to 300 attendees per mixer, and Murphy mentioned that the success of a single mixer is measured by how much effort the hosting business is willing to put into the event.

“The more the business does for food and promotion and entertainment, the more they’re going to get out of it.”

She said the most successful mixers that she’s seen have included indoor/outdoor elements, live music, passed apps, and a prime location. The more town-centric Jackson business often see more attendees than those outside of town.

This year is now completely booked to host a mixer, and the waitlist is around 15 names deep. So what’s the big deal? Why are these local businesses so eager to spend upwards of $10 to $20 per attendee on catering and marketing in order to host a simple networking event?

I chatted with a few Chamber Mixer hosts and many of them said the same thing: it’s a great opportunity to get people through the door who normally may not have done so. That made me wonder if hosting mixers is a bit like setting a saucer of milk outside on the stoop for the neighborhood strays. Hopefully the effort will pay off and the business or organization will grow as a result.

Or some raccoon will come around and drink the milk instead.

The next Mixer will take place at the Children’s Learning Museum on May 3. As always, refreshments will be provided to all attendees. However, this time around due to the setting, no alcohol will be served.

About Andrew Munz

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