The Greater Bluffton Chamber hosted the fourth annual Boiled Peanut Festival Sept. 19 at Bluffton Village. Crowds were estimated around 5,000.

We had an amazing turn out, considering this event started just four years ago at the Farmers Market when The Bluffton Boilers, Jared Jester and Hannah Parrish, had a great idea for a new event.

The Chamber has since taken the event and helped grow it into a quirky, family-friendly event to be the essence of our “Bluffton State of Mind.”

Its success fulfills part of the Bluffton Chamber’s mission to create opportunities and events that are not only great for our community but also give our businesses exposure.

So that anyone can go, our major events are free and the vendors get all the proceeds for anything they sell at the event.

Bluffton has never been so vibrant for business as it is today. Bluffton has become the center of commerce for this region.

As a Bluffton business owner and having been raised here, it is clear to me, as well as many other Blufftonians, that Bluffton has indeed grown up and was ready to represent itself.

For so many years, as I met individuals while traveling, they would ask me, “Where is Bluffton?” My response had always been “On the mainland to Hilton Head.”

Well, the times have changed.

In order to help Bluffton gain its own identity, in January 2012, the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce was born. Its mission is to support business-to-business relationships, become a credible resource for those businesses and encourage them to be more active in the community.

The focus is to have everyone working toward a common goal that supports all.

We are now entering into our fourth year as a Chamber of Commerce, chartered in Bluffton, and welcoming our 500th member.

We have become a prominent enterprise and supporter of the greater Bluffton area.

The success of our educational programs, Lunch and Learns, and other networking and business-promoting events have contributed to the entrepreneurial environment that is Bluffton today.

Some other up and coming opportunities we are developing are the Miss Bluffton-Miss Teen Bluffton Pageant on Dec. 5 after the Christmas parade, and Bluffton will finally have its own Bluffton Business Awards and the very first Bluffton Ball on Jan. 8, 2016.

We have achieved all of this with two part-time staff members and one director, and lots of volunteers, proving this Chamber has already become a viable resource.

Looking back on what we have accomplished in just a few years, I am amazed and humbled by the overwhelming support.

I thank all of those who have been there for me and for this Chamber, its efforts, its events, its programs and its mission.

I look forward to continue growing along with our businesses, our community, our region and our town.

Thank you, Bluffton!

Shellie West Hodges is CEO and founder of the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.