The 2013 Crystal Winter Gala will embody much more than its usual dinner and dancing.

The Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce event will celebrate a special milestone -- its 15th anniversary.

Traditionally, spouses give crystal gifts for the 15th anniversary.

Guests should expect crystal to be incorporated into the Jan. 26 gala -- as its name implies -- in some fashion, possibly in decorations or an ice sculpture, according to event chairman Darren Piper.

Small gifts and keepsake photographs have also been discussed, Mr. Piper said, but details had not been confirmed by press time.

"We're looking to make this a special event," Mr. Piper said. "We're trying to make this year as memorable as those of the past and better."

Although this year is special, traditional features will again be offered.

The festivities will kick off with cocktails at 7 p.m.

Dinner, dancing and live music by Higher & Higher will follow at the Candlewood Inn in Brookfield.

The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the Chamber's four special awards: for small business, large business, an individual and lifetime achievement.

"For me, the awards are the best part of the night," said Cindie Niemiera, a past event chairwoman and a member of the first gala committee 15 years ago.

She fondly recalls several of the past galas in which local residents were honored with awards.

Peter Orenski, the man behind the creation of the New Milford flag, was the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.

"It was a great event, smoothly and elegantly organized by folks who knew what they were doing," Mr. Orenski said of his experience.

He described the gala as a "memorable occasion with excellent follow-up -- through the Chamber -- to Hartford, whence rained citations from then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal."

Gathering together in a forum such as the gala provides residents and business folks a chance to meet people one may otherwise "only encounter at the Village Fair Days," he said.

Mr. Orenski emphasized the Chamber's role in town.

"The Chamber fills a crucial reference point in the business community and the town at large," he said.

A nominating committee receives the nominations and selects the winners for the gala awards.

"We look for businesses that help the community," said Mr. Piper, who noted Chamber involvement is also appreciated.

The gala is unlike other Chamber events, according to Mr. Piper.

He said Chamber events such as Business Scenes, Lunch & Learn seminars and the annual breakfast are geared toward networking and business activities.

Mr. Piper describes the gala as the Chamber's annual party, a time to celebrate the Chamber, the community as a whole, individuals and businesses.

"It's an opportunity for people to get together and enjoy themselves," he said.

The event draws some 200 to 250 people, with Chamber and non-Chamber members in attendance.

Mrs. Niemiera said she appreciates the social angle of the gala.

"It's nice to see people you do business with in a different environment, one in which they can loosen up," she related.

She cited past galas, some of which were based on a theme -- like Mardi Gras -- and featured activities such as a caricature artist -- venues that provided an opportunity for guests to set business aside and have fun.

"Every year they try to make it a little different, a little better," Mrs. Niemiera said. "They try to keep it fresh."

Since the gala's inception, it has been a fundraiser for the Chamber, with sponsorships available at several levels.

"The Chamber was a lot smaller than it is today and we were looking for ways to beef up membership," said Mike Schultz, who was a member of the first gala committee spearheaded by Patty Dyer and Nancy Clark.

Mr. Schultz said the Chamber wanted something that would make "a splash" while attracting new members.

At the time, the Danbury Chamber of Commerce offered a gala-like event that was successful.

The New Milford Chamber decided to give it a go.

"We laid the foundation -- Patty did a lot of that -- and it snowballed from there," Mr. Schultz said.

He said "a lot of bright business people" attend the gala, thus the event gives people a chance to meet others and share ideas. "It's a great community event," Mr. Piper said.

Gala invitations and sponsorship information may be obtained by calling the Chamber office at 860-354-6080.