story and photos by Brittany Ransom
Oh WATA Night it was on Saturday (Jan. 18) as the Western Arkansas Tennis Association (WATA) hosted its 11th annual signature fundraiser, Oh WATA Night.
Nearly 200 guests gathered at the Immaculate Conception Church Parish Hall in Fort Smith for the organization's yearly celebration, which featured a "Copacabana" theme this year. Many in attendance came dressed in festive attire, sporting colorful dresses and fruity headpieces.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour, followed by a tropical themed meal. Dinner included garlic lemon chicken, quinoa with coconut and butternut squash, Mexican sweet bread, and a lavish spread of fruit and decadent desserts.
During dinner, outgoing WATA President Pam Riggs, and incoming President Cindy Koenigseder, welcomed guests and shared about some of WATA's most notable achievements from the previous year.
"We won the State and Southern Section Award for 'Tournament of the Year' for our tournament last February, 'WATA Team Tennis Championship-Raising Awareness for Ovarian Cancer,' said Riggs. "It was the first of its kind here and we are really proud of its success."
The duo also recognized the Moore Family and Leslie Jackson who were honored by the state association. David and Carrie Moore of Greenwood, along with their sons Andrew and Thomas, were named the Arkansas Tennis Family of the Year, while Jackson, of Fort Smith, was chosen as the Southern Section Junior team Tennis Coordinator of the Year.
Following the presentation, guests hit the dance floor and let loose to the tunes of Larry B & the Cradle Rockers. WATA-goers also placed their final bids in the silent auction, which included more than 100 items, ranging from autographed tennis wear to home furnishings.
The live auction featured eight prizes packages, including extravagant trips and exquisite fine jewelry. It was a battle of the paddles as guests fought to outbid one another for Orlando and lake house vacations, Vahan bracelets, and President's Box Seats at the U.S. Open.
In addition to the auction, guests could purchase 50/50 tickets for a chance to win the grand cash prize. Many also lined up at the photo booth to snap their photo wearing appropriately-themed masks and accessories.
Tickets for the event were $45 in advance and $50 at the door. All proceeds from the fundraiser support WATA. In 2013, the event raised more than $18,000 for the program. Organizers hoped to hit the $20,000 with this year's event.
Comprised of more than 860 members, WATA was formed in 1998 to help promote the programs of the Arkansas, Southern, and U.S. Tennis Associations throughout the region. The non-profit group sponsors tennis programs for area students and adults.
The organization operates the courts at Creekmore Park, where it hosts state-wide junior and adult tournaments, as well as holds annual summer camps and ongoing lessons and training programs. Every year WATA also awards two college scholarships to junior players active in the community.