First GRIT awards honor the area’s best in tourism partners

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 121 views 

The Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau announced the winners of its inaugural GRIT (Giving Recognition in Tourism) awards for tourism on Thursday (April 19) at the MovieLounge, Fort Smith’s latest and most innovative nightlife attraction.

Claude Legris, executive director of the Fort Smith CVB said the event honors people who do things not because they have to.

“The nominees were those with a true life commitment to the hospitality and tourism industry,” he said.

The winners were Taliano's Italian Restaurant, Restaurant Partner of the Year; Holiday Inn City Center, Lodging Partner of the Year; Clayton House, Attraction of the Year; Forward Fort Smith, Business Partner of the Year; and a tie between  Ben and Jennifer Boulden and the Bert Wright legacy for the Polly Crews hospitality person of the Year.

The awards were not a popularity contest like the former Rose Awards for tourism, held years ago, said Legris. The GRIT winners will be decided by “a very secret committee,” he said.

In addition to nominees and other dignitaries, the crowd on hand for the GRIT Awards and MovieLounge opening also include the last year’s worth of Hometown Hospitality Heroes — those who were highlighted each quarter in the City of Fort Smith’s Fast Focus e-newsletter. Even those folks have been enlisted to help dig up nominees “We’re looking for people with grit,” declared the CVB’s Sherry Scorby.

The evening started at 5:30 p.m. with networking and refreshments and a welcome from Legris. Samplings from the MovieLounge Chef were also served. Shortly after hors d'oeuvres, the recognition of hometown hospitality heroes were announced. The long-awaited GRIT Awards were announced by Mayor Sandy Sanders with help from Scorby.

The awards were followed by guided tours of the MovieLounge. Complementary champagne was also served.

The MovieLounge has 7,000 square feet for meeting space with two theaters that can hold up to 80 people. 

The lounge opens officially today with the showing of locally made horror flick Resurrection County and last year’s Oscar-winning movie, The Artist. The MovieLounge will be showing a little bit of everything in movies and performance – ballet, classics and independent films, among other sources of entertainment.

At this point, food will be served in the theaters, but the dining rooms won’t open until early May.