Fort Smith receives ‘Natural State’ tourism award for bicentennial celebration

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 685 views 

Fort Smith’s Bicentennial Celebration was among those honored at the annual Henry Awards ceremony held Tuesday (Feb. 26) at the 45th Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Gretchen Hall of Little Rock was honored by her peers with the Tourism Person of the Year award. Hall is the president and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. She was appointed to the International Tourism Organization’s 2018-2019 Board of Directors, where she serves a three-year term alongside representatives from Tourism Toronto, Visit Baltimore, Visit Vacaville, Visit Phoenix and Houston First Corporation. She became president of LRCVB in 2011 and serves or has served on many Little Rock and national tourism associations.

Selected by former honorees, the Tourism Person of the Year Award is presented annually to an individual who has been actively involved in tourism and who has made a substantial contribution, within the past year, to the betterment of the tourism industry as a whole.

The Henry Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year.

Fort Smith’s Bicentennial Celebration walked away from the night with The Natural State Award. The Natural State Award is presented annually to a community, organization, special event or attraction that “stands out in the crowd” because of its unique appeal, media coverage, creative approach and/or enhancement of community pride, thus benefiting the state’s quality of life, a media release on the awards said. The Fort Smith Bicentennial Celebration was collaborative effort by many led by former Mayor Sandy Sanders.

This year’s Arkansas Heritage Award, which is presented annually to an individual, organization, or community that has made a significant contribution toward the preservation of some aspect of Arkansas’s natural, cultural or aesthetic legacy, went to George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.

The Grand Old Classic Special Event Award went to the Old Soldiers Reunion in Mammoth Springs. The award goes to a festival, fair or other special celebration that has “stood the test of time” and become an established example to follow.

The Helena Advertising & Promotion Commission received the Community Tourism Development Award for achieving “substantial success in the enhancement of its local resources through imaginative and innovative development efforts.”

The Melba Theater in Batesville received the Bookstrap Award, which is presented to an individual, organization or community that has achieved significant success “on a shoestring,” having limited means to work with, either in resources or finances.

The Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, which strives to “establish and maintain multi-use trails in Central Arkansas that are open for mountain biking and to link all trail user groups for this purpose,” walked away with the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award. The award goes to a community, individual or organization that through outstanding volunteer spirit has made a substantial contribution to Arkansas’s tourism industry.

Gary Jones Video, a Little Rock-based video production service, received the Media Support Award. The award is presented annually to a distinguished individual or organization for extraordinary attention to and/or support of Arkansas’s tourism industry through the use of media.

Geneva Lamm and Gina Marchese Pharis received Crystal Awards.

The Henry Awards have been a feature of the annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism since their debut in 1981. The awards are named for Henri de Tonti, founder of Arkansas Post in 1686, and who is often hailed as the first “Arkansas Traveler.”