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Alie Bahsoon

The Fort Smith, Arkansas region benefits tremendously from conventions and events that are brought to our area. Attracting and retaining this type of business relies heavily on the efforts of both the community and the growing tourism and hospitality industry. It is for this reason that we, at the Fort Smith Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, are happy to extend our heartfelt gratitude and thanks to a second first-quarter Hometown Hospitality Hero of 2015, Alie Bahsoon.

Bahsoon is the Purchasing Manager for the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He is also a board member of the Arkansas Chapter of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) and serves as the public relations, newsletter and website Chair. Alie is responsible for bringing this esteemed group of procurement officers and purchasers to Fort Smith, Arkansas for their annual conference on March 8-10, 2015. Because March is designated as National Procurement Month – which is celebrated all over the nation by public procurement professionals – the group holds their annual convention during this time, each year. Knowing WHEN the convention would be held was the easy part, but the effort and planning that went into figuring out HOW to secure this event for Fort Smith began nearly five years ago.

Bahsoon partnered with former Director of The Office of State Procurement, Jane T. Benton, to take a serious look at Fort Smith as a possible venue, but bringing the event to the area wouldn’t be a simple task. In the past, the annual event had
always been held in Little Rock or Hot Springs, Arkansas; the argument had been that these central locations would likely yield the highest level of attendance. However, Bahsoon begged to differ. And after spending the next several years encouraging his colleagues to consider Fort Smith, his persistence paid off.

In March of 2014, the process of bringing the Arkansas NIGP to Fort Smith became a reality, and a convention planning committee was formed with Bahsoon as one of its members. After a scheduled site visit to Arkansas’ second-largest city – in October of 2014 – they were convinced that their event needed to be held in Fort Smith. The convention planning group was pleasantly surprised by the size of Fort Smith and the overwhelming syzygy of history, modernity and nature that make the city so special. They were able to discover the city’s amenities and many hidden gems that boast some of the most unique shopping, dining, nightlife, fine arts, and historically significant landmarks.

Soon thereafter, Fort Smith was officially selected as the convention site and the downtown trolley was even reserved for transportation to the MovieLounge, which added another unique and exciting dimension to the convention. Purchasers and procurement officers, as well as potential vendors, were then notified. So, would the new location attract as many vendors and attendees?

Bahsoon was confident that the event would be just as successful in Fort Smith as it was in Little Rock or Hot Springs, and he was right. There were more than 55 vendors and nearly 100 purchasers and procurement officers in attendance. The convention provided many continued education opportunities to assist attendees obtain various professional designations. Topics included: “piggy-backing” purchases to reduce costs, taxes, fraud, and procurement trends. Workshops like, “Principled Centered Negotiations,” “Achieving MVP Status – Mind Exchange,” and, “Emotional Intelligence,” were among the most popular. Since attendance was high, Fort Smith benefited a great deal from the convention.

Being such a recent event, the overall economic impact of the annual conference is still being calculated, but it has been estimated at $40.5K so far. The group did not realize all that Fort Smith had to offer. “We wanted to make a favorable impression so that they will come back,” said Bahsoon. While reflecting on his efforts to bring the event to Fort Smith, he said that he was pleased to be able to showcase Fort Smith, Arkansas. In the same respect, we at the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau are just as pleased – more so, we are thankful – that Alie Bahsoon worked so hard to positively impact our community.


Would you like to nominate Alie in this year’s, “4th Annual Giving Recognition in Tourism (GRIT) Awards?” Click on the image below to nominate Patrick and other Hometown Heroes.

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The Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce this year’s Giving Recognition in Tourism (GRIT) Award recipients. The GRIT Awards were presented at the MovieLounge on the evening of April 23, 2015. Attendance was at a record-high, this year, as were the amount of nominations received in each category. The event serves to showcase the accomplishments of finalists who demonstrated GRIT – within the area’s growing hospitality and tourism profession – through the dedication of their time, energy and expertise.

During the awards ceremony, the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau also honored the past year’s Hometown Hospitality Heroes, who had all been highlighted in City of Fort Smith’s Fast Focus e-newsletter for positively impacting area tourism through efforts related to hosting or bringing conventions to the city in 2014 and early 2015. Hometown Hospitality Honorees, included:

Kermit Walsh & Jackie Hoffarth

For their efforts in the development of Fort Smith Western Heritage Month and related events.


Bill Ladd & Larry Rhodes

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For their efforts in bringing the Arkansas Realtors Association convention to Fort Smith.


Daniel Shue

Fort Smith Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue helped bring the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association conventions to Fort Smith, having a significant economic impact on the city.

For his efforts in bringing the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association conventions to Fort Smith


Patrick Pendleton

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For his efforts and leadership in the development of the very first Fort Smith Marathon.


Alie Bahsoon

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For his efforts in bringing the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing convention to Fort Smith.


Now, the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau would like to congratulate the recipients of the, “4th Annual GRIT Awards.” This year’s GRIT Award winners, include:

Restaurant Partner of the Year: Bricktown Brewery

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Above: Kris Cox, Kathy Young, Buck Warfield

Not the new kid on the block, but one of the newest looking eateries on the 300th block of Garrison Avenue! Kathy Young and her staff work hard to meet the needs of visitors, even offering to assist with ground breaking of the Marshals Museum while the restaurant was still under renovation!


Lodging Partner of the Year: Comfort Inn & Suites

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Above: Jacon Janssen, Latisha Malone, Connie Trammell, Desiree F. Arizmendi,

Manish Patel, Priscilla Rashidi, Ronika Morgan

Comfort Inn & Suites has developed a loyal following of clients with their special brand of Fort Smith service. Located just off of I-540, Comfort Inn & Suites is popular with both tourists and motor coach groups. When it comes time for a sports event of any kind, many of the same teams are quick to make reservations with their favorite hotel in Fort Smith.


Attraction Partner of the Year: Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Committee

(Chaffee Crossing)

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Above: Lorie Robertson, Ivy Owen, Janet Menshek, Joseph Chasteen, UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Berran

Who doesn’t know about the tremendous accomplishments of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority? Because of their continuous efforts, Chaffee Crossing has become an ever-expanding element of the Fort Smith landscape and a mecca for Fort Smith tourists.


Business Partner of the Year: Mercy Hospital Fort Smith

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Above: Patrick Pendleton & Ryan Gehrig

Not only have they provided medical care to the public, but their staff of healthcare professionals have taken lead rolls in the very creation and improvement of almost every facet of our community. Always a community partner, they work hard to bring tourist to Fort Smith by creating events like The Mercy Classic and by serving as the driving force behind the very first Fort Smith Marathon, which took place this past Februaury.


Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year: Robert Westphal Family

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Above: Bennie Westphal

Some may not have met Fort Smith business leader, Robert Westphal, but they probably feel like they have because of the families generosity and enthusiasm in taking lead roles — both individually and as a family — to make Fort Smith the city that it is, today. They even offered land for the U.S. Marshals museum, which is just a small reminder of all that this family has done — and continues to do — for Fort Smith.


Following the awards ceremony, attendees continued to celebrate the successes of Fort Smith’s Hospitality & Tourism Industry. Congratulations to this year’s Hometown Hospitality Heroes, GRIT Award Finalists, and GRIT Award Winners. Thanks for all that you do!

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE 2015 GRIT AWARDS:
2015 GRIT AWARDS PHOTO ALBUM

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After receiving more than 300 nominations from the public, we at The Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau are proud to announce the finalists for the, “4th Annual Giving Recognition In Tourism (GRIT) Awards. These men, women, businesses, and organizations have demonstrated true grit through their contributions to the region’s growing tourism and hospitality industry.

Awards will be presented during a private celebratory ceremony on April 23rd, 2015. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. inside of Fort Smith’s MovieLounge, located at 7601 Rogers Ave. The 2015 GRIT Award FINALISTS in each category, are:


Restaurant Partner of the Year (No Specific Order):

Bricktown Brewery

Calico County Restaurant

R. Landry’s New Orleans Cafe

River City Deli


Lodging Partner of the Year (No Specific Order):

Comfort Inn and Suites

Courtyard by Marriott

Hampton Inn Fort Smith


 Attraction Partner of the Year (No Specific Order):

Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (Chaffee Crossing)

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

The Park at West End


Business Partner of the Year (No Specific Order):

Arvest Bank

BrickCity Emporium

Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine

Mercy Fort Smith


 Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year (No Specific Order):

Desiree Arizmendi

Patricia Brown

Patrick Pendleton

Jim Spears

Robert Westphal Family


During the event, the Fort Smith CVB will also showcase the past year’s Hometown Hospitality Heroes; individuals who played a critical role in bringing conferences and events to the city. Honorees include: Kermit Walsh, Jackie Hoffarth, Larry Rhodes, Bill Ladd, Dan Shue, Alie Bahsoon, and Patrick Pendleton.

“We are pleased by the number of nominations we received for this year’s, ‘GRIT Awards,’ because it shows an ever-increasing passion – on the part of a lot of people – in moving Fort Smith’s outstanding hospitality industry forward. Partnerships are an important part of our industry’s success.”

Our 1st #HometownHero of 2015 is Patrick Pendleton, Director of the Fort Smith Marathon! Read more, here: http://ow.ly/K1vsV http://ow.ly/i/8Uu2e

FSM FINAL LOGO with GRIT

The Fort Smith region benefits tremendously from conventions and events that are brought to our area. Attracting and retaining this type of business relies heavily on the efforts of both the community and the growing tourism and hospitality industry. It is for this reason that we, at the Fort Smith Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, are happy to extend our heartfelt gratitude and thanks to 2015’s first-quarter Hometown Hospitality Hero, Patrick Pendleton.

As Director of the Fort Smith Marathon, Pendleton is responsible – along with the support of Jeremy Maxwell and Jay Hanson – for developing and leading the effort to hold the very first Fort Smith Marathon on Sunday, February 8, 2015. The effort and planning that went into executing this inaugural event began nearly a year and a half ago when city officials came together with Pendleton, Maxwell and Hanson to talk about the concept of hosting a Fort Smith Marathon. The representatives from Western Arkansas Runners (WAR), Women Run Arkansas, Mercy and others soon joined the discussion. Talks focused on the dimensional benefits of a marathon that would advocate health, bring the Fort Smith community together and, of course, create excitement for marathon participants and observers.

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The Fort Smith Marathon and half-marathon courses encompassed Fort Smith’s most popular historic and scenic sights and challenged runners with unique and unexpected changes in terrain, elevation and the elements. The marathon’s course utilized a portion of Hardscrabble Golf Course and offered 23 aid stations with a unique character and group staffing each of them. There was also an extensive level of involvement from local churches. On the eve of the marathon, runners and their families were able to attend an ecumenical service at Immaculate Conception Church conducted by Father Jon Antony, Pastor, and T. Ray Grandstaff of the Arkansas Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The Fort Smith Marathon hosted more than 1,000 runners who represented twenty-five U.S. states, Canada and Argentina. This can be accredited to a focused, well-targeted media campaign with three primary elements. First, Facebook was used to target an audience on the local level. Second, a banner ad posted on ArkansasRunner.com was used to attracted runners on a larger scale. Lastly, Marathon Maniacs were contacted, and they got the word out to seriously dedicated runners who would be attracted to challenging themselves with this new course.

This great gathering of runners came together to benefit the expansion of the Fort Smith Multi-purpose trail system; a public check-presentation will occur in the near future. The Fort Smith Marathon Planning Committee has also sent out a data-gathering survey, which will aid in the development of the overall economic impact of the marathon.

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Following the event, Pendleton reported that he was, “amazed, shocked, and overwhelmed by the community support!” As the leader of the Fort Smith Marathon Planning Committee, he will hold an event follow-up meeting to determine how to broaden the already incredible levels of collaboration, enthusiasm and service that will serve as hallmark characteristics of the Fort Smith Marathon’s overwhelmingly successful first year.


Would you like to nominate Patrick in this year’s, “4th Annual Giving Recognition in Tourism (GRIT) Awards?” Click on the image below to nominate Patrick and other Hometown Heroes.

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There is an annual event in Fort Smith that honors those who demonstratetrue grit. . Once again, our staff at the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau is excited to recognize the brightest stars of our city’s growing tourism industry. At 5:30 p.m. on April 23, 2015, “The 4th Annual Giving Recognition In Tourism (GRIT) Awards,” take place at the Movie Lounge, located at 7601 Rogers Ave. in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

In the meantime, we need your help to nominate organizations, businesses and individuals as our finalists. Fort Smith has been blessed with a community that is full of creative men and women who strive to promote our city as a destination, attract visitors and tourists, and ensure that everyone has a great time. It is through their efforts – along with the support of the community – that Fort Smith’s tourism industry will continue to not only grow, but also prosper.

The GRIT Awards are our way of showing our most heartfelt and sincerest thanks to the people who have earned the respect and gratitude of the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, the community, and all who are a part of our region’s tourism community.

We are depending on you to submit nominations in each of the following categories:

What is romance? If you’re like most people – by “people” we mean men – you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about what the definition of romance is. In fact, as some of you read this, perhaps you’ve been struggling with how to plan the upcoming Valentine’s Days. Yes, that’s plural…DAYS! Incase you didn’t know, this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, which means you have an entire weekend to get romantic with that special someone. So, back to our original question: what is romance? According to Urban Dictionary, romance is when you remind someone why they love you in the first place by offering kind gestures, like…making them a sandwich. In literature, romance is encapsulated by any event that is especially adventurous and/or mysterious, which leads the characters to attach an emotion to the memory of a special event in their lives. While we cannot recommend unexpected sandwich-making (sweet as it may be) as a Valentine’s Day suggestion, we can offer some ideas on how to plan an adventurous Valentine’s Day weekend that your significant other will remember for years to come. Nothing is more romantic than the history of The Old South, which is why a weekend getaway in Fort Smith, Arkansas is the perfect fit. As the original gateway to The Wild West, this border town is full of mystery, history and romance. Here are a few suggestions on what you could do in Fort Smith, Arkansas this Valentine’s Day.


1. Experience Fort Smith’s History

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Built in 1903 by Virginia-native Laura Ziegler, what was originally called The Riverfront Hotel quickly became known throughout the United States as one of the best bordellos in the Southwest. Located on The Row of Fort Smith’s infamous red light district, Miss Laura’s is rumored to have been frequented by some the most famous outlaws in American History, including: Belle Star, Cherokee Bill, The Rufus Buck Gang, The James, Dalton and Younger Gangs, and more. In 1911, Miss Laura sold her bordello to an employee, Bertha Dean, who ran it legally until prostitution was outlawed in 1924. Then, she continued to run it illegally until her death in 1948. After that, ownership exchanged hands several times until it was purchased by The City of Fort Smith. Today, it is the only bordello included in The National Register of Historic Places, and it houses The Fort Smith Visitor’s Center. It only makes sense that you visit Fort Smith, Arkansas’ original house of romance, where Miss Laura’s brothel continues to cater to out-of-towners! While you’re here, be sure to ask one of the history-loving volunteers about the many historic sites in the area or what other ideas they might have for your weekend getaway.

Click here to find out more about Miss Laura’s Social Club and other area attractions in Fort Smith, Arkansas.


2. Dinner Excursion: Romance on the Rails

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Planning a Valentine’s Day dinner that will truly impress your date is possibly the most daunting task you’ll face in the month of February, at least when it concerns the future success or soon-to-come failure of your relationship!!! Let us make this easy for you. What could be more unique than a romantic dinner-for-two inside a leisurely 1920’s vintage pullman coach as you travel alongside the Arkansas River and the through the scenic Ozark Mountains? Answer: Nothing

Okay, go ahead and check “plan perfect dinner” off of your to-do list. You’re welcome. If you cannot make it to dinner, you’re in luck. You can still treat your date to an adventure on the rails from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and travel over the Arkansas River Bridge, through the foothills of the Boston Mountains, across three high trestles (approx. 120 ft high) and through the 1700 ft tunnel at Winslow. Includes lunch, chips, drink, and dessert.

For more information on Romance on the Rails and/or The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad just click here!


3. Performing Arts: Pride & Prejudice

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Opposites attract, right? Well, Jane Austen clearly felt that they did when she wrote, “Pride and Prejudice,” which has become one of the most well-known romantic comedies of all time. This adaptation by Jon Jory pulls from the novel’s  favorited pages to highlight the most impactful moments of Austen’s classic tale. It will be romantic, but it will also be funny. Regardless of your preference, you can enjoy this on-stage adaptation. In an article by Scott Smith of The Times Record, Director Duff Taylor sums it up by saying, “In the story, one character is saying to another character, ‘your family are a bunch of hood rats, but I’ve fallen in love with you, and I don’t know why.’” Like we said, opposites attract!

For more information on the play and how to buy tickets, click here!


4. Post Winery Valentine’s Day Dinner & Wine Pairing

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Let’s be honest…alcohol makes any high-pressure dating situation run a lot smoother. However, this is Valentines Day Days we’re talking about, so it’s time to class it up. Nothing says “classy” quite like a decanter full of vino. So, this makes taking a trip over to Post Winery’s Valentines Day Dinner & Wine Pairing an obvious choice. Enjoy a romantic, five course dinner at the Trellis Room at Post Winery, prepared by Chef Terese Post. First, though, take a tour of the winery and participate in a wine tasting with winemaker, Luke Holcomb, and wine specialist, Lee Green.

Click here for more information on Post Winery and their Valentine’s Day Dinner & Wine Pairing!


5. Nightlife…YEAH!

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Fort Smith isn’t just one of the largest cities in Arkansas, it is also one of the oldest. As the original gateway to The Old West, Fort Smith accumulated quite a broad collection of some of the liveliest bars, lounges and night clubs in Arkansas. From casual pubs to live music venues, there is something here for everyone. They didn’t coin the phrase, “southern hospitality,” for just any reason, and it is our specialty in Fort Smith. Things have calmed down since the earlier days of this city, but a focus on entertaining out-of-owners is something that still exists in Fort Smith.

For a list of nightlife venues in Fort Smith, Arkansas just click here!


Who’d have thought Valentine’s Day planning could be so easy…Well, we did, but that’s because we live in Fort Smith, Arkansas! Happy Valentine’s Day, and we can’t wait for you to experience Fort Smith!

CLICK HERE for a list of places to stay while visiting Fort Smith, Arkansas!

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