Congratulations GRIT (Giving Recognition In Tourism) Award Recipients!!!

Our journey to find GRIT has come to a close for this year but don’t worry, we’re already scouting to find next year’s nominees!


The GRIT Awards were presented the night of April 24th, at the MovieLounge, dinner-cinema-event space. Over 100 people attended the awards ceremony. This gathering of friends was to showcase the accomplishments of the finalists and winners who have distinguished themselves in their profession, time, energy, expertise and to celebrate a job well done in the local hospitality industry.

Pre-GRIT

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The Convention & Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce this year’s GRIT Award recipients by category:

Restaurant Partner of the Year :

Golden Corral

One of Fort Smith’s most popular eateries since 1993, the Golden Corral restaurant serves as the home of various weekly civic club meetings and events, in addition to hosting a loyal, local clientele. As dedicated community partners, Golden Corral has worked with most every Fort Smith non-profit group for many years; and if you have attended more than one catered event in the past few years, chances are very good you have dined on a customized Golden Corral Cuisine. A division of Fort Smith’s KMAC Enterprises, Golden Corral, and their catering staff—led by the irrepressible Debra Presson–knows most every kitchen in the Fort Smith area and is always happy to work with convention and tourism groups to keep them well fed.

Mayor Sandy Sanders and Sherry Scorby present Debra Presson and Rose Tomas with GRIT Award.
Mayor Sandy Sanders and Sherry Scorby present Debra Presson and Rose Tomas with the Golden Corral Restaurant Partner of the Year GRIT Award.

Lodging Partner of the Year:

Homewood Inn and Suites by Hilton

Opened at the entrance of the Fort Smith Regional Airport in 2009, the 88 room Homewood Inn and Suites by Hilton provides a wonderful first impression to those arriving in Fort Smith by air, and is a major play in the fast developing “Phoenix Avenue Corridor” of hospitality offerings convenient to I-540. Created by Fort Smith Hotel Developer Marion Driscoll, the Homewood staff is always accommodating to the business and casual traveler, not to mention groups, whether on a motor coach, attending a convention or a sporting event.

Congratulations Homewood Inn and Suites by Hilton! Accepting award: Pam Schier and Becky Murphy.
Congratulations Homewood Inn and Suites by Hilton! Accepting award: Pam Schier and Becky Murphy.

Attraction Partner of the Year:

Fort Smith National Historic Site

The Fort Smith National Historic Site has served as our town’s #1 tourist attraction since it was designated a National Park by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and came under the operation of the United States Department of the Interior. Fort Smith’s western frontier “brand” has been built around this historic landmark for the past 53 years and now hosts more than 87,000 visitors a year. Featuring elements from the gallows and courtroom to the commissary building, “hell on the border jail” and Trail of Tears monument, the Historic Site has attracted tourists from around the world. When the federal government closed facilities last year, the ranger who rode a golf cart to advise visitors of the closure was happy to be equipped with walking maps and brochures, still providing “Fort Smith hospitality” to guests with guidance on other attractions to visit.

And the Attraction Partner of the Year GRIT Award goes to...Fort Smith National Historic Site! Judy Bachler, Lisa Conrad Frost and Michael Groomer
And the Attraction Partner of the Year GRIT Award goes to…Fort Smith National Historic Site!
Judy Bachler, Lisa Conrad Frost and Michael Groomer

Business Partner of the Year:

BrickCity Emporium

One of the most unique shopping experiences in Fort Smith, the BrickCity Emporium is 20,000 square feet of shopping and dining, with more than 160 unique shops featuring everything from Handmade and repurposed items to vintage treasures, home decor, gifts and even women’s and children’s boutiques. A passion of owners Sarah and Mike Adams, BrickCity also provides space for information on various organizations designed to help improve our lives in Fort Smith in the Community Corner. Workshops, demonstrations and even the Patio Café make BrickCity a favorite shopping experience for locals and visitors alike. Promoted as featuring “The Biggest Little Shops in Town,” it’s a dream come true for motor coach groups and convention attendees visiting Fort Smith from all around the country since no two trips to the BrickCity Emporium are the same with merchandise that is constantly changing.

BrickCity Emporium has GRIT! Owners, Sara and Mike Adams accept award.
BrickCity Emporium has GRIT! Owners, Sara and Mike Adams accept award.

Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year:  (a tie)

John Bell Jr.

Simply put, John Bell Jr. was Fort Smith’s very own Norman Rockwell. The nationally renowned artist was a Fort Smith native who spent much of life capturing the beauty of our state and the character of our people in spectacular color, with authentic detail, on canvas for us to enjoy. Bell began his career drawing charcoal sketches in the early 1960’s after having been shown how to draw stick figures as a child. Thousands of his paintings and prints can now be found in public places and private collections all over the United States. He once created a portrait of country music singer Roy Acuff on the back of a hand crafted fiddle to be presented to him on stage during the “Grand Old Opry.” John used old postcards, early photographs and on site photography to research each composition. We lost our talented friend John Bell last fall but his spectacular images of our history and our state are legacies that will live forever as treasures.

John Bell Jr. - Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year. Wife, Maxine Bell and daughter, Lisa Murphy accept award.
John Bell Jr. – Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year. Wife, Maxine Bell and daughter, Lisa Murphy accept award.

&

Floyd and Sue Robison

The first person interpretation of historic characters from our color frontier past is one of the key elements that make Fort Smith stand out in the crowd in the hospitality industry. Floyd and Sue Robison are prefect examples of how to leave a lasting impression about Fort Smith history. This couple make judge and Mrs. Isaac Parker “come to life” through their portrayals….with careful attention to both physical resemblance and costuming, not to mention stories of the life and times of Fort Smith during its days as a frontier community. Plus you never know where you’ll bump into Judge and Mrs. Parker…..it could be at the Museum of History, on a Trolley ride, at the National Historic Site, or perhaps even a private party!

Mayor Sandy Sanders, Sherry Scorby, and Tonya Jackson present Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year GRIT Award to Floyd and Sue Robison.
Mayor Sandy Sanders, Sherry Scorby and Tonya Jackson present the Polly Crews Hospitality Person of the Year GRIT Award to Floyd and Sue Robison.

At the awards ceremony, the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau showcased the past year’s Hometown Hospitality Heroes, who have been highlighted each quarter in the City of Fort Smith’s Fast Focus e-newsletter, as having brought or hosted tourism events in 2013-14. These recipients are: These recipients are: Sharon Chapman and Melissa Schoenfeld, for their work and assistance with the Regional Dance American Southwest Festival 2013; Bill Hollenbeck, for his work on the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association Convention for 2013; Brooke Shock and Courtney Shreve, for their work on the Konsplosion Anime Convention and Mike Alsup, for his work on bringing the Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association and Arkansas Therapeutic Recreation Society Conventions to Fort Smith for the last three years.

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Prior to the awards presentation guests were treated to an array of appetizers prepared by Chef Blythe Beck. Following the awards presentation, attendees continued the celebration of their industry successes as well as their individual contributions to tourism and the Fort Smith community.

Congratulations to all the Recipients as well as Finalists; your contributions have made such a difference and Fort Smith is lucky to have you!!!

GRIT Finalists!

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