Ozark Gateway Tourist Council’s Cathy Drew Receives Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame Award March 12 at Governor’s Conference

Cathy Drew, executive director of the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council, and Mike Mills, owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center, were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during a luncheon Monday, March 12, 2018, at noon during the 44th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The conference was held in West Memphis at Southland Park Gaming & Racing March 11-13, 2018.  (The pictures above of Cathy Drew courtesy of ADPT)

The Hall of Fame honor is presented annually to an individual or individuals who have been actively involved in tourism for many years and who have made substantial contributions to the betterment of the industry as a whole.

Drew is a lifelong resident of the region she loves to promote – the Ozark Gateway. She was born in Batesville and worked for Media Market Inc., a former ad agency that handled the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council account. In this role, Drew helped to design the region’s tabloid publication. She later worked at WRD Entertainment in marketing and graphic design and in 2000 began her career with Ozark Gateway.

Drew’s many contributions to the tourist council include converting the traditional tabloid-style publication into a magazine-format regional guidebook, attending several AARP tradeshows to represent the state as a travel and relocation destination, opening a 24/7 welcome center for the region, creating a new regional motorcycling pocket map and guide and significantly improving the region’s website. Drew has also created a regional golf tournament to help promote the area, established a social media presence for the region and travels the state and southern Missouri to deliver Ozark Gateway publications to visitor information sites. She is a member of the Arkansas Travel Council, the Ozark Foothills FilmFest board of directors and the Batesville Rotary Club. She also served as an Independence County Election Commissioner and currently is the chair of the Batesville A and P Commission. Drew has been a featured profile for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and has been highlighted on the cover of Eye on Independence.

Mills is an Arkansan through and through. He grew up on a farm west of Lowell and later graduated from Rogers High School, Hendrix College and the University of Arkansas Graduate School, and served in the United States Marine Corps. Mills founded Buffalo Outdoor Center in 1976 and expanded it into Arkansas’s first log cabin resort in 1985. With 44 years in the business, he has clocked in over 150,000 hours for the tourism industry and has served more than 3 million guests. Mills has also served 36 years on the Arkansas Travel Council, 36 years on the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation, 22 years on the Ozark Mountain Region board of directors and 18 years on the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission.

For information on the Hall of Fame Awards, contact Kristine Puckett at 501-682-1120.

For information on the 44th Annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism or to register to attend, contact the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism at 501-324-1521.  ( For future reference)

Drew is among several Hall of Famer’s from the Ozark Gateway Region, including Jimmy Driftwood, Leo Rainey, Hank Walters, Donna Baker, Craig Ogilive, and Grandpa Jones and Ramona Jones.

Ginger Smith joined OGTC in 2014 as a volunteer, and has lived in this area since 1972 when she moved to be near her parents, the late Doss and Vivian Burgess. Her late father was Independence County Appraiser and any time family, whether kids or grand kids, came to visit for even a short time, he would take them to A.D. Hill’s grocery store, and get them a soda pop and candy bar, see the talking bird there, and end up “checking out the great White River.” All the kids and grands have played on the banks there, picnicked, and played on the old train. Ginger is adamant, since she moved to Batesville, there is just no other place to raise a family. Her love for the area and desire to help promote it in her professional capacity led her to seek volunteering, and Charlie Morris, whom she met when she was a typesetter at the Daily Guard Newspaper, put her in touch with Cathy Drew, Executor Director of OGTC. She has been on board since then and says she has loved everything she has done and is proud to represent North Central Arkansas.
The last 20 years of her employment she worked for the late County Judge David Wyatt, West Elementary School Principal Jerry Harris, and Circuit Clerk Claudia Nobles and Judge John Kemp. At the Guard Office she says she made friends for a life time, and then the West Elementary teachers, students, and their families grew close to her forever. Her last job she was hired in a newly created position to collect felony fines and restitution. She was so proud that after three years she more than tripled the annual revenues that she retired! Her part-time retirement job was with the ortho docs, Drs. Allen and Angel where she also met many people from all over the area, and made another set of new friends! She is a published writer and has also written feature articles for the Batesville Guard TV Guide and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
She has a daughter, Misty Long Sparks, son-in-law Dloyd Sparks, and three grands, Dalton Lee, Victoria Lynn and Anna Rose, who own her heart, and three more heartbeat grands, Nico and Corbin of Washington, and a late granddaughter, Ginger Savannah. Her late husband, Ken Smith, was the Batesville Postmaster.
Totally retired now, Ginger offers her time and writing abilities to OGTC as she travels around the state and visits with so many nice folks, writes reviews, and tries to be a worthy representative for Ozark Gateway Tourism. She is a people person who really cares for all God has blessed us with in our beautiful state of Arkansas in the United States of America.