Ozark Gateway Announces Regional Tourism Awards

Ozark Gateway Tourist Council Board

The Ozark Gateway Tourist Council held their annual tourism appreciation banquet at the Batesville Recreation Center on Friday, April 27th.  Guest Speaker David Bazzel spoke of the many unique attractions the area has to promote tourism, and inspired attendees to be innovative about creating and finding new ways to entice visitors.  The event featured the presentation of this year’s local tourism finalists and award winners recognizing the outstanding efforts of businesses, media, and individuals to promote tourism in the region.
The Partner’s in Tourism awards are given to region businesses that go above and beyond in helping OGTC promote the region.  The 2018 Partner’s in Tourism are; North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, First Community Bank, FutureFuel, Areawide Media, Citizens Bank, and WRD Entertainment.
The Tom Biggs Award is named after the late Tom Biggs, a Sharp County native who retired in Batesville. Tom sold over 100 memberships in Independence County, and then traveled to other counties to help with their sales each year. OGT honors his memory with the annual “Tom Biggs Award” for outstanding service to tourism.   This year’s Tom Biggs Award Finalists included:  Bob Carius, Main Street Batesville; Henry Boyce, Depot Days, Newport ; and Fredamae Gamblin, Hardy A&PT, with the award going to Henry Boyce, who manages the 20 year-old heritage festival, Depot Daysdedicated to the preservation of the early history of rock ‘n’ roll in Jackson County as well as the Rock ‘n Roll Highway 67 Museum located in Newport.
The 2018 Volunteer Award was given to Paul & Ginger Bauer.  Ginger and her husband work many hours traveling the region, and Ginger is our blogger keeping our social media fresh and up to date, says Cathy Drew, executive director.
Two President’s awards were presented this year and Renee Janes received the first honor of the night. “Renee Janes does so much for our region.  She is constantly on the move, attending events, reviewing attractions and writing stories.  She always has a smile on her face and really helps promote our area,” said Adam Davis, President of the Ozark Gateway Board.  The second President’s award was given to Kyle Christopher.  “I was happy to present the President’s award to Kyle.  He has infectious enthusiasm and an untiring work ethic.  His work in Batesville and Independence County has really helped boost tourism.  He was instrumental in creating the “Experience Independence” branding and has worked with other tourism leaders to create a lot of momentum in our region,” said Davis.
The annual Media Award recognizes contributions to area tourism through public media and is named after the late Wilson Powell, the first secretary/treasurer of the Gateway Board, a business manager and staff newsman for the Batesville Guard.  Powell wrote most of the Gateway features promoting the region during his 25 year service to the Council Board.  The finalists for the Wilson Powell Media Support Award winner were:  White River Current, Calico Rock; K Kountry Radio, Thayer and the Villager Journal, Salem.  The Villager Journal was named the 2018 Wilson Powell Media Support of the Year.
In addition to the annual awards, the Council added a new award this year, Member of the Year.  The inaugural Ozark Gateway Region Member of the Year was given to the Melba Theater, recognizing their dedication for reviving the Melba and for working tirelessly to attract new visitors to the area.
Adam Davis, who served as President of the Board from 2012-2018, was also recognized at the event. “We’ve been so honored to have him serve the region for the past 6 years.  We’ve accomplished so much with his leadership.  His energy and love for our Ozarks is contagious.  I look forward to having him serve on the board for many years to come.  He is a great mentor said,” Crystal Crow, who will assume the role of President.
Ozark Gateway Region is a non-profit regional tourism association promoting Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Randolph, Sharp and Stone counties in North Central Arkansas. For area information call 1-800-264-0316 or visit www.ozarkgateway.com.
Photo’s below courtesy of Lauren Siebert, Areawide Media


Henry Boyce receiving Tom Biggs Award

Melba Theater receiving award

Adam Davis receiving Service Recognition Award


Reps from K-Kountry and White River receiving award


Kyle Christopher

Fredamae Gamblin and Bob Carius recognized as Tom Biggs finalists

Villager Journal Rep accepting Wilson Powell Media Support Award


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.