Batesville Wins Community Tourism Development Award; Cathy Drew Inducted into Hall of Fame

Kane Webb, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Kyle Christopher and Crystal Johnson Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Damon Johnson City of Batesville, Miss Arkansas Maggie Benton


Tourism industry partners from across the state came together this week for the 44th Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism in West Memphis.

On Monday, March 12, 2018, Governor Asa Hutchinson inducted Batesville native Cathy Drew into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame.

Drew has been the executive director of the Ozark Gateway Tourist Council since 2000 and has been instrumental in development and promotion of tourism in the region. Drew is also the Chairperson of the Batesville Advertising and Promotions Commission.

Cathy Drew, Executive Director of Ozark Gateway Tourist Council

The Henry Awards took place on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The Henry Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year.

The Community Tourism Development Award was presented to the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Batesville and the City of Batesville for their combined efforts to maximize the area’s potential.

“While we feel the work has only just begun, we are honored to be recognized in front of our peers from across the state. We look forward to building off both the private and public accomplishments made in recent years to continue the drive of improving our community in every way” said Tourism Director Kyle Christopher.

According to the 2017 Arkansas Tourism Economic Impact report produced by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, total travel expenditures in Independence County were up by $5,115,660.00 in 2017 compared to the previous year. Notable Independence County statistics include:

Total Travel Expenditures (Dollars): 50,611,434
Travel-Generated Employment (Jobs): 527
Visitors (Person-Trips): 204,852

Pictures credit of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism (ADPT)

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.