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Hernando says 'gracias': Hot Springs awards honor outstanding tourism advocates.

Outstanding television achievements are honored with Emmy Awards, presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Outstanding motion picture achievements are honored with Oscars, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In southwest Arkansas, a new award has come on the scene -- the Hernando Awards.

Although not widely recognized, the Hernando is a prestigious honor for those involved in the Garland County tourism industry.

Tourism is Garland County's No. 1 industry. It brings in 1.7 million visitors to spend $260.5 million annually.

As part of the first "Tourism Week," held May 17-22, the Hot Springs Advertising & Promotion Commission presented the Hernando Awards. They are named for Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish explorer recognized as the first European to visit Hot Springs in 1541.

The six-day event consisted of tourism seminars, meetings and forums. It culminated in a "Salute To Tourism" luncheon and the presentation of the Hernandos.

According to Don Raulie, executive director of the Hot Springs Advertising & Promotion Commission since 1990, the Hernando Awards were sparked by the Henry Awards presented at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism.

"We had talked about the need to stage an event that would focus on people who have contributed to tourism in Hot Springs," he says. "On the evening of this year's Henry Awards, things really began falling into place."

Tres Hernandos

This year's Hernando recipients were selected by an anonymous committee of four members of the Garland County tourism industry.

Three Hernandos were presented.

* The Hot Springs Tourism Person of the Year Award is given to the person who has fostered exceptional growth and improvement of tourism in the city during the previous year.

This year's recipient is Mark Buhrow, owner of the Belle of Hot Springs. One of Hot Springs' major tourist attractions, the Belle is a showboat that provides dinner and entertainment for its passengers.

Buhrow, president of the Arkansas Travel Council, recently constructed a new facility on Lake Hamilton for the Belle. Buhrow also was instrumental in the campaign to construct a new Hot Springs Civic Center.

* The Hot Springs Tourism Business-Organization of the Year Award honors a group or venture that has most effectively fostered tourism.

Although this year's recipient is not an official organization, the Hot Springs arts community was selected hands down, Raulie says.

The arts community was commended for enriching Hot Springs' cultural climate.

Not only have members of the arts community refurbished countless structures in the historic downtown area, the artists also have sparked the Festival of the Arts and the Gallery Walk. Perhaps most importantly, they have attracted a new group of tourists to the city.

* The DeSoto Award, considered the most prestigious Hernando Award, recognizes one who has devoted a career or lifetime to the promotion of tourism in Hot Springs.

State Rep. Ted Mullenix was given this year's DeSoto Award.

In addition to fervently supporting tourism as a member of the state Legislature, Mullenix also pioneered the family oriented music show more than a decade ago when he opened Music Mountain Jamboree.

The Music Mountain Jamboree has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Garland County.

Perhaps the most important contribution made by Mullenix involves an amendment to the Revenue Stabilization Act in 1989. The amendment set up the passage of the 2 percent tourism initiative that has fostered substantial growth in tourism throughout Arkansas.
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Title Annotation:Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission presents the Hernando Awards
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 15, 1992
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