The last ticket was sold two weeks ago and the final preparations are being done as the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce prepares to honor some and celebrate 2017 at its annual awards banquet taking place Saturday at Mount Magazine State Park.
Last week, PACC Executivce Director Tonya Baumgartner found herself still having to turn away those seeking tickets. The event became a sellout on Monday, Jan. 30 when the last of 216 available tickets was sold. It’s the first time the banquet has soled out in at least the last four years.
“I’ve had to turn away people this week and it doesn’t get any easier,” she said. “I wish there were a larger place where we could accommodate more people, but there just isn’t.”
The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a social hour followed by the banquet and the awards program. The guest speaker is Walt Coleman of Little Rock, a long-time NFL referee.
The event will also include a gun raffle and silent auction.
“We’ve got some great silent auction items,” Baumgartner said.
Awards to be handed out are Youth of the Year, Educator of the Year, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Large Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Community Volunteer of the Year, Chamber Member of the Year, the Vic Bockstadter Humanitarian of the Year, Farm Family of the Year and Tourism Person of the Year.
Coleman has officiated in the NFL since the 1989 season. He wears uniform number 65. Coleman lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and is a sixth-generation family operator of Hiland Dairy. Coleman is married to wife Cynthia and they have two children, Walter and Courtney Coleman.
Outside of officiating, Coleman serves on many local boards and associations including the Little Rock Boys and Girls Club and Greater Little Rock YMCA. Coleman is a former president of the Arkansas Dairy Products Association and Major Sports Association of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Coleman was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in February 2009, joining his father, Buddy Coleman, a 1994 inductee.
Coleman served as a line judge for the first six seasons before being promoted to referee at the start of the 1995 NFL season when Dale Hamer was forced to sit out that season after undergoing open-heart surgery. Mike Carey had been promoted to referee when the NFL added another crew for the 1995 season in anticipation of the arrival of expansion franchises Carolina and Jacksonville.
Over his NFL career, Coleman has worked two conference championship games (1998 and 2003) and was the alternate referee for Super Bowls XXXIV, XLII, and LI.
If you are planning to attend, you should dress warmly. The temperature on the mountain Saturday night is expected to be in the 20s.