Despite continuing rainy weather and persistent flooding of roads, nearly 400 people showed up Saturday night for the second annual Tommy Star Awards and Gala on St. Thomas.
Guests were treated to first-class service at the Mariott Frenchman's Reef Resort as they were shuttled from the Havensight parking lot and escorted to an area outside the ballroom where music, wine, hors d'oeuvres, cash bar and a photo area awaited them.
Nominee for Activities and Attractions Associate of the year, Nicole Rickson of Coral World, anxiously awaited word from the five judges selected by the St. Thomas and St. John Hotel Association. Rickson's elegant red gown was among many of the extravagant creations that were worn to the gala.
Lawrence Grell, nominee for Supervisor of Hotels and banquet manager of the Marriott Frenchman's Reef, said he felt great about the evening.
Participants mingled until they were ushered into the ballroom and served a three-course meal.
Judges evaluated written information submitted on each nominee and reviewed filmed presentations. Finalists had to participate in a personal interview.
Leona Bryant, talk-show host on Radio One, was presented with the Tommy Star Award of Excellence.
"Good evening," she said in a bold voice as she accepted her award. "I didn't hear anybody answer me," said Bryant, adding that "good morning" and "good afternoon" were some of the most important words in tourism.
Bryant addressed the 11-percent decline in tourism, saying that the she thought the turnaround would be in the hands of each and every one of the people in the Virgin Islands.
"The only place where success comes before work," she said, "is in the dictionary,"
Bryant was presented with flowers from her children and grandchildren on St. Thomas and in the mainland.
Rickson won Activities and Attractions Associate of the Year and was able to say "Wow, this is cool," as she accepted the award.
Hyacinth Martin Lockhart, deputy clerk of the Territorial Court, accepted the Public Service Associate of the Year award. She said was happy that her service did not go unnoticed. This is the first year that this category has been awarded.
The Restaurant Associate of the Year award went to Tyrone Williams of Herve Restaurant.
Arthur Christopher of the Ritz-Carlton was awarded Hotel Supervisor of the Year.
Retail Associate of the Year went to Eula Bing of Diamonds International. "I will continue to do my best in the hospitality industry," she said.
The Taxi Operator of the Year award went to Frank "Jimmy" Powell Jr. of the Westin Resort and James Penn Taxi Service.
Hospitality Support Service Associate of the Year winner Samuel "Skip" Pomper thanked the hotel association for recognizing him for something that he likes to do anyway.
Viola Albert was awarded the Hotel Associate of the Year. An overjoyed and nearly speechless Albert took a few moments to compose herself, then pulled a speech from her purse.
"I want to thank the lord for bringing me thus far," said Albert. "Viola is tourism and tourism is Viola." Albert has been cook and dining-room manager at Bolongo Bay, Limetree Hotel and Villa Olga in her career of more than 30 years.
A special award was given to the president of the hotel association, David Yamada, who said that he was really encouraged by the words spoken by many of the winners. Yamanda said that they are the "real leaders of tourism," being that they are ones that are truly out there with guests day after day.
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