We are four weeks away.

I still remember the sense of relief 11 months ago after we gave away a car and about $7,500 in scholarships. The second Best of Preps was over.

It was huge. It was fun. I was really tired. After about a week of not thinking about it, we started getting ready for the 3rd annual Best of News-Star Preps event May 6 at FireLake Arena.

This year's event will be bigger in every way. There will be more categories with more athletes winning awards. There will be more scholarships. If everything goes well, the crowd will be bigger too. For the first time, we are opening the balcony seats for people who want to see the show but don't want to enjoy the dinner. The general admission seats are more than worth the $30 price tag - which we have refused to raise every year - because you get a full meal catered by Paul's Place and a seat on the floor.

One really big part of this year's event is featured guest Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. Like I said, we're going big in year three. Reeves is an Oklahoma State basketball legend, an Oklahoma Sports Hall of Famer and he was the first ever member of the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies.

He's kind of a big deal. Big Country will meet guests at the VIP reception before the event and he will take photos with the winners. Reeves is a great guy a big part of Oklahoma State and NBA history.

We learned a lot the first two years. Every finalist will still be honored on the stage in front of the huge crowd and on the jumbotron screens. But we have a better way of distributing the certificates this year that will cut down on the awkward pauses and delays. Not only will we finish earlier, but the show will have a much better flow.

We will still have the photos and videos featuring highlights from each sport or group of sports.

This year's line to get in won't be as long either. Sponsors and VIP guests will be arriving early and they will have a separate door so that ticket holders will be able to get in without a long wait. Hopefully, staggering the dining times a little bit will cut those lines down too.

When you feed 1,000 people at one time, there will be a delay. We'll make that delay as short as we can.

But if you finish eating early or have a little wait before, there will be plenty to do. We will have a selfie station/photo booth sponsored by TDK Ferrites and everyone gets free photos printed that night and we will have all of the fun photos on our website after the event along with all of the great photos and videos from the Red (Green) Carpet entrance, award winners and VIP event.

We are even hiring a videographer to capture highlights of the big night.

Thanks to Patriot CDJR and other sponsors we are giving away almost $30,000 in scholarships and prizes.

I tell everyone who will listen about the support that the Patriot Group gives to our newspaper, this event, and through it, the students and athletes of the three counties we cover. I hope people appreciate Tatton Manning and Seth Knighton as much as I do.

Berkshire Hathaway Home Services jumped in this year to sponsor the Swimmers of the Year and help provide scholarships to the Student of the Year finalists who don't win the brand new Jeep Renegade.

TDK is sponsoring the photo booth and also a brand new category - Powerlifter of the Year. This will be the first time those athletes are honored. We have a couple more new awards too.

In addition to the incredible stories behind the Belfair of Shawnee Courage Award nominees, we will honor one student who goes the extra mile for their community with a Difference Maker award.

As we begin year three, I really want to thank people like Paul's Place, CPN, Firelake Arena, Performance Course, Shawnee Milling, and Sparks HVAC who have been with us every year. Georg Fischer Central Plastics, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sen. Ron Sharp, Bar-S Foods, Amy Price Shelter Insurance and Angelic Family Hospice are back from last year's event.

Vyve Broadband jumped in with a big sponsorship of the overall Athletes of the Year and Shawnee Mall and the Sac and Fox Tribe have also become new sponsors for 2019.

With a month left before the big event, I am already getting excited. We try to include every athlete that makes sense and drawing that line is hard. Our sports staff meets multiple times each season to argue for athletes to be included. Our newspaper enters contests and sometimes we win and sometimes we don't. We know what it feels like to be left out when you think you should have made the cut.

Our sports team covers games four to five nights a week across three counties. We try to see every team at least a few times each season. That's not always possible. We take giving these awards seriously.

Most of the nominees from fall and winter sports have been notified on social media or with a letter they would receive at school.

Spring sports nominees will begin being notified next week even though those lists are developing. Last year, we added one softball player after the state tournament - 3 days before the event. We would rather scramble late than leave out someone who deserves to be there.

Tickets and more information are available at www.news-star.com/preps.

Ask me any questions you have by emailing or calling my office. If you get a chance to tell our sponsors how much the event means to you or your children, take that opportunity. They make the night possible. We still have a few small sponsorships left if your business wants to be a part of the big night.

The third year will be the biggest and best yet. We can't wait to see you there.