We are less than a week away from the third annual Best of News-Star Preps Event at FireLake Arena. That means you have one more day to order banquet tickets to enjoy a meal from Paul's Place at the event. You can buy tickets through Monday, but after Wednesday, you will be seated in the balcony with no dinner options so they can order the food and drinks for the big crowd we are expecting Monday night.
Other than a big crowd, here is what you can expect at Monday's event.
• The biggest change from 2018's huge event is that we got even bigger. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves to be specific. Reeves will be at a VIP meet and greet before the event and he will be available to take photos with award winners Monday night.
• Thanks to an Oklahoma Baptist University sponsorship, we will be awarding a Difference Maker award and $500 scholarship to a student athlete in our coverage area who has taken on a responsibility to make a difference in people's lives.
• TDK Ferrites is sponsoring a Photo Booth/Selfie Station Monday night. We have paid for a package to allow for unlimited photo prints for the athletes and their families and coaches. Each group will receive two photos. We will also have those photos available on our website and social media platforms for free the day after the event.
• We also added a Powerlifting category which is also sponsored by TDK. This is the first time we have honored top powerlifters in the area.
• Thanks to BancFirst and the Patriot Auto Group, we added a Fan Favorites program this year. Each month a winner received a $250 check for their athletic program's booster club. They were also entered in a Fan Favorites scholarship contest. The votes are in and one male and one female Fan Favorite will receive $250 scholarships Monday night.
• We also added Spirit Awards to this year's event to recognize top cheerleaders and competitive dance team members from the area. The cheerleaders provided a short essay to explain why they do the hard work of cheerleading for their school's team and our judges selected winners from those responses. More objective evidence was used in the competitive categories.
• Every student athlete honored at this year's event will receive a small prize in addition to their certificates and plaques. We have Best of News-Star Preps letter jacket patches for everyone who is honored Monday night, as well.
• We also have new ways to manage long lines at the entrance and award distribution. Trying to get more than 1,000 people into a building in a short time period makes it hard to avoid lines. But we have a plan to help alleviate some traffic. Some attendees will arrive early for the VIP reception. Sponsors will also enter on the north side of FireLake Arena so they don't stand in line. Ticket holders will all enter through the front doors again. This year, we have QR code scanners to make the entry process much quicker. You can print your ticket code or just show us the code on your phone. Don't worry if you forget your ticket, we will have a list and we can find you that way, as well. You'll just be in another line as the faster method keeps the line moving. On stage, things will be a little different as well. You will still receive your folder on the stage, but they won't have a certificate inside. Trying to identify students under the bright lights in that situation is tough. We will give you an empty folder and then send you to the photo area to get your certificates and patches. You will already be at the photo area and that line will move much more quickly than it did on stage. This should shave at least half an hour from last year's program run time. We aim to get you back into the parking lot by 8:30 p.m. Monday night.
What's back and better than ever?
• The Patriot Auto Group is giving away another brand new Jeep Renegade to our Student of the Year. I never get used to saying that. Their commitment to this program, this event and others like it across the state is incredible. They are giving away three new vehicles this year simply to reward great students who give back to their community and encourage other students to do the same great things. It is a huge investment and we can never thank them enough. Amy Price Shelter Insurance is back in to sponsor the tag, title and tax for the student who wins the car so they walk away with a new car and no financial burden beyond refilling the gas tank.
• Thanks to Berkshire Hathaway Benchmark Realty and CPN, we are able to give $250 or $500 Scholarships to other finalists in the Student of the Year competition. That's 15 scholarships from that program alone.
• Vyve Broadband is sponsoring the Male and Female Athlete of the Year contests this year. Their investment allows us to give $500 scholarships to both winners.
• Belfair of Shawnee is sponsoring the Courage Award again this year. This award is one of the highlights of the program every year. This year is no different.
This year's event is going to be a great one. I know who won all of the awards - talk about a hard secret to keep. I can tell you the Student of the Year is deserving. I could have made a strong case for most of the nominees. What a great group of students. Our Athletes of the Year are also very deserving. That was tough this year with so many great multi-sport athletes in the area. The Courage Award and Coaches of the year are also solid selections.
It's just going to be a great night. We stop selling banquet tickets Wednesday, but balcony seats ($15 but they don't come with dinner) will be on sale through Monday and can even be purchased at the door with cash or a card.
Save your spot now. You don't want to miss this event.