art haddaway mug

Cow bells, glittered hand clappers and loud cheers. These are all the makings for an entertaining evening.

Such was the case at Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention over the weekend.

The event, hosted every June at the Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee, plays host to a full program of engaging workshops and sessions over a two-day period, and culminates in the most anticipated hour for local newspaper teams across the state: the venerated awards banquet.

There, dozens of journalists, editors and publishers gather in the Grand Event Center to celebrate the previous year’s best stories and photos and most notable accomplishments.

The contest pits 75 Oklahoma newspapers against each other in a friendly competition that leaves them eagerly awaiting the name of their publication to be announced for first, second or third place in a handful of categories, including news content, feature writing, advertising, layout & design and more.

Add to that delicious food, fun dialogue among staff members and gobs of celebratory gear like those cow bells and glittered hand clappers, and you have an evening worth remembering.

I’m proud to say that this year Owasso Reporter nabbed nine awards, including first place in News Content, first in Layout & Design, first in Advertising and first in Sports Coverage in the Division 5 category (circulation between 1,400 and 2,000), as well as the Sequoyah Award, the highest honor in the entire contest.

We also brought home several individual awards that were presented to Yours Truly, Sports Editor Shawn Hein, Senior Advertising Consultant Karen Bennett and Paginator Melanie Allen.

Of course, I don’t want to forget our Customer Service Representative Brandi Smith. Although she wasn’t in attendance, her efforts in answering calls, delivering papers and solving problems – among a hundred other daily tasks – shine through each award and accolade that was presented to us.

Donning our best suits and ties and elegant gowns, we took to the stage with big smiles and high spirits as the large crowd cheered us on. It goes without saying that it was a high – if not the highest – moment in our careers.

A lot happened in Owasso over the last year that has warranted some in-depth coverage – and, apparently, caught the eyes of our best critics.

Owasso girls’ basketball claimed its first state championship in 28 years; Owasso Police Department’s lip sync video went viral; Owasso Public Schools participated in the statewide teacher walkout; SEVEN6MAIN and SMOKE debuted downtown; the community welcomed its first medical marijuana dispensary; historic flooding displaced several local residents; on and on.

OPA’s anticipated annual event, however, offers more than just another plaque or certificate to add to our wall (although it is getting quite cluttered). It’s an opportunity to thank our dedicated readers and the Owasso community for their continued support.

Every week, you, the reader, return to these pages for another story, another picture, another column, to stay informed, up-to-date, inspired, engaged. Heck, some of you pick up the paper just for the crossword puzzle. Whatever keeps bringing you back, we want to say thank you. Without you, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments.

Art is a seasoned reporter of over 15 years with an extended background in writing and editing for a variety of publications and organizations.