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story.lead_photo.caption Train front man Patrick Monahan performs before a crowd in the Murphy Arts District Griffin Music Hall during MusicFest XXX and the district's grand opening in El Dorado on Sept. 28, 2017. - Photo by Terrance Armstard

For the first time, El Dorado hosted the annual Arkansas Festivals and Events Association Conference and Trade Show and as a first time host, the city picked up several awards that were handed out during the conference.

The 34th annual event was held Feb. 7 and 8 in the Griffin Restaurant and Music Hall in the Murphy Arts District.

MAD vice president and general manager, Dan Smith, serves on the AFEA board of directors.

The 2017 ALFiE (Arkansans Love Festivals and Events) Awards were presented during the AFEA conference.

The ALFiEs “honor the best and brightest of Arkansas’ festivals and special events.”

Four local festivals and events were recognized with that distinction in four categories during this year’s award ceremony.

Three events of the received gold awards in their respective categories.

MAD was named Event of the Year for its grand opening last fall.

The five-day event began in late September and rolled through the first weekend in October with performances by Smokey Robinson, Train, Natasha Bedingfield, Brad Paisley, Migos, ZZ Top, Lyle Lovett, Ludacris and more.

The Event of the Year award is “presented to a community event or other special celebration which stands out among all community events in Arkansas by its creative approach, crowd appeal, media coverage and/or enrichment in community pride, thus benefiting the state’s quality of life.”

The grand opening generated ticket sales from 30 states, with 75 percent of ticket purchases coming from Arkansas.

“It puts a big smile on our faces,” Bob Tarren, chief marketing office of MAD, said of the award.

“We’re very proud to be recognized in the context of all of the great festivals and events that take place in Arkansas,” he said. “The Arkansas Festivals and Events Association has a history of working with the best festivals in the state.”

Tarren said the award added an element of validation for the months of preparation that MAD put into the grand opening.

“We’re definitely motivated to keep it up at that level,” he said.

A MAD partnership with Main Street El Dorado was recognized with the ALFiE Gold award for Outstanding New Idea.

The award was in honor of MusicFest XXX, which coincided with the MAD opening last fall.

MusicFest is Main Street’s flagship fundraiser and last year, MSE and MAD joined together to present the festival, with MAD focusing on the musical headliners and MSE concentrating on the festival side of the event.

Not surprisingly, Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street, said the groups were excited about the ALFiE win.

“Even though it’s a 30-year festival, it’s still a lot of work,” Brumley said. “When you’re recreating yourself, you don’t know how it’s going to go and we’re proud that someone recognized that.”

Eligible festivals for the Outstanding New Idea award are required to “have developed a new idea, logo, event, festival or publication during the previous year, which added significantly to the success or popularity of the festival.”

MSE board members said they are again teaming up with MAD for MusicFest XXXI and plans are already under way, with the festival tentatively scheduled for mid-October.

Brumley said the groups will work together in a similar fashion as 2017.

This week, MSE created an advisory board position for MAD and voted Austin Barrow, MAD president and chief operating officer, into the position.

The Gold award for Sporting Event of the Year went to the 2017 Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout, which was held last September Mystic Creek Golf Club.

The women’s golf tournament, which is part of the Symetra Tour and a qualifier for the LPGA, drew 132 players, up from 120 in 2016.

The third annual shootout drew its largest crowd with 2,500 spectators and received national media coverage.

Eighty-four golfers were hosted in 54 local homes during the three-day event.

To be recognized as an ALFiE Sport Event of the Year, a festival or event must feature “or be centered around a sporting event that brings recognition to the sport and enhances community pride.”

The Bronze for Festival of the Year was awarded to the long-running SouthArk Expo, which was also held in September 2017 and reportedly drew a crowd of 5,000.

The expo also snapped up a Bronze award for promotional print materials.

The event is a fundraiser, with proceeds directed toward student scholarships in support of SouthArk.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@

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