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HomeNewsArchivesTommy Star Event Rolls Out Red Carpet for Service Award Winners

Tommy Star Event Rolls Out Red Carpet for Service Award Winners

Nov. 5, 2006 — A bit of St. Thomas became Tinseltown Saturday night as the Tommy Star Awards dramatically enlivened Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Morningstar Resort.
The fifth annual production by the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association shines the spotlight on people who provide the backbone of the territory's economy, the ones who meet visitors face to face and make them feel welcome. It was their night, and about 400 folks came to celebrate their efforts Saturday.
"The event is growing and growing," said association board member and Coral World general manager, Gertrude Prior. "I think we had about 200 or so at the first one. Just look at tonight." Award categories have also grown over the years. "After the first couple years," she said, "other industry members wanted to be included, like the airlines and the public-service associates."
The 2006 Tommy Star Award of Excellence went to a soft-spoken man at least twice as old as most of the contestants. Cornelius Matthias, 80, took the stage and had the audience in his hand in scarcely more than a minute as he recalled his more than 50 years at Caneel Bay Resort on St. John. Rik Blyth, resort general manager, introduced Matthias: "Caneel Bay is in his blood."
Matthias gushed about his love for the resort, the guests he has met over the years, his fellow workers and his underlying philosophy: "If you respect people, they will respect you."
Over the years he worked many jobs at the resort: maintenance man, painter, and, most of all, enduring boat captain. "I've met so many people at the plantation," he said, adding with a laugh, "I've had them ask me how the sail boat moves without an engine."
Glitter and glitz were the order of the evening, starting with the red-carpet treatment in the lobby and extending to the grand ballroom. As the elegantly dressed crowd enjoyed an equally elegant dinner, and the Headline Band played dance music, the room was transformed into a Hollywood stage for the awards. Two huge screens on either side of the stage ran videos of all the contestants, showing them talking about their jobs and their feelings about those jobs. It provided a quick and colorful montage of island life and feeling.
Bright spotlights in an array of colors highlighted the room, as contestants got called to the stage in Oscar-like fashion. "The presenters are …," preceded each award, with couples in fancy dress holding the cards until the critical moment, announcing: "And the winner is …."
It was hard to tell who had the biggest cheering section. Voices and cheers rang from the tables as favorites were presented.
Before reaching the finals, entrants get interviewed by two sets of judges who rate them on several qualities, including: ability to initiate contact with customers; positive attitude and quality of work; and an understanding of the importance of tourism. In a second set of interviews, finalists must complete a role-playing session and provide an overview of their career choices.
Some of the winners expressed more elation than others. Dorcas Alexander, named Hotel Associate of the Year, had the room laughing as she talked of her love for her work. "If you need a job, I'll hire you," she said. "Come see me."
Before the adult winners were announced, the Tommy Star Student Awards went to three elementary school youngsters. They were winners in an essay contest offered in the "Tommy Goes to School" newsletter. As videos of the three danced in the background, they received their honors with smiles: Cleve Wyatt of J. Antonio Jarvis; Nicole Berry of Joseph Sibilly; and Nadira Blondell of Leonard Dober.
The winners included:
Activities and Attractions Associate: Diasquiris "Jackie" Demorel, Coral World
Airline Associate: Patricia Williams, American Airlines-American Eagle
Hospitality Support Service: Joseph Francis, West Indian Co. Ltd.
Public Service Associate: Derek Gabriel, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone's office
Restaurant Associate: Harry Ralph, Hook, Line and Sinker
Taxi Operator: Peter John Baptiste, First Class Tours
Hotel Supervisor: Vera Powell-Payne, Caneel Bay Resort
Hotel Associate: Dorcas Alexander
Perhaps nobody looked happier Saturday night than Harry Ralph, chef of Hook, Line and Sinker restaurant in Frenchtown. He served as patriarch at an overflowing table that seated his wife, brother, three of his five daughters, his only son, two grandchildren and a couple of husbands.
For one of Ralph's daughters, the night meant something extra special. Jossette Ralph, 22, had just returned home last week from a year in Iraq as a private in the National Guard. "I'm just so happy to be here and to be home," she said, beaming at her dad.
Ralph has a slow smile and a gentle nature. He can have his grill full of omelets and French toast at a Sunday-morning brunch and still take time to share a laugh. He seemed overwhelmed at the announcement of his award.
"I had to take a deep breath and a sip of water before I could walk up there," he said. His two-year-old granddaughter took it upon herself to follow him to the stage, lightening the moment.
"I like to work, and when I do something good, it's a good feeling when somebody comes back to let me know," Ralph said. He has worked about 16 years at the restaurant, since right after Hurricane Marilyn.
His boss, Ted Luscz, captured the spirit of the event. With he and his wife, Becky, still glowing from Harry's award, Luscz said, "This is the only time we get to single out the employees, the ones who really keep the industry going. I could have nominated four more employees just from our restaurant. It's such a good community thing to honor them; they are so deserving."
Winners received a boxed Laliquie starfish designed by the internationally famed designer.
Association president Beverly Nicholson Doty and Luana Wheatley, public relations director, moved around throughout the evening like two mother hens, anxious to keep things rolling. Todd Hecht of FilmVI.net and Bobby and Stacy of Moxie Marketing created the videos, the lighting and the glitzy atmosphere.
Sponsors included: West Indian Co. Ltd, Department of Tourism, First Express, Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, Southland Gaming and FilmVI.net.
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