The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau welcomed over 250 attendees to Springfield’s Toast to Tourism banquet and awards ceremony on April 27. 

2023 Toast to TourismThe road trip-themed banquet took attendees on an experiential journey through Springfield. Attendees entered on a two-lane highway into the White River Conference Center enjoying milkshakes and popcorn at a Route 66 reception and posing for photos with 1950s reenactors. The Springfield Cardinals’ mascot, animals from Dickerson Park Zoo, a 1936 Buick Century from the Route 66 Car Museum, award presentations, and a finale performance by the Parkview High School Drum Corps and Bugle Troupe added to the excitement.

The banquet also featured an uplifting keynote address by Mark Hecquet, the new president and chief executive officer of the CVB. 

Hecquet, who was celebrating his 100th day at the helm of the marketing organization, shared insights he’s gained since taking the job and achievements of the CVB, including successful marketing campaigns and group sales efforts. 

Mark HecquetWhile encouraging the crowd to think big about growing Greene County’s $9.2 billion tourism industry, Hecquet said Springfield is poised to raise its status as a travel destination thanks to demand generators on the horizon. He noted the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026, improvements at Lake Springfield, regional marketing collaborations, improved sports facilities, and other changes adding vitality to the area’s tourism landscape.

For the CVB, those changes are opportunities that will allow the creation of unique marketing programs that drive visitors to the area in the coming years.

“There is opportunity everywhere,” Hecquet said. “We’re going to tell the world about Springfield!”

Following Hecquet’s presentation, awards were presented to people and businesses making a difference in the local travel and tourism industry. 


Mike Crocker, executive director at Dickerson Park Zoo, who has worked for the zoo since 1976.

For individuals who have been active in the travel industry for many years and made substantial contributions to the betterment of the Springfield area’s travel industry. 


State Rep. Stephanie Hein, retired head of the Department of Hospitality Leadership at Missouri State University and former CVB board chair. 

Presented to a government official, organization, or employee who provides support to the Springfield area travel industry.


Bass Pro Tournament of Champions, an event that brings thousands to Springfield annually. 

Presented to individuals or organizations that generated significant economic impact for the area by working to encourage tourism or secure a major convention or event in Springfield. 


Michael SpyresMichael Spyres, world-famous opera tenor and Ozarks native.

Presented to an individual, business, or organization not usually considered part of the travel and tourism industry for noteworthy contributions in advancing travel and tourism in the Springfield area. 


History Museum on the Square, an award-winning museum showcasing local history to visitors and residents. 

Presented to an attraction, lodging facility, or restaurant that demonstrates outstanding hospitality to the traveling public and exhibits a team spirit in promoting Springfield area travel and tourism growth.

Proceeds from the event are presented to a nonprofit organization chosen by The Tracy Kimberlin Pinnacle Award recipient. Proceeds this year go to Friends of the Zoo. 

The event was sponsored by:


Diamond Sponsor


Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors


   Silver Sponsors