Two McAlester organizations were recognized as the best in Oklahoma.

McAlester Tourism and the Buffalo Run Pro Disc Golf Course recently won RedBud Awards — the highest honors given in the Oklahoma tourism industry to celebrate the efforts of organizations that have made significant contributions to the state’s tourism sector. The awards are presented by Oklahoma Travel Industry Association (OTIA) in partnership with Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation.

This marks McAlester’s ninth tourism award in the past seven years, with seven occurring in the last three years alone. Since 2017, McAlester has been awarded seven RedBud Awards and two Merit Awards for various events, attractions, publications and websites.

“It’s my goal that McAlester is featured yearly with other top destinations, travel and tourism partners,” McAlester Tourism Manager Billy Sumner said. “I’m proud of what McAlester has accomplished and it’s my job to support and highlight the things that make our area unique. Our local event holders, partners and community supporters deserve to be honored and recognized for their hard work, not only locally but on a state and national level too.”

Buffalo Run Owner Matt House said he is excited to receive the RedBud Award for Outstanding Event in recognition of the course’s 10th Annual Golf Tournament that hosted almost 200 players representing nine states and four countries in an event that grew to an A-Tier Tournament in 2023.

“This award was up against some heavy hitters, so it’s an exciting time for disc golf in Oklahoma and I felt honored to represent McAlester at the state level,” House said. “It feels extra special that my personal investment and contributions back in 2014 creating this course are receiving awards and accolades.”

House said he is grateful for local support and commitment to making Buffalo Run a premier disc golf course in Oklahoma, but also for the great partnerships with the City of McAlester, Sumner, and sponsors. He said the tournament wouldn’t be possible without Daniel Cuevas and Buffalo Run Disc Golf Tournament Director Mike Delloro.

House is a 1998 McAlester High School graduate who won state baseball titles with the Buffaloes in 1996 and 1998 before going on to play college ball at Eastern Oklahoma State College and Northeastern State University while majoring in health and kinesiology. He learned about disc golf in 2009 while playing competitive softball and living in California and registered with the PDGA in 2010.

He went on to several career wins and completed in the PDGA Pro Disc Golf World Championships, returning to design the Buffalo Run course that opened in 2014. Buffalo Run rests under shady trees between the Stipe Center and McAlester Regional Health Center, and it’s open to golfers of all skill levels at any time throughout the week.

House and Cuevas, a 2002 McAlester high School graduate, work with Delloro to put on the tournament each fall. Delloro, owner of BigFoot Disc Golf Shop in Durant, complimented House and Cuevas for their dedication to promoting and growing the sport. He also thanked Sumner, City of McAlester Community Services Director Doug Basinger, and the City of McAlester crews for their partnership in making the event a success.

“The pride and passion that each of you have for the City of McAlester is truly commendable,” Delloro said.

McAlester Tourism won the RedBud Award for Best Website Large Budget.

This prestigious accolade recognizes excellence in the tourism industry and highlights the efforts of McAlester in promoting its rich heritage, vibrant community, and diverse attractions through an exceptional digital platform, created by ITI Digital and launched late 2023.

For more than 30 years, ITI Digital has worked with destinations across the U.S. to promote economic development through tourism marketing. By delivering and simplifying web content management through automation and cutting-edge technology, ITI creates better online user experiences which inspires travelers to discover new destinations and encourages them to return to sites and destinations more frequently. ITI’s creation of a new virtual visitor center and website for McAlester Tourism was a positive step forward for the department and the ability to promote McAlester.

“Tourism is vibrant, moving and always on the go,” said Sumner. “Our new website brings everything together in one place. It highlights McAlester in ways we never could before, especially with promoting our events, attractions and businesses. I love the change and I’m excited for what opportunities we have with it, moving forward. You should definitely check out!”

The award-winning website serves as a comprehensive resource for visitors and locals alike, providing detailed information on events, attractions, accommodations, dining, and more. The site’s user-friendly design, engaging content, and seamless navigation have significantly enhanced the online experience for users, resulting in increased tourism and economic growth for the city.

McAlester Tourism would like to extend its gratitude to the OTIA, the local community, and all the partners who contributed to this achievement. The department looks forward to continuing its mission of promoting McAlester as a premier travel destination and welcoming visitors from near and far.

“OTIA and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department are amazing partners and supporters of not only our industry but individual communities, like McAlester. I love having the ability to learn and work together with everyone within both organizations,” Sumner said. “These awards are truly an honor and testament to the hard work that not only my department but everyone within the community puts forth to better our industry and community. I’m excited and ready to see where we go from here.”

Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Travel Industry Association (OTIA)