Local businesses and individuals from throughout Texoma were recognized Saturday as the best in their fields during the Best of Texoma Gala 2019. Presented by Texoma Marketing and Media Group and the Herald Democrat, Best of Texoma is in its 17th year of recognizing the movers and shakers of the local community.

Saturday night's event celebrated the announcement of the first place winners in 177 categories, with Miss Texas 2018 Madison Fuller serving as master of ceremonies.

“Being able to celebrate different cities in Texas is really special,” Fuller said. “I am meeting as many wonderful people across our state as I can. There are so many wonderful people here in Texas. Seeing this community come together to support one another and celebrate each other's hard work says a lot about this community.”

There were more than 350,000 votes cast by members of the public for the businesses and individuals who received awards at Saturday's event.

“There are thousands of businesses in the Texoma area, and to be chosen as one of the top three winners in your respective categories is truly something to be proud of and should be celebrated in a big way,” Texoma Marketing and Media Group Senior Group Publisher Nate Rodriguez said. “This event, the magazine and the contest would not be possible without the hard work of all the TMMG employees, the community members who voted and the businesses.”

Attendees got the first look at this year's Best of Texoma magazine, as copies were handed out at the end of Saturday's event before they were distributed in Sunday's edition of the Herald Democrat.

“Being a top three winning business in your category is a great honor,” Rodriguez said. “We want you to leverage that to help your business grow. We hope that the Best of Texoma program will educate and encourage customers to keep coming back to your businesses, or maybe even try you for the first time.”

The attendees of this year's Best of Texoma Gala arrived filled with excitement to see who won their favorite categories.

Professional interpreter Melida Ailshire said Best of Texoma is a great celebration of the community.

“It is great see honor all the amazing people who do so much for our community,” Ailshire said. “We are all in this great community to support each other. In my opinion it is an honor. From the very beginning when this started, we have never seen a celebration like this. This is like Hollywood coming to Texoma. The spotlight is on the business community, (and) the individuals who do so much.”

This year's prestigious Starr Community Award was presented to Vanya Griffith-Mayes. The Starr Community Award was named in honor of Lydia Starr McPherson, the founder and first publisher of the Sherman Democrat. Rodriguez said giving comes naturally to Griffith-Mayes and described her as a strong supporter of many Texoma charities and nonprofit organizations, including CASA of Grayson County, Habitat for Humanity and the local Alzheimer's Association.

“I am so honored,” Griffith-Mayes said. “This means the world to me to be honored as a star member of the community. It is so special for me. God has blessed me with my great husband and daughters — it is an incredible journey I have been on. This whole night has been amazing.”

With all of the awards presented and business recognized Saturday, some might forget Best of Texoma is important to the work done by the Herald Democrat.

“The contest, the magazine and the gala reflect the tireless work of the same team that brings you the Herald Democrat and all our other regular publications,” Rodriguez said. “And because it is such a successful brand for Texoma Marketing and Media Group, it helps fund our core mission of providing news and information to the community.”