2023 Member Appreciation Banquet
Chamber of Commerce Announces Gary Vernon as Speaker for Annual Banquet
Gary Vernon has been selected as the guest speaker for the 2023 Membership Appreciation Banquet hosted by the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce. This year’s theme, Tour de Ouachitas, will focus on the possibilities of outdoor recreation in the area, including the proposed mountain bike trail system on Rich Mountain.
Born in Joplin, Missouri, Gary is a lifelong cycling enthusiast whose hobbies include mountain biking, motocross, and motorcycle trials. “I believe that Gary’s love, enthusiasm, and vast knowledge base for outdoor recreation will get our audience fired up about the possibilities we have here in Polk County,” said Chamber Director Melanie Wade.
Gary began working at his local Walmart in 1984, building bicycles for the Christmas season. This began a 30-year career with Walmart Operations, working his way through college, and in 2003 he moved to Bentonville, Arkansas for an opportunity at the Walmart Corporate Office.
While at Walmart Corp., he was a director in the environmental division working on recycling and sustainability programs before moving over to the Walton Family Foundation in 2015, where he supported Steuart and Tom Walton leading their work that focused on cycling advocacy, events, mountain bike trail development, and other outdoor recreation projects.
Gary is now the Director of Outdoor Recreation and Trail Innovation for Runway Group and is considered one of the leading experts in developing mountain bike trail systems. His work overseeing the design and construction of over 600 miles (and growing) of world-class mountain bike trails around the state of Arkansas and other locations. His work includes the Oz Trails region of Northwest Arkansas, as well as the Arkansas State Parks Monument Trail projects.
In 2019, Gary was the recipient of the American Trails Chairman award for advancing trail design and changing the landscape for trail systems. Gary has traveled around the US and Europe, as well as the UK, sharing the knowledge of trail development innovation and programming that he has learned over the past 15 years. He has been married to Aimee Vernon for 25 years and has two children – Grayson, 16, and Abby, 21.
The Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce Membership Appreciation Banquet is set for Thursday, March 30, 6-8 p.m., at The Ouachita Center on the campus of UA Rich Mountain. The banquet will feature a cocktail hour from 5-6 p.m. with Brothers & Sons providing entertainment. At 6, the meal will be presented by Chicollo’s Food Emporium with a fundraising auction and Gary Vernon completing the night. The dress code is from “business casual” all the way to “black tie affair.” Tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce, 524 Sherwood Ave., Mena. For questions, contact them at 479-394-2912 or email@example.com.