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ROAST HAMMONS. John Q. Hammons was the subject of a surprise (to Hammons) celebration in honor of his 40 years in the hotel industry. The event was June 10 at Chateau on the Lake and featured a cast of hundreds, including Wal-Mart Chairman and CEO David Glass and Holiday Inns founder Kemmons Wilson. The gathering of employees and media also allowed for the announcement of a new vice president for John Q. Hammons Hotels Inc. Full coverage and photos will make it into the June 25 SBJ.

ACQUIRING MINDS. Great Southern Travel announced recently its acquisition of International Tours of Monett. This latest purchase comes after the December 1997 purchase of IT Joplin, another International Tours affiliate agency. The Monett business was owned and operated by Kris Conley for 18 years. Conley will continue to manage the Monett operation and will become director of corporate travel for Great Southern, according to a release. "International Tours of Monett is a very well-run, respected travel agency, and we are excited for Kris to join our management team," said Mark Norton, executive vice president of Great Southern Travel. The acquisition gives Great Southern Travel 30 locations, including an office which opened in Branson June 1 and the planned opening of a Kansas City office July 1.

CLAIMING REBATES. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company said June 8 it would return $35.9 million in premiums to its Missouri customers, about 14 percent of semiannual premiums on 907,600 policies in the state. The rebate comes to Missouri auto policyholders (and those in 34 other states and the District of Columbia) because claims have been lower than expected. The company is returning about $891 million in premiums around the country. The paybacks will be made as a check or credit to current State Farm customers. The company's release said the rebate reflects a trend in lower claims by its insured clients, and it has therefore lowered auto rates in Missouri an average of 4.1 percent.

HILLBILY VIDEO. Presleys' Country Jubilee has installed a big video screen at its Branson theater, but not just any big video screen. It's the ProStar Video Plus, the first commercial version of the light-emitting diode technology in the United States. The LED video display system is made by Daktronics Inc. of Brookings, S.D. Design and installation was done by Branson's Native Signs. The display will give folks passing by the theater a sample of the Presleys' show. "When we traveled to a major stadium to look at this system, and they played our video on the screen, we knew we had discovered the answer," said Gary Presley, president of the family's companies. "This is the only sign I've installed that required its own two-ton air conditioner," said Eric Walker, owner of Native Signs.

TRANSPOND. The Federal Aviation Administration has established Class-C protective air space in and around the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport. Therefore, those buzzing around in the skies above the airport must have a transponder, according to a release from the FAA. The agency said the new regulation primarily affects corporate and general aviation air traffic.

BLUNT NOMINATION. Rep. Roy Blunt has nominated Ozarks Food Harvest for the Victory Against Hunger Award. The national honor, in its fifth year, is sponsored by the Congressional Hunger Center and the Victory Wholesale Grocers of Ohio. Twelve organizations are chosen for the award and are presented $1,000 donations by the Congress members who nominate them. "The Ozarks Food Harvest has ... proven to be a model of efficiency. For every $1 donated, $17 of food is dist-ributed to food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters," Blunt said. Winners are to be announced June 16.

MISSED CONNECTION. Ozarks Technical Community College was considered by Southwestern Bell to offer certificate programs through the school's electronics program. Alas, the phone company chose another source to train about 500 employees during the next 10 years. A spokeswoman for OTC said two SWB officials were in town May 26 to tour the school's facilities and speak to faculty and staff. Though the Bell folks were complimentary of the program, they announced June 10 their intention to conduct the training elsewhere. The OTC spokeswoman said it was not announced who was chosen.

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