In ceremonies held yesterday at the War memorial auditorium in downtown Jackson, Fondren Renaissance Foundation (FRF) was awarded the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau’s highest honor during their 23rd annual SUMIT Awards.

FRF received the organization’s Visionary Award, a distinction that recognizes industry partners and corporations and new standards of involvement to develop Jackson’s tourism future. The Visionary Award was created “to honor the vision of ordinary individual or group who spearheaded an idea where end result had positive result on city of Jackson.”

“It’s validation that the efforts of FRF on behalf of the neighborhood and the business district over the last nearly fifteen years have brought us to where we are,” said Fondren Renaissance Executive Director Jim Wilkirson, who accepted the award on behalf of the organization. “It’s our neighborhoods within Fondren and our partners throughout the community that make this possible. Receiving this award from the CVB pushes us to continue to extend an arm of assistance to other areas of the city to help them further develop as we have.”

Founded in 2002, Fondren Renaissance Foundation, a 501(c)3 “non-profit,” came from the marriage of two previous organizations functioning as separate but partnering entities. FRF’s mission, “to promote the preservation and revitalization of the greater Fondren community and empower people, organizations, and neighborhoods to contribute to the economic growth, stability and quality of life in Fondren,” has lead to a bevy of free activities such as Symphony at Sunset, Fondren’s Zippity Doo Dah® Weekend and the Four Seasons of The Cedars visual and performing arts series. FRF’s partnerships with St. Dominic Hospital for the Phoenix Initiative, a housing facade grant program; area churches and neighboring organizations like Greater Belhaven and LeFleur East were additionally noted for the positive impact this organization is having upon its community.



Another special honor given during the ceremony was the Shining Example award, to James “Jim” Wiley. You may remember Wiley as the Vietnam Veteran and force behind the 2014 Zippity Doo Dah® Parade theme “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans.” Wiley had championed the idea of an official long-overdue Mississippi welcome for some years before partnering with Fondren and THE Sweet Potato Queen®, Jill Conner Browne, to be included in last year’s event.

“This honor means what we embarked on trying to accomplish worked,” Wiley said. “These veterans will always remember what Fondren did and what Zippity Doo Dah® did. I can’t say enough about Jill (Conner Browne) and Jim (Wilkirson) and the CVB’s Mary Currant and Jake Greer, who stood by us throughout this and welcomed us into the fold.”

Other Sumit Award winners included Attraction of the Year (Mississippi Museum of Art), Festival or Event (Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade), Friend of Tourism (Cindy Brinson-Hilton Jackson), Full Service Hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown), Limited Service Hotel (Hampton Inn North) and Restaurant of the Year (The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen).