McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

June 24, 2013

Former church gets Grand makeover

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — The Grand Event Center is ready to open its doors and with a new event director on board, things are moving quickly.

Eddie Gray and his partner, David Smith, own The Grand Event Center and the Whistle Stop Bistro.

Gray said he bought the 90-year-old church, formerly known as the Grand Avenue Methodist Church, on Third Street and Carl Albert Parkway earlier this year. He has been working hard to transform the building into a popular event center.

And with 11 weddings already booked, Gray said he was more than happy when Event Director Garett Beck-Smith agreed to come on board.

Beck-Smith said that besides her many years of experience planning events and weddings (including her own in 2001 — “we had 700 at my wedding”) she’s gained a wealth of experience planning large events by traveling along with her famous aunt, Reba McEntire.

“I learned a great deal traveling with Aunt Reba,” Beck-Smith said Thursday.

“I saw behind the scenes on several large events and I have been able use that experience in my work.”

Besides planning events, Beck-Smith also publishes a magazine called Bridal Belles.

Gray said he and Smith met Beck-Smith while they were catering a surprise party for her mother.

Gray said when he and his partner found out that Beck-Smith was also publisher of a magazine in which they frequently advertise, they were impressed.

“She was our first and only choice to hire as our director,” Gray said.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work with Garett. Her vision, resources and experience are going to be an asset to our staff and to the community.”

Meanwhile, Smith said when they decided to open The Grand Event Center, they had a vision.

“We not only wanted to help preserve this iconic building, but we also wanted to give the citizens of McAlester and southeast Oklahoma something different,” he said.

“With Garett, we are giving them a world-class event planner at an affordable price.”

Gray said Beck-Smith’s experience makes it possible for her to plan great events.

“In a world where time is a commodity, Garett is going to give people an opportunity to be as involved as much or as little as they desire to be,” he said.

 “The idea of knowing that an event for your daughter or business is going to be spectacular — even if you don’t have the time to plan it — is a real assurance and she makes that possible.”

Beck-Smith said she is excited to work with Gray and Smith at the new facility but she’s also got another big event set for later this year.

She said in November she will be directing the wedding of recording artist Kelly Clarkson.

Smith and Gray said they didn’t hire Beck-Smith simply because she’s Clarkson’s wedding planner.

“But we did hire her for the same reason Ms. Clarkson hired her,” Gray said.

“She is the best at what she does.”

For more information visit thegrandmcalester.com or call 918-426-4001.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.

com.