Since 2007, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida has hosted its annual Grand Tour Gala to honor local hospitality leaders who exemplify industry excellence. But recently,  industry leaders have recognized the Gala for its own excellence, with a 2012 Orlando WOW Award.

The Orlando WOW Awards have recognized exceptionally produced events in the Central Florida area, since 2003. The winners are chosen by a panel of International Special Events Society chapter members from throughout the United States.

The Grand Tour Gala, headed by UCF Rosen College professor, Dr. Mary Jo Ross, won the Best Team Effort award for its 2011 event. More than 100 people were involved in the production of last year’s Gala, which featured Argentinian-inspired food, performances, and scenery for its more than 560 guests.

The 2012 Awards were handed out on June 21 during a private ceremony at the Orlando Science Center.

Dr. Ross won an Orlando WOW Award for the Gala in 2009, as the Best Event Planner, and also took home the Peer of the Year award in 2010.

In addition to the Orlando WOW Award, the Grand Tour Gala has also recently received national recognition with two nominations for the 2012 International Special Events Society’s Esprit Awards, held in Dallas, Tex. this August. The ISES Esprit Awards acknowledge the extraordinary efforts, performance, and outstanding contributions of ISES members in the special events planning industry.

“I am extremely proud of the Gala and my production team, and feel honored that the industry has chosen recognize our efforts,” said Ross. “My production team and I look forward to producing this year’s Gala, which highlights the destination of Bombay, India.”

The 2012 Grand Tour Gala will be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hilton Bonnet Creek on October 20. The Gala, which serves as UCF Rosen College’s biggest annual fundraising event, features an evening filled with exquisite foods, first-class entertainment, and concierge-level service.

The funds raised from the Gala benefit students and educational programs at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

During the 2012 Gala, UCF’s Rosen College will induct Al Weiss, Thomas L. Williams, Alan C. Villaverde and Albert Covelli into its Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame. The late Gary Sain will also be inducted, posthumously, into the Hall of Fame.

For more information on the Grand Tour Gala and the Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame, please visit,