2014 ACE: Award of Excellence
Anticipating worldwide observances of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Fort Worth Chamber scheduled a commemorative breakfast event for Nov. 22, 2013, honoring Kennedy’s historic visit to Fort Worth and his final public speech Nov. 22, 1963, at a Fort Worth Chamber breakfast. The breakfast would mark a moment in time for our community as we searched for ways to understand and remember the fateful events of that day. See also the related Event Program.
Anticipating worldwide observances of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Fort Worth Chamber scheduled a commemorative breakfast event for Nov. 22, 2013, honoring Kennedy’s historic visit to Fort Worth and his final public speech Nov. 22, 1963, at a Fort Worth Chamber breakfast. The breakfast would mark a moment in time for our community as we searched for ways to understand and remember the fateful events of that day.
Budget: Revenue $79,100, expenses $60,500. Actual revenue $94,750, expenses $73,722. Net $21,028.
Development and Implementation:
Sixteen months in advance, the Chamber secured an exclusive appearance of former Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, 82, who was assigned to Mrs. Kennedy, to be the keynote speaker at the commemorative breakfast. It was booked in the historic Hilton Hotel where the Kennedys spent their last night and the 1963 breakfast was held. The Chamber would also honor former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, 91, with its High Impact Legacy Award. Congressman Wright, who represented Fort Worth, was in the Kennedy entourage in 1963.
The ballroom would only hold 650, so the Chamber postponed public announcement of the event until Chamber members had been given first chance to purchase tickets. A commemorative logo, invitation and printed program were developed using historic photos of the original Kennedy visit. The logo design used a ‘60s-era font intertwining the letters JFK and FW, illustrating the theme, “An Intersection of History.” The Chamber created a JFK page on its website with videos, audios and photos of the 1963 breakfast and information about 50th anniversary events. Our EVP made a presentation on JFK’s visit for the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History. Using newspaper ads and Facebook, we assisted National Geographic TV in locating and interviewing residents who were at the original breakfast. We hired a former TV producer to help us execute live remote interviews with Agent Hill, who had a 30-minute window before the breakfast to speak to TV news morning show hosts. Because most local TV vans would be in Dallas that morning, we rented a satellite truck and AT&T laid phone lines in order to feed Hill’s live interviews to local and national morning show hosts.
A local filmmaker volunteered to produce a stirring video tribute to Speaker Wright. The Texas Boys Choir, who performed for JFK, was booked to sing the National Anthem. The presenting sponsor provided 700 freshly minted Kennedy half-dollar coins for each attendee’s place setting. Outside the hotel, a car collector displayed the 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible that carried the President and First Lady from the breakfast to Air Force One for their 14-minute flight to Dallas.
As a regional partner, we wanted to mark a moment in time unique to Fort Worth, while being careful not to eclipse the larger story of Dallas’s role and city-wide memorial ceremony. The Chamber convened community partners to share plans, coordinate tone and messaging, and collaborate on various observances. Also, Mr. Hill was releasing a book days before the anniversary, and his publisher was already scheduling Mr. Hill in the national media, so we had to continually readjust our media schedule up until the evening before the event. Finally, the weather turned cold and damp, and we had positioned Mr. Hill by the outdoor JFK Tribute (8’ bronze statue) for media interviews at dawn. We rented a 20x20 tent and worked with FW police to block the street to protect A/V equipment and Hill.
Even with unexpected expenses of $13,000 for additional A/V, satellite truck, graphic design and printing, net revenues still exceeded budget. Local and national TV and radio broadcasts featuring Fort Worth, the Chamber and/or Clint Hill in Fort Worth for Nov. 22-23 reached 5.2 million viewers, with local media market value estimated at $421,000, not including print media, a live CNN interview of Hill with the location tag showing Fort Worth, Texas, the National Geographic TV documentary and a story in London’s Times UK. The mayor’s wreath-laying at the JFK Tribute was photographed by AP and Getty images, picked up online and by satellite globally, and DFW news outlets used the b-roll repeatedly as a bumper in their day-long coverage.
Attendees (one came from as far away as Italy), board members and media praised the Chamber event, one reporter writing: “When you throw a breakfast only once every 50 years, you ought to do it right. Fort Worth did it right Friday, remembering Jackie and President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 stopover with a nod to history, a sense of reverence and a burst of pride.”