Encore ’09 – by American Retiree in Jamaica

Once again Sandals/Beaches Resorts demonstrated why they are the leader in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean.  “Sandals Style” isn’t just about what they can do for their guests.  They take the same dedication to train and nurture the staff to be the best they can be.  Each member is thoroughly trained in their position and encouraged to advance through the ranks.  Sandals’ prides itself on encouraging team participation in any and all endeavors to further their advancement and self worth as individuals. 

On Friday, October 2, 2009, Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach and Villa Resort hosted the finals of the staff talent and model search competition.  The grand ballroom was transformed into a magnificent theater setting.  It was all there; lights, sound, and a stage complete with a flashing light runway.  The audience was comprised of staff from each of the Sandals family island nations and invited guests.

 The colorful program has a message from Mr. Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, a brief history of ENCORE, and pictures, including profiles of the 20 finalists.  Each contestant was vying for top honors in 6 categories; best costume, best male/female singer, champion dancer, and top male/female model.  Contestants were from Antigua, Bahamas, St. Lucia, and Jamaica. 

 Mr. Stewart said, in part, ”ENCORE 2009 is a celebration of the talent pool that exists throughout the company and is made more special because of the unique genes and excitement that lives within each of us here in the Caribbean that we unhesitatingly give to the world.  The finalists of this years competition come from across the spectrum of departments and for this I am very pleased, as this proves the point that there is no ‘back of house’ in our company and everyone must get an opportunity to shine.” 

The history of ENCORE as stated in the program started “six years ago during the time of American Idol and long before the now popular local Rising Star Competition.  Sandals Resorts realized the need to showcase talents of team members from our resorts around the Caribbean.  In 2003, ENCORE-Entertainment Now Creates Opportunities Rewarding Excellence- was unveiled and has become a talent and model search competition that motivates, encourages camaraderie and provides unique opportunities to staff to widen their horizons.  With ENCORE, Sandals Resorts has set standar4ds that are unsurpassed and are continuing to make a niche in an industry that many still marvel at.” 

The program was magnificently emceed by Mr. Weston Haughton from the executive offices.  His excitement for what was about to take place electrified everyone in attendance.  The competition started with originally designed costumes followed by male/female singers, male/female models in beachwear, dance performers, and ended with male/female models in evening wear. 

The judges were Clyde McKenzie – Digicel Rising Star competition judge, Terry Garrell-Griffith – former Miss Jamaica, Fabian Thomas – Dancer/Choreographer, Dewight Peters – CEO for Saint International Model, and Roxanne Nichols – former fashion model.  They had their work cut out for them as any one of the performers could have been the winner.  It was that close.  The scheduled 15 minute intermission for the judges to make their big decision stretched far beyond that as two different categories had two and three contestants, respectfully, extremely close.  

Following the intermission and prior to the winners being announced, a special surprise achievement award was presented to Mr. David Ellis for his contribution to the entertainment departments within Sandals/ Beaches resorts.  Mr. Ellis is one of the many staff members who moved up through the ranks and is now part of the executive management team at Beaches Negril in Jamaica.

 The big moment finally arrived.  The room was abuzz with voices extolling their favorites in each category.  Then, silence, each time as Mr. Haughton announced the winner in each category.  The first award went to Donna Joseph of St. Lucia for best costume.  The best male singer was won by Ranell Black from the Bahamas.  The best female singer was Alcian Richards from the host resort.  The closest competition was between Rayneesh Vassell of Jamaica and the ultimate winner, Miquel LaPorte from St. Lucia for champion dancer.  The final categories of male/female models went to Winston Webb of Jamaica while Tenica Gregg of Antigua took the women’s title.  They may have walked away with the top honors but each contestant was a winner in their own right.

 My wife, Ann, and I have been to every Sandals and Beaches property and have witnessed the depth of the talented members each property has.  We have seen staff from various departments perform at Guest/Staff talent nights and other special occasions.  This is all part of the allure that brings us back to Sandals over and over again.  Later….