Before an aspiring singer can be presented with the microphone-clutching hand sculpture that goes to the winner of the reality show “The Voice,” before an internet sensation can mark millions of followers with a YouTube Creator Award, before a musician can marvel at receiving the silver-colored astronaut that is the MTV Video Award — all these objects must pass through Grove, Oklahoma.
It is here, in a large warehouse hidden away in a small industrial park on the east side of town, where literally thousands of awards — including some of the most famous and iconic trophies in the entertainment world — are given their finishing touches before being sent out to worthy recipients.
Society Awards is a company founded in 2007 by David Moritz, a New Jersey native who spent his teen years living in Grove, graduating from high school there in 1999.
The company specializes in the design and manufacture of high-end awards, from the Heartland Regional Emmy Awards that some local TV personalities have earned to such nationally recognized prizes as the American Music Awards.
“We started out in New York City, and we still maintain our headquarters there,” said Jeff J. Lien, manager of marketing for Society Awards. “We were also doing our production there as well, but we quickly outgrew the space we had. And with the cost of real estate being what it is in New York, we couldn’t find a place big enough that we could afford.
“David’s parents still live in the Grove area, and it made sense to establish this facility here because David was familiar with the area,” Lien said. “And the community has been great about welcoming us from the start.”
Lien said the company tries to repay the town’s hospitality by offering its outdoor event space for community events. The roof of this open-air pavilion is lined with solar panels that provide most of the facility’s power.
Society Awards opened its Grove facility in 2010, and in 2017, expanded the space to more than double its original size. The building has three main components: the front office area, with a conference room and break room; the manufacturing area; and the warehouse, which is stacked with rows and rows of boxes of myriad awards.
While world-famous awards that honor those who work in film, television and music may be what Society Awards is best known for, the company also creates trophies for a variety of clients.
“Every profession has some kind of award,” Lien said. “We also do things for the community, like the award that’s given for the annual ‘Taste of Grand’ event. We even have our own line of custom awards that we call Exclusives, that are only sold through us, that we use to make special awards.”
The actual awards are manufactured at locations in the United States and internationally and are then shipped to Grove for the final steps in the process.
“When we get an award in,” said Kristine Reed, warehouse manager, “it is closely inspected to make sure it is perfect. And before we ship anything out, it is inspected again to make sure it’s perfect. We work to make sure the tiniest detail is exactly right.”
The Grove facility employs about 20 people, most of whom work with the high-tech computerized machines that fill the front half of the facility, such as the various printers — laser, ultraviolet and 3-D — that on this particular day are being used to engrave row after row of YouTube Creator Awards.
There are three such awards. Most of them are Silver awards, for YouTube users who have at least 100,000 subscribers. The Gold awards go to those with at least 1 million subscribers. Diamond awards, whose winners include such celebrities as Jimmy Fallon, are given to those with at least 10 million subscribers.
When finished, with the winner’s name engraved on folio-size slabs that have the YouTube “Play” button floating in a clear TV-shaped window, the Gold and Silver awards are slipped into plastic bags and fitted into special boxes, complete with a letter of congratulations in the recipient’s language.
The Diamond awards, on the other hand, are more compact but much more solid. When properly engraved, they are fitted into foam-lined briefcases that look like the sort of thing mysterious, muscular men in suits and sunglasses would have chained to their wrists.
“Every individual award has its own specific level of packaging,” Reed said. “It may be paper, it may be bubble wrap, it may be cloth, or it may be some combination of things.”
And that degree of fussiness in packaging is reflective of the company’s attitude toward everything it does.
“I think because we focus on getting all the little details right, the people who work here have a great deal of pride in their work,” Reed said. “We know we are making things that are going to be very special to the person who receives them, and we want everything about it to be perfect.”
Made in Oklahoma movies: These are the state-made films that people saw around the world
No. 1: ‘Twister’ (1996)
No. 2: ‘Rain Man’ (1988)
No. 3: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ (2018)
No. 4: ‘August: Osage County’ (2013)
No. 5: ‘Elizabethtown’ (2005)
No. 6: ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ (1956)
No. 8: ‘The Outsiders’ (1983)
No. 9: ‘A Simple Wish’ (1997)
No. 10: ‘Tex’ (1982)
No. 11: ‘UHF’ (1989)
No. 12: ‘The Killer Inside Me’ (2010)
No. 13: ‘My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys’ (1991)
Entertainment trophies aren't the only major awards made in Oklahoma.
When an Oklahoma Sooner or an Oklahoma State University Cowboy wins the Heisman Trophy, it's something of a homecoming.
That's because college football's most prestigious trophy is manufactured in Oklahoma — at MTM Recognition in Del City, considered one of the industry leaders in custom award design and manufacturing.
The company has been making the Heisman award since 2005, using a process called "lost wax casting," a way of making bronze sculptures that has been used for millennia.
While the image of the Heisman Trophy is instantly recognizable, the way each award is finished is designed to make every trophy unique.
According to a 2017 New York Times article, published a few days before University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was named the Heisman winner, "The bronze is treated with acid and fire to give it the familiar patina that makes it look as if it is a few decades or centuries old. Invariably, however, each one’s patina comes out slightly different, which is part of what makes each one singular."
In addition to the Heisman Trophy, MTM Recognition creates the trophies for the NCAA's more than 600 championships, including most college football bowl games, as well as awards for Special Olympics, NASCAR, BASSmaster and many more.
When is the ideal time to make a trip? You can ask in advance, but the best advice is to contact local officials for updates because Mother Nature is in charge of the fall foliage show and she's got her own schedule.
The award for the winner of the TV series “The Voice” and the iconic “Moon Man” award for the MTV Music Video Awards are among the trophies designed and made by Society Awards. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World