About 400 commercial real estate types turned up at the Belo Mansion last night for NTCAR‘s annual Stemmons Service Award dinner. That was 150 more than showed up last year. But the bigger turnout may not indicate market optimism, one attendee said, so much as the fact that the brokers had time on their hands and needed something to do. Indeed, bigwig Lee Halford Jr.–who leads a firm founded by the Stemmons family, for whom the prestigious award is named–said the industry is facing rough sledding and won’t fully recover until, gulp, 2012. At the podium, though, Halford tried to buck up the crowd: “If Mr. [John] Stemmons were here tonight, he’d tell all of you to keep on plugging.” The Stemmons firm started in 1928, Halford noted, the year before the big stock market crash, and “it wasn’t until 1946 that anything of significance took place. So perseverance was important.” Then Halford announced this year’s Stemmons winner: Steve Lieberman (pictured) of The Retail Connection.