GERING, NEB. (Oct. 25, 2013)—More than 150 tourism professionals were on hand to honor their peers at the annual travel awards banquet . The event capped the annual Nebraska Travel Conference organized by the Nebraska Tourism Commission and hosted by the Gering Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Lt Gov. Rick Sheehy announced the following 2012 Nebraska Travel Industry award winners.
The 2012 Henry Fonda Award – the state’s highest tourism award representing leadership, vision and dedication to the tourism industry – went to Rex Amack, the longest serving director in the history of the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. Amack, who retired in April, accumulated an impressive legacy in the development of outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation education across the state. Some of those accomplishments include the production of “NEBRASKAland” magazine, the development of interactive outdoor experiences called “Know Nebraska Tours” and the creation of the state’s first award-winning recreation television show, “Outdoor Nebraska.” He was instrumental in developing a nationally recognized state park system recognition and in building the partnerships that created Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, which has become one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations. Amack also helped reorganize the Game & Parks Commission and oversaw the 20-year Recruit, Develop and Retain Plan that teaches children and families how to enjoy the outdoors.
The Friend of Tourism Award went to Hear Nebraska. This nonprofit organization is cultivating our state’s vibrant music and arts community through numerous events, promotions and its website, HearNebraska.com. This young organization has demonstrated determination and creativity in its efforts to increase tourism revenue across our state.
The Outstanding Event Award for communities with populations up to 10,000 went to Howell’s Q125 Celebration. More than 800 volunteers united to organize and support the Q125 celebration. After years of planning, this village of 640 people drew more than 3,000 visitors from 18 states to the event and brought in $96,000.
The Outstanding Event Award for communities with populations greater than 10,000 was given to Norfolk’s Great American Comedy Festival. What was once a modest festival has blossomed into a regional cultural event that attracts an array of national talent. In addition to its diverse lineup, the festival is a huge economic driver for northeast Nebraska. Throughout the festival, all hotel rooms in Norfolk and Columbus were booked, and restaurants and lounges were filled with visitors who share great enthusiasm for a good laugh.
The Outstanding Tourism Association Award was won by Heritage Highway Association. Since the Heritage Highway was named one of Nebraska’s nine Scenic Byways in 1999, the association has promoted its corridor by preserving and enhancing its cultural, historic and scenic resources. Through marketing efforts such as a fun run, photo contests, publications, events and ad campaigns, the association has generated hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars for the state.
The Outstanding Tourism Campaign Award went to Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City for its “It’s More Than…” campaign. The campaign not only showcases the beautiful Lied Lodge and Conference Center, it targets different audiences with individualized messages while maintaining a uniform look, feel and theme. And the ads don’t just look cool, they produce results. Between April and August 2012, the Lied Lodge enjoyed five consecutive months of the best occupancy numbers in its 19 year history.
The Outstanding Tourism Publication Award was won by the Kearney Visitors Bureau. The Kearney Visitor’s Guide has evolved over the years to become a 26-page brochure filled with appealing photography and descriptive narratives that showcase the community. The comprehensive guide is colorful, easy-to-read and provides vital information about Kearney’s many tourism experiences. And while it’s a great asset for travelers, it is also an effective marketing tool.
The Outstanding Website Award went to Butler County Tourism. Thanks to TourButlerCounty.com, the county’s many attractions and treasures are only a mouse click away. The new website doesn’t simply boast about its points of interest, but provides a visual and interactive experience through maps, vivid photographs and colorful descriptions that engages users and assists potential visitors in planning a trip to the area.
The Outstanding Tourism Attraction Award was given to Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice. In 2012, interest from across the country focused on the Homestead Act as visitors traveled to southeast Nebraska to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Scholarly symposiums, historical exhibits and a variety of marketing activities helped Homestead National Monument attract thousands of visitors. In fact, during the 35-day period when the actual Homestead Act signed by Abraham Lincoln was on display, more than 36,000 visitors from almost every state traveled to the monument to view the historic document. Total visitor spending in the region during the Homestead Act exhibition was $1.1 million.
The Tourism Visionary Award was given to Sen. LeRoy Louden of Ellsworth for his efforts during the last legislative session to create the Nebraska Tourism Commission.
New this year was the special recognition of frontline employees who provide visitors with a friendly smile, exemplify true customer service and give visitors a memorable experience. These all-important employees work or volunteer at lodging properties, restaurants, tourism attractions, events and gas stations and convenience stores across the state. This year, four frontline employees were recognized for their hard work and passion:
- Greg Nestroyl, volunteer weekend docent at the General Crook House, Omaha.
- Mary Thomas, front desk receptionist at Nebraska National Forest, Halsey.
- Jaide Lindner, hostess at the Bonfire Grill, Broken Bow.
- Lucille Sharpe, front desk receptionist at Arbor Lodge State Park, Nebraska City.