2016 Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards Announced

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GRAND FORKS, ND – Seven Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards recognizing outstanding leaders in North Dakota’s tourism industry were presented today at the 2016 North Dakota Travel and Tourism Conference in Grand Forks. The awards were presented by North Dakota Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley and Department of Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson.

“North Dakota’s tourism industry continues to play an integral role in our state’s economy,” North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said. “Its impacts are felt in every county in the state and it remains a solid contributor to North Dakota’s economic well-being. The industry professionals being honored today for their dedication, innovation and leadership are ambassadors for our state. Their hard work and commitment are shining examples of why North Dakota has become a worldwide player in the tourism industry. We are proud to honor them, as well as all of our tourism partners, for their service to our state.”

Medora Musical 50th Year Anniversary, Attraction of the Year. For more than 50 years, the Medora Musical has been a summer tradition for many North Dakota families. In 2015, the entertaining script took more than 124,000 guests from 24 states and several countries down memory lane. Previous cast members from 50 years gathered for a reunion and shared their favorite stories of wooden bench seating, dirt floors and muddy hills. All of the employees worked diligently from dawn to dusk, making sure the show and town were perfect each night. The marketing team worked hard all year long to get the word out through surprising flash mob performances, new commercials and other new approaches. Through a half-century, each year’s production has been a new story with the same spirit and dedication to Teddy Roosevelt’s time in the Badlands.

Mike Beaudoin, Travel and Tourism Industry Leader. The COO of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation is usually the first into the office and the last to leave. Mike Beaudoin manages the teamwork of the board of directors, a full-time staff of 45, more than 300 seasonal employees from 36 countries and 500 seasonal volunteers. He has overseen renovation of two Foundation-owned hotels, which boast a summer occupancy rate of 95%. His willingness to make hard choices for the benefit of the traveling public makes him an example of a tourism leader. As a community leader, he balances the historic character of the city while presenting new opportunities for guests.

Victoria Solis, Behind the Scenes Tourism Employee. Victoria Solis is more than a housekeeper at the Hyatt House in Minot. She is the smiling face that greets guests, the listening ear when someone has a problem and the welcoming spirit for those going through tough times. A recent guest was going through chemo at a local hospital and opened up to Solis, who came in early to service the room. She deep cleaned and disinfected everything so that it would be fresh once the guest got back to the hotel. She also asked the front desk to research products that would be helpful to someone undergoing chemotherapy. Solis left lotions, lip balm, a special mouthwash, ginger gum and a gift basket in the room. Guests glow about Solis every day and her concern for people makes everyone love her.

North Dakota State Fair, Event of the Year. The annual mid-summer event in Minot includes entertainment for all ages and continues to be, arguably, the largest event in North Dakota. It includes a carnival, full cafeteria, three buildings of commercial vendors, competitive events and static exhibits, as well as a celebration of North Dakota’s agriculture. Attendance has increased by 100,000 in the last 15 years. In 2015, the State Fair capped its 50th year in Minot with a memorable Aerosmith concert that brought attendance to just more than 300,000. The Fair works with Visit Minot to put heads in beds and bring families in to shop, eat and sleep in the city and is a great partner with North Dakota Tourism.

Norsk Høstfest, International Tourism Award. Founded by the late Chester and Joy Reiten, Norsk Høstfest has become the largest Scandinavian festival in North America. Approximately 60,000 attendees and 100-plus vendors from all over the world attend this festival, now in its 39th year. Formed by friendship and shared Nordic heritage, it has become the foundation of local, statewide and international tourism and business commerce. This festival caters to all ages and features world-class entertainment, authentic food, handcrafted art and jewelry and much more. Some of Scandinavia’s finest chefs prepare unique Scandinavian delicacies. The success of the event has created many opportunities for international business.

Carolyn Schweitzer, Front-line Tourism Employee. As Visitor Center Coordinator at Visit Minot, Schweitzer assists visitors daily, often going above and beyond to ensure travelers leave North Dakota with a Legendary impression of our state. She recently made several trips to one of Minot’s largest festivals in her personal vehicle to assist tourists who missed their shuttle. She has spent a lunch break scouring Scandinavian Heritage Park for a little guest's missing stuffed giraffe. Profits at the Gift Shop have soared and many visitors comment on the excellent selection of North Dakota products. Schweitzer often refers travelers to other attractions and cities across the state.

Jamestown Tourism, Tourism Organization of the Year. The winner of the Tourism Organization of the Year Award has gone through some major changes in the last year and a half; from rebranding to the very name of the organization. This year, Jamestown Tourism partnered with smaller surrounding communities on ads and projects to lift up multiple communities at the same time. One such project was “Lunch & Learn” in Sioux Falls, S.D. for 30-plus international tour operators as part of the RMI Roundup. Additional partnerships were formed to help improve and promote outdoor opportunities and the marketing program at the local university to help generate a greater interest in the hospitality industry.

“All of North Dakota benefits from the hard work and dedication of these outstanding individuals and organizations,’’ North Dakota Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman said. “The outstanding services they provide is indicative of the effort of many in the state’s tourism industry. We are proud to have them representing the travel industry.”

As North Dakota’s third-largest industry, tourism attracts 24 million visitors and $3.6 billion to the state each year. Tourism positively affects all 53 counties and employs 26,600 people statewide. 

Follow North Dakota Tourism on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TravelND or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NorthDakota to get tips and ideas for what to see and do in North Dakota all year long.