Kent County Tourism presents awards

DOVER — Resilience and teamwork was a message provided by former Philadelphia Eagles player Kevin Reilly to Kent County Tourism as it awarded its top volunteers and partners in promoting “Delaware’s Quaint Villages” during the annual Celebration of Tourism Luncheon and Awards at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on Friday.

It turned out to be quite a fitting message.
Pete Bradley, who was named as president of Kent County Tourism in August, noted that Kent County often has its work cut out for it as it fights with New Castle County’s wide array of attractions and Sussex County’s beaches and other hot spots every year to attract visitors and tourism dollars.

“The outlook we have to have is almost to have a chip on your shoulder,” Mr. Bradley said. “We can compete. We’ve got a lot of stuff going for us. The employees here, the staff and attractions, we have a lot to offer. We have to cooperate with everybody and that’s what we’re doing here. We’ve got to listen, work with everybody, and have a joint goal to do our best.”

Mr. Reilly, a graduate of Salesianum School in Wilmington who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973-74, told another message of determination to those gathered of his battle with cancer and depression after he was diagnosed with a rare scar tissue tumor known as desmoid tumor in 1976.

He underwent multiple surgeries that were unsuccessful in curing the cancer, ultimately undergoing an 11-and-a-half-hour surgery in 1979 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to remove his left arm, shoulder and five ribs.

Mr. Reilly said recovery from the surgery proved to be difficult and, with some heady advice from Rocky Bleier, also a former NFL player and a Vietnam War veteran, to remain determined and persevere, he was able to overcome his obstacles.

Mr. Bradley said he hopes everyone involved in Kent County Tourism took his message to heart.
“It was a great event and I think people enjoyed themselves and we’re just part of a team,” he said. “I’m relatively new to this position and getting out and about meeting all the different folks, the attractions, all the organizations, we have a common goal, and that’s to make Kent County a great place to live, work and visit. We have a lot to offer and I’m really excited.”
Judy Martin, of the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum, was also excited — and almost speechless — when she took home the day’s most prestigious honor as she was named Kent County’s Tourism Person of the Year.
Ms. Martin has coordinated a pair of major events in Bowers Beach as well as demonstrations, parades, 5Ks, food trucks and tours. She has also helped to promote all of Kent County in her journeys.

Downtown Dover team.

Originally from New Jersey, Ms. Martin made Delaware her family’s home and built the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum to be a historical record of Bowers Beach for residents and visitors. Over the years, she has researched the town through archives, salvaged rare finds and circulated old photography and artwork.

“I’m astounded, absolutely astounded,” Ms. Martin, said upon receiving her honor. “Kent County is full of wonderful people, they support us a whole lot, and I’m thrilled. I didn’t know anything about it (the award).”
The city of Harrington, with its 150th anniversary, Centennial Celebration of the Delaware State Fair, and the 41st annual Harrington Heritage Day, was chosen as the Village of the Year.

Amy Minner, vice mayor of Harrington, was also surprised when her town’s name was called.

“I was shocked, but we did a lot of work this year for our 150th and we also did this ‘Harringtonopoly’ game (in the style of Monopoly) which I’m going to give to Mr. Bradley,” Ms. Minner said. “It’s definitely been a lot of work for us, but we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and a lot of love from our citizens.

“A lot of people love our town and take pride in our town and, hopefully, this is the start of putting Harrington on the map.”
The Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP) was named the Champion of the Year by Kent County Tourism.

DDP Executive Director Diane Laird and her team — Tina Bradbury and Brynn Voshell — aggressively work to promote all things Dover. They help to put on a plethora of events such as First Friday and weekly farmer’s markets that showcase downtown Dover to residents and visitors.
“We’re thrilled,” Ms. Laird said. “It’s really a perfect example of a public-private partnership at its best.”

Ms. Bradbury said, “A lot of collaboration is helping and just to hear Mr. Reilly say, ‘the resiliency and the teamwork,’ that’s what we do every single day just in the efforts that we put forth for our city.”
Fifer Orchards and Country Store in Wyoming was recognized with the Tourism Attraction Award.

This year, Fifer’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The family’s orchards and store’s mission are to grow and “sell high-quality produce, while preserving the environment, serving the community and maintaining family values.”
Fifer Orchards is also home to a myriad of annual events throughout the year such as U-Pick opportunities, Fall Fest, Cider Fest and the Strawberry Festival, which are well-attended by the community and out-of-state visitors.

Other award recipients from Kent County Tourism, for their roles in helping promote and dedication to the county, included: Sarah Zimmerman of First State Heritage Park with the Legacy Award for serving as park superintendent the past five years; Joseph Phillips, co-owner of the Causey Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Milford, with the Certified Tourism Ambassador of the Year Award after taking on role as interim executive director for Downtown Milford Inc.; and Bike Delaware’s James Wilson and Tom Hartly, with the Partner of the Year Award, after they took over running the annual Amish Country Bike Tours.

Mr. Bradley, who served as the interim president of Kent County Tourism before permanently accepting the job in August, was excited at the chance to shake hands and thank those who help keep Kent County running strong.

“In the interim position I got a good sense of how much we have to offer here in Kent County from DE Turf, our major attractions (such as Dover Downs and Dover International Speedway), museums and Bombay Hook,” Mr. Bradley said. “There are so many different attractions. It’s just a great place with great attractions and great customer service.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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