Utility company, sports complex are among Kent tourism winners

DOVER — Kent County Tourism Corp. on Tuesday named DE Turf and Chesapeake Utilities among the recipients of its 2017 Tourism Awards.

Awards will be presented at the Celebration of Tourism Luncheon on Thursday at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. This year’s luncheon, to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will feature keynote speaker Neville Bhada from Tourism Skills Group and emcee Mike Bagley.

Mr. Bhada will speak on the long-term value of tourism to Delaware’s Quaint Villages and deliberate how tourism can lead the way for economic development. Mr. Bagley is a Milford native and co-host of “The Morning Drive” on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.

While officials named several of the awards to be presented, its top award winner will not be revealed until Thursday’s event.

“As is tradition, the Tourism Person of the Year will not be announced until the day of the event,” said Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism. “We’re excited to have this person as a part of our tourism community, always eager and willing to help our continued efforts as we grow our shared drive to bring potential visitors to the County. Additionally, this person is a pillar of the community, helping us by lending support through new ideas and opportunities to improve the guest experience.”

The following recipients will receive awards Thursday:

• Legacy Award presented to former Kent County Tourism Board of Directors Kent County Tourism. In a special recognition program, officials will recognize past board members — Anita Evans (M&T Bank), Monica Weber (Today Media), Dan Houghtaling (Delaware Tech, Retired), Zach Carter (Dover Parks & Rec), Tom Summers (Delaware Public Archives), and Dave Hill (iHEART Media) — for their service, time, and dedication.

• Tourism Partner of the Year Award presented to Chesapeake Utilities, a strong supporter of tourism in Kent County, having sponsored events such as Dover Days, the Amish Country Bike Tour, and the Delaware Beer and Wine Festival. This year, the company took their support to the next level by becoming the sponsor of the Delaware’s Quaint Villages’ Mobile Visitor Center. The goal of the center is to generate more economic impact by increasing the number of visitors to local attractions, restaurants, and retail establishments in Kent County while being environmentally friendly.

• Tourism Champion of the Year Award presented to Dover City Councilman Fred Neil, a long-time supporter and a strong advocate for tourism. He serves on many boards within the county. With his enthusiasm and optimistic outlook, he is a positive role model and asset to Kent County, officials said. He provides constructive feedback, proposes creative ideas, and is willing to go the extra mile to support tourism in Kent County.

• Tourism Attraction of the Year Award presented to DE Turf Sports Complex which hosted its first tournament in April. Since then, DE Turf has put the state and Kent County in the spotlight for sports tourism, hosting many local and out-of-state tournaments, bringing in thousands of visitors to the area. Because of the hospitality it provides at tournaments, many team organizations have rebooked for future sport tournaments. Recently, the complex was selected as the site for the 10th Annual US Lacrosse Nationals on Aug. 2-5, 2018.

• Tourism Volunteer of the Year Award presented to Kristina Mujica, of Faw Casson, a dedicated volunteer who is willing to lend a hand at Kent County Tourism’s three annual events. From selling T-shirts at the Amish Country Bike Tour, to giving out area information to visitors at Dover Days, to selling tasting tickets at the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival, Ms. Mujica has provided countless hours of her own personal time to help the staff produce successful events.

In addition on Thursday, the tourism group’s Mobile Visitor Center, “The Villager,” sponsored by Chesapeake Utilities, will be on display. The mobile center, unveiled last Friday, will travel to major events around downstate to promote Kent County and Delaware’s Quaint Villages.

Th luncheon is open to public. Tickets are $50 per person or $300 for a table of eight and may be purchased online at https://www.visitdelawarevillages.com/events-calendar/luncheon/ or by calling Kent County Tourism at 302-734-4888. Cash, check or credit cards are accepted on the day of the event as well.

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