PIERRE – On Thursday, January 20, the Department of Tourism honored tourism professionals and businesses across South Dakota for their loyalty, commitment and passion for the state’s tourism industry.
The coveted Rooster Rush Cacklin’ Community Award was presented to Aberdeen for its marketing tactics, community involvement and hospitality focused on improving the pheasant hunting experience in South Dakota.
“Aberdeen welcomed hunters with a first round of Pheasant Phestival puppies, even raising money for their local humane society. They greeted visitors at the airport with blazing orange goodie bags and the signature pheasant sandwiches,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism.
The Governor’s Tourism Rising Star Award — a new award at the conference — went to Sarah Kills In Water of Mission. This award recognizes a person who has worked in the tourism industry for 2-4 years and is excelling in their career, showing a bright future in the tourism industry.
“Sarah has played a vital role in tourism and economic development for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe through grant writing, networking and collaborative thinking,” said Hagen. “She works hard to establish tourism in Rosebud, and everyone who works with her loves her positivity and can-do attitude.”
The Ruth Ziolkowski Award for Outstanding Hospitality and Customer Service is presented annually to four industry members, each representing a South Dakota tourism region. This award recognizes tourism industry professionals who provide outstanding service to visitors and whose work demonstrates an exceptional spirit of hospitality. These awards went to Jeff Oldham* of Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, Prudy Calvin of Mellette House in Watertown, Wanda Bunker of Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center in Chamberlain, and Bruce Cull of the National Field Archery Association in Yankton.
“In every region of South Dakota, it’s people like them who are the bedrock of the tourism industry,” Hagen said. “Every day they show up. They put their hearts into their careers and embody the hospitality that South Dakota is known for.
The George S. Mickelson Award went to AmericInn by Wyndham Belle Fourche. This award honors businesses, communities or organizations that have done an exemplary job of customer service and exceeded visitor expectations.
Rushmore Tramway Adventures, Keystone, has been awarded the Peter Norbeck Award for Excellence in Tourism Innovation, an award given to an industry partner for innovative thinking to make their destination, business or attraction even more attractive to visitors .
The AH Pankow Award recognizes a media representative for showing superior interest in and coverage of the South Dakota tourism industry. This year’s award went to Rapid City-based NewsCenter1 for its ongoing coverage of the tourism industry, particularly in the Black Hills, and its attention to the economic impact tourism has on North Dakota. South.
The Ben Black Elk Award is a prestigious honor recognizing an individual who makes an outstanding contribution to the state’s tourism industry. This year’s award went to Jan Grunewaldt of Regency Hotel Management in Sioux Falls and Karen Kern, formerly of the South Dakota Missouri River Tourism Association in Pierre.
“Jan did everything to make the visitor experience as good as possible. Her above and beyond mentality makes a difference to everyone she meets,” Hagen said. “Karen has been instrumental in the success of tourism in South Dakota, particularly along the Missouri River and for tribal tourism. She has been a true champion of South Dakota’s tourism industry for 36 years.