The Town of Middleburg was the big winner in today’s 2011 Loudoun Tourism Awards ceremony at the Doubletree Hotel in Sterling, taking home five of the 10 awards handed out during Visit Loudoun’s annual luncheon and celebration of the county’s hospitality industry. Loud whoops of delight and high fives greeted the wins by enthusiastic Middleburg supporters.
Among the awards garnered by Middleburg business representatives and town events were the two top Tourism Events of the Year, Tourism Volunteer of the Year, Tourism Management Associate of the Year, and, the highest recognition awarded by Visit Loudoun, the coveted Judy Patterson Award.
The town’s first win was for Christmas In Middleburg as the top Tourism Event of the Year for attendance over 3,000. The annual Christmas parade and shopping bonanza is a joint cooperation between the town government, its business community and the nonprofit Christmas in Middleburg organization. Last year’s event drew10,000 visitors to town. Christmas in Middleburg beat out competition from the North Face Endurance Challenge and previous event winner, the Waterford Homes Tour & Crafts Exhibit.
Another Middleburg institution also saw recognition as the Tourism Event of the Year for attendance under 3,000: the opening of the Sporting Art Museum of the National Sporting Library and Museum, a star-studded event held last fall that drew 2,500 people to celebrate the opening of new art galleries at the institution, which houses an extraordinary collection of sporting art and literature dating back to the 15th century. The opening topped several other popular events of the year, including the Round Hill Hometown Festival; the Mid-Atlantic Spartan Sprint; the 150th Commemoration of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff; and the Loudoun Grown Expo in Purcellville.
The Tourism Volunteer of the Year award went to Middleburg area resident George Tiedeman for his tireless support and countless hours given to volunteering for the Mosby Heritage Area Association, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the rich history of the four-county area that makes up the MHAA. Also competing in that category were Su Webb, president of the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum; the Loudoun County Civil War 150th Steering Committee; and the Middleburg Business & Professional Association.
Another Middleburg area institution’s employee, Emily Tabachka, assistant general manager of the Goostone Inn & Restaurant just north of town, was named the Tourism Management Employee of the Year. She topped Lisa Wilhelm, Lansdowne Resort; Dave Moran, TownePlace Suites Dulles Airport; Meredith Wilson, Sunset Hills Vineyard; Heather Hull, SpringHill Suites Dulles; and Terra Capps, Loudoun County Office of Emergency Management.
But it was the announcement of Punkin Lee as the winner of the Judy Patterson Award that caused the loudest hurrahs in the Middleburg cheering section. Lee, owner of Journeymen Saddlers topped Mosby Heritage Area Association Director of Education Rich Gillespie for the award, the highest recognition granted by Visit Loudoun.
The award was created in 1998 to honor Patterson, who died from cancer the previous year. Known as a consummate professional who dedicated her passion, energy and total commitment to the cause of promoting Loudoun, Patterson has been held up as an example of all that is best in tourism promotion in the county. Visit Loudoun Content Manager Janet Tamassia, who interned with Patterson in 1994, said the award is given to someone who has made “extraordinarily significant” contributions to tourism promotion, on a level matching Patterson’s passion. Like Patterson, Lee has been dedicated to preserving, promoting and sharing her causes, in her case the Town of Middleburg. Noting there is “nothing too small or too great” for Lee to undertake, her legacy in promoting the town, its businesses and its people would be long lasting and “never forgotten,” Tamassia said.
“This is a big surprise,” Lee said. However, she said she accepted the award on behalf of all the volunteers, “for all of us who do our share.” She issued an open invitation to everyone to come to Middleburg, saying “There’s a lot going on.”
The Distinguished Service Award went to Capps, events coordinator for the Loudoun County Office of Emergency Management for her advocacy and events coordination that encouraged outside organizations to hold public safety events in the county.
The National Conference Center’s Aziz Elhamdani was voted the Tourism Front-Line Employee of the Year. The popular Elhamdani beat out Fern Bratten, Salamander Touch; Beth Babcock, Morven Park; Yesenia Padilla, Hampton Inn & Suites Dulles; Alex Galan, Embassy Suites Dulles North; Luis Torres, Aloft Dulles North; Elizabeth Sedlins, Sunset Hills Vineyard; and Adrian Garcia, Hampton Inn & Suites Dulles.
The Tourism Promotion/Campaign of the Year award went to the Town of Leesburg’s Parks & Recreation Department & Custom Graphics for the 2nd Annual Leesburg Airshow. Also competing in that category were: B.F. Saul Hospitality Group for The Holiday Hook-Up A Sleigh Ride to Boca!; the Leesburg Downtown Business Association for Behind the Doors of Downtown Leesburg; Tuskie’s Restaurant Group for Tuskie’s Wine Trail; and Journey Through Hallowed Ground, 400 Years of History on One Tank of Gas.
The Humanitarian Award was won by Mid-Atlantic Spartan Spring, for its sponsorship of “Homes For Our Troops” for disabled veterans.
Visit Loudoun also honored the county’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department as its Partner of the Year. Director Diane Ryburn accepted the award from Visit Loudoun CEO Patrick Kaler as the department was congratulated for its sponsorship and coordination of more than 40 sporting tournaments held in the county that generated multiple economic benefits to Loudoun.