FALLON, Nev. — A photographer, a winemaker and other Nevadans from different walks of life were recognized for their contributions to the state's tourism industry at the VolunTourism Awards Dinner on April 11 in Fallon.
Six Excellence in Tourism Awards were announced, along with two statewide awards — Excellence in Grant Writing and Excellence in Tourism — and the Larry J. Friedman Industry Partner of the Year Award. Also announced was the winner of the 2019 June Stannard Memorial Scholarship for high school students pursuing careers in travel and tourism.
The annual VolunTourism Awards Dinner is part of Rural Roundup, an annual conference organized by the Nevada Division of Tourism (TravelNevada) to support the state's rural tourism industry. Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, chairwoman of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, gave the welcome address and also attended the opening reception on April 10.
According to TravelNevada, visitors to rural Nevada spent more than $1.7 billion in 2017, an increase of about 2.6 percent from 2016 (the most recent report available).
Award winners at the April 11 VolunTourism Awards Dinner are as follows, with info provided by TravelNevada:
Excellence in Tourism Award – Cowboy Country Territory
Sheree Tibbals has been the treasurer of Cowboy Country Territory for over 20 years, and has participated in the tourism industry for over 30 years.
She is a team player; always willing to go the extra mile. Sheree has worked several travel consumer and trade shows, and specializes in grant writing for Cowboy Country Territory.
Tibbals is also the founder and lead person for the June Standard scholarship program, awarded annually to a student pursuing a career in tourism.
Excellence in Tourism Award – Las Vegas Territory
Maria Ramirez, destination services manager for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, is being recognized for her strong work as an adviser to the Las Vegas Territory over the past five years.
She was instrumental in the creation of two annual Las Vegas Territory board retreats and serves on the territory's website and scholarship committees.
Most recently, Ramirez developed a plan for a trade show workshop for territory members. Her technical expertise and industry knowledge directly contributed to the territory's first sales mission to Portland, Oregon, in October.
Excellence in Tourism Award – Nevada Silver Trails
Jack Sanders of Sanders Family Winery in Pahrump has been a longtime supporter of the area's tourism efforts. He has hosted familiarization tours for travel media and industry professionals, including providing entertainment at the winery's performing arts center.
In 1989, Sanders released Sanders Winery's first three-bottle set to commemorate Nevada's 125th statehood anniversary: wines that now are collectors' items. For Nevada's sesquicentennial celebration in 2014, he produced a ruby port to honor the state.
Excellence in Tourism Award – Nevada's Indian Territory
Photographer Larry Burton has been instrumental in providing pictures of Nevada's Indian Territory that did not exist prior to his work with the territory. He has been able to capture more than 50,000 images for the territory.
Burton not only captured images of the vibrant cultural events and activities in tribal communities, but also the beautiful spaces and places Nevada tribes call home.
He also has taken it upon himself to train Native American artists on how best to capture their art through photography.
Excellence in Tourism Award – Pony Express Territory
Wayne Cameron, executive director of White Pine County Chamber of Commerce, is the true example of a volunteer.
For the past 50 years, he has volunteered at countless events and functions, including travel trade shows in which Pony Express Territory and White Pine County have participated.
A former for White Pine County commissioner, Cameron has been involved in many local organizations and activities, including the county's Economic Diversification Council and the White Pine Horse Races, an annual community event.
Excellence in Tourism Award – Reno-Tahoe Territory
Katie Demuth, tourism and marketing manager for the Virginia City Tourism Commission, has served on the board of the Reno-Tahoe Territory since 2016 and holds the office of secretary.
She takes notes at all executive and general membership meetings and provides detailed and timely reporting of the proceedings.
Demuth also represents RTT at the annual conventions of the National Tour Association and the American Bus Association, conducting one-on-one appointments with tour operators and travel trade buyers.
She is a valuable asset when planning and executing familiarization tours in Virginia City as well as the many special events for which Virginia City is known.
Statewide Excellence in Grants
Arlette Ledbetter, tourism director for the town of Pahrump, was recognized for her superb skill in writing and managing grants.
Grant requests authored by Ledbetter are thorough and well-written. Her method of grant management is marked by her follow-through, attention to detail and timeliness.
Statewide Excellence in Tourism
The Regional Air Service Corporation, which supports the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in developing new, nonstop air service, received the Statewide Excellence in Tourism Award.
Organized in 2001 as the Regional Marketing Committee, RASC brings together public and private organizations and businesses to contribute marketing dollars and expertise in branding the Reno-Tahoe area as one region.
Larry J. Friedman Industry Partner of the Year Award
Tom Lester, tourism and convention manager for the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, was recognized for his work as a TravelNevadatourism partner on behalf of his community, his region and rural Nevada.
In his work with the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, Lester has developed partnerships with the state, as well as built relationships with other Nevada communities, both urban and rural, to promote tourism.
He supports all of TravelNevada's travel trade missions and shows; and coordinates and helps host familiarization tours for travel media and travel industry professionals. Lester also serves as chairman of Nevada's Cowboy Country.
June Stannard Memorial Scholarship
Davis Riley Murphy, a senior at Pershing County High School in Lovelock, received the June Stannard Memorial Scholarship.
Davis will be pursuing a degree in Hospitality Management with an emphasis in Culinary Arts at Shasta College in Redding, California.
In his scholarship application essay, Murphy wrote that he always wanted to become a chef and eventually would like to open his own restaurant.