Chamber holds 2017 Tourism & Community Improvement Awards

By: ,
Rob Ketcham

St. Bernard’s Joyce Nix, center, receives the Tourism Professional of the Year Award from John Hunt, left, and T.J. Franey, right, during Tuesday’s Tourism & Community Improvement Awards. Nix is the longtime director of the well-renowned Bloomin’ Festival. John Hunt, of TP Country Club, is the incoming tourism chair, and Franey, of Cullman County Schools, is the 2016-17 tourism vice-chair.

CULLMAN – The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center held its 2017 Tourism & Community Improvement Awards on Tuesday, May 23 at Stone Bridge Farms. Sponsored by The Community Shopper’s Guide, the event celebrated “Cullman Places,” using a nostalgic postcard motif to coincide with the Alabama Tourism Department’s Bicentennial festivities.

Josh Wiggins, of Johnny’s Bar-B-Q, was recognized as the outgoing tourism chair. Director of Tourism Jesse Newsom and incoming Tourism Chair John Hunt, of TP Country Club, also provided reports.

Hunt expressed just how important tourism is to the community. “Tourism is a tremendous amount of money to our community and to our businesses.” In 2016, Cullman County received $122 million from travelers which provided, and continues to provide, 1,500 jobs in the area both indirectly and directly, said Hunt. “(We will) work on Smith Lake… we need help. We want to bring people in.”

Newsom stated, “2017-2018 will be a turning point for Cullman County. The following will be our primary focus: Smith Lake, sports tourism, motor coach and bus tours and agritourism.”  He continued, “Next month, we will have bus tours stopping in the area; in the fall, we will have two travel food bloggers which will showcase the local cuisine; right now, Cullman is in the running to host coveted fishing championships in 2018…There are more projects that we are working on and that I can’t wait to tell you about in the coming months.”

Between the Community Improvement and Tourism’s Business and Individual Service awards, 20 awards were given out, highlighted by the Tourism Professional of the Year. This year’s winner was St. Bernard’s Joyce Nix, the longtime director of the well-renowned Bloomin’ Festival.

In her closing remarks, Chamber President Leah Bolin said, “The economic growth that we are experiencing from all of our businesses and our individuals (is) phenomenal; just as Jesse said earlier, I believe that the best is yet to come.”


See below for a complete list of award winners:

Community Improvement Awards Business/Organization with Best Landscaping – Small (25 employees or less)

This award is given for the best design, maintenance, litter control and plant materials.

Winner: Family & Cosmetic Dentistry


Business/Organization with Best Landscaping – Large (more than 25 employees)

This award is given for the best design, maintenance, litter control and plant materials.

Winner: St. Bernard Preparatory School


Business/Organization with Best Curb Appeal

This award is given for substantial improvements to the outside of the property with the most attractive presentation from the street.

Winner: Cullman County Courthouse


Business/Organization with Best Restoration

This award is given for superlative work in the restoration, rehabilitation, reuse of property or sensitive design.

Winner: C-Street Cafe


Business/Organization with Best New Construction

This award is given for superlative work in the construction of a new structure completed within the past three years.

Winner: La Quinta Inn & Suites


Business/Organization “Building a Sense of Community”

This award is given to a business that strives to improve the community through additions of a park, play area, park benches or playground, etc.

Winner: Cullman City Primary School “Outdoor Learning Center”


Tourism Awards Business Awards

These awards recognize businesses and events that differentiate themselves by providing exceptional

service, anticipating customers’ needs and consistently exceeding visitors’ expectations.


Exceptional Festival or Event Award

This award recognizes a festival or event that attracts visitors as well as locals, generates regional and/or state media attention and positively promotes the Cullman area.

Winner: Rock the South


Best Attraction Award

This award recognizes a regional attraction (including museums, performing arts, parks, amusement parks, etc.) which attracts visitors and contributes to an outstanding tourism experience.

Winner: Ave Maria Grotto


Near Nature, Near Perfect Award

This award recognizes a business, organization, community or outdoor recreation area that has developed a tourism product/service that best demonstrates the ecological, cultural or historic assets of the region.

Winner: Hurricane Creek Park


Spirit of Cullman Award

This award recognizes an outstanding tourism or hospitality related business or organization that provides excellent service, exemplifies innovation and causes our region to shine.

Winner: Heritage Park


Rockin’ Retailer

This award recognizes a retailer that provides an outstanding shopping experience for visitors.

Winner: Van’s Sporting Goods


Extraordinary Everyday Eatery

This award recognizes a restaurant offering an atmosphere that provides an outstanding experience for visitors.

Winner: Augusta’s Sports Grill


Individual Service Awards

These awards recognize hospitality and frontline individuals who consistently deliver warm, friendly and helpful service, exceed visitors’ expectations, anticipate customers’ needs and have received written or verbal feedback about their exceptional service from their colleagues, supervisors or customers.


White Glove Award

This award recognizes exceptional service from an individual hotel housekeeping staff member.

Winner: Jessica O’Dell – Cullman Hampton Inn


Silver Spoon Award

This award recognizes consistent superior service by a restaurant or food service employee.

Winner: Whitney Elliott – All Steak Restaurant


Superior Service Award

This award recognizes excellent customer service from the hospitality industry by an individual who has first contact with the public.

Winner: Katie Fine – Karma’s Coffee House


Savvy Retail Sales Associate

This award recognizes excellent customer service from a retail sales associate who has first contact with the public.

Winner: Libby Crider – White Willow


Heart of the House Award

This award honors an outstanding individual who works behind the scenes to keep their institution, organization or business operating smoothly, creating a superior experience for the public.

Winner: Janet Fortner – Stone Bridge Farms


Hospitality Volunteer of the Year

This award recognizes any hospitality industry volunteer (i.e. entertainment venues, museums, and festival and event volunteers) who has made an outstanding contribution.

Winner: Larry Rowlette, aka Colonel Cullmann


Rising Star Award

This award recognizes an up and coming leader for their exceptional efforts to serve and enhance the experience of the public. Those individuals who have been in the tourism industry for five years or less qualify

Winner: John Dean – Goat Island Brewery


Tourism Professional of the Year

This award recognizes a person who has made a significant contribution to the tourism industry through more than five years or more of innovation, inspiration and industry leadership

Winner: Joyce Nix – Bloomin’ Festival/St. Bernard