Southeast Thurston County was represented well Tuesday at the Experience Olympia and Beyond’s Tourism Awards with three nominations and one win. Port of Olympia Commissioner Bill McGregor rushed …
Southeast Thurston County was represented well Tuesday at the Experience Olympia and Beyond’s Tourism Awards with three nominations and one win.
Port of Olympia Commissioner Bill McGregor rushed the stage in a Green Lantern suit to hand out the three tourism awards.
The Tourism Visionary award goes out to someone who has “set the stage for local tourism,” said McGregor.
Tenino mayor Wayne Fournier and Triad Theater’s Calamity Jane were both finalists for the award. Fournier came out ahead for his work in promoting tourism in his City of Tenino.
“Wayne Fournier has a passion for putting Tenino on the map that is unmatched,” McGregor said.
Yelm mayor JW Foster was a finalist for the Excellence in Hospitality, but came short and lost to Zoe Wells of La Petite Maison, a refined French restaurant in Olympia.
The Community Unity award went to Robby Rutledge, who operates the Rutledge Corn Maze. For 2017 the corn maze was the Thurston County Bountiful Byways logo.
Experience Olympia and Beyond CEO Shauna Stewart said all the nominees are all “tourism superheroes,” highlighting tourism in Thurston County in 2017.
“Everything I’ve learned about superheroes I’ve learned from my 4-year-old son,” Stewart said.
There are three things that make up a superhero. They have a vision for the future, they realize everything is more fun with friends and they welcome others into their community. These are three things that all award nominees portray.
“Together, we launched Thurston County tourism into a new era,” Stewart said.
She describes 2017 as the year of launches. They launched a new website, new videos, maps and tours among others.
Thurston County reached record breaking growth last year with a 15.6 percent increase in destination spending. There was $321.4 million in visitor spending that created $10.6 million in local tax revenue.
Other 2017 highlights included the Thurston County Bountiful Byways and the creation of the South Sound Coffee Trail.
The goal of Experience Olympia and Beyond is to share the story of Thurston County. According to Stewart 2018 will be the year they “elevate.” They will focus on bringing everything to the next level.
Tumwater City Administrator John Doan and South Puget Sound Community College President Dr. Timothy Stokes also gave a keynote address on their new craft district.
They are looking to make the area into the new hot spot for craft breweries, distilleries and cider makers, much like Walla Walla is for wineries. The economic impact that the wine industry has had in Walla Walla is around $300 million, Doan said.
In Washington state a new brewery opens almost every week according to Doan. There are 57 hard cider makers and roughly 350 distilleries.
Much like Stewart, Doan and Stokes are trying to tell the region’s story.
“Craft is about telling a story,” Doan said, “and helping people connect with that story.”
SPSCC will be adding a brewing, distilling and cider making curriculum, the first 30 student cohort begins next fall. By next spring they hope to have opened their Center for Excellence around Distilling. The curriculum focuses mostly on the business side, since “anyone can open up a distillery in their garage,” according to Stokes.
After the awards Ice Chip Granny Charlotte Clary announced the newest ice chip flavor. The public got to vote on what it should be. The choices were: Boardwalk Breve, Mima Mounds Macchiato or Deschutes Falls Frappe. The winner was Mima Mounds Macchiato.
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