Local tourism and hospitality honored at inaugural SKY Hospitality Star Awards

The awards gave local tourism and hospitality employees, who may otherwise go unnoticed, a chance to be recognized.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 10:49 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Some of the best in local hospitality and tourism gathered at the Sloan Convention Center to be celebrated at the inaugural SKY Hospitality Star Awards.

“These awards are to thank the people that worked so hard during the pandemic, during the shutdown days, and directly after that when everything was crazy,” said Southern Kentucky Hospitality Association President Michael Nunn. “These are the people that kept the lights on and the buildings open.”

The awards gave local tourism and hospitality employees, who may otherwise go unnoticed, a chance to be recognized.

“We can’t thank every employee. I wish we could, but we can’t go out and thank everybody. A lot of employees left this industry during those days and didn’t come back,” Nunn said. “The ones that stayed we want to thank, and one of our guides for picking these winners were people that persevered, and we wanted to thank them.”

The highlights of the night were the Richard Patterson and “Dallas Jones Lifetime Achievement Awards”, meant for those who Nunn says have been instrumental in the growth of Bowling Green’s hospitality.

The first winner was local author Gary West, who won the “Richard Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“There are so many people that have come before me and after me that are as deserving, and no one person wins these awards. It’s the people that you climb on their shoulders, and that are supporting you and kind of pushing you to the top. So, it was an award tonight that I’m honored to receive, but it was a complete surprise,” West said.

The “Dallas Jones Lifetime Achievement Award” went to none other than its namesake, Beech Bend Park owner Dallas Jones. The award was accepted on behalf of Jones by his grandson.

“A Lifetime Achievement Award is very special to anyone. No one in my mind deserves it better than Dallas Jones,” said Jones’ grandson and Beech Bend Raceway Track Manager, Broc Porter. “I’ve seen him, my whole life, dedicate his life to Beech Bend Park and Beech Bend Raceway and restoring it to its former glory.”

Here is a complete list of the awards winners:

  • Above and Beyond Award: Martha Brock, Super 8 South by Wyndham
  • Best Breakfast Attendant: Ginny Wright, Hyatt Place
  • Community Service Star: Laura Schuette, Anderson Hospitality
  • Emerging Star Leader: Chelsey White, Hyatt Place
  • Food & Beverage Star: Kenneth Jones, Jr., National Corvette Museum
  • Frontline Star (attractions only): Dustin Ferguson, Historic RailPark & Train Museum
  • Front of House Star (hotels only): Kevin Switzer, Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • Best Hospitality Professional: Sheila McAllister, Holiday Inn Express
  • Best Housekeeper: Hanif Gul Wazir, Hyatt Place
  • Best Houseman: Kelly Gaskins, Hyatt Place
  • Maintenance Engineer Star: Bonnie Butler, Courtyard Marriott
  • Star Mentor: Chelsey White, Hyatt Place
  • Best Tourism Professional: Debbie Eaton, National Corvette Museum
  • Best Attraction Volunteer: Miliska Knauft, Historic RailPark & Train Museum
  • Rich Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award (hotels only): Gary West, former Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director and local author
  • Dallas Jones Lifetime Achievement Award (attractions only): Dallas Jones, owner of Beech Bend Raceway and Amusement Park

While numbers are not yet available for 2022, tourism generated over $411 million in visitor spending in 2021, according to the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Hotels pay transient room taxes to the City of Bowling Green, Warren County, and Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Burea. More than $9 million dollars in visitor tax dollars are distributed back into the community from hotel room contributions every year.