More than $100 million a year flows into the leisure and hospitality industry in Winona County, and those dollars touch virtually everyone in the region not only by employing thousands of people, but also by boosting the operating budgets of the attractions and events that the community loves.
To recognize the dramatic impact tourism has on the city’s vitality and to honor the people and places that make Winona shine, Visit Winona has launched its inaugural People’s Choice and Tourism Rock Star awards, both of which will be determined by the public at large.
Nominations are now open for both awards, which can be submitted online by following links on the Visit Winona Facebook page or the home page at VisitWinona.com. Anyone can anonymously submit a nomination between now and March 11, and people can nominate multiple candidates, though they can only nominate each candidate once. On March 12, the top five most frequently nominated entries will square off as finalists in online voting that will last until March 28. The winners of People’s Choice and Tourism Rock Star will be announced at the Visit Winona Tourism Celebration on April 5 at the Winona County History Center.
To be eligible for the People’s Choice Award, the nominee must be a business, place, or event in Winona County, or, if not in Winona County, it must be a tourism partner with Visit Winona. Most importantly, nominations should be for a business, place, or event that helps Winona rise to the top as a destination – something that sets it apart from other places people could choose to go. Nominations so far include everything from Bloedow Bakery to the Great River Shakespeare Festival to Lake Park as a whole, along with many other businesses, events, and places that people have named as their choice for Winona’s best attribute.
A Tourism Rock Star could be anyone from a waiter to a festival volunteer to an event organizer, or any of the other myriad people in the community who are working in some way to make Winona a great place to visit. Like the People’s Choice, he or she must either be working in Winona County or working with a partner of Visit Winona. People do not need to work directly with tourists to be eligible, but they must be doing something in the area that improves the perceptions of visitors in some way. Nominations so far include festival organizers, hotel staff, outdoor recreation mover-shakers, and even Bob Kierlin and Mayor Mark Peterson.
In the case of both awards, the number of times someone or something is nominated before March 12 will determine the five finalists for each, and the number of votes each finalist receives between March 12 and March 28 will determine the winner.
The Visit Winona Tourism Celebration will feature hors-d’oeuvres and a cash bar, and it is free and open to the public, though RSVPs are necessary. The first 100 registered attendees will receive a Visit Winona swag bag of goodies, and all who submit RSVPs will be entered to win a Best of Winona drawing that evening for a Best of Winona prize package filled with Winona’s favorite things. More information is available at VisitWinona.com.