Tourism Organization Shares Accomplishments, Recognizes Industry Partners

LAKESIDE, OHIO, April 20, 2023 --- Shores & Islands Ohio, the destination marketing organization for Erie and Ottawa counties, held its annual meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at Lakeside Chautauqua. The more than 160 in attendance enjoyed a presentation, multiple guest speakers, and a luncheon at the Wesley Lodge.

The presentations opened with a welcome from Lakeside Chautauqua Interim President/CEO Charles Allen. Lakeside is celebrating its 150th Anniversary in 2023! Timothy Schneider, Northwest Ohio District Representative for Senator JD Vance, presented a proclamation to Lakeside in honor of its momentous anniversary.

Next, Shores & Islands Ohio President Larry Fletcher recognized all the elected officials in attendance, Shores & Islands Ohio staff members, and board and committee members. He then highlighted the organization’s accomplishments in 2022 and some marketing plans for 2023. Two new marketing agency partners were also introduced, Communica and Tandem Media, and their projects for helping to promote the region were outlined.

President and CEO of Destination Toledo, Lance Woodworth, joined Fletcher for a conversation on “collaborative competition.” Each organization has marketing efforts targeting the other destination’s residents and visitors. Even so, the two collaborate on many initiatives to draw more total people to Northwest Ohio, encouraging visitors to stay longer and experience more. One example of where the two destinations work together is by co-hosting the Biggest Week in American Birding along with the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Kim Kaufman, Director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, then took the stage to talk about why this region is such a birding hot spot, why the spring migration is so special, and the economic impact of birding tourism.

The annual meeting concluded with the organization’s annual hospitality award presentations, recognizing both a business and an individual for their exceptional effort, collaboration, and customer service to visitors throughout the past year.

The business award, formerly Partner of the Year, has been reimagined and renamed the Extraordinary Destination Enhancement Award and is awarded to a local tourism business or organization that is making significant improvements to impact visitors, the destination, and the overall region. One that contributes, through partnership and collaboration, to develop, build, and enhance the Shores & Islands region. The Extraordinary Destination Enhancement Award was presented to the City of Huron for the all-new Huron Public Fish Cleaning Station.

Doug Steinwart, Operations Manager for the City of Huron Parks & Recreation Department, accepted the award. The fish cleaning station will open soon, located at the Huron River Boating Access Ramp on Route 6 and will be one of the few public fish cleaning stations on Lake Erie. Geared towards both locals and visitors alike, cleaning station users and area residents can now feel confident that fish waste is handled in a safe, clean, and healthy manner – protecting our residents and the lake.

Finally, the SHORE Award, standing for Superior Hospitality Recognition, was awarded. This award allows Shores & Islands Ohio business partners to nominate an individual in the tourism industry who demonstrates the true spirit of hospitality, customer satisfaction, and commitment to service. The nominees go beyond their standard job description to enhance the guest experience, contributing to the overall destination success.

An Honorable Mention was awarded to Martyn Drabik-Hamshare, Naturalist at Erie MetroParks. He was nominated by his peers as he helped develop several unique community programs, including the Disc Golf Club, Nature Programs at the Library, the Small Pumpkin Hunt, and the Nature on Wheels mobile nature unit. A second Honorable Mention was awarded to Emily Messino, Director of Events at Gideon Owen Wine Company. Emily was nominated as both a steward of the Gideon Owen brand and a champion of the area. She is passionate about her work and delivers the best possible experience to guests.

The official 2023 SHORE Award was presented to Peg VanVleet, Captain and Owner of Blue Sky Charters. “Captain Peg” was dominated a record 40 times! She has been a Licensed Charter Captain for 25 years and is recognized as a strong champion of Lake Erie and all things fishing. VanVleet has previously been awarded Captain of the Year from the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and currently serves as Vice President of Environmental Issues for Lake Erie by the same association. Everyone nominating VanVleet mentioned her passion and genuine love for the lake, plus her ability to welcome guests on board, educate them, and ensure they have a fun and safe visit. It was noted that she especially spends extra time with children and first-time fishing families to make sure they have a great experience on Lake Erie.

Shores & Islands Ohio would like to thank Rock & Roll Express for providing entertainment, Firelands Adventure Tours for providing a parking shuttle, Black Swamp Bird Observatory for providing a birding experience, and Lakeside Chautauqua for hosting.