Sunday, November 28, 2021
Vicki Lysne, Jerry Ganfield, Nancy Morness, Jame “Corky” Ebeling, Jack Spitzack, and Tom Brick pose with the plaques they received for excellence in tourism. This is the first time the chamber has recognized separate facets of tourism.

Awarding excellence in tourism

Owatonna is a wonderful place to visit, and the Owatonna Chamber of Commerce decided to honor a few of the people who help make it that way.

The 2017 Tourism Awards were handed out on May 11 during a luncheon at The Steele County Historical Society Center.

Kate Godfrey, director of Conventions and Tourism, welcomed everyone and thanked them for helping the chamber celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week.

“In Steele County alone,” Godfrey said, “traveler spending generates $4.5 million dollars in sales tax.”

Mayor Kuntz also addressed the crowd and thanked attractions, like The Orphanage Museum and RAD Zoo, and events, like county free fair, for bringing in so many visitors.

Six individuals were recognized at the luncheon, each for excellence in a particular field of tourism.

Jerry Ganfield of the Steele County Historical Society was given the award for best attraction.

Vicki Lysne of Comfort Inn was recognized for excellence in customer service.

Jame “Corky” Ebeling of the Owatonna Parks and Recreation Department was awarded best event for the Parks and Recs calendar, including creating events like Trick or Treat Trail and Movies in the Park. He accepted the award on behalf of the whole department.

Jack Spitzack of Baymont Inn and Suites received an award for best lodging.

Nancy Morness has been a waitress at the Kernel Restaurant for 37 years. She received the best restaurant award.

Tom Brick has run Owatonna Shoes for 45 years and was given the award for best retail.

The chamber hasn’t given any tourism awards in five years when it recognized just one individual each year. Under Godfrey’s guidance, the award was reinstated and expanded. The chamber wanted to acknowledge that tourism is more than just attractions.

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