Travel Nevada honors top rural tourism supporters at statewide conference

Photos of the VolunTourism winners and the Rural Roundup conference are available here.

MINDEN, Nev. — The Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada) recognized outstanding members of the state’s rural tourism industry Thursday, April 16 at the VolunTourism Awards dinner at the Carson Valley Inn. The annual event was part of the state’s 25th Rural Roundup tourism conference.

“Rural tourism is a key component of Nevada’s overall tourism industry — a $59 billion industry that continues to be the primary economic driver for this state,” Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Nevada Commission on Tourism chairman, said. “The VolunTourism awards recognize the champions of rural tourism, who are a vital part of Nevada’s No. 1 industry.”

The Nevada Division of Tourism presented six VolunTourism awards, one in each of Nevada’s six tourism territories, along with the Nevada International Award, two statewide awards, and two awards recognizing 25 years of participation. A Nevada high school senior also was awarded the $1,000 June Stannard Rural Tourism Memorial Scholarship.

“Nevada’s rural communities are home to some of our most important cultural and recreational sites, and those who work in rural tourism often go above and beyond to promote, preserve and share those places with visitors,” Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio said. “We applaud their efforts, which are integral to the state’s tourism offerings.”

Award recipients are as follows:

Cowboy Country

Juli Nelson has been involved with tourism and Cowboy Country Territory for several years. She was instrumental in creating the original Cowboy Country ghost town brochure and now is leading the efforts to create a new version. Always willing to volunteer for Cowboy Country, Juli has created promotional postcards and worked on a reprint of the territory fun map. She also has worked such consumer shows as the International Sportsmen’s Expo, the Great Reno Balloon Race and Hot August Nights.

Indian Territory Award

Melissa Melero is a Northern Paiute and mixed-media artist focusing on abstract paintings inspired by the Nevada landscape and the Paiute culture. She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM. After returning to Nevada, she created a Great Basin Indian Artist Registry to help other American Indian artists. She has taken the lead in bringing awareness and much-needed marketing to Nevada’s American Indian artists, enhancing Nevada’s arts and tourism industries.

Las Vegas Territory

Leah Koza of Exposure Marketing serves Las Vegas Territory as vice chairwoman and as trade show director. In the latter role, Koza represents Las Vegas Territory at some of the most important travel and trade shows in the region, effectively conveying information about tourism in Las Vegas and the outlying areas. She consistently meets the needs of Las Vegas Territory and has proven to be a talented diplomat in the travel trade industry.

Nevada Silver Trails Territory Award

Martha McCue of R&R Partners serves Nevada Silver Trails Territory as secretary and treasurer. She has been instrumental in developing the group’s website and social media presence. Her extraordinary work reflects her strong interest in Nevada Silver Trails and its many adventures and destinations.

“Her involvement in helping Nevada’s tourism efforts can’t be measured in hours or miles, but by heart and spirit,” Marvin Minnick, Nevada Silver Trails chairman, said.

Pony Express Territory Award

Patrick Pharris of Pharris Media has worked on numerous marketing projects for Pony Express Territory over the past three years. His work can be seen in many Pony Express promotional materials, including the Pony Express Passport Video.

“Pat doesn’t balk or hesitate,” Pony Express chairman Rick Gray said. “In fact, Pat often volunteers to go the extra mile to get the job done.”

Reno-Tahoe Territory Award

Patrick Gilmore, recently retired tourism and marketing manager for the Virginia City Tourism Commission, has volunteered with the Reno-Tahoe Territory for more than a decade, coordinating trade shows, assisting with familiarization tours and serving as the membership chairman and on the executive board. His passion, enthusiasm and commitment to the destination are evident in everything he does. Even in retirement, Gilmore continues his voluntourism in the region.

Nevada International Award 2015

Reno-Tahoe International Airport announced several new, strategic flights into Reno this past year, air service that not only impacts Reno but rural Nevada as well. New flights include the Volaris flight from Mexico to Reno and the JetBlue flight from New York to Reno beginning in May. Conversations are taking place to connect Nevada with Canada, Europe, Central America and South America.

Statewide Excellence in VolunTourism

Jan Morrison was the primary force behind the renovation and reopening of the historical St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Austin — now St. Augustine’s Cultural Center. Morrison, a retired developer from Las Vegas, bought the empty church after moving to Austin in 2003. After extensive renovations, St. Augustine’s was rededicated in September 2014. Her work preserved a piece of Nevada history and demonstrates the difference a single person can make in rural tourism.

Statewide Excellence in Tourism Award

Jack Sanders has proven to be a visionary, establishing two wineries in Pahrump at a time when none existed. Sanders founded Pahrump Valley Winery in 1990, sold it and then developed Sanders Family Winery; both businesses have helped raise awareness of this community between Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park. Through it all, Sanders has staunchly supported Nevada tourism, hosting media and tour operators, and participating in various tourism organizations.

Rural Roundup 25 Year Special Recognition Award

Both Ray Fox of Certified Folder Display Service and Jack Sanders of Sanders Family Winery have demonstrated longtime commitment to the Rural Roundup conference. Certified Folder was the first business to sponsor Rural Roundup, and has sponsored it every year since. Sanders participated in the first Rural Roundup and has continued his involvement throughout the years. These industry leaders laid the groundwork for the successful tourism conference that Rural Roundup is today.

June Stannard Rural Tourism Memorial Scholarship

Kailey Clay, a senior at Foothill High School in Henderson, Nev., is this year’s winner of the $1,000 June Stannard Memorial Scholarship. Clay plans to pursue a career in hospitality and tourism, with an emphasis on business and marketing.

“I have seen how tourism impacts our economy, and how important it is to be courteous and appreciative to the visitors that come to our great state,” Clay wrote in her scholarship application. “I love the idea of working in this field.”

The Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada) is part of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. It promotes and markets Nevada as a tourism destination for domestic and international leisure and business travelers through its marketing and advertising programs and by coordinating partnerships between public and private entities. Travel Nevada also administers grant programs for local entities to market travel and tourism offerings and publishes Nevada Magazine.