Tourism is a $7.2 billion industry in the State of Iowa, generating $311 million in Black Hawk County and employing 2,700 county residents.
May is National Tourism Month and the Waterloo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau celebrated by honoring local attractions and tourism stakeholders with the Ninth Annual Cedar Valley Tourism Awards held Tuesday, May 14th, at the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo.
Over one hundred partners and stakeholders attended the event and local businesses, attractions and events were recognized.
The Bureaus changed the voting process for this year’s awards. In the past, nomination forms were available and nominators were asked to provide additional information and support. That information was shared with a committee that made the selections. This year nominations were solicited and the nominees were submitted with a 25-word description. Those nominees were placed on an online ballot that was accessible for the public to help make the selections. More than 60 nominations were received and more than 2,800 votes cast.
The Hilton Garden Inn was named the Cedar Valley Hotel of the Year. The hotel is the newest in the Cedar Valley, and has already hosted numerous events and garnered some impressive voter comments. The Hilton Garden Inn was called “a great face for the Cedar Valley and visitors,” by one voter. Another commented that the “hotel offers an unexpected level of lodging in our small community.”
Scratch Cupcakery was named Business of the Year due to the awareness their business has brought to the Cedar Valley and for their support of local events and tourism organizations. Visitors to the area take Scratch cupcakes home to their friends, family and co-workers after a visit to Waterloo or Cedar Falls. Both Bureaus remind visitors to experience places that are unique to our community, and Scratch has allowed visitors to experience the flavor of the area.
New in 2013 was the Restaurant of the Year category. Restaurants offer a visitor the opportunity to connect to the community. Restaurants are a focal point for many visitors, and are often large supporters of local organizations and events. Comments supporting votes for this year’s winner – Texas Roadhouse – included voters saying that the restaurant provides a family-friendly atmosphere and offers great service. They were highlighted for working very well with hotels in the area and for connecting well with community organizations, charities, and events.
The Attraction of the Year category saw 15 nominations and one voter commented, “Oh my…how can you ask us to choose one and therefore not the others?” The 2013 Attraction of the Year, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, offers something not found elsewhere in the Cedar Valley. Their programming offers cultural experiences that are available in larger communities, right in our own backyard. Voters commented about the quality programming available at the Gallagher-Bluedorn and how the breadth of productions offers both familiar and new experiences. Others also highlighted the family-oriented shows and the Buck-A-Kid program offering diverse concepts to kids to help them understand and explore their world.
The Event of the Year award was given to Iowa Irish Fest. The state’s largest Irish Fest stood out amongst the 19 nominees for voters for its growth in variety and diversity of family entertainment. The Irish Fest brings visitors from around the region and generates quite a large number of positive comments for the community. It was highlighted as “the crown jewel of summer events…bringing international bands, exhibitors, musicians. The beautiful setting, friendly volunteers and a great crowd make the experience a very happy one.”
The Bureaus recognized local artists Paco Rosic and Gary Kelley as Waterloo and Cedar Falls Friend of Tourism, respectively. For the last two years the artists have collaborated on original artwork for the cover of the Visitors Guide. The 2012 Visitors Guide was recognized by the Iowa Tourism Office as the Outstanding Tourism Publication, due in large part to the collaborative spirit of the communities represented by the work of Rosic and Kelley.
The Visitors Bureaus would like to thank those who voted for award nominees and those who attended the event to honor these outstanding events, attractions, businesses, organizations and individuals. We encourage you to offer them your congratulations as well.