The Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau presented its annual Hospitality Hero Awards Saturday in a public ceremony at the county-hosted Arts Festival at Rose Lawn. The CVB also reported the findings of a recent tourism impact study by Georgia Department of Economic Development.
The ceremony, emceed by CVB board member Adena Harper, began with study findings that tourists spent $167 million in Bartow County last year, which is above the state average and 6.3 percent more than was spent here the previous year. The research study noted more than $11 million in state and local taxes paid by visitors, saving each Georgia household about $400 in annual taxes.
“Continued successful growth in hospitality is the real reason the CVB presents these awards,” Harper said. “It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you,’ to all the people businesses, and organizations that make Bartow County so appealing to visitors and residents alike.”
The CVB in conjunction with the Cartersville-Bartow County Cultural Arts Alliance honored retired music educator Angee McKee, with the Kordecki Award for Contribution to the Arts.
The award is named in honor of the late Don Kordecki, longtime CVB board chairman, for his legendary contributions to the arts. McKee worked alongside Kordecki as part of The Pumphouse Players. She shaped countless lives through her love of music, having taught many years in the Rome, Bartow County and Cartersville school systems, where she founded the Cartersville Elementary Orffestra. Prior to her retirement, she was awarded Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Music Educators Association. Currently McKee lends her talent as an assistant music professor at Kennesaw State University and serves as co-director of the Church of the Ascension Saint Cecelia Choir.
The Shining Star Award is given to residents whose achievements bring national, or in this case international, attention to the community. The recipient of this year’s award, Dean Lewis with Old Car City USA, has garnered news and travel features on CBS Sunday Morning, in the New York Times, Toronto Sun and Hot Rod Magazine, just to name a few. Search the shining star’s online presence to discover the roadside attraction’s diverse appeal across the globe with blogs by the National Geographic Young Explorers, Motor on FoxSports.com, American Profile and MotorTrend. The self-described “34-acre piece of art” even has its own theme song, which justly notes its worldly location “50 miles north of Atlanta and 2,000 from L.A.”
“In fact, L.A. is just a brief stop when photographers from as far away as Thailand and Sweden journey to Old Car City USA,” CVB Executive Director Ellen Archer said.
Named for former CVB treasurer, Frank Entwisle, whose financial acumen guided the CVB for more than a decade, The Entwistle Award for Lifetime Service is intended to honor someone whose stewardship has shaped the tourism industry and ultimately the community. The Lifetime Service Award was presented to retired County Commissioner Clarence Brown, “whose devoted service to our community fostered growth and development, while preserving our history and broadening its appeal to visitors,” Archer said. Under his leadership, strategic growth management plans were developed that served to attract major tourism developments like LakePoint. His decision to allow the public SPLOST vote to build a community conference center has become a self-sustained enhancement to economic development in just five years of operation. Brown established guidelines for environmental stewardship and created public greenspace adding new hiking trails across the county. He created local Cultural Arts Grants funded by county lodging tax, which has contributed almost $1 million in support of cultural and heritage programs and performances over the past decade.
“This honor is long overdue. We are lucky to have had Clarence Brown at the helm of our county government during the first 23 years of the CVB’s existence,” Archer said. “The CVB discussed, but did not present, this earlier because we know while in office he would have humbly declined.”
The Bentley Award for Economic Development in Tourism was given to the city of Adairsville and its residents.
“Adairsville understands growth is not without hardships and that preservation can be priceless,” Harper said. The historic city recently faced a dilemma while restoring the town city hall. When funds were not available to preserve the century-old marble façade of the town square’s first bank building, the residents spoke out and the city council listened. All parties put progress on hold and worked diligently to preserve a portion of the town’s original character. The months since the town hall restoration, two new antique stores and an Italian restaurant have opened on the historic square. The city of Adairsville, Mayor Kenneth Carson, and council members Alan Towe, Erwin Holcomb, Buddy Bagley and Lee Castro were commended.
Cartersville Police Chief Thomas Culpepper was bestowed The Outstanding Public Service Award, which honors a public servant who has made a major contribution to the local community. Along with serving in law enforcement, Culpepper also answered a call to mission work in Central and South America with Peace Officers Through Christ. He has served 30 years with the Cartersville Police Department and has contributed 15 years of service to the Georgia National Guard. Culpepper has volunteered his time as a Sunday School teacher at Grace Baptist, with the Red Cross, the Georgia Civil War Roundtable and the Booth Western Art Museum. He has traveled to Israel to participate in the International Law Enforcement Exchange Program to bring best practices back to Cartersville. He’s also a member of the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs and the International Association of Police Chiefs. Archer shared that “when Chief Culpepper’s name was suggested for this honor that his character was unquestioned. It was an easy, unanimous decision to share our gratitude for his leadership in public safety.”
Well-known community volunteer and activist Mary Norton was honored with The Distinguished Volunteer of the Year Award. Norton’s impact on the community began in 1999, when she joined the Bartow Smart Growth Alliance and was instrumental in developing a position paper urging local leaders to maintain Bartow County’s rural character. As a volunteer project coordinator with the Etowah Valley Historical Society, she worked almost a year to inventory 1,300 historic sites in Bartow County. As a result, she then joined the Oral History committee and has completed 48 historical interviews with area residents. Known statewide for her love of history, she co-chaired the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Ramble in 2000 and 2014. Norton currently facilitates an advisory committee to preserve the Georgia Institute of Genetics. She and her husband, Dr. Bob Norton, have opened Valley View, their antebellum home and farm, to thousands of people during a wide range of fundraisers supporting the Etowah Valley Historical Society, Etowah Valley Humane Society, the Coosa River Basin Initiative and Friends of the Library.
“It is with overwhelming gratitude that we honor Mary for her love of community, her willingness to be a catalyst for preservation and her tireless efforts as a volunteer,” Archer said.