Governor Scott Walker presented six recipients with Governor's Tourism Awards for their outstanding contributions to the state's hospitality and travel industry during the closing dinner at the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Wisconsin Dells.
"Wisconsin's scenic beauty and iconic attractions continue to bring travelers to the state, but it's the passion of individuals and organizations in the hospitality industry that keep people returning here year after year," said Governor Walker. "These six honorees are dedicated to great customer service and creative projects that grow the tourism economy."
Sponsored by the Governor's Council on Tourism, The Governor's Tourism Awards recognize individuals, organizations and businesses for their commitment to excellence, achievements, dedication, and leadership, which have an impact on Wisconsin's travel and hospitality industry.
"This year's 23 nominees are the people who work day in and day out to embody our mission of making Wisconsin the premier destination for fun in the Midwest," said Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. "Each and every nominee sets the bar high for their peers in the tourism industry. Our six honorees should be proud to have been selected from such an outstanding pool of talent."
Allen Schroeder, Historic Site Director, Pendarvis, Stonefield Historic Site and First Capitol Historic Site
Allen Schroeder has been actively involved in the Wisconsin tourism industry for more than a decade, serving as a board, bureau and chamber member across southwest Wisconsin. Schroeder's genuine enthusiasm for the preservation of Wisconsin history can be seen in his work as site director for three separate Wisconsin historical sites – Pendarvis, First Capitol Historical Site and Stonefield Historic Site.
Under his innovative direction, these sites have seen the development of new technology for improved visitor interaction, thrilling new exhibits and events, handicap accessibility improvements and renewed partnerships with local organizations.
Charles Wikenhauser, Director, Milwaukee County Zoo
For 26 years, Charles "Chuck" Wikenhauser has been a tireless promoter of the Milwaukee County Zoo and tourism industry in Wisconsin. As director, he has led two successful capital campaigns totaling $46.8 million, maintained the zoo's American Zoo and Aquarium accreditation and helped the zoo become an award-winning attraction.
With more than 1.3 million visitors annually, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the city's top attractions, and Wikenhauser has played an important part in sustaining the attraction's reputation and popularity.
Rising Star Award
Tim Hyma, Executive Director, Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce
In just three years as CEO of the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, Tim Hyma has spiked local tourism by nearly 20 percent with his regional marketing approach. Hyma's partnership with neighboring cities and counties has resulted in several new attractions and events in the region.
He developed Driftless Destinations, a tourism campaign for motorcycles that has a $1.8 million economic impact for a five-county area. He also played an instrumental role in revitalizing the Sparta Community Holiday Lights program. As an advocate for single-track bicycle trails, Hyma recently partnered with Port Byron, IL, to create a six-day bicycle tour through Southwest Wisconsin.
Meuer Farm, Chilton
From corn mazes to berry picking, Meuer Farm in Chilton sets the bar high for Wisconsin's agri-tourism experiences. In recent years, their business has boomed, drawing more than 30,000 visitors from all over the country and the world.
Meuer Farm is passionate about promoting agri-tourism with inventive marketing strategies and new development projects. From hosting school field trips, organizing farm-to-table dinners featuring products grown on their farm to maintaining their Travel Green Wisconsin certification, the Meuer team strives to incorporate sustainable practices, provide educational services and support their local community.
Service Excellence Award
James Bolen, Executive Director, Cable Area Chamber of Commerce
As a result of James Bolen's leadership and vision, Cable became the second destination in the U.S. to host the prestigious International Paralympics Committee Nordic Skiing World Championships.
As executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, Bolen led this city of 825 in overcoming many scheduling and infrastructural obstacles to provide housing and amenities to visitors attending the 2015 Nordic Skiing World Championships,such as organizing an accessible bus system, wheelchair ramps and an adaptive stage.
Throughout the process, Bolen never lost sight of the Chamber's ultimate goal: to make everyone feel welcome in Cable and put Wisconsin on the world stage as a premier skiing and recreation destination.
Arts, Culture and Heritage
Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
For 40 years, visitors from around the world have discovered the natural and artistic beauty found at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.
Every year, the museum draws more than 50,000 national and international visitors for its flagship Birds in Art exhibit, impressive temporary exhibitions and diverse cultural programs. In fact, visitors to the museum have had an estimated $1.3 million economic impact on the Wausau area.
As Birds in Art celebrates its 40th anniversary, a remarkable milestone for the museum, it acts as a reminder of the impact the museum has had on Northern Wisconsin and the rest of the state.
More information about the Governor's Tourism Awards is available on www.wigcot.org.