Brooke E. Rouse, Director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce presented The Clarkson Inn General Manager George Lavigne with the 'Best to the Guest Tourism Excellence Award.' (Photo by Melanie Kimber Lago)

Brooke E. Rouse, Director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce presented The Clarkson Inn General Manager George Lavigne with the ‘Best to the Guest Tourism Excellence Award.’ (Photo by Melanie Kimber Lago)

HAMMOND – Cookies shaped like barn quilt squares, life jackets and wine glasses and decorated with snowmobiles and ATVs filled the dessert table at the 1st Annual St. Lawrence County Tourism Awards, held last Wednesday May 11th at Bella Brooke Vineyard on Black Lake. The theme of the evening was ‘Trails to Tourism’ and highlighted several initiatives that are underway to attract visitors to the County. Speakers discussed ways in which they were bundling assets to present an attraction that would be easily accessible to visitors. The Raquette River Blueway, Colton Barn Quilt Trail, County Multi-Use Trail and St. Lawrence Wine Trail were all spotlighted.

Remarks on the tourism industry in the County focused on the opportunities for growth and importance of having a standard for excellence. ‘Tourism is not successful in silos of individual businesses. To create a destination we must have a variety of lodging options, restaurants, attractions, retail, transportation both to and within a destination, and infrastructure such as wifi and cell service, sidewalks, paths and boat launches. Visitors need accessible information on how to get around, where to eat, shop, explore. They need enough to do to keep them busy, so busy that they will have to come back or stay an extra day to experience it all’ noted Brooke E. Rouse, Executive Director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, host of the event. She continued ‘It is not enough to have beautiful natural resources, friendly people and rich culture. We can market those things, but we need to have the built resources – the boat rentals, guides, tour companies, lodging packages to ensure people have a way to spend their dollars in our destination…that is when the destination will truly realize an economic impact from tourism.’

Two awards were presented for the first time. The ‘Best to the Guest Tourism Excellence Award’ was present to the Clarkson Inn, Potsdam. General Manager George Lavigne, in his acceptance speech, commended his colleagues at the Hampton Inn and Best Western for also excelling in service and their newly built and upgraded properties. He noted that by having many hotels with a high standard, the entire community wins. He credited his staff and supportive bosses from Clarkson University for their success and accepted the award on behalf of the entire team.

Nancy Misenko, Pamela Winchester, Jennifer McGregor, Lisa Sarfaty and Jeanne Kendall Ballon from the Hammond Barn Quilt Trail stand in the Bella Brooke Vineyard with their award for Best Destination Marketing.

Nancy Misenko, Pamela Winchester, Jennifer McGregor, Lisa Sarfaty and Jeanne Kendall Ballon from the Hammond Barn Quilt Trail stand in the Bella Brooke Vineyard with their award for Best Destination Marketing.

The Hammond Barn Quilt Trail was awarded the ‘Best Destination Marketing Award’ for their new attraction that has inspired barn quilts around the County. Project champion Lisa Sarfaty, in accepting the award, said that the initiative has had three main benefits; personal pride – in the stories that the quilts tell and the hand work to artistically create the quilts, community pride –  in honoring the rich culture, heritage and agriculture of rural Hammond, and tourism – creating an attraction to put Hammond on the map and bring people to the town to visit, explore and spend. She was joined by her committee members and local business people, noting that ‘A year ago we never thought we could put together a trail, a website, and a brochure highlighting over 50 barn quilts – and here we are, being recognized for doing exactly that!’ Sarfaty exclaimed.

Rouse stated that $114 million was spent by visitors to the County in the most recent data in 2014, and 1,230 people worked directly in tourism. The atmosphere during the happy hour and dinner awards left the nearly 90 people in attendance encouraged about the tourism industry as an economic driver and better understanding the big picture.

Publishers Note: We feel that the success of Arts and Culture in the Adirondack Region is directly related to these kinds of activities that are occurring in the tourism real. The two go hand and hand and we intend to highlight initiatives like this that help our focus as well.