Five winners from among a nominee list of events, attractions, organizations and individuals were chosen by an impartial panel to receive the 2021 Southern Delaware Tourism Awards at Dec. 8 luncheon at Hyatt Place Dewey Beach.
According to Southern Delaware Tourism, more than 16 percent of all jobs in the county are tourism-related, contributing to a $2 billion industry. Because the work of driving visitors to the county was much more challenging due to the pandemic, award categories were modified to reflect the industry’s resilience.
Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism, said voting for this year’s winners was extremely close.
“All of this year’s nominees are very deserving of the award, as their contributions help make Sussex County such a special and beloved destination,” Thomas said.
Delaware Sea Grant College Program/University of Delaware was named Tourism Partner of the Year for its wide-reaching work collaborating with a multitude of local businesses and organizations to promote county attractions. The organization also assisted with the removal of ghost crab traps to enhance safety for boaters and worked with Delaware State Parks on beach crossing sand erosion mitigation to ensure beach access.
Receiving the Pioneer Award was Winter Delmarva Dogfish BirdINNg Weekends, a collaboration among Dogfish Head, the Dogfish Inn and Delmarva Birding Weekends, that brought together bird watchers and beer lovers in field trips at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Henlopen State Park and on the Delaware Bay. Dogfish Head brewed a special amber lager just for birders to enjoy called Binoculager.
Ashley Houdbert, owner and publisher of Catch a Glimpse Delaware beach guide and Visit Rehoboth/Visit Lewes, received the Perseverance Award. Houdbert had worked to rebuild her company’s brand and was set to print 140,000 issues of Catch a Glimpse when the pandemic derailed her plans. Houdbert then created a 48-page digital publication for clients until she was able to print the newsletter in January 2021.
Freeman Arts Pavilion won the Pivot Award. In 2021, the organization rebranded its outdoor venue from the Freeman Stage to Freeman Arts Pavilion and adapted to ongoing changes to health restrictions and weather while presenting live performances all summer. Freeman Arts Pavilion also launched a new arts access initiative, distributing creative kits to more than 21,000 Sussex County students.
Rehoboth Beach Main Street received the Philanthropic Award for its work in supporting downtown businesses, expanding beautification efforts and creating year-round events. The organization also obtained grants to pay for rental parking barriers, to maintain 35 large garden planters and to promote outdoor dining to help restaurants during indoor dining capacity limits.
Past recipients of the annual award include Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall, the American Legion Family of Post 17, Lewes; Cinema Art Theater, Rehoboth Beach Film Society; Southern Delaware Wine, Food & Music Festival, Creative Coastal Connections Corp.; and Delaware Beach Life magazine.