NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The 2023 Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards were presented at the North Dakota Travel Industry Conference in Bismarck.

According to a news release, Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller, North Dakota Department of Commerce Tourism and Marketing Director Sare Otte Coleman, and Destination Marketing Association of North Dakota (DMAND) president Serhi Grossman presented the awards that recognized outstanding leaders, projects, and innovations.

“Travel and tourism are essential drivers of North Dakota’s economy, and today we honor the hardworking individuals and organizations who make our state a top destination for visitors,” said Governor Doug Burgum. “These awards recognize the dedication, innovation, and passion that industry leaders bring to their work, and we’re grateful for their contributions to our state’s continued growth and prosperity.”

Without further ado, here are the 2023 winners:

Sakakawea Award for a Behind-the-Scenes Tourism Employee: Tricia Miller at North Dakota Tourism.

This award recognizes a person who provides outstanding service behind the scenes in visitor-focused businesses.

Miller plays a crucial role in promoting state tourism by overseeing the website, which is a primary portal for potential travelers by offering information on attractions, activities, accommodations, and events. She is constantly improving the site’s technology and content to make sure it’s a positive website user experience.

Heritage Award for a Front-line Tourism Employee: Tammy Meyer at TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Dickinson.

This award recognizes a person who provides outstanding customer service to visitors every day.

Guests at TownePlace Suites have praised the “Breakfast Champion,” aka Tammy Meyer — who is the hotel’s breakfast manager — for exceptional hospitality and service. Meyer oversees daily breakfast operations, but also helps guests plan their trips, outlines national park driving routes on maps, offers dining and attraction suggestions, and sets aside books and toys to gift to the hotel’s youngest guests.

Flint Firestarter Award for a Tourism Development Project: The Lights in West Fargo.

The award recognizes a new offering that has opened in a downtown district that has the potential to attract visitors and enhance the Main Street experience.

The Lights is a mixed-use equipment district offering dining, shopping, and community events. Concerts and sporting events are held on the Essentia Health Plaza, while retail and commercial space and residential units add to the district’s energy, vitality, and density. Since The Lights has year-round entertainment, it’s able to attract visitors from around the country — and its success has inspired similar projects in other communities across the state.

Trailblazer Award for Tourism Innovation: Teresa Perleberg and Chris Armbrust at Nome Schoolhouse in Nome.

The award acknowledges the spirit of perseverance and creativity in developing unique North Dakota offerings and is given to an attraction, event, person, group, company, or organization.

The Nome Schoolhouse Fiber Arts Retreat Center offers a unique learning experience in fiber arts. It also boasts an 11-boutique hotel, wedding venue, meeting/retreat facilities, a full-time chef, camping sites, and a merchandise store. The center has created new job opportunities in the community, and revitalized both the town’s social and economic landscapes.

Amplified Award for Marketing Excellence: Sunflower Map Campaign at North Dakota Tourism.

The award is given to a stand-out marketing initiative, and the honor may go to a marketing project, campaign, team, cooperative project, or marketing guru who uses innovative ideas to attract more attention and visitors.

The North Dakota Sunflower Map is a partnership between North Dakota Tourism and the National Sunflower Association. Farmers across the state share their sunflower fields with visitors, and the map provides exact coordinates and updates on bloom stages. The tourism team plans to celebrate the partnership with the first “National Sunflower Day” in 2023.

Legend Award for Travel & Tourism Industry Leadership: Randy Hatzenbuhler at Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation in Medora.

The award recognizes a person who has demonstrated legendary leadership in the tourism industry statewide and beyond.

Hatzenbuhler is the president of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and has dedicated 30 years to growing tourism in Medora and the state. Under his leadership, visitor spending has tripled, and new attractions and amenities were added. His staff stated in his nomination that he is a leader by example, and never asks others to do a job that he is unwilling to do.