Shelley Johnson, retired CEO of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, receives the Tourism Lifetime Service Award at the National Travel & Tourism Week awards ceremony held on Tuesday, May 7. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser was present as the keynote speaker for the event and participated in the awards ceremony to celebrate partners in tourism in Southwest Louisiana as part of his statewide tour.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Angie S. Manning
Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB
CVB Honors Partners in Tourism and Recently Retired CEO, Shelley Johnson
with Special Guest Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser
LAKE CHARLES, La. (May 8, 2019)—The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau (LC/SWLA CVB) honored partners in tourism who have made significant contributions to the tourism industry in Southwest Louisiana as well as recently retired CEO of the LC/SWLA CVB, Shelley Johnson, at the award ceremony held in honor of National Travel & Tourism Week on Tuesday, May 7, at Treasures of Marilyn’s. Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser was on hand at the ceremony to deliver the keynote address and assist with awards.
Johnson was honored by the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s Office, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the City of Lake Charles with proclamations for May 7, 2019, being officially designated as “Shelley Johnson Day.” She was surrounded by colleagues from all over the country who attended the luncheon in her honor, and many paid tributes to her, having written heartfelt letters in advance of the event. The book of letters was presented to Johnson as a parting gift at the close of the National Travel & Tourism Week awards luncheon to commemorate her impactful career on the industry. She and Lt. Gov. Nungesser were also gifted with artwork, presented by local artist Candice Alexander in honor of National Travel & Tourism Week and Johnson’s tenure at the LC/SWLA CVB.
“The awards luncheon was a special occasion not only to honor our partners in tourism but also to pay homage to Shelley Johnson and the substantial contributions that she has made to the tourism industry. It was obvious by the caliber of tourism professionals who traveled across the state and country to attend during National Travel & Tourism Week, that she is an extraordinary mentor and prestigious leader in the industry who means so much to so many,” said Kyle Edmiston, President/CEO of the LC/SWLA CVB.
The Tourism Lifetime Service Award was earned by Shelley Johnson. Over her 30-year career in tourism, Johnson is a pillar for tourism not only in Southwest Louisiana on state and national levels. She has showcased Southwest Louisiana’s culture, traditions, culinary creations, festivals, resorts, wildlife and the great outdoors to everyone that she has met throughout her life. Johnson has played a major role in garnering millions of dollars’ worth of publicity for the area, and she has led a team of people to host countless conventions, tournaments, and even created many of the festivals the area enjoys today such as the Light Up the Lake Christmas Festival, Arts & Crabs Festival, and Southwest Louisiana Boudin Wars. She has also been recognized by the Louisiana Travel Association and the Southeast Tourism Association for her leadership and lifetime service to the tourism industry.
The Tourism Leadership Award was presented to Mayor Nic Hunter of the City of Lake Charles. Mayor Hunter has worked hard to create economic development districts to promote new business growth, and he has a passion for lakefront development as well as programs to promote parks. He involves the business community as well with public/private partnerships. One of the most exciting attractions on the horizon is Port Wonder, which will be an iconic beacon along Interstate 10, enhancing the lake and the downtown area.
The Organization of the Year was awarded to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, represented by police jurors and tourism liaisons Hal McMillin, Sandy Treme and Police Jury President Kevin White. To maintain the level of youth baseball events that the area is able host, the CVB and the Police Jury worked closely with the City of Lake Charles and Ward 3 to establish a turf project to add 9 more turf fields to the sports infrastructure in Southwest Louisiana. The fields at Power Center have been completed and are hosting action while the fields at OD Johnson are expected to be completed within the next month. The CVB and the Police Jury also partnered on an incentive program to encourage the I-210 overlay project to move along more quickly to help minimize the traffic challenges facing the parish. Just last week, the jury and the CVB worked together to submit a bid to the LHSAA for hosting both the boys and girls state basketball championships at Burton for 2020.
The Chairman’s Cup Award recipient was chosen by Rick Richard, the LC/SWLA CVB’s chairman of the board of directors. This award was given to Nora Popillion, director of entertainment and public relations at Delta Downs for his breadth of work in the community supporting Family and Youth Counseling agency, volunteering for events such as Live @ the Lakefront, while also lending his most distinctive emcee voice for public events and fundraisers.
The Rhea Barnes Travel Industry Award was established in memory of an exemplary employee of the CVB who passed away in 1994. The person who earns this award has shown significant contributions to tourism and the community. The LC/SWLA CVB staff extended a heartfelt congratulations to Denise Fasske as the 2019 recipient. Fasske was an employee at the bureau for many years before she began working for the City of Lake Charles. She is a talented event organizer and fundraiser, and she is able to motivate others into action. She has overseen many festivals such as Red, White, Blue and You; Lake Charles Light Up the Lake Christmas Festival; and Downtown at Sundown among others. She retired from the city after serving as the Director of Cultural Events in November of 2018.
The Lasting Impression Award winners were Matt Young and Erica McCreedy. Young and McCreedy worked hand-in-hand to create the Living History Cemetery Tour from scratch that was a resounding success. From the research on Southwest Louisiana’s history to script writing and finding actors, organizing props and period clothing to working with the cemeteries and producing a brochure, this event was first-class and captured the imaginations of people to learn more about our history and heritage in Southwest Louisiana.
The Hospitality Arts Tourism or “HAT” Award is given to someone who serves as a bridge between the arts and tourism communities. The 2019 HAT award was earned by 2-time GRAMMY nominee, Sean Ardoin. He is an incredible ambassador for music and shares his Creole heritage. Ardoin worked with the communications team at the CVB and collaborated with the City of Lake Charles on a Creole Culture video. Ardoin is a natural fit for communicating about Zydeco music and Creole culture.
Volunteer of the Year Awards were given to Donnie Martin and Colvin LeDoux. No matter if it’s a tailgate event at McNeese, hosting a team during Marsh Madness or just about any other event, Martin and LeDoux are eager to assist. LeDoux has also become a big part of the CVB’s hold on LHSAA Championship events from his work as a team host and team host coordinator at the Marsh Madness Basketball Championships to putting his “made for radio” voice to work on the mic at the LHSAA Softball and Baseball Championships
The Public Service Award was earned by the Lake Charles Police Department Traffic Division represented by Captain Mike Weaver, Sergeant Gary Sonnier, Senior Corporal Scott Dougherty, Senior Corporal Michael Flurry, Senior Corporal Shaun Touchet, Corporal Brad Puckett, Officer Rodney Grantham, and Officer Dennis Miller. The division provides motorcycle police escorts for travel writer media tours and events, always ready to assist the bureau by being proud representatives of the area and the City of Lake Charles.
Youth Sports play a major role in visitation for Southwest Louisiana, and the area could not host the caliber of tournaments without support from individuals in the community. The 2019 Sports Person of the Year was awarded to Jean Evans. Evans is one of several team hosts to assist the CVB with Marsh Madness for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. She goes over and above with hosting, creating welcome bags and gift cards for the teams and making them feel at home in Southwest Louisiana.
The Media Partner in Tourism award was earned by Olivia Vidal with KPLC. As the co-anchor of Sunrise and co-host of the Fox 29 Morning Show, she proactively reaches out to the communications team to assist with spreading the word about the CVB’s activities, events and promotions occurring throughout the area. She is also available to help with events in varying capacities, such as being a celebrity judge for contests.
Krickett Racca, marketing director at Crying Eagle Brewing Company, was named as the Young Professional of the Year. Racca goes out of her way to accommodate each request when groups or media are in the Lake Area. She serves on the Arts Council Board of Southwest Louisiana and participates in the marketing college program, presented by the Southeast Tourism Society.
The Social Media Photo of the Year was awarded to Tammilee Tillison of Spokane, Wash., a travel writer who was in town during Mardi Gras. She captured a colorful image during the Mardi Gras Iowa Chicken Run that became popular on social media platforms.
For more information on the impact of tourism on Southwest Louisiana or to hear what locals have to say about how tourism works for Calcasieu Parish, log onto www.VisitLakeCharles.org/Tourism.
The LC/SWLA CVB is the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Calcasieu Parish, dedicated to strengthening the economic fabric of Southwest Louisiana through overnight visitation. In 2018, $732 million was added to the local economy through travel expenditures; the bureau booked over 74,000 room nights, and the LC/SWLA CVB was honored with ConventionSouth’s Annual Readers’ Choice Award. The dedicated staff works to showcase the best of Southwest Louisiana through marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales efforts to bring meetings, conventions, tournaments, media tours and groups to Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana.