Visit Lake Charles hosted the annual R.O.S.E (Recognition of Service Excellence) Award Ceremony on Wednesday, May 10 at L’Auberge Resort Casino. The organization also honored partners in tourism for their significant contributions to the tourism industry in Southwest Louisiana with the Legacy Awards. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser was on hand to help celebrate award recipients. Legacy Award winners are a culmination of community leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates who are committed to elevating tourism in a variety of ways. The following tourism partners received Legacy Awards:
2023 Hospitality Arts & Tourism Award
Paige Vidrine, Arts Enthusiast and Owner of Buffi’s Peaux Boys
Vidrine has a passion for the arts and bringing people from all background together to celebrate culture. She organized the Art to Inspire Community Mural Project Festival, putting a focus on enhancing quality of life through the creation of murals in downtown Lake Charles. In addition, she recently successfully launched SWLA Yoga Fest in Drew Park with a variety of instructors, healing arts, and musical acts.
2023 Lasting Impression Award
Smoke & Barrel, Nathaniel Allured & Adam Fontenot
A relatively young festival, Smoke & Barrel has quickly grown to one of the most popular sell-out events in Southwest Louisiana. The event was founded in 2018 with the mission of creating quality entertainment for the enrichment of the community while raising funding for United Way and other charities throughout Southwest Louisiana. Smoke & Barrel was also one of the first major events to emerge after the hurricanes of 2020 and pandemic that devastated events in the Lake Area.
2023 Public Service Award
Heath Allen, Executive Director of the Lake Charles Regional Airport
Heath has been director since 2008, and since that time, the airport has completed over $80 million in capital expenditures, nearly all of which has been funded without local taxes. Currently, the Airport has an additional $30 million in capital improvements for projects. The airport continues to recover and grow with over 30 tenants located on Airport property, new and improved facilities, larger commercial aircraft, and the return of passenger numbers to pre-pandemic levels.
2023 Tourism Lifetime Service Award
Adley Cormier and the late Melinda Antoon Cormier
Adley has been a dedicated expert on the history of Lake Charles and continues to serve as tour guide for groups and travel journalists as well as a technical writer for historical promotional materials. He’s also written a book, Lost Lake Charles, and he’s worked for years with the Calcasieu Preservation Society including creating events for the Palm Sunday Tour of Homes, which was a tradition for many years. He also worked with the preservation society to initiate and implement the Lost Landmarks program.
Melinda was a teacher, ran a fine art gallery, helped establish the Artisans' Gallery, curated and installed art at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, and collaborated with many artists and arts organizations over the span of her career. This summer, many of her pieces will be on display at the 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center. The exhibit “Wonder & Delight: The Life Works of M. Antoon” will be on display June 6 - July 15.
2023 Sports Partner of the Year
Hunter Bower with Geaux Preps
Bower started GeauxPreps.com which is a website that is dedicated to Louisiana high school sports. For the month of April alone, the website was viewed over 5 million times, and year-to-date, that number is an impressive 16.7 million views. The website and social media presence of Geaux Preps have boosted visibility for youth sports across the state and provided sports fans with a trusted source for information on high school sports.
2023 Tourism Champion
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser
Since taking office in January of 2016, Lt. Gov. Nungesser has not stopped promoting, marketing and selling Louisiana. He oversaw the creation of the current brand, Louisiana – Feed Your Soul, and has been instrumental in pushing Louisiana in the recovery of tourism business since the pandemic. For the past two years, Explore Louisiana has been a participant in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. The number of impressions and the media value of these two annual events is off the charts. He has also been a brand ambassador for the incredible music culture in Louisiana and partnered with Lauren Daigle, Lainey Wilson, and our very own Sean Ardoin.
Shelley Johnson Tourism Leadership Award
Since 2020, Sara has worked tirelessly with community leaders, governmental agencies, charity organizations, volunteers, city planners, and the community at large to create and implement the Just Imagine SWLA masterplan. The pieces of the 50-Year Resilience Masterplan are ambitious, but Sara has shown great leadership by continuing to push for progress and success. This plan has the power to completely transform the Lake Area and propel it into the future, and Sara is dedicated to making strides one day and one project at a time.
2023 Chair’s Cup
Dr. Neil Aspinwall
He is the Chancellor at SOWELA Technical Community College. Just this past February, SOWELA opened the first-of-its-kind $10.8 million dollar Culinary, Gaming, and Hospitality Center. This facility and programming will expand SOWELA’s hospitality programs and educate hospitality workers throughout the state, and that sector of jobs is expected to increase in Louisiana by 14.9% by 2026 according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. It is through Dr. Aspinwall’s leadership, vision, and fortitude that SOWELA remains one of the most desired and high-ranking technical colleges in the United States.
The R.O.S.E. Awards ceremony was held in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), which is observed during the first full week in May every year. NTTW is a nationwide effort organized by the U.S. Travel Association to recognize the contributions that the travel industry has to the economy, workforce, and quality of life initiatives.
To learn more about the impact of tourism, go to www.visitlakecharles.org/nttw.