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Holcomb presents Kenyanna Johnson with Hoosier Hospitality Award

Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb presented Kenyanna Johnson of Hammond with a 2016 Hoosier Hospitality Award for outstanding contributions to the tourism industry during a ceremony in August at the Indiana State Fair. Eighteen representatives of Indiana’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry earned the 2016 Lieutenant Governor’s Hoosier Hospitality Award for their high level of service in tourism-related jobs at hotels, restaurants, attractions and other destinations.

“Indiana has a well-earned reputation for Hoosier Hospitality and that is due in large part to the people we are honoring today,” said Holcomb. “As I travel the state, I’ve experienced firsthand the impact these men and women have on the visitor experience. We are grateful for all they do to promote their destinations and the State of Indiana as a whole.”

Johnson is a casino operations supervisor at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. She’s been described as a leader, a role model and a positive influence on those who work around her. Her willingness to step in and assist, give counsel or offer words of support are part of the reason why she’s a “go-to person” at the casino. If you ask Johnson, she’ll tell you she’s just doing her job. Her staff will say she’s doing far more than that. Johnson places the needs of her team and the company above her own responsibilities and does not hesitate, for example, to put paperwork aside to ensure that the casino floor is properly staffed or to step in and assist another department in need. Her selflessness and versatility were two qualities her nominator particularly emphasized.

Nominations for Hoosier Hospitality Awards are submitted by community members and destination patrons. Nominations are reviewed and winners are selected by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD). Outstanding service is a major factor in determining whether a person returns to an individual business or destination.

“These award recipients are living examples of Hoosier Hospitality,” said Mark Newman, executive director of IOTD. “Their daily encounters with guests and visitors make what we do at the state level that much more effective.”

The 2016 Lieutenant Governor’s Hoosier Hospitality Award recipients are:

Susan Baxter, Comfort Inn; Diana Bennett, Fiber artist and quilt expert; Carlie Cripe, Shipshewana Trading Place; Lisa Critney, Holiday Inn Express & Suites; Emily Cron, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari; Janet Fields, Holiday Inn Express & Suites; Dan & Cyndee Gilmore, Cornerstone Retreat & Campground; Roger Hardig, Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site; Jenni-fer Jenkins, WonderLab; Kenyanna Johnson, Horseshoe Hammond Ca-sino (Lake); Sandra Johnson, Visit Indy (Marion); Alice McDougalle, Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Johnson); Yesenia Martinez, Hilton Garden Inn (Marion); Karleen Richter, Down the Road Tours (Elkhart); Loren Schmierer, Stonycreek Farm (Hamilton); Janeen Sprague, Sprague Hotel Developers (Bartholomew); Rafi Wilkinson, Indiana Dunes Visitor Center (Porter); and Curt Witcher, The Genealogy Center, Allen Co Public Library (Allen).

Holcomb also awarded the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award to Bill and Kathleen Oliver, owners of Oliver Winery near Bloomington.

The award is presented annually and is the highest tourism honor given by the State of Indiana. The award is named for the late Will Koch, long-time owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. IOTD and the Koch family established the honor to pay tribute to Will Koch’s many meaningful contributions to tourism, business and society.

A video of this year’s Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award can be found at:

In honor of the State of Indiana’s bicentennial, Holcomb and IOTD also awarded the Bicentennial Beacon.

Sandra Jackson and Janice McGuire are the recipients of this award for their unwavering service and volunteerism.

For nearly 40 years, these sisters have dedicated themselves to preserving the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City. The historic site was the home of prominent anti-slavery activists Levi and Catharine Coffin. Before slavery was abolished, the home sheltered more than two thousand freedom seekers and became known as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.

Janice and Saundra have tirelessly led a small group of volunteers, recruiting docents, and scheduling tours all for the sole purpose of teaching visitors about the lives and legacy of Levi and Catharine Coffin.

In 1965, the Levi Coffin House was named a National Historic Landmark and one of the History Channel’s top 25 historic sites.

The Bicentennial Beacon is awarded to a person or people who embodies the spirit of the bicentennial and serves as that special bridge that connects Indiana’s past to its future in the most meaningful of ways.

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