2018 Hoosier Hospitality Award Winners
Jon Bill - Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum - DeKalb County
Jon Bill is the curator of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in DeKalb County. He has a passion and a thorough understanding not only of the classic cars, but in the priceless stories that accompany them. Through his education, he's able to present the history of the Auburn Automobile Company in such a way that brings the stories alive. Visitors leave with a sense of the significance and elegance that the cars represent and how it has shaped the community decades later. Jon has also written several books highlighting the photography of the classic automobiles showcased inside the museum. Jon will graciously conduct special tours and some to extraordinary guests, such as Dan Aykroyd and Jay Leno.
Phil Bloom - Outdoor Writers Association of America - Allen County
You could say Phil Bloom is retired, but hosting a conference is a big undertaking. Phil was up for the task, a task that began in 2014. Phil advocated for Fort Wayne to be the site the 2018 Outdoor Writers Association (OWAA) conference. He knew it would make the perfect opportunity to showcase Fort Wayne and other discovery trips around Indiana. He was a part of each step of the process: biding, planning, and hosting the conference – from start to finish. Phil was able to share Hoosier destinations where outdoor enthusiasts and explorers could experience mountain biking, learn about national history, discover conservation and ecology stories, and so much more! One conference attendee said. “I knew almost nothing about Fort Wayne prior. I was so impressed…” “…and I will recommend it to friends discussing travels in that direction.”
Jeff Bryan - Alexandria Monroe Chamber of Commerce - Madison County
“Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.” Anyone who knows Jeff Bryan knows he’s someone you can count on. Jeff is President of the Alexandria Monroe Chamber of Commerce, but his commitment to promote tourism spans all of Madison County and Indiana. His nominator says no matter what is needed, Jeff is there. It could be volunteering at a leisure travel show in another state or giving tours around Madison County, his commitment to tourism is unwavering. Jeff is a fifth-generation Alexandrian. His family has owned and operated several small businesses in the town over the past 115 years. His knowledge of the area is invaluable and he recognizes the impact of what tourism brings to a community. His crowning achievement for the City of Alexandria was five year ago when he started the Alexandria Grand Prix, which brought more visitors and dollars to Madison County.
Gary Decamp - Ramada Plaza - Allen County
Gary Decamp is the banquet manager at the Ramada Plaza in Fort Wayne. He’s been with the company for over 20 years. The sales director says many events are booked at the Fort Wayne Ramada merely because "Gary will take care of them." Gary is known to greet wedding parties as they get off the trolley for their reception with a tray of champagne in hand. He has also pulled off a VIP guest breakfast for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Congressman Jim Banks with less than 48-hours’ notice. His bosses say the number of hours he gives would be hard for most people to fathom - sometimes 19 hours in a day! He is a shining example of service and commitment.
Carl & Evelyn Detwiler - Nappanee Quilt Gardens - Elkhart County
This dynamic duo spends hundreds of hours promoting the first Nappanee Center quilt garden and the nationally acclaimed Elkhart County Heritage Trail Quilt Garden Tour. Evelyn, a member of the Nappanee Home & Garden Club, was involved when the first garden was planted. The following year Carl joined her and became the chief carpenter. The two combined their creative talents with the planning, preparation and building of all the hardscapes used in the gardens over the past few years. Additionally the couple helps direct the planting, weekly maintenance, extra work days, and overall health of the garden. Carl and Evelyn know no strangers. When on site at the garden, they willing share the story of the quilt garden tour and the work and effort that goes into maintaining a garden. Being proud citizens of Nappanee, they also regularly invite visitors to seek out other venues within our community.
Grady Dixon - Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy - Knox County
Grady Dixon comes to work to because he wants to be there. Grady works at the front desk of the Red Skelton Museum in Vincennes. It started out with one day a week and now he works 30 hours. He could just greet guests as they arrive, but he really goes the extra miles. He encourages them to tell their stories about Red. He makes them feel special by listening to them, writing down their stories and sharing them in the monthly newsletter. Visitors to the museum give Grady positive reviews saying he’s knowledgeable and kind, as well as a helpful guide. He not only promotes the Red Skelton museum, but all the sites in tourism Vincennes. Grady really knows how to roll out the welcome mat for our visitors.
Darla Gartner - Hilton Garden Inn - Johnson County
Darla Gartner is the banquet captain at the Hilton Garden Inn in Edinburgh in Johnson County. Her nominator says she puts her entire heart and soul into every event. She will even go the extra mile. For example, the D.J. that the bride groom had hired for a wedding reception was not answering their calls and was two hours late, so Darla immediately went into action. She called her husband to bring D.J. equipment to the hotel to ensure the wedding reception started on time. The reception was a huge success. This is one example of Darla’s resourcefulness.
Joanna King - Goshen Theatre - Elkhart & LaGrange Counties
Joanna King from Middlebury has been a leader in the tourism industry for over 30 years. Joanna and her husband own 6 tourism-related businesses in Elkhart and LaGrange Counties. Joanna is always willing to serve on an event committee which includes the monthly Goshen First Friday events, the Shipshewana Mayfest event, and the Shipshewana Ice Festival. In addition, she serves on the Goshen Theatre Board and has been instrumental in bringing that vision to life by co-chairing the fundraising committee. This project has raised $5.2 million for the first phase of restoring the historic theatre. Due to Joanna’s volunteer fundraising efforts, the Goshen Theatre has now been able to hire a new managing director, who will spearhead event and entertainment development bringing exciting things to downtown Goshen.
Vinny Mathen - Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Valparaiso - Porter County
The Indiana Dunes Tourism staff call Vinny Mathen, a rock star. Vinny is the General Manager at the Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, Valparaiso. They say he is willing to do anything to make sure his customers are happy. It’s not uncommon for Vinny to call taxis, pick-up pizzas, or even drive visitors to the bus stop. Vinny’s supervisor said one Thanksgiving, Vinny went out of his way to cook a turkey dinner for guests. He said “guests should feel at home and deserved to have a warm cooked meal.” His “can-do” attitude inspires his co-workers, and even his supervisor has found herself driving visitors to the train station when Vinny asks. These examples and many others are what makes Vinny is a hospitality superstar.
Agostos Nyemah - Indianapolis Airport Authority - Marion County
Agostos Nyemah works at the Indianapolis International Airport. A major gateway to millions of visitors. Agostos speaks six languages and everyday he ensures that native Hoosiers and visitors alike are experiencing “Hoosier Hospitality.” One day, a French-speaking passenger at an airline ticket counter was trying to check his bag. The agent explained that the airline was not able to accept cash and that the bag had to be paid for with a debit or credit card. Not able to understand the instructions, Agostos translated for the passenger using his linguistic skills and helped get his bag checked. He even paid for the bag fee with his own personal bank card and accompanied the passenger all the way to his gate. He communicated effectively with the airline staff to ensure the passenger would have no further delays getting to his flight and boarding the plane. The helpful and kind attitude Agostos showed above is not his exception, but his norm. For a time, Agostos worked a second job at the shoe shine stand within the airport terminal, spreading positivity and kindness to passengers at the gates.
John Perszyk - Kokomo Jackrabbits - Howard County
John Perszyk is the business manager for the Kokomo Jackrabbits Baseball Club and oversees event operations at Kokomo Municipal Stadium. John sets high standards for customer service at the ballpark. In fact, his perspective is that all things stem from the quality of customer service you provide . . . and he leads by example for the 35 summer interns the club employs.
When a ticket mix-up on a family phone order was brought to his attention shortly before a recent Jackrabbits game, John sprang into action. The party was ticketed for different sections of the stadium and even though the building was full, he figured out a way to seat them all together. The experience served a teachable moment for John with his team of interns and a much appreciated outcome for the family of baseball fans.
Kim Smith - Ashley-Drake Historic Inn & Gardens and Hoosier Cupboard Candy, Snacks & Ice Cream - Johnson County
Johnson County is a burgeoning tourism destination and Kim Smith’s B & B and candy shop are part of the reason why. Patrons of her businesses will tell you that Kim’s a fabulous host and accommodating with every detail. One in particular said, she “is attune to the particular interests of her guests . . . sightseeing recommendations for us differed from those given others. Though she’s a transplant to the area herself, she’s intimately familiar with it, its history and culture. Ask a question and you can be assured of a good, interesting answer.” Kim is the unofficial tour guide of Johnson County. When the county hired their first director of tourism in 2017, it was Kim who acquainted him with the area’s array of attractions. She thoroughly enjoys playing host, inspiring visitors and showing off her adopted hometown. To top it off, she’s a tremendous tourism partner, willing to collaborate with others across the state for the sake of enhancing the tourism industry in Indiana.
Andrea Stewart - Sprague Hotel Developers - Jackson, Bartholomew, Johnson, Marion and Hamilton Counties
Not many COO’s spend their days working side by side with housekeepers, front desk clerks, breakfast hosts, etc., but Andrea Stewart does. Andrea is the Chief Operating Officer of the Sprague Hotel Developers in Jackson, Bartholomew, Johnson, Marion and Hamilton Counties. Her part-time job 25 years ago turned into a full-time career. She has grown from a line level team member to training general managers. Having this experience gives her the ability to see the guests’ experiences from all departments and is definitely what has taught her to help teams work together for the good of the guests. Andrea has been part of opening several new hotels, she makes a point of ensuring the hotels are maintained, she works with vendors and she works herself, if needed, never leaving a hotel short-staffed.
David Torres - Staybridge Suites Indianapolis Airport, Plainfield - Hendricks County
David Torres, the Guest Services Manager at the Staybridge Suites in Plainfield, gets mentioned by name on TripAdvisor. There are more than 400 reviews on TripAdvisor for this Staybridge property and David’s name appear in a number of them. One says, “A special thanks to Dave! Anything I needed he made sure it got done, no questions asked, top flight customer service.” Another reads, "David Torres, Guest Services Manager, went above and beyond to help us through a personal situation that came up during our visit.” A third reads, "two thumbs up for David and all the staff at the Staybridge!” Reviews such as these . . . plus his willingness to do whatever the hotel needs--from covering the overnight shift for vacationing employees to waking up at 4 a.m. to work the breakfast buffet to driving the airport shuttle van to cleaning rooms—are what distinguish David Torres. This is why he’s a 2018 Hoosier Hospitality Award winner.
Michelle Vidojevic - Hilton Garden Inn, Chesterton - Porter County
Michelle Vidojevic is the sales manager at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chesterton. Michelle takes time to get to know guests. Michelle developed a kinship with a guest who was in town getting treatment for cancer. Michelle, a cancer survivor herself, made an herbal tea for the guest that had helped her. The guest called to let Michelle know that she still drinks the tea and that it makes the bad days much better. This is just one example of Michelle’s Hoosier Hospitality.
Cindy Waddle - Dora Hotel Company - Bartholomew County
Cindy Waddle is the regional manager for the Dora Hotel Company. Cindy's nominator says her commitment to her team is unwavering. She makes herself available to her employees all day, every day. Even while on vacation, rain or snow she is always there. The ''Open Door Policy" is always in action. She is involved in all departments, attends all their team meetings, works with them to solve any issues that may arise. Cindy also knows that a pat on the back goes a long way!