Gov. Henry McMaster hands outs awards to Greenville Mayor Knox White, Parks and Rec's Beverly Shelley
Among the honors was the Fred Brinkman Award, given periodically to a person in South Carolina who has demonstrated a lengthy commitment to improving tourism in the state. Gov. McMaster presented the award to Knox White, mayor of the city of Greenville.
Beginning in the late 1980s, White led a transformation of the once-sleepy city of Greenville into a travel and tourism rising star, a destination that leverages its natural and cultural heritage to provide memorable, authentic experiences to visitors. It began by revealing the 28-foot waterfall at the Reedy River in the center of town and building Falls Park on the Reedy around it. Other developments include the renovation and preservation of historic buildings, the Riverfront development in and around downtown Greenville, the transformation of an old lumber yard into an award-winning baseball stadium, and the development of Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile walkable and bikeable greenway that connects Greenville to Travelers Rest.
As a result, downtown hotels were developed at a rapid pace, there are more than 110 restaurants within walking distance of one another and Greenville’s Main Street continues to be lauded as one of the nation’s premier boulevards.
The award is named after Fred Brinkman, the longest serving director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
SCPRT’s Director’s Award was given to Beverly Shelley, the recently retired Director of Sales and Marketing at the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Shelley was recognized for her innovative and award-winning leadership at the state’s tourism office that led the industry through significant change. She helped transition tourism marketing from print to digital platforms, developed channels and programs that engaged more directly with the consumer and built opportunities for more industry participation. She will be remembered for “her high energy and effective ideas, her brilliance and strong work ethic, her commitment to tourism and her passion for the state of South Carolina,” said SCPRT Director Duane Parrish as he presented the award.
The prestigious Governor’s Cup was given to the Cooper River Bridge Run, one of Charleston’s longest continuous events. Held the first Saturday in April every year, the race is ranked the 3rd largest 10K in the United States and 11th in the world. It attracts 40,000 participants who spend $4.7 million on hotel accommodations, $10.7 million at restaurants and $1.1 million in entrance fees. About 60 percent of these participants are from out-of-town. The Bridge Run places an overall economic impact in Charleston of $30 million in just one weekend.
In addition to the race itself, the race weekend has
- A 2-day EXPO with more than 120 vendors;
- A Kids Run held the day before, and a wheelchair competition – which is held on Saturday just before the big race, and
- A Taste of the Bridge Run – featuring 15 restaurants serving up local cuisine
The Charles A. Bundy Award, which recognizes outstanding tourism promotion in more rural areas, was awarded to Visit York County for its YoCo Brew Trail.
YoCo Brew Trail launched in September as a unique experience, inviting people to sample craft beer and distinctive tastes at five breweries, a cidery and a beer bottle company in the cities of York, Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
They created a digital passport through the York County SC mobile app that allows people to track which sites they’ve visited and gain credentials to become a YoCo Hero.
Almost immediately after the launch, news about the trail was picked up by television, radio, print and digital media throughout the South Carolina Piedmont and into Charlotte, NC. Bloggers and significant social media engagements also contributed to the buzz.
In less than four months, the Visit York County app has received more than 1,800 downloads. About 1,300 people have signed up for the trail and more than 200 have completed it. There have been more than 2,500 stops in the breweries, generating a direct spending of $65,000.
The Hospitality Employee of the Year award was given to Mary Rivers Legree, an Information Specialist at the Beaufort Visitors Center widely known for her customer service and deep knowledge of the Gullah culture. She’s a native of St. Helena Island and returned home to the Coffin Point community of her early childhood after spending much of her young adult life in northern states.
When she returned home, she started doing more research on the Gullah culture and eventually became recognized as the local historian. She was so intrigued by the complexity and depth of the story that she wrote a narrative titled “A Brief History of Saint Helena Island.” Mary Legree served in multiple cultural, planning and preservation leadership positions in Beaufort and was twice president of the Penn Club, a non-profit organization that supports Penn Center.
She is now also a lecturer, having led presentations at Penn State University, the University of South Carolina – Beaufort, the Senior Leadership of Beaufort County, and the Peace Corps Alumnae 50th Anniversary and Celebration. Her latest lecture was given at the Beaufort County Public Library.
The Governor’s Conference on Tourism & Travel is held every winter in South Carolina as an opportunity for industry leaders to network, collaborate and leverage opportunities to grow tourism.