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County releases news

May 22, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

"Beaches" events named to top 20 list

The Southeast Tourism Society has named four events on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel to their Top 20 Events List for October to December 2012.

Those that made the esteemed list were: The 26th annual American Sandsculpting Championship; the seventh annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival; the 28th annual Christmas Luminary Trail and Open House; and the 38th annual Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.?

The American Sandsculpting Championship takes place on Fort Myers Beach. Each November, the celebration attracts dozens of renowned sand sculptors from around the world, along with more than 50,000 attendees. Gaze at the sand-crafted masterpieces during the five-day event (Nov. 7-11).?

The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is a fun-filled celebration on the Great Calusa Blueway, a 190-mile marked trail once navigated by the Calusa Indians. This four-day-long celebration of all things "paddling" takes place at several locations throughout the county in November.

The Christmas Luminary Trail and Open House is held on Sanibel Island on Dec. 7, and Captiva Island on Dec. 8, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The streets sparkle in the night, as 2,000 holiday candles and decorations illuminate the islands' pathways, storefronts and houses for a three-mile stretch.

Edison and Ford Holiday Nights oozes that "old Florida" charm. During the month-long celebration, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates comes to life with holiday decorations, reflecting the 1920s-30s era. Visitors can tour the properties at their own pace or opt for a guided tour with a historian from 6 to 7 p.m. This event is open Dec. 1-30, except on Christmas Eve and Day.?

The STS Top 20 Events List recognizes festivals and special events across the Southeast region each month. STS's acknowledgement is validation of an event's success and caliber, and often gains the winners extensive exposure and media coverage. To qualify for the Top 20 List, events must have a minimum of 1,000 people in attendance and be in at least its third year of existence. The Top 20 List is published quarterly and winners are chosen through a nomination process.? Founded in 1983, the STS is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to the tourism industry. The STS works to promote and develop tourism throughout the Southeast and highlight the best of the region. It has a membership following of 900 businesses and organizations.

Chrysalis Awards honor community contributions

As part of National Travel and Tourism week, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce honored 10 local individuals and businesses at the third annual Celebration of Business & Tourism Awards Luncheon and Trade Show at Harborside Event Center in downtown Fort Myers recently. The trade show and luncheon celebrated the value of tourism as a major economic engine for the county.

The 2012 honorees were recognized for their positive impact on the local community:

n Chrysalis Awards - Sales & Marketing: Miracle Baseball; Eco-Innovation: Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation; Education: "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society; Sports: Boston Red Sox; Cultural: Florida Repertory Theatre; Sustainability: Ensite, Inc.; Business Development: Scott Fischer Enterprises

n Junonia Awards

Barbara Manzo director of Lee County Parks & Recreation; Captain John "Giddy-Up" Bunch founder of Operation Open Arms; Tony Lapi chairman of Visit Florida.

The Chrysalis Awards signify the development of a partnership between the business and tourism communities. This year, sustainability has been added as a new category to the Chrysalis Awards. This category recognizes a business that uses sustainability to improve the community, as well as the travel and tourism industries.?

More than 80 nominees were judged within their respective categories. Winners were chosen based on how they distinguished themselves in the community, along with their efforts to promote the destination, contributions to business and tourism partnerships for the county and work to foster growth and sustainability.? The Junonia Awards were created by the VCB in 2006 and recognize individuals who demonstrate leadership and dedication throughout the local tourism community.

Team Tourism Travel Rally deemed a huge success

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week with the first Team Tourism Travel Rally Day at JetBlue Park last week.

Nearly 1,000 tourism employees attended the event, produced in support of the U.S. Travel Association. The event demonstrated tourism's impact on local businesses and the economy and recognized the importance of travel and hospitality professionals.

Rally participants enjoyed live music and friendly competitions including a bellmen's luggage lug, waiters' race and bag stack challenge by the JetBlue Airways team. Children were amused by face painting, a magician, a stilt walker and other entertainers.

The master of ceremonies was meteorologist Robert Van Winkle with NBC-2. Presentations were made from high-level members of the travel industry, including Geoff Freeman, EVP and COO of the U.S. Travel Association; Tony Lapi, chairman of Visit Florida; Chris Thompson, president and CEO of Visit Florida; and John Manning, chairman of the Lee County Board of County Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council.

Lee VCB announces new administrative assistant

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau welcomes a new member to its staff: Cynthia "Cindy" DeGroot, administrative assistant.?

DeGroot will assist with visitor inquiries and research projects, working closely with the public, as well as various government agencies. She will work hand in hand with the VCB's communications and public relations department, communicating with journalists from across the world.? In her previous position as a Certified NASM/AFAA Fitness Trainer and instructor with Chico's, DeGroot developed relationships with the community, working with one of Lee County's most successful companies.

Prior to her work at the Chico's fitness center, DeGroot worked as a substitute teacher for the Lee County School District.? She also brings a wealth of professional experience to the VCB. She worked for several years as a program assistant at the University of South Florida. DeGroot is skilled in public relations, administration and human resources.? She also holds a bachelors degree in speech communications from the University of South Florida.



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