Dining on low country boil and iced tea Wednesday, the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau reflected on accomplishments this past year and recognized some high performers in local tourism.
During the group’s annual meeting at Southern Grace events and floral company in Flowery Branch, CVB president Stacey Dickson recapped some key moments and trends, including approval in Hall County of a new short-term rental ordinance and increasing social media engagement by 207 percent.
She also talked about how the group has coordinated three new event series in South Hall — Harvest Moon Movie Nights, Oakwood Family Movies and Flowery Branch Block Parties.
“The lake is a good metaphor for us right now,” Dickson said following the hour-long gathering at the Main Street business. “It’s filling, filling and sometimes running over the banks, and we’re letting it out over the dam as we feel the pressure.
“Sometimes, it feels we’re pedaling as fast we can.”
Dickson said that while the CVB competes with tourism markets in Athens, Augusta and Macon, its budget is more on par with CVBs with smaller markets in Waycross and Perry.
“It’s a struggle to compete, but we are blessed with our product,” she said.
That product is Lake Lanier, which “sort of evens the playing field. There are other cities that don’t have what we have,” Dickson said.
The agency handed out six awards to groups or people who have served the tourism community.
2018 Shining Example Awards
Beyond the Call: Esco Riley, Hall County Marshal’s Office
Blazing Star: Cities of Flowery Branch and Oakwood
Out of the Box: River Forks Campground, Hall County Parks & Leisure Services
Horizon Award: The Venue at Friendship Springs
Sky's the Limit: Bill Donohue, Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority executive director
Chairman's Award: Jaemor Farms/Echols family
Dickson got emotional as she handed out the Beyond the Call award to Esco Riley of the Hall County Marshal’s Office.
“He’s had an extraordinary year of personal challenges, with illness in his family and the loss of his wife,” she said. “He came to work every single day at the (Hall County) Government Center (where the CVB is based) and never showed that he was hurting on the inside and the challenges he had.
“I just want to be a servant, that’s all,” he said upon accepting his award.
Other awards honored those developing new programs, showing leadership in tourism, doing work as “unsung heroes” or “filling a void we didn’t know we had,” Dickson said.
CVB board chairman Kirk Watkins presented the Chairman’s Award to Jaemor Farms and the Echols family, who operate the popular agritourism attraction off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall.
“Over the past 100 years, (the family) has shown a continuous commitment to the community, to family values and the promotion of this county,” Watkins said.