The Cloister at Sea Island hosted the inaugural Golden Isles Hospitality Celebration Thursday night, recognizing individuals, businesses and other organizations for their contributions to Glynn County’s tourism industry.
Scott McQuade, president of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, spearheaded the event. It was emceed by former Brunswick mayor Bryan Thomson. Glynn County Commission Chairman Bill Brunson and current Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey presented the awards.
“The inaugural hospitality awards had over 40 nominations for eight awards,” Thompson said. “Even more reason that we’ll have to celebrate this occasion every year.”
First came the Creative Expression Award, which was given for creativity and energy that makes a lasting impact on the Golden Isles. The award went to the Jekyll Island Authority for “31·81 — The Magazine,” a free magazine that the authority uses to showcase the island and tell its stories.
Next up was the Best Impression Award, which went to Bruce Dunham, lead doorman at The Cloister, for making an impression on visitors and exemplifying southern hospitality.
The Rising Star Award, for up and comers who consistently go above and beyond to further the hospitality industry, was given to Nate Ramey, a naturalist for Little St. Simons Island.
The Behind the Scenes Award honors an individual who works tirelessly as a champion of tourism with little recognition. It went to Connie Towns, for her 40 years in housekeeping at the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island.
Halyards Restaurant and Southern Soul Barbeque earned the Community Spirit Award thanks to their contributions to the public after Hurricanes Irma and Matthew. The restaurants fed both first responders and the general public while power and water outages were still widespread following the storms.
Partner of the Year was awarded to the Davis Love Foundation and the RSM Classic golf tournament in recognition of the benefits the tournament brings to the area. Thompson said the tournament has introduced the Golden Isles to millions of viewers and created an annual economic impact of $10 million.
The Shared Vision Award went to Amy Roberts, founder of the St. Simons Island African American Heritage Coalition, Ben Slade, former executive director of the St. Simons Land Trust, Patty Deveau, director of Friends of Harrington School, and the Glynn County Government, represented by Brunson.
Thompson said the four earned the award for pursuing a vision to improve Glynn County for both tourists and residents, and for preserving both the Isles’ history and natural resources.
“I know it’s a dream of every politician to present an award to yourself,” Thompson joked, referring to Brunson.
Finally, the lifetime achievement award honors a person who has contributed significantly. It was awarded to Albert Fendig, who Thompson described as “a major visionary.”
“This individual’s vision and foresight has allowed the preservation of some of our most iconic historic landmarks and the creation of thriving educational centers in the community,” Thompson said.
Through his work with community organizations like the St. Simons Island Historical Society, Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, the Fort Frederica Association and Glynn Visual Arts, Thompson said Fendig has ensured the cultural heritage of the Golden Isles will be preserved for the future.
McQuade said following the ceremony that he was “overwhelmed” with the turnout of around 300 people. So many wanted to attend that Cloister staff were turning people away at the door, he added.
“A lot of people were waiting on something like this to celebrate the industry. To be able to look out into the crowd and see our restaurant partners, our tourism partners (was great),” McQuade said. “This event was for all those who take care of our visitors, and I couldn’t be happier.”