The second annual Golden Isles Hospitality Celebration awards ceremony, arranged by the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau, went off without a hitch Thursday night.
Businesses and individuals within the hospitality industry nominate others for eight awards, which were presented at the ceremony Thursday.
“The hospitality awards had over 20 nominations this year. We thank all of those who took the time to nominate their peers for awards this evening. ... The selection process was, as you can imagine, very difficult as every nominee is a worthy honoree,” said former Brunswick mayor Bryan Thompson, who emceed the event.
However, the second annual hospitality celebration featured a ninth award that was whipped up just for Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce President Woody Woodside.
“This individual is so deserving that we had to create a whole new category for this,” Thompson said.
Woodside announced his retirement in July, effective in April, following a 30-year career with the chamber, during which he worked to expand and improve transportation to and from the area. He also had a role in the creation of both the CVB and Golden Isles College and Career Academy.
“It’s all about relationships and making people feel warm and welcome. I came from North Carolina, went to college in South Carolina. I brought my lovely wife Ellen down here 46 years ago. What she didn’t realize was how warm and friendly people were, because they were kind of standoffish in San Diego, a Navy town. She found out all of this is very genuine,” Woodside said.
“In true Woody fashion, as he was walking by I stepped aside and I said ‘Woody do you want to say a few words?’ and he said “Oh no, no,’ and reached for the microphone,” Thompson joked as Woodside left the stage.
Current Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey and Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning handed out the eight other awards that night: the Creative Expression Award, Best Impression Award, Rising Star Award, Community Spirit Award, Partner of the Year Award, Shared Vision Award, Behind the Scenes Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Whiskey, Wine and Wildlife festival earned the first award of the night, the Creative Expression Award.
“This award honors a partner who developed and implemented a creative experience for the Golden Isles,” Thompson said. “This year’s nominee created an immersive and exciting weekend-long event focused on celebrating the native wildlife and culture found only in the Golden Isles. ... Listed by the Southeast Tourism Society as a top 20 event, this group has helped both the economy and the community.”
Next up was the Rising Star Award.
“The Rising Star Award honors an up-and-comer in the hospitality industry who consistently goes above and beyond their call of duty to further their organization and create a lasting impact for their guests,” Thompson said.
Sea Island personal trainer Tom Hemmings took home this year’s award.
“His hard work, commitment and dedication to helping others has been credited to saving lived by fostering and encouraging healthy lifestyles and habits,” Thompson said.
Sea Island Director of Rooms Ella Kent accepted the award on Hemming’s behalf.
Little St. Simons Island Naturalist Manager Stacia Hendricks took home the Best Impression Award.
“This person goes the extra mile to provide extraordinary courtesy to others and creates lasting relationships with guests,” Thompson said.
Charles Norman, senior courtesy representative for the Brunswick-Golden Isles Airport, has worked for the airport in a variety of roles for the last 15 years and earned the Community Spirit Award for his efforts.
“A lifelong resident of Brunswick, there is no better person to greet and assist those arriving and departing from the airport. He has exemplified a level of commitment to customer service that should serve as a model to the hospitality industry,” Thompson said.
Richard Van Iderstyne, founder of Red Bug Motors and Red Bug Pizza, won the Behind the Scenes Award for his work assisting passengers and pilots at the Jekyll Island Airport.
“He has created a welcoming atmosphere at the Jekyll Island Airport for nearly 50 years. This person consistently delivers service and amenities of genuine hospitality for guests,” Thompson said. “... This individual literally went the extra mile helping guests reach their ultimate destinations by supplying free transportation for pilots and eventually creating a transportation company to serve our visitors.”
For its work on the “world class” World War II Home Front Museum — located in the old Coast Guard station on St. Simons Island — the Coastal Georgia Historical Society won the Shared Vision Award.
“With their dedication, commitment and perseverance, a significant piece of a cherished St. Simons Island landmark and point of interest has been restored and improved and will benefit our community, residents and visitors for decades to come,” Thompson said.
Next, Thompson announced all the businesses involved in the 1% for St. Simons campaign the winners of the Partner of the Year award.
“The Partner of the Year award honors a sustaining partner who recognized the true value of working together to achieve mutual greatness,” Thompson said.
Businesses that contribute to the 1% for St. Simons campaign donate a penny of every dollar customers spend to fund the St. Simons Land Trust's land conservation efforts, “literally turning pennies into protected parcels of land,” Thompson said.
Merry Tipton, Sea Island marketing and communications director, was awarded the eighth honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“The Lifetime Achievement Award honors a person who has contributed significantly to the community and has given time, talent and skill to support the quality of life in the Golden Isles,” Thompson said. “... This nominee’s achievements span decades, and should inspire others to better the community and better themselves.”
Sea Island Co. President Scott Steilen described her as the “marketing and communications face for Sea Island.”
Following the ceremony, CVB President Scott McQuade said the second hospitality celebration was as much a success as the inaugural.
“We had another wonderful year. I was blown away by the amount of community support,” McQuade said.
Around 360 people attended the sold-out event, which he said which will likely see a third year.
“We’re just taking a big sigh of relief that it’s over,” McQuade said. “We’ll start thinking about next year later. Right now we’re just glad it went so well.”