News Tourism & Hospitality

Tourism Department presents annual industry awards


Jan. 20, 2023

Individuals, organizations and communities have been honored for their commitment to the visitor industry with annual awards from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

The Rooster Rush Cacklin’ Community Award was presented to the community of Miller for going above and beyond to make in-state and out-of-state hunters feel welcomed. Miller hosted events and giveaways that entertained hunters, engaged business owners and boosted the community’s economy.

In its second year, the Governor’s Tourism Rising Star Award was presented to Shelby Solano with Visit Rapid City. This award recognizes an individual who has worked in the tourism industry for two to four years and is excelling in their career and whose work is demonstrating a bright future in the tourism industry.

The Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Award is given annually to four industry members, each representing one of the four tourism regions in South Dakota.

This award recognizes tourism industry professionals who provide remarkable service to visitors and whose work demonstrates an outstanding spirit of hospitality. These awards were given to Ann Thompson with Affordable Adventures in Rapid City, Lisa Marotz with McCrory Gardens in Brookings, Lori Owens with Drifters Bar and Grille in Fort Pierre and Troy Magnuson with the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s folks like these that are the foundation and future of tourism in South Dakota,” said Jim Hagen, secretary of the Department of Tourism. “Their passion, drive and leadership are what make South Dakota’s hospitality second to none.”

The Peter Norbeck Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award was given to the community of Freeman and the South Dakota Chislic Festival. This award represents an industry partner for innovative thinking in making its destination, business, event or attraction even more appealing to visitors.

“What started as a small festival to celebrate South Dakota and its cultural heritage has become a huge success,” Hagen said. “The event has garnered state, regional and national attention, growing in size every year and drawing visitors to the small community of Freeman to experience our state’s official food: chislic.”

The A.H. Pankow Award recognizes a representative of the media for showing superior interest in and coverage of South Dakota’s tourism industry. This year’s award went to KELO-TV chief photographer Kevin Kjergaard. He received the award for his passion and talent of wildlife videography. Kjergaard’s work has been featured on the CBS News “Sunday Morning” segment “Do Nothing for Two Minutes” 14 times.

The Shady Rest Motel in Custer took home the George S. Mickelson Award. This award honors businesses, communities or organizations that exceed visitors’ customer service expectations. All entrants must be a South Dakota Great Place designation to be eligible for this award. Shady Rest Motel was recognized as a must-stay stop, highlighting staff friendliness and the cleanliness of the property.

The Ben Black Elk Award is a prestigious honor recognizing an individual who makes outstanding contributions to the state’s visitor industry. This year’s award was given posthumously to Julie Schmitz Jensen, who died in 2022.

“Most of us knew Julie for her incredible impact on the tourism industry as the executive director of Visit Rapid City,” Hagen said. “Her involvement in the community and our industry was extensive. While Julie has left this life, her legacy and impact will live on for generations.”

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