Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
It is the end of the year, which means in spite a lack of popular demand it is time for the annual Tommy Awards!
As always, I make up the categories and determine the winners. No accounting firm is needed to tabulate the votes because everything is in my head. So, without further adieu and absolutely no anticipation whatsoever, here are this year’s winners…
Best New Event Award: The Tommy goes to the Anderson Brewfest
The first annual Anderson Brewfest was held the first Saturday in June. Downtown Anderson was filled with a couple thousand people enjoying craft beers, live music, and each other. The weather was perfect and the event was too. It was a relaxed, fun event that hopefully will become a yearly tradition.
Best New Attraction Award: The Tommy goes to White River Zip Lines
With ten towers that include seven zip lines and three bridges, the new White River Zip Lines isn’t just the best new attraction in Madison County; it is also the most exhilarating! White River Zip Lines is attracting people of all ages and was one of the most asked about attractions by visitors to the Bureau’s information booth at Colts Camp this year.
Best Hoosier Park Concert Award: The Tommy goes to Earth, Wind & Fire
Like last year, I need to give the disclaimer that I didn’t see every Hoosier Park concert, so this award should really be called the Best Hoosier Park Concert That I Saw Award. With that in mind, the winner is Earth, Wind & Fire. The weather was great, Earth, Wind & Fire sounded terrific, the crowd got into it, and the night was a total blast. Honorable mention goes to Heart, who put on a great show too.
Best Helping Hand Award: The Tommy goes to The Gaither Vocal Band
Bill and Gloria Gaither are proud of their home and we are proud of them. They have used their tremendous success in the music industry to shine a very bright and positive light on Alexandria and all of Madison County. Their fame and business ventures are also one of Madison County’s top tourism attractions. It is especially nice when they use their star power to help another Madison County attraction, just as they did in honor of the Paramount Theatre’s 85th birthday in August. The Gaither Vocal Band (and the entire Gaither organization) donated their time and talents for a fundraising concert that netted the Paramount $122,000! Bravo to the Gaithers and happy birthday to the Paramount!
Best New Honor Award: The Tommy goes to the Inspire Award
The brain child of the Bureau’s Diana Graves, the Inspire Award honors excellence in customer service. Four people will be honored each May and November. The first four honorees have been chosen and will soon be surprised in their place of employment with the announcement. Look for details and stories of the winners soon. Nominations can be made year-round on the Bureau’s web site. Ricker’s, We Are Madison County, WQME, and The Herald-Bulletin are also partners in this great new award.
Best Save Award: The Tommy goes to the Wigwam
The famed Anderson Wigwam, the longtime home of the Anderson Indians, is one of Anderson’s most recognizable and known venues. The complex—which is much more than just the nearly 10,000 seat gymnasium—has been closed for a number of years and the Anderson Community School (ACS) system understandably wanted the cost of maintaining the big, empty complex off of its books. The cost to renovate and maintain the complex was significant, and unless a new owner came forward, the famed building was going to be torn down. But, thanks to the hard work of many, including Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith and the city’s economic director Greg Winkler, the re-development commission, and ACS board members and officials, a deal was reached to transfer ownership of the complex to Indianapolis-based BWI and Pinebrook Properties who will bring the complex back to life over the next couple of years with housing, entertainment, and community gathering spaces. It is a great save for Anderson and Madison County and a catalyst for downtown development.
Good to Have You Back Award: The Tommy goes to Chris Williams
When it comes to the economy in general and tourism in particular, it is hard to find an organization that has a greater impact on Madison County than Anderson University. There are countless people at the University that have a hand in that impact, but none are more visible than Chris Williams, the director of university communications and community relations for AU. Chris suffered a terrible fall at his home about a year ago that left him hospitalized for many weeks. His life hung in the balance, and his prognosis for a full recovery was tenuous. But, with the power of prayer, hard work, and determination, Chris beat the odds and re-emerged as strong as ever. Chris is one of the world’s genuine good guys, and it is great to have him back on the job, in the community, and among his family and friends.
Best New Visitors Bureau Feature Award: The Tommy goes to Trip Ideas Videos and Discover Magazine
Since I am giving out an imaginary award, I might as well give one the Visitors Bureau. The Bureau unveiled two new marketing features this year that have proven to be quite popular. The first was the release of our Trip Ideas Videos that feature many of the great things to do and enjoy in Madison County. The videos have been a very popular part of our web site and have been one of the reasons VisitAndersonMadisonCounty.com has over 2 million page views in 2014. By the way, the Trip Ideas videos will be expanded, re-packaged, and re-named in 2015. Look for an announcement about that early next year. The other popular new feature from the Bureau this year was the publication of our Discover magazine. Produced in partnership with the Herald-Bulletin, Discover is released quarterly and is exceptionally well done, thanks almost entirely to the HB’s fantastic Heather Bremer, who serves as the publication’s editor, writer, and designer. I gladly accept the Tommy on behalf of the Bureau and am thrilled that it is named after such a cool guy.
Generosity Award: The Tommy goes to Jim Irsay
Having the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp in Anderson each summer has countless benefits. The Colts attract thousands of fans to the community, outstanding media attention for the area, and are a great source of community pride. Another benefit is the relationship that has been formed between the community and the Colts owner, Jim Irsay. Irsay and the Colts continually go above and beyond for the community, whether it is an $18,000 donation to help pay for city-wide cleanup efforts, $50,000 to local charities, or $100 bills to fans attending camp. Anderson is lucky to be associated with Irsay and the Colts. Hopefully the relationship continues for a long time.
News, notes, and thoughts—The Bureau is in the process of adding a couple new features to our web site that should prove to be very popular. Watch for additional details after the first of the year…We are getting ready to embark on three straight years of important milestones. Anderson will celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2015, Indiana will celebrate in bicentennial in 2016, and Anderson University will celebrate its centennial in 2017. All three events will be marked by numerous events and celebrations…Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. To keep up with all of the events in Madison County this month, check out the calendar on VisitAndersonMadisonCounty.com.
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau