A panel of impartial travel writers have selected the winners of the 2017 Southern Delaware Tourism Awards. The top four winners were announced at the Annual Southern Delaware Tourism Awards Luncheon in Rehoboth Beach on December 6.
“This year’s voting was extremely close. All of this year’s nominees are very deserving of the award as they provide wonderful experiences for our visitors and help make Sussex County such a special and beloved destination,” said Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism.
The tourism industry in Sussex County generates $1.7 billion annually and supports 18,000 jobs.
Here are the winners, with descriptions provided by Southern Delaware Tourism:
Best Attraction: Lefty’s Alley & Eats
Lefty’s Alley & Eats opened its doors in December, 2016, welcoming “eatertainment” seekers from across all sections of the visitor demographic. The 25,000 square foot facility offers an arcade, laser tag, and 16 lanes of luxury bowling. The restaurant features sharable appetizers, gourmet burgers and sandwiches, hand tossed pizzas and featured chef inspired entrees. Lefty’s accommodates parties, corporate retreats, and meetings with up to 200 attendees and they’ve worked closely with area hotels to offer group activities. In their first year of operation, Lefty’s will host over 140,000 visitors. They employ over 80 full and part time employees and partner with non-profits and organizations in fundraising efforts.
Best Event: Dogfish Dash
In 2007 when it began, the Dogfish Dash was a 5K/10K with 200 runners that began and ended at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach. In 2009 the Dash moved to Dogfish’s Milton brewery to accommodate the growing number of participants. 2015 and 2016 each welcomed over 2,500 registered runners, with over 2,200 Dashers participating in the new off-centered distance of 8k (4.97 miles). This year the event raised over $145,000 for the Delaware Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and welcomed over 3,500 runners representing 22 different states as well as folks from as far away as Australia. More than $644,000 has been raised since 2007 for the Delaware Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. This event continues to have a major impact on the beauty of Sussex County as well as helping to preserve some of the very resources that draw visitors to Southern Delaware year in and year out.
Best New Event: Winter WonderFEST
New in November of 2016, Winter WonderFEST, produced by Festival of Cheer, Inc., a newly established nonprofit, created this new cultural tradition which attracted thousands of visitors to Sussex County. The Light Spectacular at Cape Henlopen State Park featured over 60 light displays along a 1.5 mile drive. The Christmas Village at the Cape May- Lewes Ferry Terminal grounds featured a synthetic ice skating rink, three amusement rides, live music, Santa’s Workshop, The Giving Tree, and pictures with Santa. With a sold out crowd of 2,000 participants, the event kicked off with Dashing Through the Show, a 2.5 mile fun run or walk – and continued to operate for more than 30 evenings through January 1, 2017. With the support and assistance of more than 200 volunteers, more than 60 sponsors and 14 media partners, Winter WonderFEST welcomed over 45,000 guests in 11,000 vehicles from 26 states in 2016 and raised over $150,000, $100,000 of which was awarded to 17 Sussex County nonprofit organizations via the Festival of Cheer Community Grant Program.
Tourism Partner of the Year: Delaware Beach Book
Delaware Beach Book was launched in May, 2011 by Becky & Marvin Carney and Kevin Fleming. They envisioned a stylish publication that would showcase the area they live in and promote events and the small businesses of coastal Delaware. They created a beautiful hardcover book with moderately priced ads, interesting articles, and award winning photography for visitors as well as year-round guests to read and enjoy. Partnering with Southern Delaware Tourism and local chambers of commerce enabled them to create and provide a comprehensive tourism guide book. Ten thousand copies of the Beach Book - reaching more than one million viewers - feature information from SDT’s Official Visitors Guide. Delaware Beach Book is distributed yearly to accommodations, weekly rentals, condominiums, Bed & Breakfasts, waiting rooms, new home owners, events, and golf tournaments. The book highlights local events, fun things to do, arts and culture, history and heritage, state parks, outdoor recreation, and campgrounds. It also promotes restaurants, retail, and local businesses.