MESQUITE, Nev. — Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and other Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) officials honored industry professionals from around the state Thursday, presenting the annual VolunTourism Awards for exceptional achievement at the 21st annual Rural Roundup tourism conference.


“NCOT is very grateful to our dedicated tourism professionals for their volunteer work helping support and enhance Nevada’s No. 1 industry,” Krolicki, NCOT chair, said. “Tourism is vital to the rural Nevada economy, and NCOT relies on our volunteer network to keep visitor dollars flowing into local events, parks, museums and a wealth of other attractions.”


One winner was selected from each of Nevada’s six tourism “territories,” – geographical areas of similar culture and geography -- and two other awards recognized achievements on a statewide basis. A ninth honoree was a high school senior who won the June Stannard Scholarship. The honors were awarded at the CasaBlanca Resort & Casino in Mesquite.


“Our rural tourism volunteers contribute their time, energy and expertise to develop and promote Nevada’s attractions and draw visitors,” NCOT Interim Director Larry Friedman said. “Their special skills and steadfast commitment are invaluable to the health and progress of our state’s tourism industry.”


Recipients are as follows:


Cowboy Country Territory

Tom Lester, Convention and Tourism manager for the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, for going beyond what is expected in his volunteer position as territory chair, and constantly working on new ideas to promote tourism to his community, the territory and entire state. Lester represents the state and territory at travel and trade shows, conducts familiarization tours and assists in promoting special events. His projects include territory website redesign, a marketing and advertising campaign and the Carlin “Smokin’ Hot” Chili Cook-off. He also helped develop the Carlin Equestrian Center.


Reno - Tahoe Territory

Gordon Horsley, Business Development manager for Amador Stage Lines in Reno, has been a “driving force” for the tourism industry in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area for decades. He is always ready, willing and able to assist in tourism-related projects such as motorcoach charters for familiarization tours to transport travel journalists and tour operators, and special events. Horsley is generous in donating his time to the travel and tourism industry and has served on numerous boards. He currently serves as vice chairman of the National Automobile Museum in Reno.


Pony Express Territory

Mark Bassett, executive director of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely is a great ambassador for Nevada, helping ensure that visitors to the Nevada Northern Railway create memories to last a lifetime. Bassett always looks for new and innovative ways to promote the railroad and the Pony Express Territory. He is working on projects such as Highway 50 Survival Guide information kiosks, website redesign for the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation and “Where’s the Museum?” interpretive signage program for the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.


Indian Territory

Scott Carey, tribal planner for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nixon, has been an extremely active, involved member of Indian Territory since joining two years ago and now holds the position of territory secretary. Carey has done great work promoting tourism to the Pyramid Lake region. In the last year he has worked on projects including Pyramid Lake Ecotourism mapping, Sacred Visions Pow Wow, Pyramid Lake Triathlon, Tribal Tourism Conference, Pyramid Lake interpretive signage and birding awareness programs. Indian Territory covers the entire state.


Nevada Silver Trails Territory

Edward Robledo, president and creative director for Emergency Room Creative, Las Vegas, has done an outstanding job for the Nevada Silver Trails Territory in helping rebrand itself after a name change from the former Pioneer Territory. Robledo has assisted the territory in projects and campaigns such as the “Rural Charm” ads, Internet banner advertising and production and media placement for the territory’s print advertising. He has assisted the territory in working to attract visitors from the lucrative Las Vegas market.


Las Vegas Territory

Gloria Kritzler handles sales and marketing for Grand Canyon Tour and Travel and has served as website and membership director for Las Vegas Territory for the past four years. While serving on the territory board, Kritzler was instrumental in increasing traffic to the territory website by creating a more useful and user-friendly site. She also implemented a computerized process to pay for territory functions and dues. When asked to assist on various committees, Kritzler takes the initiative and makes each task a priority to ensure that the job is accomplished.


Statewide Excellence in Grants Award

The Fallon Convention and Visitors Authority received funding for nine Rural Marketing Grants for such notable events as the Fallon Fights boxing event that attracts more than 3,000 visitors; Fallon Festival of Quilts, which draws 2,500 visitors; Octane Fest, a three-day event that drew more than 10,000 spectators last year; and Tractors and Truffles, a farm-to-plate dinner followed by a performance at Barkley Theater. Marketing grants were awarded for an Internet ad words campaign, print media advertising, website redesign, search engine optimization and brochure reprinting.


Statewide Excellence in Tourism

Sherry Rupert, executive director for the Nevada Indian Commission and Indian Territory chair, shoulders the responsibility for representing all of Nevada’s tribes. Rupert has pulled her territory members together to find ways tourism can benefit both the tribes and Nevada’s tourism promotion. Rupert has worked tirelessly creating the annual Tribal Tourism Conference (April 20-21 at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Course), now in its third year. She is of Paiute and Washoe Indian heritage and was elected to the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association Board of Directors (AIANTA) as Southwest region representative. Rupert lives in Carson City.


June Stannard Scholarship Winner

Kriza Anne Cruz Dagdag, 17, of Las Vegas is this year’s winner of the annual $1,000 June Stannard Memorial Scholarship to pursue a college degree that will lead to a career in the tourism industry.  She is a senior at East Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas and will pursue a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with an emphasis on Meetings and Event Management.


“The hospitality industry is all about being hospitable: generous, helpful and thoughtful,” Dagdag wrote in the essay that won her the scholarship. “I enjoy the idea of creating atmospheres in which people are able to enjoy themselves in a soothing and reassuring atmosphere.”


She wrote that she aspires to thrive in events planning. “I aim to make a difference, help and inspire others,” she wrote. The scholarship was created in 2008 to honor the memory of June Stannard, a longtime operations manager for the Winnemucca Convention Center and avid supporter of Nevada’s tourism industry.