ELKO, Nev. — Seven Nevadans from all across the state and a steadfast citizens organization whose work to create a heritage trail finally paid off received Excellence in Tourism awards Thursday at the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s annual Rural Roundup conference.

The awards, a highlight of the three-day conference at the Elko Convention Center, recognize the tourism-promoting contributions of one individual in each of Nevada’s six tourism “territories” and a person whose contributions have benefitted the entire state. In addition, an eighth award acknowledges a project that has achieved outstanding results with funding from the commission’s Rural Grants Program.

“The people who work with the commission to promote tourism in Nevada’s rural areas donate their time, energy and expertise, and the awards are our way of thanking them,” Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki, commission chair, said.  “These volunteers serve in a tourism industry spread out over the entire state, from Elko to Goldfield and Pioche to Pahrump, and they contribute greatly to our success in promoting rural Nevada tourism.”

Krolicki and state tourism Director Tim Maland presented the awards following a day of speakers about current trends in marketing, publicity, Web site design, research, developing new tourism attractions and other topics selected to benefit rural tourism businesses and organizations.

“Rural Roundup is the only conference that brings together Nevada’s network of rural tourism industry leaders and volunteers to share ideas for drawing more visitors to enjoy the colorful history, adventure and scenic wonders of the American West beyond our urban areas,” Maland said. “We bring the conference to a different territory every year to experience the various attractions, such as Elko’s renowned cowboy, ranching and Basque cultures, American West atmosphere and outdoor adventure activities.”

Excellence in Tourism Award winners are:

Cowboy Country Territory: Kitty Nash, board member for the Elko Chamber of Commerce, also serves on the territory board and assists with many administrative tasks necessary to the efficient running of the organization and promotion of tourism in its member communities.

Pioneer Territory: Paula Elefante, executive director of the Economic Development Authority for Esmeralda and Nye counties, has brought expertise in marketing and special events to the territory in addition to producing tourism events in Nye County.

Reno-Tahoe Territory: Janet Jones, group sales manager for the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, has demonstrated a strong commitment to the region in coordinating and staffing trade and consumer shows and developing niche and motorcoach markets.

Las Vegas Territory: Gloria Kritzler, marketing and sales manager for Destination Grand Canyon, and a member of the territory board, has chaired the Web site committee and also helped to produce the sightseeing tours for the International POW WOW conference coming to Las Vegas May 31-June 4.

Pony Express Territory: Ed Spear, veteran White Pine County Tourism and Recreation Board executive director, has represented the territory at consumer and trade shows throughout North America.

Indian Territory: Chris Gibbons, administrative assistant for the Nevada Indian Commission and a member of the territory board, helped to implement a Rural Tourism Grant to promote tribal outreach and assisted with participation in an Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada conference.

Statewide Award: Sue Barton, director of visitor information for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, has served in key roles behind the scenes in producing the Nevada Commission on Tourism’s annual Governor's Conference on Tourism and Rural Roundup and was deeply involved in planning and carrying out the Tourism Cares for Nevada historic restoration event in Virginia City last year. She currently chairs the Reno Tahoe Territory and is heading the territory’s familiarization tour for International POW WOW participants in June.

Excellence in Tourism Grants: The Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership organization of citizens from White Pine County, Millard County, Utah, and Duckwater Shoshone Reservation, supported by the commission’s Rural Grants Program, worked for more than a decade with dedication and tenacity to obtain congressional funding to create the Great Basin National Heritage Route.