Many parties are taking place right now to celebrate the holiday season, but there was one that was merrier and brighter than the others. It began on Wednesday night at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond, which was looking spiffy with its festive outside lighting that just so happened to blink and twinkle in time with the holiday music that played outside to welcome guests.
Inside the Welcome Center, the 31st annual South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority holiday party was in full swing. All the necessities to make a great party were there: food and drinks, decorations, music, and people -lots of people.
And why wouldn't there be a large turn out for a SSCVA event? The SSCVA is all about hospitality, so taking care of people and having a great time is what they do.
"It's great to see all our friends from the county council to the assessors office to many others...we have friends everywhere and we value them all," Speros A. Batistatos, President and CEO of SSCVA said. "We value your commitment to our cause."
Guests were able to take part in buffets that served comfort food that was a perfect combatant for the winter night. And they were able to walk around the Welcome Center and take in the sights. Multiple decorated trees were on display, each with a different theme, and guests could vote on their favorite. Scenes from the iconic movie "A Christmas Story" were set up as well. There were Leg Lamps and other fun items for sale at the gift shop in the Welcome Center in case anyone wanted to get one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones.
Besides the objective to enjoy a party with really awesome people, the main event of the reception was to recognize some hard working individuals and organizations in the region. Awards were given out to the following:
- Hobart Mayor Brian K. Snedecor received the Elected Official of the Year Award
- Lake County Sheriff's Department Deputy Commander Tony Ramirez of the Lake County Fraternal Order of Police (Chris Anton Lodge #125) received the Bring It Home Hero Award
- Mark LaBarbera, Athletic Director for Valparaiso University received the Bring It Home Hero Award
- Diva Rish of the Demotte Chamber of Commerce received the Event Planner of the Year
- Lake County Fair Grounds received the Event of the Year Award
- The City of Whiting received the Attraction of the Year Award
- Radisson at Star Plaza received the Hotel of the Year Award
- Best Western Inn of Valparaiso received the Hotel of the Year Award
- Abuelo's of Merrillville received the Spirit of Americans with Disabilities Act Award
- Farmhouse Restaurant of Fair Oaks Farms received the Restaurant of the Year Award
- Northwest Indiana Brewery Guild Hunter's Brewing received the Culinary Attraction of the Year Award
- President at Lake County Court House Foundation Marty Wheeler received the Lifetime Service Award
- Senator Sue Landske received the Chester F. Dobis Public Service In Hospitality Award
Mark Harbin, Director of Special Events for the City of Whiting accepted the award on the city's behalf. He was quite proud of the recognition that his hard-working city received.
"It's an honor to be recognized. It's the city's 125th anniversary so we wanted to do something special for it," Harbin said. "Working with the SSCVA is fantastic. It's easy to reach out to them and they are always there when you need a helping hand."
Chester F. Dobis was on hand and he presented Senator Landske's award to her.
"This lady deserves this award more than anyone I know," Dobis said of Lanske. "She's put in tireless hours, much effort, and I can tell you that as a Democrat giving an award to a Republican, it's a lot of fun because no one deserves it more than her."
Lots happened in 2014 that were lofty achievements for the SSCVA: they moved the John Dillinger Museum to Crown Point, they received multiple awards for the video series for the 2014 campaign, "How Tourism Benefits the Community", they created a brewery trail in February, they received recognition for their 30 Stops in 30 Days project, the brought the National Softball Tournament to NWI, secured the inaugural Meeting Professionals International Education Summit, and the have new partnerships with Newton and Jasper Counties.
As one can see, there was quite a bit to celebrate. The SSCVA closed out another great year with a great party!