Which one? Sea Witch lands Southern Delaware Tourism Award

16 TOURISM fisher thomas everhart

Southern Delaware Tourism Chair Nikki Fisher, left, and Executive Director Scott Thomas present the 2015 Southern Delaware Tourism Award to Carol Everhart, Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, in recognition of the Chamber’s Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers’ Festival.

REHOBOTH BEACH – A coastal Delaware happening which attracts annually tens of thousands of people and generates millions in economic dollars has garnered the spotlight.

The Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers’ Festival is the recipient of the 2015 Southern Delaware Tourism Award, chosen by a panel of independent travel writers from among nine nominees.

Carol Everhart, Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach Executive Director, accepted the award Dec. 9 at the annual Southern Delaware Tourism Award Luncheon held at The Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center in Rehoboth.

“I am the lucky one …,” said Ms. Everhart, acknowledging Chamber members and others in the audience who help to make Sea Witch a resounding attraction.

The Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers’ Festival, which this past October celebrated its 25th year, has grown substantially over the years from a few thousand attendees initially to nearly 190,000 over the three day event in 2014.

The festival has been named among America’s 100 Best Events numerous times over the years by the American Bus Association. It was named one of the 10 Best Fall Festivals for Families in 2014 by Family Vacation Critic among other kudos.

Southern Delaware Tourism Chair Nikki Fisher said the festival’s “economic impact is estimated at nearly $30 million annually.”

Featured keynote speaker for the luncheon/awards event was Scott Kammerer, president of SoDel Concepts, which was among the nine nominees.

Tourism in Sussex County generates $850 million in revenue annually, second only to the county’s agriculture industry.

This annual award recognizes an individual or organization that has made an outstanding and significant contribution to the enrichment of tourism in Sussex County in the year prior to October 2015.

“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, Delaware such a special place, and we are grateful to the Atlantic Sands for doing a wonderful job hosting this event,” said Scott Thomas, Executive Director of Southern Delaware Tourism.  “I think all of these award nominees this year represent what is so special about our area. They are a huge reason; a big part of what makes out tourism tick here in Sussex County.”

Past recipients of the Southern Delaware Tourism Award include the Apple Scrapple Festival, Dogfish Head Brewery Tours, the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival, the Lewes Maritime History Trail, The Ocean to Bay Bike Tour, Nassau Valley Vineyards, The Freeman Stage at Bayside, and Eating Rehoboth Walking Food Tours.

Other 2015 nominees

Cape Henlopen State Park’s New Gordons Pond Trail & Junction and Breakwater Trail Extension: The highly anticipated Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park opened in June, 2014 and has proven to be one of the most popular new attractions in Sussex County in decades. This new trail and the extension of the J&B Trail have resulted in increased accommodations tax revenue, increased economic impact for area restaurants and retailers, an increase in bike passengers on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, and greatly increased demand for “Great Walks and Trails in Sussex County.”

Clear Space Theatre Company: Clear Space Theatre Company is a premier venue for live arts and drama in Southern Delaware, providing meaningful and memorable programming with over ten mainstage productions and a total of 116 performances annually. Seventy-five percent of audience members eat at a restaurant or shop locally when they see a show. That number in summer is over 90 percent. Clear Space stage productions have netted the company over 50 Broadway World awards over the last three years.

Christian and Jamin Hudson, Hudson Management: Believing the adage, “If you build it, they will come”, Christian and Jamin Hudson of the third generation family owned private investment company, Hudson Management, took a risk and invested in a five story, 60,000 square foot hotel in Rehoboth Beach during the recession. The Fairfield Inn and Suites opened in March, 2015 on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach just a short drive from local shops, restaurants, and entertainment on the boardwalk. This Marriott brand property is the first hotel for Hudson Management. They are currently on track to pay approximately $230,000 in accommodations taxes their first year in operation.

Junction and Breakwater Trail: This nomination includes the trail and the following people who have all played direct parts in the trail’s creation and existence: The Honorable Jack Markell, Governor of the State of Delaware, Bill and Bryce Lingo, J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co, DNREC including Secretary David Small and staff, and DELDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan and staff. The creation of this trail has contributed significantly to tourism, year-round, in Sussex County. The trail has received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence and a 5-Star ranking from Rails-To-Trails Conservancy reviews, and has contributed to Delaware’s ranking as 3rd Best Bicycle Friendly State in the U.S. by the League of American Bicyclists.

Lewes Dragon Boat Festival: The Lewes Dragon Boat Festival began in 2013 and is a fundraising event for Sussex Academy in Georgetown. Over the three years of its existence, the festival has progressed from an event that drew 21 teams and 2,000 spectators in 2013 to one with 36 teams participating (with 10 teams on a waiting list) and 6,500 spectators this year. A survey conducted during the festival in 2015 indicates that spectators were visiting from northern Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey, and Lewes accommodations reported strong visitation. The event has had a positive impact on restaurants and accommodations in the area, and 2015 saw an impact on local retail stores.

SoDel Concepts: SoDel Concepts participated in more local business and charitable events in 2015 than ever before, and represented the Culinary Coast™ when participating in regional events as well. They served over 64,000 in their eight restaurants in August 2015. Through their restaurant, catering, and consulting businesses, they play a vital role in the success of many Sussex County tourism partners. SoDel is an “All Star” for the 2015 Slam Dunk to the Beach, which brings 18 high school basketball teams from seven states and Washington D.C. to our area in December. They are also represented on the board of The Delaware Botanic Garden at Pepper Creek, support the food service operation of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, and manage the concessions at Sports at the Beach, to name just a few.

Sports at the Beach: Sports at the Beach has been a pivotal part of tourism in Sussex County for over 14 years, providing a destination for baseball teams and their families from all over the country as well as for international teams each March through November. They host over 30 two- to four-day baseball tournaments, special events, and camps. During the 2015 season, Sports at the Beach teams booked over 10,000 hotel rooms and assisted teams with dinner reservations for over 5,000 guests. From 2011 through 2015 alone, they hosted over 9,000 teams with an estimated economic impact of $241 million.

Tim Bamforth, Event Director, Seashore Striders Event Production, Inc: Year-round visitation draw created by Seashore Striders events is conservatively estimated to be in excess of 10,000 annually. For over 25 years, Tim Bamforth and Seashore Striders events has been able to attract such large numbers to events week after week due to the effort put into making each event unique to its sponsoring organization. Visitors attending Seashore Striders events include many from metropolitan areas extending from New York City to Washington, D.C.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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