DGI, local hotel owner honored at AMLA meeting


 The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) recently honored Downtown Gadsden, Inc. with the 2012 Organization of the Year award, and Nanda Patel with the “Good Neighbor” award. 

The award is among 11 that comprise the PEAK Awards, which will be presented on Sept. 20 during the AMLA Annual Meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park. 

Representing the highest achievement in North Alabama tourism, the annual PEAK Awards honor individuals and organizations that have had a major impact on tourism in the 16 northernmost counties of Alabama.

The Organization of the Year award is presented to the AMLA member organization that has contributed significantly to the betterment and development of tourism in North Alabama in the past year.

Downtown Gadsden Inc. (DGI) has taken a leadership seat in the development of many programs that led to an increase in traffic in downtown Gadsden, all while keeping the historic aspect of the community intact. 

First Friday brings thousands of locals and visitors to the downtown area for music, food, shopping and classic cars.

Musical Monday provides a break during the dreaded back to work Monday where locals can enjoy lunch and take a musical break at the Water Wall.

Third Thursday at the Water Wall offers a casual night out on the town, while the annual Chili Cook-Off brings teams of cooks to the downtown area competing for the title of Best Chili. Along with sponsoring these events, DGI participates in many of the activities while also providing information on area attractions and events.

Historic preservation in the downtown area also falls under DGI’s responsibility. Under DGI’s watchful eye, restoration is complete on the Pitman Theater and additional buildings are being studied for restoration.

In addition, the AMLA has honored Holiday Inn Express of Gadsden owner Ms. Nanda Patel with the 2012 “Good Neighbor” Friend of Tourism Award, which is presented to a person or organization whose body of work has had a significant impact on tourism in the past year.

Nanda wears many hats and is a valuable asset to the city and Etowah County. 

Besides being a hotel owner, she is a member of the tourism board and the water board, and an artist. Nanda makes an extra effort to make her guests feel welcome and informed about the area’s attractions and events during their stay. She serves on the Etowah County/Greater Gadsden Tourism Board, is a member of the Gadsden Chamber of Commerce Board and the Hardin Center for Cultural Arts Board, has served on the AMLA Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and works with United Way, American Red Cross, and other community service groups. 

“Nanda works behind the scenes to help many people, of all walks of life,” said DGI executive director Kay Moore. “This is a good neighbor.”

When she discovered certain classes were not available at Gadsden State Community College and were needed, Nanda was instrumental in getting the classes added. Following the April, 2011 tornado outbreak across North Alabama, Nanda assisted with relief efforts and made daily trips from Gadsden to Fort Payne, where she is the owner of another accommodation, to make sure relief workers and others were comfortable in her motel. 

 “We realize tourism is flourishing in North Alabama because of key players and organizations that, on a daily basis, demonstrate ingenuity, provide an extraordinary level of care and customer service, and offer a superior tourism experience to those visiting,” said Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association President/CEO Dana Lee Jennings. “The PEAK Awards give us an opportunity to showcase these talented leaders and must-see attractions and festivals and we are delighted to present this year’s recipients.” 

The full list of awards and winners is as follows:

Organization of the Year – Downtown Gadsden Inc.

Good Neighbor Award – Nanda Patel, Holiday Inn Express, Gadsden

Event of the Year – Cullman Oktoberfest

Attraction of the Year – DeSoto State Park

Northern Star Award – R. B. “Buzz” Estes, Athens

Young Professional of the Year Award – Lindsey King, Marshall County CVB

Tourism Professional of the Year – Libby Jordan, Florence/Lauderdale Tourism

Lasting Impression Award – John Dersham, DeKalb County Tourism

Chairman’s Cup – Catherine Godbey, Decatur Daily

President’s Award – Suzanne Moon, Southeast Tourism Society

Friendliest Front Desk Employee – Sonya Tankersley, Hampton Inn Cullman

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