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We are One Chicago Southland

Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau Announces 2019 Stars of the Industry & Annual Tourism Award Winners

By published November 05, 2019

The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau (CSCVB), the regional destination management organization for Chicago’s 63 south and southwest suburbs, recognized its members, municipalities and organizations for their outstanding service in the hospitality and tourism industry during Fiscal Year 2019.

The awards were presented at the Chicago Southland CVB’s Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn & Conference Center. CVB President/CEO Jim Garrett focused on the year’s highlights that the region has achieved both individually and together as One Chicago Southland. “This year, the extraordinary 63 municipalities that make up the Chicago Southland have accomplished so much. We are incredibly honored to recognize the achievements of several individuals, whose work has been essential to this year’s success as One Chicago Southland,” said Jim Garrett.

Keynote speaker U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly spoke about the importance of cooperation and working together to overcome barriers and utilizing innovative solutions throughout the Chicago Southland. Guest speaker Illinois Governor JB Pritzker spoke about his continued support for the tourism industry, as well as his commitment to supporting economic development throughout the Chicago Southland, which involves necessary infrastructure work. He also spoke on the impact a casino will have on the region, highlighting the potential for job growth. 

The annual Stars of the Industry Awards honor the work of exceptional regional employees.

  • 2019 Food & Beverage Employee of the Year: Gabe Perez, DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago-Alsip
  • 2019 Guest Services Employee of the Year: Jedika Diaz, Sleep Inn Hotel-Lansing
  • 2019 Housekeeping Employee of the Year: Dolly DeGracia, Holiday Inn Hotel-Tinley Park
  • 2019 Maintenance Employee of the Year: Ed Rzepka, Holiday Inn Express-Crestwood
  • 2019 Manager of the Year: Karen Krzak, Gateway Inn of Oak Lawn

The Chicago Southland CSCVB also presented their annual awards highlighting the contributions of its members and partners to the tourism and hospitality industry in the Chicago Southland.

Award of Merit: Sara & Kevin Brown have invested countless hours and work into the development of Blue Island. In the event’s second year, Sara & Kevin took over the Chicago Southland Dragon Boat Festival and have since grown the event from eight to 22 teams in just two years. Sara & Kevin are organizers of the annual Vintage Base Ball Festival and are fundraisers for the Blue Island Fire Museum. In 2016, the pair created a web series, titled My B.I. which showed off Blue Island to an international audience of filmmakers and fans, securing them the BEST New Media Web Series at the Big River Film Festival in Savannah, Georgia.

Award of Merit: Vernard Alsberry, Jr. (Mayor, Hazel Crest) brought the American Academy of Physical Therapy’s annual conference to the Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn & Conference Center, which allowed the AAPT to celebrate their 30th anniversary in their birthplace. Vernard started the conversation with our sales team and is also recognized as a Host It Here Hero, acknowledging his efforts to boost the Chicago Southland’s economy.  

Linda Morgan Award for Volunteerism: Keith Wallace (Executive Director, Lincolnway Special Recreation Association) has worked tirelessly to provide accessible recreation and leisure activities to those with disabilities while promoting awareness throughout the Chicago Southland. Keith successfully secured the necessary funds to build a state-of-the-art, accessible recreation center in New Lenox. As an active supporter of the tourism industry, Keith partnered with the CSCVB to bring 57 teams and over 500 athletes to compete in the 2019 Toyota USA National Juniors & Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Association Championships. Over the course of three days, these two tournaments brought in an estimated economic impact of $478,000 to the Chicago Southland. Keith was also recently recognized by Connect Sports and presented with their 2019 Volunteer of the Year Community Hero Award in August. 

Patricia Chase Magon Municipal Leadership Award: Village of Lansing is home to the region’s newest outdoor, premiere concert venue, Fox Pointe, which celebrated its inaugural concert series this summer. In addition to concerts, Fox Pointe will also host Lansing’s annual Autumn Fest. The Village of Lansing also continually updates and improves events such as their Good Neighbor Day Parade, LOOP (Lansing Out on Pedals) and Lansing Cruise Nights, which bring together thousands of people from Illinois and Northwest Indiana. Lansing is also home to the historic Ford Hangar, which is used for events such as Fetching Market and Hanging at the Hangar, with plans for additional on-site events in the future.

Senator Aldo DeAngelis Leadership Award: Vicky Smith (Executive Director, Southwest Conference of Mayors) has served on the CSCVB’s board of directors for the past 27 years. She currently serves on the CSCVB’s executive committee and has been recognized for her strong leadership in her roles as CSCVB chair, past chair and sitting board member. Vicky’s leadership and dedication have paved the way for an abundance of developments over the years, both in the CSCVB and the entire Chicago Southland region. Vicky is a huge proponent of tourism, promoting and championing the Chicago Southland tourism cause on both a legislative and mayoral level. She has also served on the CSCVB’s grant committee since its inception and on past tourism task forces and festivals & events committees.

Member of the Year: Evil Horse Brewing Company has been a nightlife staple in the Chicago Southland region since first opening their doors. They were instrumental in the creation and promotion of the Dixie Highway Brewery Trail, the first trail of its kind in the Southland region which connects eight local breweries, encouraging locals and tourists to visit each establishment. This year, their Doorbreken Belgian quad took home gold and their Downtown Hottie took home bronze at the Illinois Beer Festival. In addition to being huge supporters of the CSCVB by donating to and serving at the annual National Tourism Day event, Evil Horse also contributed to the 2020 Visitors Guide as well as a series of online blog posts on the CSCVB’s website. This year, Evil Horse will be spearheading the Inaugural Dixie Highway Brewery Trail Oktoberfest in Blue Island.


The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official destination management and marketing organization for Chicago’s 63 south and southwest suburbs. The Chicago Southland CVB markets the Chicago Southland region as a destination for meetings and conventions, group tour, sports events and leisure. For more information, go to VisitChicagoSouthland.com

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Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau

Katie Arvia - Communications Manager -- 2304 173rd Street, Lansing, IL 60438

Phone: 708-895-8200 Fax: 708-895-8288 Toll-Free: 888-895-8233

[email protected]     VisitChicagoSouthland.com


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