Five individuals and organizations were honored at the annual Connecticut Governor’s Conference on Tourism for their outstanding contributions and dedication to Connecticut’s $14.7-billion tourism industry sector today. Governor Dannel P. Malloy, together with the Connecticut Office of Tourism, presented the 2017 Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Awards, which spanned five separate categories

“The tourism industry creates jobs, generates tax revenues and contributes to our high quality of life in Connecticut,” said Governor Malloy. “It’s an honor to recognize some of the key people involved in making tourism such a vital contributor to our state’s economy.”

The recipients of the 2017 Connecticut Governor’s Tourism Awards are:

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Connecticut Governor’s Award for
2017 Tourism Volunteer of the Year

Durham Fair Volunteers

What started as a small event in 1916 has grown to be the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the state and beyond. Fueling this growth has been hundreds of volunteers — farmers, business professionals, government officials, emergency responders, medical professionals, families, students and teachers — who have committed their time and passion to making the event a success year after year.

The 100-percent volunteer-led event, which invests many of its profits back into the community, stands as a testament to the cooperative spirit in Durham and the surrounding communities. Accepting the award on behalf of all these volunteers was Daniel Miramant, who has served as president of the Durham Agricultural Fair Association since 2013.

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Connecticut Governor’s Award for
2017 Tourism Rising Star Award

Ben Paletsky, CEO, South Farms

Ben Paletsky is the driving force behind South Farms in Morris, one of New England’s premier destination-farm venues. Over the past four years, Paletsky expanded the homestead, which now features “The White Barn” and “The Morris Marketplace,” drawing thousands of guests to the area every year for weddings, festivals, and other community events.

Paletsky, who is an active member of the business community in Morris and Litchfield County, is also attracting a portfolio of complimentary entrepreneurial businesses to co-locate on the property, including the state’s largest commercial hops-growing operation.

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Connecticut Governor’s Award for
2017 Tourism Partners of the Year Award

Connecticut Art Trail

Over the past two decades, the dedicated members of the Connecticut Art Trail have worked tirelessly to promote Connecticut’s rich cultural history and drive visitation to the state. Led by President Carey Weber, the Connecticut Art Trail has grown to include 18 world-class museums and historic sites that collaboratively market their offerings to support tourism, culture, art and education.

The Connecticut Art Trail is unveiling a new Art Passport this spring, which will replace the Art Pass. The Art Passport offers additional benefits, discounts, gifts, and a grand prize drawing for anyone who visits all 18 member museums in one year.

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Connecticut Governor’s Award for
2017 Tourism Leader of the Year Award

Jeff Andersen, Director, Florence Griswold Museum

Under Jeff Andersen’s leadership, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme was transformed from a hidden-secret historical site to one of the state’s premier cultural institutions — and one of the nation’s preeminent centers for American Impressionism.

As a steadfast advocate for the arts, Andersen worked diligently to transform the historic boardinghouse, grounds, facilities and collections, creating a world-class visitor experience for artists, enthusiasts, students and others. In 2016, the museum acquired the last remaining parcel of the original Griswold estate, restoring the historic site to completion for the first time since it was divided in 1937. Andersen will retire in 2018 after 40 years of dedicated leadership.

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Connecticut Governor’s Award for
2017 Tourism Legacy Leader

Virginia Kozlowski, Executive Director, Visit New Haven, Connecticut Lodging Association, REX Development

Virginia Kozlowski, a 25-year-veteran of the hospitality industry, has dedicated her career to promoting tourism and business in Connecticut. Kozlowski has served in a variety of leadership roles, from restaurant controller and hotel general manager to president of the New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau and executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association.

During her career, she has cultivated relationships with countless businesses, associations, key stakeholders, legislators and other groups, building a reputation as a true consensus builder and valued resource. In doing so, Kozlowski has helped advance the goals of the entire Connecticut tourism industry and made Connecticut a more desirable destination.