Brownville’s Randel and Jane Smith Honored at Travel, Tourism Conference
Randel and Jane Smith of Brownville were among the 2011 Nebraska Travel Industry award winners Thursday night, Oct. 20, at Omaha.
The Smiths received the Henry Fonda Award at the 36th annual Nebraska Travel and Tourism Conference.
The award is the state’s highest tourism award. It represents leadership, vision and dedication to the tourism industry.
Between 1960-1980, the Smiths started the Brownville Village Theatre, the oldest repertory theatre in Nebraska; served as presidents of the Brownville Historical Society; organized the town to promote tourism with the preservation of the historic buildings on Main Street and started Outfitters Row, which brought many tourism businesses and shops to the community. The Smiths started offering riverboat tours in 1970 aboard the Belle of Brownville. They built a campground and facilities to accommodate travelers, and later brought another excursion boat to town, the Spirit of Brownville.
With their “build it and they will come” attitude, the Smiths pushed forward and opened the Lyceum, a bookstore/restaurant which has become Brownville’s primary meeting space and the heart of the community. In 2009, they opened the River Inn Resort on the banks of the Missouri River. This unique, full service meeting place and bed and breakfast is noted for being the only floating lodging facility in the state.
The awards program capped the conference organized by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division. Hosts were representatives of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau. The conference was at the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel and Convention Center–CoCo Key Water Resort. Gov. Dave Heineman announced the award winners.
The Henry Fonda award honors the Grand Island native who had a long career on stage, screen and television. Fonda won the Best Actor Oscar in 1981 for his role in “On Golden Pond.” His other roles include “The Grapes of Wrath.” Fonda frequently promoted his native state.
The Smiths were not the only Southeast Nebraska honorees at the conference.
Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City, received The Outstanding Nature-Tourism Entity Award. The award celebrates the state’s many outdoor recreational pastimes and activities. Arbor Day Farm is a 260-acre living laboratory of environmental stewardship and conservation. Nearly 250,000 people visit Arbor Day Farm each year to explore its many nature-based tourism activities. Its greenhouse tours allow visitors to see firsthand where tens of thousands of tree seedlings get started.
Other award winners were:
The Friend of Tourism Award: The Cornhusker Motor Club Foundation.
The Outstanding Event Award for communities with populations up to 10,000: Swedish Days in Holdrege.
The Outstanding Event Award for communities with populations greater than 10,000: North Platte’s NEBRASKAland Days.
The Outstanding Tourism Association Award: Golf the North, a golf tour of five nine-hole courses in northeast Nebraska.
The Outstanding Tourism Campaign Award: the Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau for its “Be a Tourist in Your Own Home Town” summer passport program.
The Outstanding Tourism Publication Award: Cherry County Tourism.
The Outstanding Website Award: the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art in David City.
The Outstanding Tourism Attraction Award: The Great Platte River Road Archway near Kearney.