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Bill and Kathleen Oliver Awarded Tourism Industry’s Highest Honor

Lt. Gov. Holcomb and Visit Indiana also honor 18 with Hoosier Hospitality Awards, Bicentennial Beacon Award

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 19, 2016) – Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) announced Friday that Oliver Winery owners, Bill and Kathleen Oliver are this year’s recipient of the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award. The award announcement was part of Lt. Governor Holcomb’s annual Hoosier Hospitality Awards at the Indiana State Fair.

The Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award is presented annually and is the highest tourism honor given by the State of Indiana. The award is named for the late Will Koch, long-time owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. IOTD and the Koch family established the honor to pay tribute to Will Koch’s many meaningful contributions to tourism, business and society.

“What an honor. We’ve been to Holiday World many times, so we understand the story of Will Koch and the family, the family traditions, and the business,” said Kathleen Oliver.  “We are honored to be in that same realm of what hospitality and tourism means and leadership within the state.”

Oliver Winery is Indiana’s oldest winery. It opened in 1972, a year after William Oliver, Bill’s dad, contributed to the writing and passage of legislation that allowed for the creation of wineries in Indiana.

Bill took over the winery in 1983. He focused on enhancing the visitor experience by increasing wine quality and variety.

“We’ve got a great place to grow grapes in Indiana,” said Bill Oliver. “You put all that together with Hoosier hospitality, it’s a real winner for visitors.”

In 1993, Kathleen Oliver joined the winery as General Manager.

Together for over 30 years, Bill and Kathleen Oliver have been making quality wine and growing the business as a tourist destination. Visitors to Oliver Winery will find a beautiful tasting room, surrounded by numerous garden and fountains, which make a beautiful setting for the casual customer or an event hosted by the winery.

“Kathleen and I are born hosts. We like to entertain. We like to make people feel welcome.” said Bill Oliver. “I think we’re also students of the hospitality industry. We pay attention to best practices and a lot of it is just the golden rule; treat others as you’d like to be treated.”

Bill and Kathleen also generously donate their time and resources to a wide variety of charitable, local arts and non-profit organizations.

“It is a pleasure to recognize Kathleen and Bill Oliver for all they’ve done for Indiana throughout their careers,” said Holcomb. “They have created something special at Oliver Winery and have been instrumental in putting Indiana wine-making on the national scene.”

Nominations for the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award are submitted by community leaders and members of Indiana’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Submissions are reviewed by an 8-member panel comprised of representatives from Purdue University, the Indiana State Fair, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Grow INdiana Media Ventures, the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association and state tourism leaders. Winners are recognized for outstanding accomplishments in economic and community development through tourism.

A video of this year's Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award can be found here:

Holcomb and IOTD also presented 18 representatives of the tourism industry the Hoosier Hospitality Award for their high level of service in tourism-related jobs at hotels, restaurants, attractions and other destinations.

Nominations for Hoosier Hospitality Awards are submitted by community members and destination patrons. Nominations are reviewed and winners are selected by IOTD. Outstanding service is a major factor in determining whether a person returns to an individual business or destination.

“The Olivers are shining examples of the great leadership that exists within the Indiana tourism industry,” said Mark Newman, executive director of IOTD. “They, together with our Hoosier Hospitality Award recipients, represent the best of our state from this important industry.”

The 2016 Lieutenant Governor’s Hoosier Hospitality Award recipients are:

Susan BaxterComfort InnBartholomew
Diana BennettFiber artisit and quilt expertElkhard
Carlie CripeShipshewana Trading PlaceLaGrange
Lisa CritneyHoliday Inn Express & SuitesBartholomew
Emily CronHoliday World & Splashin' SafariSpencer
Janet FieldsHoliday Inn Express & SuitesJackson
Dan & Cyndee GilmoreCornerstone Retreat & CampgroundHenry
Roger HardigBenjamin Harrison Presidential SiteMarion
Jennifer JenkinsWonderLabMonroe
Kenyanna JohnsonHorseshoe Hammond CasinoLake
Sandra JohnsonVisit IndyMarion
Alice McDougalleHoliday Inn Express & SuitesJohnson
Yesenia MartinezHitlon Garden InnMarion
Karleen RichterDown the Road ToursElkhart
Loren SchmiererStonycreek FarmHamilton
Janeen SpragueSprague Hotel DevelopersBartholomew
Rafi WilkinsonIndiana Dunes Visitor CenterPorter
Curt WitcherThe Genealogy Center, Allen Co Public LibraryAllen

In honor of the State of Indiana’s bicentennial, Holcomb and IOTD also awarded the Bicentennial Beacon.

Saundra Jackson and Janice McGuire are the recipients of this award for their unwavering service and volunteerism.

For nearly 40 years, these sisters have dedicated their time and knowledge to the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City. The historic site was the home of prominent anti-slavery activists Levi and Catharine Coffin. Before slavery was abolished, the home sheltered more than a thousand freedom seekers and became known as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.

Janice and Saundra have tirelessly led a small group of volunteers, recruiting docents, and scheduling tours all for the sole purpose of teaching visitors about the lives and legacy of Levi and Catharine Coffin.

In 1965, the Levi Coffin House was named a National Historic Landmark and one of the History Channel’s top 25 historic sites.

The Bicentennial Beacon is awarded to a person or people who embodies the spirit of the bicentennial and serves as that special bridge that connects Indiana’s past to its future in the most meaningful of ways.