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Mel Riegsecker Awarded Tourism Industry’s Highest Honor


INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 18, 2017) – Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) announced Friday that Blue Gate Hospitality Founder and Chairman, Mel Riegsecker is this year’s recipient of the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award. The award announcement was part of the Lt. Governor’s annual Hoosier Hospitality Awards at the Indiana State Fair.

Mel Riegsecker was born in LaGrange County. His father was a farmer and repaired harnesses, but Riegsecker had no desire to go into the family business and went in a direction of his own. Never leaving his Hoosier roots, Riegsecker began making miniature horse-drawn carriages, buggies and other vehicles. That hand-crafted hobby turned into a bustling business and expanded over the years. Today it includes the Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery, 350 seat Blue Gate Theater, an inn, event center and much more.

“Mel Riegsecker helped shape Shipshewana’s tourism profile,” said Crouch. “He had a vision and now Blue Gate Hospitality hosts over a half a million visitors every year.”

Riegsecker continues to be a dedicated tourism and business leader in his community and he gives his wife, June, and others credit for his success along the way.

“It’s a very humbling experience, It’s a tremendous honor to be selected, said Riegsecker. “I feel undeserving. I couldn’t have done it without the Lord’s help and a lot of really, really great people.”

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.

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.

“Mel Riegsecker sets a high standard for outstanding accomplishments in economic and community development through the Indiana tourism industry,” said Mark Newman, executive director of IOTD. “His passion and dedication is an excellent example to us all and an honorable choice for the state’s highest award.”

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

Lt. Governor Crouch and IOTD also presented 19 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 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Hoosier Hospitality Award recipients are:

Patricia BadgleyHampton Inn & SuitesHoward
Anne BeachFrench Lick ResortOrange
Tiffany ConradGene Stratton-Porter State Historic SiteNoble
Christine FlohrVisit Wabash CountyWabash
Dave FoxGene Stratton-Porter State Historic SiteNoble
Diane GordonHorseshoe HammondLake
Christy HeavilonHampton Inn & SuitesHoward
Tray HeinkeIndiana CavernsHarrison
Doug HuffOasis DinerHendricks
Mary HuggardVisit IndyMarion
Sasha KrebsThe Country Shops of GrabillAllen
Maureen LambertAnderson/Madison County Visitors BureauMadison
Grace LiangHorseshoe - HammondLake
Daniel OrrFARMbloomingtonMonroe
Jan TellstromFrench Lick ResortOrange
Marsha TellstromWest Baden Springs HotelOrange
Dyan Wheeler-QuilterLake County Parks DepartmentLake
Henry WilhiteHoliday World and Splashin’ SafariSpencer
Opportunity Enterprises Cleaning CrewIndiana Dunes Visitor CenterPorter

*Media: Click on the person’s name for release information and photo


About Indiana Office of Tourism Development: 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch oversees the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Mark Newman serves as the agency's executive director. IOTD is dedicated to enhancing the economic vitality of Indiana through leadership and resource support to the Indiana travel industry. The tourism and hospitality industry is directly responsible for 155,200 jobs, generates over $1.4 billion in tax receipts and contributes $11.5 billion in revenue to Indiana businesses. For more information: