Hospitality AwardHoliday trees were twinkling and all was merry and bright as members and friends of the hospitality and tourism industry gathered at the Indiana Welcome Center for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority's 31st annual holiday reception.

As part of the reception, Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore CVA, presented the Hospitality Awards, honoring individuals for their contributions to tourism along the South Shore. Awards were presented for the Chester F. Dobis Public Service in Hospitality Award, Elected Official of the Year, Bring it Home Hero, Event Planner of the Year, Event of the Year, Attraction of the Year, Hotel of the Year, Spirit of Americans with Disabilities Act Award, Restaurant of the Year, Culinary Attraction of the Year and the Lifetime Service Award.

Senator Sue Landske was awarded the 2014 Chester F. Dobis Public Service in Hospitality Award, which was presented by Chet Dobis, the award's namesake. Dobis spoke of Landske's many accomplishments during her 30 years of public service.

Marty Wheeler, president of the Lake Court House Foundation was the recipient of the Lifetime Service Award for her work to preserve and maintain the "Grand Old Lady," and move the John Dillinger Museum from the Indiana Welcome Center to the old Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point.

Mayor Brian Snedecor with the city of Hobart was awarded the 2014 Elected Official of the Year Award for the improvements to downtown Hobart and his efforts to breathe new life into Hobart's Brickie Bowl.

Tony Ramirez, Lake County Sheriff's Department Deputy Commander, and Mark LaBarbera, Valparaiso University's director of athletics, were both awarded the 2014 Bring it Home Hero Award. Ramirez has long been a dedicated cheerleader for the South Shore, bringing home numerous Fraternal Order of Police conferences and events. LaBarbera was instrumental in ensuring the annual Lutheran Basketball Association of America tournament stayed in the South Shore, resulting in 2,400 room nights booked each March.

Diva Rish, Executive Director with the DeMotte Chamber of Commerce received the 2014 Event Planner of the Year Award for the enhancements made to the annual Touch of Dutch Festival, which resulted in a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in attendance over 2013.

The Lake County Fairgrounds was presented with the 2014 Event of the Year Award for hosting the Hot Rod Power Tour, an event that showcased more than 3,200 cars and attracted 11,500 spectators. The fairgrounds was also lauded for making this event happen with very little lead time.

The city of Whiting received the 2014 Attraction of the Year Award for their 125th Anniversary Celebration, which included numerous events throughout July.

Radisson Hotel Star Plaza in Merrillville and Best Western Inn at Valparaiso were both awarded with Hotel of the Year Awards. Radisson Hotel received its award for recent renovations and continued work with the South Shore CVA to bring in meetings and conventions. Best Western Inn at Valparaiso was presented with its award for transforming the old Star Express Inn property into a completely renovated, upscale property.

Teresa Torres, executive director of Everybody Counts, was on hand to present the Spirit of Americans with Disabilities Act Award to Abuelo's Restaurant in Merrillville. Torres explained that the restaurant has gone above and beyond to ensure all patrons can enjoy the establishment.

Farmhouse Restaurant at Fair Oaks Farms was awarded the Restaurant of the Year Award, and all members of the Northwest Indiana Brewers Guild were awarded the Culinary Attraction of the Year Award for their presence on the South Shore Brewery Trail.

"The past year has seen many great achievements in our industry throughout the region," said Batistatos. "The annual Hospitality Awards are presented to those individuals who have worked tirelessly to make those achievements possible."

For more information on the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, contact Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO, at 219-554-2175.