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Halifax tourism wins two awards

Growth of tourism in Halifax County was recognized over the weekend when the Department of Tourism received two awards, Visitor Center of the Year and Heritage Tourism for the Heritage and Antique Machinery Festival, both presented by the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (VACVB). 

“To be awarded two awards speaks volumes of what’s taking place in South Boston, Halifax County,” said Halifax County Tourism Director Linda Shepperd.

VACVB is a membership-based association of independent destination management organizations and supporting businesses who share political and community support with the primary mission of promoting their areas as meeting and tourism destinations.

Each year the bureau recognizes the tourism efforts of various areas with the Virgo Travel & Tourism Awards that honor excellence in various categories such as Destination Event of the Year and Eco-Tourism.

Last Friday, Carole Woodward and Erin Thackston, employees of the Visitor Center, accepted the awards on behalf of the Department of Tourism at an awards banquet in Loudoun County. 

According to Shepperd, the judges recognized the Visitor Center for its innovative practices as well as the look and feel of the facility. 

“It was quite an honor to be honored by my peers in the industry,” said Shepperd. 

Since the Visitor Center first opened in March of 2012, Shepperd said they have seen 15,000 visitors, local and worldwide. 

“In two years we have seen visitors from all over the country and those in the community, the community is our greatest ambassadors,” said Shepperd. 

The director said she felt the judges took notice of the “level of growth” within the Visitor Center in a “stagnant economy.”

“It’s a vibrant part of the community,” said Shepperd. 

Some could say the other winner, the Heritage and Antique Machinery Festival, is just as vibrant. 

The first weekend in May will mark the 11th year for the annual event. 

Shepperd recalls being told the judges were impressed with the event because “while most festivals are fading, because there are just so many, this one is continuing to thrive.” 

It also was recognized for their giving back to the community through scholarships and for preserving the culture of the county. 

The director took notice the Heritage and Antique Machinery Festival took best in a category featuring great competition. 

The festival bested a pool of competition that included Shenandoah Valley and several places with Civil War history. 

“With the Heritage Festival, I have to give credit where credit is due. Bobby and Lucy Conner, and their committee, they deserve the real credit, the people who have done all the work,” said Shepperd. 

Bobby and Lucy Conner were referred to as “the face” of the committee, but Shepperd added, “It takes many, many people to grow. We have to have so many people that give so much time.” 

“I’m the first one to say this success is because of the people involved.” 

In its early days, Shepperd remembers working the festival and recalls it mostly being antique tractors and restored cars. 

Adding a little more each year, now the festival continues to show off antiques alongside newer model cars, a tractor-pull and vendors. 

Also, it’s a family event and not a one-day festival, said Shepperd. 

  “They (judges) were impressed with of the three-day span of the event,” said Shepperd. 

“They were also looking to see what impacts a community, staying in a community. Anytime we find something that is keeping or bringing people to the community, it’s a plus.” 

For Halifax Tourism, this was the second year submitting to the statewide association and the director is “very excited” to be best in a pool of “a lot of competition.”  

The Virgo Travel & Tourism Awards will continue to be presented next year, and with traditions continuing, maybe Halifax can be put on the map again.