Each autumn at our yearly tourism banquet, Visit Tillamook Coast recognizes the great work that businesses, nonprofits and individuals are doing to bring economic vitality to Tillamook County. The 2019 award winners, like the award winners before them, bring passion, creativity, skills, long hours and financial investment to their work. Here are their stories:

The Tourism Development Award was given to North County Recreation District (NCRD) for its community contributions and the work done over the last three years to establish north Tillamook County as a destination for high-quality musical performances. NCRD’s performing arts center in Nehalem has presented world-renowned artists, Grammy award-winning performers, and musical genres ranging from rock and blues to opera and folk. The three-day Winterfest draws visitors from the Portland and Seattle areas, which brings additional off-season business to restaurants, lodging and stores. If you want to hear and see great performances, go to Winterfest 2020 in early March.

The Tourism Excellence Award was given to Garibaldi-based Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad for its commitment to cultural heritage and the completion of a 14-year project to restore an abandoned locomotive, the “Skookum.” Chief engineer Scott Wickert led a group of dedicated and skilled volunteers who transformed the locomotive from a pile of rusted parts to a beautiful, restored piece of railroad history. Hundreds of people came for several days from all over the world to see Skookum run again, and it was thrilling.

Twins Ranch Covered Wagon Campground near Idaville was given the Tourism Hospitality Award. This unique campground has hosted visitors from more than 20 countries and nearly all 50 states. Larry and Cindy Oswald have created a destination like no other in Oregon, and built the covered wagons themselves. They are having a lot of fun with this campground and returning campers are proof of it.

 A new award was created this year to honor an exceptional cultural heritage effort. The Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative was formed to help protect and restore the U.S. Coast Guard station — Pier’s End Boathouse. The boathouse is developing as an art, interpretive and community center. It is also the most photographed building on the Oregon Coast. Saving this treasure is important to our local culture.

Of course, there are dozens of examples of great work being done in the county, so many that it was difficult to narrow it down to just four winners. I think of the chefs who choose locally sourced products and create delicious meals. The farmers, fishers and ranchers who tend the land, waters and livestock. The lodging owners who welcome guests every night of the week. Oyster shuckers, cheesemakers, retailers, brewers, winemakers, grocery checkers, bartenders and servers, plumbers, electricians, gas station attendants, and more — they all contribute to tourism’s economic vitality.

Tourism is an exciting and growing industry, one of the many industries currently thriving in our county. I’m honored to be a part of it and able to recognize those doing such great work.

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