PIERRE, S.D. – Two South Dakota communities, five individuals, and two businesses were honored at the 2020 Governor’s Conference on Tourism’s annual awards banquet on Thursday, January 23. Governor Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Department of Tourism presented the following awards to tourism industry members:

The Ben Black Elk Award honors an individual who makes outstanding contributions to the state’s visitor industry. This year’s award was presented to Teri Schmidt with the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. For 36 years, Schmidt has served the city of Sioux Falls as the executive director of the CVB, leading strategies, strengthening partnerships and paving the way to make Sioux Falls the tourism destination it is today.

“Teri’s accomplishments are truly incredible and inspiring,” said Governor Noem. “She is one of a kind, and the Sioux Falls community and South Dakota are blessed to have her.”

605 Magazine was the recipient of this year’s A.H. Pankow Award. This award recognizes a representative of the media for showing superior interest and coverage of the South Dakota tourism industry. 605 Magazine’s articles take a deep dive and a unique look at communities across the state. Their support plays a key role in destination awareness for towns across South Dakota.

The Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award is given to an industry partner for their innovative thinking in making their destination, business or attraction appealing to visitors. The award was presented to Historic Deadwood. In 2019, Historic Deadwood welcomed more than 100,000 guests to their new visitor center, opened a new year-round, family-friendly gathering space called Outlaw Square, and worked collaboratively to host a successful showing of HBO’s Deadwood: The Movie.

The 3rd Annual Ruth Ziolkowski* Outstanding Hospitality & Customer Service Award is presented to four individuals — one from each of the state’s four regions — for outstanding hospitality and customer service to the tourism industry. This year's recipients are Dan Miller with Bramble Park Zoo in Watertown; Kasi* Haberman with Yankton Convention and Visitors Bureau; Kathi Anderson with Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center at Cedar Shore; and Shirley Wetz* with Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

The George S. Mickelson Great Service Award honors businesses, communities or organizations that have done an exemplary job of serving customers and exceeding visitor expectations. This year's award was presented to The Howard Johnson Inn and Suites in Rapid City.

“The Howard Johnson has created an entire culture of hospitality centered around one principle: Help everyone,” said Noem. “Managers work side by side with employees to teach and show guest experience, awareness and appreciation.”

Lastly, The Rooster Rush Cacklin’ Community Award went to the community of Watertown for its efforts to welcome pheasant hunters to the state. From the decoration of storefronts to event coverage by local radio, Watertown displayed a remarkable level of community involvement in welcoming hunters to the area. The community showed particular creativity in 2019 by transforming a mechanical bull into a rideable pheasant.

“Presenting these awards is an incredible honor,” said Noem. “I am always humbled by the level of commitment, dedication and perseverance of the tourism industry. The leadership of these award recipients and the warm hospitality they give to every visitor are what have driven 10 consecutive years of record growth.”

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism and the South Dakota Arts Council. The Department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.


Media Notes:

*Ziolkowski (jewl-KUF-skee)
*Kasi (KAY-see)
*Wetz (WETS)

For high resolution downloadable images of the award winners, please use this Dropbox link:


Katlyn Richter, Global Media & Public Relations Director
South Dakota Department of Tourism
Phone: 605-773-3301
Email: [email protected]