WEST FARGO – The late Fargo mayor, Dennis Walaker, was remembered Thursday during the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau’s annual awards and appreciation luncheon.
Walaker, who died in December, received the agency’s Always Warm Award, which is given to individuals who make a significant contribution to tourism promotion during their career.
Walaker’s wife, Mary, accepted the award from Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the convention and visitors bureau.
“He (Walaker) was a champion for Fargo and the whole metro area, really, and that extended to his support of tourism,” Johnson said.
“I think it’s safe to say Denny was a hero when we needed one,” Johnson told attendees of the luncheon, which was at the Cambria Suites and Convention Center in West Fargo.
Johnson also shared statistics from the past year, including numbers relating to hotel rooms, a sector seeing tremendous growth.
Johnson said the metro area had 4,487 hotel rooms, “give or take,” when he started in the job with the bureau in June 2012.
With the recent opening of a new Holiday Inn Express, Johnson said the number is now about 5,155.
“And by September,” Johnson said, “it will be 5,479.”
With additional hotels now in the pipeline, “There are a lot of rooms heading our way,” said Johnson, who added that revenue related to hotel rooms grew by about $10.5 million in 2014, putting the total for the year at more than $100 million for the first time.
“That’s a pretty substantial milestone,” he said.
Other awards handed out Thursday and their recipients were:
- Community Service Award, given to the individual who contributed the most to tourism in the past year, to Al Hintz for his work in organizing the Squirt international hockey tournament.
- Countrypolitan Award, given to the organization that contributed the most to tourism in 2014, to Bison BEST Robotics, which annually hosts a science competition that attracts teams from across the region.
- Heartland Pride Award, which goes to the individual or organization that has made a significant effort to bring a major event to the area, to Misfit Inc., which organizes the annual Misfit Con, an event organizers describe as a handcrafted event for “artists, troublemakers and general riffraff.”
- Sports Minded Award, which goes to the group or individual responsible for a sporting event that had a significant impact on tourism, to the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament.