Spirit of Cincinnati Awards

New Spirit Awards Logo ColorThe Spirit Awards honor the Cincy Region's Hospitality Industry's shining stars, storytellers, champions and supporters

Each year, Visit Cincy presents the Spirit Awards - one of the highest honors for individuals and businesses moving Cincinnati forward as a premier destination through their contributions to the hospitality industry. 

The winner of each of the award categories will be recognized at the CVB's Annual Meeting. Past winners have included Jean-Robert De Cavel, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Bootsy Collins, and Honorary Reds Batboy Teddy Kremer, among others.

Nominations can be submitted by managers, co-workers, customers, and others. Please help us recognize individuals or businesses helping the Cincinnati region forge ahead by bringing in new business, earning national acclaim, and ushering in progress. Nominees for the 2023 Awards will honor service in 2023 and be awarded and the 2024 Annual Meeting (Jan. 31, 2024).

2023 Spirit of Cincinnati Award Winners:

The Visit Cincy Spirit of Cincinnati Awards recognizes the influencers and advocates of the local hospitality region who have gone above and beyond to drive the Cincinnati region forward.

Jean-Robert de Cavel Champion Awards, recognizes those who have worked directly with the Visit Cincy team to bring important meetings to the Cincy region. The honorees are:

Mayor Aftab Pureval, City of Cincinnati, Jeff Berding, Co-CEO of FC Cincinnati, Terry Slaybaugh, JobsOhio, Kimm Lauterbach, REDI Cincinnati, Pete Blackshaw, Cintrifuse, Brendon Cull, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Gary Lindgren, Cincinnati Business Committee, Keizayla Fambro and Jack Willingham, Office of the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati, Steve Loftin, Cincinnati Arts Association

·    This committee collaborated on the bid effort to ensure that Black Tech Week would maintain Cincinnati as its home for the next three years.

Denise Young, Jon Halusek & Dan Kowalski, Fraternal of Police

·    Working with the Ohio FOP in Columbus, local police representatives championed for the state meeting to be held in Sharonville at the Delta Hotel. Following a successful site visit, the group booked both a board meeting in April of this year, and the State Convention in 2025.

Mary Jo and Brennan Dean, Midwest Home School

·    As an annual convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center, Visit Cincy worked with Mary Jo and Brennan Dean to find an alternative location for 2025 during the Center’s closure for reinvention. They showed their dedication to the city and its hospitality industry by signing contracts to return to the newly renovated Duke Energy Convention Center in 2026 and 2027.

Jay and Beth Basil, Cincy Flames Baseball

·    Cincy Flames has been a valued partner with Visit Cincy since 2004. Every year, Cincy Flames hosts tournaments where they use multiple baseball facilities including college fields, a minor league ball park, several high school and community fields, as well as more than 56 hotels throughout the entire region, resulting in more than 16,000 room nights per year.

Dr. Patrick Muck, TriHealth

·    When the Midwestern Vascular Surgical Society needed a host city for its 2025 Annual Meeting, Dr. Muck suggested Cincinnati. The meeting planners were introduced to Visit Cincy, and chose to meet here at the Hilton Netherland Plaza.

Jeffrey Raser, John Yung, Matthew Shad, Elizabeth Boland, Congress for the New Urbanism

·    Congress for the New Urbanism is a national organization with a mission to champion walkable, socially just, economically robust, environmentally resilient, and people centered places. This event will be taking place at destinations all throughout our region this May.

Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award recognizes those whose actions have attracted positive media coverage of the Cincy region. The honorees are:

Candace McGraw, President and CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

·    CVG competed with many regional airports to win a coveted direct British Airways flight to London. The announcement that Cincinnati was chosen for the route led to more than six million media impressions. On June 5, the first flight landed at CVG, and on board were eight travel journalists, and many more followed. Coverage of the new flight and the Cincy Region as a place to visit reached more than a billion people, with an ad equivalency of $2.3 billion dollars.

The Banks Community Authority and Holy Grail Tavern & Grille

·    As the Taylor Swift tour started, it was quickly determined that the Banks would become the home base for Swifties locally. "Swiftinnati" offered a safe space for fans to gather and also offered a media room for visiting journalists to have a place to rest and learn more about the region. Cincinnati was featured in more than 300 stories leading up to and after the concert, including a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal. In total Cincinnati saw more than 446,000 media impressions and an ad equivalency of more than $7 million dollars.  

Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award honors people and organizations that demonstrate sustained commitment to diversity through leadership in areas like supplier diversity and workforce development. The honoree is:

Candice Matthews Brackeen, Founder and CEO of Lightship Foundation and Owner of Black Tech Week

·    Black Tech Week amplifies innovators of color on a global stage – and with it being located here in Cincy – it brings more opportunities to our own community. Overall, the event introduced 3,000 founders to the region, and 60% reported they would consider relocating here because of the positive experience.

Partnership Award recognizes an individual or organization that partnered with the CVB to make significant contributions to the local meetings and tourism industry. The honorees are those who collaborated on an effort called “Love Cincy Tennis,” a campaign to keep the Cincinnati Open tennis tournament in Mason:

Warren County Commissioner Dave Young; Warren County Convention & Visitors

Bureau President and CEO Phil Smith; Eric Hanson, Mason City Manager; Michele Blair, Director of Economic Development with the City of Mason; Jackie Reau, CEO of Game Day Communications; Gary Lindgren, President of the Cincinnati Business Committee; Anastasia Mileham, President of Cincinnati Experience; Jim Amick, USTA Ohio Valley Territory CEO; and Kimm Lauterbach, REDI Cincinnati President & CEO

The Wendell P. Dabney Award recognizes an individual or organization that has diversified the hospitality industry. The honorees are:

Alicia Reece, Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Denise Driehaus, Hamilton County Commissioners for The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame.

·    This Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame is an immersive, cultural landmark that celebrates this region’s Black musicians, songwriters and industry professionals and their impact across the world. Inductees have shaped every form of music from funk, jazz, pop, gospel, hip-hop, classical, R&B and rock. The entertaining and interactive exhibit has quickly become a top attraction, which is free and open to the public to enjoy.

Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service honors an individual on the front line of the hospitality industry who sets an example through excellent customer service and pride in the Cincy community. The honoree is:

Belinda Cottingham, Oak View Group at Duke Energy Convention Center

·    Belinda serves as a security and as a guest services representative. She is one of the first people visitors see when they walk into the center and she always greats everyone with a smile and a warm welcome. She gives people directions, give recommendations for attractions and other events going on in the city. She even makes dinner reservations for people that need them. Belinda is a true ambassador for the city.

Spirit Award Categories:

This award honors an individual on the front line of the hospitality industry who sets an example through excellent customer service and pride in the Cincinnati community.

The Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award recognizes an individual or organization that has played a key role in attracting positive media coverage of the Cincy region.

This award is presented to those who support the mission of Visit Cincy, the convention & visitors bureau, through collaboration, support and advocacy.