So far this year we’ve all been exposed to the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Grammys, the Academy of Country Music awards just last Sunday, and more.
But now let’s hear it for another category of celebrity honored at a Boise awards banquet and ceremony earlier this week: the folks whose careers are dedicated to hospitality in the Treasure Valley service industry.
They make your day at local restaurants and attractions. They make your convention arrangements, coffee and cocktails. They turn down the sheets and tweak thermostats in your hotel rooms. They ferry you around in their buses, limos and taxi cabs. They know you like your eggs over-easy, and they pick up the signals when you’ve had a hard-boiled day.
Monday — the traditional day off in the service industry — was their turn at Century Link Arena to be schmoozed, entertained and recognized at the first-ever ROSE awards: the Recognition of Service Excellence award.
The idea for ROSE came up just a few months ago at a brainstorming session of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce and affiliates. Sarah Cortez, an account manager, shared how some communities have been honoring their service employees for decades. Wasn’t it time for a place like the Treasure Valley — with $1.3 billion spent annually on tourism and an exploding travel and tourism scene that is rolling out new hotels, restaurants and attractions — to set aside an evening to fete the hospitality corps around here?
Cortez and Carrie Westergard, who runs the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau, surmised that if the Treasure Valley wants to be “the most welcoming community in America,” a good place to start is to acknowledge the workforce that does most of the welcoming for visitors and local customers.
It’s the servers, drivers, concierges and convention organizers who put a face and an attitude on hospitality, the folks who offer the first impressions as guests arrive in town until it’s time for “wheels up” at the airport when they depart.
On Monday, 20 finalists representing seven categories in the local service industry were introduced by a master of ceremonies on a big stage where their images and profiles were introduced on a mega-screen. It was just like the big time, complete with envelopes, as the winners were announced and summoned to the stage in each category: Dining/Bar; Attractions; Transportation; Behind the Scenes; Accommodations; Volunteers and Spirit of Hospitality.
Finalists and winners must be non-managerial and hold no ownership in the company. They were chosen from a combination of 1,900 public votes and a panel of tourism professionals.
Along the way we learned that a server at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Kiona Elkins, has so impressed customers that she’s twice been tipped to the tune of $1,000. We learned that immigrants and refugees, such as Mahamudi Muganga, who came from Africa, have dedicated their new-world careers to making visitors feel safe and special at places like Homewood Suites. Sapiel Bolanos, the breakfast bar/catering supervisor at SpringHill Suites at Boise Park Center, became the No. 1 fan of a visiting youth soccer team participating in the Far West Soccer Tournament in 2015. Sapiel attended every game. In 2016, the coach called Sapiel’s boss to let him know the team was playing for the championship. Sapiel attended, and the team won.
Westergard says planning for this year’s ROSE awards was a bit rushed, but plans already are underway for 2018. “This year, it was kind of like a start-up,” she said. “But we’re already making changes. For instance, we’re looking to add new categories, such as retail. We’ll be updating and putting out nominations earlier.”
Kudos to getting the ROSE awards under way to recognize the people who do the hard work of making the community work day in and day out. And congratulations to the thousands of service-industry workers who have the critical job of building relationships with tourists and visitors.
Boise’s first-ever ROSE awards finalists and winners (in italics)
▪ Dining/Bar: Louise OldenKamp, Even Stevens; Kiona Elkins, Ruth’s Chris Steak House; Melissa Gould, Chandler’S
▪ Attractions: Zach Reynolds, Bogus Basin; Darren Caskey, CenturyLink Arena; Evangel McVicker, Indulge Boise.
▪ Transportation: Keith Shannon, Enterprise Rent-A-Car; JR Pol, Caldwell Transportation; Randall Beck, driver at Bob’s Taxi.
▪ Behind The Scenes: Peter Steffens, Albertsons (Vista); Mahamudi Muganga, Homewood Suites maintenance; Whitney Shepard, Special Events at Bardenay.
▪ Accommodations: David Pratt, The Riverside Hotel; Martha Rodriguez, Hampton Inn & Suites (downtown); Sapiel Bolanos, SringHill Suites Boise Parkcenter; Vicki Kibler, Fairfield Inn Boise.
▪ Volunteer Category: Karlee May, Downtown Boise Association; Janice Nally, Boise Centre; Bob Walters, court monitor at BAM JAM (Bob passed away last August).
▪ Spirit Of Hospitality: Tina Upson, LiveRez.com
Additional event information can be found at www.boise.org/rose-awards.