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60th annual Calgary White Hat Awards celebrates the ultimate host city

Back in person after a three-year hiatus, Tourism Calgary’s 60th annual White Hat Awards put on an evening with all of the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, befitting of Calgary’s hospitality industry.

The awards recognized some of Calgary’s top tourism and hospitality industry professionals, along with Calgarians in adjacent non-profit and City of Calgary departments that make the city live up to the moniker of the “ultimate host city.”

“We’re just so happy to finally be able to gather as an industry again, and celebrate,” said Cindy Ady, CEO of Tourism Calgary.

“The one thing about Calgary is that it is a tremendous host. We call ourselves the ultimate hosts, and everyone that’s ever come says ‘you know you’re actually a friendly city. Lots of people say they’re friendly. You really are.'”

The evening awarded white hats to 22 members of the tourism community, representing organizations from the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation, and Telus SPARK Science Centre among others.

Ady said the importance of the White Hat Awards was recognizing that it’s people that make the tourism industry in the city work.

“The reality is if you look at a hotel or you look at a venue, they’re just a building. It’s the people inside that bring them to life, and it’s how they treat guests what they do with them when they’re here,” she said.

Westjetters clap and cheer at 60th annual Tourism Calgary White Hat Awards at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Emotional night that celebrated new winners, and the winners who didn’t get to walk the stage

The 60th annual awards began with a video that highlighted the in-person awards given to winners during the pandemic. At the close, all of the winners from the 58th annual awards who were unable to have their own gala night due to the pandemic, took to the stage.

“We were ready in 2019. We already had the winners ready and the pandemic hit. So we had to go out individually and give them their white hats,” said Ady.

“That was kind of sad, and people cried because they were being laid off at that moment. So to know that we’re back and that we can come together and celebrate again, and we don’t have to worry about restrictions, it’s a phenomenal feeling for an industry that really had a struggle.”

Councillor Terry Wong presented the Mayor’s White Hat Award on behalf of Mayor Jyoti Gondek while she represented the city in Toronto at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference.

“It’s an honour to present the award on behalf of the Mayor. I have a lot of friends and associates who are in this industry, and they’re all sitting there going, can we catch up? Can you take a picture with us?” Coun. Wong said.

“It’s about the people that we all know who are in this industry, and we want to be there to celebrate with them.”

He said that the awards were a way, a needed way, to recognize the contributions of the tourism industry during Covid.

“Our hospitality, our restaurant, hotel industry have been a great godsend during those quiet times, we need to acknowledge that workers as well as the management that held us up,” Wong said.

The Calgary Stampede Showband performs at the 60th annual Tourism Calgary White Hat Awards at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

An amazing way to put smiles on faces

Rick Tulsie, who, among other duties for the Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation, serves as an enthusiastic tour guide for the Calgary Saddledome.

Tulsie, who was a previous winner of the Mayor’s White Hat Award, took home the award for exceptional service: Tour escort or guide.

“What a great way for the industry to meet all of us, everybody that provides amazing smiles and puts those great traditions out there,” he said.

“This is the Oscars of tourism in Calgary, and for me just to be here, honestly, tremendous, tremendous appreciation just to play with the future here of our tourism industry.”

More than 600 people were nominated by their industry peers, and more than 450 of those nominated attended the gala night at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.

Winners of the 60th annual White Hat Awards

Joanne ter Harmsel Exceptional LeaderWilder Institute/Calgary Zoo
Marvin DollentasExceptional Server: Centre CityThe Dorian, Autograph Collection
Joseph LewinExceptional Service: ShoppingModern Rentals
Anna BassiExceptional Server: NorthHotel Clique Calgary Airport
Danielle SymingtonExceptional Service: Airport/ AirlineWestJet
Constantin KosterExceptional Service: Heart of HouseCalgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation
Steve ClementExceptional Service: Volunteer Tourism/ HospitalityCalgary Philharmonic
Jun WangExceptional Service: HousekeepingThe Westin Calgary
Bjorn HeckenstallerExceptional Server: SouthThe Nash
Jim WouExceptional Service: DriverConcorde Airport Services
Susan ArthursMayor’s White Hat Award (Honorary Award)Calgary Stampede
Mark DoucetExceptional Service: Guest RelationsHotel Arts
Eirin BernieExceptional Service: AdministrationTELUS Spark Science Centre
Judilyn LuceroExceptional Service: ReservationsHyatt Regency Calgary
Henry MaiExceptional Service: Accommodation ReceptionAlt Calgary East Village
Chris TothExceptional Server: Banquets/EventsThe Fairmont Palliser
Andy SevillaExceptional Service: Beverage SpecialistCalgary Marriott Downtown Hotel
Chloe HahnExceptional Service: AttractionsBow Habitat Station
Stan LeeExceptional Service: Non-ServerCalgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation
Rick TulsieExceptional Service: Tour Escort/GuideCalgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation
Linda CraigDoug Johnson Service Award (Honorary Award)The Westley Hotel Calgary Downtown
Yra YerroExceptional Service: CulinaryCentury Downs Racetrack and Casino