Upon hearing the boater’s plight, casino employee Jacques Fillion raced home to grab his diving gear. He put his scuba skills to the test and dove into the water, locating and cutting the tangled line while making sure no damage had been done.
Mr. Fillion’s story was told to a rowdy gathering of the tourism industry elite celebrating Ottawa Tourism’s Stars of the City Recognition Evening on Wednesday.
The event saw more than 400 tourism industry insiders gather at the Algonquin School of Hospitality & Tourism to celebrate the achievements of its frontline staff during the 17th annual awards ceremony.
When Mr. Fillion’s name was announced as the grand prize winner, he hurried on stage as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blasted through the stereo. All 42 tables at the event stood on their feet to dance, clap and holler their support. Mr. Fillion gave a thumbs up and smiled ear-to-ear as he accepted his crystal trophy in the shape of a star.
It was a feel-good evening with stories of safely returned wallets and passports, bicycles lent to visitors in need, and a hand-delivered teddy bear that had been forgotten in a hotel room.
Attendees – increasingly enthusiastic as the night wore on and the bar ran drier – used a diverse collection of noisemakers to congratulate the recipients and nominees. Maracas, clappers, whistles, squeaky toys, cow bells and a near-deafening air horn rang through the air amidst the standard hoots and hollers from the standing and dancing attendees.
Mark Sutcliffe, vice-chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and emcee of the evening, tried to keep the guests in line.
“It’s not Dancing With the Stars of the City, it’s Stars of the City,” he joked.
Ottawa Tourism CEO Noel Buckley began the ceremony with a discussion about why the tourism industry is in the business of making memories.
“(People) don’t remember where they bought their TV or their fridge, but they always remember their vacations,” he said.
A dinner preceding the awards ceremony was prepared and delivered by students training at the school of hospitality and tourism, which Mr. Buckley commended for contributing many of the city’s tourism employees.
Indeed, when this wayward reporter lost her way in the mazeline campus off Baseline Road, she was personally guided to the ceremony by a friendly student; a true indication of the school’s penchant for hospitality.
A total of 1,211 nominations from 91 businesses in Ottawa yielded 22 finalists and eight award winners at the awards ceremony.
The winners were as follows:
Jacques Fillion, Casino du Lac Leamy (Above & Beyond Award, grand prize)
Vera Mahoney, Ottawa International Airport Authority (What’s Lost is Found Award)
Eric Hyatt, citizen of Ottawa (Stars with Heart Award)
Awesome Ottawa Organization (The Metropolitan Award)
Andrew Van Der Hoeven, Westin Ottawa (Go the Extra Mile Award)
Tereza Ropetska, Southway Hotel & Conference Centre (Host[ess] With the Most[est] Award)
Lisa Armstrong, Ottawa Marriott Hotel (Evening Star Award)
Les Suites Hotel (Star Property Award)