Local chamber is big winner at regional tourism awards event

Published 2:58 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

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By Lynn J. Richardson
The Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce won big at the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s annual Pinnacle Awards program held Tuesday at The Heritage in Jonesborough.

This event honors the top performers in tourism-related promotion, development, and individual achievement throughout the region.

The local Chamber won Pinnacle Awards in all four categories they entered, including Brochure or Guide, Carter County Visitor Guide, Seth Hice, Designer and Media Coordinator, Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce; Print Ad, Allegiant Nonstop Life, Carter County Tourism, Seth Hice, Designer and Media Coordinator, Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce; Long Video, Explore Carter County, Erik Kitchens, Filmmaker; and Short Video, Carter County Christmas, Erik Kitchens, Filmmaker.

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“We love representing Carter County and sharing the great outdoors with tourists as well as our locals,” said Joy McCray, Executive Director for the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s so much to offer here and being highlighted with these awards is so special for us. Thank you to Erik Kitchens, and the hard work of the Chamber staff for making these Pinnacle Awards possible. We appreciate NETTA and all they do to support tourism in our area.”

The Pinnacle Awards are a significant spotlight for the massive impact tourism has on Carter County, according to Director of Tourism, Luke Freeman.

“We were honored to receive these four Pinnacle Awards highlighting the work we’re doing to grow tourism in Carter County,” Freeman said. “In 2021 Carter County saw over $50 million in economic impact from tourist spending, which goes a long way in supporting local businesses and providing local tax dollars.”

Erik Kitchens, a filmmaker from Elizabethton, directed the production of the two winning videos and says it is “an honor” to share his love of the community through his filmmaking.

The inspiration for the “Christmas in Elizabethton” concept came to Kitchens as he joined his wife, Kelly Kitchens, of the Elizabethton Parks and Recreations Department, McCray and Jenni Greenwell of Carter County Bank at the opening evening of the Skate by the Doe Ice Rink

“It was amazing seeing the town celebrating and feeling excited for the season,” Kitchens said. “The feel that opening night felt like a Hallmark card, so I pitched them the idea of a 1990s style Christmas commercial revolving around Christmas time in Elizabethton.”

Kitchens designed his other Pinnacle award-winning video, “Explore Carter County,” based on the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce’s ideas of what they wanted the viewers to see and feel as they watched the video. It was a project he described as “easy” because of beautiful scenery, landmarks, activities, businesses and people – all of which “inspired the project.”

Seth Hice, Media Coordinator for the Chamber, who designed two of the award-winning entries said, “It’s so great to live and work in Carter County. We truly have something for everyone with a growing downtown, pristine lakes and breathtaking views.

“I enjoy the opportunity to represent the wonderful assets we have to share and am thankful for the recognition that our efforts have received through the Pinnacle Awards. The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s annual Pinnacle Awards program began in 1997 and pays tribute to the industry’s top performers, projects and individuals.

Nominations are reviewed by a panel of unbiased judges and exemplary projects are selected as Pinnacle Awards winners.