As part of its celebration for National Travel and Tourism Week, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority (South Shore CVA) held a mixer event at the Hammond Indiana Welcome Center on May 4 as a way to showcase why the Region is the place to be for anyone looking for a great time in the state.
The event welcomed businesspeople in Northwest Indiana and the South Shore CVA staff to network with one another over great conversation and great food sponsored by the numerous restaurants that have partnered with the tourism organization.
“This is our first big networking event that we've had since the pandemic,” said South Shore CVA Chief Marketing Officer Heather Becerra. “We're excited just to see partners again, and I know everyone always likes our networking events. It's nice to have all these different restaurants throughout the Region here for everybody to try and just see everybody again.”
Many notable figures in Indiana politics, both at the local and state level, were present for the event to mix and mingle while learning more about Northwest Indiana tourism. This included Congressman Frank Mrvan, State Representative Julie Olthoff, and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, who later spoke to the crowd about just how much she, an Evansville native, appreciates coming to the Region and all the wonderful features the area has to offer.
Special guest Crown Point Mayor David Uran was also in attendance as he prepares to transfer into his new role as President and CEO of the South Shore CVA next month, and everyone on the South Shore CVA team is ecstatic to welcome him on.
“We are excited. I think that he's going to bring a breath of fresh air and some new energy. Our futures are vital; we have so many opportunities now,” said Andy Qunell, chairman of the board of directors of the South Shore CVA.
Becerra has worked with numerous sporting organizations within Crown Point such as the National Softball Association World Series, Game Day USA, Millennium Soccer Association, and many more. She is looking forward to working with Uran to help bring more sports tourism to the city and all of Northwest Indiana.
“I think we're really excited,” Becerra said. “I mean, what he's done for Crown Point has been amazing, especially with sports tourism, and I think we're looking forward to seeing what we can do to work with him to do that in Northwest Indiana.”
A true Hoosier at heart, Crouch has always been fond of attending and speaking at events like the mixer. She believes everyone and every place has a story to tell, and events like these allow her to share just how much people should be proud that they come from the great State of Indiana.
“These are celebrations of diversity, of culture,” she said. “Being able to come here to the South Shore Convention is to be able to experience what the community has to offer and what the area has to offer for the people that are here for national travel and tourism reasons. It's one of the great perks of being in Indiana.”
Crouch mentioned that it is organizations like the South Shore CVA that keep Indiana’s story alive and well for all to both learn from and enjoy.
“I always say ‘Humble Hoosiers work hard.’ We put our nose to the grindstone, we'll see what's wrong, and we don't pat ourselves on the back. But we don't always get to tell our stories. And it's events like these and an organization like this that help us know the authentic story of Indiana. That's why these events are important, and that's why these organizations are important - they’re telling the story of Indiana," she said.
It’s also through events like these that local businesses get to help tell their story to the community, an aspect the South Shore CVA and their partners particularly enjoy. One such partner is Mogda Walker, who co-owns Chicagoland Popcorn in Merrillville and Gary with her husband, Dwayne.
“When you are a business owner you are literally in your business seven days a week for 10 hours, 12 hours, 14 hours a day,” Walker said. “We don't get that many opportunities to basically just get out, relax, and then network with other business owners, getting caught up on the politics of what's going on in our community and just what's happening in our community,”
A story also can’t be completed by just one person - it involves the hands of many throughout the entire process. For Qunell, the people that bring the story of Region tourism to life are the staff at the South Shore CVA. Without all their hard work, the story of Indiana tourism would remain as just ideas in the mind. The staff acts as the pen, putting ideas into action on the paper for an end product that can be loved and enjoyed by many for years to come.
“The staff is what makes this great. The staff is really what started this,” Qunell said. “They're getting new leadership and that leadership is basically to make them just accelerate behind who they've already got.”For more information on the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, visit southshorecva.com.