Visit South Walton Celebrates Local Artists, Hospitality Leaders and Businesses

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Community Programs Sept 2019 Varney

Did you know that the Walton County Tourist Development Council does more than just promote visitation to South Walton?

In addition to purchasing property for beach accesses and parking, and maintaining more than 60 beach, bay and lake accesses, the TDC also invests in the community through a series of community programs – the South Walton Artist of the Year Award, the Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award and the Perfect in South Walton Awards.

Let’s take a closer look at each program.

South Walton Artist of the Year

Entering its 18th year in 2020, the South Walton Artist of the Year program continues to showcase local art. Through this program, the TDC promotes the destination’s thriving art community while placing the spotlight on one talented local artist annually.

From Kathleen Broaderick and Justin Gaffrey to Marisol Gullo, Allison Wickey and Andy Saczynski, some of the most recognizable names in the South Walton art scene have been honored as Artist of the Year.

For some it’s validation of their craft and years of hard work. For others, who may be relatively new to the area, it can serve as a launching pad.

For 2019 Artist of the Year Jenna Varney, the honor was a complete surprise, especially when looking at the artists who had been honored before her.

“There was a lot of screaming and a lot of jumping around,” she remembers. “To be up there with such talent, it’s almost unreal.”

The 2020 South Walton Artist of the Year will be announced during the annual Perfect in South Walton Awards which will be held in January 2020.

Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award

Established in 2003, the Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award recognizes excellence in hospitality service, travel/tourism marketing, advertising, promotion, and contributions to the local community.

The award honors the legacy of service embodied by the Van Ness Butler family who acquired the land now known as Grayton Beach in 1922. The Butler family built the Grayton Beach Hotel, and through their family’s passion, determination, and energy set the stage for the developing tourism industry.

Following his grandfather’s legacy, Van Ness Butler, Jr. served as the first chairman of the Walton County TDC, as interim executive director for two years and on the Tourist Development Council for more than 13 years.

Through the Van Ness Butler Jr. Award, true visionaries and leaders in the South Walton community have been recognized. Previous winners include Seaside founder Robert Davis, Malcolm Patterson (the first director of the Walton County TDC), co-founder and owner of Newman-Daily Resort Properties Jeanne Dailey, 30A company founder Mike Ragsdale and Lino Maldonado, vice president of operations, growth and innovation for Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America.

As the 2019 recipient, Tracy Louthain is a tireless promoter of the South Walton story, and knows the importance of the economic impact that tourism and hospitality spreads throughout Walton County.

“Our way of life is funded in large part through visitor spending, which translates into paychecks that are reinvested in our community and revenue from sales tax that helps fund education and infrastructure needs in Walton County,” she says. “From master planned communities to the businesses that have opened to provide conveniences for residents and visitors alike, tourism shapes our community and provides us an improved quality of life.”

Nominees for the Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award are selected for their contributions to the community, innovation and collaboration with other community businesses or organizations to enhance Walton County’s standing as a destination.

Nominations for the Van Ness Butler Jr. Award will open in Spring 2020.

Perfect in South Walton

South Walton’s local businesses play a huge role in the visitor experience, so it should come as no surprise that the TDC shines light on the hardworking men and women who make it all possible through the annual Perfect in South Walton Awards.

This community program is promoted nationally, and invites both visitors and locals to recommend and vote on their “perfect” places in South Walton, whether it be an art gallery, a favorite boutique or one of the 200-plus restaurants serving up world-class cuisine.

Categories range from best fine dining and best casual dining to best wine list, best event, best live music venue and best clothing boutique just to name a few. All told, there are 30 categories and businesses vie for Diamond, Platinum and Gold honors.

All Perfect in South Walton Award winners are featured in the Perfect in South Walton brochure, which is mailed to potential visitors, and is available at the Visit South Walton Visitor’s Center and on the Visit South Walton website (

Want to help keep people talking about your favorite business or event year-round? Head to to nominate them. Winners will be announced during the annual Perfect in South Walton Awards in January 2020.

To learn more about these community awareness programs, contact Lisa Foster, industry relations specialist at Visit South Walton, at (850) 267-1216 or

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