Five winners from among a nominee list of events, attractions and organizations were chosen by a panel of impartial travel writers to receive the 2018 Southern Delaware Tourism Awards.

The awards were presented Dec. 6 at the annual Southern Delaware Tourism Awards Luncheon held at The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro.

Tourism in Sussex County generates $1.7 billion in gross domestic product annually and supports 18,000 jobs. These annual awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made contributions to the enrichment of the tourism economy in Sussex County in the past year.

Winners were named in each of four categories in 2018 including Best New Event, Best Event, Best Attraction and Tourism Partner of the Year.

Two events tied for the Best New Event award — Fire & Ice Festival and Ladybug Music Festival. Held over a late-January weekend, the inaugural Fire & Ice Festival, organized by the Bethany Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and the first and only ice festival in Delaware, drew about 4,000 visitors from 12 states who saw 22 ice sculptures along the sculpture tour, live demonstrations, ice rink, culinary tour, performances by Guinness World Record-holding fire juggler Cascading Carlos and more. The first Sussex County Ladybug Music Festival was held in September throughout downtown Milford and attracted between 2,500 and 3,000 visitors.

The award for Best Event went to the Mid-Atlantic Sea Glass and Coastal Arts Festival. Total attendance in 2018 was nearly 70 sea glass and coastal art vendors and 4,000 people over two days.

The Best Attraction award went to The Freeman Stage. Through 11 seasons, more than a half a million patrons and guests have enjoyed an arts performance ranging from the Mid-Atlantic Orchestra to OAR. In 2018, The Freeman Stage welcomed more than 58,000 patrons to 67 performances featuring 28 national recording artists. Nearly half of all ticket buyers traveled from outside a 50-mile radius of the venue; in fact, ticket buyers came from 36 of the 50 states and contributed, in total, an estimated $3M to the local economy in 2018.

The Tourism Partner of the Year is Delaware State Parks Delaware State Parks, Sussex County, which includes Cape Henlopen State Park and Fort Miles Historical Area, Delaware Seashore State Park, Holts Landing State Park, Fenwick Island State Park and Trap Pond State Park. With more than 3 million visitors and more than $290 million in economic impact in fiscal 2019, Southern Delaware state park officials work with Southern Delaware Tourism, serving on the Outdoor and History committees, facilitating the development of a shared online event calendar, providing photos, graphics and information to assist SDT with social media promotion, participating in writers’ familiarization trips and more. They host family-friendly events throughout the year in Southern Delaware State Parks.

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