State tourism officials honored a former NASCAR driver and Charlotte’s deputy city manager during a luncheon Monday at the Westin Hotel.
Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development were on hand to announce the recipients of the Winner’s Circle awards, which honor people who have made significant contributions to the growth of the state tourism industry.
The 2014 honorees include NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty; Horace Holden, Aurelia Kennedy and Payson Kennedy, founders of the Nantahala Outdoor Center; and Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.
“We congratulate this year’s recipients for their lasting impact on tourism in the state,” McCrory said in a statement. “Tourism is such an important economic driver for us, and it’s visionaries like these who have helped develop all the diverse and unique attractions we enjoy in North Carolina.”
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Petty, a charter member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, is the most decorated driver in NASCAR history with a record 200 career wins and seven NASCAR Cup championships, the statement said.
Born in Level Cross, Petty began his NASCAR career when he was 21 and drove 1,184 races. Often referred to as “The King,” Petty has been elected to the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame, North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
A decade ago, Petty donated 84 acres to establish Victory Junction, a camp for chronically ill children, in honor of grandson Adam Petty, who died while practicing for a race. Petty’s NASCAR history, his race shop and museum, and his support of tourism in Randolph County contributed to tourism in North Carolina, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Holden, the Kennedys were recognized for founding the Nantahala Outdoor Center in 1972. The venture became one of the world’s premier guide services, helping produce more than 20 Olympic athletes, including Horace Holden Jr., the statement said.
The enterprise grew to include treks on the Nantahala and six other rivers, a paddling school, kayak tours, fly fishing, hiking, a zipline adventure park, bike rentals, retail and the River’s End Restaurant.
Kimble, Charlotte’s deputy city manager, has helped established new signatures of Charlotte tourism, according to the statement. Kimble, whose responsibilities encompass hospitality and tourism, economic development, redevelopment and intergovernmental relations, joined the city staff in 2000.
Kimble has led initiatives including the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Levine Center for the Arts, AAA Baseball, the U.S. National Whitewater Center and the N.C. Music Factory.
Most recently he helped negotiate to bring the 2014 Triple-A National Championship Game to BB&T Ballpark, the Charlotte Knights’ soon-to-open stadium, according to the statement.
McCrory participated in the Winner’s Circle awards luncheon in Charlotte as part of the three-day Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The state’s largest gathering of the tourism industry brings together nearly 500 leaders from resorts, attractions, destination marketing organizations, hotels/motels, real estate rental companies, restaurants and retail outlets each year to learn about the latest trends and issues facing the travel industry, the statement said.