Finger Lakes Visitors Connection Celebrates 35 Years & Honors Tourism’s Finest 

Those honored include, top row: Suzanne and Ruud Vullers, Fred Lightfoote, Elke Schmitt, Michael Joseph, Anne Mancilla (for Marjorie Morris), Joel Richter and Valerie Knoblauch. Bottom row: Susie Atvell, Julie Sherwood, Katie Brahm, John French and Sherry Brahm-French.

Legacy Awards Recognize Outstanding Contributions to Ontario County Tourism

Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, the official tourism promotion agency for Ontario County, held its Tourism Legacy Awards on Monday, May 13. The Legacy Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, demonstrated marketing or service excellence, or developed outstanding products for the Ontario County tourism industry. Over 130 individuals, businesses and organizations have been honored since 1993. Held at New York Beer Project in Victor, Finger Lakes Visitors Connection also celebrated its 35th anniversary.

“For over three decades, Finger Lakes Visitors Connection has been working with our industry friends to promote tourism for Ontario County,” said Valerie Knoblauch, president and CEO of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection.  “We are proud to honor the leaders of this great industry and 35 years of our tourism program in Ontario County.”

A special award was designated this year for the Visitors Connection’s dear friend, John Brahm. The John H. Brahm III Legacy Award was created as a signature award to honor his legacy of leadership. John was an entrepreneur, friend, mentor, and tireless promoter of the Finger Lakes wine and tourism industry. 

John H. Brahm III Legacy Award
John H. Brahm III was respected and had received recognition for his leadership and innovation to the hospitality and tourism industry of Ontario County; including leadership in acquiring the land for the County Road 12 Scenic Overlook in the Town of South Bristol, and the entrepreneurial start-ups of the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail and the ROC/FLX Craft Beverage Trail. John was also engaged in other community activities including the Rotary Club (where he had 48 year of perfect attendance), the South Bristol Historical Society and numerous other Naples not-for-profits. John was one of Ontario County’s legendary entrepreneurs and was admired for his good humor, dedication, responsibility, leadership and selfless giving of time and talents.

This year’s other Legacy Award winners included:

Signature Legacy Award
Michael Joseph, Naples Valley Visitors Association, Naples
Michael Joseph is the glue that holds the Naples Valley Visitors Association together, making Naples a premier tourism destination. His work to grow membership, promote community businesses, lead teams that organize annual events and his ability to keep communication open among members, is invaluable to the success of Naples as a thriving community.

Community Philanthropy
Marjorie Morris, Posthumously, Clifton Springs
Marjorie Morris was honored posthumously for her work to transform downtown Clifton Springs into the picturesque, thriving village it is today. The vast majority of tourism in Clifton Springs exists due to the passion and inspiration of Marjorie and her husband, Drew, who transformed and provided long-term support for the Village, creating what is known locally as the “Morris Effect.” 

Elke Schmitt, Ray’s Restaurant, Canandaigua
From her days of owning and running a catering business, to working as a wedding coordinator, to her current position at Ray’s Restaurant, Elke has always been committed to giving great service and ensuring her customers always have the best experience possible.

Behind the Scenes
Joel Richter, Friends of the Railroad, Manchester
Joel’s passion for his community and for growing awareness of Ontario County’s railroad history has provided many people with the opportunity to visit, get aboard, and experience past and present railroad transportation.

Marketing Excellence
Susie Atvell, Owner, Kindred Fare, Geneva
Kindred Fare’s Susie Atvell is a thoughtful, dynamic restaurateur, who has created what she describes as a “spirited cookery,” that serves dishes and beverages made with fresh, local ingredients in a rustic, yet contemporary atmosphere.

Business Innovation
Suzanne & Ruud Vullers, Owners, Mountain Horse Farm
Situated on 33 peaceful acres with stunning views and 3 miles of walking trails, Mountain Horse Farm is an example of experiential travel at its best. From the Horse and Cow Wellness Experiences, to the traditional Sioux Indian Tipis, and the Doggie Hotel, Suzanne and Ruud have created a unique way to connect, interact and have fun, while relaxing.

Supporting Contributions to Tourism
Julie Sherwood, Senior Reporter, Messenger Post Newspapers, Canandaigua
Julie’s coverage of Ontario County’s tourism industry is at the heart of what local newspapers are all about — providing in-depth stories on local activities and events that help us see, know, care and understand our community. Her articles educate, engage and build understanding of important issues that affect us and our community.

Advocacy & Partnership
Fred Lightfoote, Town of Gorham Supervisor, Gorham
As a member of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, representing the Town of Gorham, Fred Lightfoote serves on the Planning & Environmental Quality Committee which oversees Tourism Promotion for Ontario County. He is a longtime supporter and advocate for tourism, helping to spread the positive message about tourism, its close integration with agriculture and its impact on Ontario County. 

The travel and tourism industry employ more than 4700 people in Ontario County and generates more than $213 million in visitor spending. The marketing and tourism experts of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection work with the county Board of Supervisors, Economic Development, and regional and state tourism promotion agencies to leverage expertise on how best to brand the visitor experiences of Ontario County and make it a premiere travel destination.

Finger Lakes Visitors Connection is the official tourism promotion agency for Ontario County. It is located at 25 Gorham St., Canandaigua, NY 14424. For more information on FLVC, call (585) 394-3915 or go to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *