Dynamic Variation:

Hospitality High Five Awards

Traverse City Tourism (TCT) is excited to recognize the hard-working, creative, welcoming, and tenacious individuals who make our hospitality industry thrive! The Hospitality High Five Awards will be a first-of-their-kind recognition for hospitality professionals in the greater Grand Traverse region, with ten awards that showcase the talents and personal drive of the thousands of people who support our thriving industry.   


Nominees must be employees or owners of a business that is engaged in delivering hospitality experiences, such as lodging, food and beverage, attractions, events, or retail. We welcome any hospitality business or organization to participate, with two requirements: (1) the business must be located in Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, or Antrim County; and (2) for the lodging-specific awards, the business must be a TCT lodging member.

We love newcomers to the industry, but for this recognition, we are seeking those who have been employed in hospitality for at least two years. We welcome you to include nominees who may work here on a seasonal basis, as well.  

Anyone can nominate! Nominations should be submitted using the official nomination form. If you’re nominating someone, please be prepared to share a compelling explanation (500-word limit) of why they are being nominated and tell us what makes them a superstar! We would love to hear personal stories, customer feedback, volunteer work, hobbies, etc., and we welcome you to share additional documents to the nomination including other letters of recommendation, news stories, testimonials, etc. 

We request each nominator’s contact information so we may reach out to learn more about the nominee if we have questions, so please include your contact information. If you wish to remain anonymous to the nominee, simply let us know.

Congratulations to our 2024 Award Winners

  • Front of House (Lodging) – Stephanie Gray – Crystal Mountain

  • Front of House (All Venues) – Rachel Payne – Shorts Brewing

  • Back of House (Lodging) – Aurora Bernal – Sleep Inn & Suites/Brio Beach Inn

  • Back of House (All Venues) – Maria Leggett – Broomstack Kitchen & Taphouse

  • Seasonal – Jayson Spaulding – Crystal Mountain

  • Rookie of the Year – Lilyona Macguire – Tru by Hilton

  • Sales/Marketing/Finance – Kristin Toedebusch – Superior Hospitality

  • Festival & Events – Kat Paye – The Festival Foundation (National Cherry Festival)

  • Hospitality All Star – Kimberly Zacharias – Black Star Farms

  • Leadership – Michaelene V’Soske – Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

2024 Hospitality High Five Winners


Nominees may be included for consideration in multiple categories, if applicable, but may only win in one category.

  • Front of House – All venues - This guest relations whiz might tend bar, serve you a fine meal, or help you feel special and valued at whatever venue you might be visiting...they have a knack for knowing what you need and saying just the right thing. 
  • Front of the House - Lodging only - Honoring a non-management employee of a TCT Lodging Member who goes above and beyond their normal job responsibilities, showcasing their knack for customer service.
  • Back of House – All venues - This member of the back-of-house team strives to make sure every sip or bite or visit is perfect. This might be a cook, winemaker or brewer, or perhaps a runner or dishwasher. This is someone who provides the energy, the creative genius, and extreme care for the product they’re producing.
  • Back of House - Lodging only – Honoring those who work behind the scenes at a TCT Lodging Member to make the customer experience exceptional. This dedicated, hard-working individual goes above and beyond to support the business and their colleagues. 
  • Sales / Marketing / Finance - Lodging only – This is a key member of the team who helps keep business humming, whether through their marketing genius, by reaching new sales records, ensuring there is a steady stream of events on-site, or helping ensure the bottom line is always in the black. Open only to employees of TCT Lodging Members.
  • Rookie of the Year - This award highlights the importance of newcomers to the industry and will be given to a high school student who is making a difference, showcasing a great work ethic and positive attitude.
  • Seasonal Employee Award – Recognizing that many of our favorite businesses and activities are seasonal (think: skiing, harvesting, kayaking, beach attendants, ice cream making, tour guides, seasonal lodging), this award is specific to someone who may not work year-round in hospitality or may not even be a full-time resident.
  • Festivals / Events / Attractions Employee or Executive – This category recognizes a rockstar who helps deliver one of the region’s iconic events, attractions or festivals. They might be supporting a critical piece of the operation or orchestrating the whole thing, but either way, they are driven, enthusiastic, and a worthy ambassador of the Traverse City region. 
  • Hospitality All Star Award – This non-executive employee might come from anywhere in the biz but they are the heart, the soul, the all-star. This is your chance to recognize your business’ top performer who you couldn’t live without. Tell us all about why they are so important to you and to the success of the business! 
  • Leadership Award – This award recognizes a business owner, general manager, or other executive who is leading the way to the future of hospitality in the Traverse City region. Perhaps they are a creative guru with innovative business practices or a partner lending advice and support to newcomers in the industry; maybe they have delivered outsized amounts of mentorship and support to their teams and colleagues within the industry; or, they may be giving back to the community and serving beyond what’s expected. Whatever the approach, this leader is a key part of making this destination exceptional.