Blackstone Valley Tourism Council announces 2013 award winners

Blackstone Valley Tourism Council announces 2013 award winners

Honoring those who make the Blackstone Valley "a better place to live and work," the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council will hold its 28th annual meeting and award ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 3, at Twin River Event Center, 100 Twin River Road in Lincoln.

Donna Houle, manager of special projects for the Pawtucket-based organization that promotes art and culture in the cities and towns north of Providence, said the tourism council believes it is important to recognize area organizations and businesses.

"It's people who make a difference in the community," she said. BVTC will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 40-passenger riverboat, Blackstone Valley Exporer, a tour boat that since 1993 has taken more than 25,000 passengers annually out on the Blackstone River to learn about the river's role in the Industrial Revolution.

This year's award recognitions are:

* Footprints in History - Stillwater Mill Complex, Harrisville.

This award, "to highlight a historical building or place and bring it to the forefront," Houle explained, will be given to the once abandoned mill that has been transformed into residential apartments and retail space. It is now home to the town's Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library.

* Blackstone Valley Distinction in Business - Central Falls Provisions, Central Falls; and Athena's Home Novelties, Woonsocket.

Three generations of the Skoczylka family have kept the business of creating kielbasas and specialty sausages going for 90 years, since it opened in 1923.

"We think that's something to celebrate," Houle said.

Houle said that Athena's, an adult novelty business based in Woonsocket and owned by Jennifer Jolicoeur, should be recognized for being led by a woman and earning national recognition. The business also works to raise money for breast cancer research.

* Blackstone Valley Excellence in Arts and Business - Herb Weiss, Pawtucket's economic and cultural affairs officer.

"He's done a lot for the city of Pawtucket," Houle said. "He's very instrumental in the Pawtucket Arts Festival."

Weiss brings business to the city, Houle said, and has worked to establish an arts presence.

* Rhode Island Achievement in Renewable Initiatives and Sustainable Tourism Award, or ARISTA - Blackstone River Theatre, Cumberland.

The theater on Broad Street in Cumberland opened in 1996, renovating the former Unity Masonic Lodge with support by the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, the town of Cumberland and several area businesses. The work was spearheaded by Russell Gusetti and Bob Drouin, also of the Rhode Island based Celtic and folk band Pendragon.

"It's really great that they're bringing this type of music to northern Rhode Island," Houle said, adding that they highlight the immigrant experience in New England. "They're very deserving of this because of all the work they do in the area."

* New England ARISTA - William Cantania, president of Cantania Hospitality Group.

The Hyannis, Mass.-based company is celebrating its 40th year in business, owning and operating a collection of Massachusetts hotels, spas and restaurants, including the Hearth & Kettle.

* National ARISTA - Alex and Ani LLC, Cranston.

Designed by Carolyn Rafaelian and made in America out of recycled materials, the Alex and Ani jewelry business has expanded to include Teas & Javas, Sakonnet Vineyards and the Belcourt Castle mansion.

"We really believe in their mission statement," Houle said, "and they support communities and organizations."

* William Blackstone Society Inductions - Michael Hebert, Rhode Island Department of Transportation supervising historical preservationist and archaeologist; and Daryl Sherman, internationally acclaimed singer and pianist.

Hebert has worked for RIDOT for 24 years, and also serves on the American-French Genealogical Society, National Register Review Board of the Rhode Island Preservation & Heritage Commission, Association of Transportation Archaeologists, and the Rhode Island Historical Records Advisory Board.

Hebert is responsible for the care of archives found during state digs.

"He archives all these things that have Rhode Island roots," Houle said.

Sherman, a Woonsocket native, performed for 14 years at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. She has won recognition and awards for her jazz and cabaret talents, as well as working as artistic director for several performances.

Sherman and Grammy award-winner Mike Renzi will perform a half-hour show during dinner, which Houle said will be "the highlight of the night."

The event reception and silent auction begin at 5:30 p.m., and dinner starts at 7 p.m. Award recognitions take place at 8 p.m. Cost is $59 per person, or $550 for a table of 10. Proceeds will go to the BVTC.

Reserve a spot by visiting or calling 401-724-2200.