The winners of 2017


New Partner of the Year

The phone rang on a chilly, late winter day this year and the voice on the other end said…” I have an idea” and the rest as they say is…history.

That one phone call, would set the stage forExplore Licking County to start a new partnership that would not only be productive and impactful, but also fun and a little bit off the wall. The idea wasn’t necessarily new, but the twist that our newest partner would put on it, was kind of revolutionary and we knew from the get go that we needed to be a part of his action. But first we did some homework and we found that: Wikipedia defines a bun as…” a small, sometimes sweet bread. Most commonly hand-sized with a round top and a flat bottom.” OK, so we sort of already knew that.

But what about the craft beer part of the idea. The Brewer’s Association of Columbus defines craft beer as…” Beer made by a brewer that is small, independent and traditional.” We sort of already knew that too…but suddenly we were intrigued by the idea of a BUN and a BEER living together…side by side…hand in hand…the way the cosmic order of the universe had always intended them to live. We continued the conversation with the 2017 New Partner of the Year IMPACT Award recipient and along with 30 local restaurants and 5 brewers, was able to pull off the first ever…Tasty Buns and Craft Beer Week.

The partnership didn’t end with this wildly successful week long event, where we were all “Eating Bigly”…it continued on into the year, as we worked with Rob Cathcart on other marketing initiatives and began the collaboration on TBCB 2. The partnership has become more than a week of crazy eating…it has become a think tank of…idea sharing and brainstorming. The mission of and Explore Licking County are so closely intertwined, that working together was as easy as piling meat on a bun and pouring beer in a glass.

2017 New Partner of the Year

Licking Eats (


Event of the Year

30 years separated the conclusion of them both.

The final days of one, were marked by ticker tape parades and celebrating in the streets. Much of Europe was left in the rubble of war and the United States had given up nearly 417,000 of her own to defend the idea of democracy and freedom. It was the highest price, but one that the greatest generation paid willingly in sacrifices great and small.

The conclusion of the other, was marked by great sadness, great confusion and great division. Tens of thousands of young men left our shores to fight a growing oppression in the jungles of a place called Vietnam. Far from the corn fields of the mid-west, far from the cities of the east coast, far from the sandy beaches of the west coast, far from home…only one in ten would return.

Decades would come and go, and to many, the memories of VE Day in the spring of 1945, and the fall of Saigon in the spring of 1975 were simply pages in history books. Their stories starting to gather dust, their pages never turned, their library cards never stamped.

But in 2017, two impassioned Licking Countians would pick up the threads of these stories and re-tell them in a way only truly inspired people can story tell…through 21 st century eyes. The 2017 Event of the Year IMPACT Award is Explore Licking County’s first ever double recipient in this category. Not because a decision couldn’t be reached, but because both recipients tirelessly labored on projects that would reflect and capture the hardship, the hell, the love and the war of two of America’s greatest conflicts.

2017 Event(s) of the Year

Licking County in Vietnam – A film by Doug Stout

World War II Traveling Memorial – Presented by the Friendship Club of Licking County


Lodging Partner of the Year

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-size grains of mineral, rock, or organic material.

It also contains a cementing material that binds the sand grains together and may contain a matrix of silt- or clay-size particles that occupy the spaces between the sand grains. Geologists estimate that it’s been part of the earth for as many as 416 million years. It’s an interesting example of the world giving up something beautiful for modern man to find, excavate and build with. Interestingly, Licking County is home to large deposits of this clastic, sedimentary rock and we love to construct with it…houses, public buildings, bridge footers…you name it and there is probably a great version of Licking County sandstone at every turn.

There’s no better example of our use of this ancient stone, than the one that sits squarely anchored in Granville. The sandstone blocks for this structure were quarried in 1922 at an estate called Bryn Du, which translated from Welsh is – “Black Hill”, and by the summer of 1924 these blocks of sand and silt had been laid into a half timber, half sandstone Inn, built to resemble the Jacobean estates of second renaissance England. The 1924 grand opening gala for this architectural wonder was attended by as many as 5,000 guests who enjoyed a lawn buffet, evening dancing, and billiards and cigars in the newly named Wales Room. It would be fair to say that 314 East Broadway had never seen such a party!

The 2017 Lodging Partner of the Year IMPACT Award recipient is no stranger to this iconic and beloved Licking County sandstone structure…they care for it everyday. They have taken John Jones idea of elegance, grandeur and service and elevated it to a point that he and his family would be proud to call The Granville Inn one of their many legacies. The newly remodeled, renovated and re-imagined Inn is now positioned for the next 95 years of her history, due in large part to Denison University’s forward thinking stewardship, not only of the Inn itself but also the adjoining Denison Golf Club. Managed by Sean Mulryan and his team from Columbus Hospitality, The Granville Inn is once again positioned to be a leader in Ohio hospitality…much the way John Jones envisioned it to be from the very beginning.

2017 Lodging Partner of the Year

The Granville Inn


Collaboration of the Year

The British call it a plow. To the French, it is a Saucepan.

The Pawnee Indians saw a stretcher on which a sick man was carried. To the ancient Maya, it was a mythological parrot named Seven Macaw. Hindu sky lore called it the Seven Wise Men. To the early Egyptians, it was the thigh and leg of a bull. The ancient Chinese thought of it as a special chariot for the Emperor of heaven. For the Micmac Indians of Canada's Maritime Provinces, along with several other North American Indian tribes, it was a bear being tracked by hunters. And in the nineteenth century it became a symbol of freedom for runaway slaves, who "followed the Drinking Gourd" to the northern states. American’s affectionately call it The Big Dipper. It is just one of many constellations in the night time sky. For millennia those stars have fascinated, confounded and inspired poets, painters, scholars and dreamers.

When the sky is so endlessly vast, the stars and planets so fleeting, and the moon so brilliant…it’s really no wonder that humans have been trying to re-create their celestial beauty on earth for years - Human beings need to see it, to understand it.

Swiss author, Elias Canetti wrote…” Their heads are made of stars, not yet arranged into constellations.” Canetti’s words ring true for the 2017 Collaboration of the Year IMPACT Award recipients. These collaborators heads were full of stars when they charted their twilight course together…and soon enough, their constellation was forming.

Like the Big Dipper needs the Little Dipper, and Gemini needs his twin, these two Licking County leaders understood that to be successful, they would need each other. Collaborative work began, collaborative programming began, collaborative fundraising began and ultimately construction began. Through thoughtful, ingenious and creative partnership, the idea that the corner of First and Canal could house Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars was born. The stars in their heads had been arranged…and we are grateful.

2017 Collaboration of the Year
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology
The Ohio State University – Newark

Sci-Dome 2018


Attraction of the Year

Demolishing something that’s old and regarded as useless on the landscape is not what we do in Licking County.

We honor it, we understand it, and we work like hell to preserve it. We don’t do it for us…we do it for them…the countless generations yet to come. We need them to understand that there were times and places when our communities weren’t blanketed in WI-FI or connected virtually and digitally to the larger world. We want them to see that places and spaces were once created to gather and talk and laugh – not text and scroll with our heads down. Our need is great for the future to know that we were here, we stood for something and we built and we re-built and we re-built again. It is the proverbial “labor of love”, “elbow grease” and “blood, sweat and tears.”

But we also want the future to know that even though we were preservationists…WE LOVED TO DANCE! And dance we did…and sing…and play music…and listen to music. We loved those things so much that in 1902 we built a dance hall on West Church Street. For years the rafters echoed with swing, jazz and the sound of shoes constantly in motion on a dance floor. But like all things, the dance hall days came to an end, and the building referred to by locals as - The Crystal Ballroom sat empty. Until one person in our community saw the life still left in the brick and mortar, and began the long, painful process of reclaiming it from the decades of neglect. He worked and worked and suddenly…there is was…ready again…for music and dancing…and the future.

The 2017 Attraction of the Year IMPACT Award recipient did more than just re-open the doors at Thirty One West Church Street, they also booked 80 shows - 18 of them being Grammy Award winning performers. They sold 6,500 tickets to music fans, with 63% of those ticket sales coming from outside of the county - including 8 different states. If that wasn’t enough for year one, they also contributed $5,000.00 in charitable giving, back to our communities. Creating a live music venue wasn’t enough though. They would go on to develop eclectic spaces for a restaurant, a yoga studio, an art gallery, a day care and a new local watering hole. “Ambitious” isn't a big enough word for their accomplishments. Suffice it to say…the dance hall is back!

2017 Attraction of the Year

Thirty One West


Food and Beverage Partner of the Year

A hardware store means many things to many people. It is a Saturday morning stop for a weekend DIY project.

It may be an emergency run for plumbing parts, just before the dinner party starts. A gallon of paint for the new bedroom. Sometimes it is a stop on your way home from work for a rake or snow shovel. But more often than not, it’s a gathering spot. That one place where you can find a nail and a neighbor. Unfortunately, the centuries have a way of creeping up and replacing things like neighborhood hardware stores with big box retail spaces and suddenly a gallon of paint can be mixed and purchased at 2 in the morning. Convenient…yes…neighborly…no.

There is one old school hardware store that is still functioning though…It should be noted however, that the lumber yard has been replaced by a wood fired oven, the shelves of nuts and bolts are now flush and flowing with Ohio beers and spirits and the old codgers that knew everything about knob and tube electrical, are now replaced with young, happy servers. The smell of saw dust and cigar smoke have been replaced with the lingering scent of true Neapolitan pizza, complete with blistered crust, true mozzarella and toppings so fresh, that just yesterday they were lingering on the vine. There is more than just authentic-wood-fired-pizza living in this 112-year-old building…there are tacos…and meatballs…and salads as big as the local history held within the walls of the old structure. The menu is eclectic and modern, the beverages are regional and interesting, and the laughter and conversations are true and genuine.

Old man Elliot is long gone now. The remnants of his 1905 hardware store are simply fleeting memories of simpler times, and West Main Street has changed considerably since the turn of the 20 th century. Life and time march on. One thing we’re certain of though…neighbors still gather, buddies still toast at the bar, and families and friends still laugh over dinner. And for that…there is no time limit.

2017 Food and Beverage Partner of the Year

Elliot’s Wood Fired Kitchen and Tap


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