A scholarship program has been named in honor of Gene Pierce for his years of service to the Finger Lakes tourism industry.

A crowd of nearly 300 joined the celebration of 100 years of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance at a gala anniversary party Saturday, May 4 at the Ramada Geneva Lakefront. Attendees spanned local business owners, area not-for-profits, county tourism promotion agencies, supporters, and legislators.  See a gallery of photos from the evening here.

Founded in 1919 and based in Penn Yan since its inception, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance is considered the oldest regional destination marketing organization in the country. The not-for-profit exists to enhance and promote visitor businesses for the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. 

Attendees were treated to the debut video celebrating the region’s past, present and future. It can be viewed here: www.fingerlakes.org/finger-lakes-tourism-alliance-100th-anniversary.

Speakers representing the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance (FLTA) included President Cynthia Kimble and Joe Gober, Chair of the Board of Directors.

“For a century, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance has been committed to growing tourism in the region,” said Kimble. “At the time the FLTA was founded, tourism was a burgeoning industry and, now, we have a $3 billion industry supporting over 58,000 jobs in the region, with the numbers growing year over year. As the oldest regional destination marketing organization in the country, we are so pleased to celebrate this historic milestone.”

Paul Curcillo, principal, CK Cellars, presented a specially created award to Gene Pierce, co-owner of Glenora Wine Cellars, Knapp Winery, and Chateau Lafayette Reneau, in recognition of Pierce’s years of service, dedication, and support of tourism marketing efforts in the Finger Lakes Region. Pierce was visibly stunned with the announcement of the award, but rose to the occasion and accepted it with humility and charm.

The 2019 Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance Scholarship to be awarded from the net proceeds of the gala will be given in honor of Pierce in recognition for this award. As the industry in which he is a leader continues to grow, so will employment possibilities for those with an educational background in hospitality and tourism.

Gober presented the 100 Years of Partnership Award to the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was one of the founding entities to join the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance (then known as the Finger Lakes Association) in 1919 and is still a partner today. Ethan Fogg, the Executive Director of the Chamber, accepted the award.

Legislators in attendance included Sen. Pamela Helming, New York State Senate and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, New York State Assembly. Alison Hunt, District Director, Congressman Tom Reed’s office, and Sara Lattin from Sen. Thomas O’Mara’s office, were also there to present proclamations from the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York State Senate, and the New York State Assembly commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.

Kimble pointed out how the excitement over the possibility of a National Heritage designation for the Finger Lakes was palpable throughout the evening. “Earlier this year, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act was signed into federal law. Included are conditions that authorize the allocation of funds authorizing the National Park Service to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of designating the Finger Lakes Region as a National Heritage Corridor,” Kimble said. “It is through the support of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tom Reed that this initiative was spearheaded alongside the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance. To have this happen during our 100th anniversary year makes this even more poignant.”

The presenting sponsor of the 100th Anniversary Gala was Yates County’s CK Cellars, the parent company of Torrey Ridge Winery, Earle Estates Meadery, WortHog Cidery, CuKi Fine Wines and Rooster Hill Vineyards. “The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance is a premier destination marketing organization with 700+ partners in the region,” said Curcillo.”The CK Cellars team and I are thrilled to be an integral part of this historic celebration.”

Former FLTA directors in attendance included Mike Rusinko and Spike Herzig. Prior directors recognized from the podium, but unable to attend, were Conrad Tunney and Alexa Gifford.

For information on donating to the newly established Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance Scholarship Fund, please contact Cynthia Kimble, president, by phone at 315-536-7488 or by email at CindyK@fingerlakes.org. 

For information on becoming a FLTA partner, please contact Jessica Robideau, Director of Sales and Marketing, by phone at 315-536-7488 or by email at JessicaR@fingerlakes.org.

About the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance

Founded in 1919, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance exists to enhance and promote visitor businesses for a 9,000-square-mile region including the 14 counties of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. The FLTA’s mission is to lead economic growth and development through exemplary promotion of the Finger Lakes Region as a world-class tourism destination.

Includes reporting by John Christensen