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Hospitality Association awards highest honors at 20th Annual Pineapple Dinner

Event recognizes top achievements in hospitality profession




February 7, 2017


(Huntsville, AL) – The Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association (HMCHA) recognized the outstanding accomplishments of hospitality professionals in the Huntsville/Madison County community at the Holiday Inn Research Park on Tuesday, January 24, which marked the 20th Annual Pineapple Awards Dinner.


Each year, the organization holds the Pineapple Dinner to honor members who have exhibited true hospitality and professionalism in the industry. The presentation of the Pineapple and Red Ribbon awards, awarded at the dinner, are the hospitality industry’s highest honors. The winning individuals work to enhance the area’s image, promote tourism, and are considered to be role models and active members of the community and local hospitality industry.


The following individuals were presented the prestigious Red Ribbon Award:


Lodging/Conference Center Category – Mike Vojticek – Assistant Executive Director of the Von Braun Center

Food & Beverage Category – Doug Smith – Entrepreneur behind A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard

Allied Category – James Cooper & Dogg Pound Skate Crew – Organizers behind the Annual MLK Skate Jam which just wrapped their 17th annual event.

Tourism & Travel Category – Pam Williams – Tourism Sales Manager, Huntsville - Madison County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB)


The Pineapple Award, presented for the contributions of a group or individual who has had an outstanding impact on the industry, was presented to Dr. Rao Yedla, Chairman and Founder of Yedla Management Company.  Dr. Yedla has been supporting the hospitality industry for over three decades and his organizations provide a substantial economic impact in our community each year.  He employs hundreds of people and has a great ability to recognize their untapped potential.


Dr. Yedla’s properties include Springhill Suites Downtown, Doubletree Suites and the Hampton Inn Arsenal/South Huntsville. Additionally, the Towneplace Suites at the Redstone Gateway will be opening later in 2017. Just recently, the groundbreaking ceremony took place for the AC Marriott which will be located at CityCentre in Downtown Huntsville. His properties are recognized for maintaining a high standard of excellence within the hospitality industry, and his vision and developments of such quality hotels continues to allow Huntsville to prosper.


“Dr. Yedla’s investment in Huntsville/Madison County has greatly contributed to the success of the Huntsville/Madison County travel and tourism industry,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our community thrives because of investors who understand the economic impact of a strong local hospitality and tourism industry.”


The Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association also hosted a new event during the 2016 Huntsville Restaurant Week promotion dubbed the Mystery Diner program, where secret shoppers dined with a participating restaurant and reported their guest experience back to the coordinators of the event.


The shoppers were provided a strict criteria for judging which included taste and flavor, presentation and appearance of the food or plate, staff awareness of the restaurant week specials and if they were presented to the guest, and customer service. The coordinators also evaluated the participating restaurants social media and marketing efforts of Huntsville Restaurant Week.


Pam Williams, Tourism Sales Manager for the CVB said, “As the coordinator of Huntsville Restaurant Week, I would like to thank HMCHA for their partnership during the 2016 culinary event. The Mystery Diner aspect added a new feature to the 5th Annual Huntsville Restaurant Week and I look forward to having the program return and grow in 2017.”


Winners of the 2016 Huntsville Restaurant Week Mystery Diner Event


Best all-around
1.      Grille 29
2.      House of Kabob
3.      Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro

Best lunch
1.      Grille 29
2.      New Market BBQ
3.      Drake’s

Best dinner
1.      Grille 29
2.      Nick’s Ristorante
3.      New Market BBQ


Annually, the Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association awards scholarships to those working in the hospitality field for one of our member properties. In 2016, the board voted to also allow children of member properties to apply for the coveted scholarships. In 2016, the board voted to expand the program to include a one year scholarship to the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College.


The following individuals were awarded total of $4000 in scholarship funds


1.      Regina Burnett - Recipient of STS Marketing College Scholarship - Grille 29

2.      Rachel Mecomber, daughter of Brittney Mecomber - Embassy Suites Hotel & Spa

3.      Bailey Walker, daughter of Leslie Walker -  Huntsville/Madison County CVB

4.      Ayah Abu-Spetani, daughter of Abdullah Abu-Spetani - U.S. Space and Rocket Center

5.      Ala’a Abu-Spetani, daughter of Abdullah Abu-Spetani - U.S. Space and Rocket Center

6.      Devin Jacobson - Grille 29


In addition to recognizing the 2016 hospitality award winners, the Huntsville Restaurant Week Mystery Diner winners, and the scholarship recipients, below are the inductees to the 2017 Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association Board of Directors.


HMCHA 2017 Leadership Team & Board of Directors



Conference Center    Harmony Heard, Westin Huntsville
                                    Gennifer Gordon, Springhill Suites Downtown


Tourism &     Judy Ryals,VP, Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Travel                         Tom White – U.S. Space & Rocket Center
                                    Beth Goodwin - EarlyWorks Family of Museums


Food & Beverage      Regina Burnett, Past President, Grille 29
                                    Libby Webb, President, New Market BBQ
                                    Jessica Knox, Valley Pizza
                                    Jessica Bolling, A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard


Allied Services           Allison Dillon-Jauken, Secretary, Arts Huntsville
                                    Desiree Stewart, Treasurer, Von Braun Center
                                    Myra Sawyer, CityVision


Libby Webb, President of the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association, said, “A few key goals I have set for 2017 include growing our association to over 100 members, and to foster partnerships amongst our members to work together on events, special projects, and service offerings to our guests showcasing the many talents our hospitality community has to offer. Tourism brings in nearly 3 million visitors to our community yearly, employs over 14,000 individuals and pumps over $1 billion into the local economy. It’s an honor to lead an association that means so much to our entire community.”