Barbara Thaxton thought she was going to Lexington last week to watch Claude Bacon get an award.

But it turned out that it was she who was getting the Kentucky Travel Industry Association’s “Stars of the Industry Award” for her “exceptional guest and visitor service.”

Five were awarded across the state.

Thaxton is a front desk associate at the Holiday Inn Owensboro Riverfront, which is owned and operated by Lingate Hospitality.

Bacon is a vice president of the company as well as chairman of the board at the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Thaxton thought she was going with him because she has the most seniority of anyone at the hotel.

“I went up there to help celebrate Claude,” she said. “When they called my name, I was in total shock. I was thunderstruck. I was crying.”

KTIA says, “Among the most vital contributors to a visitor’s experience and satisfaction are the frontline professionals they encounter during their trip. These professionals are also essential to their employers’ success and that of the overall Kentucky travel industry.”

Thaxton’s career dates back to the Executive Inn Rivermont days.

She’s worked for Lingate Hospitality for 12 years between the Holiday Inn and the Courtyard by Marriott.

RuthAnn Dearness, former general manager of those hotels and the Executive Inn, said, “Barbara is the living definition of hospitality. It’s in her DNA.”

Andrea Woolsey, current general manager of the Holiday Inn, said, “Barbara has been changing lives in the hospitality industry for many years.”

And Bacon said, “Barbara has a sixth sense of service and caring for her travelers.”

He added, “This statewide service award was very competitive, and I’m proud of Barbara’s efforts and service to Owensboro and Daviess County.”

Hank Phillips, president of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, said, “Within every tourism business, whether hotel, attraction or CVB, there are heroes. The heroes are frontline folks who take care of the guests and visitors. Our ‘Stars of the Industry’ is an award that recognizes those vital employees.

“The tourism industry continues to be challenged by a shortage of workers. What can get overlooked by the public is that the shortage means that people who are on the job are doing double and triple duty. So this year’s awards and those who received them are even more special than usual.”

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