Garden Walk Buffalo wins travel & tourism award

Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest (and dare I say best!) garden tour in the country received an award from Visit Buffalo Niagara (VBN) as the "2011 Tourism Initiative of the Year" at the second annual Beacon Awards, honoring excellence in the Buffalo Niagara travel and tourism industry, with more than 400 tourism professionals in attendance.

The award was offered with the following comments from VBN:
Beacon Awards Luncheon presentation
at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center
"The Beacon Award for Outstanding Tourism Initiative of the Year goes to Garden Walk Buffalo.

In the summer of 1995, a group of volunteers from the Norwood/West Utica Neighborhood Association created the first Buffalo Garden Walk.

The main goal was to encourage neighborhood beautification and community pride.  What started as a stroll through 29 neighborhood gardens has grown to more than 370 gardens in 2011, making the event the largest of its kind in the country.

Admission is free and the work of organizing and managing the Walk is accomplished entirely by volunteers.

It’s important to note that Garden Walk President Jim Charlier, has personally overseen the tremendous growth of Garden Walk by employing a sophisticated combination of media relations, social media, e-newsletters and consumer advertising to create what has become one of the most highly regarded and attended horticulture events in the country. Garden Walk has also served as the inspiration for the National Garden Festival. Both events are helping Visit Buffalo Niagara tell a new story about our community and attract new visitors.

Congratulations, Jim, and the entire Garden Walk Buffalo Board as well as the homeowners and gardeners."
These are some of the people that make Garden Walk happen -
the Garden Walk committee - come volunteer
with this great group of ardent Buffalo supporters!

There was no speech other than the introduction above (thankfully!). I've been president or co-chair of the event for, going on, seven years. I accepted the award on behalf of the GW committee (dozens) and gardeners (hundreds) that have participated in Garden Walk over the last 18 years.

The travel and tourism industry impacts not just the economy and jobs but also the quality of life for area residents. Accommodations, attractions, restaurants, museums, parks...all are maintained by well-trained staff and very often assisted by dedicated volunteers.

Visit Buffalo Niagara implemented this recognition program in 2011 to honor those exemplary, front-line employees and volunteers...the National Travel and Tourism Beacon Awards. When visitors are greeted with great service, they are more likely to have a positive impression, share their perceptions with friends and are more likely to return in the future.

"Travel and tourism is one of Erie County's growth industries," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. "It creates more than $1.3 billion in direct spending, employs approximately 19,000 people, and provides more than $455 in tax relief to every household in Erie County."

The following also received awards at the May 10 ceremony in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center:
  • Tourism Executive of the Year: Drew Cerza, National Buffalo Wing Festival
  • Tourism Volunteer of the Year: Linda Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex
  • Buffalo Ambassador of the Year: National Preservation Conference Local Organizing Committee.
  • Lodging Employee of the Year: Michael Hicks, Comfort Suites Downtown
  • Lodging Manager of the Year: Kevin Hudson, Hyatt Regency Buffalo
  • Lodging General Manager of the Year: Shelly Cieslak, Fairfield Inn and Suites
  • Tourism Employee of the Year: Eric Guzdek, Northtown Center in Amherst
And here's more of this great planning group, making Buffalo
a better place to live and to visit. To these people, add almost 400 gardeners
willing to show off their gardens - and you've got a weekend!
In addition, NBC newscaster Tim Russert was recognized posthumously as the first inductee into the Buffalo Ambassador Hall of Fame. That award will now be commonly named, "The Tim Russert Award." The award was accepted on his behalf by his son, Luke Russert via a pre-recorded monologue.

The actual award, which I will hold onto for the time being, is very nice - a glass interpretation of the 1818 lighthouse on Buffalo's Lake Erie waterfront.

To see the complete list of Garden Walk Buffalo board members and committee members, visit here.


  1. Congratulations to everyone at Garden Walk, and especially to you, Jim. It's an impressive event that I wish we could emulate in Toronto -- but we'd never be able to pull it off. Unless, let's say, you and your family were to move here...

  2. Congrats, Jim! so much fun to be around you at Fling 2012. fun to share our stories of airline spouses'!

  3. Sorry Helen, No plans to move to TO. I can't really see us moving NORTH from Buffalo!

    We didn't have time enough to share airline spouse stories. We'll have to do that when we next meet. Oftentimes I just tell people I married well. No argument from my wife there.


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