The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual tourism awards paid homage to an individual who quietly drew thousands of visitors to Cullman County.

The late Mother Angelica, founder of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament near Hanceville, an elaborate series of buildings for worship and meditation.

While Mother Angelica, who also started the worldwide Catholic network EWTN, died in 2016, visitors continue to flock to the Shrine.

Tourism Director Roger Steele noted during the awards ceremony Thursday that faith-based tourism is a major economic force for the community. Between the Shrine and St. Bernard Abbey and the Ave Maria Grotto, more than 200,000 people visit the area because of the experiences offered at those facilities.

Awards were also presented in several other categories. 2nd Fridays, with the involvement of Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism and the chamber, has grown into a major crowd-pleaser and was named Exceptional Festival or Event.

Best Attraction went to Stony Lonesome OHV Park, while the widely know Mary Carter Store was named the Rockin’ Retailer winner.

The emergence of 412 Public House as a popular dining destination earned it the Extraordinary Everyday Eatery.

Individuals recognized include Peggy Doyle of LaQuinta Inn for the White Glove Award, Debbie Smith of Buffalo Wild Wings for the Silver Spoon Award, and Lynsey Todd of Monograms Plus as the Savvy Retail Specialist winner.

Congratulations to all the winners and the efforts you put into make the Cullman area not only a great place to live, but an equally great place to visit.

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