Visit Jackson Names ‘Hometown Heroes’

Hometown Hero award winners. Image: Ken Gordon

Visit Jackson has named their 27th annual Hometown Heroes in an awards ceremony held Thursday, February 6 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

“The Hometown Hero Awards gives us the opportunity to thank our partners for their continued support and commitment as we work together to enhance Jackson’s growing tourism industry,” said Rickey Thigpen, Visit Jackson’s President and CEO.

The winners are:

2020 Hometown Hero Awards

Travel & Tourism Industry Employees
Linda Ross – Jackson Downtown Convention Center Hotel
Pierre Pryer, Sr. – The Iron Horse Grill
Susan Branson – Mississippi Children’s Museum
Jalesia Duran – The Westin Jackson
Billie Burns – Hilton Jackson
Jeff Hussain – The Westin Jackson
Charles White – Hilton Jackson
Sarah Black – The Iron Horse Grill
Marlinda Jenkins – Hilton Jackson

Meeting & Group Tour Planners
Tiffany Bush – Mississippi Municipal League
Ashley Wicks – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Dr. Robert Luckett – Association of African American Museums
Kenya Washington – Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Mitchell Shears – National Association of HBCU Title III Administrators, Inc.
Reverend Samuel Boyd, Sr. – African Methodist Episcopal Church
Kevin T. Wilbert, Sr. – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Superintendent David Tipton – United Pentecostal Church International
Chief Willie Owens – Inter. Association of Black Professional Firefighters
Johnny Mims – Mississippi Association of Coaches

Festival/Event Organizers
Jalesia Duran – The Festival of Trees
Susan Branson – Mississippi Children’s Museum
Todd Kelly – Mississippi High School Activities Association
Nicole Smith – Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
LeFleur Museum District – Mississippi ScienceFest


Attraction of the Year
Two Mississippi Museums

Festival/Event of the Year (tie):
Mississippi Science Fest
Bright Lights, Belhaven Nights

Friend of Tourism:
David Lewis with the City of Jackson

Full-Service Hotel of the Year:
Hilton Jackson

Limited Service Hotel of the Year:
Residence Inn at the District of Eastover

Restaurant of the Year:
Estelle Wine Bar & Bistro

Shining Example Awards
Jakhia Gray, Miss Alcorn State University
Sonic Boom of the South, Jackson State University

Visionary Award
The Refill Jackson Initiative & Refill Café

Visit Jackson joins tourism industry partners annually to recognize individuals and entities who continue to play an essential role in developing Jackson, Mississippi into a tourism destination.

In 2018, the tourism industry accounted for 7,000 jobs in the city of Jackson and contributed $367 million in local taxes.

While Thigpen had the difficult task of selecting the Shining Example and the Visionary Award winners, the Hometown Hero Awards were nominated and decided upon by Jackson’s industry partners.

This event will continue to be held annually in February of each year and will recognize the outstanding efforts of the hospitality industry for the year prior.

“The Hometown Hero Awards gives Visit Jackson the opportunity to recognize our tourism partners for their dedication to professionalism and commitment to enhance Jackson’s growing tourism industry,” said Thigpen. “The program also provides an opportunity to recognize members of the local community for their role in bringing conventions and meetings to the Capital City.”

The Hometown Hero Awards program is a signature event of Visit Jackson.