Butte Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stephanie Sorini was recognized Monday for her role in the Butte 100 mountain bike race during an ongoing statewide tourism conference, which has drawn more than 420 attendees from across the state to the Mining City this week.
This week Butte is playing host to the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation, an annual event in which economic-development advocates and professionals in the tourism and hospitality industries rub shoulders and talk about how to increase visitation to the Big Sky State.
Sorini was honored Monday the Copper King Hotel & Convention Center with the conference’s Outstanding Tourism Volunteer award.
Each year the Butte 100 draws riders from throughout the U.S. and world, offering races in a variety of lengths, including the 100, which last year took riders on a 99.8-mile course along the Continental Divide Trail, with punishing elevation gains of 6,000 feet.
In 2018, more than 300 riders from 16 states and two countries competed in the Butte 100.
Sorini purchased the Butte 100 in 2016.
Handing out the award Monday was Jan Stoddard, bureau chief of industry and services outreach of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, and Bill McGladdery of the Montana Tourism Advisory Council.
“A passion project for Stephanie in memory of her late husband Dr. Pete Sorini, the Butte 100 keeps Pete’s love of the mountains alive,” said McGladdery of the mountain bike race.
Sorini, meanwhile, thanked conference organizers.
“The Butte 100 is a race I’m very passionate about. My husband was a big supporter of the race … and when I found that it was going up for sale I thought there was no other people who should buy it than our family,” said Sorini, holding back tears.
Anaconda and Butte, meanwhile, were finalists for the Film Community of the Year award for their respective roles in supplying backdrops for the indie film “Mickey and The Bear” and Tim Montana’s music video “American Thread.” The award ultimately went to the towns of Darby and Hamilton for hosting the TV show “Yellowstone.”
Also accepting an award Tuesday were representatives from Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild, a rural sculpture park in Lincoln that celebrates the industrial, environmental and cultural history of Montana.
Surrounded by the wilderness of Lewis and Clark County, the sculpture park invites international sculptors to create work made from locally harvested material.
The sculpture park received the conference’s Heritage and Cultural Tourism award.
“Thank you to the town of Lincoln and everyone who has supported this amazing place. We are truly grateful,” said Becky Garland, president of Blackfoot Pathways, accepting the award.
Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, meanwhile, told audience members that tourism contributed $3.7 billion to Montana’s economy last year and applauded the state’s tourism advocates.
“You are truly ambassadors for the Last Best Place,” he said.
He also encouraged conference goers to enjoy themselves, and commended Butte for riding out difficult economic times.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the people in Butte like a good party,” he said. “So I hope you’re going to take full advantage of Butte’s hospitality.”
The Governor’s Conference continues Tuesday at the Copper King Hotel on Harrison Avenue, with speakers and breakout sessions throughout the day.
Activities started Sunday with an agenda packed full of events that gave attendees a taste of the Mining City, replete with hikes in Thompson Park, trolley tours and tours of the Orphan Girl Mine and the Dumas Brothel. The day’s events closed out with a welcoming reception at the Bert Mooney Airport’s new $10.5-million terminal, where guest were greeted with Irish dancers.
Julie Jaksha — regional director of the local economic-development organization Headwaters RC&D — called landing the conference a “huge win” for Butte. She said she sees the conference as a way to not only gain new insights about tourism, but also as a way to showcase Butte to industry leaders throughout the state.
“It’s exciting to see all of the amazing businesses in the tourism industry come together and share their experience and their expertise. Tourism impacts our state in every corner and I think that this is a great showcase,” Jaksha said.
Joe Willauer, executive director of Headwaters and the Butte Local Development Corp., noted that tourism is the second-biggest industry in the state next to agriculture.
“This conference is one of the biggest conferences year round (in Montana),” said Willauer. “To be able to show off all the cool tourism-related businesses we have to a statewide audience is super fun.”
It’s not too late to take part in the conference. One-day registrations will be available at the door throughout the day Tuesday.