innovations in tourism ballotThe “Innovations in Tourism Awards” is the Calaveras Visitors Bureau’s annual program designed to publicly acknowledge outstanding local businesses that have gone above and beyond to attract visitors to Calaveras through new or unique ideas, products or services.

These businesses are nominated and voted on by their peers for the Innovations in Tourism Awards. That means when you see the blue star innovator icon throughout this website, you know which businesses have been recognized by their peers and the CVB as being truly outstanding. From the first year of the awards in 2006 until 2012 one business was recognized each year by the CVB Board of Directors. Beginning in 2013 the program was expanded to recognize businesses in each of 6 different categories: attraction, event, lodging, restaurant, retail and recreation and the winner was determined by votes from other business in Calaveras County’s tourism industry. The nominee that wins the most overall votes from each category is also awarded the overall winner.

The following animated slideshow shows all of the different businesses nominated in the 2018 Innovations in Tourism Awards:

CVB Annual Dinner
2018 Awards Dinner | Photo: Dakota Morlan, Calaveras Enterprise

2018 Winners: 12th Annual Innovations in Tourism Awards

  • Attraction and Overall Winner – Ironstone Amphitheatre & Richter Entertainment Group – co-nominated for investing significant capital in renovating the Ironstone Amphitheatre venue to accommodate larger tours than ever before as well as for expanding visitor offerings to include the new VIP lounge experience. In addition, they are providing more opportunities than ever before for local businesses to engage concert attendees through VIP sponsorships; increasing social media engagement during events through the use of free giveaways, Instagram stories and fun activities engaging with, and highlighting, in-person attendees.
  • Event – Whiskey Slide Productions – ifor innovations in community building through not only working with local organizations to create and/or promote diverse musical events and one of a kind experiences around the county, but also for their exceptional efforts in bringing Rolling Stone’s celebrated musician Jason Eady back to Calaveras to perform his single “Calaveras County” at “A Night with Eady.”
  • Lodging – Hotel Léger – for attracting more overnight travel to Mokelumne Hill through innovative events such as their annual Backyard Blues and BBQ series, which frequently brings travelers from wide and far to enjoy the event, hotel, and all that Mokelumne Hill has to offer in an enhanced and lively atmosphere.
  • Recreation – New Melones Lake Marina – for collaborating with wakeboarding brand Hyperlite Wakeboards to create a demonstration day that not only brought opportunities for locals and visitors to purchase discounted goods, but also brought professionals to the area for visitors to enjoy wake surf and wake board performances as well as providing a chance to ask questions to increase future usage of the New Melones Lake Marina.
  • Restaurant – Murphys Pourhouse – for their ongoing innovative approach to community collaboration and on trend high-demand events, such as hosting an outdoor family friendly trivia night promoting random trivia as well as knowledge of the surrounding area and it’s many offerings, hosting Summer’s End Art Walk featuring a gathering of creators, makers, and performers, as well as for expanding their lunch menu to include additional vegetarian and vegan offerings using seasonally available ingredients sourced from Calaveras farmers.
  • Retail – Julie Douglas – not only for her Crafty Chicks Roadshow events (whose last incarnation featured approximately 80 makers, a mimosa bar, food trucks, live music, photo booth and a raffle benefiting the local Angels Camp Community Club), but also for her innovative work in renovating and promoting the popular Angels Camp Farmers Market in part by bringing in new vendors, makers, and eclectic food truck operators nearly every week.
  • Wedding / Event Venue – The Farm – for scaling up their business from furnishing flowers for weddings and events from their beautiful grounds to becoming a venue for weddings, events, and photography sessions in and of themselves. Hosting events such as the 2018 Solstice Gathering, The Farm collaborates with local makers, artists and artisans to create generating on trend (and therefore super-Instagrammable) media for further promoting the region and all there is to see and do when visiting their venue.
  • Winery –Renegade Winery – for maintaining a thriving hub of festivities through their weekly outdoor events, expanded restaurant hours, and for capturing a more diverse crowd by offering beer on tap in addition to their local wine.
2018 Innovations in Tourism Awards Winners
Conrad Levasseur & Billy Cohen accept the Overall Winner award for Ironstone Amphitheatre & Richter Entertainment Group

Beginning in 2017, the Innovations in Tourism Awards included two additional categories: Wedding / Event Venue and Winery.

Scroll down to see a  full list of all past winners by year, with a description of why they won. Or see a full category of all past Innovations in Tourism award winners.

2017 Winner: Calaveras Big Trees State Park | Accepted by Amber Rack, awarded by County CAO, Tim Lutz

2017 Winners: 11th Annual Innovations in Tourism Awards

  • Attraction and Overall WinnerCalaveras Big Trees State Park  – for new photography walks – allowing visitors a new way to relate to nature while creating usable social media content.
  • EventLumberjack Day – for their supervised kids zone with multiple, great activities allowing down time for kids and parents.
  • LodgingBear Valley Mountain –  for their new glamping option – a highly trending option for California tourism generating a huge social media buzz.
  • RecreationMokelumne Coast to Crest Trail – for  increased development and mapping and an innovative marketing program tied in to a popular movie.
  • RestaurantMurphys Pourhouse – for their millennial parenting model – craft artisanal beer tasting combined with a playful space for families to enjoy.
  • RetailMy Little Apple – for their children’s consignment model with collaboration with local artists creating a brick and mortar outlet for etsy artisans.
  • Wedding / Event VenueArnold Black Bear Inn – for creating a simple, all-inclusive option with consistently high-end results.
  • Winery – Twisted Oak Winery – for creating excellent original social media content for their Enchanted Garden Party.

2016 Winners: 10th Annual Innovations in Tourism Awards

  • Lodging and Overall WinnerCalaveras Big Trees State Park  – for opening vacation rentals at the park and planning the addition of in-park cabins to appeal to millennials.
  • AttractionBrice Station Vineyards – for their stellar work with their Hilltop Concert Series and Shakespeare on the Vine and for excellent social media work on Instagram.
  • EventCalaveras Arts Council – for their Ovations Series, free Music in the Parks plus new Ride4Art as fundraiser for arts in local schools.
  • RecreationMoaning Cavern Adventure Park -for their Zip Line Pumpkin Smash, Caroling in the Cave with Rappelling Santa + other Concerts in the Cave, bringing WiFi to the bottom of Moaning Cavern for social media sharing & attempting a Pokemon Go lure drop (the first in the County that we know of) offering a discount on walk tours to Pokemon Go players.
  • RestaurantAlchemy – for a huge selection of speciality beers (a favorite with visitors) + a great beer online blog, multiple highly regarded and attended special events including wine and beer pairings.
  • RetailSierra Nevada Adventure Company – for helping to develop the popularity of disc golf all around the county, inspiring more courses to open up, donating outdoor recreation photography for promotion on social media, and for providing top quality equipment, assistance and advice for visiting adventurers.


Innovations in Tourism 2015
2015 Winner: Brice Station Winery

2015 Winners: 9th Annual Innovations in Tourism Awards

  • Attraction and Overall WinnerBrice Station Vineyards – for their Hill Top concert series and for hosting their Theatre Under the Stars series: Shakespeare on the Vine.
  • EventCalaveras County Fairgrounds – for bringing in new events like the Back Country Horsemen, and continually enhancing Fair & Frog Jump.
  • LodgingWorldmark by Wyndham – for consistently bringing in large numbers of guests and for their excellent concierge services at the front desk.
  • RestaurantThe Pickle Patch – for their consistently great food, live music and Oktoberfest events.
  • RetailGold Country Roasters – for roasting the most delicious coffee in the county and for introducing their story slam events and for winning a silver medal in the national Golden Bean coffee roasting awards.
  • RecreationBear Valley Mountain – for bringing in high profile events and making snow to keep the mountain open during drought years.
Innovations in Tourism 2014
2014 Winner: The Spice Tin

2014 Innovations in Tourism Awards Winners

These outstanding local businesses were voted the winners in the 2014 Innovations in Tourism program by CVB member businesses.

  • RETAIL & OVERALL WINNER – The Spice Tin for creating a retail environment that’s also an immersive sensory experience.
  • ATTRACTION – Angels Camp Museum for their new special programs, extension of hours and huge increase in visitation.
  • EVENT – Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee for annually bringing in over 45,000 visitors for frog jump, rodeo, demolition derby, the new outhouse race, etc.
  • LODGING – The Murphys Historic Hotel for braving Hotel Hell, bringing in more events, building an outside bar and making other upgrades.
  • RECREATION – Cave & Mine Adventures for developing the zip lines at Moaning Cavern Adventure Park and for operating and funding the Murphys Information Center.
  • RESTAURANT – Outer Aisle Foods for their live music, events, farmers market and popular farm to fork model.
Innovations in Tourism 2013
2013 Winner: Arnold Black Bear Inn

2013 Innovations in Tourism Awards Winners

In 2013, we expanded the Innovations in Tourism Awards to include six  different categories + an overall winner with nominees being provided by CVB board members and member businesses. Winners were decided by the CVB membership by ballot.

  • LODGING & OVERALL WINNER – Arnold Black Bear Inn, for their development as a premiere wedding destination and their new Top Chef Challenge event packages.
  • EVENT – Twisted Oak Winery, for bringing a new venue to Calaveras’ evening entertainment scene with its Summer Concert Series.
  • ATTRACTIONCalaveras Big Trees State Park, for their interpretive programs, warming hut and new visitor center.
  • RESTAURANT – Sidewinders / Doke Sushi, for filling a culinary niche, offering live music, staying open late and being dependably high quality.
  • RETAILStories in Stones, for their unique retail experience and educational outreach.
  • RECREATIONArnold Rim Trail Association, for the planning and development of the Arnold Rim Trail and map.

Pre-2013 Innovations in Tourism Awards Winners

Before 2013, our Innovations in Tourism Awards program was much smaller. The Calaveras Visitors Bureau board recognized one business in the county for their outstanding contributions to Calaveras tourism.