The Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition received the state’s highest marketing award from Visit Florida Sept. 7 during the annual Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Hilton Orlando.

The FCCC represents Franklin, Gulf and eastern Bay County art enthusiasts and annually hosts the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air painting event each May which draws hundreds of participants and visitors to the area.

FCCC received “The Henry” for Rural County Marketing, for its marketing materials promoting the 2015 10th anniversary Plein Air event. Board members Joe Taylor, Terry Lind, Penny Easton and Kimberly Shoaf, along with Bay Media Services owner/designer Cindy Clark, were on hand to receive the trophy from J. William Seccombe, president and CEO, Visit Florida, and William D. Talbert III, chair, Visit Florida board of directors.

Named for Henry Flagler, the prestigious Flagler Awards were established in 2000 to recognize outstanding tourism marketing in Florida. Annually, the Flagler Awards honor many of the countless individuals and organizations that help maintain and improve Florida’s position as one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.

The awards are open to all individuals, private businesses and not-for-profit organizations offering a product or service that promotes tourism to or within Florida. As in previous years, the 2016 Flagler Awards drew entries from Florida’s tourism partners, large and small.

Working independently, eight judges evaluated the creativity, innovation, production quality and effectiveness of each entry. Based on their cumulative scores, awards were presented to the top three entries in each category: the Bronze Award for the third highest scoring entry, the Silver Award for the second highest scoring entry, and for the highest scoring entry in each category, the Henry Award.

In addition, since 2001, individuals have been chosen annually to be inducted into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. This honor, presented by the Visit Florida board of directors, recognizes contemporary and historic figures whose vision, creativity and drive have had a positive and significant impact on the development of Florida as a desirable visitor destination.

Hall of Fame inductees this year were Walter Carl Ray and W.M. “Shorty” Davidson, who in 1924, embarked on a development and advertising program that grew into one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders and one of America’s best-known attractions – Silver Springs.

One partner, in charge of business affairs, developed the first gasoline-powered glass bottom boat fleet; then, encouraged by Thomas A. Edison, moved to a fleet of electric-powered boats that became world famous. His commitment to beautification of the 80 acres around Silver Springs was an attraction itself. His partner’s many advertising ideas saw attendance grow from 11,000 visitors to more than 800,000 annually by 1950, and more than 1.5 million annually by 1962.

Their plan was simple: “Advertise when no one else does, and use those methods not used by others.” Signs saying “See Silver Springs” were nailed to trees throughout the Southeast. Small mileage machines designed to go in motels, restaurants and service stations told the correct mileage from that location to all major cities – and to Silver Springs. Trucks with dioramas of Silver Springs toured the country. In the mid 1950′s, the attraction purchased seven million brochures in a single printing, unheard of at the time.

More than 50 motion pictures have been shot at Silver Springs throughout the decades, starring famous actors including Gary Cooper, Burt Reynolds, Sean Connery, Jane Wyman, Jane Russell, Claudia Cardinale, Tom Cruise and Kim Basinger.