Shipshewana-based Blue Gate Hospitality founder Mel Riegsecker is the recipient of this year's Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership Award. He received the state's highest tourism honor as part of the annual Hoosier Hospitality Awards at the Indiana State Fair.

Blue Gate includes a restaurant, theater, inn and event center. In all, Blue Gate Hospitality hosts more than half of a million visitors every year. Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch says Riegsecker "helped shape Shipshewana's tourism profile." For his part, Riegsecker calls the award a "tremendous honor," and shares credit with his wife and others.

The award is named for long-time owner and president of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Will Koch. The winner is chosen by an eight-member panel including representatives from Grow INdiana Media Ventures, the Indiana State Fair, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Purdue University and the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The 2017 Hoosier Hospitality Award winners include (by name, organization, county)

Patricia Badgley, Hampton Inn & Suites, Howard
Anne Beach, French Lick Resort, Orange
Tiffany Conrad, Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, Noble
Christine Flohr, Visit Wabash County, Wabash
Dave Fox, Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, Noble
Diane Gordon, Horseshoe Hammond, Lake
Christy Heavilon, Hampton Inn & Suites, Howard
Tray Heinke, Indiana Caverns, Harrison
Doug Huff, Oasis Diner, Hendricks
Mary Huggard, Visit Indy, Marion
Sasha Krebs, The Country Shops of Grabill, Allen
Maureen Lambert, Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau, Madison
Grace Liang, Horseshoe - Hammond, Lake
Daniel Orr, FARMbloomington, Monroe
Jan Tellstrom, French Lick Resort, Orange
Marsha Tellstrom, West Baden Springs Hotel, Orange
Dyan Wheeler-Quilter, Lake County Parks Department, Lake
Henry Wilhite, Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, Spencer
Opportunity Enterprises Cleaning Crew, Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, Porter