Tourism Winnipeg recognizes TWS conference success

By Dana Kobilinsky

TWS members Don Sexton and Merlin Shoesmith were presented with the “Bring it Home Award” from Tourism Winnipeg. From left to right: City of Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman, Don Sexton, Merlin Shoesmith, Senior Vice President of Tourism at Tourism Winnipeg Chantel Sturk-Nadeau, Director of Sales and Business Development at the RBC Convention Center David Chizda. ©Dan Harper

Manitoba’s tourism department recently presented TWS members Merlin Shoesmith and Don Sexton the “Bring it Home Award” for helping draw more than 1,500 people to Winnipeg as part of The Wildlife Society’s Annual Conference last year.

The two co-chairs of the conference arrangements committee worked closely with TWS Chief Operating Officer Ed Thompson, meeting planner Kerrell McNeal and Tourism Winnipeg to make sure the conference was a success. They arranged 13 subcommittees and co-chairs for each subcommittee. “In the end, I think we had upwards of 100 volunteers,” Sexton said. “It was hard work, but it was a lot of fun.”

In addition, wildlife consultant and Manitoban Erin McCance increased outreach efforts within Canada, which, combined with other TWS efforts, appeared to pay off. Roughly 500 wildlife professionals across Canada attended — much more than previous conferences, Shoesmith says.

Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“[Executive Director of TWS] Ken Williams showed up at the conference on the first day and came up to us and said, ‘You guys are rock stars!’” said Shoesmith, a retiree who had worked for about two years to put the conference together. He put in a bid to host the 2015 conference in Winnipeg, and then convinced Sexton, also a retiree, to join him. “He and I were at a TWS getaway at a breakfast,” Sexton recalled. “He said, ‘You’re not leaving until you agree to be co-chair!’”

The two long-time TWS members were happy with the conference outcome and were pleasantly surprised to receive the recent award from Travel Manitoba. “It was a lot of hard work for a couple of retired co-chairs,” Shoesmith said. “I was happy with the outcome but even happier for the fact that somebody else recognized the efforts and success we had.”

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is an associate science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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