by Sandy Ambrogi for islander.org | May 15, 2018
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Karen Riley-Love was taken by surprise when Greg Campbell began describing the winner of the 2018 Tourism Ambassador of the Year Award.
He was at the podium at the Powell Crosley Estate in Bradenton, citing the accomplishments of the winner of the honor from the Manatee County
Tourist Development Council. Last year’s winner, Campbell was preparing to pass the torch.
“The more he talked, the more I realized he was talking about me,” Riley-Love said. “They had emailed me to be sure I was coming, but this, I never imagined.”
Each year, the TDC honors one individual who represents the county in the best way possible to visitors.
Nominations are made by Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau community partners.
Riley-Love’s list of accomplishments includes currently serving on the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce board of directors, founding Friends of the DeSoto National Memorial and also serving as an officer. In addition, she worked on an initiative encouraging youth support at national parks.
Riley-Love was director of the Florida Maritime Museum 2011-14, curating historically significant materials relevant to Southwest Florida’s maritime culture. While there, she wrote and secured a $250,000 grant for the first phase of the restoration at the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage’s 95-acre preserve in Cortez.
For several years she has hosted a wedding festival to showcase local vendors and, most recently, she created the Anna Maria Island Wedding Association.
Riley-Love said when she returned home after winning the trophy, she rang the doorbell so her kids, Jack, 12, and Bella, 14, would answer.
“They opened the door and here I was holding this big trophy. They started jumping up and down and screaming. It was fun,” Riley-Love said.
Previous award winners include Ed Chiles, CEO of the Chiles Group; John Horne, owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurants; and Manatee County Parks and Natural Resource director Charlie Hunsicker.