Visit NC Honors Local Tourism Leaders

Winners Circle Welcomes Achievers from Blockade Runner & Duplin Winery



Visit North Carolina inducted Mary Baggett Martin of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach and the Fussell Family of Rose Hill-based Duplin Winery as new members of the Winners Circle, an annual award for significant and continuing contributors to the tourism industry.

Visit NC 365 conference – which ends Tuesday, April 2 – brings together people from across the tourism industry spectrum for educational sessions, addresses by state and national tourism leaders, and opportunities to network with peers from across the state.

Mary Baggett Martin (above) arrived at Blockade Runner Beach Resort in 1984, when she and her brother Bill Baggett took the helm of the family-owned property in Wrightsville Beach.  Since opening in 1964, this landmark retro resort has hosted generations of families in rooms that face the Atlantic or Banks Channel Sound. Martin, a longtime advocate on environmental issues, has extended her leadership beyond Blockade Runner by serving on the N.C. Travel & Tourism Board, the Southeast Tourism Society board, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters board and other organizations.

Duplin Winery, which produced its first 20 cases of muscadine wine in 1975, is in its third generation of ownership by the Fussell family.

Using a cold fermentation process to preserve the grapes’ distinctive sweetness, Duplin produces wines from Carlos, Noble, Magnolia and other cultivars as well the scuppernongs grown on the Mother Vine, the nation’s oldest cultivated grapevine.

The Rose Hill winery draws travelers from Interstate40 to the Bistro Restaurant and retail shop, and to a NorthMyrtle Beachlocation that opened in 2015.

Under the leadership of Dave Fussell (left), president and CEO, and Jonathan Fussell (right), head of retail operations, production has grown to 450,000 cases a year and visitation to 150,000.

The Winners Circle was created in 2004. Previous honorees include the late Hugh Morton of Grandfather Mountain, NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, and Jean Beasley of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.

Two other honorees included Stephen Hill of Mother Earth Brewing and Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer, as winners of the inaugural Esse Quam Videri Award, which highlighted their leadership in developing Kinston as a destination for leisure travel.

North Carolina remains the sixth most-visited state with 46 million people visiting in 2017.  Tourism generated record visitor spending of $23.97 billion, or$66 million per day. Daily contributions to state and local tax coffers averaged $5.4 million.  The tourism industry-supported employment topped 225,000 jobs to set another record for the state.