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Rose Awards Recognize Industry Professionals

Visit Detroit honors 145 professionals during 2023 ceremonies

By Kathy Gibbons

ROSE Award honorees include Hiran Alles, Thomasina Bryant, Kitty Whitfield, Claude Molinari, Jamara Lee, John Boyce, Ny’Asia Valdez, and Bianca Lupp. || Courtesy of Visit Detroit

Kitty Whitfield assumed she hadn’t won when her name wasn’t called during the category in which she’d been nominated at the 27th ROSE Awards (Recognition of Service Excellence).

Then her sisters began shouting after a video started rolling in conjunction with announcing she had received the 2023 Overall Service Champion award during the ROSE Awards ceremonies hosted by Visit Detroit.

According to Visit Detroit, some 460,000 people in southeast Michigan work in jobs connected to the hospitality and travel industries, with 145 recognized at the event attended by 600 held Aug. 31 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board Theater. The 145 candidates for the ROSE Awards were nominated by clients, guests, supervisors, and the public at large. One winner in each of six categories was selected by a panel of industry professionals from Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit. Besides the special award for Whitfield, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy received the ROSE Awards’ William F. McLaughlin Award for hospitality customer service.

A press release about the ROSE Awards noted that Whitfield, small business engagement manager with the Downtown Detroit Partnership, was honored because she worked hard during the pandemic to support hospitality and small businesses with resources they needed to stay in operation. She says Downtown Detroit Partnership CEO Eric Larson (“who loves Detroit almost as much as I do”) had urged her to reach out.

Kitty Whitfield was named Overall Service Champion during the 2023 ROSE Awards. || Courtesy of Downtown Detroit Partnership

“It was unprecedented,” Whitfield says. “Nobody knew what to do. I got on the phone and started calling around to find out … what was happening.”

Whitfield says she spread the word about grants that were available to help businesses keep operating. “I didn’t want to tell anybody about loans because my people were already hurting,” she says. “They wanted a leg up.”

At the time, Whitfield had only recently begun her job, having previously been executive assistant to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan for more than seven years. In accepting her ROSE Award, she said it was wonderful to be able to help and work with small businesses in that way.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy was praised for being steadfast in its mission to unite the 5.5-mile riverfront trail from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park just east of the Belle Isle Bridge. It’s made USA Today’s 10Best list as the top riverwalk in America for three years.

The 2023 ROSE Awards category winners included:

Hiran Alles, Wayne County Airport Authority—Volunteer

Ny’Asia Valdez, barhandler, The HandleBar—Attractions and Casinos

Jamara Lee, Delta Air Lines customer service agent—Transportation

John Boyce, bartender, Five Steakhouse—Restaurants

Thomasina Bryant, concierge, Huntington Place—Behind the Scenes

Bianca Lupp, front desk agent, Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac—Hotels