Bristol, Tenn.-Va. (June 10, 2022) – Leah Ross, executive director of advancement for the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), has earned the Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) at the tourism agency’s 25th annual conference June 9, presented by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Bristol Motor Speedway. The award is the highest honor presented to an individual or organization that has made a highly significant contribution to the travel and tourism industry in Northeast Tennessee.
“A tenacious ambassador for Bristol and the arts, Ross has earned the reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done, whatever the task,” said Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (pictured right with Ross). “She can often be found working in the trenches with volunteers, and she is well-known for her diplomatic skills and for bringing groups together. Her tireless energy and passion for our region and its music culture has parlayed itself into dogged advocacy for our community and the banner success of BCM.”
“You can’t possibly think about the impact of tourism in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia without thinking about Leah Ross,” said NETTA Executive Director Alicia Phelps. “It takes most people a lifetime to accomplish the milestones she has for our region and the Birthplace of Country Music. The best part is, she’s not done yet. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”
“I am very humbled to receive this recognition from NETTA,” said Ross. “I stand on the shoulders of a very talented team at BCM, many community leaders, partners, and volunteers, and the individuals and visionaries before me who laid the foundation for what our organization has become. I am so grateful for their hard work and passion for our mission – without them, none of it would have been possible.”
Ross was among the founding volunteers of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion since its inception in 2001, and became executive director for the event in 2005. According to an independent economic impact study, the festival brings in an estimated $16.1 million in economic impact to the region. In 2012 the festival merged with the former Birthplace of Country Music Alliance to form BCM with the goal of building a museum honoring the heritage of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. A mere two years later, in August of 2014, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, opened its doors to the public. WBCM Radio Bristol, which broadcasts from the museum, went on the air in 2015.
Under Ross’ leadership, BCM has earned dozens of tourism and museum industry awards including the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Tennessee Governor’s Arts Leadership Award, plus honors from the International Festivals & Events Association, Southeast Festival & Events Association, Tennessee Association of Museums, NETTA, Southeast Tourism Society, and the American Bus Association.
Ross’ many personal accomplishments include the Industry Leadership Award from NETTA, the Arts Alliance Mountain Empire’s Arts Achievement Award, YWCA Bristol’s Tribute to Women, a service award from the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Bristol Motor Speedway’s Extra Mile Award for Volunteerism, to name a few.
In addition to Ross’ Lifetime Achievement Award, BCM took home the Pinnacle Award for Event of the Year for the 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival and a Pinnacle for Advertising and Promotions, Long Video, for Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion: Celebrating 20 Years in 2021 Episode 4 docuseries episode, produced by Loch & Key Productions of Knoxville, Tennessee. Additionally, Victory Lap Media, a public relations firm based in Asheville, North Carolina and nominated by BCM, took home NETTA’s Pinnacle for Agency of the Year. BCM contracted Victory Lap to help with media and public relations for the organization in 2021.
For more information about the Birthplace of Country Music, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.