Movers & Shakers


Ponte Vedra travel agency owners win Franchisee of the Year Award

Dream Vacations of Ponte Vedra owners Mara Hargarther and Claudia Thaler recently received the Franchisee of the Year Award from the International Franchise Association.

“IFA is proud to recognize Mara and Claudia with the Franchisee of the Year award,” said IFA President & CEO, Robert Cresanti, CFE. “The franchising community is a critical component of the U.S. economy in large part due to the dedication of these exemplary individuals who have helped grow the industry and continue to give back to their communities, including a strong commitment to help others in need.”

A cruise and travel agency, Dream Vacations said the franchise owners are “inspirational role models” for other franchisees.

“We are proud and humbled to have won the International Franchise Association Franchise of the Year on behalf of Dream Vacations,” Hargarther said. “We are so fortunate to be in this business where we make dreams come true.”

VCB presents hospitality and tourism awards

The St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau presented awards to representatives of St. Johns County’s tourism and hospitality industries at its recent annual meeting.

Taking home the top award in the attractions category was Bill “Captain William Mayhem” McRae of the St. Augustin Pirate & Treasure Museum. Dianya Markovitz of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall received the award in the government category while Jenny Regland of the Pirate Haus Inn received the lodging category prize. Paul Thomas Burch of the Sunset Grille took home the award in the restaurant category, while the top retail award went to Sam Andrews of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum gift shop.

Cottingham completes Tauck training

Beverly Cottingham, a travel agent from AAA Travel in Ponte Vedra Beach, recently completed an in-depth training program with Tauck, joining the less than 1 percent of the company’s worldwide network of travel agents who have completed the program. By successfully completing the curriculum, Cottingham becomes a Tauck Certified agent who qualifies for special benefits and other exclusive programs provided by the company.

Tauck is a 90-year-old leader in premium quality guided travel, with more than 120 land journeys and cruises to more than 70 countries and all seven continents. The company was recently named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine for the second consecutive year.

Florida museum director named president-elect of Paleontological Society

Bruce McFadden has been selected to serve as president-elect of the Paleontological Society. A Florida Museum of Natural History curator and University of Florida professor, McFadden took office Sept. 25 during the society’s annual meeting in Denver. He will serve two years as president-elect and then a two-year term as president.

“It is an honor to lead the Paleontological Society,” MacFadden said. “I am interested in reaching out to anyone who wants to be involved with fossils and paleontology, whether they are professionals, students, teachers, hobbyists or other members of the general public.”

MacFadden was a geology instructor at Yale University before he began working at the Florida Museum in 1977. His research focuses on the evolution, ecology and geography of fossil mammals that have lived in the Americas over the past 50 million years.