Participants in the 2018 Millinocket Marathon & Half head up the scenic Golden Road with Mt. Kathadin as the backdrop on Dec. 8, 2018.

The founder and director of the Millinocket Marathon and several other significant endurance events across Maine was honored during the recent Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Augusta Civic Center.

Gary Allen of Cranberry Isles was presented the 2019 Governor’s Conference on Tourism Originality Award for his creative work in organizing cutting-edge events that help build, empower and activate Maine communities.

This award is presented to companies, organizations or persons who have made significant contributions to Maine’s tourism industry.

Allen is the first individual to win the award.

“Gary Allen is emblematic of the Maine spirit of originality,” Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in a release. “His vision for a kind of ‘participation tourism’ that binds visitors and communities is directly in line with current trends in the types of experiences today’s visitors seek, and is a commendable example of sustainable tourism.”

The award specifically recognizes the Millinocket Marathon, which has earned national accolades for its cutting-edge, pay-it-forward, free-to-participate platform.

The December race has attracted thousands of new visitors to the Katahdin area and has provided a major economic boost to a region devastated by the collapse of the northern Maine paper industry.

Participants not only are going to the Katahdin region from all across the United States for the race, but several attendees recently have purchased homes in Millinocket.

“I am beyond thrilled to be recognized for what I do but make no mistake, I believe these accolades represent the absolute tip of the iceberg for what we can do here in Maine to grow our tourism economy by thinking outside the box,” Allen said in the release.

Allen is also the founder and director of the nationally acclaimed Mount Desert Island Marathon.

“I firmly believe that even in well-established tourism destinations like here on Mount Desert Island, it’s vitally important to recognize a quickly changing demographic where visitors want to be both challenged and engage in ‘do this’ types of organized outdoor recreation experiences that test them versus more traditional ‘look at this’ types of sightseeing opportunities.“ Allen said.

“Endurance sports have become the common person’s Mount Everest in my humble opinion, and Maine is poised near large, active urban populations who will absolutely come if we build it.”​