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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Western Mass, Something for Everyone

Mary Kay Wydra is president of the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB), one of 16 regional tourism councils across Massachusetts.   We spoke with Mary Kay about this amazing part of western Massachusetts and what’s coming up there in 2023.



Tell us about your background and how you came to lead the Greater Springfield CVB? 

I have just celebrated my 35th year anniversary with the GSCVB.  My first title here was Convention Services Coordinator and I was fresh out of Springfield College, where I was a business major. I instantly found the work very interesting and the opportunity to work with so many diverse businesses, personalities and happenings was exciting.  As the years passed, I took on more and more responsibility, and new doors kept opening. There were the inevitable bumps in the road, but I’ve been very lucky to have exceptional, hands-on boards the whole way, and we always navigated a course through the tough spots. We’ve seen social media and digital marketing evolve,  launched major initiatives and helped our members to survive a pandemic.  Except for a 15-month period starting in 1991 with Big Y Foods as a Public Affairs Assistant, I have spent my entire career with the GSCVB. I continue to love my job, as no two days are ever the same!

People overlook a river landscape in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Springfield, Massachusetts

You’ve said recently that Springfield’s hospitality sector is in a ‘wave of recovery’ post-pandemic.  How is that recovery going?

Yes, our hospitality industry is absolutely coming back strong and it’s going extremely well. What we see is busy restaurants, hotels reporting strong occupancy, and our attractions have virtually all returned to or exceeded 2019 turnstile levels. There’s a lot of confidence out there as larger fairs and festivals announce 2023 plans. We’ve also been getting a solid flow of inquiries from convention and event planners, who are sending out requests for proposals, booking site inspections and showing up in person to tour our facilities. Our members still tell us they can’t hire staff as quickly as they’d like, but that’s about the only down factor we’re still aware of. Visitors clearly want to come to Western Massachusetts, and business is good!


Tell us about the GSCVB’s 26th annual Howdy Awards and why it is such a prestigious accolade for hospitality workers. 

Guest experience  is everything in the hospitality industry. That’s why, for over 26 years, the GSCVB has put an emphasis on the importance of providing outstanding customer service.  The Howdy Awards and its nomination process are how we recognize our incredible front-line workers.  From food & beverage servers to accommodations staff to attractions teams and more, they play a critical role in creating impressions and memories for our region. These folks can make or break a visit based on their interaction with our guests. Having dependable people is at the very core of hospitality, and we want to reward the ones that go above and beyond in Western Mass. We’ve seen our Howdy program evolve over the years as we have introduced new categories and remained relevant in this age where social media and online interactions occur more and more between guest and host. We added the “People’s Choice” Award which goes to the finalist who receives the most online votes from the public.

A man wearing a colorful costume marches in a Saint Patrick's Day parade in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Holyoke, Massachusetts

Massachusetts is busy in March with Women’s History, Irish Heritage and Maple Syrup being celebrated.  What are some of the highlights taking place in your region? 

Well, everyone’s Irish in March and Holyoke is definitely the place to be. It’s home to one of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades, set for Sunday, March 19. The weekend’s festivities includes an amazing 10K road race through the city on Saturday, March 18.

Our region is also home to many great sugar shacks, with pancakes piled high and fresh maple syrup tapped locally. Some of the bigger producers serve incredible breakfasts on weekends and they get lots of hungry visitors.


Greater Springfield is perfectly positioned in Western Mass, within easy driving distance from Boston, New York all of New England and eastern Canada. What are some of the big attractions or events that will lure visitors here in 2023?

We are blessed with so many great attractions, and we truly offer something for everyone.

New for 2023 is Ironman 70.3 Western Mass which is expected to draw 2,000 athletes to swim, bike and run throughout a number of towns in Hampden County on June 11. Also new this year is Hooplandia, the Northeast’s ultimate basketball 3×3 tourney and festival , which will take place two weeks later in Springfield and West Springfield.

We are home to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Springfield Museums—a campus of 5 museums including the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, Six Flags New England, Yankee Candle Village and our newest attraction, MGM Springfield.

The huge Brimfield Flea Market is returning in full force this year with gigantic antique shows in May, July and September. We’re also known for the Big E, our annual 17-day fair, which takes place each September and draws over 1.5 million people. At year’s end, Bright Nights at Forest Park is a massive, not-to-be-missed holiday lighting display.


Thank you, Mary Kay!


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A stone bridge leads into Greater Springfield, Massachusetts.

Springfield, Massachusetts