Tourism Ambassador

Madison Trolley driver Duncan
named Hospitality Award winner

The award is presented annually by the tourism office

(June 2015) – After living and working in Madison, Ind., all her life, Judy Duncan in May was honored when she was presented the tourism office’s hospitality award, known as the Host Award. After driving school busses for 30 years, she began driving the Madison Trolley and has been at the wheel for the last 15 years.
VisitMadison Inc., the town’s tourism bureau, began awarding its hospitality award, or “Host Award,” in 2001. It is presented each year in May to celebrate National Tourism Week. The award goes to someone in the community who shows exceptional hospitality.
Visitors select the candidates of the award by giving recommendations when they have a good experience with someone in town. Throughout the year, the tourism office collects emails, cards and feedback from the guest book, which contributes to the decision.

Photo by Emily Ward

Judy Duncan has been ferrying tourists around Madison, Ind., on the trolley since taking over the job 15 years ago.

Linda Lytle, executive director of the tourism office, said, “It is so important to have people come back to our town. We want to recognize the people working in hospitality because they are the reason the tourists come back.”
The state has its own similar award that is presented annually. It is called the Lt. Governor’s Hoosier Hospitality Award. It is given in August at the state fair. Duncan has also won that award in 2009 and was honored at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.
“Judy Duncan is one of those people that go above and beyond in hospitality,” Lytle said.
It was a school bus driver who built the trolleys. There are two working trolleys in Madison. The bigger one was built in 1982, and the smaller trolley was a modified school bus built in 1983. Duncan said her transition from bus to trolley was very smooth since they are so similar in build.
“I thought I would never be able to meet and talk to strangers,” said Duncan, 62.
Former Madison Trolley driver Keith Brubaker convinced Duncan to begin driving the trolley. When he asked Judy to get behind the wheel and take over for him, she told him, “Well I was born and raised here and so were my parents, but I don’t know that much about Madison.”
Duncan’s knowledge of Madison quickly changed. She learned all the facts and places along the hour-long tour, and she soon realized she loved it.
“It’s supposed to be an hour tour, but my mouth usually goes for a bit longer than an hour,” Duncan said, smiling.
The tours cost $10 a person. All the money is used to pay the trolley insurance. The cost of the insurance is very high, Duncan said.
Dave Adams, one of four co-owners of the Trolley Co., said, “Judy is a phenomenal lady, and she is the only reason we bought the trolley.”
The Madison Trolley offers historic trolley tours of downtown Madison, telling the history of Madison’s past 200 years. The trolleys also run for pub crawls, festivals, field trips for children, and special events such as weddings.
“I love the weddings. There are no two alike,” said Duncan.
Duncan said she has had good times and bad times on the trolley. The most embarrassing moment for her was when she went to pick up a group of people and fell down the steps of the trolley in front of everyone. “I fell right in the middle of 20 people.”
A man in the back of the trolley yelled, “Not only is she a female and blond, she is a klutz.” He later apologized and gave her a very nice tip.
Another time she had to deal with a daring bride who kept “mooning” people – including a city councilman – as the trolley passed through town.
But overall, Duncan said, “I’ve met a lot of really sweet people who want to come back every year.”
The tourists love the trolley and continue to come back to Madison. The Host Award is one of the few examples of how the people of Madison are recognized for their hard work in hospitality.
“The trolley is a legacy for our town,” said Adams.

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