John Johnson Receives 2017 “Big WYO” Award

February 1, 2017—Cheyenne, Wyoming—The Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) and the Wyoming Lodging & Restaurant Association (WLRA), on behalf of the entire hospitality and tourism industry, are thrilled to announce this year’s recipient of the annual “Big WYO” award, John Johnson of Casper, Wyoming. More than 225 industry partners celebrated Johnson’s award at last night’s Salute to the Industry Gala where Governor Matt Mead presented the award to Johnson.

“I couldn’t be more proud of John for receiving this year’s Big WYO award,” said Governor Matt Mead. “John has been serving great food to the people of Casper with a smile, a handshake and a personal greeting for a long time. His expanding restaurant business is a tribute to him and personal traits like honesty, integrity and giving back to the community. I wish John all the best now and in the future.”

Each year, the “Big WYO” award is sponsored by the WLRA and given to an individual who has done an outstanding job promoting and improving the tourism industry in Wyoming. 

“There’s no one more deserving of this year’s award than John Johnson,” said Chris Brown, executive director for the WLRA. “John is a tireless advocate for the travel and tourism industry in Wyoming and on behalf of all of us at WLRA, we thank him for his years of service and dedication.”

Johnson is the founder and president of Johnson Restaurant Group, Inc.—which currently includes several restaurants and two retail liquor stores—a company he started in May 1978 at the age of 21. A longtime member and past president of the WLRA, he advocates for tourism locally, statewide and nationally and understands the power of tourism as an economic driver in Wyoming. His passion is the restaurant industry and he’s known as one of the hardest-working men in Wyoming.

“John is the spirit of hospitality,” said Diane Shober, executive director for WOT. “He believes in Wyoming and the people who make their home here, and we could not be more proud of him and the work he has done to move our industry forward.”

As an active participant in Wyoming’s tourism industry for nearly 40 years, Johnson is well respected by his fellow peers and is known for always being willing to step up and do the work, no matter what it is. With restaurants in Wyoming, Montana and Nevada, Johnson is known for his strong support of communities. He serves on the Downtown Development Authority in Casper and is active with the National Restaurant Association.

“On behalf of the WLRA Board, John is a true inspiration for all us as he shows us that we can all always do a little more,” said Christine Hill, president of WLRA.

2017 marks the 40th year that the “Big WYO” award has been given. Learn more at