CHEERS, applause and hundreds of beaming faces filled the evening as South Lakeland’s finest firms celebrated The Westmorland Gazette’s first ever Business and Tourism Awards last night.

Eleven inspirational enterprises from Cumbria, North Lancashire and North Yorkshire were crowned the cream of the crop after fighting off fierce competition from more than 120 entrants.

A glittering evening of tuxedos and evening gowns saw Hawes-based firm Wensleydale Dairy Products scoop The Business of the Year award, after its 59 staff battled back from redundancy to form a booming cheese specialists that earns international acclaim.

The company’s managing director David Hartley smiled as he explained how the team brought their brand back from the brink of extinction and turned it into a major UK manufacturer, which now employs 200 staff.

He said: “This is absolutely fantastic.

Our team is very proud of the business and to win the first Westmorland Gazette Business Award is a real credit to everyone on our team.

“I never feel that we’ve totally proved ourselves - there’s still so much to do but being able to celebrate tonight is great and we will have to have a huge party for the staff later on too.”

Other winners included Best Western Castle Green Hotel, who won the Training and Development Award.

Hawkshead Brewery pipped dozens of other firms to be crowned Small Business of the Year.

Kendal-based bed and breakfast Beech House scooped the Gazette’s fiercely contested Bed and Breakfast Award.

The Innovation and Technology Award was won by LED lighting specialists Forge Europa.

Staff at soap and care products manufacturer McBride Plc earned their company new contracts and impressed judges to win the Team of the Year Award.

The Westmorland County Agricultural Society won the Social and Community Development Award after tireless work to bring together farmers, teachers, traders, and thousands of visitors.

Squeaky clean company Pure Lakes Skin Care, of Staveley, scrubbed up enough to scoop the Gazette’s Green Award for its eco-friendly products.

The Retailer of the Year Award was clinched by the Hawkshead Relish Company, which grew from a couple’s big idea to an ambitious international company.

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, based in Bowness-on-Windermere, helped cater for a global fascination for a Cumbrian writer and scooped the business the Tourist Attraction/Operator of the Year Award.

Finally, after fighting off fierce competition from across the county, the family run Gilpin Lodge and Lake House scooped The Hotel of the Year Award.

* For all the drama from the event, photographs, and the reaction of all our winners on the night see Thursday's edition of The Westmorland Gazette.

* Click on the link below for our photo gallery from the event.