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NEPC celebrating 10th expo anniversary

by Tad Thompson | April 06, 2010
The 10th anniversary show of the New England Produce Council will carry the patriotic theme of Stars & Stripes, according to Laura Sullivan, executive director of the council, which is based in Burlington, MA.

The 2010 NEPC Produce & Floral Expo will be held April 14 in Boston's Hynes Convention Center. Set-up for show exhibitors will be April 13, and there is a pre-event cocktail party for exhibitors and invited guests on the evening of April 13.

Ms. Sullivan said that the convention committee chose to put an entertainment focus on the keynote speaker this year. Thus comedian Lenny Clarke will address the crowd's opening breakfast. Mr. Clarke has appeared on national television shows and "is very well known in the New England area," according to Ms. Sullivan. The opening breakfast will be held at Boston's Sheraton Hotel.

This year the show will continue the Career Pathways program that the council conducts in cooperation with the Produce Marketing Association. Ms. Sullivan explained that eight students from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Maine are part of the 2010 Career Pathways program. The students will "team up with different retailers to mentor them while at the show." Ms. Sullivan noted that this year Career Pathways is sponsored by Coast to Coast Produce LLC, which is based in Cheshire, CT. The sponsorship is in memory of Peter Sticco, the founder of Coast to Coast, who died in September 2008. On the morning of the expo, a video clip about Mr. Sticco and "his dedication to the produce industry" will be shown.

A floral display contest is being conducted in conjunction with the event again this year. Floral design contest awards will be presented on the morning of April 14.

The expo floor will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. As of March 29, 228 booths had been sold, "and I'm pretty certain we'll have 230 this year," said Ms. Sullivan. "That is up from last year. We are expecting great attendance from all retailers. Some will come from the New York-New Jersey area, and all the New England retailers" will be in attendance.

"Our celebrity this year is Tedy Bruschi," Ms. Sullivan said. Mr. Bruschi will be on the show floor from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. to sign autographs. A member of three Super Bowl winning teams, Mr. Bruschi was the longest-tenured player for the New England Patriots until this year's retirement. Mr. Bruschi was drafted by the Patriots in 1996 and, as a middle linebacker, was an integral part of the team's defense throughout his career, according to the NEPC website.

Ms. Sullivan said that the NEPC expo "works well for some of the smaller companies that can't afford to go to larger shows to showcase their products. This gives vendors an opportunity to get up close and personal with New England and area buyers. At a regional show, they can have more face time with these particular buyers. That is the essence of it."

Asked if the show might outgrow its current and attractive level of intimacy, she replied, "The only thing I'd say is that we may have to extend the show hours. But the constant response from exhibitors is to keep the exhibit as a one-day show. They like to come, do their business and leave. They may come before the show or leave later to have meetings, but they like the format of a one-day show -- and one day to set up. The constant feedback I get is that they like that. It helps keep their cost down. In comparison [to] other shows, we're relatively inexpensive. We've not raised our price, ever. That makes it feasible and makes it a great event."