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BOSTON — The New England Produce Council drew a large crowd of exhibitors, retailers and produce industry members to its baseball-themed 11th annual Produce & Floral Expo, here, complete with a former Major League Baseball star and a well-trafficked exhibit floor.

 

NomarFormer Major League Baseball player Nomar Garciaparra gave the keynote address at the April 27 breakfast.
“It is the quality of attendance that we feel has improved this year,” Laura Sullivan, executive director of the council, told The Produce News April 27. “We have a lot of retailers from outside the area that are in attendance. We are always fortunate to have the support of the New England retailers in full force. But we are fortunate to have retailers from outside New England support the show.”

 

Cece Krumrine, a founding member of the council, said, “[The council’s board] invited Wegmans, and they all showed up. The Eastern Produce Council has a big contingent.”

She noted a strong retail presence among attendees, which she attributed to “a concerted effort to reach out.”

There were roughly 230 booths on the exhibit floor, which is about the same number as the 2010 show. Sponsorships, however, were up.

“We sold more sponsorships this year,” Ms. Sullivan said. “We had our VIP reception (April 26 before the opening reception, sponsored by Shuman Produce Inc.), which was a new addition to the show this year.”

At the April 27 keynote breakfast, which was full to capacity, Nate Sprague, produce merchandizing manager for Hannaford Bros. Co., told The Produce News that he was at the expo to “further develop business relationships. Typically, when I come to these shows, I try to come away with two things I can do differently. I don’t usually have a big plan. I have several people from the company here. I don’t usually like to walk as a group — you tend to get bogged down. It is good to bounce ideas off each other. I have come before with a detailed plan to try to get things done and it doesn’t always go that way. So I just come with an open mind.”

Several speeches and presentations were made during the breakfast, including a pledge for $5,000 in scholarship money from NEPC board member Theresa Nolan of The Nolan Network to the James & Theresa Nolan Family Foundation, which commemorates the life of her late husband, Jim Nolan. The money will be awarded to a student selected through an application process that requires submission of an essay on ethics.

Bob McGowan of Advantage Sales & Marketing and a member of the council’s Produce & Floral Expo Committee, who also is an officer on the council’s board of directors, presented lifelong-retailer Will Wedge of Shop ‘n Save, who is also on the expo board and is second vice president of the council, an award in recognition of his service to the council at the keynote breakfast.

A floral design contest was held and the winner announced after Ms. Nolan’s presentation. Linda Serra of Shaw’s Supermarkets took top honors for her design based on the theme, “tropical designs from out in left field.”

The breakfast closed with a keynote address by Nomar Garciaparra, who retired from the Boston Red Sox in March 2010. He was a Major League Baseball player for 16 years —most of them with the Red Sox — and now works as an analyst for ESPN.

At the podium, Mr. Garciaparra talked about his career and told stories of his days as a player before fielding questions from the packed room. Questions were rewarded with frank answers and autographed soft baseballs.

In a departure from the norm, Ms. Sullivan told The Produce News that next year’s expo would be held April 25, 2012, outside Boston at Gillette Stadium.

“We are very excited to hold the event at Gillette Stadium. It is not Boston, but it is nice to change it up. And we will be back in Boston.”