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Grand Ole Opry sets stage for victory in Vidalia display contest

The Vidalia Onion Committee’s 2011 Sweet Vidalias & Country Music promotion featured a retail display contest that drew more than 100 entries from across the United States. The winning display entry came from Charles Hanks, manager of a Harvey’s store in Tallahassee, FL. As a result, Mr. Hanks won the grand prize Ultimate VIP Trip to Nashville, TN, the Music City.

Mr. Hanks and his staff built a massive Grand Ole Opry stage in their produce department with Vidalia Onions as the “featured act.” The display came alive with guitars and dancing Vidalias that Mr. Hanks and his son drew by hand on plywood and constructed. He said that the display was so popular that he had trouble getting a snapshot of it without a mob of customers. He also cross-promoted Vidalia products and had several secondary displays throughout the store.

The first runner-up featured a unique farm twist: a front-end loader dragging bins filled with Vidalia onions through an “onion field.” The second runner-up also erected a very detailed rendering of the Grand Ole Opry.

The contest offered an opportunity to have fun and be creative with colorful country-music-themed point-of-sale materials and packaging provided by the committee. A judging panel comprised of Vidalia onion marketers determined the winners based on size and location of display, creative display techniques, quality of display, use of p-o-s materials and signage, additional security displays, and proper stacking of loose onions or bags.

Vidalia Onion Committee Executive Director Wendy Brannen was among the judging panel and said that the top three immediately stood out. “We were truly in awe of the top three,” she said in a Nov. 1 press release. “To say they were creative doesn’t do them justice. I cannot imagine being a consumer and not stopping to buy some Vidalias with those displays there.” She added that the honorable mentions were also very fun and clever.

Mr. Hanks’ grand prize includes round-trip airfare for two, hotel accommodations for two nights, Grand Ole Opry tickets and Nashville’s official VIP Backstage booklet, which contains a number of saving offers on entertainment, dining and recreational activities. His display and those of the other winners will be showcased on through 2012.

The runners-up — Produce Manager Laina Chastain of Harvey’s in Grey, GA, and Store Owner Pam Coy of Viking Village Inc. in Reedsburg, WI — will receive goodie baskets from the committee that include CDs from some of the campaign’s featured country artists.

Honorable Mentions include:

• Specialist Patti Helf and Produce Manager Mark Collard of Homeland in Muskogee, OK.

• Specialist Patti Helf and Produce Manager Iva Weber of Homeland in Sand Springs, OK.

• Produce Manager Mike Oliver and Assistant Manager Bill Kleppe of Pennington Market in Pennington, NJ.

• Produce Manager Lequitte Perry of Food City in Louisa, KY.

• Produce Manager Peggy Hurley in Food City in Vansant, VA.

• Produce Manager Loretta Wilson of Food City in Galax, VA.

• Randall Havens of Bruno’s in Mobile, AL.

In 2011, the American Favorites: Sweet Vidalias & Country Music promotion was featured in thousands of retail store displays and Vidalia onion packages as well as in radio advertising, print ads and social media, and included free song downloads in addition to a consumer jingle contest. Vidalia packaging and marketing featured some of country music’s bigger stars, including Vince Gill, Billy Currington, Gary Allan and Ashton Shepherd. The committee will continue the promotion in 2012.