The Southeast Produce Council is expecting to break a variety of attendance records when it convenes its very popular conference and trade show at the end of February.
The annual gathering, known as Southern Exposure, will take place from Feb. 27 to March 1 at the Caribe Royale Conference Center & Hotel in Orlando, FL.
Looking at the anticipated numbers for total attendance, SPC Executive Director Terry Vorhees told The Produce News Monday, Feb. 10, “We’re well over 1,700,” which would set a record, breaking last year’s total attendance of 1,615.
Looking a little deeper into the numbers, Vorhees said, “We’re just over 350 for retail and foodservice attendees,” which also would set a record, surpassing the figure of 256 retail and foodservice attendees in 2012.
The trade show is also set to welcome a record number of exhibitors. There are 267 exhibitors signed up this year, which would smash last year’s number of 234 exhibitors. “We expanded the space” available for exhibitors, Vorhees explained, as the council tried to accommodate the “long waiting list of people” who wanted to exhibit while “keeping the small, personal experience” that has made the trade show so successful year after year.
With that in mind, all exhibit booths are still 10 feet by 10 feet, “so no one is overshadowed,” he stated, “and everybody has the same opportunity as everybody else.”
When members of the produce industry arrive in Orlando for Southern Exposure 2014, whose theme this year is “Under the Big Top,” they can expect an exciting mix of business and social events. And, hopefully, for those in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Midwest areas of the United States, a nice break from an especially cold and snowy winter.
Following some committee meetings Wednesday, Feb. 26, Southern Exposure kicks off Thursday morning, Feb. 27, with the annual golf tournament — which has been renamed the Tom Page Golf Classic — at Reunion Resort. A record 270 golfers have signed up for the tournament, according to Vorhees. Luncheon and awards will follow the tournament.
On Friday, Feb. 28, two workshops will take place. Reggie Griffin of Reggie Griffin Strategies LLC will moderate the first one, Customer Connections: How to Make the Most of Your Meeting, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., with panelists Sean McGoldrick, Teri Miller and Tim Graas. John Avola of Idea Garden Marketing will present the second workshop, How Digital Is Affecting Produce Shopping Trends, from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
A brand new event, a directors appreciation luncheon, is set for noon. The idea behind this luncheon, for all retail and foodservice attendees, is “so that our directors and our retail and foodservice attendees have the opportunity to meet at a smaller event during the conference,” as the SPC website notes.
There will be a Produce for Kids reception from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a Sponsors VIP reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The gala opening party will take place from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with music by The Wild Party Band, which features hits from the 1960s through the 1990s.
Saturday’s events begin with the keynote lunch, featuring keynote speaker Bill Cowher, a former head coach of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and currently an analyst on the CBS television show “The NFL Today.”
Also at this luncheon, Tom Page, now retired from Supervalu Inc. and a former president of the council, will receive the Southeast Produce Council’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, which is co-sponsored by The Produce News.
The trade show will take place immediately after this luncheon, running from 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The closing farewell reception will take place after that, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.