Southern Exposure 2020 celebrates 'Produce on Parade'

SEPC-logoTAMPA, FL — The huge numbers of people at Southern Exposure 2020 were just one indication that the Southeast Produce Council's annual conference and trade show was successful on all fronts, and in many respects it was perhaps the best ever.

The event took place from Thursday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, Feb. 29, here in the Sunshine State, although the weather was on the cool side by Florida standards.sepc6952Dan'l Mackey Almy, president and CEO at DMA solutions Inc., and Wendy McManus, executive leadership coach at Connect 2 Potential, addressed the STARS breakfast Friday, Feb. 28, during Southern Exposure in Tampa, FL.

All the golfers at the sold-out Tom Page "Topgolf" Classic on Thursday enjoyed the venue and format, and at the end of that event, the winning team consisted of Trey Boyette, Tim Edmondson and Kemp Edmondson, all of SMP Southeast Marketing; Craig Shoemaker of Arby's; Doug Classen of The Nunes Co.; and Mike Gorczyca of Pro-Act.

At the STARS & STEP-UPP dinner that evening, attendees experienced "dinner in the dark," as David Sherrod, the council's president and chief executive officer, had noted. Everyone began each course blindfolded, exposing all of their senses to that culinary experience.

The STARS breakfast on Friday morning featured Dan'l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions, and Wendy McManus, executive leadership coach at Connect 2 Potential.

There were standing-room-only crowds at both educational sessions that morning: The Plight of Plastic and The Power of Produce. And the Southern Roots luncheon for women in produce, which featured a presentation by Colette Carlson, founder of Speak Your Truth Inc., also saw a standing-room-only crowd.

The evening's Opening Gala Masquerade, with many dressed in the gala's Mardi Gras theme, had people dancing into the night to the dynamic sounds of The Party Crashes.

On Saturday, the keynote luncheon had many highlights. Brandon Parker, SEPC chairman of the board of directors, gave a brief report on the state of the council, and he spoke a bit about the STARS and STEP-UPP programs. He also announced the winner of this year's Vorhees Vision Scholarship: Kaytlyn Bunting, daughter of Joseph and Aimee Bunting of United Supermarkets; Kaytlyn thanked the SEPC in a video presentation.

Parker, who is with Shuman Farms, then surprised Faye Westfall of DiMare Fresh Tampa with a Lifetime Membership Award. Westfall, who is also a past chairperson of the SEPC board of directors, and who has been deeply involved in the council's STEP-UPP program since its beginnings, was truly surprised with the honor.

Rick Estess of RPE Inc. then received the Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award. Estess gave an impassioned and heartfelt speech of appreciation in accepting the award, which was made even more poignant as so many of his family members were in the audience to share his honor.

Tony Dungy, who retired in 2009 after a 31-year career in the National Football League, delivered the keynote speech. He talked about his career and the things that made him successful on the field, of course, but he also talked about his priorities of faith and family, which were always evident in his coaching.

Following the keynote luncheon, in keeping with the Produce on Parade theme, SEPC officials and dignitaries led attendees in a "Mardi Gras parade" to the expo hall to open the trade show.

During the expo, The Produce News had an opportunity talk to a number of people about Southern Exposure 2020.

Barbara Briggs of Rice Fruit Co. called it a "fabulous show," adding, "We love being in Florida at this time of the year. We've had a lot of great conversations with our customers. And the educational sessions were very well done. There were great speakers who shared a lot of practical information. And Southern Roots is such a wonderful program. The speakers are always fantastic and very energizing."

Kevin Donovan of Phillips Mushroom Farms said, "We love this show. They do a first-class job of putting the event together. It's a lot of hard work, and we appreciate it. It's always well supported by our retail and foodservice customers."

Charlie Eagle of Southern Specialties declared, "Great show, great people, great events, great opening gala." He added, "We've had excellent response and promising follow-up from the discussions we've had at our booth and throughout the event. We've been exhibiting at SEPC since Lakeland, and this may be the best event we've attended in all those years. David and his team do an excellent job in creating an event that's on the radar of every produce professional in the nation."

CeCe Krumrine of the National Watermelon Promotion Board said, "We've been very busy, seeing a lot of retailers from all over -- the West Coast, the Midwest, Canada, and the Northeast, of course. They're interested in what we have and how we can grow their watermelon business."

Mitch Brinks of Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc. said, "This is a good show all around. We're seeing all the retailers that we do business with -- and many more. This is probably one of the best shows that we go to. We find a lot of value at this show. If there were only one show we could go to, this would be it."

Al Finch of Florida Classic Growers said, "The show just keeps on evolving and getting better and better. The foot traffic has been outstanding. Southern Exposure continues to be an excellent platform for networking between buyers and sellers. The keynote speaker delivered an excellent talk on making a difference in people's lives, which ties in perfectly with the theme of this year's show. All the events surrounding Southern Exposure have been well attended, and feedback from the retail, wholesale and foodservice attendees has been that the SEPC continues to put on excellent events that have value and are worth attending."

Bob Catinella of the Pear Bureau Northwest said, "I thing that the SEPC is a very vibrant show that continues to really deliver for the vendor community. The SEPC continues to build off their history and culture, and has created an atmosphere conducive to building successful business and personal relationships. It's really the culture here that sets this show apart from all other shows in the industry."

Southern Innovations is scheduled for Sept. 17-19 in Savannah, GA, and Southern Exposure returns to Orlando, FL, in 2021.

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