As preregistrations for nonretail and foodservice buyer attendees closed in mid-February, Vorhees said the council accepts buyer registrations up to March 1.
The event is scheduled to unofficially begin on March 1 with a pre-show golf tournament at the Lake Jovita Golf Club in Dade City north of Tampa. The sold-out tournament includes an evening awards dinner.
On March 2, educational field tours mark the conference’s official start.
Busloads of retail and foodservice participants are scheduled to visit Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc.’s Port of Manatee import operations and Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms’ strawberry and vegetable growing and shipping operations in eastern Hillsborough County.
The council welcomes participants through its March 2 Hollywood-themed evening gala opening party in the Grand Ballroom of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.
Two March 3 morning educational sessions at the Tampa Convention Center are planned to cover produce traceability and how food bloggers are influencing produce consumers.
After the sessions, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is scheduled to deliver the conference’s March 3 keynote address during the event’s brunch.
The expo opens at noon and closes at 6 p.m., in time for the closing evening reception on the Marriott’s waterside patio.
Unlike the opening gala, which features the big Hollywood costume theme, singing by a Frank Sinatra imitator and a deejay hosting a dance to the sounds of classic rock music, the March 3 closing reception also features musical entertainment but should offer a more relaxed atmosphere, Vorhees said. Both receptions require special tickets.
Vorhees said he expects this year’s opening gala party to surpass last year’s 800 participants.
This year, the Hyatt Regency Tampa joins the show’s other official hotels, the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Embassy Suites Tampa-Downtown Convention Center.
Vorhees said the Hyatt is a short walk up the street from the other two hotels, which are across the street from the convention center’s entrance.
"We try to do as much as we can to make sure our retail and foodservice attendees are staying in the conference hotels," Vorhees said. "Tampa is a great venue for our show. You have the convention center with all the hotels. People say flying to Tampa is easy and not far from the airport to downtown Tampa."