Circus thrills aim to promote a festive mood at this year’s Southern Exposure, which organizers expect to attract a record number of produce buyers.
Scheduled for Feb. 27 to March 1, the show’s “Under the Big Top” theme promises a carnival-like gathering for the many retail and foodservice buying executives, grower-shippers and other suppliers, brokers, marketers and industry people planning to trek to the Caribe Royal Resort & Conference Center in Orlando, Fla.
In its 11th year, the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure also plans changes to the show’s educational sessions, networking receptions and parties and the large trade show affording time for buyers and sellers to interact.
As of mid-February, more than 350 retail and foodservice attendees — including buyers, vice presidents of produce and produce directors — had registered for the show, considerably more than the 251 that attended last year’s show, according to show organizers.
“We call it the greatest produce show on earth,” said show chairman Bobby Creel, director of business development for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc.
“We’ve heard that for years from the people that attend, but this year, we have a name that goes with it.”
This year, 267 companies are expected to exhibit their products during the March 1 expo, higher than the 234 exhibitors that exhibited last year.
The larger number of exhibitors and exhibit space follows a decision by the council’s board to increase participation.
In all, more than 1,600 industry people are expected, similar to the 1,625 that trekked to Orlando last year and the 1,599 that participated in the Tampa, Fla., show in 2012, said Terry Vorhees, the East Ellijay, Ga.-based council’s executive director.
In mid-February, he said the council had received 1,726 registrations, up from the 1,449 registrations it received by the same time last year.
A longtime attendance committee chairman, Creel credits the show’s success to the retail and foodservice executives who participate, the show’s sponsors and the many volunteers who serve on council committees that plan the event.
“All the committee members put forth a lot of time for this show,” he said.
“In terms of the quality of the retail and foodservice executives that are planning to attend, this show should be the best. It should be the best attendance we’ve ever had.”
As in other years, pre-show interest also remains strong for the other Southern Exposure activities.