It's a wrap!
Together again and celebrating the Roaring 20s FAA style was the theme of the 2021 Annual Conference held August 29 - 31 in historic downtown Fort Myers. Headquartered in the speculator Luminary Hotel and the adjacent Caloosa Sound Convention Center, the spirit of FAA was alive and well as we investigated our industry’s place throughout and post pandemic. With the thematic subtexts of Inspiration, Innovation and Illumination guiding us, Florida attraction industry professionals shared their experiences and insights as our world moves through the final phases of the pandemic.
Our members joined together for the first ever FAA Family reunion on Sunday afternoon, an opportunity for attendees to renew old friendships and make new ones. Later we gathered for the Conference Launch with Matt Johnson (IMAG History & Science Center), who magically transitioned from an on-stage manikin to a living, breathing Chairman of the Board! We received a warm welcome from Tamara Pigott, Executive Director of the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, our host destination and sponsor of Sunday’s activities. Following a reception with our sponsors and exhibitors in the Networking Center, we moved to the pool deck of the Luminary for a stunning culinary buffet.
Monday morning launched our first general Session with a panel discussion, Behind the Covid Curtain. Three leaders, Ryan Lock (State Emergency Response Team), Dr. Jerry Parrish (Florida Chamber Foundation Economist) and Katie Kelly (Global Disney Covid response leader) shared their experiences during the early days of the pandemic and revealed how their respective organizations responded to the threat. Next, Matt Heller (Performance Optimist Consulting) led attendees in an interactive, deep dive into our experiences through the pandemic and how me managed our lives and our businesses through the ordeal. That session was recorded for a podcast of AttractionPros.
Our Arrival of the Gavel event featured two 1920s dancers taking the dais and leading Chairman Johnson in a dance routine that had to be seen to believed. Our Annual Meeting approved three new Directors to our Board – Teresa Kennedy (Jacksonville Zoo), Retta Logan (AAA Flag & Banner) and Melissa Vogt (Broadway Palm Dinner Theater).
Chris Thompson, President/CEO of Brand USA shared their plans for promoting the USA to the world’s travelers as travel conditions begin to open. Chris is a close friend to our industry and though leading our nation’s travel marketing, continues to reside in the Sunshine State.
Later Monday, Dana Young (President/CEO) provided an update on VISIT FLORIDA and their plans over the next year to market Florida domestically and internationally. Three Florida State Representatives Jenna Persons-Mulicka (District 78), Adam Botana (District 76), and Spencer Roach (District 70) participated in an interactive Q&A with our members of the Legislature’s past actions and agendas for the 2022 Legislative Session.
Our Taste of Fort Myers dine around was a perfect opportunity to meet new colleagues and discuss the state of the industry while enjoying the fine cuisine of the city, with numerous eateries just steps from the Luminary.
During our Celebration Breakfast on Tuesday morning, we heard updates on the Florida Attractions Scholarship Foundation Golf Tournament and the FAA’s two map products. Foundation Chairman Nick Romeo provided a report on the FASF’s scholarship award winners over the last two years. FAA Chairman Matt Johnson presented his Annual Report reviewing the FAA’s activities over the last two years. Finally, we recognized several leaders for their extraordinary service to the FAA. Jennifer Green (Liberty Partners of Tallahassee) was honored with the 2021 Chairman’s Award, Lisa Sbuttoni (Fort Myers River District) was presented Outstanding Associate Member of the Year and Skip Alderman (Orlando Shakes) was presented our Outstanding Attraction Member of the Year. As a special surprise, Mike Donaldson was recognized for his 20 years of service to the Florida Attractions Association. Mike was speechless!
Our final session on Tuesday afternoon, featured renowned organizational leadership researcher, Susan Salgado who shared actionable ideas to improve the performance of our teams.
Our finale featured the passing of the gavel from Matt Johnson to Jennifer Berthiaume (Lion Country Safari). Matt’s wife Shannon and 3 children surprised Matt and were a part of our time honoring him for his valiant leadership to the FAA through a historic pandemic.
During the Conference, attendees had the opportunity to participate in 8 unique Breakout Sessions and 10 Roundtable topics. These small-group sessions are a hallmark of the FAA and provide sharing insights and investigating solutions to challenges our industry faces. These Breakout and Roundtables would not be possible without the volunteer leadership of dozens of FAA members and industry resources – to these talented and generous individuals, we say thank you!
Our final celebration was the Roaring 20s Celebration at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center, a new FAA member attraction located 2 blocks from the Luminary. Many joined the spirit of the evening wearing period costumes for their stroll down the streets of Fort Myers to the party. A sumptuous buffet and toe-tapping live music from Hot Buttered Nuggets highlighted the evening.
FAA events require the active engagement of so many before, during and after the event. Literally hundreds are responsible for our success, but the financial commitment from our sponsors brings the dream to a reality, and to them, we are all most grateful.
The Roaring 20s are here and now, more than ever, we must encompass the Inspiration, Innovation and Illumination of our industry’s talented leaders to move the Florida Attraction Association to the next level of providing the Finest in Family Entertainment.