My FAA Story - Christina Schwartzman, Sawgrass Recreation Park

January 04, 2024 2:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

FAA Members are invited to share their FAA story with their fellow members - how the association we share, colleagues we meet and experiences we live benefit one another.

In the dynamic world of attraction ownership, where every twist and turn brings new challenges and opportunities, I found solace and inspiration in the embrace of a community that became my second family – an association of friends and like-minded leaders who shared my passion for excellence and innovation- the Florida Attractions Association.

My journey with this extraordinary association began as a tentative step into uncharted territory. As one of the owners and CEO of Sawgrass Recreation Park, I often found myself immersed in the day-to-day demands of running a successful business. However, there was a longing for connection, a desire to share experiences and insights with those who understood the unique challenges of our industry.

The first time I attended an Annual Conference almost 14 years ago, I was met with warmth and enthusiasm. It was not merely a gathering of professionals; it was a reunion of kindred spirits. As attraction owners and tourism industry support businesses, we shared a language that went beyond business jargon – a language of passion, creativity, and a deep appreciation for the magic we create within our attractions. I came back to my office and had notebooks full of ideas and so much work to do!

The camaraderie that blossomed within this association went far beyond the confines of conference rooms and seminars. Late-night conversations over shared experiences and laughter forged bonds that transcended professional titles. We became friends, confidantes, and a support system for one another in a way that only those walking similar paths could understand. Here I found individuals who became my mentors, friends and even business partners in other endeavors.

Professionally, the impact of this association on my journey as an attraction owner has been nothing short of transformative. The wealth of knowledge shared during roundtables, conferences and networking nights opened my eyes to innovative strategies and industry trends that I might have overlooked. Every conference became a chance to be with our "family" again. I loved how everyone was willing to open up and share successes and sometimes failures so that their knowledge would benefit others. I quickly found myself doing the same. I was so ready to take a call at my office and spend time helping others who were facing challenges or needed advice. It is so rare in my other professional avenues to be able to share a coffee with another airboat park owner who knows the responsibility of caring for alligators and reptiles, truly unique to my time spent with FAA.

The positive ripple effect of this association reached our operational support and supply chains. We have found brochure distribution, print solutions, store merchandise, signage, marketing tools and more with the help of our associate members who are so closely tied to our industry. We now look to FAA associates first for our business solutions in whatever we need.

am so proud of FAA for taking strides in Tallahassee with advocacy for our industry and for our attractions. Over the past decade we have become a collective voice, advocating for policies that support the growth and sustainability of attractions from every corner of our state. I have attended Tourism Day 10 times and have traveled separately to Tallahassee and DC on many occasions to meet with legislators. Thanks to FAA our park gained the confidence to host State Representatives and Senators to our park so they could meet our staff. I am so grateful to Jennifer Green and her team at Liberty Partners of Tallahassee for their guidance and advice as our attraction has had to navigate several legislative issues and hurdles. I am proud to say we were successful- and we have continued our commitment to advocacy to ensure we are always working hard to protect the interests of attractions and small business owners alike.

As I reflect on the time spent with this association, I am filled with gratitude for the personal and professional growth it has facilitated. It is not just a means to professionally network; it is a family that celebrates our victories, supports us through challenges, and inspires us to reach new heights. The lessons learned, friendships forged, and the sense of community nurtured within this association have become an integral part of my journey as an attraction owner. I am serving on the board for a second term and my time spent with our leadership has been transformative. I see their passion and drive to work hard to help our association grow and evolve as our industry is ever changing. There are so many more fun changes on the way and I can't wait to see what we will achieve beyond our 75 years.

In the tapestry of my life, the threads of this association are woven with vibrant hues of camaraderie, shared passion, and mutual growth. I am not just an attraction owner; I am a member of a community that continues to shape and enrich my narrative in ways I could have never imagined.

Christina Soverns Schwartzman
Chief Executive Officer
Sawgrass Recreation Park

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