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SAF’s Annual Convention in Palm Springs a tremendous success

On Sept. 12-15, 457 floral industry members gathered in Rancho Mirage, CA, for the Society Of American Florists’ 134th Annual Convention. Held at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, the convention hosted 107 first-time attendees.

Presided over by SAF president Bill LaFever of the Bill Doran Co., the convention featured 51 educational sessions along with 74 expert speakers and panelists.

FRONDUTOFRONDUTOAttendees were also able to attend 20 networking events, the pre-eminent of which was the Field to Vase Dinner on Sept. 14.

The image of four long tables, set for a 120 attendees each, was a sight to behold. And the dinner was served family-style, which added to the ambiance and spirit of the evening.

The convention kicked off on the evening of the Sept. 12 with a First Attendees Reception, followed by a welcome party hosted by LaFever.

Early on Sept. 13, the event hit the ground running with Jamie Nutter of Human Workplaces, presenting how to “Win the Talent Wars with Culture.” The day was packed with educational programs and attendees were able to choose one of three concurrent sessions, each covering a different topic.

On display all day were more than 5,000 stems -— representing some of the best flowers and plants available — presented by dozens of breeders and growers from around the world.

The Best in Show Award was given to breeder Deliflor Latin America for its Chrysanthemum ‘Alma,’ a bright white daisy spray mum with a green center.

Sept. 14 was again packed full of more educational sessions and networking opportunities. Many attendees braved the 106-degree temperature to take part in SAF’s Political Action Committee Golf Tournament held in the afternoon, and the evening featured the Field to Vase Dinner.

The Stars of the Industry Awards Reception and Dinner, Sept. 15, capped the final day of the convention. Because the 2017 SAF Convention was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, the 2017 honorees were recognized this year along with the 2018 honorees.

Inducted into the SAF Floriculture Hall of Fame -— which is considered the industry’s highest honor -— were floral designer Bobbi Ecker-Blatchford and Peter Moran, retired SAF chief executive officer.

Christine Boldt, executive vice president at the Association of Floral Importers of Florida in Miami, was presented with the John Walker Award in recognition of the growing importance of association executives in the workings of SAF.

The Paul Ecke, Jr. Award was presented to Dr. Charles R. Hall of Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Established in 1984, this award is given to a person in recognition of exemplary devotion to profession, industry and community.

Blair Winner, retired breeder from PanAmerican Seed in West Chicago, IL, received the Gold Medal Award in recognition of his many notable new flower varieties and advances in plant breeding.

And the winner of the 50th Annual Sylvia Cup Design Competition was Rey Rodriguez, AAF, AIFD, TMFA, from the Gypsy Florist in Austin, TX. This year’s competition paid homage to “The Wizard of Oz.” Among the 19 floral designers competing were 12 members of the American Institute of Floral Designers, eight past Sylvia Cup contestants, and three contestants sponsored by state floral associations.

By any measure, the 2018 SAF Convention was a tremendous success. The 2019 convention is scheduled for Sept. 18-21 at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, FL.

Nick Fronduto is chief operating officer at Jacobson Floral Supply, Inc. in Boston. He can be contacted at