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EVENT REPORT

Attendees Convene at Two Networking Events

Dolphins danced and entertained the crowd at Miami Seaquarium's Hospitality Industry Networker.

Food, freebies and fun were just part of the festivities at two recent networking events. The Miami Seaquarium and Tampa's Raymond James Stadium welcomed exhibitors and several hundred inquisitive attendees to mingle, mull and inquire about the event industry.


On March 25, the Miami Seaquarium hosted its second annual Hospitality Industry Networker. The venue opened its doors after its scheduled closing time to welcome the event industry for several hours of schmoozing and touring the venue. Held beneath two tents—a good refuge because it rained that evening—exhibitors set up tables with props and products to lure visitors. Ice Magic featured a carved ice display while Party Antics brought some of its rentable novelty entertainment including a money machine, blackjack and roulette table.

Not needing any direction, attendees let their noses lead them to all the booths featuring culinary delights. Special Events Catering by Les, the Rusty Pelican, Hyatt Hotels and Bill's Catering all had samples of their specialties from Latin and Caribbean-inspired fare to tasty desserts. Bello Espresso and Top Hat Wine & Spirits also had guests stopping by for a quick pick-me-up in a cup.

When the rain subsided, guests braved the puddles and made their way towards the Island Lady floating in the bay. What's that? Well, she's a luxury yacht able to accommodate 140 passengers for chartered and catered events and special occasions out at sea. Not able to make an appearance due to the weather was the Biscayne Lady, a 115-foot luxury catamaran yacht with capacity for 400 passengers.

The grandest lady of the evening however, was Lolita the killer whale who put on a spectacular show for all the guests. Performing with three dolphins as sidekicks and synchronized to music, the killer whale show gained applause from the entire crowd before everyone headed home.

On March 31, Meeting Professionals International presented Success 2004 Meetings Marketplace and Education Forum—a half day of networking, meeting and exhibiting products and places—at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The 65,000-seat stadium sectioned off the enclosed upper mezzanine area to allow more than 70 exhibitors to set up booths and displays. At the other end of the corridor, seating was arranged for Francine Ward's lecture session on “Cyber Law” which was scheduled after the luncheon at the facility's ground floor restaurant.

Following the session, the floor opened to allow guests the opportunity to visit the booths. Full service production companies including Showorks, Grand Events, Breezin Entertainment Productions and Audio Visual Innovations displayed their capabilities while unique venues such as Starlite Cruises, Yacht Star Ship, the Florida Aquarium, Gameworks and Busch Gardens showed they are not just excursions for tourists but great venues to hold events. Local area CVB's—St. Petersburg / Clearwater, Kissimmee, Sarasota and Greater Ft. Lauderdale—set up tables to hand out brochures highlighting their communities points of interest. Consuming the largest amount of tables were the hotels and resorts. Featured names included Sheraton, Radisson, Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn all showcasing their meeting, ballroom and dining facilities.

Mary Lou Spinelli, president of Tampa Bay Area MPI, along with Sherry Sullivan, co-chair, thanked all participants for their enthusiasm and interest and kept the event lively throughout by offering fascinating commentary and awarding door prizes to guests.

Jose Gomez

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