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New Leaders in Place for The Special Event 2003

A TEAM OF 16 top event professionals will lead the development of events at The Special Event 2003, Jan. 8-11 in Orlando, Fla., at the Orange County Convention Center. The Special Event is managed and produced by Primedia Business Exhibitions and sponsored by Special Events Magazine.

Heading the kickoff Welcome Party on Jan. 8 will be Shelley Ferguson (Corporate Affairs, Longwood, Fla.), Sharon Fisher (Play With A Purpose, Orlando) and Roland Jessie (Carving Ice, Anaheim, Calif.).

“When asked if I would be interested in co-producing the Welcome Party in Orlando, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with others on the East Coast and get a chance to represent L.A. ISES,” Jessie says. “Besides, it's always a pleasure working with [show director] Paul Stratton and [director of events and sponsorships] Betsy Wiersma.”

The Opening General Session on Jan. 9 will be spearheaded by Jean-Michel Santacreu (Frank Group International, Tampa, Fla.). Haydee Casanova (USA Hosts, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Kellie Mathas (USA Hosts, New Orleans) will oversee the third annual Leadership Luncheon, and Stacey Paul (Destinations by Marriott) and Mark Wells (Art of the Party, both in Orlando) will captain the Theme Luncheon. Both luncheons take place on Jan. 9.

Although she knows she will be working hard on the Wedding Luncheon, Mathas is enthusiastic. “The only way to move forward professionally in today's economy is by taking advantage of what The Special Event offers to attendees each year,” she says.


Because the Theme Luncheon doesn't have a structured program like other events, “It gives itself to a lot of creative freedom,” Paul says. “Our goals as a committee are to create an environment for all the senses, and to be completely themed pre-event, event and post-event.”

Heading the Opening Night Party, on Jan. 9, will be David DeLoach (Magic Kingdom Park, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.) and Connie Riley, CSEP (T. Skorman Productions, Orlando).

For Riley, this is her third year at the helm of the Opening Night Party. What persuades her to make this commitment? “The Special Event parties have given me the opportunity to work with the most talented people in the industry while simultaneously allowing me a hands-on introduction to the latest products and services worldwide,” she says. “I've gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge and continue to build professional and personal relationships. It sums up what I believe our industry is all about.”

Jan. 10 brings the popular Wedding Luncheon, which will be handled by Jesse Lirette Jr. (Hardrive Productions, Orlando) and Shawn Sawyer (Cacique International, Nassau, Bahamas).


For Sawyer, his work at The Special Event will be his chance to get out on the playing field, he says. “The world of events is on the rise,” he explains. “Therefore I want to be positioned on that starting team when asked to go out and compete for that one ‘wow’ moment.”

A highlight of every Special Event is the Gala Awards and Ceremony, slated for Jan. 11. Leaders of this event are Paul Creighton, CSEP (T. Skorman Productions), and Patti Coons, CSEP, and Shari Hirsch, CSEP (both of PCA Event Marketing Group, Orlando).

The pressure of producing Gala night “is the type of motivation I thrive on,” Creighton says. “Because The Special Event is all about seeing the newest, the most creative, the spectacular, it affords the opportunity for producers to go crazy in ways that we don't always get from our day-to-day clients.”

Rounding out the leadership team are Don Gray (Kohler Event Services, Sheboygan, Wis.), who will oversee technical production, René van Rems (a San Diego-based floral expert), serving as floral consultant, and David Peters (Absolute Amusements, Orlando), Local Sponsorship Task Force chairman.

“We are lucky to have such a talented team spearheading The Special Event 2003,” Stratton says. “They are ready to take all of our wonderful events up to exciting new levels.”

For more information on The Special Event 2003, call 800/927-5007 or 203/358/3751, or visit

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