Hospitality Hive

Updates, opinions, and news for anyone working in Orlando's Hospitality community

Bragging Rights: Orlando Meetings Top the Chart

You already know that Orlando is the No. 1 most visited tourist destination on the planet, right?  But according to Cvent, Orlando has been named the No. 1 meetings destination in the country for the fifth time in six years.  That in itself may not shock anyone who has braved the traffic on International Drive during one of those monsters exhibit shows like, perhaps, PGA that averages between 35-40 thousand attendees each year.

But the real news here is probably not that we’re No. 1.  It’s that Cvent looked at bookings in over 5000 U.S. cities before proclaiming us the top dog.  Yeah, that kind of makes it a big deal, right?


How did we get there?  Consider this:

  • Orlando has almost 120,000 hotel rooms spread out over more than 450 hotels and resorts
  • Of the combined total of hotels and resorts, Orlando has more than 150 meetings-specific hotels which makes it the largest cluster of its kind in the East
  • the Orange County Convention Center is the second largest convention facility in the United States (Chicago’s McCormick Place still holds the top spot)
  • at least four major convention hotels located right here in Orlando made it into the top 25 list of Top Meeting Hotels in the US, and one, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, placed No. 9 on that prestigious list. Following closely behind were the Rosen Shingle Creek, Hilton Orlando, Hilton Bonnet Creek, and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort Complex.  Then we had five more in the overall top 100 –  Gaylord Palms, JW Marriott, World Center Marriott, Loews Royal Pacific and Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

So now maybe you’re getting a little better picture of why we are top dawg in the meetings industry, too, right?  The stats are not just about bragging rights for a city’s convention center.  It’s about the overall amount of meeting space, hotel rooms, and venue options that planners have to research in order to find the right spot to host their conference or business meeting.

So, what is Cvent and why are they qualified to make these impressive claims?  This is a company founded in 1999 that is considered by most in the hospitality industry to be the global leader in meeting, event, and travel technology tools. Think things like on line registration formatting, management of venue selection, overall event management processes and so much more.  They also compile venue directories for just about any place you want to hold a meeting or event and have multiple global offices to support their worldwide network, so yeah, they’re kind of a big deal in this industry.

Beyond Orlando, some stats show that there are over 1.8 million meetings and events that occur in the United States each year, and by some estimates that brings in a combined total of over $393 Billion [direct and indirect] to the annual GDP which makes this industry big stuff everywhere, not just here in Orlando.

But since I’m concentrating on Orlando, let’s just get two more important stats out there:  we have also been named the 2nd most FUN city (losing only to Las Vegas, so read into that FUN word whatever you wish. . .), AND we have the most bars per 100,000 residents (estimated ratio at 215.81 bars/100K residents).  Now isn’t that something to be proud of?



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Earth Day and the Orlando Hospitality Industry

Do you think there’s any connection?

But, of course!  Even though some would think that the tourism and hospitality industry here in Central Florida causes only constant traffic congestion, major air pollution, and basic overall mind fog [and yes, I do realize that mind fog is only damaging to oneself, and not the earth in general.  Or, is it??] due to the sheer number of water parks, rides, and other brain-and-money-sucking tourist attractions we pride ourselves with [oopsie; did the Hive just admit to those sins???], I’m here to tell you that at least one local organization is a big – make that HUGE – player in the global landscape when in comes to decreasing the carbon footprint of our many central Florida hospitality blessings [there, wasn’t that a better way to refer to all those reasons we welcome tourists here?].

It’s called Clean the World, and wow, does it ever do a great job in that monumental task.  Founded in 2009 after Shawn Seipler, who was a frequent traveler for his tech company job, spent a lot of his travel time pondering where the half or barely used soap bars and bottles from his hotel rooms were going.  His investigation discovered that it was all going to landfill.  “Ugh!”  Well, I’m sure his exact words were more intelligent than that, but I think you’re getting the picture here, right?  One man.  One planet to save.  One ingenious and enormous idea.  Plus a whole lotta unused soap and shampoo from all the area hotel rooms.

soap bars

His mission?  Not only to recycle, thus saving the environment from unnecessary waste, but to also repurpose all those half used products.  You can read further about the amazing story and journey of Clean the World by visiting the link provided.  But in short, here is the Mission Statement of this incredible local not for profit:

1]  Collect and recycle soap and hygiene products discarded everyday by the hospitality industry and other sectors that generate environmental waste.

2]  Through the distribution of these and other donated products to impoverished people [all over the planet], prevent millions of hygiene related deaths each year, reduce the morbidity rate for hygiene related illnesses, and encourage vigorous childhood development.

Or in simpler terms, clean the world, save lives.  Give hope with soap.  Both tag lines taken from their own vision.

But we all know nothing is as simple as it sounds!  It takes a lot of commitment from hotels and other establishments just to participate starting with the housekeepers who have to gather the partially used products and get them to the proper recycling receptacles within their facilities.  Then said facility has to get the product to downtown Orlando where Clean the World accepts the products, sorts, recycles, sterilize, and repurpose it all.  Then there’s the packaging and distribution to all those needy areas around the world that are currently accepting said products.  So you get the picture here, right?  The cycle plays out on so many levels, and to date there are over 65 hotels just in Central Florida alone that participate, but multiply that by chain brands known around the world and you’ve got a starter-kit of how large this project has grown since its’ 2009 inception.

Here is a great example of how Hyatt Hotels participates on a global basis:

So, are you excited enough to want to help?  They list lots of easy ways on their website including the one that I’ve participated in which is to get thyself down to their headquarters and pitch in!  What better way to get involved in Earth Day 2017, or heck just any day of the year.

So, to borrow the excellent tag line you find on the Earth Day Network official website:

Stay connected.  The earth needs your help.



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Meetings Mean Business

I realize that may not be shocking news to anyone, especially those that follow me here in the Hospitality Hive where I discuss and diss about all aspects of the hospitality industry – many times from my perspective as a professional meeting planner.  But to further prove the economic impact of why meetings and events matter, let’s chew on a few of these recently released facts [2015 data from the US Travel Association]:

  • meetings and events is one of the largest sectors of the entire U.S. business travel industry, accounting for over 12.9% of all travel spending in the U.S. economy
  • there are over 1 million U.S. jobs connected to the meetings and events industry
  • those jobs result in an annual payroll topping $31.9 billion
  • most recent figures show attendees at meetings & events spending a whopping $121.9 billion dollars [out of a total of $296.3 billion spent overall on business travel], all going into the U.S. economy

Wow. That’s a whole lotta numbers. And if you’re like me, meaning you generally lose track of zeros once they surpass whatever is in your current [tiny] paycheck, then you might already be wondering why I’m bothering to make your head spin with all those stats.  Well, April 6 has been designated Global Meetings Industry Day, and that designation is not just here in the Hive territory of Central Florida, it’s everywhere.  Worldwide.  The entire planet, thus the inclusion of the adjective ‘Global’.

Yep, the biz of meetings is booming just about everywhere.  So much so that in 2009 the U.S. Travel Association finally got really serious about it (perhaps because the economy was tanking back then?) and created a coalition called, the MMBC – Meetings Mean Business Coalition – to showcase the value and impact the meetings industry has on businesses, economies, and communities. Whatever the reason for the birth of that coalition, it was about time.

Of course here in Orlando none of this is really news to us.  Even though we are oftentimes referred to as the family vacation capital of the world, we are also one of the most popular convention destinations, ranked consistently by meeting and convention planners in the top ten most desired cities to host a business program of any size or format.

So, what are we doing here in Orlando to celebrate GMID?  So glad you asked!  I’m very proud to be a founding member and two term Past President of the local chapter of Meeting Planners International, the premiere global association for meeting planners and suppliers worldwide.  This year our chapter is sponsoring a top notch educational program called Harnessing the Power of Partnerships.  MPI has, for years, been the affirmative voice of the industry, and our local chapter offers multiple programs on a monthly basis that educate members and newcomers to the industry on the business of meeting management.

And while we’re on the local topic, here’s another statistic that might blow your mind: according to the 2014-2015 Annual Report from our Orange County Convention Center, delegates attending conventions and trade shows hosted at the OCCC spent more than $2.2 billion in our local community during that fiscal year. 

So I thought it fitting that on this one day of the year devoted to Global Meetings I’d mention all this as my way of continuing the dialogue started by the U.S. Travel Association.  You can call this little education your entry level class to Meetings & Events, 101.  And if you’re interested in some of the global events taking place here is a link to many of those:

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Dietary Dilemmas

special diet pix

Are you currently dieting?  Have any food allergies?  Require special preparation for certain foods?  Do you need Kosher, Glatt Kosher, or Halal meals?  Are you a pescatarian, or perhaps just a picky eater?

special diet icons

Common food symbols used in the hospitality industry to indicate specific diets or meal requests; often found on meal tickets.

If you’ve registered to attend anything recently that includes a group meal function you’ve probably seen a question on the response form asking if you have any dietary concerns.  This is because it is now a serious offense to ignore some of these requests.  So serious, in fact, that people with specific food allergies are protected by law under the American’s With Disabilities Act, aka the ADA.

What’s that, you’re saying?  You thought that ADA stuff only applied to persons with actual physical disabilities? 

Wrong, my wheelchair-wheeling friends!

Some food allergies can be lethal, and anytime you use the words ‘lethal’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence, well, let’s just not go there, okay?  Anyway, this revelation has affected all kinds of activities in the hospitality industry from airline flights ( how many times have we already heard, “we’ll be serving no peanuts today as we have a passenger on board with a severe peanut allergy”) to menu selection and food preparation. And for those of us on the planning end for meetings and events, it seems there is no end to the dietary restrictions of our attendees.

Case in point.  During a recent program I managed for about 275 people, I received over ninety, as 90 (!), responses with special food requests! Granted, many of them fall under the same category such as vegetarian, gluten-free, Celiac, and Kosher. But even I was surprised at the detailed responses received from some in this group.  Here’s just a sample:

I eat no fatty foods, only high protein; please avoid mangos – I really don’t like them; also, no pineapples, please; low fiber; high fiber; I only eat shrimp and lobster for my protein; allergic to tree nuts; tomatoes make me ill; no meat, all fish; no seafood; diary free; vegan; Halal; only finned fish; nothing spicy; I don’t like blue cheese; mushrooms are icky; please make sure all potato chips are freshly made.


Oh. My!

So, what do we do?  For starters, we work very closely with our catering representatives and chefs to make sure everything is clearly labeled with all ingredients. We provide extensive buffets with plenty of variety, being careful not to place the pecan pie next to nut free brownies for fear of cross-contamination. Many times we provide special meal tickets so attendees with the most critical needs can be identified by waiters and correctly served their specially-ordered meals, often delivered with white glove service. Another trick is to leave high-caloric sauces on the side so they are used as options.  So yes, there are plenty of things we meeting planners are doing to accommodate special requests.  After all, we’re the ones that in effect ‘opened the oven door’ and started asking the question on our registration forms.


Do these chefs look dizzy? It’s because they can’t keep up with all the special request meals!

And I want to be clear that I am in no way poking fun at people with legitimate food allergies – no way, no how!  I have nothing but respect and sympathy for anyone that has to live a life without shrimp cocktail, peanut butter, or cheese dropped on just about anything.  In fact, I really appreciate the education I’m currently receiving as it’s making me a better planner, not to mention more appreciative of my own healthy choices.

big 8 allergens

Oh, and because  I like to share, here are a couple of new-to-me special diets that I’m guessing might also be new-to-you:

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian:  eats plant food plus eggs and milk products

Fruitarian:  similar to vegan but eats only foods that don’t kill the plant (e.g. apples-yes, carrots-no)



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Hospitality Trends for 2017

Do you consider yourself trendy?  I can’t say that I generally fall into that category (pause while wondering exactly what I was thinking when I bought into the bellbottoms and hot pant fads way back when. . .), but – professionally speaking –  I do try to stay on top of what’s hot and what’s not as it pertains to the hospitality industry because I make my living planning meetings and events.  So it’s important when clients ask me, “Hey, what can we do that’s different this year?” that I don’t respond with “teambuilding!” [hint:  that’s so last year!] Or, “how about a corporate social responsibility project!”  [ditto] While there is nothing wrong with either of those activities, if you’re working the meeting circuit well, been there/done that.

So, now that we’ve crossed over into 2017 (do I hear a Halleluiah?  Yes I do!) for anyone in the meeting industry here in Orlando we are gearing up fast and furious for a busy convention season ahead.  Heck, even as I write this I’m juggling no less than seven large meeting projects that will all take place within the next six weeks.  And three of them are full week long programs making for a very tight and busy schedule for this planner.  Which is why I’m finding myself doing some research on food trends so that I can make some snappy banquet decisions with the (hopeful) end result of impressing my clients.

So, what am I choosing?

Well for starters, breakfast is in.  This may not be shocking to you since we have all witnessed McDonald’s big ‘breakfast all day’ roll out in 2016 right along with the expansive popularity of Dunkin’ Donuts grab and go breakfast selections.  But when I say it’s ‘in’ with our meeting business I mean as you’ll see breakfast-type meals served any time of day at any type of banquet event.  Yes, that’s how much we love our egg sammies (one of the new ‘it’ foods – look for all different types of eggs hatched from critters you may never have even heard of) and plenty of versions of savory flavored waffles served with anything but maple syrup.  This was really an easy prediction since chicken and waffles has been building in popularity for several years now, but I love that some hotels are even offering mini waffles, both savory and sweet with all types of interesting toppings, even on hors d’oeuvres menus.

Anyone for a savory waffle?

Anyone for a savory waffle?

And for all you kale fans this green is going to be taking a back seat to, drum roll, cauliflower.  Even though it’s white it’s ‘the new green’ as in a vegie packed with goodness.  New versions have it even being sliced like a steak and used as a healthy pizza base.  Not sure we heard a “yum-oh!” for that one yet but the experiments are still new.  Stay tuned for cauliflower, parts 1-2-3.

Cauliflower sliders, anyone?

Cauliflower sliders, anyone?

Cauliflower rice

Cauliflower rice

Or, how about cauliflower tots?

Or, how about cauliflower tots?

Other industry trends have been gaining popularity here in Orlando for several years but will now  be on larger stages as hotels do more to embrace them.  For instance, craft cocktails are very popular so look for the arrival of ‘boozy hotels’.  (I’ll  let you ponder that one for a while as I move on.) Open kitchens and cozy lobbies, aka kitchens and lobbies without borders, make hotel visits more interesting and interactive which is what this concept is all about.  It’s embracing the entertainment factor, right? Food halls are gaining momentum and Orlando is certainly on track with that.  Fast casual  is replacing fast food.

Our local Hard Rock Hotel could certainly be considered a 'boozy' hotel thanks to the famous Velvet Lounge seen here.

Our local Hard Rock Hotel could certainly be considered a ‘boozy’ hotel thanks to the famous Velvet Lounge seen here.

But, back to my menu planning.  Philippine cuisine, and really anything Asian, is topping the food trends of the year, as are the return or should we say the introduction of vegetables – especially those we’ve never seen or heard of before.  Hint:  maybe they’re all being imported from Asia? Both ice cream and popcorn will be seen in all sorts of flavor combinations, and step aside wine flights as beer flights are moving in to your territory!

Beer flights are really taking off!

Beer flights are really taking off!

Oh, and watch for the word ‘charcoal’ to pop up everywhere. In products from toothpaste to lemonade because apparently it’s good for us.  Who knew??

Is it chocolate or is it charcoal? This is the question you'll be asking during 2017!

Is it chocolate or is it charcoal? This is the question you’ll be asking during 2017!



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InSain for iBrand!

Since we’re all in the middle of various levels of holiday insanity at this point, I thought I’d share a little gift buying tip with you. And this one involves making a purchase for yourself instead of ‘person #17’ on that never ending list.  That’s right. As the final countdown begins to the busiest holiday dedicated to conspicuous consumption of the year I’m proposing you take a minute and remember who is most important in your life.  And, if you don’t answer ‘me/myself/I’ then perhaps you haven’t quite had enough of that spiked eggnog yet.

So, pour yourself a favorite adult beverage and settle into a big comfy chair as you read along with me about why you need to buy yourself a copy of the just released book, iBrand:  The Next Generation, by Pam & Olivia Sain, aka wife and daughter of Gary Sain, the [deceased] former President and CEO of Visit Orlando.

iBrand: The Next Generation.

iBrand: The Next Generation.

You see, Gary believed in you even before you did.  If you don’t already know about him suffice it to say that his entire professional career was spent marketing one thing or another in the hospitality industry which ultimately lead to his belief that you build your own brand along the journey.  In his own words, “Think of yourself as a brand and optimism is the key factor to making your personal brand a success.”

What better time of year to consider adopting optimism as your mantra than right now as we face a calendar full of big, scary unknowns in 2017? I mean, win or lose, most of us didn’t even like the candidates we actually voted for in that ugly presidential election, right?  But I digress with that sentiment. . .

Moving on, Gary was a respected and admired member of our hospitality community until his untimely passing in 2012.  Since then, his wife and daughters have pondered ways to keep his memory alive until one day they decided to write a book.  Not just any book, but one devoted to his core belief system which was, basically, believe in yourself and only good will follow.

“The richness of your personal brand is the destination you offer your targeted audience through personal insight.”

Mom [Pam] and daughter [Olivia] celebrate their book launch at another recent event. Come meet them both this weekend at the East End Market event and pick up a couple books - one for yourself and another for a gift.

Mom [Pam] and daughter [Olivia] celebrate their book launch at another recent event. Come meet them both this weekend at the East End Market event and pick up a couple books – one for yourself and another for a gift.

iBrand, the book, is full of insightful quotes and stories taken lovingly by Pam and Olivia after combing through volumes of Gary’s personal notes and speeches.  And as head of the marketing arm of the number one tourist destination in the world Gary had plenty of files and materials to work from.  So in their grief the idea was born for bringing it altogether  into a book now available i Brand: The Next Generation.   Further, mother and daughter will be on hand to sign copies on December 18 at the Locally Grown Words Bookfair, East End Market. This is being sponsored by Bookmarkit, one of our local treasures of an independent bookstore.

And while there are many reasons you should invest a little money in yourself right now you might want to also consider buying a few more copies to pass on to anyone you fancy yourself as being a mentor to because let’s face it, building a respectable personal brand is a skill worth developing.

Gary Sain, former CEO of Visit Florida and beloved hospitality industry leader.

Gary Sain, former President & CEO of Visit Florida and beloved hospitality industry leader.


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A Grateful Salute to a Local Hospitality Hero

It’s November, just a few days before Turkey Day, and now that we’ve all survived [I think?] that over-the-top nauseously nasty election, sigh, I wanted to make my Thanksgiving post about something meaningful, so yes, this WILL NOT have anything to do with politics.  

You’re welcome.

Under the category of ‘local do-gooders that go above and beyond in serving humanity’, we have a home town guy walking among us who continues to raise the bar on how one man can and does continue to change the world in significant and meaningful ways.  Even better, he does so quietly, with leadership, grace, and because ‘it’s the right thing to do.”

Harris Rosen, Hospitality Hero to many

Harris Rosen, Hospitality Hero to many

I’ve praised Harris Rosen before in this column because, well, it’s hard not to write about anything in our local hospitality industry without mentioning his name and singing his praises what with multiple hotels plus a world renown local college named after him.  But today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share information about a project that this humble man has passionately spearheaded that most locals know nothing about.  You see, Harris Rosen has an eye on Haiti, and it’s not with intent to build slick new hotels there.  No sir, this man has made a long-term commitment to both relief and sustainability efforts that are commendable and legendary in one of the poorest countries on our planet.  From collecting soap and other personal hygiene items from his hotel guestrooms and re-purposing them into life saving gifts for Haitians who are desperately in need of such things as well as collecting food and other supplies that are personally delivered by company representatives, Rosen continues to provide a floating life raft of hope on an island where many see only despair and drowning.

Food deliveries?  Yes. Clothing, water filtration systems, tarps, tents and first aid supplies?  Of course.  All very basic needs, but it’s what those people need most and what Mr. Rosen can deliver. The humanitarian efforts started after the devastating 2010 earthquake and never stopped, even after the rest of the world had moved on to other crises in other countries.  Realizing that Haiti is the homeland of more than one-third of his company’s associates, Harris Rosen wisely vowed to continue to make a difference in an area not only close to home but with strong residential ties to our Central Florida community at large.  This past summer, the Harris Rosen Foundation in partnership with the non-profit Food for the Poor organization, built a new elementary school in the city of Les Cayes, Haiti.  The goal was to make a difference in the lives of the underprivelged and underserved children and families in that region but no one could have anticipated that it would also be a life saving shelter during the recent arrival of Hurricane Matthew.  Just days after the September 22 grand opening, the concrete block school provided a safe haven strong enough to withstand the devastation of Matthew.

Institution Mixte St. Jean de Jonc Labeille-Harris Rosen School, designed to host 300 students, was a hurricane-safe haven for hundreds of residents during Matthew.

Institution Mixte St. Jean de Jonc Labeille-Harris Rosen School, designed to host 300 students, was a hurricane-safe haven for hundreds of residents during Matthew.

“The timing was incredible,” said Rosen.  “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of the hurricane.  We will continue our long-time support to the relief and sustainability efforts in Haiti and are doubly grateful that the school was completed in time to provide that much needed shelter during this tragedy.”

School ribbon cutting ceremony on September 22, 2016.

School ribbon cutting ceremony on September 22, 2016.

So, here in Orlando as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday whether from our comfortable hotel rooms [black Friday shopping lists in hand] or from that fantasy view of the world based on tourism and money, I thought you might be interested in one local man’s quest to do good with his own time and money on this earth.


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Things Were Just Great at the OK Corral!

OK Corral eventcenterbest_800x428

Welcome to the OK Corral Gun Club in Okeechobee, FL!

Sometimes you just gotta step out of your comfort zone, and that’s exactly what husband and I did last weekend when we took a road trip down to Okeechobee, FL for a visit to the OK Corral. More specifically, the OK Corral Gun Club.  Yep.  You read that correctly, but before I give you the details, let me just set this little road trip up for you by saying this was for a family reunion celebrating a special birthday.  And since the hosts of this event live in Okeechobee their venue choice made perfect sense.  But still, the ‘back-story’ is worth telling because, well, it went something like this:

I receive a IM message with the initial invite.  My response: “Ok, we’re in.  Where and when?”

Reply:  “Here, at the OK Corral,” which I, being an uniformed Orlando City Slicker, thought was just a cutesy name for their homestead in Okeechobee.

Me again:  “Can you give us an actual address, please?”

Reply:  “The OK Corral.”

All righty then!  Me, one more time:  “Is this your home, or what exactly are we looking for in our directions?”

Reply:  “It’s a gun club with a really cool restaurant.  The OK Corral Gun Club.  Okeechobee.  See you soon!”

OK Corral highnooncafe1

You don’t have to be a cowboy to love this food!

And just like that, after weathering last weekend’s near miss of a hurricane, husband and I were in the car on Sunday headed for the OK Corral Gun Club (and restaurant).  I’m still smiling as I write this because, well gee whiz, doesn’t that name just put an inquisitive grin on your face while envisioning what delightful stories lie ahead if you find yourself on a journey to a gun club in Okeechobee called the OK Corral?  Well let me tell you, it was indeed more than ‘just a gun club.’ It was it’s own brand of adventure park complete with all types of range sports for both pistol and rifle, as well as a “cowboy action range” (huh?) and a competition park where, according to the brochure, “qualified shooters and instructors with reservations can participate in the action by drawing from holster and moving while shooting.”  To that there was also the sporting clay courses for trap and skeet including both a “covered 5-stand and a wobble deck.” (And no, I don’t know what any of this is which is why I have to keep using quotation marks around the descriptions as I pull them directly from the brochure.  Hey, I’m honest,  and I like that about me!)  Lodging?  Check.  Event center? Check-check.  This list continues.

OK Corral liverystable4%20(800x533)

Note the presence of golf carts at the livery stable? Only in Florida, right?

OK Corral cowboy parkFeb20120001

Part of the Cowboy competition park







OK Corral wobbledeck2

Oh, so THIS is what a wobble deck looks like?

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that you’ve correctly surmised I’m woefully uneducated in matters of guns, but even I had to admit this place was cowboy cool, for sure!

Oh, and that restaurant?  It was the perfect combination of great food,  wonderful ‘spunky’ atmosphere, and just enough of that old west gun-slinging ambience to make you appreciate the sport involved with a gun club.  But the best part was that it wasn’t over the top, and by that I mean if you up-routed that OK Corral and put it here in Orlando well, I think we all know where this is going.  It would just be another theme park in an area where fantasy worlds trump reality.  But out there in Okeechobee it was the real deal.  Genuine.  And definitely worth the trip for any city slicker.  Even this one.

And while there was no time for me to even get close to a gun (which is a really good thing. . .), our group did have a wonderful celebration including some whiskey throw-backs.  Thanks, Florida Georgia Line for that yummy new blend of peaches & pecans you concocted for all of us.  Cheers to Old Camp Whiskey AND the OK Corral!

Florida Georgia Line showcase their new whiskey, Old Camp. This cowgirl-for-a-day loved it, too!

Florida Georgia Line showcase their new whiskey, Old Camp. This cowgirl-for-a-day loved it, too!


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9/11/01 – The Power of Numbers


Time that the burning towers stood

09/11/01 – 8:46AM.

09/11/01 – 9:02AM.

Everyone of age remembers where they were and what they were doing “when the world stopped turning on THAT September day.”  (cue Alan Jackson and Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning).  And today, as we mark the 15th anniversary of 09/11/01, it’s important to focus on some of the numbers that came out of that tragedy.  Some numbers you might be familiar with:

343 dead firefighters. . . 23 dead NYPD. . . 37 NY Port Authority employees. . .2350 first responders and other precious souls from all walks of life

Tower race Sept 2016

But other numbers, might be surprising:

those fires continued to burn for 99 days (imagine living with that daily smell and memory. . .)

number of 9/11 related funerals attended by [then] NYC Mayor Guiliani – 200 (do you think you will reach that number in your lifetime?)

estimated number of children that lost a parent= 3,051

estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from PTSD as a result of 9/11= over 420,000

There are, of course, so many more stats from that day – that one single historical event –  that are jaw dropping and mind numbing.  And to be honest, I don’t personally tend to think much about numbers except maybe when I’m at the grocery store (“they want how much for this loaf of bread?”), or booking vacation travel (should ‘fun’ really cost this much?), or when it’s time to file the annual income tax (no words, just no words at all. . .).  All trivial numbers by comparison to the focus of this blog post.

But today as we all pause in our own personal ways to remember ‘THAT’ day and how it changed our lives, I thought I’d just share some of those other numbers.  Especially after I read the article by Alison Bowen on page three of today’s Sentinel, 9/11 attacks still taking deadly toll” , because it was such a sad reminder about the impact of numbers even years after an event.  Here’s one from that article that really stuck with me:

-about 65,000 people, mostly first responders that came from all over the country, are currently in the WTC Health Program set up by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as a result of the attacks suffered on 9/11/01-

Tower race wheelchair Sept 2016

And as we reflect on any of the above numbers connected with this tragedy, let’s also not forget this one:

19 hijackers (that weren’t man enough to fight one on one) did all this, and more.

Peace to all those who read this and remember.

** photos courtesy of Millennium Westshore**

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Are You Overbooked?

I know I am, and I’m guessing you are, too.

But let’s suppose for a minute that we’re a hotel or restaurant that is filled to capacity.  Then the term ‘overbooked’ is a good thing, right?

Well, maybe not always.  At least that’s one chain of thought as presented in a book I’ve just finished reading titled, appropriately, “Overbooked – the Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.”  Written by Elizabeth Becker, a former NY Times correspondent as well as a Senior Foreign Editor at NPR, the book puts forth a different vision of the industry that many – approximately one of every ten people around the world,  myself included – call home in terms of the job market.


And since here in Orlando we live in the epicenter of mammoth queue lines for everything and  therefore are pretty familiar with the look of overcrowded tourism, some of the stats from this book didn’t surprise me.  But this one did:

The lone state of Hawaii generates around $1 billion a month in tourism dollars.  And that’s without any traditional theme parks!

So, what type of monthly tourism revenue does Florida realize?  Currently just north of $6 billion a month, give or take a few bucks depending on the stats you’re reading.   Think that’s a lot of moolah?  I do, which is why I found the premise of this book so fascinating. Ms. Becker is actually pointing in the direction of too much of a good thing – tourism –  is, well, too much.  She provides plenty of examples from the decline of Venice, Italy from both the rising waters of too many mega cruise ships and the increasing investment of foreign money (many of the traditional Carnivale souvenir masks are now mass produced in China instead of the once-sacred Italian glass factories) to the shock and awe of a new tourist industry devoted to, well, shock and awe such as the commercializing of the Killing Fields in Cambodia.

But wait.  I’m not proposing we throw away the pixie dust and turn this into yet another negative read.  It is, after all, an election year so you’ve already got plenty of that sort of gloom and doom to read about elsewhere.

My point with this post has to do with a different observation made in this book.  When comparing the numbers of people that visit national parks and nature reserves to the much larger visitor numbers posted by theme parks, the author made this point:  “Theme parks are an extension of everyday life requiring no more than standing in line, going on rides, eating and repeating the process.   At [nature/wilderness] parks, visitors are removed from their comfort zones.”

Life is one long queue, right?

Life is one long queue, right?

Huh.  Food for thought, especially while waiting in line for your next, um, mocha latte. . .grocery check out. . .gas tank fill up. . .school pick up, etc.

Are we all overbooked, or just comfortable and accepting of our long queue lines as they are?


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