Florida Food Forum - February's Topic
Florida Food Festivals
Join us online from 12-1pm (EST) on Friday, February 26th, for the Florida Food Forum on "Florida Food Festivals." John Solomon, President of the Florida Seafood Festival, Jennifer Morgan, Public Relations and Media Representative of the Florida Strawberry Festival and Dell deChant, Organizer of the Florida Loquat Festival, will be discussing this important topic. Following the presentation will be a discussion and Q&A session.
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Guest Presenter Information:
John Solomon has been the Executive Director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce for 6 years, the Franklin County Tourist Development Director for 2 years and President of the all-volunteer Board of Directors of the Florida Seafood Festival for 17 years. Before being elected to the Board of Directors, he worked security for the Seafood Festival and had attended for many years as it was just blocks away from where he grew up. Within 3 years he was elected president and has been ever since. John also served at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office for 20 years as Correctional Officer supervisor, IT Director and Evidence Officer ETC. Born in New Orleans, Solomon grew up in his hometown of Apalachicola and currently resides in Eastpoint, Florida with his wife. He has two children: a 14-year-old daughter and 32-year-old son.
The Seafood Festival under current structure is 58 years old, but actually dates back to 1914 when the first "King Retsyo" was crowned at Mardi Gras. Since then, it had been called "Harbor Days, Apalachicola Seafood Festival" until 1963 when the Florida legislature gave it the title of "Florida's Oldest Maritime Event." At that point it became the "Florida Seafood Festival." The mission Statement of the Festival has not changed in all these years—the purpose is to promote and educate people about the local seafood industry. In 2020 because of Covid restrictions we were not able to hold the festival for the first time in 58 years, but still held the blessing of the Fleet. Even in 2018, just 2 weeks after hurricane Michael, the Florida Seafood Festival was held and attended by 24,000 attendees. An amazing feat that we ended up winning the Flagler bronze award for special event. This year John was selected to be "King Retsyo," which is a high honor in the community.
Jennifer Morgan is a Plant City native and strawberry farmer’s daughter. She is a graduate of the University of South Florida where she obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Education. Mrs. Morgan is currently the Public Relations and Media Representative of the Florida Strawberry Festival. She has spent many years volunteering and working within the fair industry and is grateful for the time-honored tradition. She has been married to her husband Brian of 15 years and they have two children, Rowen and Grymes.
Beginning in 1930, when members of the newly organized Plant City Lions Club conceived the idea of an event to celebrate the bountiful harvest of strawberries, the Florida Strawberry Festival represents a piece of Americana. It has continued to grow in popularity year after year through the preservation of this heritage. Central to its focus, the Festival continues to preserve and enhance the agricultural and historical legacy of the Florida strawberry. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the local area. In fact, there are some 2,800 farms in Hillsborough County that produce fruit and vegetable crops with an annual value of over $360 million. This county is now one of the largest agricultural counties in the nation. The diverse farm production includes strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, okra, peppers, beans, dairy products, eggs, ornamental horticulture, tropical fish, beef cattle, swine and other related products.
Presenter and Forum Host: Dell deChant is the Associate Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. He is a Master Instructor and has served at USF since 1986. The author of three books, over 30 articles in professional publications, and chapters in twelve books, his specialization is religion and contemporary cultures. His current research focuses on religious, literary, and ecological expressions of Agrarianism as they manifest in American popular culture. He is Chair of the Environmental Committee of the City of New Port Richey, a founding member of Food Policy Council of Pasco County, a member of the Florida Food Policy Council, and a member of the Board of Directors of Ecology Florida. He is also the Organizer of a number of festivals, including the Florida Loquat Festival.
The Florida Loquat Festival in New Port Richey, Florida is the only festival in the United States celebrating this versatile fruit. The first Florida Loquat Festival was held in 2014. The festival serves as a learning and sharing event dedicated to expanding knowledge and appreciation of the Loquat Tree and its fruit. During the festival, educational presentations include instructions on growing and cultivation of loquat trees, how to eat its fruit, recipes based on loquats, the role of the loquat in sustainable farming and permaculture gardening, and the cultural context of this tree. Loquat preserves, seeds, recipes, products, art, and fresh fruit are also available at the festival.
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Disclaimer: The views of the presenters do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.