Thinking back, most of my life has occurred near U.S. Highway 41. Although I’ve lived in several cities and two different states, the majority of my time on Earth has in one way or another been spent, to quote Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band, “rollin’ down Highway 41!”
From growing up in Bradenton and Palmetto; a decade working at Big Trees Plantation; attending FNGLA Frontrunners Chapter events; about a hundred trips to Ginnie Springs; a two-year stint ‘behind enemy lines’ in Georgia, to where I sit now at our home in Old Seminole Heights along the Hillsborough River, the old asphalt ribbon has always been very close by.
In some areas Highway 41 is simply beautiful. The Karst countryside of Alachua and Columbia counties and the Fakahatchee/Big Cypress areas immediately come to mind. There is one stretch, however, which hold special significance: the slice of the Tamiami Trail, as it’s known, from Bradenton to south Sarasota. Certainly not known as a natural vista along the lines of the aforementioned, this stretch was our conduit from our home in Palma Sola to my Grandma’s house near Phillippi Creek. Not exactly “Over the river and through the woods…”
Instead, we crossed through Bayshore Gardens, wound through downtown Sarasota along the waterfront and down Highway 41 "to grandmother’s house we go."
My literal trip down memory lane here serves to shine a spotlight on the location of this year’s FNGLA Annual Convention - Sarasota! The Westin Sarasota, our phenomenal host site, is located on Highway 41 in downtown Sarasota. The Westin is surrounded by opportunities to make lasting memories for you and your family. From the world-renowned Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (selby.org) to the pristine sands of Lido Beach, to the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium (mote.org) and the Ringling Museum (ringling.org), there are tons of nearby spots to enjoy and take in the beauty of the Suncoast. Charter fishing at Marina Jack, golf on Longboat Key, St. Armands Circle, restaurants galore - the list goes on and on…
The FNGLA Annual Convention offers a unique venue to mix business with pleasure, providing, even if just for a long weekend, the opportunity for work/life balance to happen at the same time. Given, I’m partial to the area, but what better way to experience that balance than amongst friends and family at a beautiful hotel surrounded by fun in every direction? It presents a look back at what I hope will have been a successful year for FNGLA and a toast to new officers and the path forward for our industry. The Convention Committee has done a fantastic job planning. It’s my sincerest hope many of you will join us for this year’s event in Sarasota.
A huge tip of the Stallings Crop Insurance Commemorative Ben Bolusky Cap to Linda Adams, Ed Bravo, Jay Perez, and John and Janyel Taylor for their willingness to help when asked. I cannot thank you enough! Likewise for our generous sponsors - we will drive business to your companies! This is most certainly a family affair so please, bring your parents, spouse, kids, grandkids. Bring your coworkers and customers.
Sponsorship opportunities are still available, and the Biz Zone will be alive with industry dealing. Did I mention there’s a rooftop pool and bar? Indeed! And, just 19 floors above Highway 41…
See you in Sarasota!
Eric Smith (BioSafe Systems, Tampa)
FNGLA 2022 - 23 President