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WAFC Convention Setting Records For Attendance

Joe Perez

The Shelby Report’s EVP Bob Reeves caught up with Joe Perez, headlite of the Illuminators, on May 7 during the Western Association of Food Chain’s Convention in Palm Desert, California. 

Perez said he is extremely excited, noting there is “a lot of high energy and momentum in the industry.”

The convention began May 6 with a new golf tournament, the Christianson Classic, which was played on two courses at Desert Springs. Perez said the event broke records, with more than 270 golfers participating.

In addition to rebranding the tournament, Perez said organizers also wanted to “honor a couple that’s done so much for the industry.” 

Carole Christianson and her late husband, Paul, were longtime WAFC supporters, with Carole serving as CEO for more than 10 years. She retired in 2022. 

“They just made such a great impact in the industry. And as Illuminators, they just helped lay a really strong foundation.”

The Christiansons were the first husband and wife to hold the Headlite officer position (president) in Illuminator history – Carole, the first woman in Illuminator history, in 1998, and Paul in 2006. He also was the first president of the Illuminators Educational Foundation. 

The couple met in 1984 at a WAFC Convention in San Antonio, Texas, and were married seven months later. 

This year’s convention kicked off in the hotel atrium, where a huge hanging sign encouraged the approximately 1,900 delegates to “Go Big or Go Home.” The standing room only crowd enjoyed food and fellowship, Perez said.

“It was just good to reconnect, and a lot of people were getting business done at the same time. It was the best of both worlds – fellowship, and there was business happening.”

Perez said the hotel was sold out in February, adding that there are more than 450 additional attendees this year than in 2022. It is the largest WAFC Convention to date, he said.

Sunday’s agenda featured several meetings, which Perez described as “solid…it was a great start. There were no hiccups, technology was flowing, and people seem to be really excited about the meetings they had today.”

Sunday night featured a Hotel California-themed event, and Monday night’s gathering, Moonlight and White, was held in the hotel ballroom.

The convention continues through May 10.

To read more information about the convention, click here.

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Featured Photo PLMA Annual Private Label Trade Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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