A View From Tracy's Point
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The 2010 Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion was an inspiring event. I am so glad I responded to the invitation to participate in the expos authors pavillion and look forward to doing so again next year if the opportunity arises. The event turned like a well oiled machine. Participants were treated to seminars, concerts, the expo, for which I participated, and so much more; both on site at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Florida; and offsite at Universal Studios and partner sites.
I arrived on Thursday, September 2nd and was greeted by a friendly and helpful staff. The expo opened at 7 p.m. and guests arrived eager to visit the 100+ sponsors and exhibitors. We were treated to performances by DJ Cupid, Leela James, and El Debarge who shocked me with a soul stirring performance. That was a trip down memory lane I won’t soon forget.
Being positioned next to BET/Centric was a plus. Throughout the event they hosted Political Commentator, Roland Martin; 80’s favorites, Kid n Play, Dougie Fresh, and Chubb Rock. In addition, Leela James, Eric Benet, and others ventured through the spot to mingle, take photographs and sign autographs with and for fans.
Friday I was forced to return home to deal with a family emergency so I did not get to attend the live broadcast of the Tom Joyner Morning Show, which featured performances by Faith Evans, Eric Benet, and Comedian Gary Owen. From what I hear the expo was live and popping all day. Sybil’s Book Club presented The Kinsey Collection (I’m still trying to figure out exactly what The Kinsey Collection is). Kenya’s World presented The Creation of an Action Figure; McDonald’s 365 Black presented the Black History Challenge with Roland Martin (also presented on Saturday and very entertaining…I know I need to brush up on my blackness before I get my black card revoked). Additional performances during the expo included Jaheim, and Jagged Edge.
There was just an over-abundance of things to do on Friday evening that the day’s events did not end until 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Kids had the Cartoon Networks Kids Nite Out, teens had a dance party, and even those 3 and under had there own party. With the kids taken care of, the adults were treated to the Best of Funk & Blues, with the Barkays, Ohio Players (Sugarfoots, of course), Slave, and many more, Then there was The “J” Spot Late Night Comedy, and an after-party presented by Coors.
Whew! All that and still two and a half days to go, and this was just at the resort. There were still outings to various shopping outlets, and private events at Universal Studios, and Sea World, just for Tom Joyner Family Reunion participants.
In between all this partying, I had the opportunity to meet some fabulous families from all over the country and even one from Belize. It did my heart good to see generations sharing this time together, fathers with daughters, grandparents caring for the younger grandbabies while their parents took their older siblings to the theme parks, there were even BFF’s, of the female and male variety using this as a chance to bond. Everyone was friendly and even if they couldn’t make a purchase had an encouraging word to share.
Corrine Bailey Rae and Dru Hill took the stage Saturday afternoon but it was R&B crooner Donnell Jones who stole the show for me. The day included test drives with Ford, multiple forums from Jason Richardson’s Man Up to Black Beauty: The Allure of Black Women and What is Considered Beautiful in America Today, hosted by Sybil Wilkes. After the expo closed the festivities heated back up with a concert for kids while the adults were treated to a sold-out concert featuring performances by Robin Thicke and Fantasia, whom I hear turned it O-U-T barefoot and all.
Sunday was no time to rest…there was a star-studded gospel show hosted by Bobby Jones, and featuring Vicki Winans, Ty Tribett, Byron Cage and others. A fashion show, “Stomp the Yard 2” movie premiere, seminars for college, Teen Summit, family game night……another day at the expo with a surprise performance by Kelly Price (and shame on the woman who didn’t want to be on the R. Kelley side when Ms. Price performed Friend of Mine in honor of Rrah and Mr. Bigg).
To put on such an event Tom Joyner relies on sponsors and they were there in full force ensuring everyone had a great experience. A huge shout-out to the Neilsen crew who were staged across from me. I’m not going to lie, they had this game where you dropped a token into a slot to win a prize; I studied the game all weekend trying to figure out which slot would net me a t-shirt. As soon as they pulled at the yellow shirts I had been eyeing I made my move…and whala I won! Dr. Miracle’s was also on hand passing out hair products but I didn’t get a chance to get over there.
During the event I also had the opportunity to meet Kwame Jackson. Y’all remember Kwame, he was the runner-up on the first season of Donald Trumps, The Apprentice. Speaking of which, I am so happy The Apprentice is going back to its original format of having random people compete instead of celebrities.
Of all the sponsors and exhibitors on hand to make this a memorable event, the award for most outstanding product has to go to the Black College Football Video Experience and their Drumline Challenge. OMG! it was awesome. I don’t know if it was powered by Wii or what but it was amazing. Check it out at www.bcfxgame.com.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I had a great time. My only disappointment and I can’t even say it was a disappointment because I know they had to be mad busy, but I hate that I didn’t get to meet Tom and Sybil or the rest of the crew. J. Anthony Brown was out and about but he was a man on a mission. I think he was selling barbecue sauce but I didn’t get a chance to visit his booth. Actually, it was so busy I didn’t get to visit many of the vendors, including Mika Barnes, author of Chocolate High. However, I did get to converse with some of the other authors on hand including Lauren Lake, Robert Jackson, and Jerelene Jackson.
Sister Sledge was on to something when they recorded, We Are Family, and by the end of the weekend I couldn’t tell one from the other because we all seemed to have a certain familiarity amongst us. When you get a chance check-out my photo gallery.
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