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Traffic from Chicago’s McCormick Place, the annual home of the Sweets & Snacks Expo, to the Union League Club (ULC) was brutal. As a result, the typical “early birds” to Candy Industry’s 69th Kettle Awards reception didn’t get there till after 6 p.m. Nonetheless, by the time the program was set to start, the ULC’s Main Dining Room was full of guests from the confectionery industry anxious to see the nominees and find out who the recipient would be.
As Russ Crosio and Bryan Bainbridge, chairman and vice chairman of the Kettle Committee respectively, introduced the nominees — Mike Bianco, Jelly Belly Candy Co.; Joe Dutra, Kimmie Candy Co.; and Steve Hegedus, Abdallah Candies Corp. — the anticipation began to grow.
The room turned quiet when Scott Funk, Kettle Committee secretary, brought the black leather satchel to the podium and gave it to Crosio for the evening’s eagerly awaited announcement. Once again — as is the tradition at the Kettle Awards — the crowd burst into applause when Crosio read the recipient’s name: Mike Bianco of the Jelly Belly Candy Co.
An emotional Bianco, who several times had to recompose himself, first thanked his wife, Linda, telling the audience that “I love her.” He also went on to say that having had a number of jobs in different industries, working in the confectionery industry had proved to be “by far the most rewarding.”
He also thanked his mentors at Jelly Belly Candy Co., Russ Albers and Herm Rowland, both past Kettle recipients and past president and chairman of the company, respectively. Bianco said he “wouldn’t be standing here tonight,” without their friendship and support.
Given the recognition he received, Bianco had also garnered plenty of friendship and support that evening.
Jelly Belly's Mike Bianco and his wife, Linda, are all smiles after receiving Candy Industry's 69th Kettle Award.
Past Kettle Award recipients attending the reception this year included (from left to right) Sal Ferrara, John Brocks Sr., Jorge Farber, Herm McGovern and Patrick Huffman.
Candy Industry's Kettle Committee poses together in the Union League's Main Dining Room. Visit www.kettleawards.com for a complete member listing.
Mark Spini (left) from the Guittard Chocolate Co. joins past Kettle Award recipients Jack Zachary (center) of Zachary Confections and John Brooks Sr. of Adams & Brooks, Inc. for cocktails.
Candy Industry's Kristine Collins squeezes in between Kettle Committee members Bill Copeland (left) of Professional Image/aspecialtybox and Jim Greenbert of Union Confectionery Machinery for a photo op.
Past Kettle Award recipient Bill Kelley is flanked by his wife Joanie, Madelaine Chocolate's Joan Sweeting, and the NCA's Libby Taylor.
Kettle Award nominee Joe Dutra, of Kimmie Candy Co., poses with his wife Marina for a formal photo before the reception.
Steven Hegedus, of Abdallah Candy Corp., also a Kettle Award nominee, took the same opportunity to pose with his wife, Karen.
(From left to right) Patrick Huffman, Pat Hurley, Martina Kief, Lynn Wieland, Jim McGovern, and Randy Hofberger gather round for a group photo during the Kettle Awards dinner.
The 69th Kettle Award takes center stage next to Nominee Awards and gifts for their spouses.