I don’t know if Retail Confectioners International (RCI) will have a birthday cake with 100 candles at its Gala Dinner tonight, or whether that’s scheduled for the “Finale” on Thursday evening. I do know that these kinds of events come around only, well, every 100 years.
Naturally, Candy Industry wanted to be in on this, particularly since it’s on our home turf in Chicagoland, specifically at the Westin Hotel in Lombard, Ill. The only issue, of course, is that the event comes right smack in the middle of our editorial production schedule — I get it, that’s life — so Alyse Thompson, my associate editor, and I are doing a bit of editorial tag-teaming to cover the event.
In attending the Welcome Reception on Monday evening and then touring the Expo the next day, I suddenly realized how quickly time can fly in the confectionery industry. That was brought home to me when I bumped into Dennis Witzel, whom I met at the very beginning of my career here at the magazine.
Representing Peter’s Chocolate back then, Witzel proved to be an easy person to get to know; always affable and knowledgeable with a good sense of humor. Of course, I think that typically describes 85 percent of anyone working in the confectionery industry. OK, maybe it’s 90 percent.
But when Witzel and I saw each other Monday night — he now runs his own sales and consulting firm — it had been awhile. And yet, there was an immediate connection, one that lead to the realization that time seems to have flown rather quickly.
Earlier that evening, I had a similar discussion with Jim Bourne, president of Hilliard’s Chocolate Systems. While dining at Harry Caray’s — the restaurant is located right in the hotel — we also discussed our relative longevity in the confectionery industry. Bourne, of course, has a longer and more stellar career than I do. He’s a 2012 National Confectionery Sales Association (NCSA) Hall of Famer and has also received the Henry J. Bornhofft Memorial Award (1989) as the outstanding supplier and the President's Award (2007) from RCI.
I’d be remiss to mention that Witzel is also a RCI Henry Bornhofft Awardee (2012) and a NCSA Hall of Famer (2013) as well. Hey, I like hanging with the stars; I’m hoping some of it wears off on me.
But back to Bourne. Sounds like a sequel. Regardless, Bourne actually knew me when I was working for Bakery Production & Marketing magazine, when both of us were way younger. Again, the years seemed to have whizzed by. And so have the stories.
Trust me, there are many stories, but that’s what makes life so interesting. As I run into people that I know, be they folks I’ve recently met or from years past, this Centennial Celebration provides a wonderful opportunity for not only me, but everyone in attendance, to reacquaint and reaffirm relationships while soaking in the benefits of being in the confectionery industry.
I typically don’t get so sentimental — my friends and colleagues know I trend toward sarcasm and snappy comebacks — but there are moments when one has to step away from the day’s realities and savor the significance.
And that’s what I’m doing at this RCI Centennial Convention — savoring the significance and the relationships as well as the organization. I urge you to read the article in our June issue about RCI’s 100 years of serving candy makers, chocolatiers, suppliers and consultants, and the role the organization played in the industry.
So I look forward tonight to savoring the significance with those attending the Gala Dinner as well as toasting the organization for another “Sto Lat!” Forgive, me, that’s the traditional Polish toast, which means a hundred years.