By Bunny Ware
Super stoked that the year’s first monthly Tourism Leadership Council luncheon is at the magnificent DeSoto Savannah on Liberty Street, Chris Sweat and I arrive at the same time as Good Cause Marketing’s Marianne Ganem-Poppell and Emily Bounds from the Eichholz Law Firm.
Loving Emily’s fresh lighter hairstyle, I get an invite to jump onto the Eichholz Old Town Trolley for the Martin Luther King Parade on Monday. My reply, “Only if I can throw all that swag or those 2,500 stress balls away!”
Next up I introduce Jon Dowding, one of WSAV’s three new digital reporters, to Marianne and Chris and love the fact that Jon is so serious about reporting Savannah’s stories that he is giving out his email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to everyone he meets!
For the next hour, I introduce Jon to everyone from Ms. Polly’s Cake Giants, which is reopening at 104 East Broughton Street, Larry Branson from CrimeStoppers, and Springhill Suites’ Leonard Massey, who has the best dishwasher-to-GM success story.
Hating to interrupt TLC’s charismatic director, I pause Michael Owens for a quick introduction to Grand Lake Club’s Tara O’Sullivan and leave the two talking about Tara hosting any type of event for the TLC at her Southbridge country club.
Waving Old Town Trolley’s Stephen Plunk over with Chase Cowart of the Small Business Development Center, I get a rundown of this year’s 18 training events and then Matt Wirth tells me to expect Congressman Buddy Carter at the Richmond Hill MLK Parade and at the SEDA Economic Outreach Lunch.
There is a whole lot of hugging going on when mister personality himself, Gerald Schantz, walks in wearing his signature Panama hat, tie-dyed T-shirt, and shorts and sporting his flowing beard! The Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp owner makes sure that Jon knows he is having a grand reopening at 1115 Hwy 80 on February 14.
Heading into the lush ballroom, I see personal favs like Kelly Tours’ Tara Reese, Woof Gang Bakery’s Greg Lard, and wave hello while longtime DeSoto lady Rowena Valdez invites me to a Filipino event she is involved with. Um, yes!
Everyone stop! Nora Fleming is here! Loving anyone taller than me, Nora squeezes me tight while making sure I have an invite to Savannah Night at the Museum on January 25 and Coastal Heritage Society’s Pin Point Heritage Museum Art & Oysters on February 6. I’m also loving karma right now and am so proud of Nora’s position as chief operating officer at Coastal Heritage Society.
Next is a list of who’s who in Savannah: Joe Marinelli, Jamie Parks, and Mark Dana take a seat as vivacious Carson Daley takes the stage to welcome the sold-out room. As we snack on some blackberry-topped cheesecake, Jamie is recognized for his contributions to TLC, Marty Johnston is welcomed as the incoming chair, and our 67th mayor, Van Johnson, takes the mic.
From thanking the tourism leadership crowd for “helping make our city great” to “living our best lives,” Mayor Johnson ask us all to share our love of this spectacular hostess city. Well said, Mayor Johnson, and well done Tourism Leadership Council!