AFPD has been celebrating the industry at their Annual Trade Dinner and Ball for 101 years. It may be an annual event that the more than 1,000 attendees look forward to every year, but no two galas have ever been the same. “AFPD is always looking for ways to improve the event from years prior,” said Mark Kassa, lead singer of Slight Return.
AFPD also added freshly-made specialty donuts from the Donut Bar and flew in the Johnny Walker Trunk, especially for the night. With the Lions in the playoffs, AFPD streamed live the game on two large screen TVs. Whether it was a new addition or old favorites, the event kept the crowd fed and entertained.
The evening started with a strolling cocktail hour with guests getting their pictures taken at two photo displays and recording their favorite songs at the Boogie Head booth.
“It has evolved into a great party,” said Lamia Arcori who was instrumental in revamping the annual event into a celebration. “When I attended my first AFPD dinner in the mid to late 80s, there were 300 people there. My husband and I knew it could attract so many more people.”
Arcori, whose late husband Frank was a past Chairman, along with Fran Monaco took over the annual gala and within five years attendence doubled. “Fran, who was 60 years old at the time, said we needed to breathe new life into this party. Also, Frank was considered one of the younger members at the time. I think, because of his age, he was able to attract younger members to the association and ultimately to the dinner.”
A few years back, the board decided to make another major change – no more speakers. “This event is about you,” said Auday Arabo, President and CEO, as he addressed the crowd from the stage. “This is not a night about listening to speeches; it is about thanking everyone in the industry for all that they do.”
Although he did not deliver a speech, newly elected State Representative, and past AFPD Chairman, Joe Bellino Jr. joined Arabo on stage to acknowledge other elected leaders and to offer a prayer before dinner.
Also, recent past Chairman, John Denha, handed the gavel to incoming chairman, Phil Kassa. Denha thanked the board for their support. “Please give Phil your support,” said Denha. “I know he will do a great job.”
This year, guests participated in the silent auction and enjoyed a night of games at the casino tables. After dining on filet, guests nibbled on late-night snacks; Little Caesars Pizza, National Coney Island Coney Dogs, Prairie Farms Ice Cream, Party Café Cappuccino Station, candy from Lipari, enjoyed cigars and enjoyed high-end drinks.
The theme of the night was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A Golden Ticket was given out to one lucky winner at each table who took home the centerpiece of specialty brand liquors from AFPD’s Benchmark Beverage Company. In line with the Willy Wonka theme, inside the gift basket was peanut butter and chocolate liquors perfect to make a dessert martini.
After a night of dinner, dancing, gaming, socializing and good, old fashion fun, guests left the night with a handful of snacks including Deep River potato chips for the ride home and a carton of Just Water to wash it down.
“It’s one of the best nights of the year,” said Jerry Yono who may no longer be involved in the industry, but still looks forward to the gala every year. “AFPD has been part of my life for most of my life. I will never give up being part of this event.”