The biggest and best BLAST ever has concluded.  Over 500 people gathered at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel for the 2016 Windy City BLAST.  Those who attended used terms like “first class,” “awesome,” “amazing,” and “phenomenal” to describe the event

BLAST has always been the standard bearer when it comes to Randolph-Sheppard but this year the bar was raised even higher.  Highlights included:

  • A full day of training by the Disney Institute on “The Disney Approach to Business Excellence”;
  • An invigorating opening ceremony at the leadership breakfast that featured a musical tribute to Chicago including the Chicago Bears Drum Line, Harry Carey leading the group in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Old Blue Eyes himself singing “Chicago,” and two rousing songs from the Blues Brothers.
  • A keynote address by National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono;
  • A keynote by former Navy Seal Leif Babin;
  • A one act play featuring Gene Griesman as President Abraham Lincoln;
  • A special presentation to former Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly who sponsored the Kennelly Amendments to the Surface Transportation Act in 1982 that allowed blind vendors to operate vending machines at interstate rest areas;
  • A presentation by RSA Commissioner Janet Labreck and other RSA representatives;
  • NAMA’s Triple Play presentation that was so popular at NAMA’s One Show in 2015;
  • Great presentations from some of the foremost Randolph-Sheppard and vending / food service experts in the country;
  • A fun-filled banquet that featured the original music of JP Williams and the comedy of Tim Cavenagh; and,
  • The largest tradeshow ever at a blind vendor event that featured a record 80 booths with 122 companies represented.


It was an amazing event that already has people looking forward to 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.