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Features

18 Apr 2018

BY Abra Dunsby

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TRFBLI

Meet the faces of the Brand USA Megafam 2018

As 100 lucky agents prepare for the Brand USA Megafam next week, Abra Dunsby speaks to some of the fascinating people they’ll meet on the seven itineraries

Judy Forte
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From art curators to tour leaders, we catch up with some of the fascinating people agents will meet on this year's Brand USA Megafam

Agents on the Southern Splendour: Hospitality and Charm itinerary will meet Judy Forte, superintendent of Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park in Atlanta

Why is 2018 an important year to visit the park?
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Tennessee. The King Center was founded in June that year by his wife Coretta Scott King and family, and continues to spread King’s message of non-violence. In 2018, there’ll be many events to recognise these watershed moments.

 

What is the highlight of the park?
There are many: the Birth Home gives you the sense of the environment in which Martin and his siblings were raised. The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church is the place of his spiritual birth. The park features recordings of his sermons. A few minutes in the pews with King’s voice washing over you provides a moment of revelation rarely felt.

 

Any tips for visitors to the surrounding site and Atlanta generally?
The park is part of a resurgence of the urban core. We’re near the Atlanta Beltline, a multi-modal trail following a rail line encircling the city. A walking trail also connects the park to the Carter Center. It’s easy to visit plenty of small local eateries from this site.

 

Dr Hank Hine will welcome agents to the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg Clearwater on the Floridian Flavours: Sunsets and Surf trip

Dr Hank Hine will welcome agents to the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg Clearwater on the Floridian Flavours: Sunsets and Surf trip

What’s the best thing about your job?
Being director of The Dali is like hosting a terrific party day after day, and lines are always forming in front of the door. Many guests are new, but I feel like I know them. They want to spend some time among beautiful art that inspires all kinds of reflections about the world and about their lives, and changes them for the better.

 

Why is the museum such a must- visit attraction?
It’s a major cultural hub – not just for Tampa Bay but the state of Florida. Our building itself is a work of art, and our galleries showcase an unparalleled collection of Dali’s works. The museum also offers a wide range of public programmes such as “Coffee With a Curator,” a free summer film series called “Cult Classics,” family-friendly concepts such as “Story time with Dali” and annual fundraising events.

 

Any fun facts about the museum?
It’s topped with a geodesic glass bubble known as The Enigma, made with 1,062 triangular, hurricane-proof glass panels – none of which are the same size or shape. The museum also features a beautiful helical staircase from the ground floor to the gallery level, honouring Dali’s lifelong fascination with the DNA molecule.

 

Any selling tips for agents?
The Dali is open late on Thursdays, from five to eight pm. Adults, seniors and students can get into the museum at a discounted rate of $10, and kids for $8. The museum also hosts yoga every Sunday morning in our beautiful Avant Garden.

Agents on the Music Trail: Jazz and Soul trip will meet Chalon Lafleur at the Jazz Playhouse of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans

Agents on the Music Trail: Jazz and Soul trip will meet Chalon Lafleur at the Jazz Playhouse of the Royal Sonesta New Orleans

Why is the Jazz Playhouse a must- visit on a New Orleans trip?
It’s one of the few remaining venues on Bourbon Street where live jazz music is played nightly. There are different acts every night and the experience leaves you with a smile and lifelong memory.

 

What will surprise agents about the Jazz Playhouse?
People can’t believe it’s in the Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel. It has a feeling and talent that one would expect from a standalone venue. While staying in the hotel, you can enjoy the night and never leave the building, plus there’s no cover charge.

 

Any fun facts about the Jazz Playhouse?
One of my fondest memories is about a famous musician who stopped in to jam with the band. It was during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and he was to play the main stage that year but heavy rain called off the festival.

 

Needless to say not only were the fans disappointed but so was the artist. About an hour before he came to the Jazz Playhouse, he called ahead to say he was coming to listen to Trombone Shorty play his music.

 

The audience had no idea what was in store for them until the announcement was made: Stevie Wonder would be arriving. The next few hours were to be treasured. Not only did Mr Wonder listen to the music but he got on stage and performed too. You never know who is going to walk in the door next when sitting in the Jazz Playhouse.

 

What’s your favourite New Orleans restaurant?
Hands down the best fine-dining restaurant is Restaurant R’evolution, with modern reinterpretation of classic Cajun and Creole cuisine, first-class service and the largest wine cellar in the state. Its Death by Gumbo is truly a one-of- a-kind dish unmatched in the city.

 

What’s your favourite music bar?
For jazz, it’s truly The Jazz Playhouse. The Brass-A-Holics is so much fun on Thursday nights, and people come from all over to catch the burlesque show on Friday nights. For other live music, I like The Maple Leaf Bar and Tipitina’s – also known as Tips.

Donald Cortursi, president of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, will host agents on a tour as part of their Western Treasures: Deserts and Lights trip

Donald Cortursi, president of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, will host agents on a tour as part of their Western Treasures: Deserts and Lights trip

What makes Lip Smacking Foodie Tours different from other Vegas tours?
We’re a multi-award- winning tour operator and the highest rated tour in Las Vegas on TripAdvisor. We have crafted a fully immersive VIP dining experience.

 

What’s the best thing that’s happened on one of your tours?
After our Lip Smacking Boozy Brunch, we had a guest head to the tattoo parlour to get a tattoo of the lips in our logo. We’ve also had marriage proposals on tours and witnessed guests that began as strangers return to restaurants the following day together as friends.

 

What’s your favourite Las Vegas restaurant and why?
One that especially stands out from our Lip Smacking Foodie Tour is Estiatorio Milos. Most of their ingredients are imported from Greece every day, and it offers the freshest seafood on the Strip, imported daily from Europe.

 

How many people join the tours on average?

Eight to 10 guests. However, we host private corporate groups of up to 150 guests.

On the Capital Culture: Monuments and Battlegrounds tour, agents will meet Yuhnis Sydnor of Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours

On the Capital Culture: Monuments and Battlegrounds tour, agents will meet Yuhnis Sydnor of Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours

Why is a Philadelphia Sightseeing Experience a great way to see the city?
It’s shared from a local’s point of view. Guests are able to hop on and hop off, allowing people to customise their experience.

 

Any Philly insider tips?
Take a Philadelphia Sightseeing Tour from stop one to stop four, have dim sum at Chinese restaurant Ocean Harbor, then go across the street to Bar Bao for drinks.

 

Best place for shopping?
I love Rittenhouse Square – it has all of the best brands.

 

Why is Philadelphia a must-visit city?
It has amazing food, culture, nightlife and tax-free shopping.

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