(July 27) ANAHEIM, Calif. — Frontline produce and floral workers from throughout Southern California showed up in force July 24 to get a firsthand look at some new or unusual products, participate in educational seminars and show off their skills at the 2007 Fresh Produce & Floral Council Expo at the Disneyland Hotel.

As has become a tradition, a highlight of the event put on annually by the La Mirada-based council was the presentation of the Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award.

Pat McDowell, vice president at Perimeter Sales & Merchandising, Los Alamitos, won this year’s award.

An estimated 1,000 people took part in the event, and about 130 produce and floral companies exhibited, including some of the biggest names in those industries.

After enjoying a continental breakfast, produce participants kicked off the day at a retail/foodservice education seminar featuring William Hallman of Rutgers University.

The topic of Hallman’s presentation was timely: “Imagining the Invisible: Public Perceptions of Risk and Food Safety.”

Members of the floral industry participated in their own seminar, and some took part in a floral design contest while produce department workers tested their skills in the Produce 101 competition.

The Bolstad award, instituted in 2004, is presented every year to “an individual who has exhibited tremendous commitment to the produce industry,” said last year’s winner, Dale Liefer, partner in Westlake Produce Co., Los Angeles, as he announced the 2007 winner.

McDowell, a California native, is a 25-year industry veteran who “has given time and dedication to the industry and volunteered countless hours to the Fresh Produce & Floral Council as a committee member, committee chairman and board member,” Liefer said. McDowell was chairman of the board in 2005.

Liefer described McDowell as someone who has “been an influential member of the produce industry through contributions, innovations and forward thinking” and who has “given back and supported the industry in so many ways.”

McDowell began his career as a field buyer for Burlington Air Freight in Bakersfield but soon returned to Orange County, where he was raised, and accepted a position as regional manager for Juice Tree Inc., Westminster.

Next, he got in on the ground floor of a new produce sales and marketing venture called Retail Specialties, which was purchased by Ready Pac Produce Inc., Irwindale. At Ready Pac, he gained experience in fresh-cut produce.

McDowell took on his present position at Perimeter Sales & Merchandising in 2000.

As a member of the council, he was the driving force behind development of the Produce Handling Guide created for independent supermarkets and made available online, Liefer said.

The expo, which began about 16 years ago, continues to be “a great opportunity for retailers to get out and meet vendors and see products,” said Donna Bares, chairman of the Expo committee. “Feedback is very positive.”