Tips For Making The Most of the 2023 GLFEE

There are a lot of first time attendees registered for the 2023 GLFEE. Here are tips for making the most of a busy weekend.

Tips For Making The Most of the 2023 GLFEE

To make the most of your time at the 2023 GLFEE here are some things to keep in mind, in the order that you need to deal with them…


Design Competition

Anyone interested in the design competition needs to think about this first because you make the designs at your shop and then check them into the contest on Friday before the February 27, 2023 deadline.

Who should think about entering the design competition? Probably anyone that does design.

Why? The contest is free, anyone that has a weekend pass can enter. You will get more detailed and constructive feedback than you will anywhere else*, and that will help you hone both your design and competition skills. More famous designers than you can imagine got their start in the GLFEE design competition.

Don’t be afraid. This is not a high pressure competition where you will be designing on stage under the spotlight. Instead you prepare the designs at your store and bring them to the GLFEE.

Most people coming would qualify for the Professional division, meaning they have worked in a flower shop for three years and have not accumulated enough points to compete in the Academy division.

The Professional division has four different themes, meaning you can enter four different designs, but you do not have to enter them all – you only enter the themes you want.

Please Note: If you are a FloristWare client that is interested in the design competition but are flying in from out of town please us know. We can help arrange for materials and a workspace so you can design on site.

To complete in the design contest you must have a GLFEE Weekend Pass and complete the competition registration form and return it to the GLFEE office by February 27, 2023.

*FloristWare is honored to once again supply the technology that makes this kind of feedback possible.

Getting There & Settled


The ride from the Grand Rapids airport (Gerald R. Ford International Airport) to the GLFEE is about fifteen miles and twenty minutes long. Uber costs about $30 (best case) to $60 (worst case), depending on volume.

Unless you are really determined to explore Grand Rapids there is not much point in renting a car – everything you need you need can be found at the hotel/convention centre, with a lot more within short walking distance. Also parking at the show hotel is convenient, but not cheap at $35/night for self-parking and $39 for valet.


Hotel Check-In

If you are driving you can pull into the Pearl Street entrance of the Amway Grand Hotel & Plaza. Explain to the attendants you just need a minute to check in and they will direct you to a temporary spot. If at all possible take your bags with you at this point, it will save hauling them over from the parking lot later.

When checking in you may be given the choice of the “Tower” (newer and more modern) or “Pantlind” (historic). Both are very nice but the walk to the convention centre is a little bit easier from the Tower. If you go with the Pantlind you can you save a lot of walking if you ask for a room near the elevators.

During check-in you will also have to decide about parking. The official hotel lot is the most convenient, but it’s still across the street and not inexpensive: $35/night for self park and $39/night for valet.

If you don’t mind a slightly longer walk there are other less expensive options not that much further away:

FREY | Between County Courthouse and State of Michigan Building
200 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, USA (Map & Directions)
7 Minute Walk, $17 Daily Max

OLDTOWN | On Louis-Campau across from Z's
55 Campau Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, USA (Map & Directions)
4 Minute Walk, $15 Daily Max

GRCC LYON | Corner of Lyon and Bostwick
Lyon Parking Ramp, Winchester Pl NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, USA (Map & Directions)
9 minute walk, $12 Daily Max

Other potential parking locations can be found on the Ellis Parking website.

If you have a car the best thing to do is take your bags and walk a few steps to the bell desk, just to the left of the check-in desk and ask for Fayez Raidwan, then give him your name, bags and a tip. While you park Fayez will take your bags to your room where they will be waiting for you.

Pro Tip: Fayez is the single greatest resource on the hotel property. Pretty much anything you need he can get it for you. And exhibitors – if you need anything taken over to the convention center he will do that too, but please tip him at least $20 if he is taking stuff across the street and in to another building.


Getting Back & Forth Between The Hotel And Convention Center

The GLFEE takes place at two connected venues. There is the the hotel, the Amway Grand (often just referred to as the hotel, the Amway, etc.) and DeVos Place, the space where the sessions, trade show, and various other things take place (referred to as DeVos, the convention center etc.).

You are likely to make a number of trips between these two buildings which are separated by narrow, dead-end and lightly travelled Lyon Street.

In case of inclement weather there is good news – there is a covered walkway so you never have to face the elements. Get off the elevator at the Concourse level of the Amway Grand and follow the signs for the enclosed walkway to DeVos Performance Hall & DeVos Convention Center.

The bad news is that the covered walkway is not the most efficient route between the buildings. The fastest way to get from the hotel is to take the elevator to the ground floor of the hotel, look for the Sales & Catering office (located behind the lobby gift shop) and exit out to Lyon street, run across and enter DeVos there.


Thursday Night

A surprising number of people coming to the GLFEE will be on hand Thursday night, and the Rendezvous bar in the lobby of the hotel is usually the centre of the action.

Even if it’s your first time and you think you don’t know anybody just look for the group of florists – they are not hard to spot. And if you still aren’t sure look for an industry celebrity like Tim Huckabee. Then just head in that direction, introduce yourself as a fellow member of the floral industry, and you will be warmly welcomed.



Key Times:

9:30 AM    Optional Sessions Start, Special Registration Required
5:00 PM    Design Competition Entries Need To Be Checked-In Between 4:00 - 6:00 PM
8:00 PM    Welcome Reception, River Overlook Foyer DeVos Place


The quickest option is the cafeteria-style Kitchen Counter By Wolfgang Puck at the hotel before heading across the street to enjoy the sessions and trade fair. There is also a Starbucks in the old lobby of the hotel, near the Monroe Avenue entrance.


There are a couple of optional full-day sessions on Friday. Designers will likely gravitate to the hands-on workshop with Jackie Lacey AAF, AIFD, CFD, PFCI and Derek Woodruff AAF, AIFD, CF, PFCI.

Owners and managers might be more interested in “How to Run a Business That Doesn’t Run You” by Bob Negen of WhizBang! Retail Training. FloristWare is very excited to sponsor this session.


On Friday the quickest option will be to dart across Lyon Street back to the hotel through the side entrance mentioned earlier and then go the cafeteria-style Kitchen Counter By Wolfgang Puck for a sandwich or wrap.

Other alternatives include ATO Sushi across the street (180 Monroe Ave NW) or Panera Bread, a few block away (99 Monroe Ave NW).

Friday Night Mixer

The Friday night reception takes place from 8:00 to 10:00 PM on the second floor of the convention center in what they call the River Overlook Foyer in DeVos place, directly over the hall where you register for and enter the GLFEE. Cash bar, music and prizes.


After the reception most people will head back to the Rendezvous bar at the hotel. Those who want something a little more quiet usually go to the Lumber Baron Bar or the bar at Ruth’s Chris, those looking for more action head up to the IDC Lounge.



Key Times:

8:00 AM    First Session Begins
10:00 AM Trade Show Opens
5:30 PM    Reception (Trade Show Floor, Open to Everyone)
6:45 PM    Banquet (Steelcase Ballroom A in DeVos, Registration Required)
9:00 PM    After Party With Live Music (Steelcase Ballroom A in DeVos, Open to Everyone)


Things start early so most people will grab something from the cafeteria-style Kitchen Counter By Wolfgang Puck at the hotel before heading across the street to enjoy the sessions and trade fair. There is also a Starbucks in the old lobby of the hotel, near the Monroe Avenue entrance.


There are all kinds of great sessions going on this year, more sessions than you will be able to see, so it’s really important to look at the GLFEE online schedule and plan ahead in advance.

FloristWare is really excited to sponsor several business sessions from Bob Negen of WhizBang! Retail Training. Bob is a highly sought-after retail speaker and it’s exciting to have him at the GLFEE.

Trade Show

There is a lot going on at the trade show so plan to spend some time and some money. Vendors will be offering show specials and showcasing new products & services, and the more you spend the more chances you get to win in the draw.

On Saturday the trade show opens at 10:00 and runs until 4:30.

Planning is essential. The GLFEE schedule is very tight, there is very little time you won’t be in sessions, so set aside time for the trade fair.

There are two 30 minute windows on Saturday where the trade show is the only thing going on:

10:00 to 10:30 AM
12:30 to 1:00 PM

Some trade show highlights...

  • Pretty much everyone will want to stop by the Flower Shop Network booth and they always give away great bags for carrying the stuff you will collect over the weekend.
  • Strider Internet Marketing is doing something very exciting – they are offering a detailed SEO analysis of your store website. It's free but valuable and actionable. Don't miss out.
  • The Profitable Florist (formally known as Floral Strategies) has some exciting giveaways.
  • FloristWare will be meeting with our existing clients, doing a Valentines Day debrief and getting their feedback on how we can improve our product. But we'd also love to hear from shops that are not using FloristWare – just come by and tell us how you see the perfect floral POS system.



This year, for the first time, there will be a grill station (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) set up near the registration desk. Otherwise the quickest option is to run back over to the hotel to the Kitchen Counter.


There is a one hour reception (cash bar) right before the banquet, from 5:30 to 6:30, on the trade show floor in DeVos Place.

This is open to everyone and even if you are not going to the banquet you should stop by for a drink before heading out on your own.


The banquet is great. Really. Even if it’s your first time and you don’t know anybody and are worried about finding a spot at a table there is one really big long table where you can just grab a seat.

But if you are new to the GLFEE and not interested in the banquet there are lots of other options in the hotel or within walking distance.

Please Note: Purchase Banquet ticket in advance. The event takes place right next to the reception in Steelcase Ballroom A at DeVos Place.

After Party

After the banquet, about 9 PM, a band takes the stage and the space opens back up to everyone. Even if you skipped the banquet to dine elsewhere you should come back for this.



Key Times:

8:00 AM      First Session Begins
10:00 AM    Trade Show Opens
Noon           GLFA Annual General Meeting & Lunch With Keynote Speaker Bob Negen of WhizBang Training (Steelcase Ballroom A, Open to Everyone)



Again most people will grab something from the cafeteria-style Kitchen Counter By Wolfgang Puck at the hotel before heading across the street to DeVos Place.

Trade Show

On Sunday the trade show opens at 10:00 and runs until 2:30.

There is one 30 minute window on Sunday where the trade show is the only thing going on from 10:00 to 10:30 AM. Please come out, support the vendors that make the GLFEE possible and spend some money to improve your chances in the draw.


All registered attendees are invited to enjoy a complimentary lunch with a keynote address from Bob Negen of WhizBang! Retail Training “Mighty on Main Street… The World Changing Power of Independent Retailers.


Before the show wraps up there will be a draw from the main stage for some great prizes.

Move Out

Exhibitors will start to tear down and move out at 2:30.