Mar 13, 2023
Beloved TIPA employee to be honored by Viva Fresh Open

The golf tournament at the 2023 Viva Fresh Produce Expo, scheduled for March 30-April 1 in the Dallas metropolitan region, plans to honor a longtime deceased Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) staffer.

At the 2023 Viva Fresh Open is scheduled for March 30 in Grapevine, Texas. The event plans a stellar course plus networking opportunities and the ability for participants to support a healthy cause by raising funds for the Viva Fresh mission of increasing the awareness of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables produced in the Tex-Mex corridor, according to a news release.

In its eighth year, the competition will feature two rounds of golf kicking off the Viva Fresh Expo: shotgun starts will be at 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Cowboys Golf Club, adjacent to the Gaylord Texan Resort, the convention’s site.

The event has always posthumously recognized a dedicated Texas industry peer. This year’s honoree is Gracie Gonzalez, longtime TIPA employee who passed away unexpectedly in 2020. Since the 1990s, Gonzalez worked with the South Texas Onion and Melon Committee, Texas Produce Association (later TIPA), and Texas Citrus Mutual.

“If you attended an event, visited the office or called the organization, you likely saw her smiling face or heard her happy voice,” TIPA officials said in the release. “Her kindness, love and patience extended to every single member of our industry and her presence and hard work were part of the behind-the-scenes effort that helped craft the association we know today.”

As industry members spoke about Gracie, it was clear she left an unfillable void for all those who worked with her and loved her.

“The TIPA team is so very grateful to Gracie Gonzalez for her efforts and contributions to our many activities, meetings and events,” Dante Galeazzi, TIPA’s president and CEO, said in the release. “She led by example, and always had a smile on her face. Her passing was a grave loss to our organization and the industry. Her passion for produce and immense positive energy was infectious. It is with great honor that we celebrate the life of one of our very own through this event, something I know Gracie herself would have been humbled by.”

Former TIPA president & CEO Bret Erickson said he is honored to recognize and acknowledge Gonzalez’s life through the prestigious Texas produce event. “Gracie was an angel on this earth long before she went to be an angel in heaven,” Erickson said in the release. “I had the sheer joy of getting to know Gracie and her family during my time at Texas Citrus Mutual and TIPA. Seldom in this life have I met someone with such class, grace, and kindness. Gracie was a beacon of light wherever she went, she exuded pure love, every single day, and was so incredibly dedicated to God, her family, her friends and colleagues.”

One of the most rewarding results of the Viva Fresh Open is the charitable aspect that helps raise funds to support scholarships and programming that promote the education and health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Tex-Mex corridor. In conjunction with Texas State University, a portion of this year’s funds will be presented to the Hays County Juvenile Detention Center in San Marcos, Texas, to develop an in-house garden.

While TIPA through Viva Fresh has been fortunate to support a variety of charitable projects and dozens of industry scholarships, this year’s donation strikes a new chord by addressing a long underserved audience, Ed Bertaud, director of retail sales for IFCO and Viva Fresh Expo steering committee member and tournament chair, said in the release. “The Hays County Juvenile Detention Center serves nearly 150 youth, age 13-16 in three- to six-month programs addressing substance abuse and mental health programs,” he said in the release. “We have long known the power of healthy eating in changing lifestyles and building better habits. I think this is a positive step forward that recognizes every person can eat well and be better.”

As an alternative to the annual golf outing, the second annual Viva Fresh Winery Tour in nearby downtown Grapevine returns on March 30 from 12 pm to 4:30 pm. The tour will consist of three wine tasting stops in downtown Grapevine from local-area wineries: Farina’s Winery, Cross Timbers and Delaney Vineyards.

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