Pizzeria, ice cream and gelataria operators have only two days left to register for the North America Pizza and Ice Cream Show — Feb. 16 and 17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
 
This year's event promises to deliver an abundance of pre-show workshops along with seminars, a pizza test kitchen and one of the biggest competitions in show history.
 
Attendee pre-registration is available for $25 until Feb. 13, a 50 percent savings from registering at the door. All Sunday and Monday events are included in the registration price. To register online, click here. To register by phone, call 800-909-7469.
 
NAPICS is the second-largest pizza-focused trade show in the country, the only pizza show in the Midwest and the largest frozen dessert show in the Midwest. More than 5,000 attendees and 220 exhibitors expected for the two-day show.
 
Exhibitors this year include Pizza Equipment Supply Inc. (PESI) and Presto Foods, which have teamed up to raffle off a PS1828 oven, part of PESI's Pro Series line, during the awards show Feb. 18. Tickets will be sold for $1 and proceeds will benefit a local charity.
 
Presto Foods, a pizza/Italian distributor, stocks a full line of mozzarella cheese, meat toppings and chicken boxes, as well as equipment ranging from ovens to mixers.
 
"We have a great turnout every year at the show," said John Harrison, general manager in Louisville, Ky. "We gain a lot of new contacts from it every year, so it's always positive feedback from both our food customers and our equipment customers."
 
Frozen dessert operators also can outfit their stores with equipment to make and dispense ice creams as well as gelatos, sorbets and tart yogurts. Ice creams, mixes, toppings, and ingredients also will be on display.
  
"People that already have a shop, whether it be a pizzeria or a coffee shop, are prime candidates to add gelato, sorbets, frozen desserts, ice cream, custard or anything like that to their existing menu," said Advanced Gourmet owner Jim Hall.
 
This year, Advanced Gourmet will showcase its Mix-Gel, a machine that heats and freezes products for the creation of gelato and sorbets. The company hopes to capitalize on what Hall sees as the next trend in the frozen dessert business - the gelateria. 
 
Other exhibitors include Aramark Uniforms, B&B Creative Marketing, Cincinnati Ice Machine Co., Ezzo Sausage Co. Inc., Hobart Corp., Hormel Foods and Wasserstrom Co.
 
Relationship building
 
NAPICS began five years ago as a way to promote relationships within the industry.
 
"It's been designed to develop a support network on a friendship basis," said chairwoman Ann Reichle, who also led NAPICS predecessor, the Mid-America Restaurant, Soft-Serve & Pizza Show. Reichle pointed out that pizza and ice cream operators generally are not bolstered by the same support that large restaurants have.
 
"It's a friendly voice on the other end of the phone. It's a friendly e-mail in the morning. It's just somebody to pick you up when you fall down that understands what you're going through."
 
Reichle won first prize in 1996 in the show's Pizza Pizzazz competition along with the then $300 prize. She and husband, Jim, owners of Angelina's Pizza in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, took the money and spent it on a meat slicer the same day.
 
"I thought the value I had received was bigger than the plaque hanging on my wall and the recognition," she said.
 
The Pizza Pizzazz competition pits operator against operator in the quest for the best pizza in the categories of traditional and gourmet. In addition to expanding the Pizza Pizzazz contest from 50 to 75 entries each in both categories, the combined first-place prizes have reached a record $17,000 - with the first-place winner of each category set to receive a whopping $7,500 (second-place winners will receive $500 and third-place winners $250). Additionally, if a first-place winner bakes on a Lloyd Pans product, he or she will receive an extra $1,000 from Lloyd Pans.
 
John Gutekanst, winner of the 2007 Gourmet Pizza Pizzazz category, said winning has been great for his Avalanche Pizza business in Athens, Ohio.
 
"It's got to be one of the best competitions around because you meet guys from everywhere," he said. "Both days of it are really a lot of fun. There are so many good pizza makers out there and you'd be surprised where you find them from."
 
Gutekanst enters both the gourmet and traditional categories and spends the months leading up to the competition testing new pizza combinations. He also studies what the judges have selected as winners in previous years.
 
Pizza Pizzazz pre-registration is open until Feb. 12. Click here to register. 

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