Let’s Get in Shape, Tallahassee

“Bang, bang, choo-choo train!” shouted Zumba instructor Sue Tucker from the fit floor as she demonstrated fat-burning dance moves.

With more than 1,500 residents anxious to begin the new year with a healthy lifestyle, vendors at the fifth annual

Tallahassee Fitness Festival encouraged them to do just that, in various ways.

Tucker and more than 50 vendors and exhibitors promoted regiments for better lifestyles through healthy dieting, regular exercise, nutritional supplements and regular health screenings.

The exhibits ranged from live interactive fitness lessons on the “Florida Blue Fit Floor” sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida to a series of hour-long, Lunch-n-Learn workshops provided by North Florida Woman’s Care.

Children were not left out of the movement toward healthy lifestyles. The festival’s interactive “Kids Korner” provided children with their own lessons in healthy decision-making, while face-painting and a moonwalk were available for their entertainment.

The Tallahassee Food Garden and the Leon County Schools Foundation hosted a Community Garden. Local sustainable gardener Nathan Valentine taught children how to grow their own healthy foods.

Upon entering the fitness festival on Saturday, patrons noticed the event’s new layout.

Felina Martin, co-producer of the Tallahassee Fitness Festival, said the setup was more spacious than in past years and made every vendor’s booth and wellness stop more accessible. In her role as event co-producer, Martin coordinated and organized the logistics of the itinerary and solicited sponsors.

Beyond the layout, however, were many other changes this year, including the addition of a new co-producer, Allie Merzer  Fleming of the Fleming public affairs and media agency. According to Martin, Merzer brought a number of useful contacts and industry expertise to help with planning this year’s event.

“This year, we had more chefs on the cooking stage than in the past and much more emphasis on environmental sustainability,” Martin added.

Among those sustainable exhibitors were New Leaf Market, which provided organic food samples, and Earth Fare.

Martin said the annual festival encourages healthy lifestyle changes.

“If you’re changing your lifestyle, it includes healthy living, sustainability and exercise, and that’s what our goal is; to change your lifestyle.”

Janell Massaline, a second-year history education student from Orlando, Fla., attended with members of Florida A&M’s Rampage Step Team. “This is my first year at the festival,” Massaline said. “I’m hoping to gain some knowledge about fitness and to take some of the information I’ve learned here back to members of my team so that they can make healthy lifestyle changes as well.”

Other event patrons like Vincent Palmer, 32, a FAMU alumnus practicing mental healthcare and personal training, were excited about the technology showcased during the festival. Palmer was interested in seeing some of the less invasive fat-reducing technologies such as the Laser Body Sculpting Center’s exhibit.

“I learned a lot about technological things that can be used to cut fat as opposed to just traditional working out,” Palmer said.

Sodexo Flavours’ Executive Chef, Chef Shac, short for Shacafrica Simmons, led the several of the day’s live cooking demonstrations. Simmons serves as executive chef of Florida A&M’s Dining Services. Simmons’ recipes included several quick and easy meals for on-the-go lifestyles, such as fat-free yogurt parfaits, gluten-free Chex mix, and omelet-like frittatas.

“The key is proper planning,” Simmons said while cooking in front of patrons. “Also, as you’re shopping, try to stay along the outskirts of the grocery store. It’s when you start going down the aisles that you start picking up things you don’t need—like cookies.”

Simmons also encouraged everyone to eat in moderation and to buy locally grown produce. Additionally, she mentioned the need for supporting sustainable and organic farmers and fisheries.

The event ended with the fifth Annual FIT Awards, a ceremony recognizing local businesses and individuals for leading the way in local health and wellness efforts. Some of the winners included Chelsea Salon and Spa in the Beauty Salon & Spa category and Weight Watchers for best Weight-Loss Program.

Winners were selected through a period of online voting prior to the event.