LaDonna Gatlin 

LaDonna Gatlin grew up on stage performing with her brothers, the legendary Gatlin Brothers. In the mid 1970’s, this “gutsy” Texas native chose to follow her heart and “sing a different song” apart from her famous family. That “song” has taken her from corporate powerhouses…to the prison cells of death row…and just about everywhere in between. LaDonna’s presentations resonate with audiences all over the country.

She is the author of The Song in You: Finding your Voice, Redefining Your Life. She is also a contributing writer to the best-selling book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul.

As a speaker, she is one of only a handful of professional speakers who holds both the Certified Speaking Professional designation and the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame Award®, two of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the National Speakers Association.

As a performer, LaDonna has excelled in the world of gospel and country music. She has performed with Johnny Cash, June Carter, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and countless others. She has written and recorded her own songs and performed on both Grammy Award-winning and Dove Award-winning records.

Through her experience as a performer, professional speaker, and author, LaDonna has developed an expertise in showing people how to tune up their lives, so that their success becomes…well…music to their ears.

   Dr. John Patterson

Dr. Patterson chairs the Lexington Medical Society’s Physician Wellness Commission, is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Saybrook University's School of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). After 30 years in private family practice in Irvine KY, he now operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations specializing in mindfulness-based approaches to stress-related chronic conditions and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at

   Necie Brown

Some label event creators, dreamers. Some may even classify them as innovators. Necie Brown simply identifies herself as an avant-gardists whose mind is aroused by creativity, her blood flows swifter with every new idea and her heart pounds at the thought of patrons creating memories that will last their lifetime.

At only 24-years-old Necie Lewis is dedicated to impacting others by facilitating good times through event management. In 2010, while pursuing her undergraduate degree in Communication at Kennesaw State University, she enrolled into the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program. Here she decided that she didn’t want to leave an impression on the world, she wanted to leave an impact. And she wanted it to be an artistic one.

 With a career that began with Kennesaw State University Sports and Entertainment Park’s student run entrepreneurial workforce, Night Owl Productions, Necie promoted the venue’s events with the street team. Necie quickly excelled from a student leader to a professional staff member within 5 months. In 2013 Necie began a full-time position with the organization as the Festival, Event and Fan Experience Coordinator. In this role Necie was responsible for developing and executing a programming strategy that attracted audiences from local and regional markets while simultaneously creating and implementing training programs for front of house staff in order to improve productivity and increase accountability.

In May of 2016 Necie was promoted within the organization to the Booking and Event Manager. In this role Necie is responsible for employing tactical techniques through creative strategies and customer focus in order to maximize venue revenue. Within her organization she is considered a visionary who demonstrates strong coordination skills through leadership opportunities with events such as an annual hot air balloon festival, which has an operation budget exceeding $650k each year and has an economic impact of more than 7.2 million. She exhibits a proven ability to develop, engage and retain diverse partnerships while concomitantly staying true to who she is.

In her free time, Necie enjoys listening to both new and throwback jams, eating burritos, traveling the world with her husband, and spending time with her loving family and friends. 

    Jeff English

Jeff English is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the Kentucky Derby Festival.  After graduating from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 2004, Jeff worked in politics and practiced law before joining the Festival staff in 2007.  He is charged with overseeing all of the Festival’s legal issues and serving as its risk management officer.  He also manages the Merchandise Department and serves as the President of the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation, the 501(c)3 charitable arm of KDF.  He was named a member of the 2014 class of Business First’s Forty Under 40.

   Tom Crichton

Tom Crichton founded Help Get Sponsors, Inc., a full service sponsorship sales and management agency in 2001. After fully understanding the challenges that events face when securing sponsorships, he decided to design and launch affordable software providing events all the tools needed to sell and manage their sponsorships.

Tom has sold and managed over $14 million in sponsorship for his clients including major city festivals, the largest endurance events in the world, and within motorsports including NASCAR team sponsorships for NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. He personally worked with such sponsorship heavy hitters as GE, Coca-Cola, AOL, CitiFinancial, Office Depot, Nationwide, the US Navy, National Guard, Allstate, FedEx, PepsiCo, Budweiser, Subaru, and many other fortune 500 companies.

Prior to his experience in the sponsorship and marketing industry, Tom had a successful, decade long career in sports television winning two TV News Emmy Awards for sports reporting and producing.

Eight years ago, Tom competed in his first triathlon and was immediately hooked, going on to compete in hundreds of events and becoming a three-time Ironman finisher. His last Ironman was last year in Chattanooga, where out of nearly 3,000 competitors he finished 145th!

   Caitlin Smith

Caitlin is the senior account executive for Urban Enterprises Promotions. After 10 years with the company, Caitlin has worked in nearly every position Urban has to offer. Working with organizations that range from the Atlanta Falcons, Ringling Brothers and the Final Four, to the Alliance Theatre and the High Museum of Art has taught her the art of working with a wide variety of clients. Caitlin holds a degree in Musical Theatre from the Belmont University School of Music in Nashville TN, and still enjoys performing professionally both on stage and on screen. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Nathan and their 2-year-old daughter Sadie. 

    Aundrea Self

Aundrea Self began her career in broadcasting in 1993. She currently hosts the daily talk show, “MidMorning with Aundrea” and anchors WCBI News at Five and WCBI News at Six at the CBS affiliate in Columbus, MS. She has won several Associated Press awards for her work. In 2004, she was honored as a “Top 40 Under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal. Aundrea is a member of the Community Advisory Committee for Baptist Hospital-Golden Triangle and serves on the board of directors for the Richard E. Holmes II Veterans Memorial Foundation. She is actively involved with the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

She spends much of her spare time speaking to area churches, schools, and civic organizations. Aundrea and her husband, David, have three children: Kimberly, Alan, and Emilee.

   Matthew Donegan-Ryan

Matthew Donegan-Ryan is Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of FastBar, the instant cashless payments system for events. Matthew has been an event technology entrepreneur for over a decade and has helped lead two previous companies to successful acquisitions (CrowdCompass by Cvent and Thriva by the Active Network, now Lanyon). Matthew is an international speaker who teaches event organizers how to incorporate wearable, mobile payment and social technologies into their events.

   Chris Stiles

Chris is president of Unmanned Services, Inc. As Director of Flight Operations for USI, Chris oversees daily flight services and customer support.  He has over 12 years of global experience in Unmanned Systems (drones) operations to include flight instruction, safety and standardization program development, maintenance, sensor operations, special programs operations, system and sensor research & development and joint operations.  Mr. Stiles has spanned all sectors of the drone market from active duty service in the Army, DoD contractor support, academia and public/civil agency support to commercial sector operations.  He is a qualified operator on over a dozen unmanned aircraft platforms with 8,400+ mishap free flight hours and his company regularly participates in and supports special community events and festivals throughout Kentucky.  Mr. Stiles actively promotes drone education, adoption as well as proper legislation for the technology.  To accomplish these goals, he regularly interacts with key leadership in public/civil agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organizations as well as presenting at conferences.  Chris maintains dual residency between San Antonio, TX where his 2 young children live, and Lexington, KY where his love for horse country and bourbon resides.

    Josh Collins

There’s a way things work, a certain ordained rhythm if you will. And if we’re curious and courageous enough to ask the hard questions, we’ll discover where that melody creates and attracts life in the community around us. That’s where Josh Collins, co-founder of Kinekt and Digital Communication Manager for Visit Franklin, comes alive.

Having worked with some of the most powerful and influential brands like Stevie Wonder, The Roots, John Legend, Jay-Z and many others, Josh has settled down to serve the community (Franklin, TN) he loves attract, connect and engage it’s audience on a whole new scale.

In just the last 2 and half years alone, he’s grown the Visit Franklin brand well over 2500% as well as lead digital campaigns resulting in the saving of Nashville’s Historic Studio A on top of landing Franklin in the headlines of countless publications like the New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.

Josh serves on the Advisory Board for E-Tourism Summit; a Silicon-Valley based Travel & Tourism conference and is a frequent speaker on Social Media. He consults with small businesses and non-profits on how to create a culture that connects and engages its audience.

Southeast Festivals & Events Association, PO Box 720152, Atlanta, GA 30358

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software