11th annual wine festival helps local charities

ejohnson@bradenton.comNovember 11, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A crowd of 2,000 sipped delicate wines and sampled tasty cuisine creations, all in an effort to give back to the community Saturday.

The Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch's 11th annual SuncoastFood and Wine Fest at the Sara-sota Polo Club proved to be a successful three hours of drinks,food, music and charity.

"The event is very important to the community," said Joe Weber, festival chairman. "Over the first 10 years we have given more than $1 million to charities in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Organizations have come to look to us as a source of funding."

Nonprofit organizations have until January to submit grants to receive some of the projected $100,000 raised.

"It's grown in reputation as much as anything," said Ladd Waldo, Rotary Club president. "We've become more known in the community. We're getting more applications for grants. Sponsors are easier to get. The audience has gotten much younger, which shows this is a fun event for the community."

The one-day fundraiser requires nine months of planning by the 70

Rotary Club members divided into 16 subcommittees.

"It's a classical management challenge to put on," Weber said. "This event is a superb example of Rotary's theme: serving above self. People are working hard to benefit those in the community. You'll never have so much fun doing so much good."

Dan McAllister spent months gathering more than 120 items for silent auction, expected to raise $10,000.

"You have to motivate members to get out there," he said. "We had a goal of 100 items, and they came through at the end with more."

About 35 local restaurants provided sample dishes, accompanied by more than 300 international and domestic wines and beers.

New this year was a second band, cigar bar and fashion show by L Boutique.

"When you have an annual event like this, the challenge is to keep it fresh," Weber said.

Madeline Schindel of Lakewood Ranch hosted four guests this weekend for the event.

"It's a really nice selection of food with something for everybody, and the portions are nice so you can try everything," Schindel said. "It's a nice atmosphere. I'm so glad it (funding) is staying local."

Manatee Technical Institute's Culinary Arts program had a popular booth. A six-table spread including fondue, elk and truffles required a week of preparation by 40 students putting in 45 hours each and working with more than 1,200 pounds of ingredients.

"For us it's all about the students who may never get to experience this again," said instructor Garry Colpitts. "This is love, passion, energy; It's what we do."

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