Bulls, guests celebrate 20 brunches by Sarasota Bay

rdymond@bradenton.comNovember 11, 2013 

MANATEE -- Twenty years is a long time.

Back in 1994, the Worldwide Web was just starting to become commercially viable.

George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas and the public learned former U.S. President Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's disease. The Republican Party had control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Closer to home, 10-year-old Kristina Grainger was helping her parents, Stan and Jane Ferro, owners of what is now Ophelia's On The Bay in Siesta Key, serve food at the first Brunch on the Bay, a new scholarship fundraiser created by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

Grainger, now 30, was back serving food Sunday for the 20th Brunch on the Bay.

Now general manager of her parent's restaurant, Grainger was handing out red crab and rock shrimp gazpacho with creamy Maine lobster rouille and crispy plantain chips under clear blue skies Sunday at the sylvan USF campus near the border of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Brunch on the Bay this year attracted more than 1,000 patrons to dine on gourmet food from 18 local restaurants and vendors, was launched in 1994 as a scholarship fundraiser and to celebrate the then-20th anniversary of USF Sarasota.

Grainger is now a Golden Bull graduate as well as a Brunch on the Bay vendor. She graduated from the USF Hospitality Management Masters Program in 2012. She and her husband, Kevin Grainger, operate a gourmet food truck in Bradenton called, "Ain't No Thang," where they sell gourmet grilled chicken.

The couple, whose Facebook site, "Ain't No Thang FL," details their schedule, will be at McKechnie Field Thursday.

"I love coming back and giving back," said Grainger. "Brunch on the Bay is special. There is nothing like it. From the location of the campus to the faculty, this is a special place to go to school. They care about students."

20 years and going strong

Bradenton's Dan Friedrich, chief executive officer of Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, was smiling as he was being smothered.

But it wasn't a medical emergency.

Friedrich was engulfed by grateful University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Golden Bulls during Sunday's Brunch on the Bay.

Brunch on the Bay has awarded scholarships to more than 1,000 students, said Arthur Guilford, regional chancellor at USF Sarasota-Manatee,

Due to the philanthropy of those who support the cause, the Brunch Endowed Scholarship Fund has grown to nearly $1.3 million with USF Sarasota-Manatee students receiving $530,000 of the scholarship money, Guilford said.

"I'm not a Bull, but I'm surrounded by them," Friedrich said with a huge grin, noting his wife, Bradenton's Debbie Friedrich, received her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in nursing from USF and now is an assistant professor in nursing at USF's Tampa campus.

Friedrich's daughter, Jamie, 28, earned her bachelor's and master's in education from USF and now teaches at Moody Elementary School in Bradenton.

Friedrich's son, Daniel, will graduate in December from USF with a math degree and his daughter, Jennifer, 31, is still attending USF.

Deciding not to fight 'em, but to join 'em, Friedrich is now on the USF Sarasota-Manatee Community Leadership Council and has become a "Bull-iever."

"The university is awesome," Friedrich said.

Moving progress

The Friedrich family was one of many who filled white plates with delicacies such as cheddar polenta cake with shrimp etouffee and triple chocolate chip cookie balls from Ezra Cafe, grilled lamb sliders from Morton's Gourmet Market, crepes Suzette from Cafe L'Europe, fried green tomato with smoked trout and goat cheese salata from SoMa Creek Side and lobster tails and drawn butter from Marina Jack during a perfect weather day with soft, cool breezes.

Even USF mascot Rocky the Bull was there along with his wrangler, Hannah Veitus.

Veitus was one of roughly a dozen USF ambassadors who helped patrons and food vendors at the event.

Rose Fritz, who graduated in May with honors from USF Sarasota-Manatee's psychology programs, was one of 56 Brunch scholars honored Sunday.

Her story seems more like a screenplay. She says it may never have happened without Brunch on the Bay.

Fritz from Sao Paulo Brazil, left home at 5 a.m. every day she to attend high school. She rode a bus, train and three subways during a two-hour commute to school, doing homework on the train.

She came to the United States at 21 not knowing a word of English, she said. She followed her heart to California thinking she might be an artist.

She came to Florida and tried international real estate sales with Michael Saunders & Co. but, always had an interest in psychology.

Her Brunch on the Bay scholarship allowed her to enroll at USF Sarasota-Manatee where she recently wrote an honors thesis titled: "Social and Emotional Experience of Latinos in the Workplace,"

Her professors told her the paper was so well done and so important it should be published.

"Latinos in the workplace must work hard to contain their natural expressiveness so it is not misinterpreted," Fritz said.

"As a people, we Latinos like to hug and kiss. We can't do that on the job."

Without Brunch on the Bay, her research may never have been discovered, she said.

Charles Baumann , first chairman of Brunch on the Bay in 1994 and co-chair with Amy Drake in 2013, told the large crowd how the event started.

"We wanted something different for Sarasota," Baumann said. "A lot of people didn't know what was going on here at the campus. This gave us a chance to meet the community and for them to meet us."

The first two scholarships were $250 each in 1995. By 2006, with the event moving to the new campus, The Brunch on the Bay Endowment had given out more than $1 million in scholarships and, six years later, would support more than 70 students a year, providing more than $60,000 in annual support, according to Guilford.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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