The wine was flowing, the food was delectable and there were definitely good times being had.
The Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch’s 15th annual Suncoast Food and Wine Festival drew a couple thousand people to the Sarasota Polo Club grounds on Saturday.
And in addition to the overwhelming selection of food, wine and even beer for the non-wine lovers, the weather made for a gorgeous afternoon with clear skies, highs topping out at 80 degrees and humidity dropping to about 43 percent.
Tom Burnett, 47, of Bradenton, had never been to the event, but said he felt like he got his money’s worth.
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“We like doing the Epcot Food and Wine Fest, and this one was a great choice,” Burnett said. “You get a lot of of food and wine for the price, an especially good value for the price of general admission.”
He did have a favorite dish, however.
“Half Shell had some good oysters,” Burnett said. “The wines been very good throughout all the tents.”
Chairman of the event, Preston Olinger, seemed as happy as the patrons.
“I haven’t got any complaints yet,” he said half-way into the three-hour event.
At least 1,500 tickets had been sold by Wednesday leading up to the event, he said. Olinger was also grateful for the sponsors of the event that helped make it possible.
“One hundred percent of what we make goes to charities in Manatee and Sarasota counties, and in addition to some Rotary projects,” Olinger said. “Since 2004, we’ve given away $1.3 million.”
This year, he hoped the event would net a profit of $100,000. In addition to proceeds from tickets sales, silent auctions were also underway to raise more money for the charitable causes.
Annette Brown, 47, of Bradenton, stood near one wine table, waiting to get a thumbs up or down from the others in her group of four. She couldn’t keep up with them, she said, so only tasted what they really recommended.
“We have found some favorites that I’m sure we’ll order,” Brown said.
It was her first time at the Suncoast Food and Wine Festival.
“I thought the Manatee Tech students did an excellent job on the food,” Brown said. “It was our favorite tent. We really enjoyed it.”