'2015 Brunch' sets University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee donation record

MANATEE -- Sunday's 22nd Annual University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Brunch on the Bay set a single year record for scholarship donations.

This year's Brunch brought more than $370,000, the most ever for the event, co-chair Anila Jain said Monday.

Since it began, Brunch on the Bay has contributed more than $1.3 million to the Brunch on the Bay Scholarship Endowment and contributed more than $1 million in scholarships to more than 1,400 students, mostly from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Brunch on the Bay is so entrenched in the community that tables are "90 percent sold" before tickets go on sale, Jain said. Early on, though, organizers worried whether the Sarasota and Manatee communities would even support the fledgling university as it strived to raise money for college scholarships.

Now about 1,000 people attend the brunch yearly, so many that organizers have capped the event. This year's attendees mingled and sampled drinks and food - from crepes to cupcakes to lobster to curried chicken. Attendees were greeted Sunday by mascot Rocky and student Ambassadors. Students from the campus' College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership volunteered at food stations.

Several politicians and dignitaries attended as well, including USF System President Judy Genshaft and USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Sandra Stone, whose attendance coincided with her one-year anniversary at USFSM and the campus' 40-year anniversary.

"Thank you for throwing a party for me," she joked as she addressed the crowd.