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Real Talk

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Sheryl Vieira shares thoughts on the community, good deeds and important things, big AND small.

As our season began to “wine” down, there seemed to be a consistent theme of savoring, sipping, swirling, tasting and toasting going on before our snow birds headed back to their homes up North for the summer season.

Some of the toasting that took place was to honor, acknowledge and celebrate leaders in our community. One such event was the annual Community Video Archives Hall of Fame luncheon with Annette Scherman. Another was at the annual Image Awards for the Florida Public Relations Association, whose members are part of a powerful, dynamic group of public relations professionals, many of who work feverishly behind the scenes, never seeking praise and recognition as they work to make others look good as they raise awareness for important causes. Another glass was raised for the dynamic duo at Michael’s on East, who celebrated their 30th anniversary. So open a bottle of vino, find a comfortable place to settle into, and pour yourself a glass of wine as you sip this month’s Real Talk.

Libations on Lemon at Banquet on the Block

One of Florida Winefest’s most celebrated culinary events is its Banquet on the Block. Lemon Avenue closed for this sassy, sophisticated wine dinner-slash-street party for 200 guests who sampled a stellar selection of wines, while others enjoyed Stoli vodka martinis before taking their seats at the longest dinner table in Sarasota.

Participating chefs included Laszlo Bevardi, who prepared the first course of grilled halibut with asparagus, lemon risotto, scampi tomato Provencal sauce. For the second course, Chef Christopher Covelli, the Founder of Culinary Creations & Entertainment, set his sights on a porcini-and-veal-stuffed chicken roulade with a red wine demi-glace. The only tower people could see while dining al fresco on Lemon Avenue was the California shrimp tower created by Chef Sam Ray of Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill. The fourth course, from Executive Chef Alex Vasquez of Mattison’s Forty-One, consisted of a Creekstone Farms petite filet with fennel pollen-whipped carrots, ramp-tomato confit, ramp pesto, black garlic reduction and a crispy Parmesan puff! The entrée was followed by Crème Brulee with licorice root, balsamic vinegar and blackberry caviar.

First time attendees included Deanne and Taylor Trier, long-time chef and owner of Harry’s Continental Kitchen Hal Christensen with Danielle Bretschneider, and Sandy Loevner. To date, Florida Winefest has raised nearly $8.5 million to assist area nonprofits. Raise your glasses people! Congratulations to all involved year after year.

Cheers to All Involved with the Annual Lakewood Ranch Rotary Suncoast Winefest

Sometimes you hear a message from someone who is truly challenged in their daily life and will remain that way. You can’t even imagine how they face their challenges every single day. It makes giving so easy, doesn’t it?

The Lakewood Ranch Rotary holds their annual Suncoast Winefest event at the Sarasota Polo grounds earlier in the season, but they recently hosted the actual luncheon where those who received grants through the funds raised were asked to give an introductory overview of their nonprofit and what the funds would be applied towards. There were 32 grants funded. Sarasota and Manatee Counties are filled with deep needs, very deserving nonprofits and lots of programs, support and solutions to help care for those in dire need.

The most heartfelt message at the luncheon was from a woman with a guide dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Her guide assisted her in getting up to the podium to share her story. She was experiencing ongoing, horrific headaches on one side of her head, which resulted in a stroke. It left her with only one functioning eye and she is considered blind. Her highly-trained dog offers her guidance, assistance, friendship, love and care. She is the light to her dark world and she gives and gives, only asking for love and a bowl of food in return. They have a daily motto: get up, dress up, show up, and that includes a flower the dog wears on her harness every day. The woman’s speech was touching and the work that Southeastern Guide Dogs does, along with many other nonprofits, is critical and critically needed. Please volunteer, donate, give your support, your time, your heart, your talent. There are so many great needs that need YOU!

Thank you to the event volunteers, participating wineries, area restaurants, Rotarians, and Publix, the presenting sponsor, along with a plethora of other caring, kind sponsors. Seen at the luncheon were Denise Pope, Joy Naylor, Ladd Waldo, District Governor for Rotary District 6960, Sally Waldo, Bill Porter, President of the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, Sybil Porter, Preston Olinger, Chairman of the 2016 and 2017 Winefest and Lakewood Ranch Rotary board member Scott Antritt.

Whisked Away to the French Riviera 

We were asked to take our Sarasota hats off and imagine we were in a vineyard in the south of France. We were in fact on the great lawn of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for an evening in Chagall’s French Riviera hosted by Nora and Billy Johnson and Jenny and Ken Pendery, while seated at one continuous table and enjoying a moonlight wine dinner presented by Michael’s on East.

Guests gathered under the Banyans, mingling with friendly, wine-loving travelers, many speaking about their personal culinary travels and favorite wines. The company, the fine French wines and the extravagant, multi-course dinner, inspired by the famed Colombe d’Or and personally designed by Phil Mancini, had us over the moon!

Roger Capote, Senior Director of Special Projects at Selby, and USF intern Jessica Lake designed the layout and theme for the event. Wooden chandeliers by Affairs in the Air hung above the tables and faux boxwood covered the outdoor bar. It blended right in and was so fun! Jessica, now a graduate of USF, previously assisted with Selby’s annual Orchid Ball and other events as an intern from January through May 2017. When Roger originally joined Selby Gardens in early 2014, he felt the need to develop an event intern program. He selected USF for their Hospitality program, which he greatly admires. His goal is to assist in the future of the event industry and to continue to enhance guest experiences at each and every event. Jessica and the Selby events team recently attended the annual BizBash conference in Ft. Lauderdale, which covers event industry topics including planning, production, new openings, events and trends in marketing, design and style.

Seen were Dr. Andrew and Jeanne Marlowe, John and Kitty Cranor, Jennifer and Larry Fox, Jennifer Simms, Michael and Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Hal and Gayle Logan, Sandy Albano, Mischa Kirby, Susan Burdsall and Nina Christman.

Toast to Venice

Excitement was high among participants of the 9th Annual Toast to Venice sponsored by the Venice Nokomis Rotary Club. Guests were greeted with gorgeous breezy weather in the perfect setting of Maxine Barritt Park on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. This fun charity event featured wine tastings and a variety of craft beers as well as the best of the best in restaurant fare to experience. By popular vote, Brewburgers won the coveted Best Restaurant trophy. Additionally, Marco’s Pizza, Sweet Treats, Venice Yacht Club, Sharkey’s, The Hungary Putter, Cedar Reef, Café Venice, British Open Pub, Flynn’s, Caribbean Pie Company and Buffalo Bill’s offered samplings of their wonderful fare for every taste bud. This incredibly successful event was co-chaired by Alanna Kirt and Kate Hill-Moore. Longtime sponsors of the Toast to Venice include Venice Regional Bayfront Health and Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which were joined by new major sponsors Venice Apothecary, BMW of Sarasota, and Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. The wonderful tastings were accompanied by live music played by the Rockadials. Proceeds benefit many local children: Our Mother’s House, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Project Graduation, Boys and Girls Club, Rotary Futures Resource Center, Venice sports teams, Laurel Association, Habitat for Humanity, and many others.

30 Years of Exceptional Service and Yumminess

Big cheers to Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini, as these gentlemen not only run very successful businesses, but they have impacted our community in many ways through their donations, volunteerism, personal kindness, caring and willingness to lift others up – always. In fact, they go so far as to help others find employment as opportunities arise through the businesses they support and want to see succeed.

Michael Klauber opened Michael’s on East as a contemporary California bistro in 1987 and Phil Mancini joined him in 1990 when they started the Michael’s on East Catering division. Thankfully they had the vision to take on additional commercial space and opened Michael’s on East Ballroom. Of the multitude of nonprofits and businesses that host events there, I bet it’s safe to say that this is the true “event-port” of SRQ. One would think that that would keep these two satisfied but no, not yet! They created and launched the Gulf Coast Connoisseur Club loyalty program. Then, along came Michael’s Wine Cellar for Michael’s love of wine as he’s traveled the world through the Gulf Coast Connoisseur Club. It was his travels and desire to strengthen worldwide relationships that caused him to create the Sarasota-Manatee Originals first annual Forks & Corks Wine Festival, which sells out in minutes every year. Most recently, they’ve become the exclusive catering partner of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for all events, which led to the recent renovation of the waterfront ballroom now called Michael’s on the Bay at Selby Gardens. A serious toast to you, your loyal and talented team, and to your families who have supported you through it all! Salute!

When Public Relations and Personal Image Come Together 

The Central West Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (CWC-FPRA) recognized the area’s best work in public relations achievements at its annual Image Awards Luncheon.

The local Image Awards competition is conducted annually to recognize outstanding public relations programs in the area and to encourage and promote the development of the public relations profession.

The winners of the 2017 Grand Image Awards are Mischa Kirby and Darren Erickson for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ “Love is in the Air” corpse plant dual bloom campaign; Habitat for Humanity Sarasota for its annual report; and Coldwell Banker NRT for its #CBGETSIT campaign. Other winners included Visit Sarasota County for its “Tourism Fights Hunger” campaign; Southwest Florida Water Management District for its Flatford Swamp Aquifer Recharge Outreach campaign; Kim Livengood of the Eclipse Agency for the International BMX SuperCross World Cup campaign and the Tervis Super Bowl Championship products campaign; Mote Marine Laboratory’s Community Relations and Communications Department for “Otters & Their Waters: Exploring a Florida Ecosystem” campaign; Suzanne Dameron, Judith Bell and Carisa Campanella for Neuro Challenge Foundation for its “A Better Approach to Parkinson’s: Transforming a Brand through Publicity” campaign; Cheray Keyes-Shima and Megan Hart of KSC Inc. for their Dealer Communications campaign; Alyssa Holcomb for Circus Arts’ 20th anniversary gala program book; Habitat for Humanity Sarasota for the “House that Golf Built” campaign; and Mischa Kirby and Emily Lane for the Selby Gardens visitor introduction video project.

It takes a ton of creative teamwork, planning, strategy, execution and, of course, money to create the campaigns mentioned above. Rarely are the tables turned where the limelight is on those usually behind the scenes! Congratulations to all.

Community Video Archives 2017 Hall of Fame Honorees

Michael’s on East was packed with friends, neighbors, business associates and colleagues to honor those who were inducted into the Community Video Archives Hall of Fame at this annual premiere luncheon. Each honoree was escorted to the stage, where they said a few words and thanked the audience. Iain Webb, who just renewed his contract as the Director for Sarasota Ballet for another ten years, graciously accepted his award with his mother by his side. His sisters were flying in that evening to continue the celebration.

Judge Lee Haworth, recently retired, was quite comical yet truly moved as he reflected on his legacy and his Sarasota upbringing. He said, “I remember when there were bees on Bee Ridge, cattle on Cattlemen and fruit on Fruitville,” as he spoke of the vast changes to the city of Sarasota. “Not sure anyone ever even noticed when a young boy ran down Main Street naked on any random evening as all the banks, businesses and retail stores closed for the week so all could enjoy our beautiful waters, beaches, boating and fishing.” Sounds good to me!

Guy Peterson thanked his collective team through the years since he started his business at the age of 23. His closing quote was interesting. “There is no other profession that you can leave a footprint in the sand the size of a house!” – H Jackson.

Lastly, Dan Bailey was escorted by his darling bride, Nancy. They included a college photo of Nancy while Dan’s video played; all were swooning over how the two had met in college and how Dan was “just taken” by her. Additional happiness ensued, as their daughter just had a baby the week prior – giving them their fifth grandchild!

Annette Scherman thanked her volunteers, board of directors and “arch-ive” angels. Seen in the crowd were Gerri Aaron, Cheryl Loeffler, Jim Tollerton, Patrick Dorsey, Jean Weidner Goldstein, Ron Burks, Michael Saunders, Roxie Jerde, Sarah Pappas, Jennifer and Dan Vigne, Mary Beth Boss, Julie Milton, Michelle Bente and Tom Waters.

Frolic, smile, sip it all in; cheers to another successful season, my friends.

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