LAKEWOOD RANCH — As Karen and Malcolm Ronney and Greenbrook resident Patrick Wright sat around a table at MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, their enthusiasm couldn’t be more evident.
In just a few days, the trio, along with Patrick’s wife, Holly, will be seeing their work over the last three months come to fruition.
Their event, the St. Andrews Scottish Festival, will kick off at 4 p.m., Nov. 21, on Lakewood Ranch Main Street outside MacAllisters. Festivities include musical performances by country music star David Nail and local band Chameleon, as well as plenty of food and drinks, vendors offering Scottish-themed items and demonstrations, bagpipe music, children’s activities and more.
For a $5 ticket, attendees can even try for a chance to win a free golfing trip to Scotland — a $5,000 value.
“It’s a great family-fun event, and it’s free,” said Karen Ronney, who owns MacAllisters with her husband, Malcolm.
The event is intended to educate the public about the Ronney’s Scottish heritage and to thank the restaurant’s loyal customers.
“Sarasota was founded by the Scots,” Karen Ronney said. “Every day, we battle with people thinking we’re Irish.”
But the Ronneys also are lending their support to the Payton Wright Foundation, donating all proceeds from the event to the charity, which Patrick and Holly Wright founded in honor of their daughter as a way to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and help families affected by it.
The Ronneys have been hosting a St. Andrews night inside their restaurant for the last three years, celebrating with patrons a love for their home country. But this year, at the urging of their patrons, the Ronneys agreed to move the festivities outside for a larger celebration.
“We were trying to put St. Andrew’s Day on the map,” Karen Ronney said, noting whiskey, golf and bagpipes all originated in Scotland. “That’s what we want to celebrate.”
Greenbrook residents Patrick and Holly Wright founded the Payton Wright Foundation in honor of their 5-year-old daughter who died of brain cancer in May 2007. They have long been regular patrons at MacAllisters, and as the Ronneys shared their vision for the St. Andrew’s festival with them one evening, one thing became suddenly clear: the festival should be used to benefit their foundation.
“It made sense to take it to the next level,” Karen Ronney said. “We felt it was our duty to do something for the community.”
One thing the Ronneys had not yet lined up was music. And Patrick Wright thought he and his wife could help.
The Wrights had begun corresponding with country musician David Nail in December 2006 after ESPN announcer and East County resident Dick Vitale pitched the Payton Wright Foundation during a halftime show. Nail was so moved by Vitale’s words that he visited the foundation’s Web site and spent hours reading the blog postings there. The next day, he called the Wright family.
“We became friends,” Patrick Wright said. “We just hit it off.”
The country superstar began wearing a Payton Wright bracelet when he performed and even thanked Payton — a child he never met — in the liner notes of his new album.
Nail was on his honeymoon in St. Petersburg when he asked Patrick and Holly to dinner to officially meet.
Once the Ronneys decided to make the Payton Wright Foundation the charity of choice, Patrick Wright knew he may have a way to help. He called Nail and asked about performing at the festival.
“He agreed to do it,” Patrick Wright said. “The local band Chameleon is involved, too.”
With top-notch music, plenty of food and drinks and all-things Scottish, organizers are hopeful this first-year event will serve as a great springboard for festivals yet to come.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Andrews Scottish Festival
WHEN: 4 p.m., Nov. 21
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Main Street, outside MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, 8110 Lakewood Ranch Main Street
WHAT: Musical performances by David Nail, Chameleon and the Jacobite Pipe Band, face painting, children’s activities, golf demonstrations and vendors, Glenlivet and Haggis sampling and more
BENEFITS: The Payton Wright Foundation
Florida Blood Services also will be onsite at the event taking blood donations.
Payton Wright Foundation founder Patrick Wright, whose 5-year-old daughter Payton died of cancer in 2007, said Payton received at least 50 units of blood and many more donations of platelets while she was undergoing chemotherapy.
“All those patients who have cancer and go through chemo need blood,” he said. “(Giving blood) is an immediate thing you can do today (to make a difference) that doesn’t cost anything.”
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