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East County Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 5 years ago

East County prepares for Wine Fest

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

EAST COUNTY — To say Joe Weber has had a lot on his mind lately would be quite an understatement.

As this year’s chairman of the Suncoast Food & Wine Festival, the Lakewood Ranch resident is determined to find as many ways as he can to raise money for local charities at the event, which draws more than 2,000 people annually to the Sarasota Polo Club for an afternoon of wine, beer and high-end food samplings.

“It’s a big deal to the community,” said Weber, who has been waking up each night, mulling over event details. “Over a 10-year history, we have established this event as a premier event to attend. As a result, over 10 years, we’ve granted out more than $1 million to the community.

“The responsibility is for us to continue to produce,” he said. “To me, personally, that’s a very high motivation, to be able to, once again, enable the Rotary Club (of Lakewood Ranch) to meet that goal to satisfy those needs in the community.”

The 2012 SunCoast Food & Wine Fest will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane, Sarasota. Tickets cost $60 per person and include an opportunity to sample hundreds of beers and wines and food from more than 35 restaurants, including newcomers such as Ophelia’s, Pomona Bistro and Wine Bar, Pincher’s Crab Shack and The Ranch Grill, and longtime favorites such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Manatee Technical Institute Culinary Arts Program, which is returning after a one-year break from the festival.

This year’s event also will feature live music by The Venturas and The Garbage Men, cooking demonstrations and two new offerings — a ladies fashion show put on by L. Boutique, in Sarasota, and a cigar bar offering port.

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Guests also will be able to bid on silent- and live-auction items, such as cruises, a two-person kayak, a bicycle, gift certificates to restaurants and salons, high-end wines and more.

“We have a slogan that says, ‘You’ll never have so much fun while doing so much good,’” Weber said.
Proceeds from the event will be distributed to 20 or more local charitable organizations through a series of grants next year — likely about $100,000 in total.

Since the Wine Fest’s inception about 11 years ago, the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch has distributed more than $1 million. Benefiting organizations in years past include Family Network on Disabilities, Manatee Children’s Service, Manatee Opportunity Council and more.

Weber said Rotary Club members are working feverishly to make sure all the details for the festival are taken care of and to ensure guests have a great time while supporting charity.

“All the dedicated work of so many of the members put in is a clear demonstration of the individual members’ commitment to service above self through their hard work at the Wine Fest,” Weber said. “I believe this event is important to the community. It’s important to our club, and it’s important to me.”

For more information or to obtain tickets for the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest, visit the festival’s website at or call 870-0002. Tickets also are available at participating retailers.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

If You Go
Suncoast Food & Wine Fest
When: 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 10
Where: Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane, Sarasota
Details: Sample foods from more than 35 local restaurants and hundreds of wines, while enjoying live music by The Venturas and The Garbage Men. Festivities also include silent and live auctions, a fashion show, cooking demonstrations and more.
Cost: $60
Tickets and info: or 870-0002


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