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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 2 years ago

In the end, well worth it

Every year, the Lawn Party organizers fret and worry about how they’re going to pull it off. It’s a miracle — of American generosity, volunteerism and capitalism.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

For the majority of the 36 years, the scenario has played out the same. The organizers of the Longboat Key Kiwanis Lawn Party worry on the edge of panic for months and up to the day before whether they will pull it off. 

Volunteer ranks are always thin. No one wants to serve as chair.  Only until the event is within a hair of folding does a reluctant soul step forward to carry the load and pressure. Nothing about the chair’s job is fun. You nag and cajole for help.


And then, to add to the anxiety, it’s clockwork: With only a few days before the event, luncheon ticket and raffle ticket sales are really lousy. It seems certain that failure looms.

But by the grace of providence and a late rally from volunteers, every detail falls into place. And the Longboat Key Kiwanis Lawn Party lives up to its reputation as Longboat Key’s premier fundraising and community event — a splendid day of friends and neighbors reuniting and having fun as they browse the grounds of the Longboat Key Club’s Islandside practice range, sampling the finest foods, wines and beers from Sarasota restaurateurs, vintners and distributors. 

All for a mere $50 and for a great cause — to provide money for  Sarasota and Manatee organizations serving youth in need and college scholarships to aspiring students.

Everyone who has been involved organizing similar events knows what it takes. It’s not easy. But it’s remarkable to watch when the day arrives, and it’s “show time.”

It’s the miracle of American generosity, volunteerism and capitalism altogether. At the Kiwanis Lawn Party, first and foremost, the 27 participating restaurants donate thousands and thousands of dollars of food and their staff’s time before, during and after the event. Wine and beer distributors do the same. The Longboat Key Club gives up its driving range and parking lots. Cardinal Mooney High School has sent nearly two dozen students each year for 36 years to help set up, take down, empty trash and dispense soft drinks and water. Don’t forget the musicians, napkin and plate suppliers, ice suppliers, advertising promotions, ticket makers, money handlers, waste haulers, tent and table suppliers. And, when game day arrives, more than two dozen Kiwanians and other volunteers pitch in.

To witness all of this first hand and behind the scenes gives you a much greater appreciation for this and all the charitable events that occur throughout the season in Sarasota and Manatee counties. What a great country: For $50 you can partake in great food and drink, socialize with friends, maybe win $20,000 in cash (!) — and all the while raise funds to help those in need.

The Kiwanians who pull this event together wonder every summer whether they’ll have the wherewithal and drive to do another Lawn Party. But it’s always the same. The beginning and middle are a major struggle. But the results are always rewarding. 

It’s a great event. 

See you next year.

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