A beautiful Saturday, endless food and drink options and 800 of your closest friends and neighbors. No one does a Lawn Party quite like the Longboat Key Kiwanis Club.
The annual Longboat Key Lawn Party was held Dec. 2 at Ken Thompson Park. It's the biggest fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club and benefits the Children's Guardian Fund. The nonprofit provides immediate emergency services to children removed from abusive and neglectful homes in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.
“It is like one big neighborhood block party,” said Michelle Waldon, the restaurant chair for the Lawn Party. “It's just a great cause. ‘Helping Kids in Need,’ like the Kiwanis Club’s motto. It's amazing to see the community pull together for this. It kind of restores your faith in humanity a little bit.”
Hitting the mark
The club was able to reach its goal for raffle sales of $20,000, which helped it receive a match for the first $15,000 from Doris M. Carter Foundation.
The first raffle prize of $5,000 went to Commissioner Gary Coffin. Coffin decided to donate the $5,000 to the Children's Guardian Fund. Maureen Kerrigan and Wendi Bundy won the second raffle prize of a Universal Orlando VIP experience. Joan Elder won the Florida Beach Getaway prize to Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort. Carol Pandis won the last prize of a four-course dinner for 10 at the Lazy Lobster.
“Once we opened, everything went pretty much the way planned,” said Michael Garey, Lawn Party event chair and co-proprietor of the Lazy Lobster. “We are just so excited to have hit the raffle goal and get the match for $15,000 from the Carter Foundation. Gary Coffin, who won the $5,000 prize, also gave the money back to us, so it is just incredible that we will be able to give that all to the Children’s Guardian Fund.”
The sponsors of the Lawn Party included the St. Regis Longboat Key Resort as the platinum sponsor and Ken Schneier and Cynthia Craig as the gold sponsor. The silver sponsors include the Longboat Key Foundation, Robert E. Dods Family Foundation and Graci and Dennis McGillicuddy.
“The best part about the Lawn Party is that you can fill up your tray with all the amazing food, clear your tray and then you have a clean slate to go try more things,” said Susan Phillips, assistant to the town manager. “It's like the food was never there. So it doesn’t make me feel bad about stuffing my face every year here.”
People enjoyed options from more than 25 local restaurants. This year, the menu included seafood gumbo, sushi, pasta, oysters, bundt cake, ice cream and more. Scuderia Italia Cuisine and Gecko’s Grill and Pub were new to the Lawn Party this year.
With over 30 years of fun at the Longboat Key Lawn Party, traditions are bound to be formed. Seasoned guests would usually bring their own special trays to be able to carry more food and maximize the tastes.
This year, the Kiwanis Club was one step ahead and gave each guest a tray. These were provided by the Tryla Brown Larson team with Michael Saunders and Co.
With a turnout of almost 800 people, Longboaters were able to catch up with close friends and revel in how delicious all the food was. It was also an opportunity to discover new restaurants and try new dishes.
“I’m so happy that the event was well supported, especially in a year that seems to be slower by so many standards,” said Chris Sachs, president of the Kiwanis Club. “But this, yet again, was wonderful. I could not have hoped for better, certainly from the vendors but from the crowd as well.”
Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.