One year after its groundbreaking, the Karon Family Pavilion was ready to be unveiled to residents returning for the season.
Under the large tent in the middle of Town Center Green, residents gathered with excitement, finding their seats and escaping the November heat.
Just a couple yards away, the Rotary Club of Longboat Key was greeting veterans with gift bags and name tags to recognize them for their service. The vets were given special seating in the front of the event tent.
Town Manager Howard Tipton took to the stage, kicking off the ceremony by announcing the presentation of the colors by the Manatee High School JROTC Color Guard.
Spectators recited the Pledge of Allegiance before Alyssa Adamson and Carlann Evans from the Longboat Island Chapel performed "The Star-Spangled Banner."
“We’re going to do a couple of things today, but first and foremost, this is a day to celebrate our veterans,” Tipton said. “This is what this day is for.”
Mayor Ken Schneier recognized Longboat’s history of Veterans Day celebrations, notably the Rotary Club’s nine years of luncheons, parades and programs.
“When we learned that the Karon Family Pavilion would be completed in time for Nov. 11 this year, we thought what better way to celebrate our veterans than at our new Town Center Green and on our brand-new stage,” Schneier said.
He recognized town employees and residents who are veterans, some of whom served during World War II.
“Now as this is an extra special day, we wanted to follow our good words for veterans with a good deed,” Schneier said.
The Longboat Key Foundation raised funds to present a donation to SRQ Vets, a local nonprofit that supports veterans in the Sarasota area.
President Rob Kehs met Schneier and Tipton on stage to accept the check for $35,750. Schneier said more checks to the Longboat Key Foundation are on the still on their way.
Kehs said the organization was founded to help veterans on a more local level, instead of going through national organizations.
“We do the small stuff,” Kehs said. “We get a call, someone needs groceries, we go to the grocery store, we fill up the cart and we get them groceries.”
The money donated, he said, will go a long way toward carrying out those helpful acts for local veterans.
Tipton followed with discussion of the vision for the Town Center Green, which he said has been decades in development.
The space went from a restaurant, to a possible new arts center to now the park-like atmosphere with green space, walkways and the stage.
“Nothing of this magnitude is done in a vacuum, and there’s a long list of people to thank and recognize,” Tipton said.
That list included town commissioners past and present, town officials and the Longboat Key Garden Club.
As Tipton pointed out, the pavilion was funded by private contributions, not taxpayer dollars.
He recognized all the donors for the pavilion and let former mayor and founder of the Longboat Key Foundation Jim Brown recognize the platinum donors: Paul and Sarah Karon.
“The Karon family is so proud to be a part of this community,” Sarah Karon said. “And we look forward to many festive occasions here in the seasons and decades to come. Let this bandshell be a place for great times, excellent entertainment and just everyday fun hanging out.”
Commissioners, town officials and the Karon family were invited back on stage to help Schneier in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The red, white and blue ribbon spanned across the stage, with everyone on stage holding a piece with a smile.
During a brief half-hour intermission, guests could grab complimentary hors d'oeuvres from local Longboat establishments like Chart House, complete with a glass of wine or cold beer.
Guests mingled and caught up from being away. The event’s success was widely recognized.
Then it was time for the pavilion’s first performance.
The Sarasota Orchestra Brass Quartet played an hour of selected melodies, one of the first being the “Armed Forces Salute,” a song that pays tribute to the six services of the U.S. military.
Other songs included popular selections from Leonard Bernstein, the composer of “West Side Story.”
As the weather cooled down, a breeze swept through the green space. The sun began its descent as the orchestra played its last notes.
Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.