Granted, we haven't had snow and freezing temperatures in these parts, but lots of business leaders at the sold-out "Friends and Flowers" luncheon to benefit Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg murmured that the recent chill and rain and fog have kept people indoors and wallets closed.
All that seemed but a memory as the sun shone on St. Pete Beach for the event. The tables inside the big tent at the TradeWinds Island Resort held vases of yellow daffodils, blue hydrangeas and creamy roses, blossoms bright enough to inspire spring fever.
The luncheon honored "Five Fabulous Females," business and community leaders Mindy Grossman, chief executive officer of HSN; Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic; Jana Jones, chief financial officer of the Tampa Bay Times; Carol Morsani, philanthropist and volunteer; and Tonjua Williams, vice president of academic and student affairs at St. Petersburg College.
The honorees were introduced, respectively, by Academy Prep students Richard Spearman, Dylan Davis, Melaisha Teartt, Jonathan Dacres and Camryn Newton.
WFLA-TV Ch. 8 news anchor Gayle Sierens was mistress of ceremonies for the event, which included presentations from head of school Leanne Howard, board of trustees chair Joe Bourdow, trustee Linda Marcelli and Pinellas County Urban League president and chief executive Watson Haynes.
Michelle Cohen and Liz Sembler were chairwomen of the fundraiser.
Auction bidding was enthusiastic, and guests filled the dance floor at "Hollywood Stars" at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort, where the dinner menu featured beef tenderloin and lobster risotto.
Nearly 400 patrons at the annual gala to benefit Suncoast Hospice heard from president and chief executive Rafael J. Sciullo, and Blake Kennedy did the honors as chief auctioneer. Organizers don't have a final count, but they estimated proceeds of more than $100,000.
Linda Harris was chairwoman for the event, leading a committee that included Lynne C. Columbus, Audrey Dantowitz, Chris Davies, Beth Ann Drake, Marsha Emanuel, Gail Keck, Theresa Klingel, Kathy Mandula, Jane Nunnelly, Jeanie Renfrow, Kathy Stahl, Julie Vayne, Nancy Westphal and Kathy Wilder.
Major sponsors were Stahl & Associates Insurance, Bright House Networks, Klingel Family Foundation/TSE Industries, Sherri and George Burke, Free Family Foundation Corp., the Sidney and Beatrice Albert Foundation, Howard and Linda Harris and the Platt Family Foundation.
Times staff writer Paul Jerome contributed to this report.