Outback Bowl festivities
This year's Outback Bowl invitees, Louisiana State and Iowa (LSU won 21-14), were treated to tons of fun between streaks of sun.
Two hometown hospitality standouts: the Wives' Luncheon chaired by Cathy Bellatin at Roy's on Dec. 28, and the Gridiron Gala chaired by Tracie Domino on Dec. 30.
"We all know they couldn't do it without you," Outback Steakhouse co-founder Trudy Cooper told the ladies before apologizing for the rainy day. "We didn't want to show off that we're still the only place in the U.S. with perfect weather the last three months."
Tiger shrimp and short ribs "surf and turf," hula lessons and a daring fire dancer thrilled the attendees at the Polynesian lunch. Outback Bowl chairman Ken Hoverman noted the teams' "tremendous fan base" while Cooper noted the teams' tremendous appetite, "5,000 pounds of food, including 750 pounds of steak, consumed" in one dinner.
MetLife and Mercedes-Benz again sponsored a glitzy gala, a Great Gatsby affair designed "to rival any Super Bowl party anywhere," Domino said.
Two women swung from ceiling slings and a dozen dancers cavorted on a raised runway down the center of A La Carte Event Pavilion's ballroom.
Fleming's, Carrabba's, Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill buffets and numerous bars pleased 1,500 guests, including coach-turned-broadcaster Jon Gruden and his co-analyst, Mike Tirico, who announced, "No bowl is better run."
Aqua Eve at the Florida Aquarium
Barracudas and bruschetta, sharks and sliders, manta rays and macarons — Aqua Eve mixed marine life and munchies throughout the Florida Aquarium, a lively New Year's Eve natural habitat. The sold-out benefit teemed with 1,700 revelers flirting with mermaids and taking selfies with sea turtles. Nocturnal humans danced to the Synchronicity band in the lobby, acoustic guitarist Casey Stidham in the Coral Reef and DJ Santana in Explore-a-Shore. Aramark food service passed hors d'oeuvres and catered paella, pork loin and tenderloin stations. Wine and beer (Goose Island's Honker's ale was a hit) was poured until midnight when champagne popped and fireworks dazzled.
NACE holiday fete
The National Association for Catering and Events Tampa Bay chapter gave themselves a night off to celebrate the holidays with colleagues at the Floridan Palace Hotel on Dec. 16.
Wedding planners, DJs, photographers and floral designers fell for the Three Waiters pretending to be working the dining room then randomly bursting into operatic song. Breezin' Entertainment introduced another new industry wow factor: Sway Girl strapped to a 12-foot pole covered by her equally long evening gown, swaying and bending like Gumby. Wow, indeed.