'Twas Christmas Eve, and all through Mangroves Seafood Grille, nearly 200 minglers were stirring as late night gathering Vodka Latke was occurring. Singles from near and far congregated at Tampa Jewish Federation's Young Adult Division's giant JDate. (More than a few couples came, too.) Lots of locals, home for the holidays, reconnected over grouper sliders and mac and cheese as well. For those seeking extra help finding romance, event sponsor Tampa Bay Matchmakers was on hand as well.
Outback Bowl hospitality
You know by now that University of South Carolina scored with 11 seconds left to take the Outback Bowl trophy home Tuesday. But the Gamecocks and their rivals, University of Michigan Wolverines, all took home fun memories of 11 events preceding kickoff, from Clearwater Beach Day to Players Night at Splitsville to an afternoon at Busch Gardens. Wives of athletic directors and coaches won't forget Roy's sushi and short ribs luncheon Dec. 27. Out came the cameras as the ladies learned to hula from Polynesian dancers and drummers.
Gladiators and gladiatrix playfully pumped the Sunday Gridiron Gala, chaired by Tracie Domino and hosted by Bill Cammarata of MetLife and Bob Murray representing Mercedes-Benz Suncoast dealers. Event Show Productions turned A La Carte Event Pavilion into a Roman coliseum, with dancing gods and goddesses. Julius Caesar, watching from his center stage throne, commanded the DJ to keep spinning. More than 1,500 guests, visiting teams and corporate sponsors huddled at bars and buffets from all the Bloomin' Brands: Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's, Roy's and Fleming's, plus desserts from A La Carte Catering and Thompson Cigars on the terrace. Added window dressing: Sexy poseurs in lacy lingerie peeped through louvered blinds in a corridor to the ballroom.
Aqua Eve at the Florida Aquarium
A wave of glitzy fun seekers 1,500-plus strong streamed through the Florida Aquarium's eighth annual New Year's Eve celebration.
Mermaids flipped dreamily, Lovestruck Robot rocked the lobby and guitarist Casey Stidham drew a crowd in the Coral Roof. Buffets offered shrimp, oysters, poached salmon, burgers, mojo pork, black-eyed peas and collard greens as wine and beer flowed from Pepin Distributing. Champagne, party hats and noisemakers arrived with spectacular fireworks at midnight.
"Aqua Eve sold out four days ago and tickets went on eBay for $500," said jubilant aquarium CEO Thom Stork.