Auburn fans left the Outback Bowl bummed by the 31-34 overtime loss to Wisconsin, but buoyed by a weekend of beachcombing, bowling, Busch Gardens thrills and much more.
For sure, no one left hungry. Two particularly tasty events: the Coaches' Wives luncheon at Roy's Pacific Rim Cuisine restaurant Dec. 27, where Polynesian dancers fired up the friendly rivals.
And always a monster hit: the Gridiron Gala on Dec. 30, a colorful Brazilian bash with Carnivale dancers kicking it up for 1,600 guests at A La Carte Event Pavilion. Bloomin' Brands hosted buffets — Outback Steakhouse, Fleming's, Bonefish Grill and Carrabba's — in every corner. A La Carte Catering created a dessert "rainforest" near the terrace packed with Thompson Cigar smokers.
24th annual Night at the Circus
Holiday partying was ending just as circus fun began for Tampa General Hospital Foundation's supporters. For the 24th year, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus made tickets available for sponsorship packages Jan. 2, and once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation provided a Night at the Circus patrons party prior to the Greatest Show on Earth. Many sponsors, including Sandy MacKinnon and fiancee Sandy Cross, donated their tickets back, assuring more than 1,200 could be distributed to various children's charities, and helping raise $220,000 for TGH Children's Medical Center.
Party co-chairwomen Alexis Ciesia and Jennifer Stauffer planned a riot of activity for 500 guests, filling Amalie Arena's Firestick Grill with face painters, balloon twisters and some of the circus' dancing cast members. "We've both been TGH patients," said Alexis, explaining her involvement. "I was actually in the hospital when they recruited me for this committee." Spotted in the crowd enjoying family time: circus owner Ken Feld, daughter Nicole and granddaughter Piper, 3.
Chances are someone met a future spouse or, at the very least, made a new best friend at Vodka Latke, the annual Christmas Eve party for Jewish singles and couples, hosted by local Jewish Community Centers and Federations at Epic Nightclub in the Channel District. Owner Robert Solomon offered drink specials to the under-45 crowd as magician Cory Van Valin amazed with his clever tricks and DJ Camo spun a loud beat. Chocolate potato chips and other sweets subbed for Hanukkah latkes, including desserts from Chocolate Pi and the Yogurtology truck.
Ryan's Rockin' Holiday Party
"Snow" dusted the red carpet leading into the Ryan Nece Foundation's holiday party, the former Tampa Bay Buc's sixth annual "power of giving" festivities. Versatile musician Tom Sartori and DJ Felix added a "naughty or nice" vibe for 350 guests glitzing up TPepin's Hospitality Centre on Dec. 3. They prowled the silent auction, but playing Plinko at $10 a drop was the most fun. Artist Jason Hulfish covered the game board with a portrait of Nece, in his No. 56 Bucs jersey.
A bunch of Bucs huddled over Puff n' Stuff's VIP buffet, including Michael Clayton, Anthony Becht and Alex Smith. Del Frisco's Grill donated the hors d'oeuvres and Eddie V's set up salmon and filet carving stations. Wine and spirits were all donated, too, enabling the event to net more than $25,000 for programs aimed at "turning teenagers into servant leaders."