More than two dozen female business leaders from throughout the Tampa Bay area got a closeup look at details of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as participants in Hot Wheels & High Heels, the event's inaugural Women's "Racing 101" forum.
Indy Racing League public address announcer Michael Young was the tour guide for the group. At a luncheon at the Renaissance Vinoy resort, they also met Tim Ramsberger, vice president of Andretti Green Promotions and general manager of the Grand Prix, and Target driver Dario Franchitti, who charmed the group with anecdotes about his racing buddies. (Ask him about Dan Wheldon's shoe collection sometime.)
The women got to see inspections of some of the cars, visit with even more drivers, talk with IRL executive chef Eddie Wilson and ride the track in a pace car. (Ours was driven by last year's Grand Prix winner, Graham Rahal.)
The crowd included University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen, Northern Trust vice president Stephanie Goforth, All Children's Hospital Foundation executive Sylvia Ameen and St. Petersburg Times publisher and executive vice president Marty Petty, whom Ramsberger credited with having the idea for the forum.
Celebrating its 88th incarnation, the Coronation Ball, presented by the Suncoasters of St. Petersburg, featured a black-and-white theme and a piano bar atmosphere in the Coliseum.
As has been reported previously, community leader Jim Gillespie was named Mr. Sun, and Krystina Fisher was crowned as the newest Sungoddess.
The evening was a reunion for a number of previous Sungoddesses, all invited to participate in the gala. The Suncoasters program listed De Ann Wilkerson Hutchinson (1964), Ann Japour (1968), Kitty Wilkerson Cottrill (1969), Sandy Wilson Bozeman (1970), Cynthia Lake (1972), Mary Ann Bowman Beil (1973), Tina Rondolino Douglass (1974), Annamaria Venere Dickhaus (1980), Melissa Burke LeClair (1982), Jill Strickland Williams (1983), Kim Kessler Brandimore (1985), Gina Fridella Jung (1987), Nancy Donelan Hill (1992), Jaquelyn Sackett Easterling (1995), Tiffiny Thompson Spoor (1996), Erin Woolums Wolfe (1999), Jessica Reider Downes (2000), Joanna Davis Stepka (2001), Ashley Dickhaus Boyle (2002), and Alicia Billington (2004).
Betsy Owens and Candy Scherer chaired the event committee, which included help from Nancy Friar, Chris Sabo, Paula Papovich and Amy Williams.
The St. Petersburg Women's Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 80th anniversary with a fashion show, luncheon and card party supporting the 2009 Festival of States.
Mary Wheeler and Nora Pearson were co-chairs of the event, helped by Anne Long, Janet Raymond, Evelyn Wilty, Ruth Spangler, Judith Whitney, Edie Spies, Roseanna Costa, Sally Wheeler, Teresa Wittstruck, Bernice McCune, Susan Fearnley, Fern Clayton, June Wedding, Grace Wagner and Joan Jaicks.
Models, wearing clothing from Patchington, included Roseanna Costa, Faylene Logan, Karen McCollum, Elise Minkoff, Bonnie Strickland, Linda Welch and Diane Winning.
Animal Affair (Night of the Unleashed) drew 500 patrons to St. Petersburg's Rutland-Farley estate.
The second annual gala raised more than $235,000 for SPCA Tampa Bay's animal adoptions, 24-hour emergency medical care for sick and injured strays, animal cruelty investigations and educational programs.
Co-chairs Maddy Olster and Ethel Buns-Bergerman led a committee that included Michael J. Faehner, Fazal Fazlin, Bonnie B. Foreman, Linda Granger, Maureen Godwin, Ginny Harrell, Shannon Huet, Barbara Lombardo, Jennifer Lovelady, Barbara Peck, Judy Petrini, Betsie Scott, Joellen Sokolowski and John Stross.
Honorary event chairs were the evening's hosts, Phil and Michele Farley.