Hand-painted women and flame-twirling performers entertained guests outside the Carnivale of Glass at St. Petersburg's newest cultural destination, the Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center.
Artist Dale Chihuly, the internationally known creator of the works inside, was ill and unable to attend the festivities, officials said, but enthusiasm for the venue was high, with guests oohing and ahhing over the works in the exhibition.
Arts center staff and supporters were jubilant. The project, several years in the planning, experienced financial challenges and several incarnations before landing on Beach Drive.
Accomplishment of the mission was very much on the minds of Katee Tully, the Morean's executive director; Beth Morean, its major benefactor and namesake; and Albert Alfonso, the Tampa architect who designed the space.
Also beaming were Barbara Sansone, Fran and Bud Risser, Kim and Terry Brett, Ron and Pat Mason, Jeff McClanathan, Catherine Woods and Mark Aeling, Susan and Bob Churuti, Jean Anne Reed, Jean Irwin, Jim Howell and Bob Devin Jones, Valerie Scott Knaust and throngs of other people who have been pivotal in supporting arts and cultural institutions in the Tampa Bay area.
The crowd included Aripeka artist James Rosenquist, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft, USF St. Petersburg regional chancellor Margaret Sullivan and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and his wife, Joyce. Baker now is an adviser to USF.
Nearly 500 guests attended the $200-per-ticket event, held at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, where owner Steve Westphal and chef Tyson Grant oversaw the food and drink.
Anje Bogott, Wendy LaTorre and Morean were co-hosts for a sponsor preview on July 9, and Kanika Tomalin led the event committee for Fire & Ice, held in glass artist Duncan McClellan's studio on July 3.
Sponsors for the grand opening events included 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House; the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club; Hotel Indigo; conceptBAIT; Chateau St. Michelle; GenSpring Family Offices; Island Way Grill; Trenam Kemker; Valpak of Tampa Bay; Smith & Associates Real Estate; AEGON; McClanathan, Burg & Arndt; Barbara Sansone; the Sidney & Beatrice Albert Foundation; Wallace Insurance; Tampa Bay Magazine; and the St. Petersburg Times.
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A charity Wiffle Ball tournament held during the Fourth of July weekend raised more than $300,000 for All Children's Hospital's Jeffrey Modell Research and Diagnostic Center, which serves children with allergies and primary immunodeficiencies.
St. Pete Beach Mayor Mike Finnerty said the largest single donation was made by Treasure Island resident William Edwards, CEO of Mortgage Investors Corp. The Jeffrey Modell Foundation matched his $20,000 contribution.
Individual donations and money raised at the event totaled $170,000. Combined with a 100 percent match by the foundation, that brought total proceeds to $340,000.
The money also benefits the University of South Florida Department of Pediatrics, Division of Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology.
The second annual event, held at the Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, drew more than 450 people July 3 and 4. The tournament featured 32 major league two-member teams and farm league teams for more than 80 children. The event also included a Havana Nights party in the Grand Ballroom, and a Beach Bash barbecue.
Times correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report.