SPRING HILL — The third annual soup-a-thon sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church can't get much bigger than this: Two weeks before the Jan. 12 fundraiser, fewer than 100 of the 1,100 tickets remain for the delectable feast.
But there's added reason to attend this year — no admission ticket required. On soup day and the following day, an expanded auction will include more than 60 items valued from $30 to more than $1,000, with bidding by raffle ticket. Also planned are a boutique-couture shop with new and slightly used furniture, jewelry and high-end fashions, as well as a bake sale to tempt taste buds with homemade pies, cakes, cupcakes and breads.
Both diners and donors haven't been difficult to corral, said chairman Jack Hauser.
"We couldn't get the 51 restaurants that participated last year," he said. "We got 67."
Four seatings of 275 will sup "all the soup you can eat in 75 minutes" for a mere $5, Hauser said. "If you name a soup, we have it. If you name a restaurant, we have it."
Try these: turtle, Greek lemon cream, Italian chicken, prime rib vegetable, broccoli cheese, chili, clam chowder. And the restaurant servings will be augmented by 90 concoctions from the kitchens of amateur-chef Knights and parishioners.
The Knights have ordered 8,000 8-ounce soup bowls, plus spoons. Baskets of home-baked breads and rolls will be offered at each table.
Auction bidding tickets, 25 for $5, will be doled out by buyers, each ticket deposited in a basket for the desired prize, with a drawing at the close of business Sunday night. Bidders need not be present to win.
The auction, in the church's adjacent classroom building along with the bake sale and boutique, will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. during the soup-a-thon and after each Mass on Sunday. Auction tickets may be purchased in advance during business hours at the parish office.
The auction prizes are "not cheapies," Hauser said. They include a $30 oil change and tire rotation, four $17 "ultimate" carwashes and a bicycle-built-for-two carrying a $1,000-plus price tag.
Costs for the soup-a-thon run to "probably a thousand dollars or more," Hauser said, but have been offset by donations from local businesses and a grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Last year's soup-a-thon raised $8,700, all given to charities. The 330-member Knights Council at St. Frances Cabrini in 2011 gave some $25,000 to those in need, including donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Dawn Center and Catholic Charities.
In addition to fundraising, Hauser said the soup-a-thon's aim is family fun.
"People say, 'Why not charge $10?' We probably could. But, for instance, last year we had a mother and dad, three kids, their grandparents," he said.
An outlay of $70 for a family might not be feasible. "You can't get anything like this for $5," Hauser said, and that's the way the Knights like it.
Any chance of the event growing in future years to accommodate more people?
"The only way we could expand is to take down the walls," Hauser said, adding, "it's a very intensive program."
Requests to restaurants and other planning commenced in September.
"A lot of letters; a lot of phone calls," Hauser noted.
But for a day, families, foodies, restaurants and charities will ingest and enjoy.
As Hauser pointed out: "The First Degree of the Knights is charity."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.