More than 4,000 guests in attendance at the 19th annual Abilities Wine & Food Festival at Tropicana Field can make for a crowded space, but organizers from the Abilities Foundation placed vintners, restaurateurs and silent-auction items in such a way that there was plenty of room to maneuver.
That's no small feat, given that there were 40 food vendors and 10 times as many wines poured at the event, and patrons lined up by the dozens at some stations.
Greeting guests who poured into the Trop after check-in were Abilities Foundation board chairman Richard Winning and his wife, Diane, and board member Howard Sachs.
Foundation president and chief executive Frank DeLucia and special events manager Sandy Liberatore work wonders with minimal staff to raise money for Abilities, which helps people with disabilities in various ways, including employment, health care and housing.
And plans are under way for the foundation's second annual Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival, co-hosted by Southern Wine & Spirits on May 15 through 17 at the Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach. The event will include a chef competition, a black-tie gala dinner, wine seminars, entertainment and a tasting.
Jenna Smith, a senior at Northside Christian School, was named 2008 Junior Sungoddess in ceremonies at the Palladium Theater.
She also is the recipient of the Bright House Networks student volunteer award and was presented a laptop computer and a year of free Internet service, plus $4,000 in savings and scholarship money and several additional gifts from area businesses. She plans to major in business administration at Auburn University.
First runnerup Kanyon McLean, who attends St. Petersburg High School, received $2,400. Second runnerup Michelle Calicchio, a student at Countryside High School in Clearwater, received $1,500.
The Junior Sungoddess competition is a part of the Suncoasters' annual Festival of States civic celebration.