The St. Petersburg Tennis Center hosted a party Saturday for nearly 100 players.
Social mixers, junior grass-roots skills demonstrations, a competitive singles exhibition and a tennis carnival were organized by volunteers and staff at the center for the fourth annual Tennis Extravaganza to celebrate another year of growth and improvement at the city facility.
"I'm really pleased with the turnout, especially with yesterday's horrible rain," said Ray Sanderlin, chairman of the SPTC's tennis advisory committee. "This gets better each year, more organized and with more people attending."
Joining Sanderlin on the committee are Hazel Vinieratos, Duana Kelso, Jean Cox, Stan Smith, Fred Amundrud, Herb Beede and Stacey Garfinkle.
A free grass-roots program was started three years ago by the center's head teaching professional, Rich Terrell. There are anywhere from 25 to 40 juniors who participate.
"I started a program one summer just one day a week to offer something free to the community," said Terrell, who grew up playing at the center. "Now, I offer two days every week and have volunteers run it."
Key volunteers in the program are Joan Malone, Dr. Paul Thompson, Bob Allen and Ray Sanderlin, said Terrell, although the center is always looking for more.
Nearly 20 youngsters participated in the demonstration Saturday, including LaNier Echols, 11, and Emmanuel Timiowa, 13.
"I've been coming here three years," said Timiowa, an eighth-grader at Sixteenth Middle School. "I come Monday through Friday, now. I used to play basketball and football, but now I just play tennis."
Echols played tennis in Columbus, Ohio, and when her family moved here in August she started coming to the center's program.
"I like it because you don't have big groups," said Echols, a sixth-grader at Pinellas Park Middle School. "You can have a lot more one-on-one teaching. Plus, you make a lot of friends here."
During the extravaganza, Thompson was recognized for his contribution to the center with the Linwood Lewallen Sportsmanship trophy.
"Doc is a retired pathologist and has worked with the community the last 30 years," Terrell said. "He used to feed me balls when I was a kid. He still teaches at Lake Vista Park."
Also recognized for their contributions to the center as volunteers were Ruth Bowman, Gayle Woodley and Al Sarmiento.
For the first time, players in the grass-roots program were recognized for their achievement. Jonathan Bonner, Antonio Williams and Sierra Green received certificates.
"The grass-roots program is about more than just teaching tennis," Terrell said. "We're offering something to the community that the families can do together. We also stress attitude, respect and etiquette _ on and off the court."
Master of ceremonies for the awards presentations was WTVT-Ch. 13 sportscaster Chip Carter.
JUNIOR DOUBLES: Tiffanie Kalvoda of Tierra Verde teamed with Sarasota's Jackie Bohannon to win the girls 14-and-under title in last month's Designated Doubles Bowl at the Cheval Country Club in Lutz. Jonathan Crooms of St. Petersburg and Ryan Buchanan of Oldsmar won a three-set final in the boys 12. Kelly Nelson of St. Petersburg and Pearly Leung of Bradenton were runners up in the girls 18.