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Extravaganza raises money for aquarium

The Gulfport Casino was transformed into an underwater scene Saturday night for the Fish Head Ball to benefit the Pier Aquarium.

Blue and white streamers formed waves, green crepe paper ribbons resembled seaweed, and all sorts of mobile sea creatures floated in the air.

Balloon sculptures by Linda Wollam gave the appearance of big bubbles plus coral and other ocean growth, and Judy Blank and Susan McEliece sculpted coral reefs from pool noodles. Shirlie Matthews headed the decorations committee for "Adventures Underwater."

Kathy Zimmerman created the large painted designs; Gloria and Jeff Wilcox did the whale mouth stage and the wave ceiling; and Linda O'Brien was in charge of floral arrangements and the rugged cave entrance.

Even the band, the Barracudas, fit in. Alice Eachus was chairwoman for the extravaganza, which raises money for the educational public programs at the aquarium. Additional help came from Linda O'Brien, Suzanne George, Jeff Finston, Howard Rutherford, Hope Botterbusch and Patty Zimmerman.

The crowd of about 500 was in full party mode, with most participants adhering to the "island casual" suggestion for attire. Enjoying the festivities were Ken and Barbara Cowan, Skipp and Joyce Fraser, Doug and Cindy Weatherby, Jack and Nancy Day, Mark Luther and Jane Harper and Kas Sheehan.

Plates piled high at the buffet featured food from Captain Al's Waterfront Restaurant, Central Thyme, Sammy's Seafood, Cha-Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar & Grill, Columbia Restaurant, Orange Blossom Catering, Habana Cafe, Hong Kong Corner at the Pier, Burger Bay at the Pier and Crabby Bill's Seafoods.

Sponsors were Angela Mann, the marine science department at the University of South Florida and the St. Petersburg Times.

Supporters of the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg mingled Saturday night at the grand opening gala for "Russian Odyssey: Riches of the State Russian Museum."

Sponsors were the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club and the museum guild. The presentation included brief remarks from museum guild president Karen Hancock, gala chairwoman Linda Punzak, board chairman David Punzak, Vinoy general manager Russ Bond, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, St. Petersburg College president Carl Kuttler, State Russian Museum deputy director Yevgenia Petrova and museum executive director Kathy Oathout.

Linda Punzak was chairwoman for the event, which included a performance by dancers from the Academy of Ballet Arts. Other committee members were Bobbie Berger, Nancy Bond, Marlene Camejo, Jennifer Crane, Patty Fricke, Carol Giovannoni, Robin Grabowski and Dawn Hamilton. Guests included U.S. Rep. Mike and Evelyn Bilirakis; City Council members John Bryan, Bill Foster and Jay Lasita; and U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich. Also attending were Jorge and Theresa Vidal, Ron and Lenne Nicklaus Ball, George and Pam Campbell, Mark and Marty Petty, Scott and Christine Montgomery, Cozee Lynn Smith and Eileen Conte.

Those attending toured the galleries, and dessert and cordials from Alessi Bakeries and the Wine Source were served afterward.

A black-tie gala at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on Saturday celebrated a milestone for the Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens, which is observing its 50th anniversary this year.

Mary Shuh was chairwoman for the benefit, and the program book was dedicated to Celma Mastry, a longtime PARC supporter and patron.

Members of the steering committee were Joann Barger, Cheryl Beaulieu, Sue Brett, Thelma Gilbert, Stephanie Goforth, Luisa Perez-Harvey, Joni Long, Mrs. Mastry, Tina McDonough, Maggi McQueen, Marty Medley, Carole Merritt, Carol Ann Rhodes, Cheryl Sanchez, Candy Scherer, Jeanie Simonich, Maritza Smith, Edie Spies, Marsha Spindler, Erin Thompson, Frances Weaver-Nohren, Connie Whitehead and Diane Winning.

Major sponsors were Diamonds Direct, Patty and Mark LaPrade and Thunder Marine, Jim and Donna Nagelsen, Progress Energy, Raymond James and Sandy and John Stross and Leverock's of St. Pete Beach.

Curt Thomas, PARC's president and chief executive, attended with daughter Barb; wife Peggy is recovering from recent surgery.

The Stuart Society, which raises money for the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, produced a high-energy fashion show with styles from Neiman Marcus in Tampa at the Renaissance Vinoy on Friday. Details of that event will appear in On the Town next week.

_ Mary Jane Park can be reached at (727) 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail parksptimes.com; P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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