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Carolers combine fun and fundraising

Published Dec. 3, 2006

There were corporate executives sporting felt reindeer ears, a chamber group dressed up as medieval maidens, and then there was 6-year-old Sophi Lombardo, in black snow boots and a pink leotard, bouncing and practically shouting the words to Jingle Bells as a small crowd gathered around her.

And so went St. Petersburg's newest holiday tradition, the first Great Figgy Pudding Street Corner Caroling Competition on Saturday afternoon.

Snow did not glisten in the lane, but it was December and people wanted to show off their holiday cheer.

Nearly 200 people milled around South Straub Park at 4 p.m., taking in the nine groups crooning out Christmas tunes in stations that had been set up throughout the area.

The charity event is modeled after a similar contest in Seattle of the same name. Groups donate money to participate.

The St. Petersburg competition raised more than $5,300. Proceeds will be evenly divided between the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and First Night, the city's public New Year's Eve celebration.

"We thought St. Petersburg could use a little caroling, too," said Rebecca Russell-Gootee, volunteer coordinator for the Free Clinic and host of the event.

During the contest, groups performed a set of holiday classics, hoping to woo the judges.

Joe Bourdow, president of ValPak, a Largo-based advertising company, stepped in to conduct his employees, waving his arms furiously as he relived his college days in the University of Virginia's glee club.

His company would later win the awards for best performance, most money raised and crowd favorite. They were awarded small statues of Figgy, a holiday pelican.

Across the park, Kelly Lombardo watched her daughter go at it alone. She tried to find someone to sing with Sophi, but had no luck.

Sophi didn't mind. She curtsied after each song, holding onto her pink tutu.

A likeness of Frosty the Snowman, composed of a solitary carrot, a cardboard top hat, and a scrap of aluminium meant to represent the melted holiday icon, lay at her feet.

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727-893-8846 or