American Stage Gala, Woman of the Year, more social events

American Stage’s Todd Olson is quizzed by Laura Hodos (in the role of Rona Lisa Peretti) at the Gala Under the Stars at Demens Landing April 26. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee then followed. 
American Stage’s Todd Olson is quizzed by Laura Hodos (in the role of Rona Lisa Peretti) at the Gala Under the Stars at Demens Landing April 26. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee then followed. 
Published May 3, 2013


Pinellas Park police Chief Dorene Thomas was named Woman of the Year in a business with more than 50 employees at the annual Women of Vision awards luncheon presented by the Women's Leadership Council of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

And on the day the St. Petersburg City Council voted to postpone a decision on whether to move forward with the Lens, the new pier project, the council honored architect Lisa Wannemacher as Woman of the Year in a business with fewer than 50 employees. Her firm is the local liaison with Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, who created the design.

Additional honorees at the Iconic Women of St. Petersburg event at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront were Beth Houghton, Community Service Woman of the Year; Christine Warwick, Nonprofit Woman of the Year; Lorraine Yaslowitz, Inspire! Woman of the Year; Dr. Nicole Chandler, Woman to Watch; and Cynthia Davis, Entrepreneur Woman of the Year.

Keynote speaker Lois Martin, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Ceridian Corp., the presenting sponsor for the event, urged women to take risks, embrace change and value the differences between women and men.

Andi Gordon led the event committee, and Laura Fage is chairwoman of the Women's Leadership Council.

Additional awards finalists were Barbara Byelick, Mariagnes Gallerie and June Wedding, Community Service Woman of the Year; Barbara Daire and Amy Whitehurst, Nonprofit Woman of the Year; Kimberly Rodgers and Aubri Shauger-Haley, Inspire! Woman of the Year; Danielle Findley and Sara Stonecipher, Woman to Watch; Natalie Conner and Tracey Keim, Entrepreneur Woman of the Year; Marianne Fisher and Rhonda Shear, Business Woman of the Year (fewer than 50 employees); and Alison Watkins and Tonjua Williams, Business Woman of the Year.


It has been a St. Petersburg tradition for years: "Gala Under the Stars," the annual spring benefit for American Stage's artistic and educational programming. Patrons gather for a buffet dinner and bid on auction items; it is also opening night for the yearly performance in Demens Landing Park.

The 2013 performance, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, involved audience members who bid on the opportunity to take the stage. Credit American Stage board member Bill Ulbricht, who is president of St. Anthony's Health Care, with being the last volunteer standing as he correctly spelled several words before being eliminated from the competition.

Matt Conigliaro, who also was the auctioneer, chaired the event, which raised more than $120,000. The gala committee included Iryna Bandaryk, Stefanie Boewe, Marcia Dobbin, Hal Freedman, Shannon Garman, Renee Hacsi Goldstein, Nathan Lindley, Jill Marie, Tami Simms, Stephanie Snyder, Scott Wagman, Phyllis Walker and Felicia Yracheta.

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The crowd included American Stage board chairman Frank Biafora and his wife, Lea Ann; St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster; City Council member Karl Nurse; Bill Goerde; Marianne and Mark Mahaffey; Bill and Jeanne Heller; Barry Alpert; Duncan McClellan; and Steve and Nancy Westphal.


Mix shrimp, new potatoes, sausage and corn together with a spice blend, and you'll have a winning recipe for a Low Country Boil.

For eight years now, Mary Wyatt Allen has offered the spacious grounds outside her St. Petersburg home for the popular event, where guests overflowed in a tent that was erected for the proceedings.

The benefit for Infinity, which is the League to Aid Abused Children and Adults, also featured live music and dancing.

Nora Pearson was chairwoman and Jackie O'Brien was co-chairwoman for the event, helped by a committee that included Chris Allen, Niel Allen, Laura Blackwell, Robert and Roseanna Costa, Joyce Larson, Rebecca Lemmon, Karen and Rick McCollum, Paul Pearson, Carol Phelps, Sally Poynter, Valerie Rankin, Janet Raymond, Alan Sayler, Tricia Schachtel, Edie Spies, Judy Stanton, June Wedding, Mary Wheeler and Jim and Teresa Wittstruck.


The Foundation Fighting Blindness' annual St. Petersburg-Tampa benefit, "Dining in the Dark," offers a unique format in which guests wear light-blocking masks during the entree course. The idea is for patrons to better understand people who have visual limitations and to heighten the use of their other senses.

The evening at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort raised $150,000 toward research into prevention, treatment and cure for retinal degenerative diseases and honored Hazel and Bill Hough and Patsy and Gene McNichols with the foundation's Visionary Award. Both couples were recognized for their community and business leadership and support for the charity.

Dr. Kamal Majeed and Patricia Campbell-Stichweh, who serve on the Foundation Fighting Blindnesss' national board, were co-chairs for the event.