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Loyalty, levity reign at Suncoasters ball

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


The Suncoasters were in a celebratory mood at the annual Coronation Ball on Friday night, buoyed by perfect weather for their Festival of States week. Packing the Coliseum with a crowd is no small feat, but 750 loyalists turned out for the party, which did not even begin until 8:30 p.m.

That's okay because by tradition people go to pre-gala dinner parties with friends. Also by tradition, most of them are at the Yacht Club, such as John and Jeannine Green's annual soiree in the Commodore's Room. (He is, after all, a past commodore, and Mrs. Green more than deserves dinner out since she's in charge of seating at the ball, a job fraught with angst and drama, as you can imagine.)

Suncoasters president Jim Newman and wife Terrie hosted several tables in the club's ballroom, which was like a microcosm of the ball to come. Due to poor strategic planning, I wound up at the end of the buffet line, which wasn't so bad because joining me were Marshall Rousseau and Lee and Nancy Romig. Romig, whose day job is president of Dixie Printing, has become an expert in the esoteric field of parade pacing. He's the fellow who lets each parade entry out of the chute, so to speak, keeping the thing going smoothly.

Ahead of me in line (and yes, I noticed that most of the grouper was gone by the time I got to it, thank you very much, so thank goodness Terrie Newman passed around a bowl of chocolate-covered almonds) were Tilly and Suzanne Earle; Bill and Kathy Stover; Doug and Diane Linder; Tony and Carolyn Bond; Jim and Emily Gillespie; Mark and Linda Berset; and Mayor Rick Baker and wife Joyce. Dick Ulrich, with wife Shawn, was looking very sartorial, opting for a four-in-hand gray silk tie over the usual bow tie. "I outgrew my old tuxedo," he said, "so I bought a new one and decided to get all new stuff to go with it. I have two sets of ties and cummerbunds." And we who see a lot of sameness in formal wear appreciate it.

David Punzak joked with Roy Harrell that this was the first year he hadn't nominated Harrell to be Mr. Sun. Maybe that was the charm. Three hours later, guess who was crowned Mr. Sun?

In the parking garage elevator after dinner, Grace Elizabeth Cooper chided me for not listing the Sungoddess Court.

"How are we supposed to know who they are?" she asked.

It was an oversight and here is the court, 14 beautiful young women: Kristen Berset, Ashlee Campbell, Cara Dailey, Joanna Davis, Meghan Draughon, Courtney Firebaugh. Lauren Godwin, Tracy Meehan, Stephanie Mookas, Megan Moody, Dialee Moore, Lisa Ristorcelli, Mary Kate Slocumb and Erin Whittemore. I told Chip Jones, chairman of the selection committee, that I would have hated choosing one to be the new Sungoddess. But choose they must and did: Congratulations to Joanna Davis.

At the Coliseum, Betsy Owens and Shirley Insoft outdid themselves this year -- I noticed in the Suncoaster Directory that Ms. Owens is listed under Mirth and Merriment -- with the theme 2001, A Suncoaster Odyssey. The stage was transformed into a galaxy, with planets -- most notably Saturn -- looming over three thrones resembling plush seats in a spaceship about to be launched.

Some sort of odorless smoke filled the room for atmospheric effect, though it made recognizing people in the crowd a little challenging, as did the spotlights that seemed aimed at eye level, which made us all squint and pause to get our bearings on the ballroom floor, like formally attired deer in headlights.

In this group, stilts would have helped and, in fact, the Grand Rapids, Minn., High School Band had the foresight to bring some for its performance. But that was later in the evening, so, without benefit of levitation, I enjoyed seeing Dr. Frank and Anne Massari; Ben and Phyllis Godwin, Bob and Barbara Byelick, Jim and Suzi Fischer, Ron and Dr. Bonnie Braun; Paul and Joan Bailey, David and Marcia Feaster, Del and Stephanie Goforth, Bill and Beth Knowles, Sherwood and Virginia White; Phil and Stephanie Graham; Rick McCollum; Bob and Tina Douglass; Troy and Judy Holland; Jay Fleece; Ed and Betty Shamas; Charles and Judy Stuart; John and Jo Ann Welch; outgoing Sungoddess Jessica Reider; and the new Junior Sungoddess, Ashley Patterson, in a lovely blue evening dress.

Probably more were on hand, but past Mr. Suns I spotted were Bill Hough, Bill Wallace, Peter Armacost and Howard Nix and Ms. Sun Mary Wyatt Allen.

As mentioned earlier, Roy Harrell Jr. was crowned the new Mr. Sun by outgoing Mr. Sun Toby Krayer. A few words on the Sun Crown. It is many years old and last year looked a little worse for wear when Krayer inherited it. Carole Krayer set about righting the bent points and replacing missing stones so it looked quite fetching at the Suncoasters Ball. But a moment of confusion ensued when Krayer put the thing on Harrell's head and it would not stay put ("Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" -- Henry IV, Part II), Harrell's head being a bit broader than Krayer's. Necessary adjustments were made by parade time on Saturday, and fitness reigned.

A note to those of you who requested the recipe for Redwoods' Oyster Rockefeller Stew, which I mentioned in a recent column after it was served at the Great Chefs fundraiser for Family Resources. The recipe printed in the program was incorrect, so the folks at Redwoods have given me the accurate one. I will try to pass it along in my next column, so stay tuned.

Looking ahead

April 19

RESURRECTION HOUSE GROUNDBREAKING: Construction begins on a new residential facility for homeless families. Ceremony at 5:30 p.m., 1111 Seventh Ave. N.

* * *

April 20

MELODIES AND FASHIONS: A new volunteer group, Cathedral Arts, works on behalf of St. Jude's Concert Series. First-time event is a luncheon and fashion show by Lillie Rubin and Men's Warehouse at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. 11 a.m. $35. 367-2822.

TOWN AND GOWN LUNCHEON: Guest speaker is Dr. Peter Betzer, Acting Dean of the College of Marine Science at University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, a learned guy and great raconteur. 11:30 a.m. Lobby of the Knight Oceanographic Research Center at the back of the campus. $10. 823-3035.

FIESTA CON SABOR CUBANO: Mahaffey Theater Foundation supporters invite you to join, and if your membership level is $250 or more, you will receive a host of benefits, including an invitation to a party with a Cuban flavor at the Beach Drive home of banker and board member Ed Camejo and wife Marilyn. It sounds like a lot of fun. 7 p.m. 892-5710.

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