February−Mid-FL had 29 coaches in attendance! It certainly was a great time filled with camaraderie, fabulous meals, great entertainment, crafts, games, and let's not forget the more than glamorous pet parade! Of course, the rally theme of "Pajama Party" made for a wonderful array of costumes seen during the row party, evening dinner and entertainment, and during much of the rally. There is some remarkable creativity among our FL State Winnie Gators members.
Our Mid-FL Winnies once again handled the registration desk and all went smoothly. There was an impressive number of door prize baskets furnished by our chapter through the coordination of Carolyn Ledford, bringing the total from all chapters to 150 baskets! Wow!!
A few of us arrived at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds on Monday afternoon to do some initial setting up and to get settled in for the events to come. Of course, we kicked off our unofficial "opening day" with happy hour. We found that the fairgrounds' staff had preparations well in hand in the Robarts Arena, affording us the chance to focus on our own setting up, including getting the chapter sign and flags up and running.
On Tuesday, we loaded all of the goodie bag "stuff" into the Arena and prepared it for the stuffing process. Tables were covered, signs prepared, and the locator boards assembled and posted. With capable help, the goodie bags were quickly stuffed on Tuesday afternoon followed by the final preparations of the door prize baskets. My, they looked fine!
Wednesday brought our traditional registration "refresher" followed by our practice registration of our MFW members. We were ready to open by noon and kept busy throughout the afternoon. It never seemed crazy busy, yet by the time we closed, there were relatively few name tags left on the table. Rain made life a challenge for the greeters and parkers early in the day, but fortunately, the skies gradually cleared. We were thankful to have an "inside" job!
The rally officially kicked off on Thursday with the opening ceremonies and a box lunch followed by the friendship/cake walk and row party later in the day. Mid-FL had an impressive showing of dishes for the row party and the usual long line of attendees waiting to sample our culinary delights. The first of the door prizes were given out on Thursday evening.
Friday's events began with a continental breakfast followed by the pet parade, arts and crafts show, and a variety of other activities. Following the ice cream social, we had a relatively brief chapter business meeting followed by, of course, happy hour before returning to the Arena for dinner. A wonderful pork barbecue meal was prepared and served by the staff at the fairgrounds. Our Mid-FL team also assisted with the serving of the meal. Dinner was followed by a most entertaining group of young ladies, ages 6-18, called the Entertainment Revue Show. The next fifty door prize baskets were given out after the show. The arts and crafts winners were announced. Several MFW members entered items for judging. We are proud to say one of our own, Brenda Oleksa, won two blue ribbons for her entries!! We celebrated our newest new chapter members—Rick and Betty Alix joined our gang as did Robert Pearson and Wilhelmina Korevaar.
Saturday opened with a full breakfast provided once again by the fairgrounds' staff. A busy agenda, including numerous seminars and the wine and cheese party filled the day. We even managed to squeeze in our happy hour. Before we knew it, dinner hour was upon us and we all headed back to the Arena to gather for our final meal and the evening's festivities. The fairgrounds' staff once again provided and served a wonderful meal. Immediately following, we were entertained by Patty Waszak, a singer, songwriter, musician, and comedienne from Pigeon Forge, TN. Entertainment was followed by the final giving of the remaining 50 gift baskets. Carolyn Ledford, Debbie Dolson, and Carolyn Jouret were given honorable mention and received gifts for their contributions to the quilt. And last, but not least, the pet parade's best costume prize went to Chuck and Becky Smalley and their two darling Bichon Frises, Charlie and Babe!
Sunday morning we all packed up and were on our way home or wherever the road led us. The rally was a great success and filled with wonderful memories.
By Jeff Roudebush