For over a decade, a barbecue and bluegrass event in Venice has provided millions of dollars in economic impact to the community and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children.
The Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash drew over 20,000 people in 2019, before organizers pushed the pause button on 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the foundation revived the annual tradition by holding a fundraising dinner dubbed the BBQ & Bluegrass Hoot ‘n’ Annie at Fox Lea Farm that was greeted with rave reviews.
Champion BBQ pitmaster Dana “Big Papa” Hillis, who has participated in the Venice event since its inception, catered the three-course meal. Held outdoors on April 17 under a pavilion where all safety protocols were met and a good time was had by all.
Entertainment was provided by award-winning bluegrass band The Grascals, as well as local favorites Swinging Bridge.
Event founder Don Fisher said he was pleased with the turnout, which again raised thousands of dollars to support their charity partners served by the Suncoast Foundation’s facilities.
“The people loved the food and bluegrass entertainment” Fisher said. “We put on an event that was genuine Americana. We were able to hold this successful event in spite of all the restrictions and challenges.”
Fisher thanked the FCCI Insurance Group and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for sponsoring the event, all the gold, silver and bronze supporters and the many volunteers who participated.
The Suncoast Foundation provides more than $20 million worth of facilities in Sarasota County. These facilities are located on four separate campuses in Sarasota, Venice, and North Port. Currently, the facilities are occupied by Special Olympics, The Florida Center,
The Haven, Children’s First, Boys and Girls Club, Challenger Baseball, Sertoma Speech Clinic, and the Loveland Center. Each year, they serve more than 5,000 children and families with disabilities.
The net proceeds from the Hoot ‘n’ Annie and Sporting Clays Fun Shoot held earlier will be used to support and maintain all the facilities now and in the future, ensuring the legacies of Kevin Brown, Tom Brown, John Cox, Cal Erb, Tim Erickson, Kathy Hazard, Lt. Gen. Rolland Heiser, Gary Jones, Ken Linguard, John Olliver, Orville Ray, Bob Ritz, John Ryan, Bill Sirios, Bob Stanton, Hollis Trucker Jr., Gene Whipp, Steve Zagony, Dave Jaques, and Robert Woods, who were instrumental in supporting the foundation’s mission.