Festival wows alumni, faculty, students and the community

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 22, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2016) USF Sarasota-Manatee’s All-Alumni Festival Saturday offered alumni from the past 40 years a chance to mingle, grab a bite and listen to American Idol top-five finisher Sam Woolf and other musicians.

But the four-hour gathering under postcard-perfect skies provided more as USFSM also used the festival as an opportunity to open its doors to the community. About 400 alumni, students, faculty and others turned out to mingle, nosh on free hot dogs, tacos and wings and lounge on the grass in front of the stage.

The event was part of the campus’ year-long 40th anniversary celebration that wraps up March 4 with the HospitaBull Gala dinner in Lakewood Ranch.

“I really am happy that we made it a family event,” Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said as children climbed a rock wall, shot hoops and ran through the courtyard. “I think it gives us a chance to show off our campus to the community and, hopefully, instill in people a sense of pride in their hometown university.”

In addition to the food, which included samples of TCBY frozen yogurt and Kona Snow Cones, festival-goers played cornhole and beach volleyball, had their faces painted, bounced inside an inflatable obstacle course and listened to a contingent from the USF Marching Band. Members of the USF Sun Dolls, Pittsburgh Pirates, Bradenton Marauders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also stopped by to greet visitors.

“I loved the rock climbing the most,” said 10-year-old Bryce Bennett, as she slurped a snow cone. “It just felt like I could do that again and again.”

M.K. Means, USFSM Class of ’06, said she enjoyed wandering through the campus and catching up with old friends.

“I was part of the last class at the New College campus, so I haven’t spent a lot of time here,” she said, referring to USFSM’s former campus at New College of Florida. “It’s just beautiful here. I hope I get to see some of my old professors.”

Even non-alums visited. FSU graduates Lydia and Ryan Chapdelain, who live nearby, brought their five-year-old twins Charlotte and Spencer.

“They haven’t left the bounce house,” she said of the twins, adding that her parents went to USF.

Manatee County School Board member Karen Carpenter, also a nearby resident, said she came to support the campus as it celebrates 40 years.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of my neighbors. This is a great opportunity for people to come over and see the campus. This really is great resource for the community.”

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