SARASOTA, Fla. (March 06, 2017) – The choices were difficult, from country music band Rebel Heart to the face painting to the “bouncy room,” but Clara Vazquez finally decided on a favorite at the Bulls, Bands & BBQ festival.
“All of it. All the activities for the children,” said the mother of two and Class of 2015 USF Sarasota-Manatee alumna. “This is such a nice event. It can be tough to find things to bring kids to, especially little kids. It’s nice that the university put this on.”
The three-hour festival Saturday at USF Sarasota-Manatee turned out to be the ideal venue, not just for families with young children but for students and alumni as well.
About 400 people attended under postcard-perfect skies to enjoy country music band Rebel Heart with vocalist Sarah Faye, the Savannah Brady Band and a group of music students from the Music Compound in Sarasota. Festivalgoers also noshed on hot dogs, hamburgers and frozen yogurt, chatted with fellow alumni and other campus supporters while chatting on the courtyard lawn.
For young children, a litany of child-friendly options awaited, from a giant, inflatable “bouncy house” and a rock-climbing wall to an arts-and-crafts booth, game of Cornhole and a table staffed by representatives from nearby Sarasota Jungle Gardens. The two zoo staffers brought along a variety of creatures to pet and take selfies with, including a two-year-old alligator, a skunk, an African grey parrot and a snake.
The annual event by USF Sarasota-Manatee and the Alumni Association was especially enticing to young families, although pinpointing a favorite activity proved difficult for some.
“We just like everything here, the whole atmosphere,” said Reyson Gomez, who attended with his wife, Randi, and the couple’s two-year-old son, Reyson Jr. “It’s nice to have a place where families can go. Everyone here has been great. And it didn’t cost a thing.”
Dr. Anila Jain, a member of the USF Alumni Association and USFSM Campus Board, called the festival “wonderful,” and noted, “It’s so nice to see younger alumni and older alumni together enjoying the same event.
“It’s also nice to see the SunDolls here and system-wide support for this event,” she said, referring to the four USF dance team members who came from the Tampa campus to pose for photos with festivalgoers.
Fellow alum Bill Mariotti said, “I like being out there with all the other alumni. I like the camaraderie and the fact that you have students, alumni and faculty all here. It’s nice to see the student ambassadors, too.”
Alisa Bennett, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, lives nearby and walked over with her sons Bryce, 11, and Jake, 13.
“We just love it,” she said of the event, which grew out of last year’s All-Alumni Festival. “The kids have a great time. It’s just very chill and relaxing and it’s nice that the university invites the community in to foster that spirit of outreach. I just really like that.”
Jay Riley, director of student and alumni relations, said the event is, “building on the momentum of last year’s festival.”
“Last year, we put together our first festival and we were eager to see what we could do for this year,” Riley said. “This year’s festival was bigger. We had more people, but we were still able to keep that family friendly atmosphere, and with all the activities and with the local musicians, it turned out to be an excellent event.”