Reel Time: Scallopalooza is ‘Clamtastic!’

On Saturday night, Feb. 12, Sarasota Bay Watch (SBW) held its 11th annual major fund-raising event, “Scallopalooza, It’s Clamtastic,” at the Sarasota Hyatt Regency Hotel. The yearly event was another sellout and at the time of this writing final totals are still being tabulated.

I was impressed at the overwhelming community support that was shown for Sarasota Bay Watch’s efforts and estimate that close to 400 people were in attendance. SBW’s event coordinator, Ronda Ryan, worked with volunteer Jen Zak, the SBW Board and Scallopalooza Committee Chairs Brian Jung, Al Jeffery, John Ryan and Ernesto Lasso De La Vega to organize an event that highlights the importance of, and support for, local nonprofits that stress the importance of clean water.

The evening began with live music, an open bar and a large silent auction including art work, event tickets and merchandise of every description as participants mingled to share their passion for Sarasota Bay. Event Chair Brian Jung welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their support while keeping everyone apprised of the auction items and encouraging them to visit the tables. Ernesto Lasso De La Vega gave an inspirational introduction to the clam restoration project, speaking about the scientific documentation that the group is currently involved in. John Ryan, a founding member of Sarasota Bay Watch, was next and explained the motivation and purpose of SBW’s many projects and emphasized the group’s non-partisan “fun” approach to conservation. Ryan cited SBW’s many activities including island and rookery cleanups, citizen and student education and much more.

Island entrepreneur and conservationist Ed Chiles took the podium after dinner and encouraged the attendees to support the efforts by turning dollars into clams and offered a substantial match to those who might join the effort. Another prominent Anna Maria Island business owner, Ben Webb, made a major contribution to the efforts that raised the funds to implement the ongoing “Clampaign” to stock 1.5 million clams in the coming year. WWSB TV’s Channel 7 weatherman Bob Harrigan, one of the area’s most popular and respected broadcasters, gave a rousing speech lauding the group’s efforts. Harrigan has been promoting those efforts since SBW’s first-ever Scallop Search in 2008.

The city of Anna Maria is currently considering a similar project to prove the efficacy of using clams to help mitigate red tide algae blooms and encourage the growth of threatened seagrass beds.

To get involved with the work SBW is doing to protect Sarasota Bay and support their mission, visit their website. As they say, “A Healthy Bay is Everybody’s Business,” literally and figuratively!