Smoke drifted over College Hall as various important persons piled out of their luxury cars. The large white tent that was set up for New College’s 32nd Annual Old-Fashioned New England Clambake housed rows of tables covered in white and red checkered table cloths and plastic lobster bibs. “Our biggest fear is that we’ll run out of lobsters,” said Vice President of Donor Relations Mary Lou Couch.
This year’s event was capped at 320 guests. Each ticket for the Clambake was $125, of which $70 is tax-deductible. Patron tickets were $300 and the price included special recognition at the event. New College students roamed the event selling raffle tickets for the Foundation, taking pictures for Public Affairs and directing traffic. The winner of the raffle ticket contest received a dinner for 20 in College Hall catered by Phil Mancini of Michael’s On East who also provided food for the event. The night’s proceeds go toward all of the Foundation’s programs including their scholarships.
The Foundation used to hold the Clambake on the beach at Longboat Key. Attendees sat on plywood and cinder block benches and ate clams while listening to a country band. According to Couch, they were allowed to serve clams for the first couple of years until the Board of Heath said that it was too hot. Guests who craved shellfish at this year’s event could enjoy a styrofoam bowl of clam chowder with the option of oyster crackers.
As guests checked in, they received a lobster ticket that had to be handed over to receive their one lobster. According to Couch, in the past people have claimed to have lost their ticket to eat more lobster.
“It’s always the same,” said Couch, who has worked with the Foundation for the past 45 years. “[It’s] just one big eating fest. People of all ages love it. Some take their food and go home.”
Some of this year’s sponsors included Northern Trust, the Herald-Tribune Media Group and Budweiser. One-man band Daniel Paul Fugazzotto performed throughout the evening. On his promotional pamphlet, Fugazzotto is described as a “uniquely talented musician who combines captivating live instruments with state of the art computer technology. The result…customized sound so rich and full that it leave his audiences spellbound.” Fugazzotto plays the soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute, clarinet, synthesizer, steel drums and iPod. His song choices included “Copacabana” and “It Had to Be You.”
The bayfront quickly filled with alums and members of the greater Sarasota community. When discussing how she swore she’d never live in Sarasota after she graduated, charter class member Kathleen Raskin said, “We were going to move to South Carolina but it’s too fucking cold there!” She is currently back in Sarasota working on beautifying the areas of dirt in the Pei complex.
In addition to lobster and clam chowder, the night’s menu included barbeque chicken and ribs, corn on the cob, a salad bar, dessert, beer, wine and a cash bar. Rows of black and grey buckets filled with uncooked lobster sat off to the side of the tent. Several waiters patrolled the area for stray plates.
“New College is on the move,” said Chair of the New College Board of Trustees and former state senator and representative Bob Johnson. Johnson was described by one guest as “holding court” as he leaned against a metal pole in the middle of the tent. “You look at the success of New College, its independence and the overall quality of its students. They become leaders in fields like medicine and education. People ask why as a Republican I support New College and I say in five years they’ll all dress just like I do. When they’re here they can have their odyssey, but when they leave they’ll become productive members of society.” Johnson is currently encouraging more New College students stay in Florida after they graduate.
“I like the Clambake because it’s more informal,” said New College alum and Foundation staff member Rebecca Stork (’06). “People have more of a chance to talk and have immediate conversations because it’s less seat oriented. Also, the spread is delicious and you can eat whatever you want in whatever quantities you want — except for the lobster.”