By CAROL MacALISTER
Dave Birkett, organizer of the Sun City Center Holiday Golf Cart parade, was all smiles, asking the crowd gathered for award ceremonies, “Was that a parade or was that a parade?!”
One-hundred-sixty golf carts participated in this year’s colorful procession on Dec. 8, dwarfing last year’s 42. The skies were lowering as golf carts arrived to get organized, but the overcast helped keep the heat from becoming overpowering as multiple Santas donned their beards, the several mermaids slipped into their tails, Rudolph’s nose was securely fastened, and both the blow-up and moving dolphins took their places.
The theme was ’Tis the Sea-Sun, and there was no shortage of smiling suns, sunglasses, swim tubes and even a few sand castles. Capturing the Best of Show Award were Ron and Linda Ringenback, with a cast of characters wearing ‘bikini’ t-shirts, flippers, flapping beards and a goggle-eyed scarecrow (dummy? stuffed shirt? it was hard to tell) in the rear-facing seat.
Second place in the individual category went to Audrey and Mark Vietzke, whose cart was brimming with grand- and great-grandchildren. Third place went to Sherry Walker; 4th to Charles and Mary Flaugh.
A major crowd-pleaser was the cart from the United Methodist Church, with Santa’s Reindeer leading a cart piled with gifts (and a Grinch); it took 1st place for Service Organizations. Second-place was snagged by the dolphin-led SCC Chamber of Commerce cart, driven by Dana Dittmar; 3rd place went to Good Samaritan’s Ball; 4th place to the Shrine Club.
The Irish Connection was awarded 1st place in the clubs category, with a cart disguised as a tinker’s wagon, driven by Irishman Paddy Cooney (carrying his Guinness and his hurling stick), accompanied by Elizabeth Gilmer cradling a ‘baby.’ Second place in clubs went to the Swim Dancers; 3rd to the Time Steppers; and 4th to the Woodcarvers, with a Pinocchio strapped into the navigator’s seat.
The Best Business Entry went to Freedom Plaza.
The rash of prizes totaled a generous $5,000, donated by Minto Communities. Judges were Jo Boggs and Gail Link-Ogle of Boggs Jewelers; Jeremy Estill of Winn Dixie; John Moore of John Moore Flooring; Dr. Doug Reitz, husband of SCC Community Manager; and Clara Urbino of Wal-Mart.
It was a crowded field of competitors, and a number of spectators had personal favorites they felt were overlooked. But it was a festive, joyous morning … and there’s always next year.