By LOIS KINDLE
The Firehouse Cultural Center will soon transform into a scene from the Big Easy for its second annual Bourbon on the Bayou.
“We had a blast last year at our inaugural event, which was attended by 250 people,” said Beth Stein, the cultural center’s marketing and programming coordinator. “This year’s Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser promises to be just as exciting. We’ll have Cajun style cuisine, made-to-order beignets, coffee bar, raw bar, Big Easy music, cigar bar, two open bars and a high-end bourbon tasting.
“Fully garbed members of the Krewe of South Shore Marauders will mingle with guests and hand out beads,” she continued. “And we will have Crazy Indy the Street Performer and both silent and live auctions of many upscale items.”
The menu will include blackened chicken, dirty rice and black beans; peel ’n eat hot or cold boiled shrimp; fresh, shucked oysters on the half shell and crab cakes; chicken and shrimp jambalaya bowls with white rice; seafood pasta and French bread.
TBone Hamilton and his eight-piece Big Easy Revue, a New Orleans-style band that makes people boogie, will headline the event and feature their special combination of jazz, blues and NOLA funk.
Local favorites Valerie Gillespie and Dan Harris will round out the evening’s entertainment.
The auctions will include items like a signed bottle of Horse Soldier Barrel Strength Bourbon Whiskey from the American Freedom Distillery; weekend stay at Little Harbor; tickets to the Straz Center; Yacht StarShip Tampa dinner cruise; The Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed” Limited Edition record album; a variety of travel packages, including airfare and lodging; a Fred Rothenbush colored-pencil drawing; Ulele’s gift certificate, Paul McCartney electric bass guitar; golf packages; assorted artwork; gift baskets and more. Opening minimum bids are required.
Tickets are $85 per person or $150 per couple. For seating inside the theater, reserved tables for eight are available for $1,200, which include a lot of special perks and valet parking.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Firehouse Cultural Center Scholarship Fund, which enables adults and children from low-income families to attend summer arts and education classes; provides free community events, like the annual Draw In and poetry workshops; and expands the cultural center’s wide variety of programming.
“(As a rule) schools don’t teach art anymore, and when you have a (nonprofit) organization like the Firehouse Cultural Center that offers all facets of art to both children and adults, it’s important for the community to help sustain it,” said Lynn Pike, Bourbon on the Bayou committee chairwoman. “We invite everyone to come out and enjoy a great evening close to home and support a great cause.”
Platinum, gold and silver sponsorship opportunities are available for $5,000, $2,500 and $1,500, respectively. All include unique benefits and forms of recognition. Call Executive Director Chris Bredbenner for more information at 813-6545-7651.
Contributions to this 501(c)3 nonprofit organization are tax-deductible within the limits of the law.
Don’t miss out on this lively evening of Cajun cuisine and live entertainment at the Firehouse Cultural Center, 101 First Ave. NE, Ruskin. RSVPs are required by March 1, so the caterer will know how much food to prepare.
For tickets, visit www.firehouseculturalcenter.org or call 813-645-7651, and as they say in Louisiana, “Let the good times roll!”