Chinese New Year is always an auspicious occasion, but the dawning of the Year of the Dragon was extra special for the St. Petersburg branch. This year’s banquet on Sunday, January 29, 2012, was cooked entirely by members in the Center’s new kitchen. From spring rolls made from Tony Kwan’s famous recipe to whole red snapper fresh from the Gulf Coast docks to shortcake made with locally grown strawberries, the eight-course meal was a delight for all the senses.
In order to be ready to serve over 120 people, food preparation started on Saturday, with several additional members assisting the kitchen crew. The kitchen crew resumed cooking early Sunday morning and, following classes, other members quickly transformed the practice space into a lovely banquet hall replete with china and red tablecloths. Guests began arriving at noon to mingle and peruse the silent auction of Asian-themed items. The varied treasures were wide-ranging: Asian weapons, numerous books, including a children’s book of Zen stories, beautiful clothing, accessories and art. Finally, it was time for everyone to take his or her seat to partake in the much-anticipated meal.
Our honored guests were Joe Crossfield (National Management Committee), Debbie Gates (President of the Sarasota Branch), Ann MacDonald (President of the Dunedin Branch) and Susan Schuler (President of the Brandon Branch). They were also among the key speakers. St. Petersburg Branch President Cindy Zarling welcomed everyone and spoke about Chinese New Year and Taoist Tai Chi™ internal arts and its benefits. Jean Swantish brought greetings from the TTCS-USA and International directors and spoke a little about the Society. David Swindall gave an amusing and informative talk about the dragon. Joe Crossfield gave a wonderful talk about the four Tampa Bay centers and their growth, as well as the benefits of being so close to each other and our willingness to share and support each other. Sam Barracato gave a nice talk about Health Recovery and shared her own experience and benefits from Tai Chi. Libby spoke about Fung Loy Kok and the path to meditation. She also shared a wonderful interpretation of our Parting Wild Horse move. Each of the other three presidents brought greetings from their branch and told us about recent activities or projects at their centers.
Over the past two years, several branch members had attended banquets and other events in Canada and the US to learn best practices in event planning and execution. In prior years, the branch’s New Year’s banquet had been held at a favorite Chinese seafood restaurant or prepared by a well-respected caterer. But all the preparation and hard work paid off as many guests commented that the event this year topped them both.