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School-supporting sippers sampled soups for students’ scholarships Saturday, as the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Souper Bowl” event returned to Mackle Park.

This was the seventh dip in the kettle for the Souper Bowl, which began in 2013 and traditionally held on the Saturday before that other, similarly named event. While they haven’t gotten around to tallying up the proceeds yet, said chamber executive director Dianna Dohm, the Leadership Marco scholarship fund that is the beneficiary of dollars raised in the Souper Bowl hopes to clear around $18,000 for their scholarship fund.

The event drew an impressive turnout, estimated at close to 800, on a beautiful morning. Participants shelled out $15 for a bowl, hand decorated, hand-decorated and fired for the event, in many cases by area schoolchildren, then made the rounds of the booths under Mackle Park’s “air-nasium” trying the various offerings. Parents of the student artists were offered a preview Friday evening at which they had the chance to buy their child’s bowl.

In all, nine island eateries offered soups, each donating around 20 gallons of their signature creations. People lined up for their favorites from previous years, compared notes with their friends, then went back for a refill or to try something new.

Perhaps the most unusual offering was the Reuben soup from Island Country Club, which combined soup and sandwich in one bowl. Made with corned beef, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing, it was topped with, of course, toasted rye bread croutons, and ladled up by ICC general manager Bid Bakkar.

Chef Denis Meurgue of Bistro Soleil brought back his cream of wild mushroom soup, in a booth tricked out with a miniature Eiffel Tower, and said in passing he has no idea what is going on with the potential revamping of the Olde Marco Inn and shops. The Hilton hotel dished out a pepper pot soup with a taste of the islands, including parsnips, shishito peppers, and callaloo they grew on the hotel premises, said sous chef Cody Wiggen and head chef Corey Hepburn.

The JW Marriott featured what they called “East Coast Chowder.” This is essentially New England chowder, and a sensational take on the classic, but sous chef Kevin Gladish admitted to altering the name so as not to enrage the legions of right-thinking individuals who did not want to see the Patriots win another Super Bowl on Sunday – though those were not his exact words.

At the Philly Grille booth, Kevon Spence ladled out split pea soup, but will soon “split” himself, when he reports to Parris Island, SC, for United States Marine Corps boot camp. Additional soups included loaded potato soup from Stonewalls, Italian wedding soup from Mango’s, lobster bisque from the Speakeasy, and stuffed pepper soup from CJ’s on the Bay.

Along with the student-painted bowls, area artists created one-of-a-kind works of art in the shape of a bowl, which were sold to the highest bidder in a silent auction. Laura Schneider of Iberia Bank chaired the committee, made up of alumni of the chamber’s Leadership Marco program, who put on the Souper Bowl.

The Chamber’s next fundraiser, Wet Paint Live, is coming up on Feb. 13, with local artists painting canvases in one day which will then be auctioned off, also to raise scholarship funds for island high school students.

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