‘Mmm, Mmm, Good’ cause: Souper Bowl raises scholarship dollars for local students

Lance Shearer

It was a great morning for hot soup. With temperatures dipping down into the 60s, and drizzly rain overhead, a bowl of soup was just the thing to warm you up on Saturday morning. A smorgasbord of 10 signature soups from island eateries was even better.

This was the enticement offered at the Souper Bowl, the Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Marco fundraiser held under Mackle Park’s “airnasium” on the day before the football game with a similar name.

More:Marco Island Academy girls soccer team becoming local powerhouse

Now in its eighth year, the Souper Bowl let attendees pick out their ceramic bowl from among thousands hand-painted by area students and volunteers, then make the rounds of the restaurants’ booths and sample their creations.

With most of the participating restaurants having been part of the event for years, returning patrons had often developed their personal favorites, and made a beeline for the their favorites. For Nancy and Pete Cleary, the first stop was the Reuben soup prepared by the chefs of the Island Country Club.

“It’s an excellent soup. I got the recipe from them, but I never made it,” said Nancy, so she came back and enjoyed some made to order. Each dining establishment prepared at least 15 gallons of their particular soup, and they were going fast.

More:A Marco Island teacher's dog was diagnosed with bone cancer. His students raised thousands to help.

One perennial favorite is the cream of wild mushroom soup by Bistro Soleil chef and co-owner Denis Meurgue. Lisa Meurgue was one of the original organizers of the event, and before the event, she fretted about how the weather might affect turnout.

“We’ve never had rain,” she said. But with nobody on the beach, nobody out in the boat, and nobody on the golf course, the crowd was packed in solidly under the airnasium.

Restaurateur, attorney and city councilor Jared Grifoni took a turn ladling up potato and pancetta from the Italian Deli and Market he co-owns with his father. “You couldn’t pick a better day” for a hearty soup like their offering, he said.

At the Mango’s booth, husband and wife team Ron and Vickie Copley dished out Italian wedding soup, even though their own wedding was 46 years ago. Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa executive chef Corey Hepburn manned the hotel’s table, with their guajillo pepper and potato soup, garnished with lime, cilantro and queso fresco.

Additional soup offerings included lobster bisque from the Speakeasy, loaded potato soup from Stonewalls, “west coast” clam chowder from Quinn’s at the Marriott, lentil soup from the Boulevard, and another hearty favorite, stuffed pepper soup from CJ’s on the Bay.

If patrons needed any additional warmth, they could bask in the glow of doing a good deed while eating the soups their $15 admission provided. At presstime, there was no official tally of funds raised, but last year, the Leadership Marco scholarship fund that is the beneficiary of the Souper Bowl took in $18,000 to help outstanding area high school seniors pay for college.

More:Star-shaped bandshell to shine at Marco Island's Veterans' Community Park

Area artists offered bowls painted at the next level in a silent auction. Participating artists included Anastasia Baran, Kim Belange, Judy Chinski, Kathy Graf, Judy Harthorn, Don Harthorn, Mary Navarro, Betty Newman, Tara O’Neill, Bruce Robertson, JoAnn Sanborn, Karen Swanker, Malenda Trick and the Clay Guild at Marco Island Center for the Arts.