Like the Campbell’s commercials used to say, soup is good food, and on Saturday morning it was also a good cause as the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce used the aroma of soup as the draw for its sixth annual Souper Bowl fundraising event.  

This was Marco Island’s sixth annual Souper Bowl, an event that generates scholarship funds for local college-bound high school students. Around 1,000 people thronged the “air-nasium” at the newly-renovated Mackle Community Park, selecting bowls, sipping soup and schmoozing with their neighbors.  

Each participant paid $15 for a ceramic bowl, which were hand-decorated and fired for the occasion, then headed out to make the rounds of participating eateries’ booths. Hungry islanders quickly snatched up the 850 bowls, but latecomers did not go soupless since the servers typically poured their broths, bisques and chowders into disposable bowls.

Well-known local artists, including Kim Belange, Judy Chinski, Bruce Robertson, Tara O’Neill, Betty Newman and Malenda Trick, crafted bowls for the event's silent auction, and volunteers such as Mary Ann Cassidy and Suzie Walsh made the rounds, hawking raffle tickets to help boost the take for the scholarship fund. 

Many of those consuming soup were too politically correct to name their top choice, but Betsy Wohltman had no such qualms.  

“The cream of mushroom soup from Petit Soleil, hands down, and I tried them all,” she said. “I went back and had two refills.”

The lobster bisque from Speakeasy was another crowd favorite, and one of the first to find the bottom of the kettle.  

The Hilton's grilled watermelon gazpacho with avocado crema, served cold, had to win for most distinctive, and offered a welcome contrast to the hot offerings. Meanwhile, Mango’s Dockside Bistro served chicken corn chowder, Stonewalls brought its loaded potato soup and the Island Country Club’s dished out Reuben soup, which was another popular choice.

Maia at the JW Marriott served kale quinoa minestrone for the health-conscious, CJ’s on the Bay brought its stuffed pepper soup, and the Philly Grille offered escarole and bean soup. The Philly Grille owners also came rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s football game, which judging by the informal sampling conducted by DJ Steve Reynolds, seemed to be a minority opinion. Sunday night, they had the last laugh. 

City of Marco Island Parks & Recreation supervisor Lola Dial hustled to keep supplies in stock and trash bins emptied, assisted by volunteers from the Marco Island Academy Key Club. Students Olivia Watt and Camden Jones drew a less-than-glamourous assignment, bathroom duty, but made sure the city’s new facility stayed tidy.   

According to Dianna Dohm, the chamber's executive director, Souper Bowl VI raised more than $12,000, although she did not have a final tally at the time of publication.

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