On January 7, 2023 with over 250 people in attendance, the Bradenton Kiwanis Club celebrated serving Manatee County for over 100 years. It was the place to be on Saturday night. A spectacular event at the Bradenton Area Convention Center with just about everyone dressed in formal attire. The women were beautiful in their formals and the men were handsome in their tuxedos. Many members and spouses of the Club attended the GALA along with former members. And there were many guests, most of whom had some connection to the Club at some point in time. Those people in attendance are leaders in the community.

After a reception with delicious hors d’oeuvres and music by a jazz band from State College of Florida, everyone transitioned to the ballroom for the program and dinner. Each table was glamorously decorated with a candelabra in the middle with blue tablecloths and yellow napkins (The Kiwanis colors).  Every table contained fun and interesting items including the written program, challenge coins, Kiwanis pins and a teaser of the History of Bradenton Kiwanis book.

The program began with president Neil Unruh welcoming everyone and setting the stage for the evening. Bradenton Kiwanis is all about improving the world, one child at a time; one community at a time. It has been doing that for over 100 years in Manatee County and Southwest Florida. President Unruh then recognized elected and appointed officials and recipients of the George F. Hixson Fellowship award. He then recognized all members and asked them to stand according to how long they had been members. President-elect, Andrew Minor gave the invocation and Ed Cleveland led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Bringing back memories of past meetings, past president, Charlie Hackney, led everyone in singing three songs: Show Your K, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain. That singalong was a big hit!

After a short break, which included a delicious steak and lobster dinner, president Unruh continued the program. He introduced the president-elect of Kiwanis International, Katrina Baranko who gave an inspiring speech on how Kiwanis makes a difference in the world. She also talked about the impressive history of Bradenton Kiwanis. Then lieutenant governor Krystal Laudicina introduced Florida District governor, Sharon Moody who also gave an inspiring speech on how Bradenton would be different without Bradenton Kiwanis. To liven the evening up, a video by former club secretary Mac Aldrich was shown on the history of the Club over the last 100 years. It was a fast-paced story of the Club which was inspiring, educational and entertaining. Past president Gilbert Smith then introduced speakers who read proclamations from a variety of government entities: U.S. Congress, Florida Senate, Manatee County School Board, City of Palmetto, City of Bradenton and Manatee County Commission.

President Unruh then talked about the future of the Club and his vision for a big 2023 project for the 100th Year Anniversary.  Working with local governments, the Club will build a new Bradenton Kiwanis Park which will be both inclusive, suitable and safe for all children to enjoy. It will be equipped specifically with new safe playground equipment designed for all children to enjoy.

Past president Janene Amick then talked about the legacy of the Club for the future and challenged each member and the community to get involved.

Vice president Mike Bear then led everyone with a toast to the future of Bradenton Kiwanis.

There are lots of reasons to be optimistic.

Submitted by Judge Gilbert Smith Jr.