By Kyle LoJacono
The 64th Lutz Independence Day Celebration at Bullard Park brought out thousands for carnival-style food, the annual parade and to take in one of the small town’s biggest traditions — the naming of the Guv’na.
Four tossed their hats in the ring for the honor this year, and Kevin Wright emerged victorious.
Wright, a partner in the Lutz-based restaurant Splash! An Ocean Grill, was the last to sign up, but he got some advice from 2009 victor Suzin Carr on how to win.
“It was the 11th hour when I signed up,” Wright said. “I got some advice from Suzin on ways to raise money. Also, my partner at Splash (Chip Roehl) is an advertising guy and helped get the word out. I didn’t realize how much over my head I was at first and I needed a lot of people to come out on top.”
Wright’s strategy was to have more events than any other candidate, with two every week for the six-week campaign, instead of one or two large fundraisers.
“We just kept saying, let’s do another event and another,” Wright said. “It’s all for a good cause, but I did want to win. As I was standing up on the stage I was thinking I have to win this. I wanted to go all out.”
Wright had attended the celebration every year with his family since they came to Lutz 21 years ago. He said he has always wanted to run for the post and finally decided to go for it.
“This all happened because my wife Kelly and daughters Cierra and Taylor supported me the whole way,” Wright said. “A lot of local restaurants helped me out too and Chip really helped with the marketing.
“I also need to thank the Lutz Civic Association for putting this on each year because I had no idea how much it takes to do,” Wright said. “They motivate and support the candidates so we can raise the most money for all the local charities.”
His campaign raised about $6,200, some $3,000 more than the total brought in during last year’s race.
Civic Association representative Eleanor Cecil said the overall amount this year would not be available for a few days as they tally up every penny.
The money eventually goes to the Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Women’s Club, which will use all of it to fund local charities like scouts, the Civil Air Patrol and scholarships for area children.
The other three candidates for Guv’na included Annette Bellingar, Mitch Smithey and Sheila Tramontana.
Wright was sworn in as the Guv’na on a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” by 2010 Guv’na Stephanie Ensor.
“Being Guv’na gave me the opportunity to learn more about the community and raise money for charities,” Ensor said. “It was everything I expected and then some. I got to wear my sash around and pretend like I was famous for a year.
“I also have an appreciation for what makes this event happen each year. It takes a lot of hands helping out and it’s all volunteers,” Ensor continued. “I’m more inspired than ever to live in this community because it takes a lot to pull off something like this.”
The day started out with the annual 5K race and also included local vendors selling various foods and holiday related items, a parade and a cake bake contest and auction.
The parade had floats from groups like the scouts, youth sports organizations, churches, politicians and groups like the Lutz Patriots.
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