Local business owners’ passion keeps Spring Fling growing for Big Bend Hospice
- By: Guest Post
Susan Turner and Paul Brock have several things in common. For starters, they both own longtime Tallahassee businesses less than two miles apart along Thomasville Road.
They both also enjoy entertaining. A restaurateur and caterer, Turner has a flair for creating memorable culinary experiences. Brock, meanwhile, has the perfect location for a moonlit garden soirée.
When they join forces to plan a party, 1,000 people show up.
Turner and Brock are the creative minds behind one of Tallahassee’s largest social events and fundraisers: Spring Fling, benefiting Big Bend Hospice. The event celebrates its 10th anniversary at Tallahassee Nurseries this year.
Spring Fling: Under a Magnolia Moon takes place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. May 18 at Tallahassee Nurseries, 2911 Thomasville Road. The fundraiser features celebrity Chef Art Smith and food and drink from more than 50 Tallahassee restaurants.
“People come, and they’re not obligated to do anything else other than eat, drink, be with friends and have fun,” Turner says. “It’s been a success because of that.”
Spring Fling has raised more than $1 million over the years for Big Bend Hospice, a nonprofit that provides compassionate care to people with a life-limiting illness, comfort to families and emotional support to anyone who has lost a loved one. The event funds various services including bereavement support for children and teens, music therapy and suicide loss support.
Turner and Brock never lose sight of Spring Fling’s charitable purpose. They both have had a loved one in Hospice care. But on the night of the event, they’re focused on creating an experience to remember. Fireworks help make each Spring Fling unforgettable.
“The entertainment is always the people,” Turner says, “the tremendous mix of people that come from every walk of life in Tallahassee: politicians, old Tallahassee, the new millennials. It’s an amazing mix.”
Coming home for the best of Southern food and drink
Each year, Big Bend Hospice celebrates Spring Fling under a different moon. The event started Under the Tuscan Moon, and since then, has gone everywhere from Paris and Hollywood to South Africa and Spain.
In honor of the event’s 10th anniversary, organizers are bringing Spring Fling home to showcase the best of Southern food and drink. Themed bars will feature bourbons, hams, biscuits, shrimp and grits, pies and cobblers and pickles and preserves.
Smith, who often returns to Tallahassee to lend his talents to special events and charitable causes, is a perfect fit for the event. The Jasper, Florida, native attended Florida State University, opened his first restaurant in Tallahassee and served as chef for governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush.
He later worked as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef for 10 years, wrote several well-received books and opened numerous restaurants including Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ in Disney Springs.
Some of Smith’s favorites, such as Church Lady Deviled Eggs and his Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits, could make an appearance at Spring Fling.
‘You don’t stop a cocktail party’
Planning Spring Fling involves a small army of committee members, volunteers and Big Bend Hospice staff members. The event is a must-attend on the Tallahassee social calendar, but its roots go back to a small dinner club Brock hosted years ago at Tallahassee Nurseries.
“It hit me, that yes, we can do parties here,” he says. “The success of the Cotillion Club, which was the name of our social group, got me going.”
Brock connected with Roy Young, who was chairman of the Big Bend Hospice Foundation Board of Trustees at the time, and said he wanted to have a party for Hospice. Today, Spring Fling is still going strong.
The event raised more than $230,000 in 2016 and continues to grow. Brock and Turner attribute the success to community support and to the lessons they learned in the early days
While many events feature auctions, raffles or speeches, Brock is passionate about narrowing the focus at Spring Fling to simply enjoying great food and drink with friends: “You don’t stop a cocktail party,” he says.
As the event marks a milestone anniversary, Turner and Brock plan to keep the party going.
“For me, it has to continue,” Brock says. “It has a life of its own. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
IF YOU GO
What: Spring Fling: Under a Magnolia Moon, a benefit for Big Bend Hospice featuring celebrity Chef Art Smith and the best of Southern food and drink
When: 7 to 9:30 p.m., Thursday, May 18
Where: Tallahassee Nurseries, 2911 Thomasville Road
Tickets: $125 each. Visit BigBendHospice.org or call (850) 878-5310.
Parking: Thomasville Road Baptist Church, 3131 Thomasville Road, or Freedom Church, 2801 Thomasville Road. Shuttles will be available.