ARIPEKA — Pasco County residents and businesses clearly care a lot about CARES, coming together over the April 13-14 weekend to raise thousands of dollars for the group dedicated to helping the county’s elderly in need.

While the final tally isn’t in, the 2019 edition of the Beach Chair-ity Festival and Auction held at Pasco County’s SunWest Park was a big success, raising $9,000 in the auction event alone, according to Brenda Martyniak, communications director for the nonprofit Community Aging and Retirement Services.

“We’re very pleased,” she said, adding that the 3-year-old event is expected to top the two previous events, in which local artists decorate Adirondack chairs to be auctioned off to the highest bidders. This year 30 chairs went on the block, with local auto dealer Friendly Kia guaranteeing via advanced bids $50 for each chair. In addition, local business sponsored each chair for $250 each. The chairs auction for $55 to $300.

The Saturday and Sunday event also was a big party, with live music, food vendors and local businesses setting up booths to sell wares or provide information about products and services.

The artists who volunteered to paint the chairs were judged for their creations and trophies were awarded.

Most Creative went to Carrissa Newcomer, a sign artist at the Shoppes at Towne Square in Spring Hill. Her chair was won by for the highest bid in the auction—$300 from John Gillis of Friendly Kia. Gillis turned around and donated the chair to a veteran who had been bidding on it.

Best Use of Color was awarded to Karen Jaenichen of the West Pasco Art Guild. The prize for Most Facebook Likes went to Cassie, a student at the PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education center for young women. Cassie’s chair was won by Pasco School Board member Megan Harding, who promptly donated it to the student artist who created it.

The CARES event had been scheduled for December, but was postponed for warmer weather, said Martyniak.

“We thought the week after Chasco (Fiesta) was a good time to hold it,” she said. “It’s always difficult to find a date when you are dealing with a new event and you are trying to find the right time and place.”

Martyniak said no time will be wasted planning next year’s Chair-ity Festival, and CARES board members will be meeting this week to begin planning.

The next big fundraiser for CARES will be the organization’s popular Celebrity Waiter event in June at the Bonefish Grill in Trinity. Local officials and celebs volunteer to serve as waiters, inviting friends and business people to be served by them, with money raised through “big tips” to the waiter, said Martyniak. The fundraiser normally nets around $100 per plate in tips, she said.

The biggest CARES event of the year is the annual Celebrating Seniors fundraiser. Local seniors who serve the elderly population are honored at the event, which has raised as much as $140,000 for CARES in the past.