While Huskies in Storrs confronted a harsh winter storm, the Sarasota Friends of UConn alumni picnic were celebrating its 50th anniversary in more clement weather. The event, held in early March, celebrated what grew from an informal potluck to a much larger tradition connecting alums with the University they love.
The longest-running alumni gathering in UConn’s history began in 1973 as an informal get-together between retired faculty and UConn Extension staff members from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). About 20 former faculty and staff who had retired to the west coast of Florida gathered at one of their homes, establishing an annual tradition.
From 1974 to 2005, the picnic bounced between various neighborhoods in western Florida. The group would rotate the chairperson position each year.
Over the years, the event expanded beyond CAHNR. Today alumni and retired faculty from across the University gather at the annual picnic, which is a more organized affair overseen by the UConn Foundation.
“As our longest-standing event, the Sarasota Picnic has been a staple for our alumni in Florida,” says Kristen Luger, assistant director of alumni chapters and networks. “If you have the chance to attend next year, you surely won’t want to miss it.”
The event grew in popularity and in honored UConn festivities. In the early 2000s, UConn Foundation staff started shipping award-winning Dairy Bar ice cream all the way to Florida to ensure alums had a sweet taste of their alma mater at the event.
After the pandemic forced organizers to shift to a virtual format for two years, the picnic returned to an in-person gathering this March.
“The opportunity to be back in-person was an incredible feeling, especially getting to celebrate the 50th Anniversary with such a dedicated group of alumni,” Luger says.
Seventy-five alumni from almost every UConn school and college gathered at the Meadows Country Club in Sarasota on March 5.
CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey delivered a brief speech to those gathered commemorating the history of the event and its continued impact for alumni.
“Just like UConn began as an agricultural school, the picnic was started by people with connections to CAHNR and has grown to be an inclusive, UConn-wide event,” Chaubey said. “This strong group of volunteers created the foundation for a gathering that has now become the longest running UConn Alumni event. We are grateful to be able to return to gathering in person this year to commemorate such a milestone.”
At over 90 years old, Fred Nelson ‘52 (CAHNR), has been involved with the event since he retired and moved to Florida in 1985. Nelson says he simply enjoys the camaraderie the event encourages between alumni.
“We enjoy getting together,” Nelson says.
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