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Snowbirds and expats will party, Buffalo style, in Sarasota

Ninety pounds of Chef's rigatoni,  100 pounds of Wardynski Polish sausage and six half-kegs of Labatt beer are making their way to Sarasota, Fla., this weekend.

All to satisfy the cravings of 750 snowbirds and Buffalo expats looking for a taste of home.

Chef's Restaurant, Wardynski and Labatt are among 30 Buffalo businesses that will offer everything from Sahlen's hot dogs with Weber's mustard to Bison chip dip at a Sarasota saloon on Wednesday night for a Buffalo-themed charity party that will feature Steve Christie, Dave Andreychuk and others.

But it won't be just Anchor Bar chicken wings, Sahlen's hot dogs and Charlie the Butcher beef on weck. Buffalo companies including Dunn Tire, New Era Cap and Carubba Collision have signed on to get their name in front of Buffalo snow birds who spend the winter in Florida.

Chef John Grime is taking a trailer full of food from Chef's Restaurant to Sarasota, Fla. for an "Everything Buffalo" charity event for snowbirds and expats. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Organizer Tim Mitten, a Canisius College graduate who moved to Florida in 2003 and now sells real estate, saw opportunity in the large contingent of Buffalo folks who have settled in the Gulf Coast city.

"I would always say, 'I miss my friends and I miss my food,'" Mitten said. "This brings them both together."

Mitten's company, Full Moon Productions, organized the charity event to benefit the Joe Fanara Music Foundation. Named for the late Buffalo musician who played bass for the band Fishbowl Lulu, it will fund music education for children in Sarasota and Buffalo.

But 1,285 miles is a long way for local companies to ship enough food and drink to feed 750 people, and the logistics haven't gone smoothly for everyone.

Perry's Ice Cream is ready and eager to send 15 giant tubs of its One Buffalo ice cream, but has hit a snag trying to figure out how to get it there without it melting. It's too much ice cream to cold-ship by mail, the Akron company said, and the destination is too far outside its market area for the company to send a freezer truck.

"We really want to be a part of this, so we're really trying," said Marisa Wilson, a spokeswoman for Perry's.

The ice cream company is working with Rich Products in hopes of coordinating the shipment with one of Rich's Florida deliveries.

Lou Billittier, owner of Chef's restaurant on Seneca Street, is having his food towed in a refrigerated trailer. He has a condo on Siesta Key and once had a restaurant on St. Armands Key near Sarasota. He'll be in attendance overseeing the kitchen and even doing a little cooking.

"This is the first one of these and I want to make sure it goes well and Chef's is represented with good quality food," Billittier said.

Carubba Collision doesn't have auto repair shops in Florida but still decided to sponsor the party.

"It's a captive audience and the majority are snowbirds in the demographics we search out," said Sam Carubba, the company's president and CEO, while traveling to the event Friday. "They're going to come back to Buffalo for most of the year."

Mitten is hoping to host the Everything Buffalo party every year, and will bring a Sarasota-themed party to Canalside in August.

For that event, he plans to bring two tractor trailers filled with canopy beds, glowing LED lights and other accessories to set up a glamorous, outdoor "chill lounge." He uses the Buffalo and Sarasota connection in his job as a real estate agent, specializing in relocating Buffalonians to Florida. He plans to have a tent at the summer event showcasing pictures of Sarasota properties, as well.

So far, he's found plenty of interest in the Sarasota-Buffalo connection. The tickets to Wednesday's Everything Buffalo party sold old before he'd placed a single ad.

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