ALACHUA ‒ On March 26, 2024, the Alachua Lions Club celebrated the 84th Cattlemen’s Banquet, holding its largest charity fundraiser of the year to a packed house at Valley View, just outside of Alachua.

The evening's program featured an array of entertainment, including a live music performance, a silent auction and the Cattleman of the Year award.

The annual Cattlemen's Banquet is the longest continuous Lions Club fundraising event in Florida, with all profits from the banquet supporting charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities. It all started 1940 when the Alachua Lions Club sought to bolster Alachua High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) students in their quest to raise a steer for auction. Lions Club members attended the auction and drove the bidding higher. Not only did their winning bid cover the FFA's cost, but it also provided additional funds to the FFA.

Each year the event grew, bringing many of the area’s cattle ranchers, politicians and residents to the event. For years the event was held at the Alachua Woman’s Club and attracted the attention of local and state officials as guest speakers including President Jimmy Carter, Florida Governors Buddy McKay, Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. Eventually the event outgrew the Woman’s Club and was moved to a bigger venue at the Santa Fe River Ranch, and in 2022 the fundraising event was moved to an even larger venture at Valley View at Santa Fe River Ranch.

Last Tuesday was another fun filled evening of laughter and good food as nearly 450 people attended the event that was kicked off with a cocktail hour on the veranda overlooking rolling pastures dotted with sprawling oak trees.

When the doors opened to the main hall, guests were welcomed by Club President Paul Good. The Pledge of Allegiance ceremony was led by Lions Club District Governor Tony Esposito, the traditional singing of “God Bless America” was led by Alachua Lions Club member Bill Johnson, and the invocation was led by club President Good.

Former City of Alachua Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., served as Master of Ceremony and offered good natured jokes, many directed at attending guests, who took it all in stride as an appreciative audience laughed.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by Newberry native and former UF graduate and football player Jimmy Getzen. Getzen was introduced by Lions Club President Paul Good along with longtime friend and former UF teammate Fred Abbott. Throughout his performance, Getzen took the opportunity to share personal anecdotes and insights. And his up-tempo vocals accompanied by guitar and frequent audience interactions were a hit with the crowd.

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Alachua Lions Club Perry WebThis year’s Cattleman of the Year award went to Samual Pratt Perry, posthumously. Perry was an African American cowboy born and raised in Alachua County. The award recognizes Perry for his contributions to the cattle industry. The award was accepted by his two sons.

An event of this size takes months of planning as well as coordinating support from corporate sponsors who provided either funding or services for the banquet. The Alachua Woman’s Club, a longtime partner with the Alachua Lions Club, once again sponsored the Silent Auction. And, in keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School FFA Chapter was on hand to assist as guests helped themselves to the choice aged controlled steaks, loaded potato casserole, salad and dessert.

The curtains have come down on this year’s Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet, but it will undoubtably be back for the 85th such event of good food and good times for a good cause.

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