‘Crime’ pays at Sunrise Rotary’s whodunit fundraiser


Rotarians and guests enjoyed an evening of murder and mayhem during the recent Murder is Brewing event at the Vero Beach Outlets to benefit Sunrise Rotary Vero Beach.

Outlet shoppers were perplexed by the buzz of activity under a large white tent in the center of the parking lot. Little did they, or anyone else for that matter, know that trouble was afoot.

The VIP event traditionally precedes the Florida Craft Brew and Wingfest, which the club opted to cancel this year due to the pandemic. That annual event, which draws hordes of people to Royal Palm Pointe each year, would have celebrated its 10th anniversary of bringing the community together over finger-licking chicken wings, craft beer and a desire to serve the community.

As a pair of horses circled the tent, pulling a cart filled with guests, others mingled while sampling Sailfish beer and various wines from Varietals and More, before sitting down to a delicious surf and turf repast catered by Counter Culture.

During the meal, MJ Wicker, who had provided the pre-dinner music, stepped aside for a special performance by ‘Joe Cocker and the Cockettes.’ But alas, toward the end of their performance, Cocker clutched his chest and fell to the floor.

Happily, a crew of comedic medical professionals (read: Rotarians in disguise) were on hand to whisk him away. It was later relayed that Cocker hadn’t made it, and that the attendees were all considered suspects in his demise. The finger-pointing ensued, with each proclaiming their innocence.

During the whodunit murder mystery, written and directed by Pam O’Donnell, Sunrise Rotary vice-president, guests mulled over who the culprit was: lover, pilot, musician or chef.

Not even dessert, a heart-shaped chocolate shell filled with an airy mousse, could sweeten the news that the murderer was none other than ‘Tony Gambino,’ aka Counter Culture chef-owner Anthony Damiano, who had poisoned Cocker for ratting him out to the FBI several years earlier.

At the conclusion of the show, Todd Darress, event co-chair with Marty Lewis, said that it had been a way of thanking the generous sponsors who had stuck by them.

“The VIP event has grown from a thank you to sponsors over the years into an extension of the Wingfest fundraising,” said Darress, noting that they had sold more than 100 tickets.

“We do a lot of good things in this community, both domestically and internationally. We wouldn’t be able to do it without all your support,” said Richard Giessert, Sunrise Rotary president.

The Brew and Wingfest, along with the club’s other signature event, the Ring of Fire Chili Challenge (also canceled due to the pandemic), support their mission to “create continuous improvement through service to our local community and internationally.”

Sunrise Rotary fundraisers benefit such programs as Adopt-A-School, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, Growing Healthy Kids, Backpacks for Children, Pre-K Book program, scholarships, visits to retirement homes and annual visits to the Dominican Republic, where they fund bio-sand water filters, aqueduct systems and books for schools.

For more information, visit sunriserotaryverobeach.org.

Photos by Kaila Jones

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