Merced County Times Newspaper
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Times Photos by John Miller

Nothing Better Than Pizza & Pints in Merced


More than 400 residents flooded Bob Hart Square in downtown Merced on Saturday for MERCO’s Pizza and Pints event. The special night brought together a dozen businesses, ranging from local pizzerias and Italian food eateries to craft and traditional breweries throughout the region. In addition to guests getting a bite to eat and a beer to wash it down, those attending were also supporting the Man Up Opportunity Foundation.

Brought together by Foundation President Spencer Fluetsch, alongside of Josh Fluetsch, David Svendson, Abraham Santana, and Robert Matsuo, the Man Up Opportunity Foundation gets its name and mission from the aquatics community in Merced. Fluetsch explained that the name reflects both the foundation’s roots in the aquatics community by referencing what occurs in the sport of water polo following the ejection of players: A team can be left to play in a “man up” formation — as well as the more common understanding of the phrase that suggests helping another person in need to get to a higher level of achievement.

To that end, the many Mercedians and local businesses who participated in the 2024 Pints and Pizza event helped contribute to the Man Up Opportunity Foundation’s mission to support local high school athletic programs, with a particular focus on expanding the capabilities of the aquatics programs in Merced County.

Fluetsch, Fluetsch, Svendson, and Santana all credited Merced’s aquatic’s programs with their sense of discipline as they woke up and prepared for 6 a.m. practices in 60-degree weather, six days a week during the school year. Additionally, the group credited the area’s aquatics programs with their connections outside of high school, saying that a number of the relationships formed during water polo season or on the swim team have have survived past their graduation ceremonies and transformed into business relationships.

The board members of the Man Up Opportunity Foundation got their experience bringing events together with the revival of the Burgers and Brews event, which the quartet brought back to life following the state of California’s shelter-in-place directives in the wake of the COVID-19 virus and ensuing pandemic. As they looked to MERCO’s Pints and Pizzas event in 2024, they connected the two major goals of supporting local businesses and supporting the communities’ financial successes and achievements. Fluetsch went onto note that this year’s event was made possible by Mid Valley IT, Fluetsch & Busby Insurance, Cal Green Landscaping, Fluetsch & Busby Equipment Rentals, Servicemaster Restore, Central Valley Opportunity Fund, Leap Carpenter Kemps Insurance Agency, Imagine Graphics, Bob Craig CPA, C&R Harvesting, Image Masters, Larissa With London Properties, and Agave’s Mexican Grill,

Those who weren’t able to or missed this year’s Pizza and Pints celebration can get another chance to celebrate local businesses in September as part of the Burgers and Brews event. Stay tuned.

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