Thursday, December 29, 2011

MSO represents at slain officer's funeral

Among the more than 4,000 people who mourned slain Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin last Tuesday were Manatee Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard members Lieutenants John Murrell and Lorenzo Waiters, Deputies Damon Ackerman, Anthony Brown and David Byington, as well as Detectives Darryl Davis and Jason Carey. The MSO motorcycle unit, Sgt. Mike Kenyan and Deputies Cyril Niklinski and Mathew Hall, was also there.

The honorable Ed Price is 94 Sunday. May he stay forever young.

Big ups to Rachel Brown. The Bradenton Christian senior hoopster broke 1,000 points for her BCS scoring career in the Smoothie King Classic.

The 13th annual Manatee Hurricanes Baseball Steakout & Reunion is Feb. 3 at McKechnie Field. Call head coach Dwayne Strong at 725-2293. Or Bruce Braithwaite at 720-9224.

Tracey Vita is 39. Again.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A most 'Merry-Okee' Christmas, indeed

It's funny what presents make a family's Christmas memorable.

Our family exchanged a lot of gifts over Saturday and Sunday.

Artwork. Books. CDs. Clothing. Jewelry. Wine.

There was plenty of love that went around.

A lot of laughs, too.

Especially because of something called a "Merry-Okee."

My sister-in-law brought it to the family's Christmas Eve gift exchange and it was the hit of the party.

Made by Hallmark, it's a battery-operated Christmas toy karaoke microphone advertised to "Change your voice to sound like an ELF!"

Well, I don't know about elfs, but we sure sounded like a bunch of Munchkins from the "Wizard of Oz."

The package also says, for "Ages 3-and-up."


We hadn't had anything to drink yet, either.

Each of us took turns and some of us sang on it together.

Not that I'd call it singing.

Either way, we had a blast with Merry-Okee and laughed so much our stomachs hurt.

It was fun.

So much fun, in fact, when my wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law went shopping for holiday bargains Monday, they also snapped up enough Merry-Okees so every member of the family has one for next year.

Our Christmases may never be the same.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two youngsters gone way too soon

First Brett Wagner.

Then Joshua Rogers.

Two 18-year-olds, best friends, Lakewood Ranch High School seniors ready to take the next great step in their young lives, gone.

Taken after a tragic vehicular accident at Rye Road and State Road 64.

On Christmas night.

My God.

Wagner died at the scene.

Rogers, Tuesday at Blake Medical Center.

Only Terron Sanders, Wagner's cousin and a passenger in the truck, survived.

Only he wore a seat belt.

If only ...

They were headed to Walmart on S.R. 64, the west side of Interstate 75 when their truck was struck by another vehicle, causing it to roll, ejecting both Wagner and Rogers.

At a time of year when people should be sharing in the joyous afterglow of a truly blessed holiday, two Myakka City families will each be preparing to bury a son.


How unbelievably sad.

Pray for them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas heroism resonates 50 years later

George Leonard was a cop for 22 years in New Jersey.
You name it he did it. Did it proudly, too.
Starting youth programs.
Working undercover narcotics.
Assisting needy families.
"I always wanted to help other people," said the 71-year-old Union City, N.J., native and Bradenton retiree. "Be there for kids like I was raised. Help them get through life."
Or help save a precious life.
Leonard did that almost 50 years ago.
How appropriate for Christmas.
"I was at the right place at the right time," he said, sifting through old newspaper accounts, brown with age, of what happened Dec. 23, 1962.
"People use the word hero a lot," said Joan Gates, a Tampa executive and the elder of Leonard’s two daughters. "But he is what a hero should be."

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Supporters seek assist for Tiger banquet

Palmetto High supporters need an assist for the Jan. 18 awards banquet at the Bradenton Yacht Club for the Class 5A state semifinalist and District 10 champion Tigers.
Call Chris Atkinson at 224-3478. Or Jim Amerson at 737-6600.

Oh, no! Janie Mo (Simpson) Ribley hit the Big 3-0!
Pepi, Jodie, Joey, Jennifer, Adam, Jane and Jim say, “You go, girl!”

A deep bow to Carol, Diane, Lin, Lois, Phyllis and Sandy, the wonderful women who wrapped thousands of gifts over the last few weeks for us holiday shoppers at Beall’s, 6355 Manatee Ave.

Enjoyed a good laugh with Paul Stander, who greeted each customer courteously at the Palmetto Post Office on 7th Street West during the holiday crush.
When Stander spotted the addresses of the Christmas cards I was mailing --- both were going to Ireland --- he smiled.
“We happen to have a one-day special,” he said. “For $1,200 I’ll deliver them in person.”
Then I pointed out one of the cards was going to a pub in County Kerry.
“That’s $50 off!” he joked.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All done with your Christmas shopping?

Got your Christmas shopping done?

It was a simple question in passing with an acquaintance, but it gave me pause.

Yes, I answered.

I'm all done.

I think.

Made a stop Tuesday for a couple of things that ought to do it.

Actually started shopping more than a month ago and worked my way along from there.

Did some at lunch, some after work and a time or two on the weekends.

All of it's for my wife.

Got some of the presents wrapped, but still have a few left to do.

Wrapping presents isn't my bag.

Which is why those women who wrap presents at Beall's have earned my undying gratitude and respect.

They can make the humblest gift look like a million bucks after they're done with the ribbons and bows.

Of course, come Christmas morning I'll tell Sherri I did it.

Maybe not.

She knows better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The roar grew louder and louder with 22 seconds remaining on the Citrus Bowl scoreboard.
It began to reach a crescendo as thousands of deliriously happy Manatee High School faithful, jammed into the stadium's lower east stands, counted down with the clock:
" ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... YEEEAAAAAAAAAAY!"
When the clock hit :00, a wave of Manatee Hurricane stampeded the field.
Players danced and cavorted around and around, overcome with joy, trailed by coaches who shook hands and hugged at the team's magnificent accomplishment.
The Manatee High School Hurricanes were the 2011 Class 7A state champs.
How sweet does that sound?
State champs.
"It's DYNOMITE," cried Tiki Jackson, waving pompons from the stands.
State champs.
"It sounds so great," said City Councilman Gene Gallo, beaming on the field. "I wish I could sign a a parade permit tonight."
State champs.
"It's beautiful," said coach Eddie Shannon, as the celebration swept around the team's patriarch.
Hurricane players bunched up, helmets held high, mugging for the cameras at the 35-yard line, thrusting their index fingers into the night.
Nearby, Debbie Krowe fought back tears.
"This is their time," said the Shake Pit owner, whose marquee on Manatee Avenue is must viewing for Bradenton.
"'State champs' is going up on the sign tonight!" she said. "Tonight!"
Up in the stands, so many wanted to join the celebration, but the security folks lining the field on the east side prevented that.
Regardless, there were a lot of good vibes emanating from the crowd.
Among them was Sean Smith, who played fullback for the Hurricanes when they lost to Tampa Plant on this same field two years ago.
"It's so excitrting, I want to be out on that field myself, playing," said the University of Central Florida sophomore. "I feel the love for all of them."
So did Casey Kraft, another Manatee alum and now a University of Florida.
"I wish this could've happend my junior year, but I'm glad I came back," she said. "This is so unbelievable."
Which was a common sentiment throughout the crowd as the Hurricanes steamrolled previously unbeaten Jacksonville First Coast and shut out the Bucs to boot.
Corey Gallian, yet another MHS alum among a throng of grads back for the big game.
Several of them had their faces painted in red, white and blue.
"I cant believe this!" he yelled above the din.
Believe it.
Drakkar Wilson did.
Like Smith, he's a former Hurricane who played in the same state championship game two years ago.
"Them boys earned it," said the Eastern Kentucky University defensive lineman. "I feel like I'm out there, too."
Don Keller, whose son, Blake, had a huge game Friday night, recovering a fumble for a TD, was happy for another reason, too.
Blake wears No. 55, the same number worn by his late grandfather, Dan Keller, a ferocious player for Manatee in his day.
"I know Dad's proud and happy, sitting up there in Heaven," said the photographer.
It was a heavenly night for the Manatee Hurricanes, indeed.
State champion Manatee Hurricanes.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The jewelry box was on a living room end table.

Inside it was a blue ribbon, neatly arranged and attached to an inverted five-pointed gold medal that looked like an upside down Sheriff's star from the Old West.

It was the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award for valor in combat.

It took my breath away.

It belonged to Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, then a retired Chicago firefighter living out his life in Delray Beach and one of 27 Marine Medal of Honor recipients from the bloody February 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima.

No military engagement in our nation's history produced more such distinguished men.

What brings it to mind is Wednesday's news that Marine corporal Dakota Meyer's heroism in Afghanistan in September 2009, which won him a Medal of Honor two years later, may have been exaggerated by Marine brass.

Meyer, 23, was recognized by President Obama for driving twice into an ambush in Afghanistan against orders. He is said to have saved 13 U.S. soldiers and almost twice that many Afghan soldiers, while killing eight insurgents as he fought to recover the bodies of four comrades.

But is it true?

According to an investigation of dozens of military documents by McClatchy Newspapers, which owns the Bradenton Herald, "crucial parts that the Marine Corps publicized and Obama described are untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ban on texting drivers makes sense

Texting while driving?

That some of our state lawmakers are talking about coming up with a ban on the practice makes sense to me.

I have difficulty answering my cellphone while I'm driving without being distracted.

I don't know how other motorists can keep their minds on the road and text at the same time.

I wouldn't even try.

Too dangerous.

The debate is whether the proposed ban would make roads safer --- and if it's an intrusion on our personal liberty.

I vote yes on the first part.

I've had people bump into me at the supermarket and step on me at outdoor concerts because they were so engrossed with their texting.

I shudder to think about what could happen when they're behind the wheel.

Which brings me to the other point:

As for it being an intrusion on one's personal liberty?


I know when I'm driving along US 301 and I see the driver next to me texting, I want to put as much distance between us ASAP.

I don't want that driver intruding on my space while he's paying more attention to texting than driving.

Florida is one of 15 states without a ban on texting while driving, even though more people admit to the habit and support a law that would deter it.

Thirty-five states have texting bans on all drivers. Other states have added restrictions for groups, such as bus drivers and teens.

Florida has no such ban.

“It’s time that we caught up with the rest of the nation,” one Florida lawmaker said.

Here, here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lots of luck to Manatee, Palmetto

Manatee High senior Nikita Bellinger will sing our national anthem at Hawkins Stadium tonight before Manatee’s Class 7A state semifinal showdown with Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
Good luck from mom Althea, sisters Dee Dee, April, Stacy, Chris, Big Ben, Amber, Nick and Aunt Francine as well as her other aunts, uncles and supporters at Palmetto’s St. James AME Church.
Go, Canes!

And go, you Palmetto Tigers in tonight’s Class 5A state semifinal against Miami Norland at Harllee Stadium.

Big Daddy will rock Clancy’s at 10 p.m. Dec. 23 — bet Santa’s there — and then help ring in 2012 at Tarpon Point on New Year’s Eve.

Jessica and Tony Velazquez named daughter Kynnda’s new baby brother Kaden Antonio. Grands Robert and Linda Boone are proud.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Folks, don't try this at home

This could only happen to me.

Or can you relate?

I got home Wednesday morning after my daily trip to the gym and parked the pickup in our garage.

I grabbed my water bottle, which I refill and put in the garage fridge, and my truck keys as I got out.

For some reason, I thought better of it and slipped the keys back into the ignition.

Then I locked the door and closed it all in one motion.

Ever had one of those moments where you dumbly stare at something and say to yourself, "Did I just do what I think I did?"


A tug on the door handle was all I needed to confirm as much.


Even better was the realization my spare set of keys was ... inside the truck, too.

After a brief panic attack, I called AAA and explained my predicament.

Help will be at the house by 10 a.m., I was told.

Cool. Could've been worse, given my stupidity.

So I took a quick shower and was toweling off when the doorbell rang.

Can't be.

I opened the door.

It was!

AAA locksmith Jeff "Whiskey" Harrell was on the scene.

Not 10 minutes had gone by since my phone call.

Man, I told him, that's what I call service.

Harrell said he was in the neighborhood when he got the message.

Then we went into the garage, he popped the lock, and I was good to go.

Wednesday was getting off to a good start afterall.

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Where the heck is Manatee County?'

Imagine this happening last Friday night.
Minutes into their euphoria over advancing to the FHSAA state semifinals, players at both Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer and Miami Norland probably asked their coaches, teammates and parents:
"Where is Manatee County?"
"What is Bradenton Manatee?"
"Isn't Palmetto High in South Dade?"
Oh, yeah.
Bet that happened a lot last Friday night after Dwyer's Panthers beat St. Thomas Aquinas in their region final in Palm Beach Gardens.
Ditto for Norland after the Vikings stunned unbeaten Glades Central on the powerful Raiders home field in Belle Glade.
And now they're coming here.
Welcome, y'all.
Dwyer's upperclassmen may be a bit more familiar with this side of the state, having played Plant and Armwood in the playoffs in years past.
They've probably made that long road trip across SR 60 a few times.
This trip will be a little different.
Come Friday they'll probably bus up SR 710 out of Palm Beach County, hang a left on SR 70 in Okeechobee and keep on going west.
Right at that flashing light at Brighton, they might see the sign that reads:
Bradenton 97 miles.
As their team buses barrel across SR 70 --- watch out for the state troopers in Highlands County! -- those kids will see all that Old Florida country we love and wonder, where in the heck are we going?
Norland's team will probably come across Alligator Alley then turn north on I-75 and wonder the same thing.
I really doubt if any of the Vikings have ever even been to these parts.
They'll be coming to a place where high school football is rock-ribbed and still holds sway over our lives every fall.
I spent 23 years on that other coast and after 14 years here, I still love telling people who ask me what Bradenton and Manatee County is like:
It's the kind of place where the high school football game is still the big deal on Friday nights.
None are bigger than this Friday night with two state semifinals at stadiums 15 minutes apart.
Here's hoping for two good games and another week of football for Manatee and Palmetto.
And thanks to Dwyer and Norland for visiting.
After Manatee's region final win at Hawkins Stadium, I shook hands with a lot of the Fort Pierce Central fans and wished them all a safe trip home.
I look forward to doing it again this Friday night.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good riddance to another hurricane season

There wasn’t much hoopla.

No celebrating or anything close to it.

Maybe a solitary raised fist when the date Nov. 30 finally arrived on the calendar last Wednesday.

It was the end of hurricane season.


Florida went unscathed for the sixth straight year and that’s a beautiful thing.

After the beating we took in 2004 and 2005, none of us take hurricane season lightly.

When June 1 rolls around now, six months of dread ensues.

Anytime another system is brewing in the Atlantic, all eyes were on the horizon.

Traffic to the hurricane websites goes off the charts, too.

We load up on water at the store and have our plywood at the ready.

Prepare for battle stations!

So when we reach Dec. 1 without a tropically-related incident, that is definitely something to be happy about.

Although I can’t speak for everybody.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rock with Big Daddy, Santa on Sunday

Like good foot stompin’ rock-n-roll and a visit with Santa Claus, too?
Then head over to Woody’s River Roo, 5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, Sunday where Big Daddy will get the joint jumping at 1 p.m.
They’ll also be bringing along some Christmas cheer for the kids.
Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves will arrive at 3 p.m. for free photos and fun for the family.
Call 722-2391.

Beloved Jeanne Parrish is 93. May she stay forever young.

The new all-weather turf at Ohio’s North Canton Memorial Stadium’s was named Don Hertler Sr. Field this season. The Imperial Lakes winter resident coached Hoover High for 20 years, leading the Vikings to a 163-43-3 record.

Say it ain’t so! Kenny Terrell hit the Big 7-0!

Manasota ARC and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County will salute the "10 Magnetic Men of Manatee," 6 p.m. Saturday at a Diamond Jubilee fundraiser at the Bradenton Auditorium, 1005 Barcarrota Blvd.
The irresistible honorees are Dr. John Ayres, State Sen. Mike Bennett, Jim Butler, Dan Callaghan, Bruce Cassidy Sr., Dr. Richard Fletcher, Scott Kallins, Hugh Miller, Billy Rice and Dr. Andy Varga.
Call Dawn Mishler at 941-518-4997.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hurricane season over? Hoooooray!

Hurricane season is over.


Florida went unscathed for the sixth straight year and that's terrific.

Although I don't get the idea meteorologists -- our own Bob "Hurricane" Harrigan being the exception -- share that good feeling.

Watching some of them discuss the relatively peaceful passing of the 2011 hurricane season, one almost gets the impression they're disappointed.

All those dire forecasts by the weather experts about another dangerous season and nothing happened in our corner of the hemisphere.

Sure, there were 18 names storms, but most stayed out at sea, thank goodness.

Then there was Hurricane Irene, which flooded a lot of folks in the Northeast.

How weird was it for us Floridians to be calling family up that way to check on them?

Usually it's them calling us to find how we made out.

With the beating we took in 2004 and 2005, none of us takes hurricane season lightly.

So when we reach Dec. 1 without incident, that is definitely something to be happy about.

For another six months, anyway.

Or until we find that our homeowner's insurance has gone up again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christma$ pre$ent arrive$ early

Dropped off my pickup truck at the local garage Saturday morning for an oil change.

Ask them to rotate the tires, too, please.

Nothing to it.

Matter of fact, by the time we got back home -- 15 minutes tops -- the garage was calling.

The truck was ready.

But ...

Uh, oh.

You're going to need new tires, they said.

I had a hunch that was coming.

Seemed like I just got new tires a couples of years ago, too.

You'd think I was a long distance driver.

Anyway, I bit the bullet and told them to go ahead with the new tires.

So much for getting away cheap.

After what those tires cost, they'd better last me a long, long time.

"Merry Christmas," Sherri said.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Meaningful Thanksgiving for my family

An intensive care unit is the last place any of us would want to spend Thanksgiving Day.
Yet it was at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Ore., my sister, Maureen, and her family gave heartfelt thanks.
A week ago last Friday, Brendan Haddon, my 19-year-old nephew, was seriously injured. He was a passenger in a one-car accident when a friend spun out in snowy conditions and hit a guard rail near Oregon’s scenic Mount Hood, where the Haddons have lived for 30 years.
He lost his left foot and almost lost the other.
Five procedures in six days saved it.
The last, hopefully, was Thanksgiving Day.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do Black Friday? Don't think so

Black Friday?

I've been inundated with emails about this deal and that bonanza for the past 10 days and I'm almost half-tempted to join the masses, who will flock to the malls to begin their pre-holiday hauls Thursday night.


I have several friends for whom Black Friday is almost a Holy Day of Obligation and I'm always amused by the tales of their adventures going from store to store in the wee hours.

That's as far as it goes for me.

Same for my wife.

Sherri loves to shop as much as anyone, but as for doing the Black Friday deal?

Not her.

Not me.

By the time those folks are gearing up for the late night shopping spree, yours truly will probably be half-asleep in front of the TV, trying to stay awake for the 49ers-Ravens game between the Brothers Harbaugh.

And digesting a big Thanksgiving dinner.


Henry Lawrence won some big fans

When former Oakland Raider Henry Lawrence sang our national anthem prior to his old team’s Oct. 16 game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, he impressed many people with his poignant performance during pre-game ceremonies honoring the late Al Davis.
Among them was the wife of John Madden, the NFL Hall of Fame coach and icon.
Virginia Madden told her husband’s former right offensive tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion it was the finest rendition of the national anthem she had ever heard.

Faye Blackstone’s posthumous induction into the county’s Agricultural Hall of Fame generated fond memories for all who knew and loved her.
Take Buddy Keen, a rancher whose family owns orange groves in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties.
"One morning we were saddling horses in the barn and I accidentally hit her," he recalled. "She came around and said, ‘Son, let me show you how to saddle a horse.’"
No fooling.
This was a woman who rode a horse for more than 90 years, was the featured act in Gene Autry’s Wild West Rodeo, and is enshrined in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Go-kart racer Morgan Healey’s recent success would’ve made Dan Wheldon proud.
The Saint Stephen’s School freshman, who was mentored by the late British racing driver at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, took second in the Rotax Junior Florida Karting Championship Series and was also voted Most Improved out of 200 drivers.
Wheldon, who had a home in St. Petersburg, was killed in last month’s Las Vegas IndyCar 300.

Read more Friday in Vin's People at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving looking good already

Thanksgiving is still a couple of days away and already it's looking good.

Thanks to my mother-in-law.

Sherri and I hosted the family for the traditional feast last year and we're doing the honors again.

Maybe it's because we have a pool.

Anyway, my mother-in-law is taking care of the turkey while we're handling the sides and dessert.

But Sue Manring dropped off a little something ahead of time.

A case of Coors Light.

It was on the kitchen floor when Sherri and I got home Monday evening.

We looked at each other.

"Mom," my wife said.

Usually, when the family comes over for an afternoon at the pool and a barbecue, we spring for the beverages, too.

This time my mother-in-law beat us to it.

Don't misunderstand though.

Sue usually has a couple of beers and that's it.

Regardless, when Sherri called her mom to say thanks for the nice surprise, Sue gave explicit instructions for yours truly about getting those Silver Bullets cold ASAP.

"Make sure the mountains are blue," she said.

Gotta love my mother-in-law.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Save commissioners' prayers for Sunday

Pray or don’t pray.

That’s a vexing issue facing the Manatee County Commission.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation from Madison, Wis., has requested our esteemed commissioners cease prayers before their weekly commission meetings.

Unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive.

That’s what a foundation attorney called the practice.

Expensive, too, he might’ve added.

If this turns into a lawsuit, that will not go over well with Manatee County taxpayers.

The commissioners want to fight to pray?

Don’t do it on our dime.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Playoffs already? Where'd season go?

That our high school football playoffs start Friday night makes me wonder about one thing:


Seems like just last week I was at Palmetto's kickoff classic against visiting Venice that was postponed due to lightning, then drove down to Manatee to catch its preseason tuneup against visiting American Heritage of Delray Beach.

Ditto for Southeast's kickoff classic against visiting Fort Myers and the Noles' subsequent season opener against Largo.

Boy, the regular season sure flies by, all right.

It happens every year.

You get psyched for those Friday night lights -- or Thursday night lights -- and, whoosh! it's over before you know it.

So we get to savor it a few more weeks.

The pre-game pageantry and marching bands at halftime.

Reveling in big plays and high-fiving friends after our team scores.

Going out after the game for beer and wings.

Those Friday night lights sure are fun.

Here's hoping the home teams who are in the dance keep it going.

All the way to Orlando.

Props for Southeast High's FFA chapter

Big ups to Mike Buckley and Southeast High School’s FFA Chapter.

Out of more than 650 programs nationwide, SEHS was selected as the three-star winner in the National FFA Chapter Award program at the 84th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last month.
Southeast FFA president Andrew Merrill and VP Wyatt Fulghum (pictured with Buckley, l-r) were also on hand to accept the honor — the highest level of accomplishment a chapter may achieve.

"This is a big deal," said Buckley, the school's FFA advisor for 17 years. "It shows the high level of proficiency these kids attained. They aim for it every year. It’s like getting to the Final Four."

Formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Organization has more than 500,000 student members in nearly 7,500 chapters preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.

Those are the sounds of wedding bells Saturday for Ballard Elementary fifth-grade teacher Amber Whirtley and Jessee Hatch, who will marry Saturday at Bishop Planetarium. Her late grandmother, Norma Lloyd, will be there in spirit.

Speaking of wedding bells, former Manatee Sugar ‘Cane Lindsay Smith and former Marching ‘Cane drum major Steven Hussey say “I do” Saturday in Venice.

John and Jacquelyn Flinn are bragging on son, Colby, who won first in the Florida BASS Federation Nation non-boater category at Kissimmee's Lake Toho. The 17-year-old caught nine live bass for a winning total of 25.07 pounds, topping a field of 54 anglers.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wanted: Local dogs for Guinness record try

Phoenix is one handy dog, said owner Trisha Antonelli.

The 2-year-old Red Heeler/German Shepherd mix picks up trash.

He gathers recyclables.

He retrieves his PVC agility equipment and loads it into her car.

He doesn’t drive, though.

“But he thinks he can,” said the 31-year-old trainer.

Phoenix will be asked to do something simple yet significant on Nov. 19.

Community dog owners are invited to the Animal Network’s Canine Christmas Festival 2011 on the Bishop SPCA Animal Shelter grounds. There they will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for Most Dogs Doing Sit/Stay.

The record is 100.

They want 101 — or more.

Read more Tuesday on

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thank PETA for Mullet Smoke-Off publicity

Got an idea for the Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association membership.

Send a thank you note to Dave Byer, manager of corporate affairs with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for the free publicity.

Wrap it around a smoked mullet, too.

After the crazy flap over the traditional mullet toss at its annual Mullet Smoke-Off, the Terra Ceia fundraiser is bound to enjoy a boffo turnout next Saturday.

Smoke that, PETA!

Though a lifelong animal lover, I’m usually ambivalent about the animal rights organization.

The issue they raised years ago about wearing fur had a major influence on our society.

I get that.

But not this.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Score one for ex-Hurricane in Afghanistan

Marine Capt. Doug Schofield, a 1991 Manatee High grad and former Hurricane, made a friendly wager in Afghanistan with Matt Hick, a 2004 Venice High alum and hospital corpsman second class.
When the Hurricanes and Indians squared off in their Class 7A-District 10 showdown Oct. 21 at Hawkins Stadium, the grad from the losing school had to wear the other’s school T-shirt.
Manatee won 52-19 and clinched the district title.
So Hick wore the shirt.
It reads “Manatee Special Forces.”

Good to hear Bill Crusselle is back as general manager at River Wilderness Golf and Country Club. Bill was GM from 1996 to 1999, then held similar posts at clubs and resorts in Florida and Arizona.
A graduate of FSU’s school of hospitality and a devoted Seminole fan, Bill liked to joke, “All I learned at FSU was the Seminole chop — and I don’t mean sirloin.”
He and wife Mary Jane moved back to their home in Parrish.

A camera crew was on hand the other morning filming Pastor Joe Connolly while he celebrated Mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs.
It’s for TV so shut-ins can observe Mass at home if they’re unable to attend church during Advent.
How convenient, I told the good padre.
Especially if they fast forward through his homily and cut their Mass time in half.
Father Joe gave me a look I remember well from all those times I spent in the principal’s office during parochial school.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's showtime for new Sugar 'Canes director

Vicky Duquette’s day is like that of so many working moms.

Up at 5 a.m., work by 7 a.m., driving kids to soccer practice, making dinner, helping with homework, etc.

“Busy, busy, busy,” said the 38-year-old physical therapist assistant and married mother of three. “It’s non-stop.”

Yet at that moment Duquette was involved in something that made her day wholly unique.

Fine tuning a dance number by 24 Manatee High School Sugar ‘Canes practicing for Saturday night’s Mr. Sugar ‘Cane Show at the school’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater.

“Linda Boone said it’s almost like putting on a wedding, but I’m up for the challenge,” Duquette said.

Boone would know, having done 25 of the fashion and dance shows as Sugar ‘Canes director.

Lori O’Leary, her successor, did four.

Now it’s Duquette’s turn.

Read more Thursday in

Monday, October 31, 2011

Darth Vader, pirates and werewolf, oh my!


It was a welcome sound Monday night.

Sherri and I were wondering whether we'd get any trick-or-treaters.

We did. Enough to keep us on our toes.

And the big orange bowl of Almond Joys at the ready.

When we ran out of that candy, there were mini-Chips Ahoy.

We were visited by a variety of delightful young characters.

There was Darth Vader. And a Storm Trooper.

There was a zombie princess, a queen, a witch, an indian, a fallen angel, Ironman and a Werewolf.

Then there were two ninjas. Or was it three?

And two pirates -- a boy and a girl.

Every one of them said, "Thank you," too.

One of them, the witch, I think, said, "See you next year."

We'll be waiting.

Trick or treat!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pink Palace deal great step forward


Word that the Pink Palace will receive its long overdue renovation is terrific.

The dowager of 10th Street West is saved.

I had my doubts.

The 1920s era Manatee River Hotel has been an eyesore since it became vacant almost seven years ago.

It was hardly a welcoming sight to motorists coming south across the Green Bridge.

Despite the City of Bradenton’s efforts to halt its deterioration, the historic eight-story building had languished to the point where it seemed the wrecking ball was inevitable.

Perhaps the time had come to put it out of its misery.

If this deal with developers had fallen through?


Not anymore.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ol' Raider tackle shows he's still got game

Henry Lawrence performing in Bradenton a few years ago.

Folks here have always known Henry Lawrence has a great voice.
The Oakland Raiders, for whom he played right offensive tackle for 13 years while winning three Super Bowls, knew that, too.
So when the NFL team honored late owner Al Davis at their Oct. 16 home game against the Cleveland Browns, they invited Henry, who still looks like he can strap on the pads at 60, to sing our national anthem at Oakland Coliseum.
Before flying out for the game, Henry got an assist from Del Couch at Palmetto’s Howling Dog Studios, who came up with the arrangement for a poignant performance.

Looking to grab something good to eat before Friday night's Manatee-Palmetto game at Harllee Stadium?
There’s the annual Palmetto Rotary Steak Dinner 4-7 p.m. in the Palmetto High cafeteria.
You’ll get a 14-oz. ribeye with all the fixin’s for $20 per plate.
Proceeds go to Tiger athletics.
Steakmeister Dave Bailey is doing the honors.

It’s the final stretch for those handsome 11 Manatee High seniors raising funds to win the title of Mr. Sugar Cane, which returns 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 to Manatee’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater.
They are Rider Bilter, Hershel Caywood, Ryan Harris, Wyatt Hoffman, Tate Jernegan, Jacob Jordan, Chase Sandberg, Jacob Sperko, Matt Stevens, Nick Tankersly and Ricky Terrell.
Krystal Weaver, a USF senior and former Sugar ‘Cane, will emcee.
Call Sugar ‘Cane director Vicky Duquette for tickets and information at 232-4731.

For good sounds and suds, Goodbyeddie will rock 4-8 p.m. Saturday at the inaugural International Beer Festival between McAllister’s and Ed’s Tavern on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch.
That’s Jimi Camastro, Ted Eastmoore, Duncan Edgar, Doug Henderson and Russ Vega.

Read more Friday in Vin's People at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Face to face with an adult bald eagle

It's a trip being practically face to face with an adult bald eagle.

Which is where I was Wednesday at Wildlife, Inc., the non-profit rescue and rehab on Bradenton Beach nobly run by Ed and Gail Straight for the past 25 years.

The eagle was a female at least 5 years old, who was brought to the clinic Saturday night from East Manatee, suffering from a chest wound of unknown origin.

The majestic bird hardly blinked as we gazed through the open door of the portable kennel housing her.

The eagle puffed up her feathers a bit when colleague Grant Jefferies got up close while taking pictures, but overall she was as poised as could be.

Regal, indeed.

"She could go right at you if she wanted," Gail Straight said.

Every other time I've seen this American icon has been from a distance --- atop the concrete pillar of a street light along US 301. Or perched on the limb of a dead tree in a marsh east of Myakka City. Or with other bald eagles gathered on a high tension tower at a hyrdoelectric damn on the Susquehanna River west of Havre de Grace, Md.

And that's with the benefit of binoculars.

Not Wednesday.

It was an experience, one that heightened my respect for the bald eagle.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hurricane? Nah, too cold. Right!

Famous last words?

Upon arriving home after a week in Ohio's fall climes, we were greeted with a forecast that called for a potential tropical disturbance that might affect Florida.

Nah, I told my wife.

It's too cold.

Even watching the Weather Channel folks over the weekend didn't prompt concern.

Looked like it'd make the Honduras and those parts wetter than usual, is all.


Rina, the season's 17th tropical storm, blew up into a hurricane Sunday with 75 mph winds that are predicted to exceed 111 mph before nearing Cancun Friday morning.

While four computer models have it lingering around Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, two other models predict it moving northeast and across our state's southern tip.

The last hurricane to originate in that neck of the woods and rip across South Florida was Hurricane Wilma, which reached Category 5 briefly, in 2005.

And it happened in late October, too.

Uh, oh!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One raise our community isn't celebrating

Getting a raise is usually something to celebrate.

Unless you happen to be a Manatee County commissioner.

That $272 bump they just got from the state?

They must wish it never happened.

That goes for Carol Whitmore.

Other county commissioners, too.

Given the economic straits their constituents have endured the past several years, it isn’t right.

Not with double-digit unemployment in our community.

Many of those who do have jobs probably can’t remember their last raise.

They’re just glad to still be working.

Our teachers must be shaking their heads.

Or considering running for county commission.

Seventy-five thou for a part-time gig?

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

9-year-old knows how to hit Tiger's funny bone

Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cuadros and Michael Haynes

Funny moment at Blackburn Elementary School.
Kevin O’Brien, a Palmetto High offensive tackle, was working with fourth-grader Michael Haynes as part of a mentoring program Tiger head football coach Dave Marino instituted for his players.
A husky youth football player himself, Michael was asked if he thought he’d grow up to be as big as O’Brien, who goes about 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.
“I’ll be that big,” the 9-year-old said. “But with a lot less belly.”

Oh, no! Kiernan Wilkins is one year shy of the big 3-0!

If you’re up for a good steak for a good cause before a big game, check out Palmetto’s annual Rotary Steak Dinner 4-7 p.m. Oct. 28, at the Palmetto High cafeteria before the Tigers take on the Manatee Hurricanes at Harllee Stadium.
You get a 14-ounce ribeye with all the sides for $20 per plate.
Proceeds go to Tiger athletics.
Steakmeister Dave Bailey says Manatee folks are most welcome.

Speaking of Hurricane fans, do you remember Aaron Reese?
A former freshman, JV and varsity backup quarterback at Manatee several years ago, he graduated from Charles D. Owen High in Black Mountain, N.C., and is now the starting senior quarterback at Brevard College, Brevard, N.C.
Reese was the South Atlantic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a school record five TDs on Oct. 1, leading the Tornados to their first victory, 41-24 over Tusculum College of Greenville, Tenn.
He’s their leading rusher and also plays baseball for Brevard.

Oh, no! Shawna DeLoach Kerley is one year shy of the Big 4-0!

 Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"No Kill" recalls memory of two favorite cats

I can understand Mike Picchietti's beef about the Manatee County Commission's decision Tuesday to work toward a "No Kill" policy at its animal shelters.

All the barking dogs at the new rescue animal shelter near his East Manatee home gets on his nerves.

A former neighbor's lone barking dog did the same to me.

I can also respect Dennis Vitton, a mobile home park president, who didn't oppose "No Kill," but didn't want fixed feral cats released back to the neighborhood under the shelter's trap-and-release program.

Cats will drive you crazy.

They will also break your heart.

I know.

I adopted a couple of wild kittens 24 years ago when I lived in Delray Beach from an acquaintance who was an animal lover like me.

They were Persians, a brother and sister.

Top Cat and Midnight I named them.

I can still see the curtains behind the couch moving as I rose every morning and they came out to greet me.

Midnight sunned herself in a window sill every day I left for work.

Top Cat jumped up on the couch behind my  head as I watched TV at night.

I loved those cats.

Then a neighbor came over one day and remarked how thin Midnight looked.

I had thought the same thing, but never gave it more consideration.

The vet told me she had feline leukemia.

I had a choice.

Putting her down, or giving her a daily needle to prolong her life.

I chose the latter.

As fate would have it, Top Cat who seemed fine, got it, too, and died suddenly.

I had no choice this time.

I took Midnight, who was 5 like her brother, to the Palm Beach County animal shelter and had her euthanized.

I cried like I hadn't cried in years.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A lost weekend for family's pro teams

What a sports weekend for Team Mannix.

A forgettable weekend, that is.

Just a few days after watching the Rays, my wife's favorite baseball team, end their season losing to Rangers in the ALDS, we watched my favorite baseball team, the Phillies, go down in Game 5 of the NLDS to the Cardinals.

That was Friday night.

Saturday wasn't much better.

Maybe even worse.

We had our family over for a BBQ and watched the Gators -- my sister-in-law's alma mater -- get beat up by LSU.

Then that night it was Ohio State -- my in-laws' favorite team as well as ours -- snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 27-6 third quarter lead against Nebraska.

Sunday was more of the same.

First the Eagles, my team, continue their maddening brand of bad football, losing at Buffalo.

Then the Bucs, Sherri's team, end up getting pounded by the Niners in San Francisco.

A lost weekend for Team Mannix, all right.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Billing bank for cutting their grass

Occupy Bradenton?

I’ve got one for the folks who will gather this morning at 43rd Street West and Manatee Avenue to protest, among other things, banks giving us the business.

Tell me if it sounds familiar.

The house next door to ours was foreclosed on several weeks ago and the people who occupied it had to go.

Which left the grass untended.

So it grew and grew.

I’ll be darned if I’m going to cut it, I told myself.

Helping out a neighbor is one thing.

Helping out a bank that’s an absentee owner?

That’s another.

Besides, I’ve already got my hands full every Saturday morning keeping our own lawn maintained.

Let the bank hire somebody to cut their property’s grass.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can Manatee superintendent carry a tune?

Big ups to Tim McGonegal, Manatee County’s district school chief, for being named the Florida Music Educators Association’s 2011-2012 Superintendent of the Year.
The honor recognizes his leadership in promoting music education and advocacy for the curriculum.
It’s not unusual for McGonegal to drop in unannounced on our schools to hear young musicians and drive out of town for their performances, too.
He’s also the only superintendent who’s been a regular attendee at the FMEA All State Chorus Concert in Tampa since 2009.
Give an assist to Witt Elementary music teacher Julie Hebert, FMEA’s president-elect, for fostering the nomination.
So did McGonegal sing or play an instrument during his halcyon days as a student in Dunedin?
“I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever,” joked the Dunedin High alum, Class of 1976.
He’ll be saluted Jan. 13 at the FMEA conference in Tampa.

Turns out Diana Shoemaker, Habitat for Humanity’s new executive director, is another member of our town’s esteemed Ohio University alumni.
There’s Hizzoner Wayne Poston, County Commissioner John Chappie, and former city of Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn.

Manatee High’s Sugar’ Canes Camper Dance Clinic is 9 a.m. Oct. 15 at the MHS gym for third-through-eighth graders.
They’ll perform at the Mr. Sugar’Cane Show Nov. 5 at the Davis Building Performing Arts Theater.
Call Laurie Smith at 730-6128 for details.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People on

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

$3-per-gallon gas? Make it $2.50

Three dollars a gallon gas by Christmas?

That's what the economic experts say.

Pardon me if I don't fall on my knees, throw up my hands and say thank you, Santa.

That the lousy economy continues to take down gas prices with it is not news.

They're not going down fast enough for me. Or you.

If the analysts really want to get my attention, then let's talk about gas under $3 a gallon.

Like $2.50.

Gas prices have hovered around the $3-and-change mark for so long, it almost seems like Big Oil has been giving us a break.

It's not.

Getting gouged at the gas pump over the last several is one reason our economy has been in the dumper.

So I'm not impressed at $3 a gallon gas by Christmas.

I'm not going to complain about it, understand.

I like to save a few bucks at the pump as much as the next guy.

But the gas prices will have to come down more than that to put me in the holiday spirit.

A hell of a lot more.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kirk's death reawakens an old ghost

Ron Getman. Claude Kirk. Gene Witt.

The first, a former state trooper and county commissioner.

The second, a colorful, controversial Florida governor.

The third, a former educator and Manatee County school superintendent.

“A long time ago,” said Witt, 81.

A time that briefly came back for him and Getman last week when Kirk, 85, died Wednesday in West Palm Beach.

A moment in time when they were caught up in the wake of one of Kirk’s bombastic headline-grabbing stunts.

The week the governor, known as “Claudius Maximus” among other nicknames, appointed himself Manatee school superintendent, fired the school board, and took over the administrative offices in grandstanding defiance of school busing.

“A very interesting time,” said Getman, 67. “Short-lived, but interesting.”

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Special cake for special lady on Saturday

Florence Rhodes Lawrence
Florence Rhodes Lawrence has been baking cakes for fellow worshippers at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church for as long as the congregation can remember.
Which is longer than most of us have been alive.
Come Saturday, it will be the church’s turn to bring the beloved deaconess and former church Mother of the Year a cake.
It’s Florence’s 100th birthday.
The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. and niece Susan Stubbs said more than 200 family members and friends are expected from as far as New York, the Carolinas, Georgia and Miami for the celebration.
Born in Madison, Fl., Florence came to Bradenton at 6.
“Auntie thinks she’s baking a cake for Saturday, but she’s going to get one instead,” her niece said.

Southeast High hosts Manatee 6 p.m. Tuesday in their annual Volley for the Cure volleyball fundraiser for the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
Pink will be the color du jour for the teams, referees and the volleyball.
Call Jan Drummey at 792-7398.

Norma Lloyd
Just a reminder there will be a Celebration of Life for Norma Lloyd, 2 p.m. Sunday at Norma Lloyd Park, 1024 24th St. E., Bradenton. The matriarch of Little League baseball in Bradenton passed away Sept. 18 at the age of 79.

Big ups to niece Lauren Pierce, who just made co-captain of the Manatee School for the Arts’ dynamic Heat dance team.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rays' comeback worth staying up late


No, it wasn't the Tampa Bay Rays' play-by-play guy calling a dinger against the New York Yankees in Wednesday's crucial regular season ending game at the Trop.

It was my wife chanting in front of our living room TV, urging on Matt Joyce to encore his Tuesday night 3-run blast.

Ditto for when Johnny Damon came up to bat.

"C'mon Johnny. C'monnn. HOME RUN!"

That was the bottom of the first inning.

After Mark Teixiera's grand slam in the top of the second, making it 5-0 Yankees, Sherri became a tad subdued.

As did most Rays fans, I imagine.

Which is the funny thing about my wife, who is anything but vocal when it comes to watching our national pastime.

Especially in our house.

That's because of my big mouth going when we've had the Philadelphia Phillies, my favorite ballclub, on virtually every night of the season.

So since the Phillies clinched long ago, we've been watching her team.

Down 5-0, Sherri hadn't given up the ghost.

"Let's go Ra-a-ays, let's go!" she began repeating occasionally as the game wore on.

Her tone changed, however, when Teixiera went yard again to make it 6-0.

"Cra-a-a-a-ap," Sherri said, disappointedly.

It was almost the same when Andruw Jones --- this guy still playing? --- went deep to make it 7-0.

"Oh, ma-a-a-a-an," she said. "I think it's going to be over tonight."

Well, honey, we've still got the Phillies.

But ... several innings later.


When things seemed their bleakest for the Rays, Sherri went to the bedroom to watch the rest of that game while I watched the Phillies go onto snuff out the fading Atlanta Braves last chance to get into the playoffs.

I didn't have to watch the Rays game to know what was happening.

My wife's clapping heralded each big moment in the wild six-run eighth inning.

Then when Evan Longoria smacked his three-run homer, followed by Dan Johnson's two-out, two-strike game-tying homer in the ninth, all I heard were screams of joy.

I finally turned off the Phillies' game to join her.

"Oh, now you want to watch my team," Sherri greeted me, sweetly sarcastic.

As the game went into extra innings, she kept an eye on the game and the other on the clock.

She had to be in Tampa early Thursday, which meant getting up at 6:15 a.m.

Yet Sherri hung on through the 10th and 11th innings, then --- "YEEEAAAAAY!" --- fairly flew out of bed, arms held high just like Longoria on his dramatic game-winner in the 12th that propelled the Rays into the postseason.

It was worth staying up for, we agreed.

I hope my wife still feels that way when the alarm goes off.

No going to sleep during Rays' comeback


No, it wasn't the Tampa Bay Rays' play-by-play guy calling a dinger against the New York Yankees in Wednesday's crucial regular season ending game at the Trop.

It was my wife chanting in front of our living room TV, urging on Matt Joyce to encore his Tuesday night 3-run blast.

Ditto for when Johnny Damon came up to bat.

"C'mon Johnny. C'monnn. HOME RUN!"

That was the bottom of the first inning.

After Mark Teixiera's grand slam in the top of the second, making it 5-0 Yankees, Sherri became a tad subdued.

As did most Rays fans, I imagine.

Which is the funny thing about my wife, who is anything but vocal when it comes to watching our national pastime.

Especially in our house.

That's because of my big mouth going when we've had the Philadelphia Phillies, my favorite ballclub, on virtually every night of the season.

So since the Phillies clinched long ago, we've been watching her team.

Down 5-0, Sherri hadn't given up the ghost.

"Let's go Ra-a-ays, let's go!" she began repeating occasionally as the game wore on.

Her tone changed, however, when Teixiera went yard again to make it 6-0.

"Cra-a-a-a-ap," Sherri said, disappointedly.

It was almost the same when Andruw Jones --- this guy still playing? --- went deep to make it 7-0.

"Oh, ma-a-a-a-an," she said. "I think it's going to be over tonight."

Well, honey, we've still got the Phillies.

But ... several innings later.


When things seemed their bleakest for the Rays, Sherri went to the bedroom to watch the rest of that game while I watched the Phillies go onto snuff out the fading Atlanta Braves last chance to get into the playoffs.

I didn't have to watch the Rays game to know what was happening.

My wife's clapping heralded each big moment in the wild six-run eighth inning.

Then when Evan Longoria smacked his three-run homer, followed by Dan Johnson's two-out, two-strike game-tying homer in the ninth, all I heard were screams of joy.

I finally turned off the Phillies' game to join her.

"Oh, now you want to watch my team," Sherri greeted me, sweetly sarcastic.

As the game went into extra innings, she kept an eye on the game and the other on the clock.

She had to be in Tampa early Thursday, which meant getting up at 6:15 a.m.

Yet Sherri hung on through the 10th and 11th innings, then --- "YEEEAAAAAY!" --- fairly flew out of bed, arms held high on Longoria's dramatic game-winner in the 12th,

It was worth staying up for, we agreed.

I hope my wife still feels that way when the alarm goes off.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hawaiian shirt, shorts, sandals not needed

Wanted: high-end, wealthy-looking Palm Beach types, ages 30 to 70.

That's what the cattle call ... er, casting call specified for extras needed during a three-day shoot at Ringling Museum's Ca' d'Zan Manson for "Parker," a thriller starring Michael Chiklis, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte and Jason Statham.


It'd be cool to maybe meet Michael Chiklis. Or Jason Statham.

Well, I'm afraid I'm not high end.

Although my wife says I'm hard to put up with sometimes.

Champagne and canapes? I'll pass.

Make mine beer and wings.

I sure as heck ain't a wealthy-looking Palm Beach type, either.

According to the casting call it means tuxedo, tux shirt, bowtie, pocket squares, black dress shoes, black socks, etc., etc., etc.

Guess there's no room for a guy who prefers Hawaiian shirts, shorts and sandals.

That's OK.

I've been to Palm Beach for a few functions during my 19 years in Palm Beach County --- without getting thrown out! --- and I'll keep dressing the way I do, thank  you.

But I am between 30 and 70.

One out of three isn't bad.

What's that?

The casting call is filled up?

Story of  my life.

Friday, September 23, 2011

To know Norma Lloyd was to love her

"Isn’t Norma Lloyd your grandma?”

Amber Whirtley has heard that a lot over the years.

More times than she can count.

It makes Whirtley proud.

“People I don’t even know will come up and ask me that,” said the Ballard Elementary School teacher. “‘Tell her I said, Hi.’ Everybody knew her.”

Everybody, indeed.

From county commissioners to concession volunteers at that little ballpark at 24th Street East.

It’s remarkable even for Bradenton, where so many people know one another.

Everybody knew Norma Lloyd.

And to know her was to love her.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, September 22, 2011

MHS seniors vying for Mr. Sugar Cane

The 11 handsome young men vying for the title of Mr. Sugar Cane are Manatee High seniors Rider Bilter, Hershel Caywood, Ryan Harris, Wyatt Hoffman, Tate Jernegan, Jacob Jordan, Chase Sandberg, Jacob Sperko, Matt Stevens, Nick Tankersly and Ricky Terrell.
The show returns to Manatee’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater Nov. 5.
Krystal Weaver, a USF senior and former Sugar 'Cane, will emcee.

Norma Lloyd
The Southeast Seminoles will have a moment of silence at Kiker Stadium before tonight’s Sarasota game for Norma Lloyd, a longtime member of the school’s advisory council.
The matriarch of Little League baseball in Bradenton, Norma passed away last Sunday at 79.

Charlie McCullough is back in business!
The former Philadelphian proprietor has taken over the Longwood Grill & Pub, 5802 Longwood Run Blvd., Sarasota.
It’s a neat sports bar just off University Parkway.
Call 388-7613.

Jerry Koontz
After all those years in a suit, retired United Way honcho Jerry Koontz joked about his new getup:
Knee high black socks, slippers, shorts and a T-shirt that reads, “Beer and Cigars. Not Just for Breakfast Anymore.”

Jill and Josh McGarry named their first bundle of love Finnegan Daniel McGarry.
A grand Irish name.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Monday, September 12, 2011

Playing 'Grandpa' for a day. Or two.

The sticker given out by the receptionist at Gene Witt Elementary School Monday morning was cool.

It read, "Grandparents Make Smiles Happen"

Even when they may not really be grandparents.

Like yours truly.

Leah James, a Witt kindergartener, thinks of me as Uncle Vinny.

Her sister, Brooke, a second-grader, does, too.

They are the darling daughters of my wife Sherri's boss Jon James and his wife Jen.

It was Grandparents Day at the school, but the girls grands live in Michigan and wouldn't be able to make it.

When we heard how disappointed they were, we decided to do something.

I volunteered to be a "Grandpa" for a day.

It turned out great.

Leah was surprised and gave me a big hug when Jen and I walked into the Witt cafeteria.

I had fun making sure two of her classmates finished their hot dog and hamburger, respectively, after they'd already enjoyed their red-white-and-blue popsicles.

The one with the hot dog finished, anyway.

When our half hour lunch was up, we returned to Leah's classroom where I got another hug and drove back to work.

I get to play Grandpa all over again Thursday for Brooke.

Can't wait.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11's aftermath resonates decade later

My glasses were almost ready that morning at the Eye Center on Cortez Road and the overhead TV was tuned to BayNews 9.

It was just before 9 a.m. when the anchor said they were switching to New York for breaking news.

We were transfixed by what we saw:

A gaping, smoking hole in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Must be an accident, I figured.

Probably a puddle jumper, a twin-engine airplane like one I’d flown on a few years earlier from Newark to Cape Cod.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ex-Cane holds own in Ole Miss debut

Chris Conley’s first game as starting holder and backup punter for Ole Miss went smoothly. The former Manatee Hurricane, No. 94 for the Rebels, held for two field goals and an extra point.
Unfortunately, Ole Miss lost 14-13 to BYU.

Suzanne Seagle finished two years working for SOAR, a Wyoming camp for special needs children, in high style. The Saint Stephen’s and FSU alum climbed Grand Teton, the highest mountain in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park at 13,775 feet.

Braden River High School will hold a special ceremony honoring Army Spc. 4 Patrick Lay and a presentation will be made to his family before its Sept. 16 home game with Palmetto.
The BRHS 2008 graduate and former Pirate tight end was killed in Afghanistan Aug. 11 and is buried at Sarasota National Cemetery.

Manatee Memorial Hospital and Shake Pit are double-teaming the “Manatee Football Is In My Blood Drive” for Suncoast Communities Blood Bank.
The drive is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Pit, 3801 Manatee Ave. W.
The first 100 blood donors get a free ticket to the MMH/SCBB Challenge Sept. 16 at Hawkins Stadium pitting Manatee against No. 1 ranked Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, N.J., at 6 p.m. and Tampa Plant against Bergen Catholic of Oradell, N.J., at 8:30 p.m.
MHS cheerleaders will also be at the Pit selling tickets to their 4th Annual Lee Roy Selmon's Tailgate BBQ.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marjory Stoneman Douglas is spinning in her grave

Drilling for oil where?

When Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachman recently put forth the idea of drilling in the Everglades, I thought --- what a great idea.

Great, that is, if you want to torpedo any support you might have for your candidacy in this state.

Now the Guv supports this inane idea?

OK, many of did not know there is a small oil drilling operation in Collier County, but it doesn't produce the kind of high grade we put in our rides.

It's low grade oil for tarring roads, among other uses.

So why even consider fooling with this?

"We have to be very cautious on any oil drilling, whether it’s already in the state or in our beaches or in the gulf because we aren’t going to ruin our environment," Scott said. "With regard to the Everglades, we have to be very cautious if there’s going to be any more drilling. It’s my understanding, we haven't had any problems to date so my goal would be to be very cautious."

Don't do it, Guv.

It isn't enough that our beautiful beaches are under siege every year by the "Drill, Baby, Drill!" gang.

Now Scott thinks it'd be OK to do so in the pristine Everglades?

Slick Rick, indeed.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the sainted environmentalist and author of "The Everglades: River of Grass." is spinning in her grave.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Photo, friendship endures long past 9/11

Jay Rentz, yours truly and Bill Ruth in June 1991.
 The framed photo is one of my favorites and it is never far from sight.

It was taken outside Bill Ruth’s home in Wheaton, Md., where there was a mighty party going on that June in 1991.

A teacher, Bill had just returned from Desert Storm where he’d served as a helicopter pilot with the Maryland National Guard and his wife, Georgette, wanted to celebrate.

I wasn’t going to miss it and flew up from Florida.

Jay Rentz, another longtime pal and Washington D.C. detective who’s also in the photo, was there, too.

What a great weekend, a remembrance I cherish more than ever as years go by.

It was the last time I saw Bill alive.

He was killed on 9/11.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bradenton Nine Devils celebration Oct. 22

How many of you remember or heard of the old Bradenton Nine Devils?
They were our town’s black baseball team that thrived during segregation in the independent Florida State Negro League from 1937 to 1956.
Waymon Armstead, James “Son” Copeland and Morris Paskell are among those surviving Nine Devils, whose home games at long gone Roush Field, as well as McKechnie Field, were festive affairs in the community.
On Oct. 22 at the 13th Av Dream Center, there will be a celebration, “Innings Ago,” honoring those players, that team and their legacy.
Families of deceased Nine Devils, the ballclub’s fans and public are invited to attend and reminisce about that bygone era.
Call 779-3598 for details.

Outgoing United Way honcho Jerry Koontz was runnerup in the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s second annual Bling Fling celebrity bartender competition.
Joltin’ Jerry’s potent “Appletini” was nosed out by Bling Fling King John Moyer’s funky Caribbean concoction, “All Day, All Night Marianne,” named for his wife, a self-proclaimed beach bum.
The event helped raise $1,500 at the Dan and Corrine McClure Center in Lakewood Ranch.

Welcome back to the “pilgrims” from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, who were among the estimated 1.5 million people attending World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
The pilgrims included Joshua Audet, Logan Jones, Spencer Jones, Andrew Kurutz, Shari Kurutz, Celeste Matthews, Luke Smith, Kandice Steele and Gina and Jeff Young.

Don’t forget Manatee High’s spanking new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater if you want to watch the Hurricanes play nationally ranked Good Counsel tonight in Olney, Md., on three big screens and hear it on surround sound.
Tickets are $10.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricanes playing on my old stomping grounds

A handsomely renovated Cashell Elementary School

When the Manatee Hurricanes play Our Lady of Good Counsel Friday night, they'll do so in a part of the country that has a special place in my heart.

Olney, Md.

I spent 2.5 years in that neck of the woods, working for the Montgomery County Recreation Department from January 1975 to June 1977.

It was during my hiatus from journalism and what a wonderful time it was, indeed.

I was a rec coordinator, refereeing kids basketball and umpiring youth baseball around the Rockville area, but my base of operations was running programs for the students at Cashell Elementary School in Olney.

Flag football, T-ball, softball, baseball, summer day camp.

It was a great time in my life in a setting that still had its rural charm despite the inevitable onset of growth.

I became fast friends with many of those families, especially in the Norbeck Meadows subdivision across the street from the school.

It was so hard to leave them when I decided to return to Florida --- I'd spent 1971-74 in Homestead --- and get back into sports writing.

I'd had it with those winters!

From time to time I wonder where all those children from Cashell went, realizing they're all adults now with families of their own.

Perhaps some of their kids will be playing against Manatee Friday night.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family shoe was on other foot during Irene

What a weird feeling it was, following Hurricane Irene.

Usually, it'd be my siblings up in South Jersey calling me to find out how I was doing.

This time it was the other way around.

Late last week as Irene churned north, I called my sister Jeanne and brothers Joey and Jimmy, trying to give them encouragment and tips about being prepared.

Given what Floridians have been through the past seven years, we know a thing or two about hurricanes, right?

I also told my sibs chances were the hurricane would lose its steam by the time it arrived.

After years of hearing how our warm tropical waters are "fuel" for hurricanes' engines, I knew that wouldn't be the case when Irene chugged into the Atlantic's colder waters off the coasts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Hey, I'm no meteorologist, but it makes sense to me.

I also told them to be more concerned about losing power and flooding.

South Jersey had already experienced a record month for rainfall.

Anyway, they made it through Irene OK, thank goodness.

Now you and I are keeping a cautious eye on the horizon for Tropical Depression 12, which looks like it'll be Hurricane Katia before long.

The family shoe is back on the other foot.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veteran MCSO deputy suspension excessive

Let me get this straight.

Lt. John Murrell, perhaps one of the community’s most visible deputies in the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, worked more than 52 hours of overtime over a 16-month period, but didn’t put in for it.

So he gets suspended for three weeks.


That sort of thing --- working OT and not claiming it on one’s time card --- has become part and parcel of having a steady job and wanting to hang onto it in this lousy economy.

It might even earn you a plaque from the company for dedication and devotion and all that.

Not a three-weeks suspension without pay.

What's the expression?

No good deed goes unpunished.

I realize the MCSO has to operate within certain rules and regulations, and it behooves it to avoid entanglements with federal labor officials.

But this is overkill.
Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee on