Monday, March 24, 2014

Tickets to Saturday's record sellout an adventure

If you were part of that record 8,556 crowd at McKechnie Field last Saturday, raise your hand.
Sunburned? Yeah, mine, too.
And my father-in-law's.
Funny part is, we almost never made it to the ol' ballyard.
On my way to work Tuesday morning, I stopped by McKechnie to buy a pair of tickets and there was quite a line. Two of them actually.
Turns out there were a lot of folks trying to get their money back from tickets they'd bought to the St. Patrick's Day game with the Yankees.
That was the day before and it was a rainout.
Overheard one guy tell the ticket office person with some urgency they had to fly back to Pittsburgh that afternoon.
This went on for awhile.
Finally, when my turn came at the window, I asked the fellow for a couple of seats for Saturday's game with the Phillies in Section 12. We'd enjoyed seats there earlier for the March 1 game against the Rays.
Those seats weren't available, he told me, but a couple in the right field grandstand were.
Sold, I said, giving him my credit card.
Ticket envelope in hand, I returned to my truck, pulled onto Ninth Street West and continued onto work.
But before I reached 13th Avenue West, I decided to check the tickets.
Good thing.
They were for last Thursday night's game against the Orioles.

So I turned around and headed back to the McKechnie ticket office, hoping I could make an exchange then and there.
Uh, oh.
Those two lines weren't any shorter than the ones I'd navigated before.
So I waited and waited
Aah, but I was in luck.
The woman in front of me wanted tickets to Thursday night's game with the Orioles.
Then a guy at the front of the line, who'd just finished his business at the window, announced he had two tickets to Saturday's Phillies game for $15 apiece.
First row in Section 21 in left field.
And the game's a sellout, he said.
So, bing-bang-boom, I sold my tickets to the woman for face value ($28), then turned around and paid the man for his tickets.

Of course, leave it to my mother-in-law to joke I'd bought counterfeit tickets.
They weren't.
Got the sunburns from nine innings in Section 21's first row to prove it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Garrity compassion a powerful example for state

The images of Josh Hunter are indelible even after all the years have gone by.
Images conjured up by news the Florida Clemency Board has heard an appeal from the former Braden River High School head football coach’s family and friends to reduce his 10-year sentence for DUI manslaughter.
The first image was from the 2003 state championship weightlifting meet at Lakewood Ranch High School, where he coached the girls team.
When one of Hunter’s lifters won her weight class title, she leaped into his arms amidst a cloud of chalk dust and left her handprints on his black T-shirt.
A joyful moment.
The second image was the extreme opposite.
Hunter was forlorn standing outside Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church in 2009 after the funeral mass for his best friend and coaching colleague, Doug Garrity, killed when Hunter rolled his truck after an afternoon of drinking.
Numerous people embraced Hunter, but the Braden River coach was the picture of despair.
His irresponsibility had cost his buddy his life.
He knew, too, the state would exact a harsh penalty, which it eventually did.
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

That lucky osprey feather packs some punch

Lucky osprey feather works for Andrew McCutchen

There’s a cool story that goes with the osprey feather Lloyd Fait wears with his Pirates Booster Club ballcap while on duty working security at McKechnie Field.
The feather floated down from a nest atop one of the light towers during batting practice before the Pirates March 7 game with the Twins. Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen picked it up and stuck it in his dreadlocks.
Upon returning to the dugout, the 2013 National League MVP gave the feather to Fait and told him to wear it.
So what happened?
McCutchen homered that game and told the usher to keep wearing the feather.
Hope Mathews, a fifth-grader at Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School, and Elise Raimon, a Haile Middle School seventh-grader, will have their handiwork in 2014 Embracing Our Differences art exhibit at Sarasota’s Island Park and at Bradenton’s Riverwalk beginning March 28. Hope’s teacher Kathy Kushmer. Elise’s is Joseph Gibson.
• Last but not least, maybe you noticed Wednesday's sign on the Shake Pit marquee along Manatee Avenue West.
If you didn't, what the message means is this:
After 40 years in this business, including the past 16-plus years with the Herald,
retirement is right around the corner for yours truly.
My last day is next Friday, March 28.
Wish me luck.
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Giving blood to meet favorite Pirate player

Brad Slopey didn't want to have his blood drawn.
Who can blame him?
Born with Down syndrome, the Pittsburgh Pirates fan had already undergone more procedures than he could count.
So when Dr. Joe Coroso, their family physician, needed blood work done for a regular checkup several years ago in Pittsburgh, Brad told him no thanks.
"He's always been reluctant," his father, Jim Slopey, said. "He had open heart surgery at five and a lot of surgeries since then."
But Coroso, who was also the Pirates team physician at the time, had an idea.
"Joe asked Brad, 'Who's your favorite Pirate?'" Slopey's dad recalled. "At the time, it was Jay Bell."
Bell was a Pirate infielder from 1989-1996.
"Joe says, 'If I arrange for you to meet Jay Bell, will you h ave blood drawn?'" the father related. "Brad said, 'Yeah,' So we came down here (McKechnie Field), met Jay Bell and we’re watching the game and Jay Bell comes to bat.
"Brad yells, ‘Hey, Jay Bell, hit a home run!'
"Jay turned around and goes, 'Hey, Brad Slopey! Give blood!’"
And he did.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Yard sale an entrepeneurial exercise, education

Yard sales were never a big thing for me.
Never went to one.
Never held one.
Until last Saturday morning, that is.
The event was to raise money for our niece, a freshman at the University of Florida, and by our family's modest standards it was a success.
It was an education for yours truly, too.
Amazing how people will pony up money for stuff which had been thatclose to going to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity or the Kidney Foundation or whomever.
Like a pair of weathered poolside recliners we'd  been wanting to unload.
They weren't that comfortable and the only thing they did was leave rust marks on our pool deck.
Sold both of them for $5.
Or a bouquet of plastic flowers we were always threatening to throw out.
A neighbor bought it for $1.
Then there was this gizmo my sister-in-law brought over. You lie down on your back and place your lower legs on these two holders atop the device that vibrate. It's supposed to be good for your back.
It'll never sell, I thought.
Not only did a woman buy it -- after a hilarious demonstration by my game sister-in-law -- but she bought a bunch of other items, too.
Which is more than I can say for the five Hawaiian shirts I put out for the cause.
Only sold one for $3.
Anyway, the yard sale went well enough the family is planning another one in June.
Can't wait.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

City Council should support Turning Points

The next time Adele Erozer sees Bradenton City Council members Bemis Smith or Gene Gallo inside Turning Points at the Bill Galvano One Stop Center will be the first time.
That goes for Gene Brown, too.
They’d be most welcome, Erozer said, to see what really goes on there.
Their colleagues, Harold Byrd and Pat Roff, have been there, however, and are personally familiar with the nonprofit on 17th Avenue West that offers help and hope to the down-and-out.
Which is why the Turning Points executive director is vexed by the council’s 5-0 vote to convey its misgivings about changes there.
“De facto expansion,” one council member described it.
Improvement is more like it.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

This Mercedes shows winning style at Trop meet

Big ups to Mercedes Boyles, a Level-4 gymnast at South Florida Gymnastics. At the Gasparilla Classic at the Trop, she took first on bars, floor and beam, was second on vault and won first place overall in her age division, scoring 37.375, her best meet of the season.
• Duffy’s Tavern boss Peggi Davenport wants all the revelers in Sean Murphy’s annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Holmes Beach Sunday to know the fabulous Dunedin Pipe Band will perform not only during the parade but afterwards at Duffy’s.
• The one and only Coach Eddie Shannon is 92 years young.
By the way, the Eddie M. Shannon Scholarship Golf Tournament is April 26 at Terra Ceia Bay Golf & Tennis Resort, 2802 Terra Ceia Blvd., Palmetto.
It’s sponsored by the Pi Beta Beta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Call B.C. Pratt Jr. at 941-722-5006 for details.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Superintendent unloads big pitch for investigation

 One of Rick Mills’ first official acts as Manatee County’s new school superintendent was throwing out the first pitch at McKechnie Field last March.
It was a breaking ball.
A year later, he’s firing a heater all the way to Tallahassee.
Whether it’s a strike we’ll have to wait and see.
Mills wants the Florida Department of Education’s Inspector General to investigate the Manatee school district’s financial practices under its previous administration from 2010-2012.
Principally, that would be Tim McGonegal, Mills’ predecessor, and Jim Drake, the former assistant superintendent responsible for finance.
Those are just some of the allegations Mills unloaded in last Thursday’s letter to the inspector general.
Malfeasance? Misfeasance?
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Manatee High School alum new U.S. Army Ranger

 A salute to Christian Marsden. The 2013 Manatee High School alum graduated Feb. 21 from the U.S. Army Ranger Assessment and Selection Program at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to the elite 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Marsden made it through 31 weeks of training at Fort Benning, including RASP, which constitutes eight weeks of the most physical and mentally demanding infantry training.
His proud family includes parents Holly and Roger and brother Nick
• If you want to see Manatee County’s impressive scholastic dance team talent, come out to see the sixth annual, “Yes, We Can DANCE” showcase, March 15 in the Samuel R. Neel Performing Arts Center at the State College of Florida , 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton.
Showtimes are 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
For details, call 941-792-8274.
Or email
• Big ups to Bashaw Elementary School’s Hannah Rudolph. Running with her dad, Rudy, the 10-year-old recently completed her first distance race, the Cinderella Royal Family 5K run, in 49 minutes. It was part of the Disney Princess Half Marathon event. Hannah also raised more than $150 for the Manatee County No-Kill Shelter.
Her proud family includes siblings Abigail Rudolph, Joshua Rudolph, Michael Stambaugh and Jessica Rogers, as well as mom Lisa Rudolph.
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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Monopolizing TV remote thing of the past

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is still intact, thank you.
I’m no longer monopolizing the TV remote like I once did.
You can ask my wife.
When the recent Winter Olympics were drawing near, Sherri was making noises about watching them on our bedroom TV alone since she knew I was not a big fan.
She didn’t want to listen to my saracastic running commentary, either.
Especially during the figure skating.
Well, surprise, surprise!
We watched the Sochi games every night.
That included the figure skating, definitely a first for me.
Sherri was amazed.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Phillies' Sandberg starts second season in pro ball

After his first season of professional baseball in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, Cord Sandberg reported Thursday to spring training at Clearwater with the Phillies.
Baseball website FanGraph pegged the ex-Manatee Hurricane as the fourth best outfielder in the Philadelphia farm system: “He has above-average, left-handed power, but is still learning to tap into it in game situations. He has good bat speed. Sandberg has a patient approach and has an idea at the plate. Defensively, he should be above-average in left field thanks to his range and solid arm.”
• The Suncoast Mummers String Band has two concerts on tap. The first is 8 p.m. Friday at Neel Auditorium, State College of Florida, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton. The second is 7 p.m., March 7 at Renaissance on Ninth, 1816 Ninth St. W. Bradenton.
Call 941-729-4069 for details.
• Bayshore High’s Krista Edwards, Ashley Perry and Arianna Priebe are delegates and Julia De Camargo and A’driana Sams are alternates for American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

McKechnie anthem lineup loaded for spring

Wakeland Elementary School’s Mikaela Boelkins, Emma Craig, Olivia Hodge, Melanie Van Peenen and Emily Watrobsky sang our national anthem at the Pirates’ Black and Gold game Tuesday.
Michelle Montezeri did the honors Wednesday against the New York Yankees.
Beginning with Saturday’s game, the lineup of folks performing this distinct honor at McKechnie Field’s Grapefruit League games are: 
Saturday — Jordan Lutz, Tampa Bay Rays
Monday — Jessica Cary, Boston Red Sox
Thursday — Brooke Bonderer, Barry Yoderer (O Canada), Toronto Blue Jays
Friday — Ben Bakker, Minnesota Twins
March 9 — Ellery Carlson, Boston Red Sox
March 10 — Jessica Tilickey, Baltimore Orioles
March 14 — Christal Cashmore, Philadelphia Phillies
March 15 — Robin Fernandez, Tampa Bay Rays
March 17 — Matthew Huff, New York Yankees
March 20 — Nicole Wishon, Baltimore Orioles
March 22 — Stephanie Roberts, Philadelphia Phillies

March 25 — Diana Walters, Paul Villaluz (O Canada), Toronto Blue Jays
March 27 — Thomas Jomisko, New York Yankees

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Braden River alum gets appointment to Annapolis

A salute to Sam Valley. The Braden River High School alum, now at the University of Florida on a Navy ROTC scholarship, has received an appointment to the Naval Academy with the Class of 2018. Annapolis has been his dream and, though he didn’t get in last year, he reapplied and just got the good news from Congressman Vern Buchanan’s office. While at BRHS, Sam ran cross country as a sophomore, was on the Pirate weightlifting team as a junior and senior, was the JROTC battalion commander, a member of National Honor Society and student government and graduated in the top 10 of his class.
 His proud family includes dad Steve, mom Lauren and older brother Alex.
• Those are wedding bells April 12 for Amber Walinga, one of the terrific team of waitresses at Popi’s Place Too in Palmetto, and Beau Peurifoy.
• Our Lady Queen of Martyrs’ Youth Ministry holds Polynesian Night Saturday. Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner is at 6 p.m. and the live auction at 7 p.m. at Flynn Hall, 833 Magellan Dr., Bradenton. Call 941-755-1826.
I may have to loan Fr. Joe Connolly and Fr. Benjamin Medeiros some Hawaiian shirts.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

After nearly 40 years, couple love Pirate City trips

Shannon O'Mealy, grandmother Lois Barrett read ball's autographs.
Bob and Lois Barrett have forgotten more about Pittsburgh Pirates baseball than many of us could ever hope to know.
He's 86, she's 85 and have followed the ballclub forever.
Back home in Johnstown, Pa., they've got scrapbooks about the Pirates probably older than most of the team's fans who turned in force at Pirate City Tuesday.
It was the team's first full squad workout and nobody wanted to miss it.
"MVP! MVP!" some chanted as centerfield Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates star centerfield and 2013 National League MVP jogged onto one of complex's four diamonds.
The Barretts took it all in stride.
They've seen Pirates stars aplenty over the years.
The petulant Barry Bonds.
The paternal Willie Stargell.
The princely Roberto Clemente.
They've seen them at old Forbes Field and now PNC Park.
But they like seeing them up close and personal at Pirate City.
"We try to catch spring training every year," Barrett said. "The Pirates are all we know back home."
Even more than the Steelers? And Penguins?
Yes, he said.
Barrett was involved in mining more than half his life.
He started out working in them, then inspecting them and eventually was appointed assistant labor secretary of labor for mining under President Ford and continued in that capacity under President Carter.
It was during Ford's administration the Barretts began making a regular pilgrimage to Bradenton to see the Pirates.
The year was 1975 -- almost 40 years ago.
They hope there's a few more years to keep coming here, too.
Barrett has survived multiple bouts with cancer and is carrying on.
"I've got longevity in my family," he said.
One grandfather lived past 100.
An aunt recently died at 103.
So Barrett's optimistic.
"Maybe we've got a few more trips left," he said.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Words come back to haunt supervisor of elections

“Do you read the stories about the people in Africa? The people in the desert, who literally walk two- and 300 miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do — and we want to make it more convenient?”

Mike Bennett must rue the day in May 2011 when he said those words as a Republican state senator.
Especially this past week.
Now Manatee County’s supervisor of elections, Bennett presented a strategic plan Tuesday to dramatically streamline the county’s voting precincts — cutting them from 99 to 69 — while adding five polling places and three early voting sites.
The new arrangement actually has logistical merit, adapting SOE resources to meet the growth in public preference for early voting and voting by mail.
Yet the downside of Bennett’s blueprint is striking and makes people with long memories recall those inflammatory words of three years ago, not to mention his career as a partisan Florida legislator.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cortez author to sign books at Fishing Festival

Cortez author Joe Crawford will be signing both his books, Arianna and the Spanish Sardines and Nathan and the Stone Crabs at the Cortez Fishing Festival, Saturday and Sunday.
His booth will be at the end of 119th Street West.
The setting for both books is local, and readers will recognize the DeSoto Monument, Emerson Point, the Portavant Temple Mound, Egmont Key and Fort De Soto.
• New Manatee High School baseball skipper Rob Viera and the Hurricanes honored Bruce Braithwaite by naming their G.T. Bray clubhouse after him. A selfless man if ever there was one, Bruce has served the ballclub and boosters for 29 years.
• Don’t miss the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Walkathon, Feb. 22 at Rossi Park, 808 Third Ave W., Bradenton. There will be food, fun and tons of dogs. Registration is 8:30 a.m., opening ceremony is 9:45 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m.
Visit to register.
Or call Walkathon manager Nina Ionata at 941-479-6611.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Olympics breaks husband's monopolizing TV

Before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics began, my wife made a most magnanimous offer.
Sherri said she'd watch the games on the bedroom TV, so yours truly could watch whatever I wanted on our living room TV.
"I know how much you LOVE the Winter Olympics," she said.
If you detect some sarcasm, you're right.
I don't hate the winter games, understand.
It's just that right about now I'm waaay more excited about the start of spring training and baseball.
On my way home every night the past couple of weeks, I've driven by McKechnie Field just to feel the good vibes.
As for the Winter Olympics?
Sherri's favorite is figure skating.
Singles. Pairs. Long program. Short program. Ice dancing.
She loves it all.
Me, not so much.
That we've got Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay competing from the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex does pique my curiosity, however.
It was an education Tuesday listening to pre-adolescent girls talk expertly about Axels and Lutzes and Salchows while we watched on the ice arena's flat screens as Zhang and Bartholomay whirled their way through the figure skating pairs short program.
All Greek to me.
When they talked about doubles and triples, they meant how many times a skater turns during a jump.
I was thinking extra-base hits.
Anyway, I told Sherri don't bother with watching the winter games on the bedroom TV. Just watch them in the living room and I'll read.
I'm such a good husband like that.
Uh, sometimes.

re here:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Relief may be on way for Green Bridge motorists

If there’s anybody out there who enjoys driving to work, please raise your hand.
Can’t be many.
Especially if they’re traveling south over the Green Bridge every day to their jobs in Bradenton and points elsewhere.
Sounds like a lot of unhappy motorists — and constituents — are stuck making that trip, according to the Palmetto City Commission.
That august body agreed last Monday to find out why their side of the span across the Manatee River is backed up every workday morning.
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant wants to let the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization know about it, too.
Well, it turns out they already do.
Matter of fact, according to MPO transportation planner Mike Maholtz, state and local traffic engineers are already working on it.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

St. Joseph's eighth-grader state champion speller

Ben Cendana's winning word was "sufficient."
Props to Ben Cendana. The Saint Joseph Catholic School eighth-grader is the Knights of Columbus State Spelling Bee champion. He won it Feb. 1 in Orlando, correctly spelling words such as benign and encephalitis. His winning word was sufficient.
Sherri Mannix
• Congrats to HomeBanc’s new director of retail operations, my wife, Sherri Mannix.
• Palmetto’s First United Methodist Church is hosting a piano-and-violin concert welcoming pianist George Kern and wife, Sarah, an opera singer, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the church, 330 11th Ave. W. He will be accompanied Sunday by longtime friend, violinist Anne Hooper, national Scottish fiddle champion.
• Florida State University senior Erin Lisch spent national signing day assisting ESPN’s Holly Rowe Wednesday in Tallahassee and tweeted updates for ESPNU.
Abigail Holmes
 • Big ups to Braden River High School soccer flash Abigail Holmes, who’s going to “The U.” She’ll attend the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and major in marine biology. Parents Ted and Cassandra Holmes and little sister EmmaLee are proud.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Think of grieving, quiet corner of our community

None of us can fathom the horror that took place at Sugar Creek Estates Sunday morning.
One minute seniors who had just attended church were chatting outside like folks do after services are over.
They next minute, tragedy struck.
Three people dead. Four seriously injured.
Good God.
None of those poor people could have imagined something so awful happening to them on a beautiful morning.
They're outside greeting friends and catching up with what's going on in their lives.
No one's in a hurry to leave.
It's a scene that repeats itself every Sunday morning outside every house of worship around town.
But a fellow congregant, attempting to leave the mobile home community's parking lot, accidentally backed up her SUV into the crowd of a dozen or so people at "great speed" according to an eyewitness. Then it continues to go in reverse into a canal, but the driver and passenger are unhurt, fortunately.
How could this happen?
According to the FHP, the driver believed she had shifted gear into drive, but it was actually in reverse when she hit the accelerator.
Was it driver error?
A transmission problem?
The FHP investigation must determine that, but it won't stop the pain.
Two husbands are sorrowful widowers.
Families are without their matriarchs.
Friends are without beloved friends.
A quiet corner of our community is reeling in its grief.
Pray for all of them.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

$4 million Super Bowl commercials better be good

More than 111 million Americans are expected to watch the Super Bowl Sunday night, but half probably couldn’t care less about the game.
That’s right.
They’re more interested in the Super Bowl’s commercials.
According to the Nielsen ratings, 51 percent of people surveyed after last year’s game watched it solely for that reason.
If the pattern repeats itself, advertisers may get a bang for their buck.
B-i-i-i-g bucks.
Guess how much Fox is charging for a 30-second spot?
Try $4 million!
They’d better be good commercials for that price.
There sure were enough bad ones during the past regular season.
When those kind of commercials come on, I hit the mute button on our remote immediately.
In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of such ads from the last several monoths and think you’ll agree on some of them,
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

B'town chanteuse brings band from Big Apple

Bradenton singer Katie Locke and Inland Traveler, her New York City-based indie-folk band, will be in our area Feb. 7-9.
They’ll play Feb. 7 at New World Brewery, 1313 Eighth Ave., Tampa. Doors open 9 p.m. On Feb. 8, they’ll be at Fogartyville, 525 Kumquat Court-Rear, Sarasota. Doors open 8 p.m.
They’ll also be performing live Feb. 7, 4-6 p.m. on WSLR 96.5 FM.
Meanwhile check out their work at:
• Could Jared Paperella have the makings of a Jeffersonian scholar?
Competing against four other state chapter winners, the Bayshore High School student’s oration on the life of Thomas Jefferson won the Florida Society Sons of the America Revolution Rumbaugh Oration Contest Jan. 24.
• Big ups to 15 Lincoln Middle School students, who placed in the top four of their respective events at the Florida Business Leaders of America District Leadership Conference Jan. 11.
They are Jalynne Brown, Shelton Bruton, Blake Butzow, Madison Conrad, Dexter Johnson, Logan Kincannon, Mackenzie Lang, Lexi Leclezio, Caitlin Moore, Nijah Morris, Savannah Peters, Madison Stackhouse, Alaina Stickles, Kiara Watts and Tre Wolken.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New subdivision means cattle, pasture not for long

Every other day I've taken my morning walk past the cattle ranch on Tallevast Road for the last four years.
It's been one of my favorite spots, gazing at the vast expanse of Old Florida growth in the early morning sunlight.
I'm going to miss it.
The ranch is going bye-bye for a new subdivision.
Work crews recently cleared a small parcel to make room for a double-wide project construction trailer.
There's an old two-story home that will be coming down soon. The ranch sheds, too.
They haven't been occupied for some time.
If those buildings could talk, though, what stories I bet they'd tell.
There's still life on the ol' range, if you will.
Cattle still roam the pasture and I'm thankful.
I've had fun seeing the cattle watch me as I strolled by.
If I was in a playful mood, I'd go, "MoooOOO!"
They probably wondered, what's up with this guy?
It was sweet, too, seeing calves every spring, nuzzling their mothers for milk.
Sometimes, the younger ones would scurry away from the fence that separated the pasture from the sidewalk when they saw me, but most of the critters just watched and chewed their grass.
Other times, a ranch hand --- the owner? --- would drive into the property in a pickup truck loaded with feed.
The ground would shake as the bellowing herd rumbled toward the vehicle.
What a scene.
Most of the time, though, the cattle are just spread out over God's green grass, watching the day go by.

That subdivision will probably get under way soon and when it does the cattle will be gone for good.
I'm going to miss them and their wide open spaces, for sure.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I-75 snafu: Wife may never find her way home

Not sure I'm going to be seeing my wife tonight.
That doesn't mean what it sounds like, understand.
Sherri happens to work at a bank located on University Parkway --- on the east side of Interstate 75.
Thanks to Monday's immense traffic foulup at that already torturous roadway, she's among all those motorists whose routine drive home was rearranged by a three-ton piece of construction equipment.
Ever heard of a steel piling collar?
Whatever it is, one of those things flew off the back of a freight company truck trailer Monday morning and bounced along the overpass roadway several times, punching holes in the asphalt as it went.
Motorists underneath I-75, whose cars were pelted by chunks of concrete, must've thought the overpass was coming down next.
Fortunately, that wasn't the case.
Unfortunately, the mishap still screwed up the regular commute for many folks around here.
Sherri Mannix included.
University Parkway can be a huge pain without this happening
I hear about some near mishap every week from my wife.
Having driven to her office in the morning a few times, I can relate.
Defensive driving is absolutely vital to navigating University, especially in the vicinity of I-75.
Anyway, I called her with regular updates Monday regarding the traffic situation.
What should normally be a 15-minute drive home for Sherri will take more than an hour.
In the afternoon, I suggested her taking Lakewood Ranch Boulevard north to State Road 64 to avoid the mess and circle back home from Morgan Johnson Road.
But Sherri decided to give I-75 north a try to State Road 70.
Not good.
There were nothing but red brake lights in front of her, she said.
That was at 7 p.m.
Then when she reached 70, the ramp was backed up with motorists trying to head west, too.
So Sherri got off, drove east, turned north on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to go to 64.
"I should've listened to my husband," she said.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Monkey business takes on real meaning in Palmetto

Monkey business?
Where, oh, where has that mysterious monkey gone now?
You know, the one that has been on the loose in Palmetto during the past week or more.
The critter has sure gotten around, given the numerous sightings we’ve heard about since then.
Snead Island.
Downtown Palmetto.
Palmetto Pointe.
North Palmetto.
Popi’s Place Too. Just kidding.
Literally, this whole escapade is monkey business.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nationals beckon for Manatee High Sugar 'Canes

Super Bowl weekend beckons for Manatee High’s Sugar ‘Canes.
The talented dance team is headed back to Orlando for the Universal Dance Association nationals, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. They'll be shooting for another top 10 finish in the high kick category.
The Sugar 'Canes national team includes captain Holly Braxton, senior officer Sarah Smith, junior officer JulieAnn Galati and sophomore officer Rachel Rothfeld, as well as Caroline Dunn, Camilla Fiumara, Marley Gordon, Amanda Grooms, Alyssa Kopinsky, Monica Mardones, Sarah Melancon, Maddie Moore, Alivia Murdoch, Marissa Pace, Sabrina Partridge, Kylie Plichta, Carley Schmitt and Lucie Walsh.
The director is Amber Platowski and Francesca Ricciardo is the junior varsity coach.
Dan Miller, our new 2014 Manatee County Distinguished Citizen, teaches in the Lifelong Learning program every Thursday morning at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
The title of his eight-week course: Dysfunctional Congress.
“There is no shortage of discussion on this topic,” the former U.S. Congressman joked.
 • Kirby Stewart American Legion Post 24 and Legion Riders hosts the inaugural Bill Field Poker Run Saturday to honor the late post commander, who was killed in an auto accident a year ago.
Registration is 9-11 a.m. at Post 24, 2000 75th St. W., Bradenton.
Call 941-794-3489.
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lakewood Ranch junior vies for Miss Teen Tampa

Big ups to Gabriela Cardenas.
The Lakewood Ranch High School junior will vie for 2014 Miss Teen Tampa, Feb. 2. She was chosen among the finalists from a Tampa area selection process. She’ll compete in the Miss Teen division, which includes modeling routines and interview skills. If Gabriela wins, she’d represent the Tampa area at the 2015 National Miss Teen Competition in Orlando with a shot at more than $30,000 in prizes.
Folks interested in sponsoring Gabriela can call the Miss Teen Tampa Pageant at 1-877-403-6678.
• That wily ol’ stork touched down again for Josh and Jill McGarry. They named Finnegan’s new baby sister, Isla June.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates hold national anthem auditions 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Feb. 1 at McKechnie Field, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton, for their 16-game Grapefruit League schedule.
Vocalists must perform a cappella and sing no longer than two minutes. No instrumental renditions.
Folks who can sing the Canadian national anthem — Toronto visits March 6 and 25 — are welcome to perform it, too.
For more details, call 941-747-3031. Or visit
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This culinary judging thing a tasty proposition

This year, I promised myself, I wasn't going to gobble down every sweet treat put in front of me during the Culinary Food and Arts judging for the Manatee County Fair.
Take small bites, one judge said.
Just a little taste, another said.
Eat just enough to make as good a judgment as you can, said a third judge.
I got off to such a good start, too, when they began bringing the entries around the judges' tables in the Harllee Building at the fairgrounds.
The mango jam was first.
Just a dab on a cracker was all it needed.
Gave it good grades across the board for appearance, texture and flavor.
Ditto for the bread-and-butter pickles.
I'm a sucker for pickles.
Next was the pretzel with bacon beer cheese.
Oooooh, man. It was tasty, but I didn't eat the whole thing.
Then came the Oreo ice cream cake.
Uhhh, oooooh.
I spooned out a little bit of it and tasted it.
Then another.
And another.
Aw, heck, I ate the whole thing and it was goooood!
Scored it accordingly.
So what came next?
A homemade chocolate chip cookie.
Oh, man.
Down the hatch.
Another good score.
Likewise for the cinnamon roll I devoured after that
The peanut brittle, too.
Whether these entries won any ribbons depended on the scoring of my fellow judges, all of whom certainly were more discriminating than yours truly.
Then the committee for the final result.
But I did my part.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Abrupt loss of gentle giant lingers for community

Todd Williams would’ve been excited big time last Monday night.When Florida State won the national championship in those dramatic final seconds at the Rose Bowl, the former Seminole offensive tackle would’ve felt like part of him was out there, too.
But he never got to enjoy that moment.
Williams, 35, was found dead Monday morning at the Tamiami Trail hotel he called home the last six years.
What a tragedy.
Such a loss.
The shock of his abrupt passing lingers for many who knew Williams and were touched by this gentle giant and genuine inspiration.
“Gone too soon,” said Jerry Parrish, the YMCA’s omnipresent Youth at Risk director.
What Williams died from we don’t know yet.
That he suffered for several weeks from stomach pains, loss of appetite and vomiting yet never went to a hospital is puzzling.
While law enforcement saw no signs of foul play, an autopsy and toxicology report will provide answers in due time.
What we do know is this was a remarkable young man. The arc of his life is the stuff of which movies are made.
They should’ve made one about Todd Williams.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beertopia 2014 double-barrel benefit Jan. 18

Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court, Lakewood Ranch, holds Beertopia 2014, 6:30-10 p.m. Jan. 18. The event benefits both the Eye Center, Inc. Vision Foundation, which provides eye exams and glasses for needy school children, and the De Soto Historical Society
For ticket information, visit and Or call 941-587-2848 or 941-747-1998.
 • Helaine Eckstein will display her charming Christmas village sewing creation near the American Sewing Guild booth at the Manatee County Fair beginning Jan. 16.  We did a story on the retired home economics teacher just before Christmas.
• Oh, no! Say it ain’t so! Manatee County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dwayne Denison hit the Big 5-0! Cindy, Victoria and Arianna are amused.
Sally Allen will sign copies of “Cougar” beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in booth 613 at the Red Barn Flea Market and Plaza, 1707 1st St., Bradenton. The author’s 10th novel is about a widow who falls for a man 30 years younger. Shocking! Just shocking!

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Death of gentle giant stunning for community

Todd Williams was the center of attention that day just a couple of years ago.

Read more here:
The gentle giant worked his way around the room, decked out in a Michael Vick replica Atlanta Falcons' No. 7 jersey.
It was lunch time and high school football players from around the Tampa Bay area were at the Police Athletic League complex for a summer 7-on-7 tournament.
The room was packed and humid, but the former Southeast High School tackle had everyone's attention as he recounted his life, rising from the depths of  homelessness to the heights of a national championship with Florida State's Seminoles and a stint in the National Football League with the Tennessee Titans.
A remarkable odyssey.
Sadly, one with a tragic ending.
That Williams was found dead Monday in a Tamiami Trail motel where he lived for six years is stunning and upsetting.
So is word he was in bad shape, confessing to his mother he'd had stomach pain for the past month, lost his appetite, sense of taste and had been vomiting.
Why didn't Williams go to a hospital before now?
We'll never know.
What we do know is this is a terrible blow for our community and those who looked up to him.
Like the kids at Manatee Y Technological High School where he was a teacher.
Williams was a example of how one can overcome life's biggest obstacles and succeed.
Not just on the football field, either, but in the classroom.
Williams got degrees in sociology and criminology.
In 2002, he was the recipient of the NCAA's Inspirational Athlete of the Year Award.
Even Bobby Bowden said it was players such as Williams who made the coach's decision to retire from football such a difficult one.
When the legendary coach honors someone with such sentiment, it reinforces the fact Todd Williams was an extraordinary human being.
It also deepens our feeling of loss.

Friday, January 3, 2014

North's brutal winter reminder of our good fortune

It was summertime, the temperature was soaring and the humidity clung like a wet blanket.
Just another July day in Florida.
A colleague, overhearing our complaining about the weather, sagely put it all in perspective.
This, he said, is our penance for not having to shovel snow up north in wintertime.
The words were spoken years ago, but I’ve remembered them ever since and think of the truism during days like these. Seeing the endlessly brutal weather pounding the rest of the country, particularly the Northeast, is a sobering reminder of how good we’ve got it here.
Those 40ish blasts we got Friday and Saturday morning are just a welcome change of pace compared to what other folks are dealing with.
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