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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