Annual Christmas tree lighting collects toys for hospitalized children

The Marriott Waterside located in downtown Tampa held its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 1 and invited local vendors to join in the event.

Vendors and guests were asked to bring a toy to donate to the Miracle Children’s Network, a charity that raises funds and awareness for children’s hospitals for providing care for patients and furthering research.

After the event all donated items were gathered and shipped to the different locations for the toys to be dispersed.

“A couple of the local vendors we have out here are the Coppertail Brewing Company and the St. Pete Distillery,” Chris Adkins, the marketing and sales director, said.

The event included music, food and good spirits. There was also a Candy Land themed gingerbread model crafted with over 300 pounds of gingerbread by the pastry chefs from Marriott.

Sinai Vespie, the pastry chef at the event, credited his great team as the key to pulling off such a large event.

Vespie went on to talk about how the whole process started in August, but took until the week of Nov. 21 to start putting it together. The event happens annually on Dec. 1 and each year the theme of the gingerbread model changes.

The Marriott Waterside is located downtown on Old Water Street next to Amalie Arena.

 

 

Rocking the Curtis Hixon Park

 

Since 2010, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park has held a “Rock the Park” monthly concert series that invites local bands, up-and-coming artists and vendors to come together and spend a relaxing evening with the community.

Held in the evenings on the first Thursday of every month, guests can sit in the amphitheater and enjoy the free and dog-friendly event with half a dozen decorated pop-up shops and local ska, alternative, or rock bands who hope to gain exposure.

First-time performer Shane Schuck, whose stage name is Pajamas, was thrilled to be able to play a set for his friends and new fans right in his own backyard.

“My buddy, Joe, does some of the promoting here,” the Clearwater resident said. “He just offered it to me a couple months back and it sounded like an awesome opportunity.”

One new business in particular was extremely excited to promote their brand at the concert. “Whatever Pops,” an ice pop-stand-turned-storefront, was selling organic ice pops to the audience.

“The Popsicles have natural ingredients with no added sugar,” employee Anthony Licary said. “Even the ingredients like the teas and fruit are locally grown in Tampa.”

Anyone who is interested in attending the event, booking a performance slot, or becoming a vendor can find more information on the Rock the Park Facebook page, or on their website  http://www.rocktheparktampa.com.

 

Wild Side of Ruskin

Nowadays, kids would rather stay inside than spend much time outdoors, but Camp Bayou is an outdoors learning center that wishes to change that.

The camp is a project by a Florida nonprofit, Bayou Outdoor Learning and Discovery, Inc. Camp Bayou has been open to the public since the year 2000. It is ran entirely by volunteers who dedicate time to the outdoor learning center.

“I find volunteering here at Camp Bayou very important,” volunteer James Lingles said. “I decided to find a place to volunteer because I had free time and I would like to work in outdoors.”

One of the duties as a volunteer is serving as a guide through the different trails the camp offers. Visitors can take a walk through the Tortoise Trail, Perimeter Path or Wetland Walk.

Ohio State University Professor Emeritus George F. Shambaugh mentioned a wide selection of activities visitors can choose from. Whether they want to do dip netting in the river or they want to see the native people’s village, there’s something to do for everybody. Visits from school groups are encouraged at Camp Bayou because of the amount of activities for students.

Camp Bayou is operated in partnership with Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation and funded by the local community.

 

Zephyrhills gym connects with members

RetroFlex Fitness is gaining popularity in Zephyrhills and the owners of the gym may be the reason why.

Dave Vidrine co-owns RetroFlex with his wife, Alysia Vidrine, and his friends Jim and Jennifer Taylor. They started the business back in November of 2014 and have acquired hundreds of members since then.

One reason for this rise in member population could possibly be due to the sense of family among the staff and members of the gym. Vidrine spends much of his time working out with different members every day.

“I enjoy coming here every day, spending time with all the people here, talking to everybody, working out,” Vidrine said. “That’s my thing, that’s what I like to do.”

This display of support shows just how much these members care about what they call their “gym family” and they are spreading the word all over town.

“I work out with him every day,” said Josh Twardosky, a member of RetroFlex. “When I’m doing something wrong he tweaks it a little bit, makes sure I’m doing everything just right.”

Vidrine participated in his first body building competition in June of this year. He had sixty-five people from his gym show up to support him, the largest group of supporters for any competitor there.

To find out more about RetroFlex Fitness, visit their Facebook page.

Tampa Gym Does Fitness Differently

 

Esther Solano and Tina Leon not only share a passion for health and fitness, they also share a friendship that stands the test of time.

Solano helped create Tampa’s very own Epic Boxing & Fitness, a full service boxing gym with a twist.

“We’ve been here for almost three years now,” Solano said. “It’s been great to watch us grow from when we first opened in 2014 until now.”

Located on West Kennedy Boulevard in the heart of Downtown Tampa, Epic Boxing & Fitness attracts all different kinds of clientele from around the Tampa area, like Solano’s regular, Tina Leon.

“I started coming to Epic around three years ago when they first opened up,” Leon said. “Esther and I have become great friends and workout buddies so I definitely love it here.”

The gym found its start with the help of co-owner Jaye Maddon, wife of Joe Maddon, the 2016 World Series Champion Manager of the Chicago Cubs.

“I was her boxing coach at the time and one day she came to me and told me she wanted to open her own boxing gym with a twist, and if I’d help her start on this adventure,” Solano said. “It’s been a blessing to work with her.”

Epic Boxing & Fitness will be celebrating its third anniversary next year.

“If you want to be challenged then come down and try out a session,” Solano said. “We welcome college students from UT as well as USF.”

For more information please visit www.epicboxingandfitness.com

Christmas Trees Light Up In Tampa

Story by Nadine Young

‘Ti’s the season for Christmas trees, families and a lot of lights. That is exactly what guests can expect to see at the 35th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll.

Lindsay Huban, the Henry B. Plant Museum’s relations coordinator, will oversee the day’s activity at the Christmas Stroll this year.

“We have a hundred Christmas  trees, forty-thousand lights, carolers every evening, cider and cookies.” Huban said.  “It’s really a magical time to come visit the museum.”

Huban and her staff have prepared six months in advance, making sure all the details and decorations are set to perfection.

“We start planning for the Victorian Christmas Stroll way back in June,” Huban said.  “We start coming up with ideas, anything that relates to the Tampa Bay Hotel, or the Victorian period, or really the greater Tampa Bay Area.”

Sabrina Torres and Eli, her younger brother, were some of the guests who came to the grand opening of the stroll.

“My experience here has been phenomenal,” Sabrina said.  “As soon as you walk in the place is beautiful, the decorations are marvelous. I mean, the trees that they have set up are to-die-for,”

Visitors can explore the museum December 1st through the 23rd from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Proceeds from the Victorian Christmas Stroll benefit educational programming, preservation and restoration projects at the museum.

Florida Focus News Brief March 21, 2017

In this news brief: a Riverview teen is charged with the murder of his mother; an undercover investigation leads to over 100 arrests; a man is sentenced to seven years in federal prison for scheming to sell Social Security checks; a new grocery service delivers Costco groceries without a membership.

 

Florida Focus News Brief

In this news brief: a man crashes a stolen car; a Hernando county high school teacher is arrested for having sexual relations with a student; Tampa is growing in population and home prices are rising; Florida senate passed ‘Whiskey to Wheaties’ bill to permit selling liquor in grocery stores; today is National Puppy Day.

 

 

Florida Focus Education Brief March 24, 2017

In this education brief: a St. Petersburg teacher is surprised with a $25,000 award; a local elementary school is providing for its students in and out of the classroom; some Bay Area teachers will be receiving a bonus through the Best and Brightest program; a new Riverview school is named after a civil rights activist.

International students bring unique perspective to USF

The University of South Florida is filled with students from all over the world, and if we took a closer look, we can see all of the amazing characteristics that the students bring with them.

Rafael Migoyo is a senior graduating Dec. 10, 2016 with a degree in Aging Sciences. His parents brought him to the United States from Cuba at the age of five so that he could receive a better education.

When he isn’t busy doing research, Migoyo enjoys photography and investing.

“I learned those things when I was thinking about the opportunity that I was given coming into the United States…” said Migoyo. “So I said to myself, ‘what’s something my mom and dad aren’t doing because they weren’t raised here?’”

Once he graduates, Migoyo wants to take a year away from school to work on some research with his friend, and research adviser, Angie Sardina. From there he will continue his education so that he can specialize in Geriatrics.

“Rafael has a bright future ahead of him,” said Sardina.

When asked where he would like to be in the future, Rafael stated that he wants to merge his two passions: Medicine and Photography.

“I would like to marry both of those things and travel the world as a doctor helping people, but also doing photojournalism,” said Migoyo

USF students gather for annual Winter Wonderland

Over 400 students gathered at the University of South Florida for an evening of Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland is a holiday tradition put on by USF’s Center for Student Involvement and Fraternity and Sorority Life. This year’s event was called “Winter Wonkaland.”

With finals quickly approaching, students were able to relax for a night before the studying begins.

One of the organizations within the Center for Student Involvement is the Campus Activities Board. Christa Haran, Executive Director for the CAB made this event possible.

“It’s basically winter themed, just to bring winter back to Florida because we don’t really have that here. This year is Willy Wonka themed,” Haran said.

Winter Wonkaland included lots of bright lights, colors, and of course, candy. In addition to Wonkaland, winter activities were set up around the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

Those activities included ice-skating made out of synthetic ice, wood painting and stuff-a-plush, which is like Build-A-Bear. Winter Wonkaland wouldn’t be complete without snow, a cappuccino cart and munchies to snack on.

Asahi Hossain is a junior at USF and this was her second year attending Winter Wonderland.

“It’s like finals week. It’s a nice way to wind down. It’s good weather out and I’ve heard a lot about this,” Hossain said.

Hossian arrived at Winter Wonkaland thirty minutes after it began and said that all of the stuff-a-plush bears were gone, as well as wood circles to paint on and candy. There were no short lines either for the cappuccino cart or food table.

Despite running out of supplies and long lines, Hossain said, “It’s still nice to be out here with friends.”

Holidays approaching; business increases for small gaming store

 

R.U. Game is a small business that specializes in dated video game systems and accessories. With the Christmas season beginning, dated technology is starting to increase in sales.

Store manager, Christopher Carrol, explains what separates his store from other competitive gaming stores.

“One thing is, we’re not a multi-billion dollar corporation. We’re a bunch of dudes just doing the things we love. We like to make sure we take care of our customers, too; always running specials, all that kind of stuff,” Carrol said. “We give more for trade than, let’s say, our competitor, Game Stop, does. Like we even make sure and verify beforehand that we also give more too. It’s kind of a way of showing that we will go the extra step.”

Regular R.U. Game customer, Joel Hanson, prefers R.U. Game over other gaming stores.

“I like that the guys here really know what they’re talking about, and they have a wide range of video games and systems,” Hanson said. “They’ve got retro stuff in addition to the newest consoles.”

R.U. Game has three branches located in Temple Terrace, Brandon and Gainesville. Their branches are open until 9 p.m. and they accept trade-ins on all old gaming systems and system accessories.

After a very successful Black Friday and with the holidays approaching, R.U. Game hopes to maintain an increase in business throughout the season. 

Florida Focus News Brief March 8, 2017

In this news brief: local activists are raising awareness this International Women’s Day; a bird strike forces a United flight to return to Tampa International Airport; Tampa police are investigating the shooting of two teens; Hillsborough County strikes down the cap on local medical marijuana dispensaries.

 

 

 

Florida Focus News Brief March 7, 2017

In this news brief: A fire breaks out at Ringling College of Art and Design; A Hernando County couple has found the body of their missing son; Tampa Police are using a social media site for safety; Hillsborough County is holding a public forum on medical marijuana; IHOP is giving away free pancakes for National Pancake Day.

Florida Focus News Brief March 6th, 2017

In this news brief: A man is charged after attacking his 14-year-old grandson; A video is released showing murder victim Dontae Lampkins boarding and exiting a bus two days before his body was discovered; A driver flees on foot after killing a motorcyclist in a hit and run; Tampa is looking to expand the streetcar system; and Pinellas County Deputies launched a new safety program for pedestrians and cyclists today

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Florida Focus News Brief March 2, 2017

In this news brief: Tampa Fire Rescue battles a three-alarm fire at a student housing complex; St. Petersburg Police are investigating a fatal shooting; a local-based grocery store is now selling locally roasted coffee; Mosaic expects to spend up to $70 million to fill a Polk County sinkhole; the Strawberry Festival opens today.

Florida Focus Education Brief March 3, 2017

In this education brief: USF graduates have higher salaries than the national average; Bay area schools are failing under Department of Education regulations; Pasco county hopes to become the home to a statewide forensics lab; Pasco county will be opening a preforming arts center in Cypress Creek Middle-High School.

Florida Focus News Brief March 1, 2017

In this news brief: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office introduces wearable technology to find missing children; Hillsborough County commissioners approve an $812 million tax plan; Andrew Gillum joins the 2018 race for governor; USF is ranked number one in Florida for Black student success.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 28, 2017

In this news brief: a bomb threat in Brooksville forces the evacuation of several businesses and a daycare; a Polk County woman dies in an early morning house fire; the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office releases new surveillance video of a car burglar; the 29th annual Black History celebration is at the Tampa Convention Center; over 500 sailors are racing from St. Pete to Cuba.