Tampa welcomes Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Hear ye, hear ye. The Renaissance Festival has officially made its way back to the Bay Area. This year, the festival is celebrating 39 years of existence. What started as a small get-together of Renaissance style partying and contests, evolved into what is loved by many today.

The festival opened its gates Feb. 10 and will continue to run through March 25. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend, including Festival Friday on March 23. It’s located next to the Museum of Science and Industry and directly across USF.

It features 12 stages of various comedic Renaissance-themed shows, arts and crafts, roaming musicians and food that reflects both traditional and modern times.

Kiersten Lyons, a festival employee who has traveled with them for many years, expressed her excitement over the event.

“I absolutely love the fun freedom of all the different walks of life that come through here,” she said. “Anybody from the U.S. to the U.K. comes here. It’s an amazing event.”

Entertaining festival-goers this “statue” stays on his podium for most of the day. Photo taken by Yara Zayas.

Once you enter, you are immediately transported back in time. Everywhere you look you can see people dressed in Renaissance attire, speaking phrases like “huzzah” or “good morrow” and you may even see someone who will address themselves with a title of nobility, such as Lord or Lady.

“You got to get here! It’s awesome, it’s amazing to celebrate your heritage and your history,” said Lyons.

The gates have opened. #timetraveler #bayarearenfest

A post shared by Bay Area Renaissance Festival (@bayarearenfest) on

The event also features several activities that kids and adults will enjoy.

You can practice your ax throwing, try your hand at archery, ride a camel, test out your strength with a hammer game and do some bungee jumping. Also, if you know where to look, you’ll even find a mermaid cove or get a chance to have a photo taken with a unicorn.

“The mud show’s great, the jousting’s great, and they have a human chessboard,” said Lyons. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You get the best of everything around here.”

Lyons also made sure to mention how many of the people who put shows together make their living that way.

“The shows are definitely a great experience,” she said.

Festival-goers can also enjoy the shops that can be found throughout the grounds. You can find items such as swords, magic wands, hand-made mugs and art pieces from local artists all up for purchase. Prices vary with each vendor.

Most vendors and food booths accept credit and debit cards. However, you should always bring some cash. For convenience, there are ATMs available throughout the park.

The event offers seven differently themed weekends such as Pirates & Pets, Time Travelers, Shamrocks & Shenanigans, and Barbarian Brew Fest.

Travel back in time to the 16th century by visiting the Bay Area Renaissance Festival! With 12 stages of live…

Posted by Yara Zayas on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If you’re interested in attending, tickets vary in price. Adult tickets are about $22, students with a valid ID can get in for about $18, and tickets for kids cost about $14. They also offer a military discount with proper identification.

Parking is always free for attendees, courtesy of MOSI.

Pets are also allowed inside the park after terms and conditions are met.

For more information visit the Bay Area Renaissance Festival site at http://www.bayarearenfest.com/.

Create wonderfully unique pottery at You Do the Dishes

At You Do the Dishes, guests can enjoy an array of specialty, well-made coffees while painting their potter. Photo by Sam Turke

With a cozy coffeehouse alongside an array of pottery waited to be made one’s own, at You Do the Dishes everyone can come make something that just won’t be found anywhere else.


The paint-your-own-pottery studio allows guests to choose any piece of pottery in the shop and hand paint it. One can find most anything from coffee mugs, to dinnerware, to animals.

The simple five step process makes things easier for everyone involved.

  1. Choose a piece
  2. Choose from a wide variety of colors
  3. Paint the piece
  4. Leave it at the studio to be glazed and fired
  5. Come back in a few days to pick up the finished product

With weekly specials running seven days a week, there is no reason not to take part in this wonderful experience. Nothing happening on a Monday? Bring the family for Family Night and enjoy a $6 flat rate per person from 7-10 p.m. During the Saturday night Friends Night special, paint for just $4/hour from 5 p.m. to close. On College Night, any student with their college ID can paint for just $6/hour from 7-10 p.m.

“We love coming to You Do the Dishes because of its practicality,” said Corie Tregoe, mother and wife. “Our first time here my husband painted a dinner plate that we still serve on two years later. We even use a bowl we painted for our dog.”


And not only is You Do the Dishes a pottery studio, but it is also a full-service coffee house. They serve locally roasted Buddy Brew coffee in a house brew, latte, iced latte, cappuccino, double shot of espresso and americano. They also have 11 flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, caramel, Irish cream and cinnamon. It does not stop there though. They also offer hot and cold teas, smoothies, milkshakes and more.

“This is one of my go-to study places,” said student Amber Norden. “Not only is the atmosphere so relaxing, but they offer the best vanilla lattes.”

Photo by Sam Turke

Anyone can come to study, or anyone can plan a one-of-a-kind date at You Do the Dishes.

“I actually came here on my second date with my current girlfriend,” Elijah Hudnell said. “She painted a cat to look just like mine. That same cat knocked it off of my desk and broke it. I felt horrible at first, but we look back and laugh about it now – the irony.”

The possibilities are endless. To follow all the updates on specials and get more information, You Do the Dishes is on Facebook and Instagram. Its website is www.youdothedishes.com. Its phone number is 813-975-1700, and they are located at 15357 Amberly Drive, Tampa, FL, 33647.

French bakery flourishes in downtown St. Pete


Streets along the Tampa Bay waterfront flood with a mixture of tropical colors. Hues of greens, blues and yellows pop against the cloudless sky on Beach Drive.

Skyscraping condos and small businesses share the small spaces between the land and the bay. The streets are littered with cars and small motorized bikes. The sun shines on shoppers eagerly entering and leaving the intricately decorated stores while strolling the sidewalks during the bright and humid afternoons.

Nestled directly in the middle of all the bustle and excitement is a taste of France.

Cassis Bakery is part of what used to be called Cassis American Brasserie. Its new name is Cassis St. Pete to avoid confusion and connect with the local culture. Cassis Bakery’s pastry chef, Katherine Williams, says the French-style restaurant is very convenient.

“Brasserie is sort of a thing in France that caters to all different times of the day,” said Williams. “Whether you want to get a cup of coffee, come in and get breakfast, or if you want to come in and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine, a brasserie caters to all that.”

Williams became the pastry chef at Cassis after her boss stepped down in January 2017. She graduated from USF with a degree in English but decided to pursue pastry at the Art Institute of Tampa after falling in love with her college hobby.

Starting at Cassis right after graduating, she now manages the entire bakery. Her responsibilities include scheduling, ordering inventory and recipe testing.

“I like to make sure we have seasonal stuff that’s fresh, Florida flavors, which we didn’t have much of before,” said Williams. “But also keeping a balance of French traditional style.”

This is the fruit tart at the Cassis Bakery on Beach Drive in St. Pete. Photo taken by Rachel Rowan.

The Cassis Bakery is a completely separate business from their savory counterpart, which is a French-American style restaurant that is one swinging door away from the quaint French bakery.

Running the kitchen is Chef Jeremy Duclut. He offers French fare such as French onion soup, braised escargot and a croque monsieur. Duclut also offers Bahn Mi sliders, fried chicken and a roasted cauliflower head. It is a menu that seems to appeal to every palette.

Not only is Cassis a region in France, it is also a food ingredient known as black currant. It carries the same flavor as a dark grape or sour blueberry. Both the bakery and restaurant carry on the Cassis namesake by including the flavor into their recipes.

Williams said that Cassis’ recent brand modernization shows that the restaurant and bakery dedicate themselves to bringing fresh flavors to the locals. At the same time, the brasserie is still dedicated to its French culinary traditions with a light American twist.

Both the bakery and the restaurant plan to remain a St. Pete staple and will continue to serve the community. Not only does Cassis love their patrons, it also loves their fellow businesses. The bakery tries to collaborate whenever possible.

4th annual Sarasota music marathon a major hit

Runners and spectators alike were treated to a unique musical marathon Sunday morning at the 4th annual Sarasota Music Half Marathon.

The event, which features both 10K and half marathon events through the city of Sarasota, does things a little differently. The race includes live performances from local musical acts scattered throughout the course. The result is a high energy event, drawing adept running and fresh challengers from local areas and abroad to experience the sights and sounds of Sarasota.

The course began at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, leading runners through local areas such as St. Armands Circle, along the Sarasota Bayfront and over the Ringling Bridge. Along the course, 18 bands ranging in genre from rock and soul to reggae and marching bands played for four hours, offering encouragement and ambiance to runners—and a free show for spectators.

Beginning at 6:30 a.m., runners had four hours to finish the 13.1 mile half marathon course and return back to the Van Wezel.  The runners were greeted with an event medal and invited to a festival-style after party, complete with a buffet, beer garden and yet another musical act.

The event, sponsored by Metro Diner, began in 2015 and adds musical acts as a unique twist on the common marathon. This year over 1,700 runners completed the half marathon route.

Attendance was high on the streets as well, despite the early start, as spectators cheered, waved signs and enjoyed the musical stylings being offered right in their own proverbial front yards.

Registration for the 2019 Sarasota Music Half Marathon has already begun and can be found at www.sarasotahalf.com. 

New nonprofit shows the keys to kindness

Keys to Kindness is a nonprofit organization based in the Odessa community. It will open its new storefront Keys to Kindness Gifts, and Gatherings on Feb. 17, 2018. The store will serve as a platform for small businesses and connect the community.

Along with the motto of “be kind,” the slogan of this store is “buy a gift, make a gift, give a gift and be a gift.” Keys to Kindness is known for placing keys out in the community with a note about kindness attached. The founder and executive director, Sharri Cagle, receives help making these keys from her 14-year-old son, who makes them with his 3D printer.

“With the keys that are made, my kids are doing it, other kids are doing it, said Cagle. So, it’s a way for them to give back, and have hands in it. And it has a tag attached to it about kindness. And then we’ll attach them to the birdhouses and put them throughout the community, as well as just having keys placed throughout the community.”

Buying a gift aspect of the store, entails purchasing merchandise from small businesses that sell their products in the store.

“We really wanted to give it a hometown feel, said Cagle. So, we have different vendors in here from students that graduated last year and it’s their first year in college, who started up their own business, it’s incredible and inspiring. To a Navy seal who makes the most beautiful wood pieces. There is a neighborhood friend that makes candles and soaps, and a mom, who is helping put her kids through college, and makes fabric pieces, like dog collars and leashes. I like it cause it’s a good variety. Each gift is an intentional gift and has a meaning to it.”

The making a gift aspect of the gifts and gatherings shop allows customers to come in and paint or create a personal gift for themselves or someone on their mind. There are lots of wooden birdhouses, jewelry boxes, and other items that can be painted in the store. “And with the make a gift, you’ll get a free birdhouse; which is another way of us giving back to the community, and you get to paint it and we put it out in the community for you with a tag attached with one of our keys.”

Giving a gift and being a gift is also what the store gives customers the opportunity to do. The store gives the gift of holding workshops for book clubs, birthday parties and groups of all ages. It also is an important environment for Keys to Kindness to hold pet therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD or kids with special needs. The opening of a storefront will not only give Keys to Kindness an actual home for all their “kind causes” but will help people of the community be a gift of kindness to everyone around.

“Our grand opening falls on national kindness day, and we are asking the community to come together and help us put out 2,018 acts of kindness out in the community. So, when they show up they will get a free kind gift, and that’s one act of kindness being shared, and if they bring tennis shoes which is what we are collecting for those in need, that is another act of kindness. So, we are hoping to do 2,018 acts of kindness in one day.”

Come out anytime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17. The address is 8738 north Mobley Rd, Odessa FL to join all the grand opening activities. You can check out all the small business’ products throughout the store and get to meet the rescue dog, Sadie. There will be a bounce house and fun activities for kids, raffles and free kind gifts for adults and food catered by, Three Brothers pizza and Fro. Dough. You will not want to miss this out!

All media and story information, by Deanna Salt.

Bean Garden brings new art to St. Pete

The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg unveiled a new interactive installation last month called “The Bean Garden.”

Sitting in the center of the Atchison gallery is what appears to be a sand box.  The Bean Garden is filled with 2,500 pounds of dried great northern beans surrounded in a frame of solid juniper. It took about six museum employees to pour in all of the beans.

This interactive piece was created by Allison Knowles as part of the Fluxus movement, a period of art history that the museum hasn’t addressed before. According to MFA Curator Katherine Pill, it’s exciting for the museum to be able to fill in the gap of art history to showcase an incredible female performance artist.

“It is so cool to be able to feature a woman artist, it brings a lot to this museum,” Pill said.

The Bean Garden encapsulates a lot of the ideas of the Fluxus movement.  It is uniquely situated at MFA where usually you are not allowed to touch the artwork. Fluxus asks: who deems art? It says art is for everyone,  it should be treated as such. Employees expressed that it is an interesting statement to be exploring at the museum.

MFA borrowed this exhibit from a gallery in South Florida. According to Pill, the curator of the museum, Jade Dellinger, is an incredible source for Fluxus art.

“For Allison Knowles the artist, she was interested in the nourishment and the comfort that comes from food and its ability to bring people together.” Pill said.

Guests are invited to take off their shoes, put on the socks provided and then enter the installation, with  three people allowed to enter at a time. There is a sound box at the bottom of the Bean Garden. When you walk in it, it amplifies the sound made, casting a loud crunching sound that some find entertaining. 

Employees at the museum hope that there’s even a sense of camaraderie that comes over someone when they enter the exhibit. The Bean Garden was created to showcase an important message of art, but to also be a release of energy. When people enter the Bean Garden it brings them back to a “child-like” state. This was the artist’s intentions. The artists thought it was important for people to relax and have fun. She stressed that if you can combine the beauty of art and create a fun aspect then you have completed your mission.

Tampa Bay Central Avenue tours celebrate black history

TAMPA — Central Avenue was once the center of black life in Tampa. Now historians want to share its rich history and preserve its spirit for generations to come.

Built by emancipated slaves and freemen, Central Avenue was the heart of The Scrub, the first African-American neighborhood in Tampa.

With as many as 200 black-owned businesses on and around it, Central Avenue thrived for years.

This changed in 1967 with the death of 19-year-old Martin Chambers who was suspected of burglary and killed by police. His death sparked riots that lasted three days and ultimately destroyed Central Avenue.

Fred Hearns, noted historian and Tampa local, leads tours that highlight the cultural significance and history of the area.

Hearns works in partnership with the Tampa Bay History Center to host these tours on the last Saturday of every month, aside from some summer months.

The tour explores Central Avenue as it is today. It begins at the Robert Saunders Public Library on North Nebraska Avenue. The library is named after Saunders, who led the Tampa Chapter of the NAACP for many years.

Taken by Emily McCain

There is a stone wall outside the library with paintings preserved from the building’s past. You can explore the inside of the library, which archives and displays much of the history of Central Avenue. Guests can also appreciate the $7 million renovation the library received in 2015.

The library also features a Hall of History with interactive displays that bring you into Tampa’s past. They showcase the history of black athletes, churches, small artifacts and more. It also has a library dedicated to African-American genealogy and history.

Taken by Emily McCain

The tour then moves outside the library to Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Larger than life statues and history carved into the sidewalk, the park tells Central Avenue’s story. The displays are thanks to a $6.3 million renovation that took place in 2016.

The park features sections of optical tiles that change as you walk by them. There is also a walkway known as Leader Row. Stained concrete and cut aluminum showcase notable leaders from Central Avenue.

Nancy Dalence, Curator of Education at the Tampa Bay History Center, has worked closely with Hearns since the tours began in fall 2016. She says Hearns is one of the best black history historians in the area who brings his own accounts to the tour.

“Everybody [who] has been on the tour has just been amazed at how much history they didn’t know,” Dalence said.

“[There’s] just so many connections to great stories and it’s a really important part of our history. People just didn’t know it was here, and thanks to Fred, now they do.”

To sign up or learn more about these tours and others, you can visit www.tampabayhistorycenter.org.

Student explores hijabi stories through art

From the outside, Sara Filali looks like a normal college student – but once she breaks out her pad and pencil, everything changes.

At 20 years old, Filali is already a self-taught artist and successful businesswoman. Her self-owned business, Filali Studios, gives her a platform to sell her art in various forms such as prints, stickers and phone cases. She also accepts requests for commissioned art, which has included being a live painter at a friend’s wedding.

Filali makes art because she enjoys it. Selling it is only a perk, she says.

“I like doing it,” says Filali. “This is something that me, a broke college kid, can do in my spare time. Which combines what I really like doing and also what I really need – which is money.”

At the beginning of her business journey, Filali was afraid.

“I had to put a value on the art that I was originally just making for myself,” said Filali. “I was afraid that the person I was offering my price to would reject it, and therefore reject the value that I was putting in my own art.”

Hailing from Morocco, Filali feels a deep connection to her ethnicity, which she shows in her art. Various symbols that are prevalent throughout Morocco’s history show up in her pieces. Although she didn’t grow up there, her drawings take on the aspects of a culture she was raised in, inspired by the stories told to her by her parents and grandmother.

“Growing up, my culture has always been a big part of my identity – it’s a part of who I am, my language, my roots.”

Some of her pieces are illustrations of stories she grew up hearing. Others embody the strong features of Moroccan women.

“I value my roots being seen – especially living in the USA, where Moroccan culture is not very prominent,” said Filali. “You don’t see a lot of art that reflects the other side without using orientalism.”

Beyond showcasing her culture, Filali is very passionate about representation in her works. A lot of her pieces depict women like herself who wear a hijab, which is a religious headscarf. She says this is not only to represent hijabis in her art, but also because she wants to explore different mediums with hijabis as the subject.

Sara Filali with one of her paintings featuring a woman wearing a hijab. Photo by Rayan Alnajar.

“I thought, ‘What if I were to mix pop art with hijab?’ Or, ‘What if I were to mix expressionism with hijab, or collage art?’” said Filali. “The hijabi woman is not a huge subject of art or analysis, it’s always something that’s feared or othered and not very celebrated within the world of art.”

In an effort to change that, Filali has created art featuring hijabis. She has helped solidify her place in cultural art by portraying underrepresented women.

“It’s not so much doing art that I think other people would find cool, it’s more so me, as the individual, what kind of art do I want to see?” Filali says.

To view her pieces, follow her Instagram @sara_filali . To buy her pieces, visit her website www.filalistudios.com.

USF student organizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on Jan. 27. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of millions of Jews from Auschwitz. It is a day to remember those who died unjustly by Nazi forces and celebrate those who survived.

This year, the University of South Florida commemorated this day by holding a concert in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Zachary Konick is a second-year music composition graduate student at USF. He is also the organizer of the concert. His Jewish heritage remains a catalyst in his wish to give back to the Jewish community.

“I haven’t always been too involved in my Jewish background, unfortunately. I go to temple for service, here and there, but I haven’t been as involved as I might have wanted to be,” said Konick. “Doing this was kind of a way to get back into my Jewish heritage a little bit more. To reconnect with this a little bit more.”

Konick, as a composer, wanted to bring a piece of his art to the stage. His piece “Kaddish” is derived from “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” a Jewish prayer that talks about death.

Throughout the composition, a juxtaposition of the Israeli national anthem and his grandmother Rosette’s voice can be heard. These elements enhance the musical value of the piece and solidify Konick’s desire to honor his grandma.

“I wanted to give something to my nana, who is a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to give something to her before she leaves from this planet,” said Konick. “My piece is dedicated to her for that reason.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 8.11.53 PM.png
USF graduate student Zachary Konick composed the piece “Kaddish” which was derived from the Jewish prayer, “The Mourner’s Kaddish.” Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Francis Schwartz is the featured composer for the concert. He is a Sarasota resident who graces the world with his “music theater” compositions, as he likes to describe his music.

Invited artists are performing four of his original compositions during the concert. These include “On the State of Children,” “Auschwitz,” “Caligula” and “The Grey Road.” Schwartz considers his music a way to combat injustice around the world.

“I’m very much aware of injustice being practiced all over the world. Discrimination, hatred. This is something that I have combatted ever since I was a little boy. Ever since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that people hate each other and discriminate against each other for reasons of race, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation,” said Schwartz. “It’s a very complex thing. We are masters of hate. I try through my music to unravel that very tightly knit ball of hate.”

The compositions are brought to life with the dynamism of the dancers. Carolina Garcia Zerpa and Itarah Godbolt are two of the dancers invited to grace the stage of the concert. Despite not having direct Jewish connections, they consider it important to use their art to bring awareness to events like these.

“Anyway that I can use my instrument, my body, my art form of dance to add expression or bring awareness, add another dimension or dynamic to another artist’s work and what they’re doing. That is my connection. I’m always willing and wanting to do that,” said Godbolt. “We’re also not just artists. We are people and we are activists and we have experiences. There are many ways to express that through art. When you bring all of that together is just magnifies and brings back to life another way to share those experiences”

In light of the recent events around the world, Konick considers that this concert signifies a way to unify cultures and ethnicities.

“This concert isn’t just about Jewish heritage. It’s really important to me that this concert is about unity as well, given all the tensions politically and socially in the US lately and throughout the world,” said Konick. “We really want to strike home that this concert is about coming together and fighting about persecution of any kind”

Museum in St. Petersburg honors black excellence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is an excellent place to learn about the Father of Black History Month, as well as the African-American culture in the Bay area.

“We here at the Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum take delight in not only preserving, presenting but interpreting African American history,” said Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the museum. “We celebrate the contributions of those past, but more importantly those of our community of current.”

The museum features bits of information about Woodson, but a fact not in the museum is that Woodson was selected as the doodle for Google.

Scott continued by saying, “His popularity is growing, particularly with this generation.”

“It wasn’t until 1976 that we begin celebrating Black History Month as a result of him introducing in 1926, the study of Negro History Week,” Scott said.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is the only museum in St.Petersburg dedicated to African-American history.

According to Scott, what makes this museum different than others is its prime location.

“We’re the only museum that does not sit on sit on the pristine waterfront, but that’s nestled in a community where the rich history was in fact cultivated,” Scott said.

The museum is free to the public, but the staff kindly accepts donations.

“We take pride in being able to showcase the talented work of so many artists throughout the Bay area and beyond,” Scott said.

“The Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum, in fact, hosts every six to eight weeks a new exhibit. Because of the limited space that we have here,” Scott continued, “We are prideful in order to just showcase the talented art of African American artists who have never been seen or shown anywhere else, locally, nationally, or internationally and beyond.”

Many art pieces do not get the opportunity to be showcased and are often stored away in garages. The museum provides a forum for artists to get a chance to display their art.

On Feb. 1, St. Petersburg’s City Hall held a flag ceremony honoring the Woodson flag. The flag was raised at 10 a.m., marking the beginning of Black History Month. Across the nation, the city of St. Petersburg is the only place that raises the Woodson flag on a government entity.

The museum also hosts a number of activities, such as book clubs and piano lessons.

“We’re the home of the One City Chorus,” Scott said, “Who practice here every week, and they sing songs of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition to the One City Chorus, the museum partners with The Florida Orchestra. Once a month, from January through April, the museum hosts one of their segments.

Previously, the grounds of the museum were the Jordan Park community. In the early 2000s, the space was renovated. Behind the museum is a Legacy Garden. It features bricks with donors’ names on them. The garden is an ongoing fundraiser for the museum.

Scott is, “Delighted that folks are embracing not only the culture of African American history, but looking back, and recognizing and in fact celebrating the individual who in fact brought it to the forefront.”

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 28, 2018

In this news brief: Governor Rick Scott visited Tampa to discuss his $500 million school safety plan; A building at UCF is evacuated for suspicious activity; Dick’s Sporting Goods will stop selling assault-style weapons; an Avon Park middle school teacher is arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student; the gold-medal winning USA women’s hockey team will be honored at tonight’s Lightning game at Amalie Arena.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 26, 2018

In this news brief: Tampa Bay students rally in Tallahassee; Allergy sufferers beware of the oncoming season; A large shed caught fire in Brandon; Florida Highway Patrol is encouraging motorists to stay at the scene of a crash.



New boba store hopes to appeal to USF students

With the rising popularity of boba, it’s no surprise that people can now enjoy a spot for the delicious dessert beverage near the University of South Florida.

Chewy Boba Co. opened its doors Jan. 11. It’s located at 2572 E. Fowler Ave., which is only a mile away from the university.

“We already have five stores in Orlando, Florida, and one in Las Vegas,” said Steven Page, the manager of Chewy Boba Co. “This is a great location. We get a lot of traffic from Chipotle and then the shopping center here is really good too.”

Chewy Boba is a new boba joint in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Yara Zayas.

Boba is a Taiwanese tea-based delicacy made from tapioca. Visitors can choose from an exotic menu that showcases flavors such as jasmine, mango, passion fruit and ginger honey.

“Our most popular are Thai and taro, and original milk tea and honeydew. ” said Page. “Those are the ones we have on tap. We also have other popular flavors like our blended specialties such as California Dreamin’.”

The shop also offers an assortment of macarons to complement the boba.

As customers enter the store, they are brought into a unique atmosphere filled with various pieces of art, books, board games and arcade cabinets. There are several tables and couches for people to sit and relax.

One of the favorite arcade games for customers to play is Dance Dance Revolution.

“The DDR machine, when it’s going, gets people in here all the time trying to play that,” said Page.

Customers can also participate in video game contests during certain weekends. Page described it as a great way to hang out and make some new friends.

“We have tournaments that we run for fighting games every other Friday, and then we have ‘Smash Bros.’ tournaments every other Saturday as well,” he said. “There’s no small spaces, people aren’t cramping together, everyone can walk around, it’s really great.”

Chewy Boba Co. displays a variety of artwork inside its store, which helps create a fun, modern environment.

Some of the art portrays “Star Wars” characters such as Chewbacca and Boba Fett. One of the founders of the company, Quan Vu, explained that the similarity between the name of the store and the movie was merely a coincidence.

“I’m an artist by trade, graphic designer, animator, illustrator and I do video productions,” he said. “I just came up with a few characters that kind of intertwined with the whole Boba thing and it worked out good.”

Vu originally started his business in 2002 as a trademark license under a different company. He was unsatisfied with how that company ran itself, which led him to creating his own business.

“They weren’t providing,” said Vu. “So, we decided that we would just switch over completely and start our own brand.”

Vu hopes Chewy Boba Co. will become a staple of the USF community. The store’s manager believes that it’s well on its way.

“We actually encourage USF students, they get a 10 percent discount,” said Page. “Students come in here all the time looking to study and kind of just hanging out. We got chill music all day.”

For more information about Chewy Boba Co., visit the company’s website: http://chewyboba.com/.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 22, 2018

In this news brief: Webber International University adopts Polk County’s Sheriff Sentinel program; a man is rescued from the Little Manatee River; the Tampa City Council discussed challenges with homeless populations; it looks like today will mark weather hit the bay area early and we’re loving it.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 21, 2018

In this news brief: Florida High Schoolers rally at the Florida Capitol building for gun-control legislation; Pasco and Manatee County schools have lifted school lockdowns after threats were discovered; the parents of the accused Seminole Heights killer are under house arrest; several Hillsborough County schools now have their own food pantries; Clearwater Beach has been rated the number one beach by Trip-Advisor’s Traveler Choice awards.