Taste of Spain captivates Tampa

TAMPA – On N. Tampa St., Toma Spain offers savory Mediterranean dishes and is host to live Flamenco shows, a culture which Fred Castro and his family helped bring to the community 37 years ago.

“We are one of the older Spanish restaurants here in Downtown Tampa,” Castro said. “We like to push the independence because if you spend your money in an independent restaurant, it stays within the community.”

Among the members of Flamenco shows are dancer and choreographer Carolina Esparza, who has known the Castro family for many years.

“They have similar experiences where they’ve always traveled to Spain because of their family,” Esparza said. “The food here is amazing, the entertainment that they get is amazing and yet it’s still a night out so to speak.”

The motivation for the workers of Toma Spain is simple: provide an atmosphere reminiscent of southern traditional Spanish culture.

The Flamenco show on March 25th was met with a grandiose round of applause due in large part to the performance of Flamenco guitarist Javier Hinojosa.

“Our musician [Hinojosa] is in my opinion one of the best Flamenco guitarists around,” Castro said. “We kind of traveled Spain ourselves and seen a lot of Flamenco shows and he compares with the best.”

The customers left the restaurant following the show with smiles and cheerful conversation amongst one another.

 

Clearwater Beach Spring Break Parking

Spring break is coming up and Clearwater Beach is offering something that will make visiting the beach less of a hassle.

The beach opened Pelican Walk Parking Garage on Poinsettia Avenue at the end of January. The goal was to help with parking problems that occur on the beach.

Jason Beisel, the Public Communications Coordinator of Clearwater expects the garage to improve the flow of traffic.

“Especially this time of year with spring break… we have an influx of visitors,” said Beisel. “But what we built it for is so people have a place to park.”

The location used to be a single level parking lot, but the new garage offers 702 spaces. It also helps beach employees who had trouble finding parking for a reasonable price. Parking in the garage costs $2 an hour or $20 a day.

“Some lots around here, you can pay up to $50 a day to park,” Beisel said. “So, we have contracted with some businesses where they pay a flat fee and they’re able to park here and it helps alleviate some of the parking problems for employees.”

The garage cost over $11 million to build. Most of the money came from parking fees collected on the beach and tourism dollars. A smaller portion came from taxpayer dollars.

“It just helps the whole beach and the economy to bring people out here so they can enjoy themselves and spend money at all the different shops,” Clearwater resident Tim Lavelle said. “It’s just good for everybody.”

 

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.

 

A Factory’s Support For The Children

A Factory’s support for the Children

Pam and Tom Cronin, owners of the Shell Factory, spent years renovating and redesigning the park with families in mind- especially the kids. Field trips to the park are welcomed, and the Cronin’s are willing to help teachers overcome any obstacles to make the trips possible for the students.  

“When Lee county stopped supplying school buses for the kids for field trips, Tom and Pam Cronin decided they would do it. So we pay for all the kids to come here,” Anne Sheridan, the Shell Factory general manager, said.

During these sponsored field trips, students get to experience nature up close in the Nature Park. According to the website, the Nature Park includes over 400 wild animals; aviaries filled with different types of birds, tortoises, turtles and iguanas; an Eco Lab for exotic snakes and more. Gator biscuits are also available for visitors to toss out to the alligators that live within the park.

Our Nature Park Environmental Education Foundation has raised capital sufficient to fund field trips for over four thousand school children who otherwise would have been unable to visit the attraction,” The Cronins said on their website.

The park, however, is still growing and changing every year.

“As a work in progress the Nature Park is always expanding, improving, and acquiring new inhabitants,” according to the Shell Factory’s website.

Pam and Tom also host special events outside of school functions on the property. Weddings and corporate meetings can utilized one of two special rooms in the park- the Dolphin room and the Party Room- as well as birthday parties or other celebrations.

The factory was voted best shell store by North Fort Myers in both 2014 and 2015. Years in the making, the Shell Factory has become one of the best places in South Florida for locals and tourists alike.

shell

Photo courtesy of flickr.com