Florida Focus News Brief April. 10, 2018

In this news brief:  The Pinellas County school board approves new start times for most schools in the district; it’s equal pay day, and women are calling for an end to the wage gap. Two Sarasota police officers are injured after being hit by a car; there’s a new quick and easy way to save money at the gas pump.

Anchor: Jessica Lang, Camera Operator: Hannah Yechivi, Floor Manager: Hannah Yechivi, Graphics: Amy Gonzalez, Nada Blassy and Olivia Forbis Technical Director: Kimmy Traub,Audio: Sabrina Olivier,Prompter: Nathalie Moreau, Radio: Olivia Forbis, Director: Adam Zubek , Web Content: Amy Gonzalez , Faculty Advisor: Cathy Gugerty,Graduate Assistant: Kelsey Baker
Teaching Assistant: Dakota Galvin



The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists visits USF

The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists visited the USF campus to share their knowledge and expertise  with students.

The goal of TBABJ is to encourage students of color to pursue their interests in media.

Some of the biggest TV personalities who are involved in this chapter include: Rod Carter, Corey Davis, Garin Flowers, and Saundra Weathers. A few of these reporters took a trip to The University of South Florida to put on a workshop for college students.

“We work together to make sure we are addressing the needs of our community and making sure their stories and voices are heard,” TBABJ leader Loraine McBride said.

The Tampa Bay chapter was established in 1990. TBABJ represents journalists who live in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Polk, Manatee and Pasco county. Some of the goals this organization has are: bringing  together black journalists who work in related fields, serving  as clearinghouses for employment within the media, sponsoring events that encourage professional development among journalists of color, and awarding scholarships to promising young black journalists who plan on pursuing  careers on media.

“I feel like it’s important to give back to college students because someone once helped me and I was once in their shoes,” said McBride. “Someone took the time to sit down with me and it made a tremendous difference in my life. I got every single job that I really wanted. It made a difference.”

The members of this organization shared their expertise and backstories about how they began their journalism careers. When it comes to beginning  a career, some of the important tips they gave students are being  proactive and landing internships.

“I would encourage students to career shadow,” said McBride  “Learn how to pick up the camera. Learn everything you can because when you walk across that stage on graduation day, there is nothing like the feeling of leaving and  knowing  what it’s like to work in the news field.”

The second part of the workshop was dedicated to working with students one on one to give them critiques on their resumes and demo reels. The media professionals sat down and answered any questions that the students had. This organization is a keen on helping students in any way they can.

Some of the advice they gave in regards to resumes included: putting the most relevant information at the top, composing it  to look neat and professional, and being  descriptive.

In addition to workshops, this organization hosts a Gala once a year to give out awards and scholarships. Nada Blassy, a USF student, was the scholarship winner last year. She was awarded a $1,000 dollar scholarship for her achievements.

“I received a scholarship from the TBABJ for writing a news story relvant to Tampa Bay” Blassy said. “It was a great addition to my resume. Through this organization I find myself meeting people that are already working in the field and that is something a lot of students don’t get to say. So, I’m very grateful to this organization for helping me get my foot in the door.”

3 places to visit on Tampa’s Riverwalk

Tampa’s Riverwalk now features three activities, all within steps from one another.

These activities include the family friendly Tampa Water Works Park, the repurposed fire station now restaurant Armature Works, and the Native American themed restaurant Ulele’s.

Kathy Slough, a resident of Atlanta, makes an annual trip to Tampa and  ensures the Riverwalk is always part of her trip.

“A group of us – we’ve been doing this trip for about 12 years. ” said Slough.

Many people like Slough enjoy spending time walking along the waterfront sidewalk. The air is filled with chirping birds , laughing children, and exciting  music.

“This, this is part of my lifestyle, it’s beautiful here,” Slough said. “We got the waterway, we got the public market, Ulele’s.”

Bikers can ride along the Hillsborough River and secure their bikes  at several bike racks along route. There are several docks next to the railings where people can park their boats or board the private water taxi that provides tours along the river for purchase.

Tampa Water Works Park is located along the Riverfront. Children may wear swimsuits and play inside a  gated splash zone. If children do not want to get wet, they can enjoy the nearby playground located next to the water activities. The pavilion is great for hosting parties, as the large grassy area is perfect for picnics.

People now have access to the new  Native American restaurant from the Riverwalk  by crossing a small bridge. The restaurant is named Ulele after a Native American princess. The restaurant cooks Native American inspired foods like the Native Sauté, Native Chili and Mahi Trevino. This resturant shares its name , Ulele, with one of  Tampa’s water springs.

Next to the Riverwalk area stands the repurposed fire station, that has been converted into a  series of restaurants all under the property name Armature Works. The restaurants combined  offer a  large variety of foods, from barbecue to Acai bowls. The current restaurants inside the station include: Astro Ice Cream, Butcher N Barbecue, Graze, Inside the Box, Union, Zukku, SwamiJuice, Hemingway’s, Cru Cellars, Ava, Cocktail Emporium, Imoto, and Surf and Turf. The Property  plans to add more variety to its current offerings in the near future.

In addition to restaurants  Armature Works includes a  fresh foods market, Heights Public Market and retail store AW Mercantile. The market offers guests the option to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the week. AW Mercantile is a retail shop that offers items that fall under the theme “rustic chic”. The shop is gaining popularity on social media with the hashtags “ #HPM” and “#armatureworks.”

All the shops  inside Armature Works have social media profiles, encouraging customers to share pictures of their experiences.

Couches, chairs and stools are available inside all restaurants at Armature Works for seating. There are benches, chairs and umbrellas in front of the building as well. The location also offers  life-sized chess and checker boards for family amusement. The area is also very pet-friendly and almost always A musician can be found nearby strumming tunes.

Armature Works is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. It opens an hour later at 8a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Florida Focus News Break April 6, 2018

In this news brief: From feeding the homeless to taking orphans on rides the Heaven’s Saints Motorcycle Ministry is more than a motorcycle club.

Anchor: Jessica Lang
Camera Operators:
Floor Director: Tatyana Bazard
Graphics: Maria Laura Lugo
Technical Director: Adam Zubek
Audio: Amy Cisneros
Prompter: Olivia Forbis
Director: Kimmy Traub
Producer: Jessica Lang
Web Content: Dakota Galvin
Faculty Advisor: Cathy Gugerty
Graduate Assistant: Kelsey Baker
Teaching Assistant: Dakota Galvin

Ybor City celebrates 71st annual Fiesta Day

Tampa locals and tourists were treated to the celebration of culture and history during the 71st annual Fiesta Day in Ybor City Historic District.

The street festival consists of live music, local foods, arts and crafts, games and raffles. Musicians and vendors come to share their rich, cultural heritage with those who attend.

“Like every other year, the 71st annual Fiesta Day festival is free and open to the public,” said Deb Hargreaves, the Event Coordinator at the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

“Fiesta Day also celebrates the ‘Best of Ybor’ with all of our food, music and activities,” said Hargreaves.

Ybor City’s Fiesta Day originally began as a day of rest for the cigar workers who settled in what was also known as the Cigar City Capital of the World in the early 1900s.

With the arrival of immigrants who worked in the cigar factories or started their own businesses, Ybor City emerged as Tampa’s ethnic melting pot.

“Fiesta Day celebrates our city’s culture, heritage and cuisine,” said Hargreaves. “It’s one of the best traditions that we get to celebrate in Ybor.”

Some local vendors come to sell their handcrafted pieces of art, clothing and jewelry. While others advertise their small businesses and sell handmade soaps, lotions, jellies and jams.

This year, the street festival took place along Seventh Avenue. During the time of the festival, held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., several streets are closed off.

“Our entertainment this year is presented by The Gaucho Association of Tampa, Centro Ybor and the Krewe of Mambi,” said Hargreaves. “We also have a break-dancing show, live music, a book fair, a parade show, entertainers and many different performances.”

Fiesta Day celebrates the Cuban, African-Cuban, Italian, Spanish, Jewish and German immigrants who came to Ybor City to work in the factories, create businesses and start their new lives.

Not only do Ybor City’s converted cigar factories now serve as a marketplace of shopping, dining and entertainment, they also define the history and growth of Tampa.

“We expect to attract as many as 10,000 attendees of family and people of all ages,” said Hargreaves.

The Fiesta Day street festival is sponsored by many companies such as HCC Ybor Campus, TECO Energy, GTE Financial, Creative Loafing, Bainbridge Ybor City, La Segunda Central Bakery and BB&T.

Ybor City looks forward to bringing even more of the diverse culture and history to the Fiesta Day in the years to come.

For more information about the Fiesta Day, you can visit their Facebook page at or for more information about upcoming events in Ybor City, you can visit their website.

Tampa Bay Downs offers recreation for people of all ages in the bay area


Tampa Bay Downs is an entertainment facility that features activities for adults, children and horse racing fans alike.

“There’s nothing more exciting than seeing top caliber horses racing, and racing to the wire,” said Margo Flynn, the vice president of marketing and publicity.

Live racing is open to the public on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Flynn explained that this year, because the Florida weather has not been as warm as usual, attendance has dropped. Although, February and March are the Downs’ strongest months, so Flynn is looking forward to a great season as well as some of the biggest race days.

Many of the horses that have previously run at Tampa Bay Downs have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, the annual horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky.

“There’s great alumni coming out of this facility, so you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to see the next great champion, and we’ve been fortunate to see many,” said Flynn.

The racing season begins at the end of November and ends on the Sunday after the day of the Derby, which is the first Saturday in May. This doesn’t mean the facilities are empty during the offseason.

There are two days during the summer when Tampa Bay Downs offers live racing, and they make it special by turning it into a festival. There are live concerts in the evening. Last year they had Corgi races.

There are also other events on the property between racing seasons like the Oldsmar October Fest.

During the offseason, poker is offered daily in the Silks Poker Room from 10 a.m. until 4 a.m. year-round.

The driving range is adjacent to the facility. It is also open all year.

On Sundays in February and March, Tampa Bay Downs offers family-friendly activities. These days are free admission and children can enjoy pony rides, bounce houses, face painting and other games.

“There has also been a big boom in children’s birthday parties,” said Flynn.

“All they have to do is bring their own cake and they’re set, the kids are entertained, and the adults have a great day watching the horse races.”

They encourage families to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day out watching the races.


Lakeland, one of Florida’s hidden gems


In just under an hour drive from Tampa, Lakeland is a city that is worth a daytime visit. The city is known for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, an affinity for swans and an abundance of lakes.


Lake Mirror, downtown Lakeland. Photo by Emily McCain

The swans in Lakeland serve as unofficial mascots. You can find them as statues, in the city logo and at almost any of the city’s 38 lakes. But what most people don’t know is that the swans are local royalty.

Sleeping swan at Lake Morton. Photo by Emily McCain

In the 50s, the local swan population slowly disappeared. When two former residents heard about the swans’ disappearance, they appealed to the Queen of England for help.

Queen Elizabeth agreed to donate two swans from the royal flock living on the River Thames. She only asked that the city pays for the crating and shipping costs. $300 later, two white mute swans were on their way to Lakeland.

Today decedents of those swans can be found all around the town. One place you can visit to see them is Lake Mirror, right in the heart of downtown.

Lake Mirror is a popular place to hold events, weddings and just enjoy a nice walk. The lake is surrounded by the historic Francis Langford Promenade. The promenade is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cobblestone promenade is named after Francis Langford, an actress and singer from Lakeland. The walk along the promenade is about a mile. It includes the community theater, a children’s park, a garden bistro and a lakefront botanical garden.

If you really want to interact with the swans, make the short walk from Lake Mirror to Lake Morton. This lake is where most of the swans can be found and where most people go to feed them.

Make sure you bring some change with you because around the lake you’ll come across a few swan feed dispensers. The city installed the dispensers to help manage what the swans are fed.

Many people like to bring white bread to feed the swans but it can be harmful to the birds in large amounts. If you don’t have change for the dispensers, you can bring things like lettuce, spinach and whole oats.

If you’re coming to town on a Saturday, start your day at the curbside farmers market. It stretches through downtown right alongside local restaurants and coffee shops.

Mitchell’s Coffee House is just a step away from the market. They’ve been serving gourmet coffee and pastries in town for two decades. You can even bring in your own mug and they’ll hold on to it for your next visit.

If you’re looking for a more eclectic atmosphere, then stop by 801 E Main. Named for its physical address, this open-air café was once a gas station. The marketplace features three distinct brands inside.

You can visit The Poor Porker food truck, where you can get coffee and beignets. You can sit outside to eat or head inside toward the Bar Calexico.

Strawberry Chocolate Beignet from The Poor Porker. Photo by Emily McCain

The bar serves local beer and specialty drinks and acts as a live music venue. While inside you can also stop in at Bearcat and Big Six trading post.

For more drinks, you can head down to Cob and Pen. The gastropub’s name comes from the local royals. A male swan is called a cob and a female is called a pen. The pub offers 16 rotating drafts and over 200 bottled beers.

Cob and Pen Gastropub. Photo by Emily McCain

The pub offers a one of a kind atmosphere. Housed in a historic Tudor home, it offers high ceilings, bay windows and a large outdoor space for lawn games.

Before leaving, make sure you stop by Florida Southern College. The college is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. You can tour it yourself or sign up for one of the daily tours offered by the college.

USF students start frozen cookie dough business

Look out cookie dough lovers there’s a frozen treat for you around the Tampa Bay area. Fro-Dough is a new creation for Florida no matter the day or the weather.

Bree Sparks, sophomore, and Cameron Austin, freshman, a couple at The University of South Florida have combined the trend of edible cookie dough and the cold sweetness of ice cream to create Fro-Dough.

“People are super excited anytime they see it, they have to do a double take because it still is a really new concept,” said Sparks, founder of Fro-Dough.

For those worried about uncooked cookie dough making you sick, do not fear. Fro-Dough is completely harmless because it is made with safe flour and a replacement for eggs. Compared to other cookie dough companies it is unique because it is frozen. Many of the flavors are actually vegan or gluten-free.

Sparks is vegan and a huge cookie dough connoisseur herself. “Edible cookie dough has been like one of our many passions, like everyone else we love to eat it straight out of the bowl,” said Sparks.

There are a variety of flavors ranging from chocolate chip, sugar cookie, cake batter, brownie batter, sweet and salty and even a mixed berry cobbler flavor.

Vegan Brownie Batter is just one of the many flavors Fro-Dough has to offer around the Tampa Bay area. Photo by Deanna Salt

“Our flavors if we don’t absolutely love them, we don’t sell them and we freeze it. Not a lot of other people freeze it and in our opinions, it just makes it so much better,” said Austin.

While Fro-Dough does not have a specific location you can try free samples at many different events throughout the Tampa Bay area.

“We do markets around Tampa Bay like right now we’re selling every week on Wednesdays and Thursdays at USF Bull Market and we also do an array of events over the weekend that you can find on our Facebook page,” said Sparks.

Sparks and Austin have come a long way from when they first started making cookie dough for fun at home.

“It was pretty lengthy cause there’s really no instructions on doing it, especially like us, where we’re selling at markets rather than starting an actual brick and mortar place,” said Sparks. “It was a bit confusing to get licensed. We had to go through the Department of Hotels and Businesses and get licensed by them; a business license. We had to get our freezer, we had to get our trailer and perfect all our recipes.”

Fro-Dough uses a commercial kitchen in South Tampa where the whole dream comes together.

“This place helped out a lot because I went in here not knowing anything and I talked to the owner. She gave me a whole list of all the things that I needed to do which was super helpful,” Sparks explained.

After recently starting this business in 2017, Sparks and Austin have a lot of hope for Fro-Dough and want to open a physical location soon. They are partnering with a local non-profit, Keys to Kindness, which they will donate all proceeds from their Kind Blast-Mixed Berry Cobbler flavor.

Keep up with Fro-Dough on their Facebook page at Frodough.co and their Instagram @fro.dough.

67-year-old yoga instructor promotes a healthy lifestyle

Healthy living is a concept many are concerned with. Organic items fill the shelves and gluten-free products seem to come out of nowhere. For 67-year-old June Kittay, a healthy lifestyle involves more than just healthy eating.

“I did 25 minutes on the treadmill, then I lifted weights and I did a few yoga poses,” Kittay said about her morning exercise routine.

Her lifestyle wasn’t always as healthy. In her 20’s, she was an elementary school teacher with very dangerous habits. The effects of these habits became clear after some years.

“I existed during the week on a pack of cigarettes a day and two liters of diet soda. Fast forward 40 years later, I have osteoporosis. That’s what happens when you don’t take care of your body,” Kittay said.

A car accident motivated Kittay to bring awareness to the importance of health and fitness.

“I went into a seated fitness class and I said this is what I want to do when I grow up! So that’s what happened. I became a fitness instructor in 2004 and I’ve been doing it ever since. And I love it. I wish so many other people would do it,” Kittay said.

To keep up her promise to the community, Kittay teaches a “Yoga in the Gardens” class in the Botanical Gardens at the University of South Florida. USF student Jasmine Ehney has been a recurring visitor to the classes.

“I really like how she emphasizes nature, mindfulness and how to appreciate the trees and the earth. Things that we don’t usually notice,”  Ehney said.

The class is held every Friday at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students and visitors can come to the class free of cost.

People ditch homes to live in school buses

Dozens of people rolled into Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville on Feb. 17 to show off their tiny homes on wheels at the inaugural Florida Skoolie Swarm.

The trend of abandoning traditional homes for remodeled school buses called “skoolies” is gaining popularity. Some want to reduce their cost of living, while others crave a nomadic lifestyle rooted in simplicity.

“It’s people who really wanted to just maybe change things up in their lives,” said Sandy Blankenship, a Skoolie Swarm coordinator. “For me, I wanted to move into a bus to simplify things.”

The idea of living with less is appealing to some people who are working, but struggle to stay financially afloat. Many of the buses are rigged with solar panels and accumulate their water from hoses and other outside sources, meaning no electricity or water bill.

“It feels good, you get rid of stuff,” said Roger Scruggs, a teacher at Florida Virtual School who lives in a bus of his own. “I still have a job, I still have an income. I just live in a bus.”

A group of “skoolies” are in Brooksville with their remodeled school buses. Photo by Zach Wilcox.

School buses are commonly purchased online or at an auction for a few thousand dollars and then renovated to support day-to-day life. Renovations include installing a bed, toilet, sink and storage space. The cost of creating a skoolie may be expensive, but for people like Scruggs, it’s worth it.

“I bought the bus for $4,000,” said Scruggs. “I’ve put in roughly $7,000 into it, which isn’t bad for an RV.”

Some roadblocks on the path to mobile living include understanding where it’s legal to park skoolies and dealing with code violations.

“Homeowners associations and zone and code enforcement, when they see a school bus in a driveway or parked at somebody’s house, they consider it a commercial vehicle a lot, and they’ll tell them that they have to move it or get fined,” said Travis Mattson, one of the skoolie owners at the Skoolie Swarm. “Some homeowners associations don’t want you to have that kind of vehicle in your driveway, and you have to get it titled as a motor home in order to legally park it there. So there is a little bit of struggle while you’re building it when you’re getting ready to go full time.”

Despite some of these struggles, many skoolie owners have found the transition to be very efficient and rewarding because they get the chance to see places some traditional homeowners never will.

“My regret is not doing it earlier because there’s so much out there to see that you just want to be able to get out and explore the country,” said Scruggs. “And this is the best way to do it.”

For people interested in downsizing to a tiny home, local tiny homes festivals are a good place to start. The next upcoming one in the Tampa Bay area is the St. Pete Tiny Home Festival.

Florida Focus News Brief April 5, 2018

In this news brief: A woman is killed in Zephyrhills this morning after she threatens a man with a gun. A crane collapses at the construction site of the new St. Pete police station. Civil rights groups are calling for body cameras for St. Pete police officers. Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Tampa Police department are launching a new special needs registry.

Anchor: Nada Blassy
Camera Operators: Jacob Swisher
Floor Director: Jacob Swisher
Graphics: Maria Laura Lugo
Technical Director: Adam Zubek
Audio: Tatyana Bazard
Prompter: Amy Cisnersos
Director: Kimmy Traub
Producer: Emily McCain
Web Content: Jessica Lang
Faculty Advisor: Cathy Gugerty
Graduate Assistant: Kelsey Baker
Teaching Assistant: Dakota Galvin

Pasco County Fair Association celebrates 71st annual fair

The Ferris Wheel. Photo taken by Mila Cordeiro.

Pasco County hosted its 71st annual fair in Dade City this past weekend.

The Pasco County Fair began its development in 1947, opening for the first time in 1948. The five businessmen, who created the fair came together to buy the fairgrounds. They wanted to showcase youthful talent.
“The five men created the Pasco County Fair Association,” said Annual Fair Chairman Tracy J. Thompson. “The association is not owned by the county. It is privately owned by the association, which people get confused about.”
There are five buildings on the fairgrounds dedicated to the original members.
To keep the fair running, there are hundreds of unpaid volunteers that work together. The board itself has 30 members who volunteer their time to help run the countywide event.
“It takes a village to put on the fair for seven days,” said Thompson.
Children can enjoy events such as plant showings and sales, a hog show, a steer show, art exhibits, entertainment, food, and rides from the midway.
This year’s entertainment included shows such as The Fearless Flores Thrill Show, Robinson’s Racing Pigs and Extreme Illusions & Escapes. As for food, you could find funnel cakes, french fries, candy apples, pizza and boiled peanuts.

“For the past 12 to 14 years, we’ve had the PRCA Rodeo,” said Thompson. “This year we’re having what’s called the Ranch Rodeo, which will be ran a little differently.”

The Ranch Rodeo will consist of a group of men that will exhibit the different competitions that make up a regular rodeo.
The fair lasts for seven days and begins its first day on Presidents Day. Since the intention is to bring the youth together, the fair accommodates its opening times for children in the area. The fair opens at 4 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
This year brought sponsors such as Covanta Energy, Kim Browne Dade City, Jarrett Ford Dade City, TECO and Pepsi.

“The biggest thing that I want people to take away from the fair is that it’s put on by a volunteer organization,” said Thompson. “It is not related to or run by the county.”

The fairgrounds hosts other events such as Sparklebration, weddings, parties and gun shows. These events assist with the upkeep of the grounds.

Interested in volunteering? Want to discover what other events the Pasco County Fairgrounds offers? Visit their website at www.pascocountyfair.com.

Florida Focus News Brief April 3, 2018

In this news brief:

In this news brief: 16 men are accused of attempting to travel to have sex with minors; There’s a new non stop flight between Florida’s beaches and Music City; Whole Foods is moving their store less than a mile down the road; author of the new book Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning

Florida Focus News Break April 2, 2018

In this news brief: A murder investigation is underway after a woman is found dead in Manatee County; a Sarasota man is shot after aiming a pellet gun at police; gas prices are climbing; a new Seminole Heights restaurant has patrons talking with interesting menu options; and people around the Bay Area are wearing blue for World Autism Day.


The Lights Fest makes Florida debut

For the first time ever, The Lights Fest and its incredible lantern launch took to the skies in the Sunshine State.

Over the past two weekends, the worldwide festival made its first stop in Florida at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City. Originally starting in Utah, The Lights Fest now spans across the United States and Europe. Each location includes food, games and live performances from local artists across the globe. It is a celebration for family and friends as well as a way to find closure and peace. Event Director Tiffany Townsend believes the festival is a way to put troubling matters to bed.

“The Lights Fest is special because it allows people to have closure about certain things,” Townsend said. “What happened in Florida, last week with the school shooting. Some people have bought tickets just to get closure about that, and really that’s what the company is about; giving people closure, giving people hope, giving them a chance to say goodbye to loved ones, and to pray for their loved ones if they’re injured or whatever it may be. So, it’s just a really good chance for people to think about their lives and basically look back at the good things and pray for the not so good things.”

The company has made a conscious effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Guests are reminded to properly dispose of their bottles and cans. The lanterns are designed for low flight, making them easier to track down and properly throw away. Even if one is lost, the lanterns are biodegradable, allowing them to break down naturally. The Lights Fest has also adopted a “Leave No Trace” policy, promising to leave venues the way they arrived.

While the festival is an all-day event, its well-known lantern launch is the grand finale. Each guest is given his or her own lantern to decorate and design as they please. Many are encouraged to write wishes, prayers and personal goals on their lanterns. Once they are launched, it is a remarkable sight to see. Samuel Malachowski, who acts as the master of ceremonies during the lantern launch, knows what the spectacle means to its guests.

“The main attraction why people come is for the lantern launch,” Malachowski said. “Just like what people have seen in the movie Tangled, you know it’s something seriously amazing, and it can become quite spiritual and very emotional for people. So, that’s what brings people to the event, and we’re just trying to leave good vibes, a good atmosphere for everyone to hopefully leave as a better person.”

For those interested in the event, The Lights Fest is planning to make Florida a regular stop with four planned events annually. The next two dates this year will be sometime in the fall. Cities such as Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee have already pre-registered to host future events. With The Lights Fest now touching base in the Tampa Bay area, it is encouraged that people experience the event first-hand.

“It’s just a really good experience. I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime, just because it’s a cool thing to experience. Very spiritual. Magical.”

Time Lord Fest comes to Tampa

By: Zach Wilcox

TAMPA, Fla. — Fans of Britain’s favorite doctor had the chance to celebrate his legacy in Tampa.

Time Lord Fest, an annual event that brings “Doctor Who” fans from around the Bay Area together, parked its TARDIS here. The event featured cosplay, vendors, guest speakers, panels and pretty much anything “Doctor Who.”

“Standard conventions focus a lot more on the celebrities that are coming in,” said Julia Langston, a vendor at the festival. “But Time Lord Fest has so much fun stuff going on. I mean there are games, and there are crafts, and there are radio plays.”

“Doctor Who” is a British science fiction television series that has been airing intermittently on BBC since 1963. The show features an extraterrestrial doctor who crosses space and time while solving mysteries and demanding justice. There have been 12 doctors, and the first female doctor was just announced.

giphy.gifCourtesy: Giphy

Time Lord Fest was held at the event factory on Hillsborough Avenue. The location has a collection of themed rooms that add to the aesthetic of the festival.

Related image

A forest-themed room at this year’s Time Lord Fest. Courtesy: theeventfactory.com

“What we hope for is when they walk in, it feels like they’re walking into a ‘Doctor Who’ episode,” said Ken Spivey, the organizer of the event. “Then there are vendors and there are other people dressed as the Doctor, and they feel at home immediately.”

The tickets for Time Lord Fest were $25 with discounts for both military personnel and students. Partial proceeds from the event went to the Livestrong Foundation at the YMCA.