Local man strives for wildlife conservation

Bruno Falkenstein is the Godfather of sea turtles.

Since 1979 he has been monitoring the stretch of beach from the Pass-A-Grille jetty to Bunces Pass at Upham Beach. While the times and shoreline have changed drastically since Bruno’s first year on turtle patrol, his routine has not.

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Bruno gets out of bed at around 6:00 every morning from April 1 until Halloween.  He walks his dog and then grabs the keys for his Jeep. He leaves and drives down the beach to search for turtle tracks and check on existing nests.

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In the past few years there has been an increase in sea turtle nests and a rise in interested locals wanting to do their part to conserve the aquatic creatures.   In response to the swell in popularity, Bruno founded Sea Turtle Trackers Inc. The mission of Sea Turtle Trackers Inc. is to ensure a suitable habitat for sea turtles, people and the ecosystem of the islands and their surrounding waters. They also connect with the community and inform residents about what they can do to promote sea turtle conservation.

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There are other organizations in the state that do work similar to the Sea Turtle Trackers. Locally, Clearwater Marine Science Center monitors the Pinellas County beaches north of Bruno’s jurisdiction. Clearwater, however, has incentives for monitoring turtles besides just conservation.

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“The major difference between Clearwater Marine Science Center and myself is that I’m not under contract with Clearwater,” Bruno said.  “And by the way as food for thought, Clearwater gets paid about one hundred and thirty five thousand dollars a year to do Pinellas County beaches.  I won’t accept anything, I don’t want to be paid for anything. To me, it’s a labor of love.”

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In 2009, Bruno was named Florida Citizen of the Year by The Florida Beaches and Shores Association in recognition of his long time commitment to conservation.  As far as what is next for Bruno and the Trackers, he says he is more than content doing what he has done so well for the last 35 years.

 

Brandon woman beats cancer

 

Brandon, Fla.—Two years ago, Eva Johnson was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer at age 30.

Johnson said it was important for her to remain positive while she was fighting the disease.

“I didn’t let it control me,” Johnson said.  “I was in charge of that cancer, so taking it day by day was first and foremost for me.”

Johnson underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.

“Going through all of that, it’s nothing you want anybody to have to go through,” Johnson said.  “It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever been through.”

Johnson said her family helped her through the process.

“I tried to be her strength when she was weak,” Nichole McDonald, Johnson’s sister, said.  “I just tried to be positive, encourage her through her rough days, and remind her that brighter days are ahead of her and she could get through it.”

Johnson’s positivity also came from her son, Mason.

“He needs his mommy, and I planned on staying around for him for a long time,” Johnson said.

A year after her first surgery, Johnson learned she was cancer-free.

“When I found out, I was at the car dealership getting my oil changed, and I had to wait a whole week,” Johnson said. “Those five days were the worst. I was stressed, I was on edge, I cried every day about it.  And then when I found out, I screamed, I was out in the parking lot. I said, ‘I got the news’.”

 

 

Festa Italiana spreads Italian culture

 

Festa Italiana was hosted in Ybor City for the 18th year with the help of Joe Capitano Jr. The festival, celebrating Italian culture in Centennial Park, took place Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon.

The celebration of Italian culture allows the community to come together to share the culture and support local businesses, while raising funds for the Italian Club of Tampa.

“It brings awareness to Ybor,” Alice Mueller, the Italian Club manager said. “Sometimes there’s a negative connotation attached to Ybor City, but really it’s a great place to come.”

The Italian Club begins preparing for the event in August each year and continues working up until the event takes place in April.

Over 15 thousand people attended each day. Every day offers unique events to draw in crowds.

The annual Bocce Ball tournament takes place Saturday morning, while Sunday morning kicks off with a Catholic mass in the Italian Club.

Following mass, Centennial Park opens up to the public where over 100 food and beverage vendors line up along the street to sell their unique dishes and drinks.

“It’s really a family event,” Gilda Ferlita Capitano, President of the Italian Club, said.

Though family is near to many Italian’s hearts, food is a close second.

“Food, Italian food, a bunch of other Italians they get it,” Andrea Diaz, a festival attendee said.  “When they see loud voices, big gestures, it’s welcomed.”

Gilda Capitano couldn’t be prouder of her son Joe Capitano Jr. who works hard to ensure this event lives on.

“Seeing so many people together, it’s really just gratifying,” Gilda Capitano said.

 

Tampa’s Cheese Please has plenty to offer

 

 

 

Cheese and wine collide at the Cheese Please located at 3225 S. MacDill Ave. in Tampa.

Cheese Please began ultimately as a love for cheese and bringing it back from Europe to the Tampa Bay community.

” No plan and no concept it was just one conversation and we (co-owner Carlos Kanamori) jumped into it,” co-owner of Cheese Please Michael Jones said.

 

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Cheese Please located in South Tampa

 

The shop has every cheese from A to Z, mostly from Europe, and they come at quite a cost.

“The most expensive cheese we have is the Pecorino with Truffles at $30 a pound,” Cheese Please salesperson Ciata Choice said.

And with respect to the wine, the most expensive wine bottle is $41.95.

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Cheese Please hosts tastings Friday and Saturday nights and once a month on Thursdays

 

Cheese Please also has a wine bar, better known as Clooney’s Wine Bar for the actor George Clooney,  for those that just want to relax after a long day.

The highlight of the shop, however, is its cheese and wine tastings and private parties that occur on a weekly basis.

“We always have a tasting Friday and Saturday nights, typically private parties we have two or three a week, so now there are anywhere between four to six events every week,” Jones said.

 

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One of the many jellies and spreads available to purchase in the shop

 

The tastings consist of eight courses of cheese with and without a condiment as well as pre-selected wines throughout the tasting.

“My role (in the tastings) is more focused on the wine,” Kanamori said. “I do it because I like to do more of the pairings of the wines. That’s what I enjoy pairing with the wines and the cheeses during the tastings.”

And Jones is the star of the show.

“I’m anything, anytime, anywhere,” he said. “I’m more of the entertainer.”

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One of the signature pieces of the shop. A Michael Jones favorite.

 

The high heels can be seen throughout the shop and they are something special to Jones.

“I love shoes on women, and it started out as Carlos hated the concept that I would order shoes to hold the wine bottles, so just to annoy Carlos I ordered more,” Jones said.

Tickets are $30 each. To make a reservation call (813) 805-2743 or (813) 766-0060. You can pre-order online at cheesepleasetampa.com as well.

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One of the many signs that occupy the shop

 

Name brands at prices you’ll love

If you’re looking for upscale fashion at a fraction of the price, Encore Boutique and Consignment is a store you want to stop at.

Encore Boutique is the only upscale consignment store in Land O’ Lakes. Owned by Julie Taylor since 2008, the boutique offers shoppers the ability to buy name brand items without paying name brand prices. The merchandise is constantly changing since people bring in items for Taylor to consign. This keeps customers returning to see what new things are for sale.

“We have some shoppers and consignors who have been with us for seven years,” Taylor said.

Inside the small boutique you’ll find a variety of items from dresses, pants, bags, jewelry, shoes, belts, and other accessories. The store follows the latest trends and does not accept clothing that is deemed outdated. Taylor says she doesn’t accept everything. Items needs to be cleaned, pressed and hung on hangers before she’ll even look at them.

“I’m very particular and consigning with me isn’t for everyone because of that,” she said. “My feeling is that if I wouldn’t want to buy it, why would someone else?”

Consignors have the option of having unsellable items returned to them or donated to local charities. The main charities Taylor donates to are Hospice Life, Dress for Success, and Shriners. If the items do sell, consignors are paid by check once or month or a given store credit.

“We have a diverse group of consignors,” Taylor said. “Some like to make money on their clothes and others are shoppers who simply like to recycle their clothes because they’re tired of wearing the same things.”

If you’re in the Land O’ Lakes area, be sure to make a visit to Encore Boutique and Consignment.

Local band takes Tampa by storm

A local band, The Applebutter Express, is drawing in crowds from all over the bay area. Kyle and Shannon Biss started the band as a vocal duo back in 2004 when they met in high school before getting married in 2011. Since then, they added Joe Trivette as a fiddle player and Matt Desear as the bassist to complete the band.

“I always knew that Shannon could sing because she was in chorus, but she wanted nothing to do with it at first,” Kyle said. “She didn’t want to sing in front of a bunch of people. Once I finally got her up there the first time, she was fine and I realized we had this chemistry on stage together.”

The Applebutter Express has a unique sound given to their use of stringed-instruments like the ukulele played by Kyle. Their folk-like, bluegrass style is more uplifting than most music played today. What first started as a hobby for the band, has led to performances all throughout Florida and even to other states for festivals such as Bonnaroo.

“We would start to go to local festivals and campsites, walk around and perform for people around there by singing and playing around,” Shannon said. “We didn’t think of doing anything professional yet. We decided one night after so many positive responses from people that maybe we can do something with this. That was enough encouragement to go to open mics and tryout for local gigs and now it’s a whole thing.”

The band members do not focus on a certain niche when it comes to their audience and their eclectic music has drawn in a variety of listeners from children to seniors. 

“What’s really funny to me is that kids just take to us,” Shannon said. “I guess that we are good dancing music for kids. Really we get crowds of all ages because we do a lot of 60s and 70s covers and that kind of thing. That’s the music that we are really into, Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead, so we get a lot of older fans from that.  But we get a little bit of everybody.  A lot of people you wouldn’t expect.”

The Applebutter Express already released two CDs and plans to have more. Their recently signed publishing deal and featured song “Hey, my brotha”  in Ron Howard’s film “The Good Lie” foreshadows they have nothing but a successful future to look forward to for years to come.

 

 

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Wheels are rolling in Tampa

The 22nd Annual Tampa Am skating competition dropped into the Skate Park of Tampa, drawing out hundreds of people to watch young skaters prove themselves in the world of extreme sports.

The event takes place over three days, with two qualifying rounds and finals. The winner advances on to compete in Street League, a nationally broadcast skateboarding event that opens doors to sponsorship opportunities and professional skating careers.

“It’s kind of like an art, making my mind create things I like to do,” competitor Miles McKenny says about skating. “Seeing me progress is another good thing.”

This is something McKenny hopes he can pass down to future generations of skaters, saying that his favorite thing to do is help younger skaters work on their tricks.

There was a sense of community throughout the entire three-day event, and as the pool of competitors became smaller and smaller, the crowd became bigger and bigger. The sense of community is what keeps a lot of skaters going.

“You walk around and everyone has the same feeling as you,” Daniel Toss said. “It’s a good group of people and something fun to do.”

 

New drug bags fight prescription abuse

 

Tampa Fla. – The Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) is combating prescription drug misuse in a  unique way.  HCADA is implementing a drug disposal program within Hillsborough County.

HCADA received ten thousand bags this past month and hopes to distribute these to pharmacies and clinics in the county. This is all part of a new national pilot program.

Hillsborough is one of three counties in the entire country partaking in this program.

The purpose of these bags is so you have a proper way to dispose of prescription medicines. HCADA says this is better than throwing them away or flushing them down the toilet, which has environmental effects.

“Different medications and antibiotics are actually showing in fish in the waters, where we obtain some of our food supply.” Ronnie Crescentini from HCADA says.

These bags add another way to dispose of prescription medicine. There are usually two drug take back days in the county where the coalition and members of the community can properly get rid of their unwanted medicine.

Dr. Thomas Towers, an assistant professor with USF says, “One of the benefits too is that there is a privacy to it.”

The bags can hold up to 90 pills and any type of medication can be put in them. The bags are easy to use with clear easy-to-follow instructions on the back. All you need is water. They can be thrown away and they will not harm the environment because they are biodegradable.

The long term goal for the program is that they are used by the public and funding will be awarded to keep the program going on a wider, more national scale.

The bags are free of charge and can be picked up at HCADA. If you cannot make it, HCADA will deliver one to you.