Oxford Exchange mixes classic, contemporary

Many know the Oxford Exchange as a relaxing place to dine in, have coffee or shop, but what many don’t know is how the Oxford Exchange became what it is today.

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The building, located at 420 West Kennedy Blvd., has gone through numerous changes over the past decades. It was originally built in 1891 as a stable for the Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall. The Oxford Exchange opened in 2012.

“The owner, Blake Casper, went to college in London and was inspired by the university libraries and the old clubs, all the architecture there. He really thought that sense of community was missing here in his hometown of Tampa,” said Sarah Dyles, the director of public relations.

 

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The idea started with a small bookstore and soon took off from there. The owner and his team have done their best at preserving as much of the old material as they could.

“The original brick walls are exposed,” said Dyles. “The original wood floors are actually above us on the ceiling. We found old horse shoes and milk bottles that were left behind from over a century ago.”

The building has an authentic, historic appearance. Its unique architecture and design helps draw people in.

“I would say the most unique thing is the space, all the different facets,” said sous chef Rachel Bennett. “They have the commerce club, the atrium, the conservatory and the retail shop. There are not very many restaurants where you get to have all these different kinds of elements.”

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Coffee and tea are common favorites. Many people enjoy sipping their beverages while lounging on the big, comfortable, leather sofas.

“I really like coming here on Fridays after my yoga classes,” said Daniella Salgueiro, a University of Tampa student. “The environment is very soothing and relaxing. I like to have my coffee here in the morning, and sometimes I’ll have a little treat.”

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In the center of the building is the atrium, a simple gathering space. The Oxford Exchange does not offer Wi-Fi. They prefer people are not staring at their phones all day long, but rather are interacting and collaborating with one another.

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“They’re doing things with people, the way they did back when this building was originated,” said Dyles.

Wild Days Light Up SeaWorld Orlando

ORLANDO – Growing up in Puerto Rico, Celivette Diaz always dreamed of visiting SeaWorld.

“All of my cousins would come to Florida and talk about SeaWorld,” Diaz said. “They would tell me how amazing it was and I was always so jealous.”

Luck seemed to be on her side, because a few months ago, her parents surprised her with a trip to Florida. It just so happened that her trip would fall during a time where SeaWorld hosted their annual Wild Days event.

According to SeaWorld’s website, “Wild Days connects guests to the wild and wonderful world we all share, with educational and interactive shows that give guests the opportunity to meet leaders in the world of animal rescue, rehabilitation and preservation.”

“I didn’t know anything about Wild Days,”  Diaz said. “I’m happy I managed to make it to the second weekend because I love penguins.”

This year, Wild Days takes place every Saturday and Sunday on the last three weekends of January. Each weekend has a different theme to it. Diaz visited on the second weekend, which was Penguin Lovers’ Weekend.

Only for this weekend, SeaWorld’s Animal Ambassador Julie Scardina hosts a special penguin focused event where you can meet a penguin.

“I’ve had a lot of fun today,” said Diaz’s sister, Valeria. “They give you a map with spaces to get stamps from different places in the park. Once you get them all you get a free key chain.”

Wild Days is not just a one-on-one with animal experts. People of all ages can take part in various interactive games, up-close experiences and interesting, learning sessions at the 14 zones scattered throughout the park. Once inside select zones, guests can collect one of six stamps that leads to a free key chain and a behind-the-scenes tour of SeaWorld’s rescue area.

One of Diaz’s favorite places in the theme park was the Dolphin Cove area. This part of the park is where SeaWorld houses their dolphins and has them available for underwater viewing.

Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.
Diaz was vey excited to be near the dolphins.

“Dolphins have always been my favorite animal,” Diaz said. “I would always see them on the television, but to see them so close to you is wonderful.”

Wild Days always draws in the crowds at SeaWorld. Even though the high today was 56 degrees, park hours were extended by 30 minutes because of the popularity of the event.

“It’s crazy how busy the park is right now,”  Kendall Starke said, an employee at one of SeaWorld’s attractions. “Usually now we’re in the middle of post-Christmas time slump.”

SeaWorld aims to educate people on the ways to keep animals and the environment safe. They have a special show that aims to teach guests about the care that their orca’s receive on a daily basis.

Even though she has always been a huge SeaWorld fan, Diaz was a bit disappointed in the company back when the documentary “Blackfish” came out. She, like many, believed that SeaWorld was mistreating their orcas.

“I was angry at them for a long time after watching the movie,”Diaz said. “But being here today and seeing how much love and care they give their animals tells me everything I need to know.”

The last weekend of Wild Days will occur on Jan. 30 – 31.

USF St. Pete celebrates 50 years of learning

St. Petersburg, Fla – It’s a semicentennial celebration and the proud colors are green and gold.  USF St. Pete campus is celebrating its 50th year of operation in 2015.

The campus kicked off the year’s celebration in June with a ceremony and street renaming. Those who attended the event included USF President Judy Genshaft, Regional Chancellor of USFSP Sophia Wisniewska, Mayor Rick Kriseman, students and alumni.

“It marks 50 years of extraordinary students, brilliant faculty and dedicated staff.” said Sudsy Tschiderer,  USF St. Petersburg Alumna. “It’s about our students that are here now and up to 50 years ago.”

The school campus has a rich history that lies with the students and the buildings on campus. The campus features three main colleges. The College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences and the Kate Tiedemann College of Business, which is currently being built.

Student life has grown over the years of the university’s operation. When first opened in 1965, the school welcomed 260 students bused in from local cities. The student body population has expanded to an average of 6,000 students per semester. Even with the expansion, USF St. Petersburg has a vast size difference compared to the Tampa campus.

“I love that the class sizes are a little bit smaller so the teachers are into their students.” said Nicole Ward, a USFSP student. “It’s definitely a more intimate setting that I need in a class.”

Through the remainder of the year USFSP will host several events and seminars reflecting on the anniversary.

“Since I’ve been at this campus there are so many things that I love and I’m so glad I’m here to participate in this special year.” said Tschiderer.

For more information on upcoming anniversary events and celebrations visit USFSP.org/50years

 

 

Running for the homeless: Trick or Trot 5k Costume Fun Run

Hope for the Homeless at USF organized their first Trick or Trot 5k Costume Fun Run on Oct. 24. The goals for the 5k were to have people have fun while running the trail and to raise as much money as possible. The money collected supports local homeless people with care packages for the holidays. The organization had a raffle drawing with prizes and a costume contest. Winners received prizes from local supporters.

 

Tarpon Springs High School Marching Band achieves success

Tarpon Springs High School’s marching band program is a National Pilot Program that focuses on building leadership skills through the arts. The marching band has won many state and national competitions as well as a world competition. Two years ago, the marching band had the honor to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Trick or Trot brings donations, holiday spirit

As they approached the finish line, it was unclear whether Superman or the Ninja Turtle would get there first.

Eventually Superman edged to victory over Michelangelo, closely followed by Minnie Mouse, a pumpkin and a 6-foot Viking. This was all part of the Trick or Trot 5K Fun Run, which was held Oct. 24 by Help for the Homeless at the University of South Florida’s Fitness Trail.

“I think a lot of people had fun, and it was great with the music and with the raffle,” Stephanie Radu, president and founder of Hope for the Homeless at USF, said.

Radu, a biomedical sciences major, founded the organization in January of this year, with this being its first event. Each runner paid a $15 fee that was donated to the Ybor Youth Clinic.

“The money is going toward care packages that will all go to the homeless,” Radu said. “We will put a lot of effort into making and distributing them.”

Cameron Purvis of Florida College won the race with a time of 16:27 and was awarded a Halloween-themed trophy in the shape of a skull, despite not wearing a costume for the event.

“I actually kind of forgot about dressing up,” Purvis said. “Once we were on our way we were like ‘wow we forgot our costumes.’”

Purvis said he had not been training for this race in particular but decided to sign up when he saw the money raised was going to a good cause.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of mileage this season and was looking for a good race to sign up for,” Purvis said.

Over 100 people signed up for the race, which raised over $2,500 via donations and raffle ticket purchases. Radu’s goal was $3,000, but she was pleased with the result.

“I’m a little optimistic so I’m happy with $2,500,” Radu said.

Radu believes that not enough was being done for the homeless in Tampa, which is why she set up this organization.

“I feel very passionately about helping the homeless community,” Radu said. “We’re trying to get rid of that bad stigma that’s around them. There’s a lot of homeless youth in Tampa.”

After their first event, Radu is optimistic there will be many more. “We hope to hold another event in the spring and to make this event an annual one,” Radu said.

Some of the sponsors of the event had representatives at the race handing out free treats to participants. Amazon representatives, for example, were at the event giving out water bottles to runners after they had completed the race. They also donated items that were used as prizes in the raffle that took place.

There were many volunteers at the race who ensured everything went as smoothly as possible. The DJ, the referees and the event managers all volunteered to set up and run the event.

The DJ gathered a lot of attention after the raffle took place, playing “Cupid Shuffle” that made around 20 of the runners join in with the dance.

Even some of the adults dressed up. Photo by Connor Vice
Some of the adults even dressed up. Photo by Connor Vice.

Ex-pro passes on his basketball expertise through training program

To some, basketball may be just a sport. For Jean Carlo Rivera, it is a passion and skill he wants to share with all of Tampa Bay.

 

At the Harbour Island Athletic Club and Spa, Rivera has developed a basketball skills training program. After just a month and a half he has established a clientele ranging from high school students to professional players.

 

Rivera has been studying the game of basketball for years. He played four years of collegiate basketball at Florida College. Then he played professionally overseas in Puerto Rico.

 

He wanted to share all that he learned from his experiences. This helped spark the idea for his training program.

 

“Me training on my own, just, I wanted to help kids get better because nobody helped me get better, you understand,” Rivera said. “I had to help myself. So everything that I learned, I want to pass on to kids for the next generation, the next generation, the next generation.”

 

Rivera’s main focus is to develop his client’s basketball skills. He runs different drills with his clients that incorporate various techniques such as dribbling and passing.

 

“Being a basketball skills developer you do pretty much every type of drill. We do ball handling, shooting, rebounding, passing, post moves,” Rivera said.

 

Johnathan Gray, a professional player overseas, values Rivera’s training because it helps him focus on the little things.

 

“He really breaks down my footwork in terms of my shooting, my balance, and stuff like that that I really, you don’t really think about naturally,” Gray said.

 

This program is just the beginning for Rivera. He plans on expanding his program and growing basketball in the city of Tampa.

 

 

Local Artists Showcase Talent at Don’t Stop St. Petersburg

Don’t Stop St. Petersburg just came back for the event’s third year in the Arts District of downtown. Over 40 local and regional musicians came out to play on the streets showcasing some of the raw talent this city holds.

The event was crowded with people checking out all of the musicians, artists and other vendors that volunteered for the event. There was a wide variety of art styles and food, representing the artistic diversity in St. Pete. The event served as a great venue for bringing the community together for the day.

Several successful bands such as Underoath and Sleepwave have come out of St. Pete, and events like this are a great way for local musicians to get noticed and supported. The same thing goes for the other vendors that are hoping to grow their businesses.

Don’t Stop St. Petersburg was a great success, and there is no doubt that we will be seeing it come back again next year.

Tampa veterans get a new beginning

New Beginnings of Tampa strives to be a light in the community. With their ability to feed and house the homeless, they also provide a program for a community that is often overlooked: veterans.

“We have about a total of 200 in the program now, and about 50 of them are vets. Most of the vets come as a referral from Veterans Affairs, or sometimes they just come right off the street,” says founder, Tom Atchison, “The most important thing is, is they have a clean environment, a safe environment to stay, a good three meals a day and snacks, it’s very important for their well being.”

New Beginnings is willing to whatever it takes to keep veterans off the street.

“I came down and they had a bed for me and that was a week ago today,” said veteran Kenney Farley.

New Beginnings doesn’t just provide housing for their veterans, they prepare them to get back into the real world.

“Right now we’re running very close to 100 percent as far as getting jobs. There’s plenty of jobs out there for those that will be responsible, show up on time to work and so sometimes that takes a little life training skills on how to hold a job,” Atchison said.

New Beginnings wants their veterans to feel at home, but also assigns them duties to make sure their quarters are clean and tidy to help create good habits and responsibility.

“I seem to get along with everybody, they’re pretty friendly, you know. I’m happy,” said Farley.

So it seems to be a happy ending for everybody at New Beginnings.

Even veteran, Leif Dereng is ecstatic about earning his new housing voucher. He explained how happy he was and laughed saying, “no more woods.”

Many of the veterans stay at New Beginnings between four to six months, where they work to get back on their feet and out into the workforce again.

 

 

 

Photo: Training for success

Fitness enthusiast Tyler Butler is training to compete in the 2015 Strength Camp Challenge in late November. He has put in hard work and dedication, hoping it will pay off in winning the $10,000 prize. Butler aspires to be a good role model to family and friends and tries to inspire them to lead a healthy lifestyle.

 

Students promote old school game at Bull Market

USF students volunteer their time and work to help promote one of their favorite local spots around campus. Imraan Frook and Cris Dipiano set up a booth at this weeks Bull Market to help market and sell different kinds of boardgames for Armada Games. This spot is not your typical game store, it’s located about a mile away from campus and provides a different way of free socializing and entertainment for students. The USF volunteers hope to increase clientele, help the owners by advertising and spread the word about one their favorite places to hangout.

Tom Feely helps students find the right kick

Tom Feely has always had a passion for coaching football.  Feely, a father of six sons, took a special interest in kicking when his son Jay Feely wanted to transition from soccer to football.

“When he was between his freshman and sophomore year in high school, we started going around to who were the gurus at that time,” Tom said. “We learned from different individuals and kind of created our own hybrid style, and it worked very well for Jay.”

Jay went on to become an NFL kicker and just finished his 14th season in the league.

After his success with Jay and the knowledge he had gained about the mechanics of kicking, Tom began teaching other students. He later founded Feely Athletics, which began teaching the technique of kicking, but has evolved into teaching every position in football.

“He’s constantly willing to learn new things and do research and wants to be the most knowledgeable person there is in this.  He’s not doing it for the money or anything, he’s doing this because this is something he really wants to do. He loves being able to affect so many lives in a positive manner,” Tom’s son Tyler Feely said.

Feely Athletics has become very successful over the years.  Coach Feely has coached 14 players that have made it to the NFL including his son Jay, who played with the Falcons, Giants, Dolphins, Jets, Cardinals, and Bears; Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles and Matt Boscher of the Atlanta Falcons.

Feely Athletics’ coaches teach students the importance of consistent routines that help them get better.

“I’ve seen great improvement. Every time I come out here, I’m always getting better,” Dalton Kocsis, an Armwood High School junior, said. “I strive for that and I feel like I’m getting that here.

Jesuit High School sophomore Camden Bauman says he will compete for the varsity kicking job next season and believes Feely Athletics will give him the edge he needs to win the job.

“I’ve made tremendous strides over the past couple of years with my kicking,” he said.

Feely Athletics will be breaking ground for the Feely Soccer Academy in about a year.

“We’ve already purchased land for that and are starting to develop our soccer fields, so through the outreach to all of those kids we hope that we’re going to be able to impact, as we have, many more kids down the road,” Tom said. “That’s my goal: to make our reach as big as possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Davis shows perseverance pays

Andre Davis, former University of South Florida wide receiver (2011-14), currently holds 13 football program records, including career receptions, single game receptions and career receiving touchdowns.

“I feel like I play a nice little part in USF history, being that I came in to USF and broke a few records.” he said.

As arguably the best receiver in USF program history, the “Freakshow” says it’s “a blessing” to hold these top spots, but more importantly to be a part of USF’s legacy.

“Just being able for players from the future to be able to come in and see my face on plaques is something that you dream of.” he said.

Though the former team captain has graduated and moved on from playing for the Bulls, he’s still active with the current team. He frequently attends practices, attends home games on the sidelines  and mentors current players, hoping to positively impact “future USF history makers.”

“I look at all the players and the younger guys up under me as little brothers. I tell them to be leaders and that even though there may be hard times, you have to fight through them.” he said.

Specifically, Davis mentors current USF safety Nate Godwin, as both classify themselves “Bay Made, Bay Stayed” after growing up in Tampa Bay and staying in the area for college.

“Me and Dre are very close. He just shows me how to handle success and be humble.” Godwin said. “He leads by example. He’s a legend in my books, and he’s a legend in their books. He’s one of the guys I know they’re definitely going to remember.” Godwin said.

When asked about the legacy he left as a Bull, Davis didn’t talk about his records, game-winning touchdowns, or making it in the USF history books.

“It’s more than that.” Davis said. “The legacy that I left here at USF is definitely being a leader, a hard worker, and a guy that persevered through a lot of things. That’s it.”

Since his days as a Bull, Davis had a short stint with the Buffalo Bills, and is currently a NFL free agent.

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.

 

In the land of beaches and theme parks, craft beer is king.

 

Thanks to Cigar City Brewing owner, Joey Redner Jr., Tampa Bay has become a haven for beer lovers, geeks and connoisseurs alike.

Cigar City Brewing has taken over the craft beer scene in Florida, in a land where Budweiser has reigned supreme for decades.  Their dedication to Tampa Bay history, and their collaborative work with other local businesses has set them apart from their competition.

“We like to work with other local businesses in the area and support the community as much as possible,” Neil Callaghan, Tasting Room Manager at Cigar City Brewing, said.  “We work with companies like Buddy Brew, a local coffee beanery and roasting house, who roasts a coffee bean just for us to use in our beers.”

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The gift shop at Cigar City Brewing features Buddy Brew Coffee and locally made, beer flavored hand soaps .

 

The coffee from Buddy Brew is used in an award-winning beer called the Cubano Espresso Brown Ale as well as a few others.  Cigar City also work with other local vendors, including a local soap making company, that makes beer flavored soap for the brewery gift shop.

These are the taps for the core beers that Cigar City Brewing makes. The two taps in the middle feature figures of Joey Redner Jr. and Wayne Wambles. Redner is the founder of Cigar City and Wambles is the head brewer.
The taps for the core beers that Cigar City Brewing makes. The two taps in the middle feature figures of Joey Redner Jr. and Wayne Wambles. Redner is the founder of Cigar City and Wambles is the head brewer.

Cigar City also is involved with numerous charities in the Tampa Bay Area.  Their most recent charity event had some of the employees do something special for a great cause.

“Last week every employee had a huge beard but we all shaved them off for a charity event,” Callaghan said.  “It was to raise money and awareness for the pediatric cancer foundation. It was a great event that Cigar City was proud to be a part of.

Cigar City beers are sold all over the state of Florida now in your local gas stations and grocery stores.
Cigar City beers are sold all over the state of Florida now in your local gas stations and grocery stores.

The 6th annual Veredus|HAYS Cut for a Cure Charity Challenge got these brewers and bartenders to shave off their precious beards, which for many have become a rite of passage in the industry.

The gift shop at Cigar City which features local skateboards made by the Skatepark of Tampa.
The gift shop at Cigar City features local skateboards made by the Skatepark of Tampa.

Cigar City has become a leader in the community and a great business that leads by example.  Their beer is pretty darn good too.  They recently got voted the fourth best brewery in the entire world.

The very first brewery in the state of Florida, the Florida Brewery, located in Ybor City.
The very first brewery in the state of Florida, the Florida Brewery, located in Ybor City.

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’.”

 

 

Florida Studio Theatre Improv brings excitement to Sarasota

If there’s one thing that you can find an abundance of at Florida Studio Theatre Improv, it’s laughter. Florida Studio Theatre  is located in downtown Sarasota off Palm Avenue. The theatre features musicals, plays, improv and a full restaurant and bar.

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The FST Improv troupe has a new show every Saturday night.   This season’s show is called Out of Bounds. It incorporates two teams that compete for points given by the audience. The teams can range from as little as two cast members to as many as four. The winning team receives a trophy they get to keep until next week’s show where they compete all over again.

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One of the most important aspects of improv is rehearsal. The entire troupe gathers at 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays to practice improv games and discuss how to improve their acting.  Darryl Knapp is a performer for FST Improv.

“I think rehearsal is very important because it is good for camaraderie for one thing, to get to know other players,” said Knapp.

Rehearsal

Normally one wouldn’t think of preparation as something that goes into a show that is thought up on the spot. However Chris Friday, who also performs with FST Improv, feels strongly that it is preparation is key.

“It’s very important. We don’t rehearse what we’re going to do in the shows as far as these are the lines we’re going to use or any of those kinds of things. Because we’re really creating the show with the audience in the moment. But you rehearse the technique of the game and part of that rehearsal and part of what makes an improve show go so well is playing with people,” said Friday.

FST Improv also features piano accompaniment. Not all improv troupes have a pianist to accompany the scenes, so FST makes use of the piano to enhance the shows. Pianist Hunter Brown brings his unique skills to the table.

“I’ve been playing piano since I was 8 years old. And I was like ‘yeah sure’ so I ended up playing a little diddy from there, for some reason they had enough faith in me to be the accompanist for this and I had no idea what to get into. But I was just like ‘yeah sure I’ll do it’. And from there I guess it ended up turning out really well cause I feel like my talents suit improve pretty well,” said Brown.

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The Florida Studio Theatre tries to get as much audience participation as possible. They lay out suggestion cards on the tables before the performance that the audience can fill out. The scenes are then used in the shows.

Scenes from a Can

Improv is a popular thing, not only in the Tampa area but also around the country. Edith Jones is an audience member for one of the Out of Bounds shows.

“I love improv. But I’ve never been to it in Sarasota so I thought it would be fun to see how it is. I’m looking forward to it,” said Jones.

There is no doubt that when you go to an FST show, you’ll have a great time.

 

Chasco Fiesta was a success for New Port Richey

For decades, the Chasco Fiesta has been a mainstay in the New Port Richey community. The Fiesta is a weeklong celebration of the local Chasco culture, while mixing in various fair-like activities.

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Craig McCart, one of the chief organizers of the Chasco Fiesta, has been involved with the celebration for more years than he can remember.

“I’ve been involved since back in 1974,” McCart said. “But, I’ve been on the steering committee since 1998.”

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McCart explained there are nearly 30 non-profit organizations that have come out this year to take part in the Chasco Fiesta. One of those organizations, West Pasco Sertoma, is headed up by Michael Tyler.

“We support the All Children’s Sertoma Speech and Hearing Center,” Tyler said. “We come out to the Chasco Fiesta and cook for two weekends in a row. We cook so kids can hear.”

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Tyler is just one of many that come out to the Fiesta for a noble cause. Tara Londergan is part of a women’s motorcycle group called the Diva Angels. The Diva Angels are a non-profit organization that come out and donate their time for a good cause. This year, they were working with Tyler and West Pasco Sertoma to raise funds.

“We have poker runs, last year we had a spaghetti dinner for the homeless vets,” Londergan explained. “We hang out and raise funds for other charities.”

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With all the fun and festivities, there can be times where things get a little out of hand. That’s where Officer Greg Williams of the New Port Richey Police Department comes in.

“The only issue we have sometimes is the excess alcohol use,” Williams said. “But, for the most part, it’s a good event. All different classes of people come out.”

Like Officer Williams, mostly everyone seems to agree that the Chasco Fiesta is a positive event for the community and the surrounding areas.

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“Oh, it’s awesome,” Londergan said. “It’s great for the downtown, it keeps it alive.”

The Chasco Fiesta comes to Sims Park in March of every year. It includes a big parade on the first Saturday, along with concerts throughout the week in the Sims Park Amphitheater and finishes up with a boat parade on the final weekend.

A guide to USF’s weekend activities

When it comes to the University of South Florida (USF), there are an endless amount of activities that can be done. However, on the weekends, when campus seems to be a bit bare, it can be difficult to find activities to participate in.

I started my day of finding USF students by wondering the campus. At first, I was nervous I wasn’t going to find anyone, since I seemed to be the only student walking on campus. Then I came across two girls carving pumpkins. It was a beautiful day outside, so they thought that was the perfect opportunity to complete this activity.

After that, I made my way in the direction of the Marshall Student Center. There, I came across of a group of girls in the sorority Kappa Delta. They were taking turns having their picture taken with the statue of the bull. Everyone should get a picture with the bull before they graduate. Their chance came to do this on a weekend when the campus was empty.

Heading away from the main campus, making my way to some off campus areas where students would be, I noticed the beauty of the campus. When you’re rushing to class it is hard to appreciate all the real beauty USF has to offer.

I knew a spot students went in their free time was the USF Riverfront Park. I was introduced to the girl in the canoe from one of my best friends here at USF. She agreed to let me tag along with her in the canoe to snap a few shots.

Finally, I started to head home when I saw another activity students could do. They could ride bikes for pure joy, rather than just as a form of transportation.

Overall, USF may seem to be an empty campus on the weekends but that is not true. It takes a little searching to find students because instead of spending most of their time on campus, they are completing activities they wouldn’t normally have time for.

The photos above showcase some of these activities to offer an insight to other students at USF looking for fun things to do on the weekends.

The song creation

Christian Ovalles, 21, has a life that many individuals dream about. He plays music for hundreds of people every Friday night at the Amphitheatre Event Facility in Ybor City, Fla.

Many people only see the end product of Ovalles’s music, but fortunately he has invited the public into his home to show everyone the process of creating a new track from start to finish.