Shop local this holiday season

Harvest season is right around the corner and the MiraBay Market encourages the community to shop local this Thanksgiving. Vendors and small businesses around the area are encouraged to set up their tents and showcase their products for local shoppers.

“I’m kind of new, I moved here in the summer so seeing a lot of these local vendors kind of helps me get to know them a little better and see what’s actually out in my community,” Suzie Moore said, a local shopper.

Small businesses got a chance to showcase their products. Big Crush Slush Company was amongst these, offering premium frozen slush beverages. Owner Tim Sanders encourages local markets and businesses because it brings attention to the community.

“Right now in this time in age we need to help the small business owners,” Tim Sanders said, “This helps drive that attention into the small business owners as well as the local communities.”

The MiraBay Market features all types of food items, including produce, sweets, and specialty drinks. The market also features other items like clothing, jewelry and accessories.

It was an event fit for all age groups, with one of the youngest vendors being Zoraya Gonzales.

“I just started working with my titi,” said Zoraya Gonzales.

The MiraBay Market takes place outside of the MiraBay Club in Apollo Beach on the third Sunday of every month. The next one is Dec.18th.

 

Thousands Gathered for Straz Live! in the Park

The annual Straz Live! in the Park was held this past Sunday at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

It was a picturesque scene, as thousands gathered to listen to opera and Broadway pieces, selected from the upcoming season at the Straz Center. Children played in the park while parents and other patrons of musical theater enjoyed a warm afternoon of music.

The show opened with an opera program and transitioned to Broadway after a brief intermission. Pieces from Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, La Cenerentola, Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca were performed during the opera section, while selections from Wicked, Cabaret and Motown: The Musical highlighted the Broadway section.

“We’re here to show you that opera is not scary, it’s a lot of fun,” said the Managing Director of the Opera Tampa, Robin Stamper. “We give you every reason to come to the opera when you come to the Straz Live.”

University of South Florida student Ryan Haft had to agree. He missed the opera section, but commented, “I wasn’t planning on going and seeing anything, but after hearing the girl from Wicked, I might want to go see that.”

It might be too late to see this year’s Straz Live! in the Park but mark your calendars now for the first Sunday, next November. It’s not an event you want to miss.

The Environment: Where Some See Progress, Others Are Disillusioned

Laurie Walker bustles about the southwestern corner of the USF campus, where lies a 16-acre space of greenery frequented by human visitors, bees, butterflies and two resident cats.

It was 1969 when the university established its Botanical Gardens, which serves as a breath of fresh air for the community as well as a home and research center for plants and animals.  Walker has been the director of the Botanical Gardens for 15 years.

Despite the soothing quietness of the gardens, worries about environmental degradation and health bubble underneath.  Having to protect plants from damaging weather is always a challenge, suggests Walker.  But newer challenges keep rising to the surface.

On site is an apiary used in the gardens’ yearlong beekeeping course.  The effects on bees were deeply felt this year.

“We were not able to collect honey this year,” said Walker. “There was just not enough honey to take. And we don’t do it for commercial purposes. We just do it as an educational component of the course.  But our honeybees have not been stockpiling honey.”

Step outside of the gardens and back into the day-to-day of Tampa Bay, and you’ll find that concern about the environment comes second.

“Everyone cares about the economy, which I can understand because people are concerned about ‘I need to feed my family, I need to feed myself,’” said Samantha Szatyari, a junior environmental science and policy major.

Dr. Susan MacManus, a distinguished professor of political science at USF, confirmed this sentiment.  MacManus notes that just because jobs and economy are at the top of the list does not mean Floridians don’t see its importance.  Many move to Florida because of its environment, so its health is already near the forefront of their minds.

MacManus directs the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey, which concluded last month that the environment was the second most pressing issue for Floridians.

“The environment will absolutely intensify as an issue because of its high priority for younger people,” said MacManus.

Walker holds on to this as hope.

“Easier said than done, but I think young people now, college students, get this, and with social networks, that information can get out to others,” said Walker.

But some college students are not so sure. At the very least, they don’t think their peers care enough.

“Back home, one of the major problems that we have is people throwing garbage,” said Awa Ndiaye, a sophomore engineering student. “You walk down the streets and you see a bunch of plastic bags or you see a bunch of trash that shouldn’t be there and it’s something that directly impacts your life.”

Home for Ndiaye is Senegal, where she says the difference in approach to the environment is an awareness issue—lack of knowledge generates inaction.  But in the U.S., she says, it’s apathy.

“Here, a lot of the people I’ve been around—they’re kind of conscious of climate change and environmental issues, but they don’t care because at the end of the day it doesn’t affect them,” said Ndiaye. “If they waste water or if they’re wasting food, it doesn’t matter to them because at the end of the day, they still get food.”

Inaction is also exacerbated by the feeling that it’s too big of a problem for a single person to tackle, both Ndiaye and Szatyari say.

But it’s also a matter of wanting instant gratification.

“To take care of the environment is to make an investment in the future,” said Szatyari.  “A lot of people don’t want to make that investment.  People want to see results now.”

Szatyari, who is also the director of networking for the Student Environmental Association at USF, felt her view was fairly pessimistic, but nonetheless true.  Still, she continues to be active.

“There’s that disillusionment, but then there’s that ‘well what if I can be that voice of change?’” said Szatyari.

To Walker, young people can be that voice.

“Few people understand that one person can make a difference,” said Walker. “We have to be vocal, we have to get the word out. We have to educate people.”

A Unique Haunted House in the Tampa Bay Area

Chamber of Terror is a haunted house located near Channelside in the port of Tampa Bay. What makes it so unique is that it’s aboard the S.S. Victory World War II Ship. The creator, Courtney McIntyre, has made a nautical haunted ship, where there are only five in the United States.

The Chamber of Terror is a walk-through, 30 minute haunted house with four levels and 50 actors, which guarantees you to get scared. Unlike the usual theme park haunted houses, Chamber of Terror is more intimate, letting in up to six people at a time.

“You’re not looking down the hallway and seeing 100 people in front of you end up getting scared and then you end up not getting scared,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre first gained attention from the ship’s director at his haunted house last year in South Tampa. The director loved what he created and asked if he would like to create a haunted attraction aboard the S.S. Victory.

“Basically since November of last year we’ve been planning on doing it here,” McIntyre said, “Everybody seems excited it’s really unique, nothing you can get like this in Florida.”

Guests lined up to walk through the scary ship. Pamala Jones was very impressed by the theme and how it was different from the typical haunted houses.

“I’m from up north and we’ve got really good haunted houses,” Jones said, “This is great; it was very scary.”

Chamber of Terror is open every weekend night for the month of October. On Thursday Oct. 20th they will give five dollars off admission with a valid student ID.

Local Shoe Drive Helps Refugees in Need

National Welcoming Week is an event that encourages members of the community to promote unity by celebrating contributions from immigrants and refugees from all over the world with dance and performances. The University of South Florida hosted the event this year.

This year’s theme was centered on shoes for refugees with the theme being, “Small shoes, Big Journey.” Rachel Ackey, a 10-year-old volunteer, came up with the idea of a shoe drive to donate shoes to refugee children.

“I wanted to do something for them ’cause they have to run away from their homes ’cause of a war,” said Ackey.  “They probably just have the pair of shoes on their feet. So I wanna give them different shoes so they could feel welcomed and they could have new shoes for the school year.”

Volunteers hope to relay the message of unity to encourage the community to be welcoming to those transitioning from places where war, persecution or natural disasters are abundant.

In an effort to celebrate refugees and their backgrounds, event organizers hosted a fashion show where refugees got to participate in showcasing garments from around the world.

Over 100 pairs of shoes for kids were collected during the Week of Welcome, thanks to contributions and efforts from the community.

Local Junior College Begining to Make its Mark

Led by recruiting coordinator Antonio Nelson and starting quarterback Brandon Conner, the Gattaca Junior College football program, a local Tampa Bay junior college, is making a name for itself.

Entering only its third season of football, GJC is striving to not only win games on the field, but develop the character of its players off the field as well.

“How to treat people, uh, be respectable, yes sir no sir,” Nelson said. “Just become a better young man overall.”

Located in Tampa, GJC offers full-time college credit classes online as well as in person at Hillsborough Community College campuses.

“That’s not only on the field, its off the field,” Conner said. “it taught me a lot, honestly like, but being a man is number one you know it’s time to step into the real world.”

As the recruiting coordinator, Nelson has the responsibility of bringing talented young men to the program. One of the main recruiting tools that GJC uses to keep in touch with recruits is the use of social media.

“Right now our biggest hit is Facebook,” Nelson said. “We get a lot of kids from the Facebook page.”

Although being a Florida-based program, GJC still travels all over the east coast to play other junior college opponents.

“We travel all over,” Nelson said. “We travel to Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.”

Gattaca started its program in August 2013 and will travel to Kentucky this season for the first time in school history.

 

 

 

Student Rush brings Lightning tickets to students for a fair price

Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Student Rush ticket program has gained popularity.

The program gives students with a valid high school or college ID the chance to purchase the best available tickets shortly before game time at a fair price.

“We think it’s a great program for both sides,” said Patrick Abts, the Lightning’s Digital Marketing Manager who oversees Student Rush. “It allows us to fill some of the last remaining seats with some of our best fans.”

Students are allowed to line up for Student Rush tickets as early as 7 a.m. on game days, and remain in line until two hours prior to game time to be given a wristband with their number in line.

Thirty minutes before game time, the students are led to the box office where they can purchase the best available tickets at a discounted rate. For the playoffs, any remaining lower level seats will be sold for $50, which normally ranges between $100 and $300. Standing room and upper level tickets will be sold for $25.

“Student Rush is amazing,” said Kristen Thomas, who arrived at 9 a.m. for tickets. “We do this all the time. It gives us a chance to root on the Bolts when we normally wouldn’t be able to afford playoff tickets. “

Organizers believe that if the Lightning continues through the playoffs, the demand will continue to grow and ultimately exceed the supply.

“We’re guaranteeing 100 tickets per game for the playoffs,” Abts said. “We don’t know until game time whether they are lower, upper, or standing room, but we’re guaranteeing 100 per game and may have more depending on the game.”

Abts and his colleagues agree that the best way students can guarantee themselves a Student Rush ticket is to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible.

Gumbo Boogie Band Brings Swamp Sound to Town

The Gumbo Boogie Band has been bringing the sound of the swamp to audiences nationwide since 1995, and this Sunday they bring their instruments to Ace’s Lounge in Bradenton.

Their sound is reflective of the band’s name, combining zydeco influences with modern rock to create melodies that pay homage to both the past and the present. Most importantly, they maintain a catalog of original work and covers that are sure to satisfy audiences who prefer these two genres.

It is not often that Bradenton plays host to musical acts with national renown. The Gumbo Boogie Band has performed with established acts such as Buckwheat Zydeco, one of the foremost musicians within the zydeco genre.

The quartet is headed by Ryan Langley, who handles vocals while also playing the piano and accordion. The other three members are drummer Chaz Trippy, saxophonist Ken Smith, and bassist/vocalist Steve Wigginton.

Despite performing together for over 20 years, the band remains in touch with its roots, as they have not reached a level of stardom that precludes them from the less glorious aspects of life as a musical act. This includes hauling their own equipment from gig to gig.

“We all bring our own equipment to each gig, and the degree of help provided varies from venue to venue,” said Ryan Langley. “In the case of Ace’s, owner Renee is who we contacted to sort out the details of when to arrive and what to expect.”

When it comes to performing at Ace’s, the band plans to arrive roughly an hour before their 5 p.m. performance time for a number of reasons.

“Typically we go through our set, testing our gear and going through a brief warm-up to make sure our sound is where we want it to be,” said bassist Steve Wigginton.

However, music is not the only thing that is typically discussed as the band passes the time leading up to a performance. They simply spend too much time together for the minutiae of life not to come up.

“Most of the time we find ourselves talking about what is going on in our lives, family and all of that,” said Smith. “Other times we discuss possible venues that we could play in the future.”

The pre-performance set up and discussions are all part of the group’s shared musical passion. Their existence as a band allows them to collectively follow their individual ambitions as musicians.

The Gumbo Boogie Band’s next stop: Ace’s Lounge located at 4343 Palma Sola Blvd. in Bradenton.

Admission is free and music begins at 5 p.m. Sunday.

How a nationwide nonprofit organization is helping Tampa

Proclaiming that they are the “first name in second chances,” Eckerd is a nationwide nonprofit organization that focuses on providing solutions that help struggling families and young adults thrive.

At the Eckerd Achievement Academy office in downtown Tampa, teachers Stephen Zambito and Tamara Johnson are just some of the staff that has been hired to teach some at-risk teens in the Tampa Bay community. Through this program their goal is to obtain their high school or GED diploma when traditional schooling options are no longer an option.

Johnson and Zambito create a safe place for these students who often come from broken homes and were children of the foster care system. Many of the students love it at Eckerd and consider it a family type atmosphere.

Every job comes with its ups and downs. Johnson said the hardest part of this particular job is getting attached to the students. “These kids are like my own and it’s really hard when one day they are here and the next day they are gone.” She also said that when they lack motivation it is hard to steer them in the right direction.

Zambito expressed the same sentiment saying, “Over the ten years I have done this I have definitely learned patience.”

Eckerd not only provides high school and GED diploma services, but also juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health services for those in need. For more information about Eckerd please visit Eckerd.org or call 800-554-HELP.

 

 

 

 

Author James Morrow gives lecture at USF

On Monday, March 21, 2016 renowned science fiction author, James Morrow, will be visiting USF to discuss his new novel, “Galapagos Regained”.

Morrow will be giving a lecture on the fourth floor of USF’s library at 6:00 p.m. where he will discuss issues of science, religion, and pop culture. Joining Morrow will be fellow science fiction author and USF professor, Rick Wilbur.

“I’ve been in the science fiction community for a long time,” said Wilbur. “Getting Morrow to do this lecture was as easy as some scheduling and making phone calls to a comrade.”

After a small amount of aligning schedules between Wilbur, the university, and Morrow, the author is set to discuss his latest novel as a part of USF’s humanities institute’s lecture series.

“I urge all students who can make it to attend Morrow’s lecture,” said Wilbur. “He’s an incredible author and this is a great opportunity to discuss contemporary issues with a knowledgeable professional.”

Morrow, a self-proclaimed scientific humanist, is an author famous for his unconventional historical novels, which often examine the intertwining concepts of religion and science. His latest novel, “Galapagos Regained” plot centers on a Victorian adventurer who decides to repeat the voyages of Charles Darwin.

Anyone, whether a student, faculty or community member, will be able to attend both Morrow’s lecture and the event’s reception and book signing free of cost.

USF alumni eats like a caveman

 A young entrepreneur has taken her passion for eating healthy and combined it with her passion for cookies to create her own company Base Culture. This company is not like any other sweets retailer that sales brownies and banana bread; all of the products are paleo friendly, meaning they follow the popular Paleo Diet.

“The Paleo Diet is nicknamed the caveman diet for a reason” says Base Culture founder Jordann Windschauer, “If you were to follow the Paleo Diet, you eat meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit.” Windschauer praises the diet and even goes on to say that she felt “more alive than ever and had more energy than she had had in years.”

While the Paleo Diet did have its ups it also had its downs. Windschauer enjoyed the new found energy boost, but she also missed all the sweets she used to eat.

“You know it got really hard not being able to just grab banana bread on the way to work in the morning. I looked for products that could satisfy my sweet tooth but would also satisfy paleo requirements but there were none” said Windschauer. It was that same day she took matters into her own hand and stated creating “sweets” that were made solely from seeds, nuts, and fruits.

She then took her paleo friendly sweets she baked to her local gym to share with her friends and they became an instant hit. People soon began offering compensation for her products, and overnight the company Base Culture was created.

Many customers have claimed to not even taste the difference between paleo friendly brownies and regular brownies. “I just tasted it and it’s actually really good and it’s awesome that it’s really healthy” said satisfied customer Lexi Ashby.

The idea of paleo friendly products has taken the market by force. Since the company’s beginning in 2013, Base Culture products are now available in over 50 stores nationwide and will soon be available in Walmart.

 

 

 

 

Collecting The “Booty” From the Pirade Of Pirates

Pereira
Photo by Dana Achatz

Even though some people view Gasparilla as a holiday to make it an all day party Marilyn Pereira wasn’t convinced. Pereira decided to stay away from the madness at Bayshore Boulevard and work a double shift as a server at World of Beer on Saturday. To her there was not much of an appeal to attend the event. It was more important to her to make some money than see the parade.

“I didn’t request off for Gasparilla because I didn’t really even know what it was,” Pereira said. “I just moved here and I didn’t know Gasparilla was today until pretty much everyone I work with requested off.”

Sometimes called the Mardi Gras of Florida; the Gasparilla Parade of Pirates attracts thousands to Tampa every year. The parade takes over the streets of downtown for a majority of the day. People from all over Florida make the trip to celebrate, and most of them are dressed up like pirates.

Pereira worked all morning and through most of the evening. She said she saw an increase in customers during her second shift Saturday evening after the parade had ended.

She described large groups of people of all ages weighed down with beads and wearing fake black beards and hats with giant feathers. She seemed to find the outfits a little silly. Even though she made more money than she had originally expected, she decided it might be worth it to attend Gasparilla next year.

“Yeah I would go. It would’ve been fun to tag along with someone,” Pereira said. “Maybe next year.”

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.

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.”