Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First rowing team set to practice on Manatee River training facility Thursday morning

A worker completes a floating dock at Fort Hamer Park.
EAST MANATEE -- Northeastern University rowers will be the first to try out a new county training facility at Fort Hamer Park.

The team, which is staying in Ellenton, arrived Dec. 29 and plans to be on the water at 7 a.m. Thursday. The practice is slated to end at 10 a.m. The team will be back on the water for another session 2-5 p.m. Thursday.

Six teams are due to arrive in the area for winter rowing training this winter.


For a full story on preparations to open the Fort Hamer Park training facility, click this link:

Boat racks were still being installed at Fort Hamer Park this week.

Todd Radebach works on restroom facilities at Fort Hamer Park.

No snow blower? No problem

Sun filters through the oaks on Zipper Road.
Breeze puts flags into motion at the veterans memorial at San Marco Plaza.
Sandhill cranes pause before crossing University Parkway.
Sandhill cranes look both ways before crossing University Parkway.
Look at these photos. Can you tell in what state and when they were taken?

Obviously, it's  Florida, given the lack of snow on the ground. And more specifically, East Manatee. No need to call Mayor Bloomberg and complain about snow drifts keeping you socked in at your house.

The photos were taken the afternoon of Dec. 29 after a record-setting freeze this morning for this area. But in midafternoon, the weather was nice, putting anyone lucky enough to be outside in not only the state of Florida, but in a state of bliss.

For the record, the sandhill cranes were photographed in the median of University Parkway east of Lorraine Road. The American flag and fountain were photographed at the new veterans memorial at San Marco Plaza in Lakewood Ranch, a very peaceful place. And those southern oaks, draped in Spanish moss, were photographed on Zipper Road.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hmm, what's it look like on the other side?

Photo: Jim Jones/
Arlene Merriman takes a look through the window of a cabin at Jiggs Landing, furnished the way it might have been in 1950.

  We spotted this image at the grand reopening of the new county park at Jiggs Landing on Saturday. Arlene Merriman is looking out, while a couple of other visitors were looking in. There's lots to see at Jiggs Landing.

 In case you've never been there, take State Road 70 to the edge of Tara, turn south on Braden River Road and continue to its intersection with Linger Lodge Road. You have arrived!

Jiggs Landing is a precious resource now available to all those who live in or visit Manatee County. Someone called it a jewel among Manatee's public lands, and I wouldn't argue with that description.

For more, see Sunday's Herald.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Look what Lyn started

Lyn Griffin (left) greets Lori Basilone.
Twelve years ago, Lyn Griffin started a holiday party and dance tradition at Lakewood Ranch . . . in her own living room.

Now, a dozen years later the event has grown to be part of the fabric of life at Lakewood Ranch and the holiday party was held Sunday night at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club.

The Lakewood Ranch holiday party attracted many avid dancers.
Looks like a good time.
Gina Adams and Bob Tuden
From left, Bob and Judith Heck and Virginia and Joseph Carro.
Happy holidays Lyn,
Kathy and Mike Vejine

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Crazy, busy time of the year

In less than an hour this morning volunteer shoppers for the 25th Annual Holiday Toy Drive, Santa Cop, spent more than $5,000 on gifts at Bealls Department Store, 7365 52nd Place East in the Creekwood Crossing Shopping Center.

Helping Manatee Lodge 70 of the Fraternal Order of Police are the Gulf Coast Corvette Club and the Mustang Club of West Central Florida. More than 120 classic, collectible cars are in the parking until about 3 p.m. for a car show.

Ken Dodd, treasurer for the Fraternal Order of Police, is hopeful that before the day is out, toy drive shoppers will have spent $10,000. The money goes a long way with the steeply discounted prices Bealls is providing.

The toys go to disadvantaged children who might otherwise go without, said Captain Robert Williams of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and president of Manatee Lodge 70.

Daniel J. Boyle, senior vice president of Bealls, said, "How can you not get a smile on your face when you see all these toys going to kids?"

Store manager Charlene Pursell said what the event shows is "the spirit of the season."

Santa Cop is just one of dozens events going on in Manatee this weekend. Take a look at the link below for others.


Ron Berno of Palmetto is showing his green 2006 Corvette.

Les Barkovich of Parrish brought his spotless 1956 Chevy to the show.
Patricia Rhodes and Greg Stratakes buy toys for the Santa Cop program.

Linda Volino (left) and Susan Otto load up on toys for the Santa Cop program.
Kaydin Morrissey met the Grinch at Bealls on her fifth birthday Saturday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

LECOM looking at adding dental school for Bradenton area

Bradenton Herald file photo
The Bradenton campus of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic medicine is located at Lakewood Ranch.
MANATEE  -- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, which already has a Manatee County campus at Lakewood Ranch for students seeking to become osteopathic physicians and pharmacists, announced today that it is looking at adding a dental school to the Bradenton area by 2012.

LECOM is also planning adding a dental school in Erie, Pa.

"The College has determined that dental medicine plays an important role in the team approach to better health care involving physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals," LECOM said in a press release.

"LECOM projects the opening of the school with the first dental students matriculating in 2015. The College also has begun the planning for a dental school to serve the State of Florida from LECOM’s Bradenton campus in 2012," the press release said.

"Both locations will employ a community-based clinical plan, which will allow dental students to provide dental care in smaller dental clinics in off-campus neighborhoods where the need for care is the greatest. Unique among dental schools, LECOM will utilize the problem-based, patient-case based educational curriculum that has been successful preparing osteopathic physicians in Erie, Bradenton, and the newest campus, LECOM at Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa.," according to LECOM.
For more, see Thursday's Herald.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another honor for Jim Strickland

East Manatee rancher Jim Strickland was named Manatee County Agriculturist of the Year during the annual Farm City Week luncheon today at the Bradenton Kiwanis Club.

The recipient of the award is a closely guarded secret, and Strickland's wife, Renee, was able to get him to the luncheon without spilling the beans.

Strickland has a long record of community service and is this year's state president of the Florida Cattlemen's Association.

For more, see Wednesday's Herald.


For the full story, follow the link below:

Provided photo
Jim Strickland, Manatee Agriculturist of the Year

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doing up Veterans Day right

East side, west side, all around the town there are lots of Veterans Day events in Manatee County this year.

Several schools had events today, and the Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County Inc. is celebrating the accomplishments of area women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces with a Salute to Women Veterans 5:30-7:30 p.m. today at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court, Lakewood Ranch. RSVPs are required for this free community event.

Also, today the expansion of services to veterans was announced for the Bradenton Community VA Clinic. For more on that, and other veterans coverage and stories, see Thursday's Herald.

FYI, here's some of what's planned for Thursday, Nov. 11.

Manatee County pays  tribute to its veterans, living and dead, with its annual Veterans Day parade and service in Palmetto. Staging for the parade begins at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto at 8:30 a.m. The parade is scheduled to step out from the fairgrounds at 9:30 a.m., led by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office color guard. The parade will make its way south to Lamb and Sutton Park, 700 10th Ave. W., for a program at 11 a.m. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover-Bryant is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. County Commissioner Larry Bustle will read a Veterans Day proclamation.

Afterward, VFW Post 2488, 810 Sixth St. W., Palmetto will have a cookout and is inviting any vet to eat free. Non-vets may also join in for a donation.

Other local Veterans Day events:

Gettel Toyota Collision Center, 6423 14th Street W., Bradenton, with the help of State Farm Insurance and Wheels of Success have combined their efforts and will be giving away a vehicle to a local veteran in need 2 p.m. today . Prizes and gifts will also be awarded.

Veterans groups, VA dignitaries and the public are invited to participate in the Veterans Day observance on Lakewood Ranch Main Street 3-6 p.m. today.The horse drawn military caisson used at Sarasota National Cemetery will be there along with a military honor guard for the displaying of the colors and playing of taps at 4 p.m.

Maj. Gen. Robert John Kasulke will speak at the Sarasota-Manatee Chapter, Reserve Officers Association 18th annual Veterans Day Dinner to be held at the Bird Key Yacht Club, Sarasota today . Kasulke commands the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command, Pinellas Park. Information and reservations: Col. Ed Brown, (941) 923-9861 or

Free flu shots are being offered to all veterans while supplies last at Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch Urgent Care, located at 4647 Manatee Ave. W. and 9908 State Road 64 East today . Information: 745-5999 or visit

Freedom Elementary School will hold its annual “Let Freedom Ring Courtyard” Ceremony 9 a.m. Friday. Veterans will be on hand at the ceremony along with patriotic musical performances by students and flags representing all of the U.S. Military Services. Information: Freedom Principal Jim Mennes at 708-4990.

Veterans Honor Dinner at Country Pancake House 6-7 p.m. Friday dedicating Veterans Memorial Park San Marco Plaza, Lakewood Ranch. Information: (813) 416-8456.

Dedication ceremony for Veterans Memorial Park set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Lakewood Ranch’s San Marco Plaza. Information: (813) 416-8456.

Chaplain’s service set for 10 a.m. Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park at Lakewood Ranch’s San Marco Plaza. Information: (813) 416-8456.

Suncoast Workforce will hold a Suncoast Veterans Expo 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center, 8005 15th St. E., southern Manatee County. This Expo will include a job fair with space limited to 50 employers, presentations on employability skills, and resources available in Manatee and Sarasota counties through community-based organizations. The Veteran’s Expo will be open to the general public from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

'It's a huge problem'

Dr. Lora Brown today told students at Lakewood Ranch High School that prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in Bradenton, in Manatee County and in their school.

Dr. Lora Brown
Is it any less a problem at other Manatee high schools? No, probably not. For those who abuse any kind of drugs, they face messing up their brain, and possible death. Seven Floridians die each day from prescription drug abuse.

For more, see Wednesday's Herald.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Build it and they will come . . .

Craig and Nicki Hazelett at Lakewood Ranch Music on Main

Remember the scene at the end of "Field of Dreams," the James Earl Jones - Kevin Costner movie, where there's nothing but an endless row of headlights in the night heading to a baseball field in what was an Iowa cornfield?

The refrain throughout the movie was "build it and they will come."

Well, it felt like that tonight at Music on Main at Lakewood Ranch. We got there shortly before 7 p.m. and the street was packed, with more cars coming all the time. The overflow parked across the street in an open field.

Good friendly vibe, lots of energy, and people cutting loose with the music of the Dr. Dave Band. Right in front of the band in front of what must have been several thousand people were a father and his daughter, Nicki and Craig Hazelett, having a really good time.

If you missed out, there's always the first Friday of  December, from 6 to 9 p.m. For more photos, see the Herald on Saturday and check out


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nice round number for Gullett Elementary

Even in good times, you hear about teachers using some of their own money to pay for classroom needs.

Given the fact that it's been awhile since we've had those good times, and there have been multi-million dollar budget cuts in the Manatee School District, we seize upon any silver lining. Consider this: the faculty and staff at Lakewood Ranch's B.D. Gullett Elementary School are smiling with the $34,000 they received from Neal Communities Golf Challenge.

Proceeds from the golf tourney, after expenses, were  $19,100. Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities, topped it off with a $15,100 donation, making the total $34,200.

The tourney was held at University Park Country Club.

“Schools are facing significant challenges in being able to purchase the supplies, equipment and materials necessary to teach our children,” Pat Neal said in a press release.” Schools are vitally important to the health of any community, and we stand by them to help them complete their mission. B.D. Gullett Elementary School is an excellent school with a strong PTO.”

Congratulations to Gullett and to Neal Communities.

Pat Neal presents a nice, big check to faculty, staff and students at Gullet Elementary School.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good-tasting soup

There was some really good-tasting soup served last week at Empty Bowls events at Lakewood Ranch Main Street and Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton.

Mine was a hearty mulligatwany from Polo Grill, a takeoff I think on Mulligan stew.

Today, the Food Bank of Manatee announced that Empty Bowls  raised more than $20,000, doubling the amount raised last year.

"We are so pleased with the outcome of this year's event," said Ellen Campbell, president/CEO of the food bank.

Great fun, this communal slurping of soup for a good cause, helping meet a critical community need.

The bowls were cool too, crafted by local potters.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Go do: An eclectic menu of things to do in East Manatee

Got an empty spot in your entertainment schedule? A few suggestions:

1. The art of the Frisbee toss: The Ultimate Players Association Club Championships features 60  of the top open, women’s, mixed and masters Ultimate teams from across the U.S. and Canada competing for the championship title in their division. Play began 9:30 a.m. today and continues  9 a.m. -  5 p.m. daily through Sunday at the polo grounds at Lakewood Ranch.

The public is invited to attend free of charge, but please, no dogs or glass bottles.

2. The second Chowdown for Charity: The event benefits the Manatee County Food Bank and Prostart, a program to give added employability skills to high school grads.

Chowdown is set for 5-8 p.m. today at the Gold Coast Eagle Hospitality Courtyard, 7051 Wireless Court, Lakewood Ranch.

Last year’s celebrity judges — Rep. Bill Galvano, Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, Brighthouse Networks reporter Summer Smith, and Bradenton Herald columnist Vin Mannix — return to judge the best of the best among several area restaurants. 

Tickets are $40 each or two for $70 and can be purchased online at

3. BooFest:  LWR Community Activities and local volunteers will transform Lakewood Ranch Main Street into a screaming scene of scarecrows, ghosts and goblins for the 5th annual BooFest 6-9 p.m. Friday. All are invited to dress in costume and join the community parade down Main Street.

Everybody is invited.

4.  Hunsader pumpkin fest: Continues Saturday and Sunday at family farm on County Road 675, midway between State Road 64 and State Road 70.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

10,000 marchers make strides against cancer

Ten thousand men,women and children walked  3.1 miles today at Lakewood Ranch to combat women's number-one health concern, breast cancer.

The goal was to raise $425,000, said Cynthia McCue, executive for the Manatee County Unit of the American Cancer Society.

"It's so touching to see all the survivors come together and share this time," McCue said.

An estimated 363 survivors led the massive column of pink out of the Sarasota Polo Grounds, under a flurry of balloons released at the start of the walk.

Many in the crowd knew someone who has or has had breast cancer.

Tracy Bohlman, an eighth grade teacher at Haile Middle School, said she thought the gigantic statement against breast cancer "was amazing."

Saturday's event was her third "Making Strides" fundraiser, and she helped organize a school team in honor of Haile orchestra teacher Valerie Terry, a breast cancer survivor.

Bambi Kaine fired up walkers before the start of Making Strides.
Eveyln Turner of Lakewood Ranch (left) and Cheryl Graham of Greyhawk Landing were among thousands "Making Strides" against breast cancer on Saturday.
Sandy Host's T-shirt read "Fight Like a Girl" at the Making Strides event Saturday.
"We love you Valerie," members of the Haile team chimed in.

For more, see Sunday's Bradenton Herald.


Friday, October 22, 2010

$20,000 for Manatee Food Bank?

On Thursday, 430 turned out for the Empty Bowls event at Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton.

Today, an equal number was at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, helping raise an estimated $20,000 for the Manatee Food Bank. That doubles the take from last year.

"It was really important to do well this year with the way the economy is and the need in the community," said Kristen Theisen. All that money goes to help the hungry in the community.

The event got a break this year with the weather. The past two years it rained on Empty Bowls, but this year the mild, sunny day made for a perfect setting.

About 20 restaurants served soup this year. Lauren Percitti of Polo Grill was one of the servers.

"It was very, very fun and we saw a lot of new faces," she said.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Lucky, but not that lucky


Did you buy the winning $66 million lottery ticket at Lakewood Ranch?
No, me neither.

But I was at the new Lakewood Ranch McDonald's today, which is right next door to the Hess station on State Road 64 East that sold that big ticket.The McDonald's opened about two weeks ago.

I won a breakfast sandwich with my McDonald's meal. Not quite the same as the big lottery ticket, but I'll share.

For more see the story and column by Vin Mannix at these links: