Thursday, March 29, 2012

Junior Achievement Manatee/Sarasota moves to Lakewood Ranch office space donated by Unittus

LAKEWOOD RANCH – Junior Achievement Manatee/Sarasota, a local chapter of the non-profit organization that teaches young people about the financial realities of life, announced that it has moved its regional offices at Lakewood Ranch.

 The new address is: 5319 Paylor Lane, near the State College of Florida campus. The phone number remains the same: 941-907-9229.

Maggie Haley
“Thanks to this generous space donation by Unittus, we are able to continue to grow and increase the financial education programs we bring to thousands of Manatee and Sarasota county students,” said Maggie Haley, vice president of  operations for Junior Achievement of West Central Florida. 

“We are excited to help further the mission of such a worthy organization as Junior Achievement,” said Jon Anthony Astore, founder, chairman and CEO of Unittus. “Junior Achievement aligns with one of the core commitments at Unittus, and also with my personal passion as an entrepreneur for more than four decades. We look forward to developing further synergistic relationships with Junior Acheivement in the future.”

For more on Junior Achievement and how it funds its programs, visit recent coverage in the Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Local family enters dance video to aid All Children's Hospital

The Higgins family is trying to raise funds for All Children's Hospital with their dance video. (provided photo)

A local family whose child attends Primrose School at Lakewood Ranch is in the running to win a cash reward for All Children's Hospital through Primrose's national Family Dance-Off video contest.

Jessica and Sean Higgins’ want to give back to All Children's for the care the hospital gave their son, Ryan.

As a one-year-old Ryan began having persistent seizures.

The alarmed couple took Ryan to All Children's where doctors placed tubes in his ears. The treatment worked and the couple has found calmness and peace.

The Higgins family’s video  has earned them a spot in the finalist round and has already won $1,000 for the hospital. This week -- March 26-30 -- their video will compete against 15 other finalists to win an additional $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000 donation.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tin Goose really stands out

Prolific flier? Not me.

Countless others have flown millions more miles.

But I have been fortunate to hitch a ride on enough  aircraft that are unique that I have trouble remembering them all.

Some highlights: a Stearman biplane in Clewiston, the Goodyear blimp in New Smyrna Beach, and in Vietnam there was the DeHavilland  Otter, DeHavilland Beaver, the U21, the C-7 Caribou, the C-123 Provider, the C-130 Hercules, as well as Chinook,  Huey, and Loach helicopters.

In 2010, there was the WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter that flew a lawnmower pattern over the Gulf of Mexico dropping sensors to detect the presence of oil from the great BP spill.

Commercial aircraft don't count. Besides who can keep up with the 727s, 747s, etc.?

All except one.  Monday, I got a chance to ride in a "Tin Goose," 1929 Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, considered by some the first commercial airliner. It went slow (85 mph) and low (1,000 feet), but it was a thrill. The plane will be at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport through March 28. Check out our story, gallery and video at the link below.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Make sure your kids get in on the big egg drop in Parrish on Saturday

PARRISH — Woodland-The Community Church will be presenting the “Egg Drop – Parrish” Event! 9 a.m.- noon Saturday at Buffalo Creek Park.

Parents, children and their families from around Manatee County are invited for music,  games, crafts, and  a colossal Easter egg hunt where more than 5,000 Easter eggs will be dropped by helicopter.

To attend, sponsor or learn more about the “Egg Drop-Parrish Event," visit: or contact Holly McAndrew, sponsor coordinator at 941-753-8588, ext. 224.

LECOM students receive national recognition for community service

By Nick Williams

For the fifth consecutive year, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine has been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its volunteer work in the community.

LECOM medical and pharmacy students attending the Bradenton and Erie, Pennsylvania location volunteered over 30,000 community service hours during the 2010-2011 academic year. The students participated in service projects with Habitat for Humanity, YMCA Healthy Kids Day and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Locally, LECOM students have been involved in after school tutoring at the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch in Parrish.

In other news, LECOM and the State College of Florida have signed an articulation agreement for the LECOM Doctor of Pharmacy program. The Early Acceptance Program calls for LECOM to reserve five slots for SCF students who complete an undergraduate or associate degree, including or in addition to required higher-level math and science courses. Thirty-three of the 60 prerequisite credit hours required must be in the math and sciences to apply to the LECOM pharmacy program.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

University Park women take in Orioles-Yankees baseball game at Ed Smith Stadium

A friendly rivalry: Pam Yulke, wearing a New York Yankee T-shirt, poses with the Baltimore Oriole. (Provided photo)

Katy Arillaga, club historian for the University Park Woman's Club, says club members recently went out to the ballgame at Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles hosted the New York Yankees in a preseason game.

Members enjoyed hot dogs, hot bats, soda and beer with friends.

"Thank you to UPWC so-social chairs Shirlaine Hayes and Judy Jones for arranging this popular event with Barbara Robinson  group tickets sales for the  Baltimore Orioles." Katy said.

Tom and Janet Turek with Mary and Bob Bennett. (Provided photo)
Picnic at the ballpark: seated around the table, lecft to right,  Candice Miller, Patricia Brennan, Patricia Cerjan, Vickie Cox -- granddaughter of Patricia Brennan visiting from Pittsburgh -- and Gail Schaeffer. Standing in the background, from left, David Miller, Ted Ellis, and Steve Cerjan. (Provided photo)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New East Manatee charter school on fast track

Work was underway Thursday on a new charter school site off 30th Street East. (Photo James A. Jones Jr.)

A new charter school proposal for 3806 30th St. E. that drew heavy opposition from neighbors is a proposal no more.

For several weeks, crews have been at work preparing the site and putting down foundation.

School officials are in a hurry to get the school built in time to open for class in the fall.

How quick were construction workers off the mark? Well, the last public hearing was Feb. 28. That's pretty darn quick.

For more, see Christine Hawes' recent story:


Spring farm tour offers folks a chance to see places in East Manatee they might never go

Char-O-Lot Ranch Appaloosa  (provided photo)

Really interesting things to see down on the farm.

The 100 or so folks who took the Spring Conservation Farm Tour recently can attest to that.

First stop was at Venus II citrus grove in Duette, owned by Claude Melli of FLM Inc. Jay Pearson, assisting Melli, explained the operation and the water savings from a 34-acre irrigation reservoir, partially funded by Southwest Florida Water Management District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

The reservoir allows savings in groundwater withdrawals used to water Hamlin and Valencia oranges.

Next up, was Char-O-Lot Ranch in  Myakka City, where Appaloosa horses are trained and bred. Attendees saw the exercise routine of the horses and learned about breeding procedures. The Schembri family has been breeding, showing, buying, and selling horses for over 35 years. 

Char-O-Lot is well known beyond Myakka City. The Schembris have won the Leading Breeder Award at the Appaloosa World Show several times, most recently in 2011.

 Lunch was served at the Myakka City Community Center by the Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association.

 At Enza Zaden Research Center on Crosby Road, participants were able to learn about the Dutch-owned vegetable breeding operation from farm manager Moody Whiddon and product specialist Skeeter Bethea.

Finally, many local products such as strawberries, corn, cucumbers, local honey, eggs, and clams were available for purchase at the King Family Farm and Market where Ben and Shelby King showcased the family operation off Caruso Road.

The tour is organized by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District. Gail Somodi, Manatee County soil conservation supervisor, does a great job keeping the public informed and provided the details and the photos of the tour. Thanks Gail!

For a gallery of photos from the tour, visit

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How dry we are in Manatee-Sarasota

Splendid weather we have been having lately. Moderate temperatures, low humidity, regular breezes.

But the lack of rain and those other factors have conspired to make Manatee and Sarasota counties the worst in the state for danger of wildfires.

The Keetch Index shows that much of Manatee and Sarasota is sort of a deep red color, which is not good news. Red is bad. Green is good. Even worse, there is a big lavender blob where the threat is even more severe.

Check out out the story in Wednesday's Herald.

And Lakewood Ranch residents, please see Nick Williams' story on the Shah report, which seeks to explain why water pressure leaves a lot to be desired.

Nick reports that it is going to take spending some big bucks to make things right.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Take a chance on a ride in a very fast Ferrari

Ferrari from 2011. (provided photo)

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Want to take a  fast-lap shotgun ride in a Ferrari 458 Challenge car on the Honda Grand Prix track in St. Petersburg on March 22?

Could happen for a lucky someone who buys one of two winning $5 raffle tickets, benefitting the Payton Wright Foundation in Lakewood Ranch.

Raffle tickets are on sale at any Lakewood Ranch information center or at the Cardel Homes Dolcetto model in Central Park. All proceeds raised up to $10,000 will be matched by Cardel and will go directly to the Payton Wright Foundation.

The winners will be announced 5 p.m. Sunday  at the Cardel Homes sales center in Central Park.

Food and drink will be provided and the Ferraris will be on display starting at noon at the Dolcetto model. Raffle tickets will be on sale all day until the winners are drawn.

The event brings together Cardel Racing’s Ferrari Challenge drivers and the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in support of the Payton Wright Foundation.

The  foundation was established in 2008 by Patrick and Holly Wright to assist in the fight against  pediatric brain cancer, which took the life of their 5-year-old daughter.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Good news from Parrish tops weekend news!

Memorable participant in the Parrish Heritage Parade. (Photo by Paul Videla)
What do you suppose was the number-one news item on over the weekend?

Something from East Manatee: Paul Videla's photo gallery of the Parrish Heritage Parade.

Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association, just sent us an email with a YouTube video of the chili cook off from the same event.

"This was put together by Ron Hecox our committee member in charge of the chili teams and judging. We estimate the crowd at 3500 at the peak – we are still working on a total that attended," Jordan wrote.

"Once again thank all of you for your outstanding chilis.  I tried them all and I can tell you I was glad I was not a judge.  They were all excellent.  Please check out the video on YouTube I had the pleasure of producing today from the shots taken on Saturday," Jordan said.

We have embedded the video with the package  by Paul Videla and story by reporter Laura Morel.

Take a look:


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lipizzan stallions put on quite the show in Myakka City in a fight for history on Sunday

East Manatee reporter Nick Williams reports those beautiful white stallions at Herrmann's Ranch put on quite the show today for a large crowd that turned out for a benefit for the 1914 Myakka school house.

Check out his story in Monday's Herald.

And check out the video shot by Nick:


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Keeping Lakewood Ranch beautiful a massive task

By Nick Williams

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch director of operations Ryan Heise gave me a tour of Lakewood Ranch on Wednesday.

In two hours, we covered some of the 5,000-plus acre area.

From Edgewater to Country Club, to Summerfield to Green Cove, I saw the lakes, the golf courses, the parks and trails and recreation areas.

At every corner it seemed there was a maintenance worker busy performing some task. So I asked Heise how many workers are needed to maintain Lakewood Ranch. His response was surprising.

Heise said between the two service providers contracted to help maintain the landscaping, along with the 20 or so staff members employed by Lakewood Ranch, around 40 people, on a daily basis, are needed to for upkeep.

To put it in perspective, there are 25 to 30 species of trees and palms in Lakeland Ranch and most of them need to be treated, trimmed and pruned.

There are hundreds of species of plants, all of which need care. Heise spoke of an area known to the staff as “three miles”, a stretch of curb and street that must be edged for the length of three miles. There is fence at least a quarter mile long that must be power washed, piece by piece.

I told Heise it sounds similar to a staff running a large amusement park.

Welcome to Lakewood Ranch, certainly a wonder of our local world.

For a bit of video from that tour:


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Manatee County students sure know their soil

Chief Judge Juan Vega explains the answers to the students after the competition. (provided photo)

Agriculture is, what, the second-largest contributor to the Manatee County economy?

Makes sense  that local students would get to know what makes the good earth bloom, and what makes a good foundation for a home.

Gail Somodi, Manatee County Soil Conservation Supervisor, has provided us with the results of the 51st annual land judging competition sponsored by the Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District.

The competition was held behind the Quattlebaum House on Manatee County property near Lake Manatee.  

Several board members were on hand as Manatee County FFA teams from middle and high schools, and a junior 4-H team competed. 

Students used land-judging scorecards to answer questions about soil properties at four fields in categories as such as slope, depth, texture, permeability, erosion and nutrients. One of the fields represented a potential home site location, and students were questioned on how well the land could serve as a building site, according to a press release Gail sent us.

Andrew Merrill, a student at Southeast High School, had the highest individual overall score and won the I.H. Stewart Award, sponsored by ECo Consultants and presented by Alec Hoffner. Two of Merrill’s scores were perfect, with the remaining two nearly so. 

The team composed of Zach Butler, Andrew Merrill, Hunter Horne, and Sammy Dittmann from Southeast High School won the Callon Keen Sr. Award for the team with the highest score, sponsored by the Keen Family and presented by Callon Keen Jr.  The team, advised by Mike Buckley, also placed first in the FFA high school division.

Placing second was the FFA high school team from Palmetto High School, advised by Mike Ingram, with students Richard Maraj, Colin Kirker, Kaitlyn Richman, and Daphne Alvarez. 

The FFA high school team from Braden River High School placed third, advised by Deb Barry with students Kayla Alexander, Lizzie King, and Thomas Huesman.

Placing first at the middle school level for FFA was the team of Nicholas Bartoszek, Marshall Craig, Carla Luna and Meagan Gigliotti from Nolan Middle School, advised by Stefani Heidenthal.  

The second place team advised by Kimberley Lough of Lincoln Middle School, included students Dylan Alvarez, Jonathan Tyler, Elizabeth Atkinson, and Brian Teachey.

 In third place, also advised by Heidenthal, was the team of Emily Chamness, Izzy Chamness, Dalton Burton, and Logan Troyer from Nolan Middle School.

The junior 4-H team including Samuel West, Benjamin Hoffner, and Jesse West was advised by Alec Hoffner of ECo Consultants and placed first in the 4-H junior division.

Special medals were given to the high scoring individual at each of four fields.  This year, one individual, Andrew Merrill from Southeast High School had the highest score at each of the four fields in the Senior Division.  Junior Division winners were Fields 1 and 3:  Samuel West/4-H; Fields 2: Carla Luna/Nolan Middle School; and Field 4: Nicholas Bartoszek/Nolan Middle School.

The winning FFA teams from Southeast High School and Nolan Middle School along with the Junior 4-H team are eligible to compete in the state land judging competition to be held in late March this year on March 30th in Marion County.

Soil Scientist Juan Vega served as chief Judge. Lunch was provided and prepared by Doug Wilbanks of Syngenta and Jerry Dukes of Oro-Agri. Guest Cully Rowell of Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association, saw the need for tables and chairs for lunch and arranged for them in short order courtesy of the Cattlemen’s Association.

For a gallery of photos, visit:

For more information see

Saturday, March 3, 2012

First Friday of the month from 6 to 9 it's Music on Main, and Friday it was Dr. Dave in command

Lakewood Ranch Main Street was never more packed than Friday night. (Photo  James A. Jones Jr.)
I know about about Jack Sigler of Tampa, writer of "Love Can Make You Happy," a No. 2 Billboard hit from 1969. Saw him at an Elks dance on Lena Road a few months ago. Beautiful, lush song that's melts your heart it's such a miracle and a timeless testimonial to young love.

I know about the husband and wife team Lee and Char, from New Year's Eve dances at the former El Rancho mobile home park, recently renamed Village on the Greens.

And I know about those audience pleasers, the Billy Rice Band.

There is more musical talent in these parts than you can shake a stick at.

Got a good look at the Dr. Dave Band on Friday at Lakewood Ranch's Music on Main concert. They were a smokin' band and I loved the red-hot fiddler. They are one of the few bands I've heard that is brave enough to take on Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way," and make it their own.

Here is a snippet of video from Friday night. Never seen the street so packed and so rockin'!

While you're there, check out some of our other videos, everything from a school bus accident to the conclusion of the Cracker Trail Ride.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Determination along the Cracker Trail Ride

Susie Hoshaw, top right, with Denise Wooten and Richard Zavadil. (provided photo)

This year 236 riders, a record, took part in the 25th anniversary of the Cracker Trail Ride which commemorates the cross-state cattle drives from more than 100 years ago.

The leaders jump off near Bradenton and travel all the way to Fort Pierce.

Among the riders was Susie Hoshaw,  an emergency room secretary at Blake Medical Center for 24 years, and a breast cancer survivor.

She was so determined to beat cancer and ride the Cracker Trail that she told her husband, “If God wants me, he will have to pull me from the saddle.”

For more see the Eastword column in Sunday's Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald.