Thursday, December 26, 2013

LECOM to host career awareness program for high schoolers

LAKEWOOD RANCH — High school students can learn how to become a physician, pharmacist or dentist at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Health Professions Career Awareness program at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17 at LECOM’s School of Dental Medicine, 4800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

Representatives from LECOM’s College of Medicine, School of Pharmacy and School of Dental Medicine will be on hand to give presentations and answer any questions students and parents may have. There will also be a panel of students representing all of LECOM’s programs to answer questions and provide valuable information.

For more information and to register for the event, email Dr. Kersten Schroeder at or call 941-782-5963.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Free ice skating lessons in Ellenton in January

Does all that snow and ice they're getting just about everywhere but Florida right now have you in the mood to try ice skating?

If so, you may want to check out Ellenton Ice & Sports Complex's ice skating open house on Saturday, Jan. 11. It's your opportunity to take a free trial class for new participants to try out skating.

There's an 11:30 a.m. adult class that day, followed by a 12:15 p.m. youth class.

Reserve your spot or get more information by contacting Shannon at

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Work of young artists from Braden River Elementary School showcased at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport

Nicholas Freeman, Braden River fifth grader. Provided photo
Seven students from Braden River Elementary School have been recognized for their artistic ability. Their art work will be displayed at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

They are among 50 students from across Manatee and Sarasota counties whose entries were selected.

The Braden River students include Lilly Pramuka, Hailey Dragon, Shiv Patel, Allie Teegarden, Maya Wellard, Nicholas Freeman, and Jacqueline Diaz-Bruno.

The artwork will be custom framed and displayed at the airport for one year, reports Kathy Keeber.

AHsyley Dragon, a Braden River fourth grader. Provided photo

Lilly Pramuka, Braden River third grader, placed third overall in the airport art contest. provided photo

Friday, December 13, 2013

Horseshoe Cove revs up for Christmas Golf Cart Parade

Dick Verzone, dressed as Santa Claus, entertains the crowds at the 14th annual Horseshoe Cove Christmas Cart Parade in 2012 in Bradenton. Driving the cart disguised as a sleigh is Bill Crocker. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

EAST MANATEE — The residents of Horseshoe Cove are prepping for their 15th annual Christmas Golf Cart Parade.

Fifty carts, each with its own holiday theme, will leave the RV park at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, and head down Caruso Road to State Road 70, visiting Westwinds and Windmill Manor mobile home parks along the way.

The public is invited to set up chairs along the route on Caruso Road and can expect candy for children and doggie treats for their pets. The parade also features music, a 15-foot-tall twinkling Christmas tree and four bouncing reindeer pulling Santa Claus in his sled.

About 250 senior residents are helping prepare for the parade and will be doing a trial run Dec. 18 and making a visit to their neighbors at Pleasant Lakes Park on Dec. 20.

For more information, call 941-751-3450.

Sarasota Manatee Bicyle Club donates to Toys for Tots

Headed to deserving children. Provided photo

Sarasota Manatee Bike Club donated 10 new bicycles to Toys for Tots on Friday, reports Doug Reiff.

"This is another great example of our club giving back to our communities in Sarasota-Manatee counties," Reiff said.

For previous coverage of the club, visit these links:

Bicycle club members with bikes they are donating to Toys for Tots. Provided photo

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild entertains Palm-Aire art group with 'Fractured Fairy Tales'

Event organizer Helen Martin, center, with the Asolo Theatre Guild Play Readers
Photo by Marilyn Nordby
The Play Readers of the Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild were in fine form as they recently entertained members of  the Art Association of Palm-Aire with “Fractured Fairy Tales” during their opening luncheon. 

Thessocial-commentary versions of Grimm’s tales kept the audience laughing  with questions such as:

What if Chicken Little was less concerned with the sky falling than with who to sue? 

What if the Big Bad Wolf was a nasty businessman trying to put three honest competitors out of business?

And what if Red Riding Hood was a resourceful animal lover who didn’t need the Woodsman to save her and Grandma from the wolf?  

Member-guests Susan Hubley, Mary Sarro and Nan Miller.
Photo by Marilyn Nordby

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance helps Meals on Wheels

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance collected $1,265 in cash and Publix gift cards and 936 pounds of canned and dried food to benefit Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee at its recent Holiday Social.

Robin Parsons, the group's business development director, said in a statement she is "proud that LWRBA could support and obtain these donations for an organization so dedicated such as Meals on Wheels PLUS. We are happy to be involved with such a generous group of business owners and able to help Meals on Wheels.”

Go here to see a Click! photo gallery from the Dec. 4 event.

For more information about LWRBA and membership, call (941) 757-1664.

Karen Cadou, Pam Lutz, Darren Inverso, and Annette Gueli of Pro-Motion Notions at the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and Young Leaders Alliance annual holiday social Dec. 4 at Courtyard Marriott in University Park. Carina Lora/Special to the Herald

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

River Club Bunco Group helps Sarasota's Community Haven

The ladies' Bunco Group at The River Club in East Manatee has made a $625 donation to Sarasota-based Community Haven for Adults and Children with Disabilities, Inc.

The ladies raised money at their recent holiday meeting and donated 100 percent of the proceeds to Community Haven. The organization held a ribbon cutting in September for its private school, which serves disabled students in kindergarten and grades nine through 12 at its 32-acre campus.

The donation will help Community Haven "continue to provide programs and services that enhance the education, growth and development of individuals with disabilities in the Sarasota and Manatee Counties and Environs," according to a news release.

From left, Janet Schraer, River Club Bunco Group; Marla Doss, president and CEO of Community Haven; and Linda Deucker, River Club Bunco Group.

Nik Wallenda tests skills at Treeumph! Adventure Course in East Manatee

Daredevil Nik Wallenda, second from right, brought his family and friends to Treeumph! Adventure Course in East Manatee earlier this month.

EAST MANATEE — It’s not uncommon to hear people yelling out “I’m Nik Wallenda!” and pretending to be the famed high-wire artist when they’re playing around 60 feet up in the air at Treeumph! Adventure Course.

But earlier this month, Wallenda himself was there and got to experience the zip lines, swinging logs, wobbly bridges and more excitement among the trees at this East Manatee business.

Wallenda, a Bradenton resident, said he had heard about Treeumph and decided to bring his wife, three kids and four friends there over Thanksgiving weekend to experience the fun firsthand.

“We had a great time, and I will definitely return in the near future,” Wallenda said via email. “Some of the elements there are physically challenging so it was a fun workout, and our entire group just really had a great time.”

Co-owner Kathy Corr, who opened Treeumph in 2012 with husband Aaron on State Road 70 East, said several of her employees were joking with Wallenda and trying to race him on the courses.

“I definitely had a number of our guys say, ‘That dude’s got great balance,’ “ Kathy Corr said.

So how did the experience compare with Wallenda’s famed feats, such as his death-defying walks at the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls or even over U.S. 41 in Sarasota?

“As far as connections with my profession, I think the balance necessary for wire walking helps me on some of the elements, perhaps letting me move through quicker,” he said. “Our entire group was able to go through the course but in some instances, it may have taken someone longer to mentally prepare for a particular element. My familiarity with heights probably helps with that mental aspect.”

Wallenda said he’s busy working on his next TV special with his partners at Discovery Channel, whose live showing of Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk drew 13 million viewers in June.

“We are planning for 2014, and hope to be releasing some specifics toward the beginning of the year,” he said.

As for the Corrs, they were thrilled to host the famous daredevil.

“He went away recommending the place,” Aaron Corr said. “I was very pleased. All I know is he had a great time.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Braden River Middle to host 15th Empty Bowls Luncheon

The National Junior Honor Society Chapter at Braden River Middle School will host its 15th Annual Empty Bowls Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the school.

 The luncheon's aim is to "help fight hunger and demonstrate the strong spirit of community in Manatee County," according to a news release. The suggested donation is $10, with proceeds going to the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Bradenton.

 NJHS students have been busy making clay bowls (shaping, firing, glazing and decorating), which will serve as reminders of those who go hungry in the community every day. Publix and Crispers have again donated the soup and the bread for Wednesday's luncheon.

 For more information, contact teacher and NJHS adviser Lisa Brewer-Norton at 941-751-7080.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Myakka Christmas parade offers holiday spirit with country flavor

Horses and riders are always a highlight of the Myakka Christmas parade.
Herald file photo
 MYAKKA CITY — The lineup for the annual Myakka City Christmas parade, set to begin 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, on Wauchula Road at the Myakka City Elementary School,  includes decorated horses and riders, big trucks, and 40 floats.

The parade winds through side streets and ends near Myakka Fire Station 1 at 10215 Wauchula Road.

Roger and Sylvia Mayfield have been selected as parade king and queen by the Myakka seniors program.

Marching bands in the parade include Lakewood Ranch High School and Community Christian School.

Forty floats are planned for the Myakka Christmas parade on Dec. 7.
Herald file photo
Look for a big truck or two in the Myakka Christmas parade.
Herald file photo
Immediately after the parade, a Christmas festival will be held on the grounds of Myakka Community Center, complete with crafts, food, and games, ending at 3 p.m.

Live entertainment will be provided by singer Alex Dakin Banger, and by Stacey’s Cheer Jam.

Three bounce houses, a rock climbing wall, and a mechanical bull are planned for children.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lakewood Ranch Rotary accepting grant applications

The Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club’s Ways and Means Committee is accepting grant applications by local nonprofits that wish to be considered for some of the net proceeds from last month’s Suncoast Food and Wine Fest.

Twenty-two local and international charities benefited from last year’s Wine Fest, a member-driven fundraiser that draws thousands of visitors to the Sarasota Polo Grounds.

Nonprofits wishing to submit a grant for consideration may get more information or an application online at or by phone at 941-358-2068.  To be considered, an organization must be a 501(c)3.

Applications will be accepted until Jan. 10.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Shoebox Could Make a Senior's Day

You can make a Manatee County senior's holiday a little brighter this year by participating in the Holiday Shoebox Drive Reception this Sunday, Dec. 8, from 4-6 p.m. at The Ranch Grill, put on by Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee.
Admission is free to the event with a $20 donation or by bringing a wrapped shoebox filled with goodies for seniors who may be homebound and alone this holiday season and may not have any gifts to open. Meals on Wheels PLUS has been collecting and distributing the holiday shoeboxes for more than three decades.
At the event, attendees will have an opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for prizes ranging from Disney tickets to restaurant gift certificates. Complimentary appetizers will be provided by The Ranch Grill, 14475 State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch.
“It is truly meaningful to watch a senior client’s eyes light up as they receive their shoebox. They are sincerely grateful, and it makes the spirit of giving come to life,” said Maribeth Phillips, CEO of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, in a news release.
Gift ideas include lotions, hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste, lotions, slippers, pens, stationery, and other nonperishable necessities.
To volunteer or donate, call 941-749-0100.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ovation becomes 'Grand Ovation at Lakewood Ranch'

Ovation, the popular community festival in Lakewood Ranch, has a new name.

The new Grand Ovation at Lakewood Ranch will celebrate its seventh annual festival from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1 on Main Street.

The festival will include performances from a variety of local school groups, professional musicians, dancers, chorus groups, drama teams and more, plus food and shopping, organizers say. The event is free to attend, and there is no charge for nonprofit groups to participate and receive table space.

Find applications to participate and information about sponsorships at or at the SMR headquarters at 14400 Covenant Way in Lakewood Ranch. Call Rachel Gray at 941-757-1548 or Linda Gross at 941-907-9507The application deadline is Jan. 1.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Local pastor spins Wheel of Fortune, takes home $10K

The Rev. Steve Price took home $10,400 from his appearance on Wheel of Fortune, but his chance at even bigger money got burnt up in an erupting volcano.

Or better yet, an "E R _ _ T I N G    _ _ L _ _ N _"

That was the final puzzle in the bonus round for Price, co-pastor at Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton and a contestant on an episode of the game show that aired Tuesday.

Price couldn't solve it, but he still called his appearance a success when he spoke to the Herald last week.

"All I can say is it was a great experience," Price said. "It's a memory I'll always carry with me."

Friends, family and congregation members attended a watch party Tuesday at Ranch Grill to cheer Price on. Of course, he gave the church and Bradenton a shout out when he chatted with host Pat Sajak at the start of the show.

You can read more about his experience in his contestant blog on the Wheel of Fortune's official website.

- Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor.

Steve Price at the gates of Sony Studios in Los Angeles, where he filmed an episode of "Wheel of Fortune" last month. PROVIDED PHOTO

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fashion show celebrates women, giving

The models at Nov. 13's fashion show. PROVIDED PHOTO

The Women's Giving Circle Social & Fashion Show, presented by the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund and Northern Trust on Nov. 13 at the Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch, brought together nearly 80 local leaders to celebrate the power of women to raise funds for a variety of charitable causes.

This year's event featured a fashion show with local celebrities and a philanthropic purpose, plus the unveiling of the Chic Boutique, a resale shop and collaboration between HOPE Family Services and the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee County.

The host committee included Diane Brune, Angela Massaro-Fain, Julienne Smith, Jenifer Schembri, Ardell Terry and Patti Wrobel.

Lakewood Ranch Women’s Giving Circle is celebrated each year "as a dynamic group of women bonded by friendship, shared interests and values in supporting organizations and programs in need," according to a news release.

The evening also served as a great success with the addition of two new circles and the distribution of four start-up kits for circle development. Each circle must commit to establishing a $10,000 minimum endowed fund to be a part of the Founders’ 50 of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund

A check presentation. PROVIDED PHOTO

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lakewood Ranch student wins soil speech contest

Alisha Erozer, first-place winner from Lakewood Ranch High, and John O’Connor, Jr., Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District board vice chairman. PHOTO PROVIDED

A Lakewood Ranch High student won the annual Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District’s speech contest Nov. 14 as part of Farm City Week.

Alisha Erozer was awarded $150 for her speech on this year’s topic, “Dig Deeper - What are the Mysteries in the Soil?” Her first-place finish also qualifies her to compete in an area contest to be held next March.

Finishing second and awarded $100 was Cheyenne Atkinson of Bayshore High School. Third was Samantha Baum, a student at Haile Middle School, who received $75.

Students in grades 6 through 12 performed six- to eight-minute speeches in the contest, designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving our natural resources. Basia Kuehn, a Nolan Middle School student, wrote and recited poetry to communicate her point. Students from Palmetto High School also participated.

Judges were Carrie Ann Green, senior probation officer for the Manatee County Government Community Services Department and Toastmasters member; Juan Vega, USDA/NRCS resource soil scientist; and David Neely, USDA/NRCS agricultural engineer.
Samantha Baum, third-place winner from Haile Middle School, and John O’Connor, Jr., Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District board vice chairman. PHOTO PROVIDED
Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District speech contestant, from left, Basia Kuehn, Joey Leto, Tiffany Bunch, Tabetha Lex,  Samantha Baum, Alisha Erozer and Cheyenne Atkinson.

Cheyenne Atkinson, second-place winner from Bayshore High School, and John O’Connor, Jr., Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District board vice chairman. PHOTO PROVIDED

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

145 gallons of blood lands man in Donation Hall of Fame

Roy Richards has bled for a cause he believes in.

One hundred and forty-five gallons worth, to be exactly.

Richards, 85, was inducted into the Donation Hall of Fame, sponsored by Fenwal, for his achievement on Oct. 31 at the Lakewood Ranch Donor Center.

He began donating blood in 1947 whenever the bloodmobile visited his workplace in Wisconsin. Soon after, he began traveling to the Milwaukee Donor Center because the bloodmobile didn't come around frequently enough.

Richards continued donating platelets 24 times a year after he and his wife, Sylvia, moved to Sarasota.

"It's helping people and that's what's important," Richards told Bay News 9 recently.

For more information about donating blood, center locations and hours, go to

-- Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor

JB Gaskins, left, and Barrett Mulford, from Fenwal, join Roy Richards as he is inducted into the Donation Hall of Fame. PHOTO PROVIDED

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Preview of Parrish play is a hit

Find out more about "Red Rooster Tales," a folk life play about the history of Parrish, by visiting

The first preview performance of "Red Rooster Tales," a folk life play about the history of Parrish, put on by residents of Parrish, was a huge success last month, according to Ben Jordan, acting executive director of the Parrish Arts Council.

"It was better than I would have ever imagined," Jordan said.

The recently formed arts council created the play as a way to instill a sense of community in Parrish and to boost the local economy. A short preview of the play was performed for potential donors and again for a sold-out crowd of residents at the Parrish Branch Y and community center a few weeks ago.

"They just nailed it," Jordan said. The performance was great. It proved, 'OK, hey, the community will support this.' "

(Read more about "Red Rooster Tales" and what it could mean for Parrish's future in the Herald's recent story.)

The full play will debut sometime in spring 2014, and there's a lot more work to be done before then. Most importantly, the arts council hopes to find -- or build -- a larger venue that might serve as a permanent home for the play and draw visitors and tourists to Parrish.

"We would like to put a building at the (Florida) Railroad Museum," Jordan said. "That's the real dream."

Jordan and the rest of the arts council members were meeting this week to decide their next steps, then go out and seek the funds to accomplish them.

For more information about "Red Rooster Tales" and how you might get involved, visit

-Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor

Friday, November 1, 2013

Neal golf tourney raises $19K for Gullett Elementary

Pat Neal , far left, of Neal Communities, joins B.D. Gullett Elementary School principal Kathy Hayes, far right, in presenting a check from this year's golf tournament fundraiser. PHOTO PROVIDED
The 5th Annual Neal Communities Golf Challenge benefiting B.D. Gullett Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch raised more than $19,000, including a $10,000 donation by the home builder, the, lead sponsor of the event.

“The tournament, which began in 2008 to provide much needed technological resources for students and a growing population in the area, has proved to be a huge asset to fundraising goals for B.D. Gullett Elementary,” Neal Communities said in a media release.

 Money raised at this year’s tournament, held Sept. 21 at University Park Country Club, will fund laptops and computer equipment. A total of $19,289.61 will go directly toward the school.

 “On behalf of the students and staff at B.D. Gullett Elementary, we extend our gratitude for our generous community’s support of the 2013 Neal Communities Golf Challenge,” said principal Kathy Hayes.

- Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nordstrom Rack getting ready for grand opening Nov. 7

Last week, I was rummaging through the racks at TJMaxx for a last minute blouse to wear to a nice dinner in Disney. Out of the eight shirts I tried on, only two were a good brand name like Calvin Klein or BCBG. The rest: subpar names like XOXO. Not exactly the "designer" brands that their slogan touts. 

I'm not completely ripping the Maxx. I go there, I like it -- especially for CHI hair products and Essie nail polish. But when I'm really in the mood for designer clothes at bargain prices, I wheel over to Nordstrom Rack. 

Today I realized that the new Rack in University Park is opening in just a few weeks and I stepped out of the office to check it out.

The 35,000-square-foot shopping hub, located in the squeaky clean Shoppes at University Town Center at 7978 Cooper Creek Blvd., is gearing up for its grand opening 9 a.m. Nov. 7. Shoppers are encouraged to begin tailgating at 8 a.m., manager Karina Attar-McDonald said.

The store looked nearly perfect, ready to be picked over by passionate shoppers. The Marc Jacobs sunglasses, in all their glory, were neatly displayed at the front. To the right was a sparkling setup of  Kate Spade jewelry. I swooned over these rings.

Attar-McDonald said almost all of the 50 job opportunities have been filled, but she is planning to hire a few more employees. To apply, visit

-- Sabrina Rocco,

Buy a home, get a free boat


Bruce Williams Homes has opened its model home, "The Blue Cypress" in the Winding River community in East Manatee. There are 62 expansive home sites available, but if you act fast, you could get a free boat.

That's right, a free boat.

The first four purchasers will receive a boat from Scout Boats, plus a motor and trailer -- a perfect deal since the community has a private, resident-only boat launch.

The homes will range from 2,600 to 5,000 square feet and start in the low $400,000s, according to a media release. 

Check out the model at 14205 9th Terrace NE, Bradenton, just off Upper Manatee River Road. It's open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

For more information visit or call (941) 748-8834.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who's got the scariest scarecrow?

Think you can create a scary scarecrow?

Enter the fifth annual Scarecrow Contest as part of Lakewood Ranch's Boo Fest, the annual free family Halloween gathering, Oct. 25 on Main Street.

You can register your scarecrow online now in order to have it displayed on one of the lamp posts along Main. Judging will be held during Boo Fest, 6-9 p.m., and the winners will receive gift cards from Trattoria, MacAllisters, Ed’s Tavern, Pinchers Crab Shack.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Attention Publix shoppers: This road is closed

Don't try taking the back way into the Lakewood Ranch Gateway/Publix Plaza at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and State Road 64 right now.

The rear access road from State Road 64 will be closed through Tuesday, Oct. 15 because of construction. You'll still be able to access the Bank of America, however.

The closure is so workers can repair a nearby water main and still supply water to the plaza, according to Billy Pinkston with Manatee County Public Works.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fundraiser helps horse have a fighting Chance

In last week's editions of the Bradenton Herald, Lakewood Ranch Herald and on we told you about Chance, a neglected thoroughbred in Parrish who was in need of some help, and Herald photographer Grant Jefferies brought you some fantastic photos and video of the horse and owner, Jovonnie Androy. 

Androy, owner of GoldenGael Farm, was hosting a fundraiser this past Saturday for Chance to help raise $1,700 for his dental bills. Now, she happily reports they rasied more than $2,000. Here's part of her email to the Herald, along with some photos of the event. See a full gallery here, courtesy of Vickie Pierson Crupi:

Wow, what a day we had raising money for dear Chance! It took a village, and a village we had!! So many people to thank! Dana Benedetto and team Chilly WILLY'S for the kettle corn, lemonade, and incredible frozen juice drinks. Brenda Hunt Alcorn for her incredible original works of art that had auction bidding wars going! John Whiteleather of Swamp DONKIE, who provided our live entertainment, and John was our live auctioneer as well. Vickie Pierson Crupi, and Joe Crupi for all of the photographs shown in the album below. Vickie has been a strong and generous supporter of Chance from day one. Team Equisports Unlimited, Niki Demma Pasley, Miss Gia, Tim Pasley. Halle Fischer and Rory Pasley for the Pony rides on Napa. Dr. Dave and Julie Bracciano for their continued support, Dr. Jim and Rita Hillman as well for their continued support. Dr. Mark and Ann Lupo for their generous support and for Mark pulling the winning raffle tickets. Leanne Thomas for her support and keeping the art auction bidding exciting! Randy Sue Wilson Fountain and Matthew Fountain for their exhausting efforts to get the word out and secure not only raffle items, but in securing the band Swamp DONKIE!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Special needs students find hope at Shepherd's Field

Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City, is hosting an open house Oct. 7. PROVIDED PHOTOS
Students with special needs and their families are invited to attend next month's open house at Shepherd's Field Agricultural College, a pilot program of Ave Maria Preparatory School in Myakka City.

Shepherd’s Field provides a university-accredited, two-year college education and diploma in landscaping and horticulture through South Florida State College. There are currently 12 students, ages 18-22, in the program, which launched last month. Enrollment is open for the upcoming spring semester starting in January 2014. Scholarships are available for students needing transportation from Sarasota and Bradenton.

Ave Maria Prep already helps students in grades kindergarten through 12th who are dealing with autism, attention deficit disorder, Asperger's syndrome, Tourette syndrome, anxiety and bipolar disorders. Shepherd's Field will allow graduates of Ave Maria Prep and others to continue their education, gain employability and social skills and transition to college and independent living.

"They look so dignified," said Sister Gilchrist Cottrill, the school's director, of the program's first class. "Some of these kids I have known for a long time."

Ave Maria Prep was recently the beneficiary of a $25,000 donation by Paul and Frankie Amato, owners of Paul's Pizza by the Foot in Bradenton.

The Shepherd's Field open house will be Monday, Oct. 7, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the school's campus, 6289 Verna Rd., Myakka City. For more information about the open house or the program, call 941-322-1601.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SMR Farms named Tropicana Grower of the Year

For a fifth straight year, SMR Farms has been selected as a Tropicana Grower of the Year for the 2012-13 citrus harvesting season.
The award from Tropicana Products, Inc. is based on "fruit quality, load quality, fruit variety mix and agribusiness management," according to a media release from SMR. Also considered are harvesting methods, grove practices, labor programs and commitment to agricultural sustainability.
“It’s a great feeling to see our citrus operations recognized in this way," said SMR Farms President, Mac Carraway in the release. "In spite of the very real and difficult challenges we face in the citrus industry, our production team continues to do a great job.”
Steve John, SMR Farms’ citrus production manager added that “we have a great relationship with Tropicana, and working with a top-line company like Tropicana certainly keeps us on our toes.”
SMR Farms and Tropicana are partnering on a multi-year citrus fertilization project aimed at comparing traditional fertilizers with low-carbon-footprint products as part of Tropicana’s global sustainability efforts.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rowing fever in Parrish

A group of Parrish residents is starting a masters rowing team. HERALD FILE PHOTO

Rowing fever has apparently caught on in Parrish.

Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association, says there's been great interest in the formation of a masters rowing team that would train at the nearby Fort Hamer Park and compete at the new rowing Nathan Benderson Park rowing facility down off University Parkway at Interstate 75.

"A lot of people are excited," said Jordan - so much so that the Y had to order new rowing machines and station them upstairs in what used to be just the teen room.

Sounds like the news of the 2017 World Rowing Championship coming to Manatee-Sarasota has some folks fired up.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Make a wish on Main Street

Next time you pass by the fountain at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, drop in some spare change and you'll be helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation. HERALD FILE PHOTO

Ever drop some spare change into a fountain and make a wish?

Next time you do so at the fountain at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, you'll also be granting the wishes of kids with life-threatening medical conditions. Change collected at the fountain will go toward the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Donations will be taken through Feb. 1, according to Main Street property manager Julia DeCastro, so there's plenty of time to empty out your couch cushions, your pockets and the center console in your car and help make a kid's day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time to eat at University Town Center mall

Seasons 52 is coming to the new Mall at University Town Center. Excited? PHOTO PROVIDED

We've known for a while now that Macy's, Dillard's and Saks Fifth Avenue will be tenants at the new Mall at University Town Center, coming in the fall of 2014.

What everyone's really been wondering: Which restaurants are coming?

There's been plenty of rumors, speculation and innuendo. Bradenton Herald readers had lots of suggestions, too, when business reporter Charles Schelle asked in his "Up In Your Business" blog back in May what they'd like to see.

Well, on Friday, we got our first official announcement: Seasons 52 will be one of the dining options at the new mall.


The folks at Taubman, one of the developing partners at the mall, sure are. 

"One of the things we've been talking about is having unique concepts to bring to this area and I think Seasons 52 is one of those concepts," new general manager Octavio "Taz" Ortiz said Friday. "We're very happy to have them and to have something that's going to be unique to the market."

There are about 40 Seasons 52 locations nationwide, the closest being in Tampa, and several more planned in the next year. The restaurant's fresh grill and wine bar concept and nothing-over-475-calories menu should be a hit, as well as its promise of live music every night at its piano bar.

Developers are especially banking on attracting families from burgeoning Lakewood Ranch. They said as much in a meeting with Herald staffers earlier this week, noting the growth in single-family homes in the Ranch as one of the driving factors for going forward with the mall project. (Ortiz, the new manager, is relocating his family to Lakewood Ranch, too.)

Another dining option for Ranch residents, and the new mall itself, only adds to the attraction.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

East Manatee resident opens up about his 9/11 experience

East Manatee resident and 9/11 survivor Garrett Lindgren says speaking publicly about that day has been his way of dealing with the emotional toll it took on him. JASON BARTOLONE/Bradenton Herald
Lots of people had a personal connection to 9/11.

Not everyone can say they lost 62 people they knew personally that day.

Garrett Lindgren can.

The 55-year-old East Manatee resident was a New York City firefighter back in 2001. He had just gotten off duty the morning of Sept. 11 when the first plane struck the Twin Towers.

"Everyone I had coffee with that morning was killed," Lindgren told me.

Now retired, Lindgren has advocated on behalf of first responders suffering health effects since 9/11. He's done speaking engagements at Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies, including this week's "Lakewood Ranch Remembers 9-11" program at Manatee Technical Institute's East Campus in Lakewood Ranch. And through it all, he's battled his own health problems and the same post-traumatic stress disorder many 9/11 survivors face.

Speaking at events like Wednesday's MTI ceremony can be "extremely emotional," Lindgren said. In fact, he went about five years, from 2002 to 2007, not even speaking publicly about 9/11, until he was talked into being the guest speaker at a "Tribute to Heroes" luncheon in Bradenton on the anniversary.

"It's therapeutic," said Lindgren, who lives in GreyHawk Landing. He admits he had become disconnected from his wife and two children for years, and it wasn't until he started opening up about 9/11 that he began to return to his old self.

His message is sobering and powerful, especially for those MTI students and future first responders who might someday face a traumatic event the way Lindgren did 12 years ago. And if they do, he advises they find a way to talk about it.

"Physically it's really tough. Emotionally it's really tough. You deal with children trapped in fires and things like that and it tears your heart out," he said. "And then you get slammed with something like (9/11), it's more than somebody can take in. I guess folks look at firefighters and they figure, 'Oh, that's a pillar of strength, that's who comes when you dial 9-1-1, that's the cavalry.' But inside you're a person, you're human being. You put that aside and you do your job. but at some point it's got to come out. It just has to."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hello, East Manatee!

Hello East Manatee!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name's Jason Bartolone, and I'm the new East Manatee Editor for the Bradenton Herald and the Lakewood Ranch Herald. That means you'll be seeing me out and about in Parrish, Lakewood Ranch, Myakka City, the University Park area and the rest of East Manatee County, getting to know this amazing community and sharing your stories in the pages of the Herald and online at

This new job is a homecoming of sorts — I previously worked at the Herald for five years, from 2005-10, first in the sports department as a copy editor and page designer, then as the Page 1A editor. I'm excited to be outside the confines of the newsroom now, along with the rest of the Herald's talented team of journalists, talking with the people who make East Manatee come to life.

I'm also no stranger to this community: My wife and I have been Lakewood Ranch residents for almost a year and a half now. We live here, work here, shop here and are raising our 9-month-old son, Zack, here. In short, we love living out east, and I look forward to getting to know the rest of my neighbors even better.

Have a story idea or a news tip? You can reach me in the office at 941-745-7011 or by email at Follow me on Twitter, too, @JasonBartolone, where I'll try to bring you the best of the Herald's East Manatee coverage as well as an up-to-the-minute look at what we're covering. And check back here in the East Word blog, yet another way for us to connect about the news that matters most to you.

Talk to you soon!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manatee Players not the only thespians in the news this week

Manatee and Lakewood Ranch students. (provided photo)
Lakewood Ranch and Manatee high school students. (provided photo)

A performance of Miss Saigon will inaugurate the opening of the Manatee Performing Arts Center in Bradenton tonight.

The Manatee Players are big news this week with long anticipated opening of the new theater.

Also making some drama news are students from Lakewood Ranch High School, Manatee School for the Arts and Manatee High School.

Each of the schools was represented in Tampa at the International Thespian Society Florida State Thespian Festival . . . and did very well.

It was a friendly competition. The teachers from each school have close personal relationships. How close? Roxane Caravan of Lakewood Ranch is the mother of Katy Knowles of Manatee High School. Roxanne is also close friends with Pat Ross of Manatee School for the Arts.

We don't have all the results yet, but as we get them we'll add to the blog post.

Here's what Roxane told us:

"Our students represented Lakewood Ranch High School, Manatee County, and our district thespians in a outstanding way both from a behavioral standpoint and competitively speaking. We also were chosen to participate in a master class and exhibition flying performance based on the theme of the festival "The Greatest Show on Earth" and our students became part of a circus performance which included aerial flying.

"It was pretty spectacular to see these kids flying through the air.  Video to come! Please congratulate these students on a job well done. All students performing received at least 1-4 superior ratings from their performances.  So very proud of their work!

"The cast and crew of "Nuncrackers" received straight 'superior" ratings on their one act performance.
Channing Weir received straight "superior" ratings on her solo musical and she auditioned for scholarship money and was chosen as one of the 14 scholarship recipients in the state of Florida out of hundreds and was awarded $1,000," Roxane said.

Other Lakewood Ranch results:

Lakewood Ranch's Small Group Musical "She's in Love" from Disney's "The Little Mermaid Jr."  received straight "superior" ratings.

Large Group Musical "Run Freedom Run" from "Urinetown" received "excellent" ratings.

Duet Acting "DMV Tyrant" received "excellent" ratings.

Ensemble Acting "Playwriting 101" received "excellent" ratings.

Costume Construction "Seussical the Musical" received "excellent" ratings.

Among the Lakewood Ranch students were: Kasey Blanco, Katie Ciemniecki, Melina Cuffaro, Rebekah Frey, Sabrina Gallien, Justina Gomez-Guadalupe, Rachel Gross, Joseph Grosso, Jalbelly Guzman, Kylee McKinney, Kristen Mendez, Cassandra Rankin, Kylee Risdon, Jillian Smith, Ciara Vitaioli,
Ethan Weaver, and Channing Weir.

Patricia Ross of Manatee School for the Arts reported her results:

"As a result of attending the District 6 Competition that was in October (schools from Bradenton to Naples) Nick Drivas,  of MSA was selected from all 997 kids attending to represent District 6.  Nick does a performance of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables  If  you have ever been to the Straz in Tampa you know how magnificent that theater is. It was an overwhelming experience to see one of our students take that stage as a soloist and receive a standing ovation from 5,000 people, not once but twice!!

"One of our Costume students Ardelia MacPhail constructed a beautiful costume, depicting the lead character in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. As a fresham she received a perfect score of straight superiors…not one point off," Patricia said.

"As we attended the festival we then had to deal with Nick’s entourage of fans asking for photos and giving him phone numbers. It was really an adventure. You may have seen Nick Drivas in some community theater productions. He is an excellent yet very humble performer, " Pat said.

Among the Manatee School for the Arts students were Nick Drivas – Straight Superior – Solo Musical - Representing entire District, Ardelia MacPhail – Costume Construction – Straight Superior, Devin Fuentes / Jessie Muns  Duet Acting-- Superior, Katelyn Priest/Nick Drivas -  Duet Musical – Superior, Teagan Duncan – Solo Musical – Superior, Brittany Bauer – Costume Construction - Superior
Julia Thompson – Solo Musical – Excellent, Julie Hereford – Costume Design – Excellent, and
Katelyn Priest – Solo Musical – Superior.

As we get more results and photos, we'll add to the blog.
Manatee County thespians in Tampa. (provided photo)
Manatee School for the Arts students Brittany Bauer , Julia Hereford , Costume Coach: Lisa Sherer , Ardelia MacPhail, Mandolin MacPhail. All competed in Costume Design/Construction. (provided photo)
Manatee School for the Arts troupe and sponsors: Patricia Ross & Michael Bajjaly.
(provided photo)

Manatee and Lakewood Ranch students. (provided photo)

Manatee School for the Arts' Ardelia MacPhail won straight superior in costume construction.
(provided photo)