Friday, December 12, 2014

Ellenton's Colony Cove residents aid Marines by digging deep for Toys for Tots drive

Colony Cove residents donated 15 bikes for the Toys for Tots drive.
Photos provided by Vickie Cochran and Isabel Jaekel 

A little Christmas elf -- well actually it was Vickie Cochran -- told us that Colony Cove residents came through in a big way with their Toys For Tots drive on Dec 7.

"Sponsored by the New England Club this year, Santa's little helpers, collected over 800 toys including 15 various sizes of bicycles.  Also, the business community along U.S. 301 participated with boxes and also donated several toys for our drive," Vickie said.

Colony Cove residents collected $1,000 which will be used in Manatee County  for special needs kids.  The  money will help pay for  adjusting toys in a way that children with special needs will be able to ride or play with them.

Colony Cove residents started their evening with a spaghetti and meatball dinner, made by Fred and Carol Roselli.  Many volunteers helped out with serving more than 200 meals.

After dinner, residents got into their golf carts and drove through the community in their Christmas attire to pick up toys. The Marines came with their truck and collected the toys.

"All the residents involved hope that this will put a smile on a child's face come Christmas morning.  We all enjoyed being Santa.  Next year we hope the drive will be even bigger and better.  Thank you to all involved," Vickie Cochran said.

Spaghetti dinner for Colony Cove residents, and a ton of toys for kids..
Photos provided by Vickie Cochran and Isabel Jaekel 

Spaghetti dinner for Colony Cove residents, and a ton of toys for kids..
Photos provided by Vickie Cochran and Isabel Jaekel 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Artists at Palm-Aire open their 23rd season with circus theme, circus legends

Pedro Reis, Helen Martin (Committee chair) and Dolly Jacobs.
Provided photo by Nan Miller

The Art Association of Palm-Aire opened its 32nd season with a champagne luncheon this month at the Palm-Aire Country Club, reports Charleen Gorbet.

Famed aerialist Dolly Jacobs and her husband Pedro Reis spoke to the packed house about their life in the circus, and Dolly added anecdotes about her father Lou Jacobs, renowned as one of the foremost professional clowns in the world.  His star was installed on the Circus Ring of Fame at St. Armand’s Circle in 1988.

If Lou was known as King of the Clowns, Dolly was Queen of the Air.  Her many accolades include her own star on the Circus Ring of Fame, awarded in 1997.  But Dolly did not speak of these; she and Pedro, who met on a circus tour, now share their passion for circus arts as founders of The Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota.

They developed and manage Circus Sarasota and its youth version, Sailor Circus.  Through teaching, outreach into the community, and performance, they promote and help to maintain the love of circus for which Sarasota is famous.

The circus theme was carried out with table decorations made by the members, and a  menu that used champagne in each dish.

Judy Hall with table decoration honoring Lou Jacobs.
Provided photo by Nan Miller

Circus scene became table decoration.
Provided photo by Nan Miller

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Here's a chance to check out the lemurs of Myakka City: annual open house is set for Nov. 8

Lemurs at Myakka City reserve.
Herald file photo

MYAKKA CITY — It's not every day that the public has a chance to see the beautiful and rare lemurs of Myakka City.

But there is an opportunity 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, when the Myakka City Lemur Reserve has its annual open house .

The reserve is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the primates of Madagascar through captive breeding, scientific research, and education, according to the reserve's website.

Planned at the free family-friendly open house are food and beverages, lemur-themed games and fun.

To RSVP and get directions to the 100-acre reserve, send an email to

For a gallery of photos, click here:

For more about Myakka City Lemur Reserve, visit:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Artists capturing the look of Parrish 'en plein air'

Eileen Laske works on a painting at Brown's Grove and Produce Stand. Provided photos by Norma Kennedy.

PARRISH -- Local artists have taken paint brush in hand and set about capturing images of Parrish on canvas "en plein air," French for in the open air.

Members of the Parrish Arts Council know that the Parrish of 2014 will change, just as did the Parrish of 1890 and the Parrish of 1940.

The en plein air days are one way of capturing  time in a bottle for posterity. Thus far, they have painted Fort Hamer Park and  Brown's Grove and Produce Stand.

The next Parrish en plein air is set for  Music & Art by the Train between 11:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. Nov. 8.

For more information, contact Jerri Phillips at or on Facebook at parrishartscouncil.

Music and Art by the Train will be held at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish.

 It will be the Council's first arts festival, and feature the museum running its regular train schedule. Bands scheduled to play include Kim Betts & Gamble Creek Band, Buffalo Creek Middle School Jazz Band, Chasing Blue from Boston, Mass., Berklee College of Music.

"It's a biggie," said Arts Council President Norma Kennedy of the festival. The council is working to make Parrish a tourist destination with its Fort Hamer rowing facility, farm history, and railroad museum.

One of Jerri Phillip's paintings of the Manatee River at Fort Hamer will be auctioned at the fest.

To round out the day, barbecue, hot dogs, drinks, snacks and beer and wine will be available for purchase.

Jerri Phillips paints a tractor at Brown's Grove and Produce Stand. 

Artis Wick sets up her easel at Fort Hamer Park.

Joe Kanoza works on a river scene.
Jerri Phillips' painting of Fort Hamer Park will be auctioned at Music and Art by the Train.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Get your downward facing dog on: Yoga festival in East Manatee to benefit All Faiths Food Bank

Heartwood Retreat Center,  17507 Waterline Road, East Manatee, celebrates National Yoga Month with a fundraising yoga festival 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13.

Afterward there will be community music by Kirtan 5-7 p.m.

The festival features a full day of events, including eight  yoga classes in a variety of styles and levels, special interest workshops, Sutra lectures, a kid’s yoga zone from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., a yoga art gallery, yoga art activities, music entertainment, more than 30 healthy lifestyle and food vendors, dance performances, and more.

Several of the area’s leading yoga facilities, ReFlex Arts Yoga, Prana Yoga and Garden of the Heart Yoga are represented to support this celebration for a community cause. Tickets are $25 for the full day’s events and all money collected will be donated to the All Faith’s Food Bank.

 For more information or a schedule of activities, visit

Tickets are available online at Eventbrite,, ReFlex Arts, Prana Yoga or Garden of the Heart Yoga as well.

 For more information, call 941 359-9642.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Former Lakewood Ranch High School student Alisha Erozer wins state speech contest

Alisha Erozer, shown in November of 2013, at the Manatee Agriculture Hall of Fame annual luncheon, recently won a state speech contest. Herald file photo
Alisha Erozer, a former Lakewood Ranch High School student, recently won a state speech contest sponsored by the  Association of Florida Conservation Districts in Ocala.

The contest was designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving natural resources,

Students in grades six through 12 gave six-eight minute speeches. The topic this year was “Dig Deeper -- What are the Mysteries in the Soil?”

Erozer, who competed against students representing other Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state, placed first and was awarded a prize of $500.

Last school year at Lakewood Ranch High School, Erozer served as Junior Advisory Board president, was a student government member, and started a speech and debate club.

Shortly after winning the state contest, Erozer left for Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina where she will be attending the United World College for the next two years, as one of four Americans in the pre-university college accelerated International Baccalaureate program.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Parrish resident Carmine DeMilio specializes in keeping them safe and happy at Manatee parks, playgrounds and beaches

Carmine DeMillio tries out a swing at the county's G. T. Bray Park. Bradenton Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

You've got to like what Parrish resident Carmine DeMilio does for a living.

"My responsibility to all park patrons is to provide safe playgrounds and facilities as well as aesthetically pleasing parks and beaches," he said.

As property management grounds operations manager for Manatee County, those responsibilities include three beaches -- Anna Maria Bayfront Park, Coquina, and Manatee -- as well as 52 parks and playgrounds.

The New Jersey native had similar responsibilities in North Brunswick, N. J., during a 22.5 year career before moving to Manatee County about five years ago. Except that what he was doing in New Jersey was not quite as broad. There, he had responsibility for 23 parks and 17 playgrounds.

"This is a great state and there are great people here," he said.

The DeMilios rented when they first moved to Parrish, and ended up liking the community so much that they bought a home there.

Even though DeMilo has 27 years in the business, he says there is more to learn.

He recently earned national certification as a Park and Recreational Professional. All the better to help keep parks and beaches users safe and having a good time, he said.

DeMilio plans to next seek certification as a Park and Recreation Executive.

"The bar has been raised in the recreation and parks profession," he said.

He is particularly proud of the changing stations that are going up at Manatee beaches.

For more about that, see story by Amaris Castillo (@AmarisCastillo):

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Duette Elementary opens school year with 16 students and one teacher

Lipman Farms manager Larry Moss joins Duette Elementary School students with their new backpacks. Provided photo

Duette Elementary School, Florida's last one-room, one-teacher school house, reopened this week with 16 students, the same enrollment as last school year.

Founded in 1930, Duette Elementary  actually has more than one room, but since the school has only one teacher, the students are usually in one room together. The school serves kindergarten through fifth grade.

Duette Elementary started as a "strawberry school" to allow children of farm families help bring in crops.

Donna King, the executive director of  Duette Education Foundation, Inc., provided a photo of this year's students with Larry Moss, manager of Lipman Farms, which provided stuffed back packs.

In 2009,  the Manatee School District decided it could not justify keeping the school open. Ever since, the Duette Education Foundation Inc. has been responsible for footing the bills to keep the school operating.

The community of Duette has more than 16 students, but many of them attend  conventional schools around Manatee County.

For more on the opening of  the 2014-2015 school year in Manatee County, see Meghin Delaney's story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Going the extra mile to get the job done at Tara Community Development District meeting

Tara CDD chair John Schmidt, center, was flanked by district manager Matthew Huber on the left and district counsel John Vericker on the right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
John Schmidt, chairman of  Tara Community Development District 1, was  hands-on during the district meeting Tuesday, July 29.

Not only did he offer audience members coffee before the meeting, he also sat down at a computer and opened the Skype connection to allow supervisor Michael Dyer to participate long-distance.

Also participating long-distance was supervisor Beth Bond, on a conference call, while watching the proceedings through a security camera in the community center.

During the meeting, two residents complained about the quality of lawn maintenance near their home. Schmidt promised that after the meeting he would stop by to check out the mowing for himself.

You had to admire the way Schmidt juggled having two long-distance supervisors taking part in the meeting, along with vice chair Joe Mojica, and supervisor  Dan Powers who were sitting around the dais.

By the way, those in the audience were sitting in chairs just as plush and comfortable as the supervisors. That's a rarity for audiences who at some meetings have a hard bench or folding chair for a seat.

For the business of the Tara CDD, see the Wednesday, July 30, Bradenton Herald/Lakewood Ranch Herald.
Tara CDD audience members watched the meeting from the comfort of executive chairs.  Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
Michael Dyer participated  in the Tara Community Development District meeting via Skype. His image was shown on a flat-screen TV at right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch chapter honors new, returning members

Honorees at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter. PHOTO PROVIDED
Six women were recognized as new and returning members at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter.

Recognized were Shelly Gutowsky, of Boutique Out East; Debbie Lee, of Debbie’s Loving Pet Care; Laurel Rund, of Essence of Laurel; Kathleen Feeney, of Skin NV; Beth Prichard, of Planet Stone Marble and Granite; and Adrian Griffin, of Longboat Title.

SWAT, which stands for Successful Women Aligning Together, meets at four different locations around Manatee and Sarasota - Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Manasota and Nokomis. All women in business are welcome to attend.

Each month, a woman from each of the four chapters is honored for dedication and hard work, positive spirit and willingness to enhance themselves and their career. This month's Woman of the Month from the Lakewood Ranch Chapter is Tonya Merrill of Jennette Properties.

For more information, visit or contact Dr. Robyn Spirtas at 941-962-0884 or

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nolan Middle School FFA students make summer trips

Nolan Middle School FFA students recently returned from two summer trips.

The first was to the Florida Outdoor Adventures camp in Haines City, a four-day exploration into nature, sporting events wildlife management, firearm safety and hunter safety certification, challenge courses and leadership development.

The second was to the 86th Florida FFA State Convention & Expo, held in Orlando. FFA members and guests experienced motivational speakers, award presentations, exciting exhibits, challenging career development events, and plenty of entertaining activities. Many Nolan FFA students participated in state final career development events, which they qualified for throughout the school year. Kate Cranos, Shelby Parks, Jalyn Thompson, J. T. Girman, Hunter Martin and Savannah Freitag took part in the parliamentary procedure. Luke Cornwall also participated in extemporaneous speaking, and J.T. Girman was awarded fifth place in the state for his ornamental horticulture career development event.

Students also attended “A Day of Service” and visited a food bank in the Orlando area, where they sorted, boxed, weighed and labeled over 1,000 pounds of food. Along with attending general session meetings, students attended leadership workshops, working with state FFA officers from many states.

Here are some more photos of the students' trips, provided by Stefani Heidenthal, agriculture teacher at Nolan Middle School:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Junior members of Manatee County Cattlemen Association attend state convention

Members of the Junior Manatee County Cattlemen Association attending the state convention include, front, left, Genaveve Henson, Annabell Henson, back, left, Ben Hoffner, Chloe Bunyak, Casey Wingate, Anna Bunyak, Jennifer Green, and Darrylin Cannon. Provided photo

This year’s 2014 Florida Cattlemen Convention was held at the Marriott Marco Island Resort.

Attending for the Manatee Junior Team:

Marketing: Jennifer Green of Lakewood Ranch High School, Casey Wingate, who is home schooled, and Darrylin Cannon of Braden River High School.

Quiz Bowl: Genaveve Henson of Braden River High School, Chloe Bunyak,who is home schooled, Ben Hoffner of Palmetto High School, and Anna Bunyak, who is home schooled.

Public Speaking contest: Annabell Henson of King Middle School,  first place.

"We are very proud of our Sweetheart Jessie Embach.  She was a great representative for Manatee County, Cully Rowell said.

"All who attended had a great time watching the contestants, attending the meetings, and enjoying the great expo. Manatee County had approximately 86 members in attendance," he said.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Old ruin in Parrish remains a true mystery

Parrish ruin remains a mystery. Herald file photo
We were certain that the Bradenton Herald story about a mysterious ruin in Parrish that was published on July 4th would smoke out the truth.

It's mysterious masonry walls are scorched in places, and overgrown with semitropical vegetation.

No one seems to know much about it. Was it an old post office building? Was it an outpost during the Seminole Indian Wars?

Folks are asking, "What is it?" "When was it constructed?"

We want to know, too.

It could be one of the oldest buildings in Parrish, ironically situated among a row of modern neighborhoods between Old Tampa Road and the Manatee River.

Many of those who commented on the story wanted to know exactly where it was so that they could go out there with a metal detector. That's the reason we didn't give the exact location because it is private property and the neighbors would be unhappy with people tramping through the area.

Norma Kennedy, president of the Parrish Arts Council, said she is confident the truth will come out, especially after long-time Parrish residents see the photos of the ruin.

"There has been a lot of chatter on social media," Kennedy said July 9.

But we suspect that the folks who are old enough to know the story of the ruin probably are not  big users of social media.

So in case you missed it, here is a link to our story:

If you know what it is, give us a call at 941-745-7053.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bradenton resident Jack King returns from first visit to D-Day beaches in 70 years

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr.  Jack King of Heritage Harbour returned recently from the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy with a whole new set of  memories.

Jack King
"The thing that impressed me most was the gratitude and hospitality of the people in Normandy," he told the Herald.

But it wasn't just the French who said thank you.

"Some of the German visitors came over and said thank you for saving their country," Lt. Cmdr. King said.

"Like my wife said, it's not like I didn't have an ego before," he said.

So much had changed since King was a young Navy radioman at Normandy during World War II, he had difficulty recognizing the place. It was the first time he had visited Normandy since D-Day.

King also visited the cemetery where thousands of U.S. fighters who lost their lives on Omaha and Utah beaches are buried.

"It was stirring, and it was emotional," said the 90-year-old.

While at Normandy for the observance that attracted many world leaders, King shook hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

For more on Jack King's memories of Normandy, visit

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

LWR Women's Club helps give 2-year-old a special birthday

The LWR Women's Club was recently thanked for its contributions in making a local 2-year-old boy's birthday special.

A view of the boy's birthday surprise. PHOTO PROVIDED
Members of the club contributed "Birthday Party Bags" as part of a charity effort to help Hope Family Services, which provides services to survivors of domestic violence.

The boy's mother made cupcakes and used the party bags as she decorated the room to surprise the boy when he awoke from his nap. A thank you note from Hope Family Services said "we/she could not have done it without the dedicated Women's Club members who made the bags. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

The LWR Women's Club is supporting Hope Family Services and two other selected charities, SMART Riding Therapy and Solve Maternity Homes, this year. The club's philanthropy committee meets with each charity to determine its needs, then works toward filling those requests through fundraising events.

For information on the club's fall fundraisers or to find out how to join, visit

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Colony Cove Riders Golf Cart Club commemorated Memorial Day in their own unique way

Colony Cover's own Uncle Sam waved Old Glory on Memorial Day. Provided photo

While it is true that members of the Golf Cart Club at Colony Cove, Ellenton, like to enjoy life and have fun, they do have a sense of community as well, says Vickie Cochran.

Here's her report on the way the Colony Cove community observed Memorial Day:

Over  60 people lined U.S. 301 at 8 a.m., waving their flags to passersby. Carts were decorated in red, white and blue and the golf carts paraded around the community for the residents to enjoy as well.

The parade was led by Sherri and Tony Stamper who escorted Grand Marshals Bob and Marie Overgaard.

More than 70 carts participated in the parade. Patriotic music was provided by a sound system on the golf cart owned by Vickie Cochran.

The parade lasted about an hour and was followed by a memorial ceremony led by Russ Uboldi, with a reading of Flanders Fields read by Captain Robert Kain and patriotic songs.

 A luncheon was provided by Equity Lifestyles and served by members of the Friendly Social club. A good time was had by all. Thank you everyone involved in helping to make the holiday a true remembrance of our fallen heroes.

Keep reading to see what the Colony Cove Riders golf cart club will be up to in the coming months. Some great and fun events will be taking place. Just a teaser: '50's parade and sock hop this month.  Get out those poodle skirts and saddle oxfords and slick back that hair and chew lots of bubble gum.

For more on Colony Cove,

Colony Cove golf carts line up for parade, Provided photo

Colony Cove golf cart club members show their patriotism. Provided photo

Colony Cove golf cart club members show their patriotism. Provided photo

Enjoying a friendly social at Colony Cove. Provided photo

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Parrish Civic Association elects officers, gets sneak peek of the latest Dry Creek show

Parrish Civic Association leaders, front, left, vice president Tami Vaughan, director Iris McClain, director Pearl McCraw, second row, left, director Gretchen Fowler,  president Ben Jordan, director Michael Wells, secretary Cookie Jordan, and treasurer Norma Kennedy. Bradenton Herald photo by Jim Jones
Members of the Parrish Civic Association recently elected their 2014-2015 slate of officers, and the new lineup looks a lot like the old one.

Ben Jordan was elected president, replacing Tami Vaughan who held the post for the past three years. Vaughan takes over Jordan's old seat as vice president.

Cookie Jordan was elected secretary and Norma Kennedy was elected treasurer.

Directors include Cindy Chin, Gretchen Fowler, Jim Gertz, Denise Greer, Karen Lanese, Iris McClain, Pearl McCraw, Malcolm Norwood, and Michael Wells.

Afterward, everyone watched "The Doll," the 15th episode of the Dry Creek project which premiered three years ago.

Many of the cast members were in the audience during the showing.

Dry Creek cast and crew members attended a meeting of the Parrish Civic Association for a showing of their 15th episode, The Doll. Bradenton Herald photo by Jim Jones

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lakewood Ranch Elks help Freedom students stay safe from strangers

From left, Joanne DiCarlo, Darlene Jenny, Kay Thorson, Kathy Dattilo, Kay Ogren, Rick Thorson, PER, Barbara Blackwell. Also with the group is Brenda Zofrea, the author of the program.
Seven Elks from Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Lodge #2855 recently read a book titled "Let’s B Safe" to first-graders at Freedom Elementary School in East Manatee.

The Let’s B Safe program teaches children about the dangers of going with strangers who might be sexual predators. Because the main character of the book is a bee, each child received not only a copy of the book to take home but also received a plush bee.

"Often a child who has been abused is either ashamed or frightened and unwilling to tell a responsible adult what has happened to them," said Rick Thorson of the Elks in an email to the Herald.

"We teach the child to confide in the bee and then let the bee tell the adult what has happened to them. Last year alone there were three 'exposures,' so the program works well."

The lodge applied for and received a Gratitude Grant from the Elks National Foundation to purchase the books and the bees, Thorson said.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New fire engine pulling its weight in Myakka City

Firefighters Brittan Williams, John Creaser, Nathan Mahon, and Chris James are pleased to have a new engine at the Verna Bethany Station. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
MYAKKA  -- The addition of a new $500,000 fire truck has helped the Myakka City Fire Department move up a couple of notches on its 10-year plan, Fire Chief Dan Cacchiotti said this week.

The E-One engine, complete with computer system that gives crew a read out of the emergency they are responding to, and directions on how to get there, already has answered about 50 calls.

One of the most recent  was an eight-acre brushfire this week. The new engine, nicknamed "The Beast of the East" by Myakka Elementary School students, joined several other fire engines and brush trucks, and the Division of Forestry in putting out the fire, Cacchiotti said.

The fire truck, which has been paid off with district funds and a $400,000 grant from the Mosaic Company, helped the district move to 24-hour-a-day staffing for Station 2, better known as the Verna Bethany location.

Firefighter Nathan Mahon said it's a "night and day" comparison of the new engine to an older one  based at Station 2.

Brittan Williams said that he likes the tight turning radius of The Beast, the amount of gear that firefighters can carry,  and the 1,800 gallons of water on board.

Another handy feature is  the video camera that aids the driver in backing the fire engine.
Chief Cacchiotti with some of the new fire engine's  electronics.
Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Alligator safety tips from the FWC

GRANT JEFFRIES/Bradenton Herald
In a Bradenton Herald story published today, I wrote about Lakewood Ranch officials' concerns that there is an increase in alligator trapping in Country Club West. Officials are thinking this uptick has to do with residents' misconceptions of how dangerous gators really are. Many residents are unaware that once a gator is trapped, it is almost always killed for its valuable meat and hide. CDD and HOA board members are encouraging residents to think twice before they make the call.

Here's a few gator safety tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

• If you encounter an alligator that you believe poses a threat to people, pets or property, call the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at (866) 392-4286.
• Be aware of the possibility of alligators when you are in or near fresh or brackish water.
• Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, avoid swimming at night.
• Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators.
• Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing, possessing or feeding alligators.• Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at boat ramps and fish camps. Do not throw them into the water.
• Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by an alligator. Alligator bites can result in serious infections.
• Observe and photograph alligators from a distance.

-- Sabrina Rocco,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Night Rodeo to serve as guest bartenders at fundraiser in Lakewood Ranch

The members of One Night Rodeo will serve as celebrity bartenders at an upcoming fundraiser for the Myakka City Foundation in Lakewood Ranch.

The event, 6-9 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at Polo Grill will feature Cory Hildreth and Duane Allison behind the bar.

The evening will include a raffle for an autographed One Night Rodeo guitar and a side of beef. There will also be a silent auction featuring prizes like four tickets to SeaWorld Orlando.

For more information, visit or email

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Free concert at Fort Hamer Park, Music by the River, rescheduled for May 10 after rainout

PARRISH — Music by the River, which was rained out May 3, has been rescheduled for 2-4 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Fort Hamer Park.

The free concert will feature Kim Betts and the Gamble Creek Band, music by JD and Zetha Lewis, the Buffalo Creek Middle School Jazz Band, and cowboy poet Les McDowell.

Parrish Arts Council officials are hoping Music on the River becomes a regular concert series to attract residents and visitors to Fort Hamer and other nearby locations.

They also are seeking to attract more Parrish residents to help with plans to revitalize the historic village.
Fort Hamer Park is on the south end of Fort Hamer Road. The park is also home to the Manatee County rowing training facility.

Concertgoers should bring lawn chairs or blankets. Refreshments will be available for sale at the park.

Art Association of Palm-Aire wraps up season with talk by artist couple

Along the Ice Floes, by John Seerey-Lester
Where Have They All Gone? by Suzie Seerey-Lester
The Art Association of Palm-Aire  has wrapped up its season, and will return in the fall.

John and Suzie Seerey-Lester, both artists, presented the final program of the season.

Here's a report by Audrey Wilkinson and Barb Saabye:

 John and Suzie Seerey-Lester  had many interesting stories about their travels and art. John was born in Manchester, England, and is a world-renowned wildlife artist who currently lives in Osprey, Florida. He started his career as a painter during his early years, receiving his first commission at 13. At first, he painted portraits and figurative works, which he still does on occasion. After traveling to East Africa in 1980 and painting wildlife there, he made a decision to paint only wildlife he has seen firsthand.

John is meticulous in his preparations for a painting. While on location, he paints the wildlife he observes in acrylic or oil on pieces of 8-by-10-inch Masonite. Back at his studio, he will set up the whole scene he intends to paint. He needed two hunters in one picture he was doing, so he found two people to go out on a golf course where there was an elevated green and had them pose on the hill with guns while he sketched them. Then he blended the two components into the final oil painting.

John’s work is in galleries and museums in the United States and Europe. He was recognized for his work in conservation by Prince Philip. He moved to the U.S. in the 1990s and has had many limited-edition prints published by Mill Pond Press.

While he was teaching a class in Guatemala he met his future wife, Suzie Zimos, who was a diving instructor before she became a serious painter. Some of her diving students were FBI and CIA agents.

While in the deep she was able to study marine life and transfer that knowledge to her paintings. Suzie paints primarily North American animals and rural scenes. Her work is displayed in galleries around the U.S. and Europe. At present, she works with researchers at the Mote Marine Laboratory doing research on turtles.

They each have a new book out: "Camp Fire Tales" by John Seerey-Lester; "My Painting is Done, Now What Do I Do?" by Suzie Seerey-Lester. Find more information at

The Palm Aire Art Association recently celebrated its 31st annual Art Show with a Gaugin-themed gala. Guests dressed to the theme, while table decorations featured pineapples and leis. With the proceeds from its activities, the Art Association gives a scholarship to a local Ringling College of Art+Design student. Shown above is Nancie Shellenbaum, Charleen Gorbet, and Gela Rozic.  Photo by Marilyn Nordby.