Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lakewood Ranch Community Activities honors volunteers

From left: Lori Basilone, Carlene Smith, Jane Welsh, Sue Lilien, Laurie Russell Marie Gowgieln at the Jan. 22 Volunteer of the Year Awards. PROVIDED PHOTO

Lakewood Ranch Community Activities recognized more than 50 volunteers and guests for their contributions at last week's Volunteer of the Year Awards, held Jan. 22 at The Lake Club.

Honorees included people who have taken photos, mentored high school students, helped with registration and event setup and decorating.

"Without this team of sensational people our events would just not be people," the organization said in a media release.

Honorees included:
  • Volunteer of the Year - Carlene Smith
  • Volunteer with the Most New Recruits - Sue Lilien
  • Most Creative Volunteer - Laurie Russell
  • Volunteer with the Most Contagious Attitude – Jane Welsh

In addition, the following 15 people received their one-year volunteer pin: Marie Avery, Elizabeth Baran, Elaine Calabro, Jim Foley, Ron Grimwood, Annette Gueli, Aaron Klein, Alison Levy, Sue Lilien, Babe Reger, Jim Reger, Ramon Sepulveda, Ed Tulski, Lynne Van Eck, and Jane Welsh

Award recipients with board staff at last week's volunteer awards ceremony. PHOTO PROVIDED

Friday, January 24, 2014

Nolan students come up with nifty idea for sharing the love of reading

Nolan County Middle School members of Technology Student Association put up a free lending library with a surf and Florida inspired theme on Friday. Shown at Greenbrook Park on Friday are Beau Cunningham, Grant Trautweiler, Angelo LaFrese, Amanda Boccarossa, Naomi Burg, and Kaitlin Bohan. 
It's got a tin roof, miniature surfboards on the side, including some with a  a jagged edge where an imaginary shark has taken a bite. It's got swaying palm trees, too, and bright tropical colors.

It could be a beach bum's shack on Key West, or Anna Maria Island, but it's at  Lakewood Ranch's Greenbrook Park, and it's the community's newest lending library.

Students in Nolan Middle School's Technology Student Association designed, built and installed the mini library on a pole.

Nolan students, who have excelled in state and national TSA competition in recent years, tackled the project as a construction challenge after identifying a community need.

The students also designed a second library for Tom Bennett Park, this one with a more rustic, fishing theme.

With libraries cutting hours, students saw a need in providing a free library, TSA advisor Maureen Hudson said.

"The idea is for someone to take a book and bring it back, or exchange it with another book," Hudson said.

Students conducted a book drive to stock the little library, and filled one shelf with books for adults, and another shelf for younger readers.

The Lakewood Ranch park is located at 6655 Greenbrook Blvd.

The idea at Greenbrook Park was to get folks "hooked on reading," sixth grader Grant Trautweiler said.

Students turned to sixth grader Beau Cunningham and his art skills to design the Greenbook library. He used Corel Draw to design the art elements on the house, and the pieces were cut out using an Epilog Laser.

"We live in Florida and Florida is known for its beaches," Beau said of the tropical themed design.

Melissa Nell from Manatee County Natural Resources worked with students on each phase of the project.

Asked how she thought the project had turned out, seventh grader Naomi Burg said, "I think it would be a 10 out of 10. Everyone pitched in and helped."

Nolan County Middle School members of Technology Student Association put up a free lending library with a surf and Florida inspired theme on Friday. 
Patting down the soil.

Soft landing for the installation.

Stocking the shelves.

Attention to detail.

Proud accomplishment.

Do you prefer the red sculpture, or the blue one?

Sculpture photo by Charleen Gorbet
There are lots of art lovers at Palm-Aire.

Charleen Gorbet, of the Art Association of Palm-Aire, shared with us the experience of  Elaine Beggs, who recently  went on a docent-guided tour of Sarasota's annual Bayfront Sculpture Walk.

 Here is Charleen's report:

Asked what impressed her most, Elaine said, “The variety of materials, from stone to shiny glazed ceramics. And the enormous effort that has to go into the planning, siting and installation of these huge sculptures.”

In her tour group, co-curator Fayanne Hayes described the extensive process of selecting the pieces and the considerations for installation. “They had to consider protection from the sea air and other pollution, sightlines, and the size of cranes required for lifting the pieces. The blue ceramic head by Jun Kaneko weighs 5,000 pounds!”
Sculpture photo by Charleen Gorbet

Thursday, January 23, 2014

3 dishes to try before the Manatee County Fair ends Sunday

When the fair rolls into town, it's not about the rides. It's not about the pig races or the cheerleading competition. For me, it's all about the food.

And why not?

The fair is an excuse to binge eat an entire spool of cotton candy and not feel bad about it. To take down an Amish donut the size of a hub cap without hesitation. Eat those chili cheese fries, girl. The Manatee County Fair only comes once each year.

My guy and I -- a couple of foodies already -- went to the fair's opening night. We stayed away from old-time favorites like corn dogs and pizza. We could have that on any Thursday. If we were going to carb out, we were going to make each one count.

Here are the three best dishes at the Manatee County Fair. Get 'em while they're hot! The fair ends Sunday.

1) The Sirloin Tip Dinner at the Pickle Barrel

Juicy steak medallions, sauteed onions and marinated baby bella mushrooms are piled onto a chubby pillow of red mashed potatoes. Stick two forks in it. You'll need the help.

2) The Deep-Fried Pop Tart

We've all had a deep-fried Oreo, deep-fried Twinkie, probably even the deep-fried butter. But the deep-fried strawberry Pop Tart is something special. Each one -- made-to-order -- is warm and toasty, kind of like a Toaster Strudel. Make sure you ask for the extra squirt of chocolate sauce.

3) Dad's Kettle Korn

Trust me on this. Kris Omelia's kettle korn is not your average korn. Each salty kernel is slicked with a sweet glaze -- a lovely marriage of salty and sweet. Down it with an ice-cold extra sweet tea from the Pickle Barrel.

What was your favorite dish at the Manatee County Fair?
Tweet us your fair food pics @bradentonherald.

-- Sabrina Rocco,
Photos by Tiffany Topkins-Condie

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Elk lodge hosts Elvis impersonator to benefit Manatee troops

EAST MANATEE — The Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota ElK Lodge No. 2855, 4908 Lena Road, is hosting the “Chris Olson’s Memories of Elvis” show on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The show is open to the public; tickets are $15 per person and available in advance only by calling the lodge at 727-2855.

Doors open at 2 p.m. and the show begins at 3.

There will be a cash bar available, with proceeds going to Manasota Operation Troop Support, a charity for active deployed military personnel from Manatee County.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Treeumph!, Nolan TSA team up for fundraiser

EAST MANATEE — TreeUmph! Adventure Course, 21805 State Road 70 E., is hosting a “Climb for a Cure” benefit with Nolan Middle School’s Technology Student Association chapter from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Participants will receive 10 percent off their admission when they mention ACS or Nolan TSA. Ten percent of gate proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.

The Herald's James A. Jones Jr. recently wrote about Nolan's three-time national champion TSA team and its fundraising efforts.

In conjunction with the event, Chili’s, 6125 Exchange Way, off University Parkway in Lakewood Ranch, is hosting a “give back” day. Customers who dine there from 11 a.m. to close on Sunday and show a flyer (see below) will have 10 percent of their bill amount donated to the fundraiser.

 For more information on either event, contact Ed Kelly at or 941-685-3777

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lakewood Ranch Women's Club gives $33K to charities

The Lakewood Ranch Women's Club presented checks totaling $33,000 to three charities at its monthly business meeting Jan. 9.

The total was a record for the club. Chairs of the major 2013 fundraising events presented $11,000 apiece to SMART (Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy), SOLVE Maternity Home, and Hope Family Services.

For more information about the club or to join, visit

Club president Trish Newman, left, and program chair Diane Shaw display the checks recently presented to three charities. PHOTO PROVIDED
The Lakewood Ranch Women's Club 2014 officers and board. Front low, from left: MaryLee Danahee (membership), Jan Hasler (treasurer), Patti Wrobel (vice president), Trish Newman (president), Jean Muccini (publicity), Gail Gilligan (hospitality). Back row, from left: Diane Emmermann (past corresponding secretary, Janet Stickel (recording secretary), Mary Beth Steffens (past president), Linda McGrath (corresponding secretary), Diane Shaw (program), Frankie Bailey (web master). PHOTO PROVIDED

Friday, January 10, 2014

TOPSoccer program holding registration Saturday

LAKEWOOD RANCH — TOPSoccer, a free soccer program for physically and developmentally disabled athletes age 4 and older, is holding registration from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday for athletes who did not play in the fall 2013 season.

Registration is held at the Manatee County soccer fields behind Lakewood Ranch High School.

Parents must provide a release or letter from their family doctor allowing their athletes to play soccer, as well as a photo ID to prove their identity as a parent or guardian. Athletes will be sized for a uniform jersey and should attend if possible.

Volunteers are needed to help with the six-week program as “buddies” for the athletes.

The TOPSoccer winter season will be held in six sessions from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, Jan. 25 to March 1. It serves children with disabilities including Down syndrome, autism, Asperger syndrome and physical limitations and handicaps, including wheelchair-bound athletes.

Information: Dave Robinson at 941-358-0497.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Parrish business Ice Pro is pretty ... cool

Joe Rimer, local ice sculpting artist, works on a martini luge in the freezer at his Parrish-based business, Ice Pro. Rimer has set records with his ice sculptures and his work has been featured at a Super Bowl party for Beyonce, among others. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

As if it wasn't cold enough outside Tuesday, I spent most of the morning in a zero-degree freezer.

The things we do for journalism.

It was worth it, though, because I got to learn all about a unique Parrish-based business, Ice Pro, for my feature story in today's Herald. Owner Joe Rimer and his team make fantastic ice sculptures, food displays and ice bars, complete with ice shot glasses and ice luges for pouring alcohol.

Joe's dad, Fred, helped convert a barn into an insulated workspace where Ice Pro has honed its craft, experimenting with different methods for creating crystal clear water to turn into giant blocks of ice. Their tools of the trade include chainsaws and a computer-assisted drill that make these fantastic, frozen works of art.

Rimer took Herald photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie and I on a tour, showing us how he uses a drill and an air hose to carve the delicate designs for a sculpture and how he painstakingly uses colored sand to fill in carved-out pockets of ice blocks to create corporate logos for events and parties. He was even nice enough to provide us with heavy duty coats and gloves, which we put on over our already winterized attire, as he showed us around the company's walk-in freezer

Ice Pro's work has been seen on A&E's "Shipping Wars," the "Today" show and even at the Super Bowl, for Beyonce's after party. Now that's pretty ... wait for it ... cool.

You can read more about Ice Pro in today's editions of the Herald and find out more about the business and see their work at or on their Facebook page.