Archive for October, 2012

NASCAR Championship Taste Debut Event at Homestead

NASCAR fans, how’d you like to spend an evening enjoying great food, sipping cocktails and hobnobbing with NASCAR drivers, all for a great cause? Championship Taste is an all-new event happening on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, just two days before the Ford Championship Weekend.

Just imagine the excitement as you’ll be at the track itself, sampling cuisine from about 20 different South Florida restaurants and right beside you could be one of your favorite NASCAR drivers, a celebrity chef or even Jon Landau, the award-winning producer of blockbuster movies like “Titanic” and “Avatar.” He’ll be your celebrity host that evening.

Tickets are on sale now at NASCAR.com/Unites or you can order by phone at 704-348-9685. Prices range from $50 to $100 per person. All proceeds benefit the NASCAR Foundation’s Speediatrics program at Homestead Hospital. This is where I take my own kids when they’re sick or injured (we’ve been here so many times, I’m the mayor on Foursquare). It’s a wonderful facility with outstanding doctors and nurses.

About Ford Championship Weekend

This is the 11th consecutive year that Homestead-Miami Speedway will host NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend, when NASCAR crowns its Champions in all three of its top national divisions—the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Race weekend is Nov. 16-18, 2012.

Continue reading NASCAR Championship Taste Debut Event at Homestead »

140-Pound Baby: White Rhino Born at Busch Gardens

What weighs 140 pounds at birth and gains four pounds every day till she reaches nearly 4,000 pounds? The new baby white rhino, born Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

The adorable little girl is the second one born to mother Kisiri, and the seventh calf born to father Tambo. This is wonderful news because fewer than 15,000 white rhinos remain in the wild.

To give you a little background on the mommy and daddy rhino, they were both airlifted right off the plains of Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001 through the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation. SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund alone has donated $194,000 to rhino conservation projects and has granted $7 million to more than 500 additional projects around the world since its inception in 2003.

This is the seventh baby rhino born at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since 2004. Congratulations and we can't wait to see her on the Serengeti Plain.

 

 

Continue reading 140-Pound Baby: White Rhino Born at Busch Gardens »

New Baby White Rhino Born At Busch Gardens

What weighs 140 pounds at birth and gains four pounds every day till she reaches nearly 4,000 pounds? The new baby white rhino, born Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The adorable little girl is the second one born to mother, Kisiri, and the seventh calf born to father Tambo.

This is wonderful news as fewer than 15,000 white rhinos remain in the wild.

To give you a little background on the mommy and daddy rhino, they were both airlifted right off the plains of Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001 through the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation. SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has donated $194,000 to rhino conservation projects alone and has granted $7 million to more than 500 additional projects around the world since its inception in 2003.

This is the seventh baby rhino born at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since 2004. Congratulations and we can't wait to see her on the Serengeti Plain.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading New Baby White Rhino Born At Busch Gardens »

Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach

How about a little history with your Halloween? It's the 5th Annual Haunted History Tours in downtown Fort Walton Beach.

This is a unique way to spend a Friday or Saturday night if you're anywhere near the area and you don't mind a few spine-tingling chills.

The event happens this weekend, Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27, and it all begins at the Indian Temple Mound Museum. I love to explore this place during the day but I have to say I'm not sure I could handle a thousand years' worth of ghosts coming out to greet me in one night.

In reality, real ghosts may or may not be seen these nights, but in their place, you'll certainly see actors all dressed up and telling tales that most people in these parts swear are true. Be brave and choose from four tours each night at 6:30 p.m.,7:15 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Only 30 souls are allowed on each tour so you can get up close to the action and not miss a word of the hauntingly good stories. Buy your tickets early at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Ticket Pricing: $10/adults, $7/Children. Kids 4-17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets will be sold on tour nights but only if there is still space. So don’t chance it – get your tickets now so you’re not left out in the cold, alone, in the dark. if you wait, you’ll need cash. The line forms outside the entrance to the Indian Temple Mound Museum. The folks there say it's a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your tour time.

If you survive without running away, reward yourself with a snack inside the 100-year-old Camp Walton Schoolhouse. Was that a scream or just your stomach growling? You decide.

These tours also serve as the museum's largest fundraiser so come on out, have some fun and help support the museum.

Continue reading Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach »

Eeek – Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach

How about a little history with your Halloween? It's the 5th Annual Haunted History Tours in downtown Fort Walton Beach.

This is a unique way to spend a Friday or Saturday night if you're anywhere near the area and you don't mind a few spine-tingling chills.

The event happens this weekend, Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27, and it all begins at the Indian Temple Mound Museum. I love to explore this place during the day but I have to say I'm not sure I could handle a thousand years' worth of ghosts coming out to greet me in one night.

In reality, real ghosts may or may not be seen these nights, but in their place, you'll certainly see actors all dressed up and telling tales that most people in these parts swear are true. Be brave and choose from four tours each night at 6:30 p.m.,7:15 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Only 30 souls are allowed on each tour so you can get up close to the action and not miss a word of the hauntingly good stories. Buy your tickets early at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Ticket Pricing: $10/adults, $7/Children. Kids 4-17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets will be sold on tour nights but only if there is still space. So don’t chance it – get your tickets now so you’re not left out in the cold, alone, in the dark. if you wait, you’ll need cash. The line forms outside the entrance to the Indian Temple Mound Museum. The folks there say it's a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your tour time.

If you survive without running away, reward yourself with a snack inside the 100-year-old Camp Walton Schoolhouse. Was that a scream or just your stomach growling? You decide.

These tours also serve as the museum's largest fundraiser so come on out, have some fun and help support the museum.

Continue reading Eeek – Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach »

Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach – Eeek

How about a little history with your Halloween? It's the 5th Annual Haunted History Tours in downtown Fort Walton Beach.This is a totally unique way to spend a Friday or Saturday night if you're anywhere near the area, and you don't mind a few spine-tingling chills that may keep you up for days on end.

The event happens this weekend, Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 and it all begins at the Indian Temple Mound Museum. I love to explore this place during the day but I have to say, I'm not sure I could handle a thousand years' worth of ghosts coming out to greet me in one night.

In reality, real ghosts may or may not be seen on these nights, but in their place, you'll see actors all dressed up and telling tales that most people in these parts swear are true. Be brave and choose from four tours each night at 6:30 p.m.,7:15 p.m., 8 p.m., and 8:45 p.m. Only 30 souls are allowed on each tour so you can get up close to the action and not miss a word of the hauntingly good stories. Buy your tickets early at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

Ticket Pricing: $10/adults, $7/Children (aged 4-17, must be accompanied by an adult).

Tickets will be sold on tour nights but only if there is still space. So don’t chance it – get your tickets now so you’re not left out in the cold, alone, in the dark. But if there is space, you’ll need cash. The line forms outside the entrance to the Indian Temple Mound Museum.

The folks there say it's a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your tour time. If you survive without running away, reward yourself with a snack inside the 100-year-old Camp Walton Schoolhouse. Was that a scream or just your stomach growling? You decide.

These tours also serve as the museums’ largest fundraiser so come on out, have some fun and help support the museum.

Continue reading Haunted History Tours in Fort Walton Beach – Eeek »

Fall Fun Day at MacArthur Beach State Park in Palm Beach County

Fall Fun Day is coming up Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, at MacArthur Beach State Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a super fun event where you can get outdoors with your family and see all that this park has to offer. The entire event is free with your park admission.

Activities for all ages include:

  • Sea turtle program
  • Live animal show
  • Kid’s crafts and games
  • Kayaking obstacle course
  • Beach volleyball
  • Fishing
  • Live music

Before you do any of the events, take a moment to pose with your kids for a family holiday photo. The backdrop is pure Florida and it’s free.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Palm Beach County’s only state park, is situated on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon. The Park is made up of 438 acres of pristine coastal land and contains four different communities or habitats, including seven species of plants and 22 species of animals on the endangered or threatened lists. MacArthur Beach is truly an “island in time.”

Continue reading Fall Fun Day at MacArthur Beach State Park in Palm Beach County »

Fall Fun Day at MacArthur Beach State Park

Fall Fun Day is coming up Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, at MacArthur Beach State Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is super fun event where you can get outdoors with your family and see all that this park has to offer. The entire event is free with your park admission.

Activities for all ages include:

  • Sea turtle program
  • Live animal show
  • Kid’s crafts & games
  • Kayaking obstacle course
  • Beach volleyball
  • Fishing
  • Live music

Before you do any of the events, take a moment to pose with your kids for a family holiday photo. The backdrop is pure Florida and it’s free.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Palm Beach County’s only state park, is situated on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon. The Park is made up of 438 acres of pristine coastal land and contains four different communities or habitats including seven species of plants and twenty-two species of animals on the endangered or threatened list. MacArthur Beach is truly an “Island in Time.”

Continue reading Fall Fun Day at MacArthur Beach State Park »

Photo: Constitution Convention Museum State Park, Port St. Joe

Animated figures at Port St. Joe’s Constitution Convention Museum State Park reenact the creation of Florida’s first governing document.

Continue reading Photo: Constitution Convention Museum State Park, Port St. Joe »

A Day of Shopping, Sunning and History in Port St. Joe, Florida's 'First Capital'

Port St. Joe – A small town with a big heart.

The proud residents of Port St. Joe are fond of that municipal nickname, and it's hard to dispute its accuracy.

Founded on a spot of profound natural beauty along northwest Florida's upper Gulf Coast and also on one of the state's most historic sites, Port St. Joe and its 3,500 residents greet visitors with a wide variety of activities and graceful, welcoming smiles. This place is a chorus of "Good morning" and "Good evening," of homecoming parades and Friday night lights, of "Yes, ma'am" and "Y'all come back real soon."
{pullquote}
"Hands down, it's the people; that's what makes this place special," said Kim McFarland, a longtime resident who teaches at Port St. Joe High School. Her husband, Tim, was born and raised here, and he now serves as a county judge.

"You can have the prettiest beaches in the world, and we do, and so many other things, but without friendly people, it's all a waste," she said. "This is a real small town, with all of the good things that represents. It's very much like going back to Mayberry."

True enough, especially if Mayberry had been located adjacent to one of the world's premier fishing grounds, because this also is a place – let's get right down to it – with some of the most luscious seafood available anywhere at anytime.

And, trust us, you will work up quite an appetite, even during a one-day exploration of Port St. Joe and its environs.

Among the items on our Port St. Joe tourist menu:

An educational, even inspirational, glimpse of some of the state's earliest history. A compact, easily walkable town of gift and antique shops, bistros, vest-pocket parks, wide greenways and an inviting waterfront marina. An expansive state park that offers a deep dive into the state's precious coastal environment, including some of the nation's highest sand dunes and a chance to experience the endangered coastal sand pine habitat. A newly decommissioned but much-loved lighthouse, now just a phantom, a memory of what once was, but with a chance of revival.

Oh, and also lots of noisy over-flights by military jets from nearby bases. Look up and try to find the planes if you must. But if you do, everyone will know that you're not a local.

OK, let's map out our day in Port St. Joe, found along the Gulf Coast about 45 minutes southeast of Panama City and two hours southwest of Tallahassee. We'll call it our inaugural day, because we will return. Guaranteed.

Constitution Convention Museum State Park

This is a perfect place to begin, one that offers historical and explanatory context to the rest of our day in and around Port St. Joe. Here, one finds a museum and a 14-acre park that harken to the late 1830s, when the original and now lost city of St. Joseph occupied the site.

The thumbnail summary: During that era, St. Joseph was Florida's largest city, its 12,000 residents exploiting the adjacent and natural deep-water port to compete with nearby Apalachicola as the region's shipping center. Cotton and other crops and products made their way, mostly by rail, to St. Joseph for export.

The city was so prominent that it was selected in 1838 as the site of Florida's Constitutional Convention, where 56 delegates from around the territory drafted Florida's first constitution. Six years later, Florida was granted statehood.

Alas, St. Joseph suffered a worse fate – unable to successfully compete with Apalachicola, enfeebled by a yellow fever epidemic and then shattered by a hurricane, it all but disappeared by 1845, later to be replaced by settlers of the new town of Port St. Joe.

Here, at the Constitution Convention Museum State Park, visitors will find beautifully landscaped grounds, artifacts from once-thriving Native American settlements, a 19th century steam locomotive, and the opportunity to take a self-guided tour through displays and exhibits that reach back to Florida's birth as a state. Of special interest, particularly to the kids: that locomotive and a Disney-esque exhibit in which full-size, robotic figures play out a scene from the constitutional convention.

If you go: The park is located at 200 Allen Memorial Way, easily found along U.S. 98 as you enter town from the south. The museum is open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission: $2 per person; free for children 5 and under. Call 850-229-8029 or visit floridastateparks.org/constitutionconvention.

St. Joseph Cemetery

Still happily lost in the past? Take a quick stroll through the St. Joseph Cemetery and its fading grave markers. Can you find the grave of the ship captain who allegedly – and, surely, unintentionally – picked up the yellow fever infection in the Antilles and generously shared it with the doomed residents of St. Joseph? This is relevant insofar as the burial ground also is known as "Yellow Fever Cemetery."

Many of the victims were buried in mass, unmarked graves, and one sign lists dozens of prominent citizens of the time "believed to be buried here." Others were buried individually in bricked graves that are elevated for protection against floods. Most grave markers, eroded by time, are illegible. One that is not: "To The Memory of Jacob A. Blackwood. Who died July 24, 1841. Aged 51 years."

If you go: The old St. Joseph Cemetery can be found just off Garrison Avenue, a few blocks east of 22nd Street, across from the Gulf County Department of Health. It is open daily during daylight hours. Need some shade or a moment to reflect? Take a seat in the cemetery's small gazebo.

Downtown

OK, enough of that. Let's return to modern Port St. Joe. Time for a cool drink, a bit of shopping, a nice lunch to sustain us before we head to a large, nearby, multi-faceted state park.

Let's make our way to Reid Avenue, a half-mile stretch smack in the center of town, just a few blocks from the coast. Here and on nearby streets we find an appealing collection of sidewalk cafes and gift and antique shops.

Like so many similar small town downtowns, this one is fighting for survival – but holding its own against the strip-centerization of America. It deserves your support and it is a good place to linger. No looking at your wristwatch allowed. Just roam and explore.

For a potpourri of gifts and souvenirs, try a shop called Per-snick-e-ty at 229 Reid Ave., though many other shops also will please. Some excellent pizza is on offer at Joe Mama's Wood Fired Pizza. Seafood? Pretty much everywhere in and around Port St. Joe, though the Dockside Cafe at the close-by marina is a local favorite.

Cape San Blas Park

Now, it's time to leave Port St. Joe proper, at least for the day, and head to what the locals call Cape San Blas park, more formally known as the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

Swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching and explorations of 1,900 acres of wilderness. It's all here, as are miles upon miles of northwest Florida's famed sugar-white sand.

You will not find crowded beaches here; take as much space with as much buffer as you like. You will see some of the highest sand dunes in the continental United States, and you can hike along two nature trails, camp at 119 sites or relax under the trees at shady picnic areas.

As you drive onto the cape, be sure to look for – and take some pictures of – the Cape San Blas Lighthouse. Closed in October 2012, the historic lighthouse is now just a phantom, but local groups are trying to save it. Learn more here: capesanblaslight.org.

Overall, this is one of Florida's premier state parks, only 16 miles and less than a half hour from downtown Port St. Joe, and is not to be missed.

Enjoy the peace, the tranquility. It goes part and parcel with the entire experience in and around Port St. Joe.

"Not many people know about this area – Florida's Forgotten Coast," said Frank Cook, a frequent visitor from the Atlanta area. "People don't know how serene it can be here. Let's keep it this way. Let's keep this to ourselves. Let's not tell anyone."

Ah, sorry, Frank. A little late for that.

If you go: The park is located on Cape San Blas, on the Gulf side of St. Joseph Bay. From Port St. Joe, take State Road 98 south to State Road 30A. Continue south to Cape San Blas Road and head east and then back north along the cape. The address is 8899 Cape San Blas Rd. The park is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. until sundown. Visit floridastateparks.org/stjoseph.

Camping and cabin reservations can be made at ReserveAmerica.com or by calling ReserveAmerica at 800-326-3521. Campers with reservations who will arrive after sunset should call the park at 850-227-1327 to get the gate combination and instructions.

Continue reading A Day of Shopping, Sunning and History in Port St. Joe, Florida's 'First Capital' »