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Advance Tickets On Sale Now! • FLstrawberryfestival.com

Artists Appearing on the

Soundstage:

March 2 –12, 2017 • Plant City, FL

for KING & COUNTRY

Drifters, Platters & Cornell Gunter’s Coasters

Kane Brown

3 Doors Down

Sat. Mar. 4, 3:30 $25

Sat. Mar. 4, 7:30 $35

The Bellamy Brothers Mon. Mar. 6, 3:30 $15 & $20

Jennifer Nettles Mon. Mar. 6, 7:30 $35

Willie Nelson and Family

Thu. Mar. 2, 7:30 $25

Thu. Mar. 2, 3:30 $15 & $20

Fri. Mar. 3, 3:30 $40

Clare Bowen/Charles Esten

Little Big Town

Sun. Mar. 5, 3:30 $25

Brenda Lee

Tues. Mar. 7, 3:30 $15 & $20

Kip Moore

Fri. Mar. 3, 7:30 $35

Sun. Mar. 5, 7:30 $45

NEEDTOBREATHE

Tracy Byrd

Tues. Mar. 7, 7:30 $25 & $30

Wed. Mar. 8, 3:30 $15 & $20

Scotty McCreery Wed. Mar. 8, 7:30 $25 & $30

The Oak Ridge Boys Thu. Mar. 9, 3:30 $15 & $20

The Blues Brothers

Free Grandstand Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Fri. Mar. 10, 3:30 $15 & $20

Elle King

Fri. Mar. 10, 7:30 $20

Maddie & Tae

Sat. Mar. 11, 3:30 $25

Patti LaBelle

Sat. Mar. 11, 7:30 $40

Joe Nichols

Sun. Mar. 12, 3:30 $20

Rascal Flatts “RHYTHM & ROOTS” Tour Sun. Mar. 12, 7:30 $50

Thu. Mar. 9, 7:30 $35

#berryfest17

3:30 & 7:30 pm Seating is on a first come, first seated basis. Concert dates and times are subject to change

Visit FLstrawberryfestival.com or call 813-754-1996 and get your tickets for the best seats available!

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Contents Table of

focusplantcity.com / Issue 16-01 / January 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

16

44 Plant City native Layla Keeler Drawdy loves finding ways to make good things happen for folks who need a little extra help in tough times. Balancing her responsibilities between a career with Diamond R Fertilizer, family life with Dustin and their four sons, and the couple’s Hardwood BBQ team competitions/fundraisers makes for a busy woman. This one is up to the task, for sure! PAGE

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LOCAL

Holiday time keeps us hopping with local events too good not to share. Enjoy this month’s stories about 101-year-old Evelyn Wilson Gunn, the annual Reflections Art Awards, paint parties with Brianne Elliot, and the call by the Plant City Photo Archives for folks to share their Strawberry Festival memories.

24 38

FEATURE

48

BUSINESS

68

DINING

The January issue is always a beautiful one because we highlight the Junior Royalty Pageant and introduce you to the contestants for the annual Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Scholarship Pageant.

Plant City native Chris Black has one goal for his Black’s Insurance & Financial Services company: to properly insure folks at the lowest cost possible. Since 2008, the independent, full-lines agency has doubled in size-- so much that they’re hiring more agents. For personal or business coverage, shop local with Black’s.

Since it opened in December, we’ve been hearing great things about Bella Mare Ristorante, the new dinner spot at 115 E. Reynolds Street, owned and operated by native Italian chef Franco Dragonetti and Edward Gavin. Start you New Year off right with a gourmet experience in Plant City’s historic downtown.


A NEW YEAR

a new

smile

Call NOW for all of your orthodontic and pediatric dental needs! Dr. Derek M. Busciglio, PLLC, DMD | Dr. Dana M. Busciglio, DMD, MS

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BRANDON

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PLANT CITY 813.759.9474

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From The Publisher Publisher Mike Floyd mike@floydpublications.com Office Manager Candy Owens cowens@floydpublications.com Sales Samantha Black sblack@floydpublications.com Sales Taylor Williams twilliams@floydpublications.com Managing Editor Cheryl Johnston cjohnston@floydpublications.com Art Director Anthony Sassano asassano@floydpublications.com Distribution Tony DeVane Staff Writers Cheryl Johnston | Heather Davis | Sherrie Mueller Barbara Routen Contributors Gil Gott | Jo-An Lusk | Nate Davis | Candy Owens Natalie Sweet | Mike Goodwine | Wanda Anderson | Katie Loudermilk Anthony Bolesta

Got a story idea? Looking to advertise in Focus? Contact us for more information. Floyd Publications, Inc. 702 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd.Plant City, FL 33563 Office 813.707.8783 Fax 813.764.0990 www.focusplantcity.com Standards of accuracy: The goal of the writers at FOCUS Magazine is to provide heart-warming stories that are accurate from the start. Being human, however, we sometimes make mistakes. Please forgive us.

The New Year is always a time for reflection and for resolutions. Mine will be different this year. After a friend surprised me recently with a hand written letter and postcard, I paused to rethink some priorities for 2017 and even beyond. Her letter referenced the Stanford University commencement speech we had watched several years ago, when the late Steve Jobs suggested life was a connection of dots. His premise is that we can only connect the dots looking back on our life. The actions we take, the twist and turns life throws at us, the decisions we make all connect in the future. We typically are unaware of the impact at the time, but we must trust that the dots all connect towards a meaningful life. We all want success and may define success in many different ways, so as we move into 2017 I will continue to follow my passion in whatever direction it leads to. The words and the time she took to write this letter touched me. They reminded me that we all want to feel like our life has mattered. Every single one of us hopes that, in the end, our existence has made a difference. So now, in my own journey and in the people whose lives my own might affect, I resolve to live more “in the moment” and to look for ways to help others when they least expect it. I hope to lose my “hurry” and change my life’s pace to capture more moments to treasure.

So if you notice anything that is incorrect, then please do not hesitate to contact the editorial department and inform it about the fact error. To do so, call (813) 707-8783 or e-mail editorial@floydpublications.com. The staff will fix the error in a timely manner.

And as for Focus, we look back after 16 years of publishing on the connection and influence of our staff and community and can connect significant outcomes of our lives and business. Thank you Plant City for a great 16 years and we look forward to many more!

FOCUS Magazine is published monthly and is available through local Plant City businesses, restaurants and many local venues.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish…

Advertisers warrant and represent the descriptions of their products advertised are true in all respects. Focus Magazine assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters and their contents sent to Focus Magazine become the sole property of Floyd Publications, Inc and may be reproduced thereof. All views expressed in all articles are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Floyd Publications, Inc. Use or duplication of material used in this publication is prohibited without approved written consent from Floyd Publications, Inc.

Warmest Regards, Mike Floyd PAGE

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PAGE

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“LETS GET THIS PARTY STARTED!” HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM UNCLE G’S BED AND BISCUIT!

We offer pet boarding in a state of the art facility with television for the pets to watch. We are located on 5 acres of land.

Full grooming and boarding services available for dogs and cats by our groomer, Terri Pardo Call For Pricing on Boarding Or Grooming.

UNCLE G’S BED & BISCUIT 1821 Stephens Ln, Dover, FL 33527 Phone: (813) 689-6725 unclegsbedandbiscuit.com

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Town Talk of the

Emily Ellyn will entertain guests at the 9th Annual Celebrity Chef event on February 4, 2017. The event, which benefits the United Food Bank of Plant City, is always a great experience with delicious food, community friends, and successful fundraising. ABC Action News anchor and PCHS graduate Paul LaGrone will emcee the event.

Submit your good news to: editorial@floydpublications.com or call it in 813.707.8783

Gather for a great cause with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to volunteer with the annual Carefest community service effort. The Week of Caring begins January 16 and wraps up on January 21. Contact Norman Blanton for additional info at 813-326-0749.

The Plant City Popcorn Day happens Friday, January 27 from 5:00 - 9:00 p.m. around the Union Station Depot and McCall Park areas. The food truck rally event includes movie or mini-movie locations around downtown. For more details about this free event, contact Karen Collins 813-659-4209.

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Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss the Fresh Grounded Faith Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Conference featuring Jennifer Rothschild, Angela Thomas, and Meredith Andrews at First Baptist Church of Plant City, 503 N. Palmer St., on Friday night, January 20 from 7 - 9:30 p.m. and resumes Saturday, January 21 at 9:00 a.m. to conclude at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $49 and fbcpc.com contains more details.

Plant City High School senior and Focus Magazine sports writer Ashlyn Yarbrough will serve as Grand Marshal for the Strawberry Youth Parade scheduled for Saturday, March 4, 2017.


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LOCAL

Pastor Robert Herrin Retires after 60 Years of Ministry

BY CHERYL JOHNSTON | PHOTOS BY ISRAEL TORRES & KRISTEN TONEY CAMPBELL

After the children’s Christmas musical production in December, the young cast members decided it was time for a group hug with Pastor and Lisa Herrin.

O

n January 15, 2017, Pastor Robert Herrin officially retired from full-time ministry after 60 years of service with the Church of God denomination. The man who will celebrate his 80th birthday in March has spent his last 18 leading the congregation at Plant City Church of God. Loving the Lord and loving people has been Pastor Herrin’s full-time mission since he first began preaching at age 19. Matthew 22:3739 has been a guiding Scripture passage and a quote by an unknown author he penciled in his Bible early in his career is a constant reminder: “To become great, you must become small. To become greater, you must become smaller. To become the greatest, you must become nothing.” Though he still treasures his work, Pastor Herrin realized it was time for he and Lisa, his wife of 23 years, to enjoy more relaxation

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and travel. Their new home in Cleveland, Tennessee is near the denomination’s international headquarters and his alma mater, Lee University. It’s likely he’ll continue teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Lisa, who served PCCoG as Director of Ministry Development and Women’s Ministries, plans to continue writing. The Herrins will remain at PCCoG until February 5 when Pastor Jeff and Carla Robinson arrive from Indiana to assume leadership. The voracious readers and proud grandparents of five came to Plant City Church of God from Jacksonville in October, 1998. Both also suffered loss of a spouse at a young age. Robert was married 28 years to Schaunell before her death. His son Torrey Herrin pastors The Bridge in Buford, Georgia, and daughter Latese Brownlow lives in Virginia. Lisa’s son, Joe

Pastor Robert and Lisa Herrin will retire to Cleveland, Tennessee to be near the Church of God denominational headquarters and Lee University.

Quesenberry, resides in Plant City with his family. The self-described “little redhaired, freckled-faced, barefoot boy from South Georgia” surrendered his life to Christ at twelve in Brunswick. His life’s defining experience came in a 1956 revival meeting. “The Holy Spirit so powerfully spoke to my heart that I never doubted His call to ‘preach My Word and pray for the sick.’” “Through the years, there have been so many happy moments,” he shared. “In every season I’ve been blessed and fulfilled. And now, Lisa and I look forward to what God has in store next.” Throughout his service to the Church of God, Bishop Robert Herrin has served as: Georgia State Evangelist; Church Planter in Augusta; Georgia State Youth & Christian Education Board Member & Director; President- Lee College

Alumni Association of Georgia; District Overseer, Georgia & Florida; Member- General Board of Youth & Christian Education; State Council Member Georgia & Florida; State Overseer, Indiana & Virginia; and Florida State Director of Evangelism. Pastor Herrin explained his ministry’s success at PCCoG. “God directed our leadership to emphasize ministry to children and teens. In turn, He has blessed the church spiritually, numerically, and financially.” “The priceless joy of knowing God enriches life beyond imagining,” he shared. “To grow and become a disciple, faithfully attend a Biblepreaching/teaching church and get involved. Study the life of Christ. Find a mentor with a solid Biblebased faith and godly history. Loving Jesus makes living worthwhile.”


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LOCAL

Heather Dykstra Bootcamp Time

BY CHERYL JOHNSTON | PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER DYKSTRA

F

itness trainer Heather Dykstra never wants to stop learning about health improvement. And with her new position at Limitless Fitness in Plant City, the locals she trains will be the beneficiaries of that quest for knowledge. “I’m a trainer who actually connects with the person and cares about your results,” she shared. “Since fitness is my life’s passion, I always put myself in the client’s shoes to see what’s needed or missing in their fitness goals. It’s accountability 99% of the time.” Because the industry is always changing, the physical fitness major continues to add certifications to her experience and resume. After she gained 35 pounds during her pregnancy 16 years ago, the always active Heather’s personal get-inshape journey took a more serious turn. She determined to get in the best shape of her life and began with research. Today the AFAA Physical Trainer holds certifications also in Tabata

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Bootcamp, Les Mills Bodypump, Les Mills Bodycombat, Kickboxing, Step, Circuit Training, Pilates and Strength and Conditioning Coaching. I’m consistently active now,” offered Heather. I’ve always enjoyed the feeling (clear mind, stress relief, endorphins released) after the workout, but I wasn’t dedicated to it. I love to learn and it’s made me a better trainer, too. “Gyms can be intimidating,” she continued. “People you see are already in shape. Then you look around...Which way do you sit on this machine? How much weight do I lift? How many sets or reps do I do? Heather has answers. “From the moment you sign up with me, we are down like two flat tires. I’m not just there with you in the gym and then you’re on your own. If you personal train with me, you can text or call anytime with questions. I’ll text you for workout follow-ups and for appointment confirmations. If you’re part of the Bootcamp, I have a special Facebook group page

to help everyone get acquainted and keep each other motivated. By making time to do these extra steps, I take accountability of the client out of the picture. Then we can create definite results.” At Limitless Fitness, Heather runs the lunch Bootcamp classes on M-W-F from Noon to 1:00 p.m. She’s available also for one-on-one personal training or two-person buddy sessions, M-F from midmornings to early afternoons. Her favorite workout this month involves “dropsets of weights, followed by HIIT.” She added, “I’m sore afterward every time. When it stops working for me, I’ll switch it up. My motto is “If you don’t feel it, you won’t see it.” When not training clients, Heather stays involved with her son Sebastian’s activities and helps maintain the family’s “little farm,” inhabited by a “not-so-mini” potbelly pig, mini-donkey, duck, two cows, two boxers, and chickens. Together, the Dykstras enjoy camping, mud trucking and 4-wheeling, shooting clays, golfing, and hanging out with family and friends. Heather’s top three suggestions for improving health and stamina this year are: 1) No fast food, no sugar, less salt, more water. You can’t out-train a bad diet. 2) Get into a gym. Don’t just join and pay. Be an actual member. 3) Gym newbie? Hire a trainer or take a class: the best way to learn and get motivation. Gym rat? Hire a trainer to create a plan for your individual goals. A new plan could make a world of difference. If you haven’t seen results in at least three months of work, it’s time to get a certified professional. For a new, physically fit you, call or text Heather at 813-484-1555 or phone Limitless Fitness at 813-717-7773.


Barbara Van Eycken portrays Patsy Cline.

T

he Florida Opry will host an encore performance of A Tribute to Patsy Cline starring Barbara Van Eycken at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the 1914 Plant City High School Community Center, 605 N. Collins Street. Van Eycken, who has been called “the best Patsy since Patsy,” will sing many of Cline’s hits while dressed in outfits like the ones the legendary performer wore on stage. Cline’s 16-year career ended on March 5, 1963, when she was killed in a plane crash, but her songs and fame have endured, more than 50 years later. The tribute singer, Van Eycken, comes from a musical family. Her father and grandmother were professional singers in New York City, where Van Eycken was born and raised. She began her musical career in community theater and appeared off Broadway. She started her Tribute to Patsy Cline in 2002, after retiring as a Christian Dior corporate executive in New York, moving to Sun City Center and seeing a show about the singer. “I found her life amazing,” said Van Eycken. “She was a female in a mostly male country-music world. She became a famous country star, then took the chance of crossing over to pop music.”

“Although audience members say I sound like Patsy, to me there is only one Patsy,” she said. “I can never do a Patsy Tribute without singing ‘Crazy,’ but there are so many songs she recorded that I love to sing including ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’ ‘Always’ and ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee.’ And I love interacting with my audiences.” In 2015, Van Eycken officially stopped performing and took down her website, but she has come out of retirement this year for a few shows, including this upcoming one at The Florida Opry. She can be reached at bvaneycken@tampabay.rr.com. The Florida Opry was started in 1997 and modeled after the Grand Ole Opry to bring live music with a country, Gospel and bluegrass flair to Plant City. “A cultural-arts grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, funded by Hillsborough County, helps support The Florida Opry this season,” said Shelby Bender, president and executive director of the East Hillsborough Historical Society which now owns The Florida Opry. Plant City-native Randy Scott sings several songs and emcees the monthly musical variety shows which are presented the second Saturday of each month from October through April (but not March). Performers include local and nationally known singers and instrumentalists. For information about performing, contact The Florida Opry at (813) 757-9226 or email info@thefloridaopry.org. To buy advance tickets ($15 per adult and $8 per student) for The Florida Opry’s Tribute to Patsy Cline show, call 813-757-9226. If tickets are available at the door, they will be $18 per person.

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LOCAL

Reflections Art Awards BY DEBORAH LULEI

2016 Reflections Art Award Winners: Visual Arts 1st: Yazmin Palacios 2nd: Cassandra Robinson 3rd: Korina Rodriguez Merit: Breanna Jolie Special Artists 1st: Torrey Crymes 2nd: Kaitryn Edgemon 3rd: Shaun Pedigo Merit: Kyle Hall Visual Arts 3D 1st: Daniel Caro 2nd: Peter W. 3rd: Daniela Hernandez Merit: Markell Greene

Film Production 1st: Corey Kozicki Photography 1st: Kylienna Christian 2nd: Toni Ford 3rd: Candy Iracheta Merit: Breanna Jolie Literature 1st: Tadajah Hunter 2nd: Leo Iborra 3rd: Megan Boardman Merit: Marla Rodriguez Interpretation of Theme Award Yazmin Palacios: “Everything with Love”

Music Composition 1st: Benjamin Padgett Yazmin Palacios, winner of this year’s Best Interpretation of Theme Award, showcases her visual art entry: “Everything With Love.”

T

he 2016 Reflections Awards Ceremony, co-sponsored by the PTSA of Plant City High School and the Arts Council of Plant City, was held November 17, 2016 at the HCC Trinkle Center in Plant City. Sunni Baerwalde has chaired the event for the past three years. The National PTA Reflections Arts in Education Program engages over 30,000 students nationally in preschool through grade 12 to explore art for fun and recognition. A special division for students with disabilities insures all students have the opportunity to participate. Students submit original artwork in seven different categories for competition on a local level. The winners then compete in county, state, and finally, national levels. The awards honor imagination, creativity, and interpretation of each year’s theme as interpreted on a personal level by each student. This year’s theme is “What Is Your Story?” At the Awards Ceremony, Benjamin Padgett, 1st Place Winner for the Music Composition category,

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sang his original “Honestly” for the attendees. All other entries were on display for the public, including the categories of Visual Arts, Visual Arts 3D, Special Artists, Film Production, Photography, and Literature. An additional award is given for the best interpretation of each year’s theme. Mrs. Jules Burt of Plant City was the keynote speaker for the evening, sharing her experience of how she started as an artist in Atlanta by selling her first six paintings. After hanging two of them in a shop, a single customer purchased them and an additional four, sight unseen, because of her original and brilliant interpretation of ladies with red lips. Mrs. Burt then became nationally popular when her work appeared on the TV show “Friends.” She presently owns the Jules Burt Pop Up Gallery in Plant City, where she hosts art lessons and other events. Sharing her words of encouragement to young artists, Burt advised, “Don’t be like everybody. You don’t want to paint the same painting. Go out of the box.”

Benjamin Padgett, 1st Place Winner for the Music Composition category at the Reflections Art Awards 2016, sang his original “Honestly” for the attendees.


LOCAL

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12/29/2016 7:44:10 AM

Author Debora Coty signs one of her inspirational books at a local bookstore.

L

ife circumstances causing tension? Time for Scripture reading nonexistent? Debora Coty’s “Too Blessed to be Stressed: Inspiration for Every Day” may be the answer. Coty’s quirky humor, prayers and bite-sized, real-life stories in this daily devotional engage readers-onthe-go and give Bible verses a fresh perspective. “I was pleasantly surprised to find it was incredibly easy to come up with 365 different somethings to thank Papa God for and 365 scriptures that spoke to every single issue that arose,” she said. Her insights come from her heart, not from a degree. “The fact that I’m not qualified speaks volumes for my Savior, who does indeed shine brightest through my dullness,” said Coty. “I’ve never thought of myself as a shepherd. I’m more a Sherpa--someone who has

been over a few rugged mountains, experienced the peaks and valleys, and because of that sojourning … hopefully helps others along their own journeys.” Each day she tackles topics like relationships, hope, aging, gratitude and overcoming fear, in hopes of renewing women’s spirits. “Everyone has a story and the rest of us love to hear them. We’re mesmerized by them, encouraged by them, and learn immeasurably from the experiences of others,” she said. “Too Blessed to be Stressed: Inspiration for Every Day,” due to be released Jan. 1, is the latest in Coty’s successful “Too Blessed to be Stressed” series that launched in 2011. The new book is available now as an eBook or can be pre-ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Coty’s website at deboracoty.com.

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LOCAL

FOCUS Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards Nominees and Voting BY CHERYL JOHNSTON

2017 Nominees Best Asian Wasabi Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar 813 Chinese China One Lin’s Express

Popeye’s Plant City Hometown Buffet Publix

Best BBQ Smokin’ Aces BBQ First Choice BBQ Johnson Barbeque Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Sonny’s BBQ Best Breakfast Brick House Café Fred’s Market Restaurant Snellgroves’s Restaurant Brooklyn Bridge Waffle House Best Chicken Wings Smokin’ Aces BBQ Beef O’Brady’s Nick’s Pizza O’Brien’s Dukes Brewhouse Best Coffee Dunkin’ Donuts Hole In One Krazy Kup Starbucks WaWa

D

ear Readers: It’s Readers’ Choice Awards voting time again! Each January we invite you to tempt your taste buds with fresh visits to our local eateries and then vote your favorites. Those establishments receiving the most votes in each category will receive their award for BEST at our annual Focus Anniversary party at Keel & Curley Winery. Save the date now and plan to attend as we celebrate 17 years of sharing good news on February 16. Your votes matter and even one can make a difference. Please vote online at focusplantcity.com between January 15 and February 5, 2017 for one nominee in each category. We love honoring the winners that our decision-making readers select in this contest. Winners will be recognized and receive their awards at our 14th Anniversary Party. We hope you’ll join us!

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Best Steak Outback Steakhouse Johnson Barbeque Uncle Mikes’s Smokehouse Grill Smokin’ Aces BBQ Carrabba’s Italian Grill Best Italian Esposito’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant Carrabba’s Italian Grill Olde Town Pizzeria & Pasta Co. Nick’s Pizzeria & Wings Bella Mare Ristorante Best Hometown Cookin’ Fred’s Market Restaurant Brick House Café’ Snellgrove’s Restaurant Plant City Hometown Buffet Buddy Freddy’s Best Salad Olde Town Pizzeria & Pasta Co. ABC Pizza Johnson Barbeque Applebee’s The Corner Store

Best Cuban Strawberry Hut Brooklyn Bridge Norma’s Ybor City Cubans Dairy Queen Strawberry Town Best Dessert Dairy Queen Twistee Treat Tani’s Dessert Room Chili’s Outback Best Fried Chicken Maryland Fried Chicken Fred’s Market Restaurant

Best Milkshake Dairy Queen Parksdale Farm Market Strawberry Hut Twistee Treat Wayback Burgers Best Pizza Olde Town Pizzeria & Pasta Co. ABC Pizza Esposito’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant Nick’s Pizzeria & Wings Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Best Seafood Linda’s Crab Shack Outback Steakhouse Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Grill Johnson Barbeque Best Mexican Taco Rey El Rincon Mexicano MiCasa Mexican Restaurant El Mirasol Nidia’s Latin Grill Best Soup Carrabba’s Italian Grill The Corner Store Outback Steakhouse Whistle Stop Best Strawberry Shortcake Parksdale Farm Market Dairy Queen Strawberry Hut Twistee Treat Fred’s Market Restaurant Best Hamburger Brick House Café’ Beef O’Brady’s Chili’s Wayback Burgers Snellgrove’s Restaurant Best Overall Service Olde Town Pizzeria & Pasta Co. Fred’s Market Restaurant Johnson Barbeque Brick House Café’ Snellgrove’s Restaurant Best Server Write in your favorite Plant City server. Best Bartender Write in your favorite Plant City bartender.

To Place Your Vote Visit:

focusplantcity.com


NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Dr. Brenda Dukes Chiropractic Physician

HEALTH & FINANCE

The lists always seem to stay the same and many daily supplementation of vitamins and nutrients of us have Health and Finance at the top. to your diet that is needed to stay balanced to maintain all levels of wellness when complying Chiropractic care is health and wellness for with the recommendations. the entire family from new born to senior citizens. Whether you are experiencing nagging It is time to take care of you and your family symptoms of a cold or daily aches and pains, and to invest in the value of staying healthy Chiropractic Care treats the cause and does and being able to receive quality and valuable not mask the symptoms. Regular chiropractic healthcare within your budget. Call today to care helps to keep the nervous system working schedule your appointment to start achieving the properly to prevent illness and keeping the spine new you! in alignment helps prevent the severity of the aches and pains. Special Note: Dr. Dukes and Staff pray that each of you have With all of the concern about health care and a Happy and Healthy New Year and we look how much it will cost, at Dukes Chiropractic forward to helping you achieve your goals Health Clinic,P.A., there is no insurance while providing you and your family with the needed as we offer affordable healthcare that affordable, quality and valuable healthcare that provides wellness which in turn minimizes the you deserve. major out-of-pocket expenses that everyone anticipates. Some concerns are the availability, BLESSINGS, cost, drug interactions and side effects of Dr. Dukes and Staff medications. We offer alternative, homeopathic supplements that work on the cause to alleviate the symptom. The supplements also provide the

Dr. Brenda Dukes • Chiropractic Physician 752-2524 • 2401 Walden Woods Dr. • Plant City, FL 33566

Dr. Dukes encourages you to write her with any questions concerning chiropractic care. PAGE

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2017 Junior Royalty Pageant BY KATIE LOUDERMILK

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arly each year, many in the Winter Strawberry Capitol enjoy supporting their favorite young girl by attending the Junior Royalty Pageant. On January 7, the Grimes Family Agriculture Center was filled with folks who showed up to cheer and applaud for contestants competing for Little Miss Plant City titles of Queen, Princess, Duchess and Baroness. The favored event began with the Pledge to the American flag, led by the 2016 Junior Royalty Queen, Kendall Gaudens. Sisters and former beauty contest

Queen Amanda Astrike Parents: Benjamin & Jodi Astrike Tomlin Middle School â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Grade 7 Loves: Tumbling, Shopping, Traveling

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Shown L-R: Duchess Kendall Spencer, Baroness Kennedy Duncan, Queen Amanda Astrike and Princess Kiah Swilley.

Shown L-R are: Lilyana Perean, 1st MaidBrynlynn Newsome, Baroness Kennedy Duncan; 1st Maid- Brynlynn, Bailey Vining, and Astin Hallman.

winners Erica Der Hall and Lauren Der McNair enjoyed their roles as emcees. As the lovely young ladies were introduced, they modeled their glamour for friends, family, and judges. Everyone, and especially the judges seemed amazed by the confidence the candidates displayed. After the Preliminary Competition, the 2016 winners, QueenKendall Gaudens, Princess- Peyton Hobbs, Duchess- Skylar Barber and Baroness- Aubrey Duncan performed a dance routine to entertain

Shown L-R are: Hayven Harrell, Lylah Linares, Duchess Kendall Spencer; 1st Maid- Madelynn Hardwick, and Bailey Keys

Princess Kiah Swilley Parents: Kirk & Amanda Swilley Pinecrest Elementary â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Grade 4 Loves: Brandon All Stars Cheerleading; Beach with friends; Playing with her little brother PAGE

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Shown L-R are: Milee Hasting, 1st Maid- Kendyl Eversole, Princess Kiah Swilley, 1st Maid- Kendyl Eversole, Lydia Linaries, and Grace Pagliaro,

the audience while waiting for the top ten results. Excited cheers erupted as the eveningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hosts announced the following contestants as Top Ten: Baroness-(ages 5-6) Autumn Adair, Astin Hallman, Brynlynn Newsome, Bailey Vining, Lilyana Perean, Kennedy Duncan, Jewelian Clark, Kensley Spicer, Jaylyn Barber and Kamdyn Mosley Duchess- (ages 7-9) Hayven Harrell, Madelynn Hardwick, Kamri DePianta, Lylah Linares, Bailey Keys, Kyndell Drawdy, Brooke Browning, Ivy Garner, McKenna Davis, Kendall Spencer Princess- (ages 10-12) Madison Kimbrough, Chloe Shinnemon, Fe Jacquelyn Ramirez, Grace Pagliaro, Kendyl Eversole, Lydia Linares, Milee Hasting, Kirian Johnson, Hannah Watson, Kiah Swilley Queen- (ages 13-15) Hannah Holm, Elizabeth Eakins, Lacie Collins, Amanda Astrike, Dallas Baker, Megan Gafford, Victoria Leto, Avery Surrencey, Kamille Long, Autumn Miller Each top ten qualifier was then asked to share a song that inspires them the most. The contestants sang their favorite parts and did an amazing job of explaining why they enjoyed that song most. Needless to say, the judges had their work cut out for them. At last, the winners were determined, and they are:

Duchess Kendall Spencer Parents: Brian Spencer & Joy Andis Apollo Beach Elementary â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Grade 3 Love: Tumbling, Gymnastics, Time with Family

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Shown L-R are: Lacie Collins, Victoria Leto, Queen Amanda Astrike; 1st Maid- Avery Surrency, and Autumn Miller.

Baroness, Kennedy Duncan; 1st Maid, Brynlynn Newsome; and court members Astin Hallman, Bailey Vining, and Lilyana Perean Duchess, Kendall Spencer; 1st Maid, Madelynn Hardwick; and court members Hayven Harrell, Lylah Linares, and Bailey Keys Princess, Kiah Swilley; 1st Maid, Kendyl Eversole; and court members Grace Pagliaro, Lydia Linaries, and Milee Hasting Queen, Amanda Astrike; 1st Maid, Avery Surrency; and court members Lacie Collins, Victoria Leto, and Autumn Miller Throughout the year Queen Amanda, Princess Kiah, Duchess Kendall, and Baroness Kennedy will participate in numerous community events and charitable cause fundraisers throughout the year. And each looks forward to seeing and experiencing new things at the upcoming Florida Strawberry Festival and its Youth and Grand Parades. Truly, it was a great night as this widely appreciated pageant brought the community together to admire the poise displayed by each girl. Perhaps local resident BreAnne Smith said it best:â&#x20AC;?It has been refreshing to see this traditional pageant be continued that our earlier generations started. The contestants have made this small town very proud as they had shown off their Plant City pride.

Baroness Kennedy Iris Duncan Parents: Matt & Amanda Duncan Cork Elementary â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Grade 1 Loves: Gymnastics, Competitive Cheerleading, Making YouTube videos with her sisters PAGE

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LOCAL

Brianne Elliott - Paint Parties Two New Options BY KATIE LOUDERMILK

607 Hitchcock street Suite # 105 Plant City , FL 33563 (813)757-0717

It is our mission here at Advantage Restoration & Contracting to provide end-to-end restoration solutions to homes and business damaged by WATER, FIRE, MOLD, and STORM damage. We constantly strive to simplify the restoration process by using new and improved techniques allowing us to serve our customers more quickly and effectively. From the initial damage to the final repair we plan to get this damage out of your hair !

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24/7 DISASTER SERVICES !

Keli Chestnut and Rhonda Deshong enjoy themselves at Knights Baptist Church Painting & Prayer social event. Not only did they learn how to paint, but they were able to strengthen relationships through during the event.

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common expression regarding career choice is, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Brianne Elliot has embraced this ideal through her career of sharing and teaching about art. She started by displaying paintings at local galleries. While her preferred media are watercolor and acrylic, she also employs mixed media and digital technology for truly unique creations. “My art shows the beauty in all things simple and detailed that God has created,” Elliot explained. Growing up, the artist and mother of two was inspired by her late grandfather, Wayne Glenn. Even though he didn’t make a career of painting, he encouraged her to pursue one that involved something she enjoys. With the loving support from her family and an especially encouraging husband, Brianne is motivated to use her talents to enhance the public’s knowledge in painting. She established Art by Brianne to reflect on canvas the creativity she sees in nature. This passion for art motivated her to grow the business by offering classes or party hosting events to teach the community about painting. Whether one has years of experience or has never touched a sketching pencil, Brianne offers

two appealing options. “Painting & Prayer” is similar to a social painting party, but with an added emphasis on prayer. Hosts may welcome guests to their home, church, or other setting that accommodates groups and typically the group has selected one image to paint with Elliot guiding the instruction. Instead of teaching the stepby-step method of instruction, the “B-Kreative Painting” classes allow creativity to flow through the paintbrush. Elliot demonstrates to the attendees at a class or party a painting they may copy, but they are offered the freedom to design as they desire. Both options offer the paint supplies. Whether for a church outreach, work event, or just for fun, Brianne will teach at any location. Because of the joy she derives from helping others to learn, she’ll make any social gathering enjoyable for any age group. “I am so excited to share my God given talent with everyone,” she said, “and let them bring out their own creative side on their masterpiece. I have some great classes and more to come! Call me soon to book a great time together!” Contact the artist through Facebook at ArtbyBrianneElliott or online at artbybrianneelliott.com.


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LOCAL

Happy 101st Birthday to Evelyn Wilson Gunn BY CHERYL JOHNSTON

Evelyn Wilson Gunn celebrated her 101st birthday with son Warren Wilson and his wife Glenda Wilson on December 28,2016.

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velyn Wilson Gunn celebrated her 101st birthday on December 28, 2016 with family and friends at Coventry Assisted Living. Born in 1915 to Benjamin Robinson [1883-1965] and Katie Bell Leggett [1893-1985], Evelyn Elaine Robinson moved with her family from South Georgia to Plant City when her “railroad man” father worked laying tracks in the area. When a teenage Evelyn worked at a burger grill, she met nineteen-year-old Wallace Weldon Wilson [1910-1979] and married him on January 15, 1931. Their three children—Letty, Edward, and Warren— were born at home with help from her mother and Dr. MacGuire. After Wallace died of a heart attack in his sixties, Evelyn married William Gunn (1923-2015) on August 09, 1987. Today, she feels blessed to have eight grandchildren,

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sixteen great-grands, and twelve great-greats. “Mom is a survivor,” Letty shared. “When her father left the family, there were days with no food on the table. To this day, she won’t throw away leftovers. She was a seamstress, too, making seed sack panties for me when I attended Esther Burney School. When I started at Tomlin, she bought me my first pair of silk underpants.” Today, Evelyn is a 4’11” tall, 95-pound sweetheart, still blessed with beautiful hair, bright blue eyes, and a quick wit. Her only medications are a daily vitamin and baby aspirin. Warren explained that his “feisty and still full of energy” mother lived in her own home until she fell recently and needed rehab. “She cooked, washed dishes, and mopped floors. We didn’t have ‘Old Crip’ (her lawnmower) repaired once the family agreed she shouldn’t be

mowing the lawn.” Her daughter-in-law Glenda added, “But, she can still dance a jig for you if she decides to.” Evelyn credits her longevity to “eating what I want and stopping when I’ve had enough.” The “great cook” served her family “breakfast, dinner and supper” and listed “lima beans, rice and homemade ice cream” as favorite foods. “We never used an alarm clock,” Warren explained. “We went to bed when chickens roosted and got up when roosters crowed.” Memorable family camping trips included “Mama’s love for fishing, morning coffee made with creek water boiled in a lard can, and meals cooked in an iron skillet over a campfire.” When asked how else she’d enjoy spending her special birthday, Evelyn announced, “I’d like to do some work!” Like so many, she had worked in the strawberry fields before and after school. She recalls using a scrub board and clothesline for laundry. Evelyn also owned the Sunny South Drive-In with her first husband Wallace and Gunn Jewelers with her second husband Bill. “Everything I did was for my family, children, and their teachers.” Evelyn announced. She didn’t attend dances because she “had young’uns and was involved with their school and PTA.” Glenda noted, “People, including teachers, stopped by regularly. Her first question was always, ‘What would you like to eat and drink?’”

Evelyn is especially proud that her children graduated from Plant City High School, that Letty was in the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Court [1951], and that Edward served in the Army and Warren in the Marines. At 101, she enjoys reading the daily newspaper and the Bible, which records her family’s milestones. Rather than watching television, she prefers “siting on the porch,” gardening and cleaning the tables after meals. Evelyn’s diligence is renown. “I just like to work. That’s how I taught my children and grandchildren. I tried to ‘show ‘em, not tell ‘em’ to use manners, to be nice; to clean up after themselves and to do their best.” Letty credits her strong-willed mother for provision and discipline. “Even at 84, 83, and 74, we three children still say ‘Yes, Ma’am and No, Ma’am.’ She sacrificed to make sure we had food, shelter, and clothing. So now, we’ll see she’s well taken care of, and Coventry is helping us do that.” Evelyn demonstrated her faith, too. She attended Southside Baptist Church (now Church on the Rock) and lived life guided by the Bible. “It taught me to be kind and work hard; to enjoy my blessings and to be thankful I still have my own mind,” she said. “It taught me how to trust God.”

Residents at Coventry Assisted Living helped their friend Evelyn Wilson Gunn enjoy cake for her 101st birthday on December 28, 2016.


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LOCAL

Turkey Creek Baptist Fall Festival BY LOUISE STUDSTILL

Kase O’Neal, baby Kylee O’Neal, and McKenzie West had a ball at the Turkey Creek Baptist Fall Festival.

Door Prizes & Raffles RIBS GATOR GUMBO TURKEY CATFISH VENISON SWAMP CABBAGE & MORE!!! All you care to eat & drink! For Tickets & Information Call:

813-752-2822 THIS YEAR THE EVENT WILL BE HELD AT THE PLANT CITY ELKS LODGE

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I

t happens every year! While all the Plant City adults are enjoying the slightly cooler weather of Fall, children start thinking about how much candy and other goodies they can rack up on Halloween. Since those treks around the neighborhood can sometimes be a little risky, many area churches plan alternate activities to keep youngsters safe. One of those, Turkey Creek First Baptist Church on Trapnell Road, always hosts its Fall Festival the Wednesday before Halloween. Held inside a fenced area, everyone feels secure and the many hours of planning and physical labor dedicated to the October 26, 2017 festival were evident. While this is always a free community event, everyone was encouraged to contribute one dollar and a can of food for the purpose of helping the less fortunate. Those one dollar bills added up to many which purchased Thanksgiving turkeys for needy families, while the donated food filled their dinner baskets. The church has seen this as a wonderful way to encourage both the active and inactive in the congregation to help others. Every guest enjoyed a free hot

dog or hamburger, along with chips, drink, and cookies. There was also plenty of popcorn, slushies, and fun things to do. Kids created their own “masterpieces” in the artistic activity booth and released all that extra childhood energy in the ball toss areas and by jumping, somersaulting and sliding in the bounce house. One very impressive display was the SOS (serving our Savior) booth. After being told the three things God cannot do (you’ll have to visit SOS to find out what they are), the simple plan of salvation was presented in a gentle, unassuming way. What a blessing that twelve decisions for Christ were made from this one outreach booth. Probably the favorite activity was the hayride. Every time the wagon departed, it was filled with little kids, middle-sized kids, and the great big kids, better known as adults, who seemed to have the most fun of all. Actually, the entire event was wonderful, but ultimately, it the most impressive aspect was the enjoyment experienced by those serving the food and manning the activities. Truly, this Fall Festival was Christian love and ministry at its best.


Culligan Water of Tampa 2703 Airport Road Plant City, FL 33563 Toll Free (888)440-4542 tampaculligan.com PAGE

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MI LK KATI E LO UD ER IN TE RV IE WS BY

Do your hobbies inspire you to pursue a career in either of those areas? Even though I enjoy the artistic side of blending powders and sewing, I’m not sure if I want to go into either of those. I took cosmetology in high school because I also enjoy styling hair. I realized that working in a salon may take the fun out of styling or doing makeup. I am going to finish my associates at HCC and then transfer to the University of South Florida. My ultimate goal is to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Business and then work for corporate in a mega company. This may sound odd, but I would like to work for a company I know for sure will not go out of business. For instance, I would like to work in human resources for either a toilet paper or toothpaste company. Those products will always be needed, unless people suddenly stop brushing their teeth. After working for a right amount of time, I would love to buy old homes and fix them up to re-sell. The money I could make would be nice, but I only want to do it because I enjoy working on house projects. I replaced the tile in my mom’s kitchen, changed light fixtures, and even know enough to install a plumbing system.

ANDREA VILLALOBOS

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f one word was chosen to describe Andrea Villalobos, it would be “uniqueness,” without a doubt. She was born July 4, 1997, the same day the United States celebrates its independence. “I feel like everyone is celebrating my birthday with their thunderous fireworks,” she shared. Originally from the Magdalena municipality in the state of Jalisco in Mexico, she moved to Tampa with her mom and step-dad, and then to Plant City at age six. Andrea now attends Hillsborough Community College at the Plant City Campus while working part time at the local Ross. She is the first in her family to go to college. Other than attending school and working, do you have hobbies? I enjoy playing with makeup and doit-yourself crafts and projects. YouTube videos and Pinterest inspire me to create new looks or décor. Once I made a weighted blanket full of tiny, numerous beads. I saw how expensive they are online, so I decided to craft my own. It was so much more affordable. In the end, it wasn’t as pretty as I thought it would be. But now I know what to do next time I try.

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With your ambitious goals, will Plant City be a permanent home? I am not against it. My family lives here and the town is in the perfect location. I love the community here. The Strawberry Festival is what makes this town so wonderful. I could eat their strawberry shortcake all day, no matter the time. This town’s environment is perfect to raise a future family one day.

EDWIN MEIJA

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ocal college student, Edwin Meija, was born 20 years ago in a well-known city— Los Angeles, California. But at the age of two his family decided it was time for a change and packed their belongings to move across the country to Plant City, Florida. “I didn’t like the superstar life, so I moved to Florida,” said Edwin. Although he is from another state, his roots come from this town, where he attended four elementary schools, two middle schools and finished at Plant City High School. After graduation, he decided to take a year off and then start at the local Hillsborough Community College to earn his Associate’s degree. What are your education goals? After HCC, I plan to transfer to Florida State University so I will become a Music Therapist. It is the only university that offers the program for that specific career. My interest in music began in sixth grade. I wasn’t very good at the electives my middle school offered. I wasn’t good at art, computers, or agriculture. So, I joined the band like my older brother and haven’t stopped playing since. The first instrument I learned to play was the saxophone. Later, I worked my way up to the trombone and continued playing that instrument in the PCHS school marching band. I am currently playing the drums for my church, Transforming Life Assemblies of God. How did you get involved with the church band? Two years ago, I was invited by one of my good friends to visit their church. I

started attending the youth group and did not want to leave. I feel as though I am home there. I volunteered with the youth band and started playing the drums for them. As time progressed, the worship pastor came to watch me as I played drums during their practices. He invited me to join the band for the Sunday morning church service. Now I spend most of my time at church, whether for practice, attending church service, and being a youth leader on Wednesday nights. I would like to continue to be on a worship band throughout the rest of my life. Do you perform outside of church? Along with some friends from church, I am part of a Christian band called Kindred Few. In October, the band performed at Krazy Kup, the local coffeehouse in downtown Plant City. I play to worship God, not to simply perform and be entertainment. I desire to serve God with the musical ability He has given me. When I’m playing, I get into this zone of praising God. I forget the troubles of life. And I feel joy.

Find more People of Plant City on Facebook. Connecting the community one story at a time. facebook.com/peopleofplantcity Find more People of Plant City on Facebook. Connecting the community one story at a time. facebook.com/peopleofplantcity


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LOCAL

Did You Know?

A Boy Comes Home - John Keasler’s Visit to Plant City in 1968 BY GIL GOTT, PLANT CITY PHOTO ARCHIVES

The Magnolia Pharmacy was considered by young folks as one of the best “leaning” places in downtown Plant City; a good spot for pondering and reflecting.

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n the December issue, we wrote about the national award-winning writer, John Keasler, who, after returning from his service in World War II, honed his writing talent to become one of the country’s best newspaper columnists. He got his journalism start at the Plant City Courier and wrote close to 7,000 columns while at the Miami News. Born in Dover in 1921, John Keasler grew up in Plant City. After the Miami News closed, in 1988, he moved back to Dover. He died Tuesday, September 5, 1995. While a resident of Key Biscayne and visiting Plant City with his family, Keasler wrote a special article for The Courier [Thursday, September 6, 1968] in which he reminisced about his early years, recounting all the various places he visited and the things he and his friends did. In 1976, Keasler won the National Headliners Club award as the most outstanding columnist in the nation. The City of Plant City quickly sent a telegram to Keasler congratulating him, stating, “Your hometown is proud of you.”

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The telegram was signed by Mayor Terry Ballard, Commissioners Otis M. Andrews, Betty June Barker, Milton A. Hull, Henry S. Moody, City Manager Nettie Mae Draughon, and City Attorney Paul Buchman. Keasler responded in a letter dated May 3, 1976, thanking the group, calling the telegram “one of the greatest things ever to happen in my life.” In the letter, Keasler wrote of his memories of several of the telegram’s signatories, some of whom were classmates, such as Betty Barker, and Paul Buchman, and of working at the A&P, sorting potatoes with Milton Hull for 17 cents an hour. He thanked Nettie Draughon for subtly helping an inexperienced cub reporter learn the ropes about city government. Keasler wrote the preface for the Quintilla Geer Bruton and David E. Bailey, Jr. book, Plant City; Its Origin and History, which was published in 1977. He named the preface, “An Enchantment Called Time.” It was an idyllic tribute to his beloved Florida and especially to Plant City. He wrote, “To have Plant City for a home town is, in

the first place, to have received a fine gift from life.” The 1968 article in The Courier runs over 1,200 words. Here are some excerpts from the article; a full copy is available at the Photo Archives. He was a lean, tanned, friendly kid, 16—maybe 17 and courteous. Plant City kids always seem courteous, or so it seems to me, with a special kind of politeness too rare these days in too many other places I have been. It was nighttime, and he had been leaning against a wall on the Magnolia Pharmacy corner—I was leaning on the same wall but a bit further down: Henry Moody’s corner has some of the best leaning in town. I discovered some decades ago … it’s every bit as good leaning as Jack and Dick White’s drugstore catty-cornered, just as scenic as the doorway of the old Hillsboro Bank building, and the only place that had better leaning was outside Ben Parker’s Poolroom of yore, but of course that’s gone. It was fairly late, the streets deserted, which makes for better leaning when you are busy thinking of the past. I was thinking about how it used to be when I was 16—maybe 17, leaning on that corner, and, as always, I listened hard for the suhhh-wisshhh, suhhh-wiss of the big street-cleaning broom pushed by my old friend and companion of the night, the great stooped man named Bible. “Was there anything to do around here when you were a kid? And what do you say to that? It’s not just a generation gap – it’s a communication gap. How would I know how to explain, for instance, a Plant City Saturday night in, say, the 1930’s? When the town was packed and teeming and the RogersMiddlebrooks drawing jammed the block, and A-Model pickups crammed the streets; excitement was around every corner, and all the girls mysterious beauties? Memories are tricky because you never know which ones will last. The noontime klaxon [alarm horn] atop City Hall and how we used to go down to the Plant Hotel, where guests sat in the sun in big rockers, just to watch the tourists jump when it went off. Why do I remember that? The big salty pretzels they used

to hang on the straw of every afterschool drugstore coke Where Paul White Stays. Swiping sugarcane out by the tennis courts at night. Digging fish worms in the bayhead. Listening to the men talk on the benches around Doug Sims cabstand. Mr. and Mrs. Harrell letting me read magazines by the hour at their newsstand and never chasing me off. How did I know those were the lasting memories? The dark and pleasant pre-dawn Tribune route out Reynolds eastward, out past the Chickenette, up the Airport Road, back down Laura street, through town and to the Dixie for a well-balanced breakfast: Two bowls of chili and three glazed doughnuts. My own kids complain there’s nothing to do on Key Biscayne where we live, but they think Plant City is the greatest. They sneer at the Atlantic Ocean we live near, but go wild over Lithia Springs and Hillsboro River State Park. It was ever thus. All kids want someplace else. My own kids came piling out of the Capitol after a while and we headed out to our Royal Oaks cottage at John MacInnis’s place where we had stopped over. “Why are you so quiet, Daddy?” asked my 11-year-old redhead, Laura, as I drove east in Timelessness. Should I tell her I was seeing a vanished packing house, John S. Barnes’, where I learned you could make an entire quarter every hour you loaded 90-pound orange crates in a boxcar and that I’ll never be that rich again? Or that a certain house—the one over there—was the home of one of my cutest lifelong loves, most of the winter at 1939? I sat up late in the soft darkness and listened to the trains go by: whispering toward me like the past, roaring excitedly by like youth, sighing into tomorrow. I guess that’s because Plant City is the only place I don’t feel like a tourist. I feel at home. This article and the preface that Keasler wrote for the Plant City history book bear witness to his intense love of Florida and Plant City, the way they were.


RIBBONCUTTINGS

The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Friday, December 9, 2016 for 1916 Irish Pub, located at 2309 Thonotosassa Road, Plant City. The 1916 Irish Pub originally opened on August 10th and is now open seven days a week from 11am to 2am. Their menu is authentic Irish with a modern twist and features over 20 beers, craft cocktails, gourmet sandwiches, and light Irish fare. The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Thursday, December 15th for Christmas Lane located at 2508 West Oak Avenue. Christmas Lane, an extraordinary light display that originated in the 1980s for the Dover, Florida community, has grown exponentially over the last 34 years. In 2015, Christmas Lane relocated to the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds in Plant City, FL. Christmas Lane is estimated to have over 1.5 million lights adorning over 200 Christmas Trees, from 4 to 40 feet tall, drawing more than 180,000 watts of power. Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with his elves, attend nightly in his sleigh. There are many designated photo stops as you travel throughout the display, one especially dedicated to our service men and women with a flag of each branch of the military. Lane Wetherington’s love of Christmas and lights has grown into a wonderful Christmas event for our community. Christmas Lane is open nightly through December 25th. The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Thursday, December 15th for Ellis-Methvin Park, located at 2401-2601 East Cherry Street. The property was originally acquired by the Ellis family circa 1880. In 2002, Dr. Roy Ellis and his wife Bonnie Methvin Ellis sold the 46+ acre property to the City and donated a generous sum toward the park development. Today the park features the Plant City Tennis Center, 4 lighted 200-foot youth baseball/softball fields, 8 lighted full size soccer/football fields, 3 picnic shelters, a playground, and two walking trails. Sources: Focus Magazine, Plant City Photo Archives & History Center, Plant City: It’s Origins and History by Quintilla Geer Bruton and D.E. Bailey; City of Plant City records.

The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting on Thursday, December 22 for Jimmy Conrow of Edward Jones Investments, located at 1904 James L Redman Parkway. Edward Jones Investments helps individuals and businesses with retirement planning, asset protection, college savings, and tax deferred accounts. They use a proven five-step process that determines where are you today and where would you like to be in a given period of time. They then develop a strategy to help you reach your goals while using your objectives and risk tolerance as a guide. Edward Jones believes in the importance of face-to-face conversations that build positive, long-term, personal relationships with their clients.

Isn’t it beautiful? Let’s keep it that way!

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10% OFF Expires 2/28/2017

SELL YOUR USED or JUNK CAR TODAY

813.752.3770 3302 SYDNEY ROAD â&#x20AC;¢ PLANT CITY LOETSCHERAUTO.COM PAGE

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Queen 2017 Florida Strawberry Festival

CONTESTANTS

Meet the beautiful and talented young women who will compete in the Florida Strawberry Festival Queenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Scholarship Pageant on Saturday, January 21 in the Grimes Family Agricultural Center at the festival grounds. Anticipation has already begun for the pageant that begins at 6:00 p.m. The ladies will be judged as they model casual wear, business attire, and formal dress. In addition to presenting their original 30-second announcement for the business randomly selected to be a sponsor, they must also respond with poise to a question asked on stage. As is typical, the judges will have a difficult time narrowing the field from 22 to 10, and then finally to the scholarship winners: the 2017 Queen, First Maid, and three court members. Please encourage these wonderful young ladies by attending, applauding, and sharing news of the Florida Strawberry Festival on social media. PAGE

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Contestant #1

Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Shelby Chanel Wilson

Julia Strickland

Ashley Rae Hamel

• Parents: Everett & Tammy Wilson

• Parents: Donnie & Tina Strickland

• Parents: Shayne & Tiffany Hamel

• Junior/Senior at Strawberry Crest High School, 3-year graduate program

• Hillsborough Community College freshman

• Strawberry Crest High School senior in International Baccalaureate Program

• Plans: Attend University of Tampa; pursue degree in Medical & Pre-Law

Contestant #4

• Plans: Attend University of Florida; Pursue degree in Veterinary Medicine/Animal Science

Contestant #5

• Plans: Attend Nova Southeastern University on merit scholarship to pursue Biomedical Science degree for career in Pharmacy

Contestant #6

Drew Redman Knotts

Zharia Griffin

Tiffany Wilson

• Parents: Andy & Jeanne Knotts

• Parents: Charles and Debra Griffin

• Parents: Mark Wilson & Crystal Delones-Wilson

• Plant City High School senior/dual enrolled at Hillsborough Community College

• Durant High School junior

• Durant High School junior

• Plans: Major in Pre-Med at Florida A&M University

• Plans: Attend University of Florida for Animal Science/ Veterinarian Medicine degree & Doctorate; attend University of Miami (summer) to study Psychiatry

• Plans: Attend Georgia Southern University to play soccer & major in Journalism

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Contestant #7

Contestant #8

Contestant #9

Meghan Sorg

Zoe Bell Rasmussen

Taylor Tew

• Parents: Candace and Dave Sorg

• Parents: Shawn and Renee Rasmussen

• Parents: David and Traci Tew

• Strawberry Crest High School junior in International Baccalaureate program

• Newsome High School senior

• Durant High School junior; Dual Enrolled in Hillsborough Community College

• Plans: Attend Culinary Institute of America in New York; Major: Baking/Pastry Arts

Contestant #10

• Plans: Attend University of Florida to pursue degree in the medical field

Contestant #11

• Plans to attend a Florida University and major in nursing with a minor in photography

Contestant #12

Bentley Rae Roberts

Toi Morrison

Taylor Carlough

• Parents: Robbie and Cindy Roberts

• Daughter of Jeannie Morrison

• Parents: Keith Carlough and Brandi and Oscar Barnes

• Homeschooled, Senior

• Hillsborough Community College freshman

• Plans: Attend Southeastern University for Communications major w/minor in Public Relations; hopes to work with non-profit organization.

• Plans: Transfer to University of South Florida for medical field degree; eventually become a neonatal nurse or midwife.

• Plant City High School junior: Dual Enrolled at Hillsborough Community College • Plans: Attend University of Florida to pursue Journalism

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Contestant #13

Contestant #14

Contestant #15

Ariel Navarrete

Courtney Danielle Coton Megan Kristen Todd

• Parents: Juan and Lucy Navarrete

• Daughter of Danny and Danna Coton

• Parents: Bobby and Diane Todd

• Plant City High School senior

• Senior at Plant City High School

• Plans: Attend Southeastern University to pursue Education degree

• Plans: Puruse degrees at major university in Journalism & later Fashion Journalism.

• Senior at Plant City High School, Dual enrolled at Hillsborough Community College

Contestant #16

Contestant #17

• Plans: Attend the University of Florida and major in Physical Therapy

Contestant #18

Skylar Mitchell

Marybeth Stewart

Allison Emmelee Lane

• Parents: Melissa & David Mitchell

• Parents: Preston & Julie Stewart

• Parents: Emmett and Stephenie Lane

• Durant High School senior

• Strawberry Crest High School senior; dual enrolled at Hillsborough Community College

• Plant City High School senior; Dual enrolled in Hillsborough Community College

• Plans: Attend University of Florida to major in Dentistry w/specialties in Orthodontics/Pediatrics and a focus on special need patients

• Plans: Attend Hillsborough Community College for AA degree & transfer to a Florida university to pursue Bacherlor and Master’s degrees in Psychology

• Plans: Attend University of Tampa for Pre-Law major

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Contestant #19

Contestant #20

Contestant #21

Marlee Rose Arn

Sabrina Hangen

Hanna Barrett

• Parents: Ed & Michelle Arn

• Daughter of Sheri Hangen

• Parents: David Barrett & Tanya Limas

• Plant City High School senior; Dual Enrolled at Hillsborough Community College

• Plant City High School junior; Dual enrolled at Hillsborough Community College

• Strawberry Crest High School junior

• Accepted to Samford University for Fall 2017 to pursue Interior Architecture

• Plans: Attend Duke University to double major in International Business and Law w/minors in Criminology & Psychology

Contestant #22

Caroline Brummer • Parents: Jeff & Laura Brummer • Plant City High School junior • Plans: Attend Florida State University to major in Public Relations

• Plans: Attend Clemson University; Education major w/Mathematics minor

Join Us! January 21, 2017 at 6:00pm Grimes Family Agricultural Center 2508 Oak Avenue Plant City, FL 33563

(Florida Strawberry Festival Grounds)

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FOCUSSPOTLIGHT

Layla Keeler Drawdy The Doll Who Does It All INTERVIEW BY CHERYL JOHNSTON

Plant City native Layla Keeler Drawdy grew up as a self-described childhood “tomboy” in the “wonderful Cork area” across Thonotosassa Road from the old Branch Ranch Restaurant. She recalls being “barefoot and dirty, roaming wild and free, just taking in the country—out when the sun came up and in just before dark.” Layla is thankful to have been “raised with hard working Christian values by a collection of amazing people.” In sharing her story, she offered, “I’ve tried to learn from or use a little something from each in some way. I’m not perfect—never have been, never will be—but I am me and I’m happy with that. I’m still a work under construction.” And the local fundraising phenom—who, “because of God’s grace,” considers herself “a survivor, giver, helper, and healer”—cherishes Plant City because “we’re a huge family. We all basically know each other and come together swiftly when someone is in need.” Focus: Tell us about your childhood family. I was born at MacDill AFB, March 12, 1976 to Linda Turner and Gary Keeler. I grew up with LOTS of family because Mom married Randy Carlisle when I was 13 months old and Dad married Dori Lambert (now Knight), my “second mom” around

the same time. My dad is a local musician/celebrity with a career in the flooring business. He’s always been a superstar in my book and is truly my rock here on Earth. My mother retired from medical billing office management, but she was a great stay-at-home mom most of my younger years. She taught me to PAGE

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FOCUSSPOTLIGHT

Layla and Dustin Drawdy with (L-R) Stephen, William with his future wifeCourtney Christian, Dax and Abel (in Dustin’s arms).

cook and clean like a pro and was always my biggest fan. They’ve both adored their grandchildren since the day they knew they were on the way. My parents divorced their spouses in my early teen years, but I remained in touch with my stepdad Randy Carlisle until he passed away in 2014. As one of the hardest working men you could’ve ever known, his love and influence in my life was profound. Dori and I remain very close; I’ve never felt like I wasn’t hers and I’ve loved her the same way. My younger sister, Tiffany Carlisle Lewis, is one of my best friends. We’ve been through some tough times, but together and through God’s mercy, here we stand tall and strong. I dearly love her, her husband Brian and my nephew Joshua, as well as my older brother Aaron, his wife Missy (Young), and their four daughters: Danielle, Taylor, Courtney, and Alyssa. I love my ENTIRE family very, very much. I’m so thankful my extended family has taken a huge part in my life. I like to credit my late grandmother, Peggy Carlisle Tanner, and my grandmother Stella Lambert Pemberton for their roles. Peggy is the reason I love to cook and am obsessed with holidays. She took PAGE

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Dustin and Layla have been married eight years.

us to church at Eastside Baptist on Calhoun Street and was such a hard worker who taught us everything she could. She absolutely adored her family and especially her grandkids. Thankfully, she’s always with me in my heart. Stella, also known as Brownie, is one of the most loving, honest Christians you’ll ever meet; a picture of good, to me. I adore her and love that I can still hug her neck. Focus: How did you meet Dustin? In 2003, I took a job at ProSource (formerly Terra Asgrow, a Plant City agriculture supply company). As a third generation, Florida tropical freshwater aquarium fish farmer, Dustin came often to purchase supplies for the farm. We met in 2004 and started dating the same year. On August 4th, 2007, in celebration of our third year together, he took me to the Thunderbird on Treasure Island and gave me a gift bag full of hard to open items. When I finished getting through to the bottom, I looked up in confusion because there wasn’t a gift in the bag. By this time, he was down on one knee, holding a stunning ring, asking if I “would do him the honor of becoming his wife.” We’ve been married eight years now.

Dustin is my everything, my best friend and my soul mate. I’ve been in love with him since our first lengthy phone conversation 12 years ago. I don’t like to do much of anything without him. I never ever dreamed I was worthy of a man like him and thought I’d never find this kind of love. Boy, was I wrong! He thinks he’s the lucky one, but I think it’s me. Focus: You have four sons, right? Our children are our greatest gifts. William Drawdy, 23, a TECO Lineman Apprentice who’s engaged to my precious future daughter-inlaw, Courtney Christian; Stephen Drawdy, 19, a Strawberry Crest graduate [2016] and Bass Pro Shop fishing department salesman; Dax Drawdy, 5, and Abel Drawdy, 3. I absolutely adore and love caring, cooking and doing things for them and making amazing memories with them. I’ve been so abundantly blessed and only hope I’ve made them as happy and proud as they’ve made me. God made me for them. This is His purpose in this life for me. The wife, the mom, the friend... It’s precious that my amazing, supportive parents-in-law, Marcie and David Drawdy, revolve their lives around their grandchildren. I also

have great relationships with two sisters-in law, Kayla Drawdy and Amanda Drawdy, and my awesome brother-in-law Hunter. Kayla has our sweet nephews, David and Jackson; and Amanda and Hunter have The Princess Charlotte (only girl of 7 grandkids). Focus: Tell us about your work with Diamond R Fertilizer? I am an agriculture account manager, a multi-crop consultant, and saleswoman. We manufacture fertilizer, sell crop protection (chemicals), cover crop, food plot and grass seed. We also scout and offer lab services. I started working for Diamond R in 2006, after working for Seedway, a Lakeland agricultural seed company and selling ads for ITF magazine. Diamond R discovered me there and offered me a sales position. They had no presence here in the strawberry market. I used to load, deliver and unload my own orders, and could run a forklift better than most. So, what started out as nothing more than me with a stack of credit applications, a truck and blind ambition, has now outgrown our third location with an amazing staff that services Central Florida for five sales reps. As one of very


FOCUSSPOTLIGHT few women in this industry in the entire state, I could not do without my Diamond R brothers and sisters at my Plant City location. I cover Hillsborough and several surrounding counties, consulting for crops ranging from strawberries and citrus to pasture and some lawn care. When I worked at ProSource in 2003, I quickly took to their Ag Sales Rep of 40 years, Jimmy Cross. Although he was many years my elder, he and his wife became some of the best friends I’ve ever had and still have. From Jimmy, I learned everything and owe my foot in the door to him. He couldn’t have been prouder of me then and to this day for my achievements. Although retired from the Ag business when I started with Diamond R, Jimmy was instrumental in my establishing the business I’ve maintained for 10 years. I will always be thankful for him. What I love most about my work life are the people I’m blessed to be able to work with. I have forged way more than customer and co-worker relationships through the Diamond R work family I love. Working here has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Focus: You’ve experienced some tough times, right? One of the hardest things was being a single mother with two boys. I didn’t receive welfare or child support and worked three jobs at one point in my life—always waiting tables at night after the fulltime job and taking odd jobs on the weekends at English Nursery or wherever I could make a little extra

money. My family was as supportive as possible then, but it was hard. I learned to swallow my pride and be humble. I’ve been that mom standing in line for a food box from church at Thanksgiving, and one who went to bed hungry so my boys didn’t. They never knew and you would’ve thought we were rich by the looks of those boys, because I made sure they had the best of everything within my power. Yet, I know those very circumstances are what made me who I am. I can’t even begin to tell you the countless random acts of kindness and angels sent to lift me out of the mud. Those unforgettable people may never know their impact on my life. Although I can never repay them, I work every single day to pay it forward. Focus: How do you spend spare time? Like my grandmother Peggy, I’m a gatherer. She always gathered us and it was wonderful. During together time with family and friends, we love to cook, play in the yard, watch movies, and make things. I LOVE entertaining and crafting, to be artistic and creative; sharing it all with my husband and kids. There’s not much ‘just-for-me time,’ but I love music, nature, massages, pedicures, crafting and baking. I also like Facebook 90% of the time. Ha-Ha! Focus: How did Hardwood BBQ begin and become so involved in fundraising? The Hardwood BBQ and catering life is the hobby we love. We both

Spouses, soul mates and best friends forever - Dustin and Layla Drawdy.

love food, cooking, and entertaining. We started with competitive BBQ at PigJam in Plant City. I’m not much of a competitor but it has certainly taught me to enjoy it a little more. Once I saw we could make money selling BBQ at events, it just all fell into place—our love for cooking and my love for giving and helping. I told Dustin the only way he could have such an expensive hobby was if we made enough to reimburse the expense and then gave the remainder to charity. We have made so many amazing connections through our BBQ adventures. It has allowed us to help people in need, which makes every single ounce of hard work worth it. We have a wonderful group of friends who come together for the greater good and it feels so great to serve others. We’re excited to have won the PigJam Plant City Cup for the past three years and just won first place with a dessert and a perfect Kansas City Barbeque Society score of 180.

driving me. I don’t believe terrible things in life are in God’s plan. I believe the devil is a destroyer and God’s plan is to get you through that destruction. Somehow, someway, He will take you straight through the middle of it—not over it, not around it, but straight through. To some it seems impossible to do all I try to do, but I don’t even have a choice. I have no control over it; it’s what God made me for. I feel like He uses me, sometimes like a chess piece or a tool—leads me, pushes me, shows me where He wants me and what He wants me to do. Sometimes I kick and scream, but I always follow His lead. I ask Him to tell me how He wants me to help, and I obey. It’s that simple. I mess up every single day, but He still loves me with more love than I’ve ever felt worthy of receiving. My cup truly runneth over. The feeling I have when I’ve obediently touched someone’s life with the love of God, it’s higher than any high you could ever dream of.

Focus: What makes you so obviously unashamed of your strong faith? My relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is so amazing I cannot even explain it to you. Since the day I was saved at Family Worship Center in Lakeland in 1996, life has never been the same. It’s had tremendous ups and horrific downs. But I know God was always with me, no matter what, pushing me and

Focus: Let’s close with something most don’t know about you. “Well, I can sing—like really good, LOL. I’ve always had a secret desire to be a singer, to sing in public. I just haven’t had the guts to do it yet. I also don’t accept compliments very well...strange, but true...I just don’t like too much of that and boy has Focus Magazine blown that out, LOL!”

To date, the Drawdys and their Hardwood BBQ team have cooked 20 competitions/fundraisers, each of which benefit charities with entry fees, and some with designated proceeds. A few include: • PigJam 2014: Proceeds to Hope Hope Children’s Home • PigFest 2015: Proceeds to Florida Baptist Children’s Home (when they met 16-year-old brain cancer survivor and entrepreneur, Nathan Dodds; see Focus Plant City, November 2015, pages 32-33 at www.focusplantcity.com/focusplant-city-14-11/) • Oct 2015: Crushing Brain Cancer for Nathan Dodds • PigJam 2015: Proceeds to Michelle Dearhart (cancer survivor at this point) • December 2015: Cooked for the poor/homeless at the Planteen • PigFest 2016: Proceeds to Michelle Dearhart again • Feb 2016: Sweet Heart Gala (for children with cancer); cooked, donated & served “poppers” • March 2016: March of Dimes Walk, Wesley Chapel- cooked for Kiolbassa Sausage Company • April 2016: Feeding America event with Kiolbassa Sausage • Sept 2016: Hosted “Going Gray for The Gude Family” fundraiser • PigJam 2016: Proceeds to A Kid’s Place children’s home Upcoming competitions, January 2017: • Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest (1-21-17) • Lakeland PigFest (1-27/28-17)

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FOCUSBUSINESS

Black’s Insurance & Financial Services staff members are (L-R): Saji Mathew, Brian Dozark, Angie Klein and agency owner Chris Black.

Black’s Insurance & Financial Services: The right insurance coverage at the right price BY BARBARA ROUTEN | PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BLACK’S INSURANCE & FINANCIAL SERVICES

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hris Black is a hometown insurance agent and financial advisor with a simple goal for his company, Black’s Insurance & Financial Services: to properly insure folks at the lowest cost possible. It’s vital to match clients and insurance correctly “so coverage is there for them if they need it,” he said. “We try to go out of our way to take care of people. I think we’ve done a good job of that. Nothing’s perfect, but I think most people think we’ve done our best to take care of them.” Black grew up in Plant City, graduated from Plant City High School in 1983 and earned a degree in business management from Florida Southern College. In 1991, he started working in the insurance industry and in 2008 bought the

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agency now called Black’s Insurance & Financial Services. “I absolutely love Plant City,” said Black. “I always wanted to have a business here. When I got the opportunity to buy this agency, I was fortunate to be able to grab it. It’s been an adventure for me.” His ties to the city are strong. He and his wife, Cork Elementary School principal Sherri Black, have raised their four children here. Chris Black, a big sports fan, played on his high school’s inaugural soccer team and on his college team. He coached Plant City High School soccer (as did his father, Jim Black, and brother, Alan Black). Black’s Insurance & Financial Services, an independent, full-lines agency, will be nine years old in May. Five years ago, the agency’s

business mix was about 90 percent personal lines and 10 percent commercial. Now it’s closer to 50/50. Black and his three employees handle personal, business and life insurance and financial services for people all over Florida, from Miami to Panama City. “The nice thing about our industry is you never know what people’s needs will be on a given day. Rarely are two days the same,” said Black, who is the life insurance and financial services expert. Brian Dozark manages the commercial insurance department, Saji Mathew works primarily with businesses like convenience stores and garages and Angie Klein handles personal lines, including cars, homes, motorcycles and mobile homes.The company specializes

in certain niche markets, such as churches, hotels, apartment buildings and 55-and-over communities and mobile home parks in Plant City, Lakeland, Tampa and Pasco County. Business is booming since the recent launch of their new website, www.blackinsurance.com. So much so, in fact, that they are looking for new insurance agents. “We’ve doubled in size and we’re trying to become a cornerstone in Plant City,” Black said. “We plan to be here for a while!”

Black’s Insurance & Financial Services 204 N. Collins Street Plant City, FL 33563 (813) 752-5225


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PARKPLACE PLACE 813-704-5924 813-704-5924 PARK BUILD THE HOME OF YOUR DREAMS!!

REAL ESTATE

Mortgage Marketers vs. Mortgage Professionals BY NATE DAVIS, FLORIDA MORTAGE FIRM

3 Minutes to I-4 Park Rd or Buchman Hwy Exits! 10 different models to choose from, offering a wide variety of exterior styles. A large selection of flooring, countertops, exterior colors, and brick choices! NATURAL GAS!! Models available with 2 car attached garage

PLUS A 20x 25 DETACHED GARAGE WORKSHOP FEES ONLY $250 PER YEAR!!!

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GATE ADDRESS 1809 N GORDON ST, PLANT CITY 33563 OPEN 10-5 MON, TUE, FRI, SAT , 1-4 SUN BY APOINTMENT WED, THU. 813-704-5924 PAGE

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here is a great disparity in the quality of loan officers among mortgage providers. Some loan officers could be better described as “professional marketers” who focus on getting people to call them for business. Others are merely kids in a cubicle taking applications through a call center or over the Internet. Is that who you want handling the biggest financial investment of your life? The alternative is Florida Mortgage Firm and its team of experts. While we embrace technology, we know it cannot replace professional counseling and considerations. So who exactly are Florida Mortgage Firm loan officers? As opposed to someone who merely wants to take your loan application so he or she can get paid a commission, we place value on lifetime relationships with our

clients. We are meticulous, technical and should be thought of more as underwriters with the knowledge and know-how to troubleshoot your file at the beginning of the process. Our team of experts are focused on getting your loan closed in an easy, expedited fashion and with the best deal. Instead of being driven by sales, we candidly believe that by only employing experts and offering competitively low interest rates, you will have a premier experience that will generate more referrals for us. To ensure the company’s and staff’s goals are aligned, our loan officers are compensated the same regardless of your interest rate and loan program. This model and commitment to excellence has enabled us to thrive and compete in Florida against the “Big Banks” and become Florida’s premier mortgage origination company.

Florida Mortgage Firm (813-707-6200) is an Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #289323, NMLS #294701.


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REAL ESTATE

Walden Lake Review BY NATALIE SWEET

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he Walden Lake Community Association Board Meetings are the third Monday of each month at the Walden Lake Community Association office building on Griffin Boulevard in Walden Lake. The next meetings are scheduled for January 16th and February 20th at 7:00 PM. The meetings are open to all Walden Lake residents. Watch the announcement boards at all entrances for dates and times for special meetings and events. By this time, your 1st half of your 2017 dues should have been paid. Paying your fees in a timely manner is appreciated by the Board, keeps you from receiving any additional fees and helps save money for the community. At the December meeting, the Board nominated Robert Bell from the Hammocks and Robert Hunter from Parkwood to serve the remaining term of a seat vacated by Josh Hall. Robert Hunter was elected to serve the remainder of Josh Hall’s term. Today’s Bank filed foreclosure notice on Visions Golf, the owner of Walden Lake Golf & Country Club. The golf course remains open and managed by Lynn Archibald of PGGG. During the month of December, there were 13 sales in Walden Lake. The average sale price in Walden The November sales are as follows: Address Sales Price 205 Granada Court N $127,500 2316 Village Green Blvd $147,000 4013 Thackery Way $200000 3204 Silverlake Court $205,000 3328 Steinbeck Place $205000 3317 Michener Place $210,000 3321 Silverpond Drive $211,000 4107 Barret Avenue $225,000 3341 Silvermoon Drive $242,000 2890 Hammock Drive $268,000 3234 Alcott Avenue $269,500 2815 Hammock Drive $285,000 2803 Forest Club Drive $305,000

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Lake was $223,077 with an average of 69 days on the market. There were no sales from Walden Lake East. There are currently 23 active listings for sale in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East with an average list price of $254,509 and an average of 45 days on the market. There are 15 properties Pending Contract with an average list price of $228,455 and average of 45 days on the market. In 2016, there were 158 sales in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East. The average sale price was $217,452 and an average of 55 days on the market. In 2015, there were 159 sales with an average price of $211,051 and an average of 64 days on the market. Inventory is still low so if you are considering selling, please contact The Sweet Team for a no obligation consultation 813-758-9586. We will be happy to provide you with an honest value of your home. The United Food Bank is in need of non-perishable items and our HOA office is a drop off location. They are also looking for volunteers to help stock shelves! If you have some time on your hands, they would love to have you come and spend some time with them. Feel free to contact me about any real estate questions or about this article. NSweet@KW.com or 813758-9586. Living Area 1329 Sq’ 1985 Sq’ 2188 Sq’ 1757 Sq’ 1609 Sq’ 1943 Sq’ 1838 Sq’ 2234 Sq’ 2205 Sq’ 2691 Sq’ 2703 Sq’ 2556 Sq’ 2774 Sq’

Pool No No No Private Private No Private No Private Private Private No Private

Garage 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car 3 Car 2 Car 2 Car 2 Car


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SPORTS

Athlete of the Month Devonte Lowe

BY ASHLYN YARBROUGH | PHOTOS PROVIDED BY DEVONTE LOWE

Devonte Lowe’s father and mother escort him across the field at his Senior Night.

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here are stellar athletes who excel at their sport; and then there are those who dominate in not two, but three sports! Devonte Lowe, a senior at Strawberry Crest High School, performs tremendously on the football field, track, and even the cheer mat. Lowe’s primary sport, and first love, is football. As a player for 11 years, he started his career out with the Plant City Dolphins Little League, and went on to play for SCHS as a strong safety. “I love the fact that football is a team sport,” expressed Lowe. “It teaches you to truly depend on others in order to attain one main goal. Even though you have your own individual assignment, you have to trust the person next to you to get the job done.” Lowe’s friends on the SCHS cheer team have always encouraged him to try out for their team. One day, Lowe walked through the gym as the team was hosting an informational meeting. Just out

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of curiosity, he sat through the meeting, got all of the paperwork, and decided to try out that following summer. He made the team. He is currently in the middle of his third cheer season. “The girls are perfectionists,” Lowe stated. “Being around girls all the time, you learn that they are sensitive sometimes; but when it comes to competition they do not want to mess around.” This team of highly skilled athletes push themselves to be the best and place first in every competition. For the past three years, they have claimed and defended their District, Regional, and State Champion titles. They placed third in the Nation last season. “I admire their determination. They know what it feels like to win and how to defend first place,” Lowe explained. “Practicing with them is like we’re all on a mission. They have a goal and they’re focused, it’s a completely different atmosphere than I’ve ever been in.”

Lowe tosses his flyer, Tara Love, in the air during the Chase the State competition at Bartow High School.

Cheer has the longest season in high school sports, beginning in the summer and ending late January/ early February. Since Lowe is also a football player, he doesn’t have the ability to practice with the cheer team during the fall. One of the biggest adjustments for him is trying to catch up with the progress that the team made when he could only practice on Mondays and Saturdays. Most high school cheer teams are either all-girl, or their boys on co-ed teams don’t play other sports. This proves the immense hard work that Lowe puts into his team to lead them to success. “Since I’ve been playing football my whole life, the sport comes natural to me. Of course I work hard, but on game days I just feel like ‘I got this’ because I know how to control the nerves,” described Lowe. “Being that I’m not used to being a cheerleader, I’m pretty nervous on competition days. With football you can mess up and make up for it, but with cheer you only have one

chance to execute and you have to be absolutely perfect.” Over the years, the “cheer world” has become home to Lowe. Being that SCHS is a winning team, seeing the audience’s faces fill with excited anticipation and pure pride once the Chargers hit the mat is a feeling that he’ll never forget. As Devonte Lowe heads into the end of his last cheer season, his devotion to the team and great talent will surly make for another winning season. After he walks off the mat for the final time, he will head straight onto the track where he runs the 4x100-meter relay, 200-meter dash, high jump, and long jump. Devonte has never really had the feeling of just relaxing after school. Throughout his high school years, he has balanced his threesport athletic career, AP classes, and extra curricular activities. This will lead him to a successful end to his Senior Year.


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SPORTS

Sports Team of the Month Plant City High School Boys Soccer BY ASHLYN YARBROUGH | PHOTOS BY DIANNE LOTT

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lant City High School has brought a lot of pride to its hometown. The Raiders’ Boys Soccer team has proven incredible competitiveness and victory throughout their undefeated season thus far. Caleb Roberts, a Sports and Entertainment Marketing teacher at PCHS, coaches these athletes. He played four years as a starter and was center mid-fielder for the school. After high school, Roberts attended Palm Beach Atlantic University where he was a starter for four years as well. After his career as a player, he coached at Philadelphia Biblical University. He led both the men and women’s programs, and was the assistant coach at Southeastern University for three years. He was also the assistant coach for the Florida Tropics indoor soccer team for one year, the PCHS head coach girls soccer team for four years and is now in the middle of coaching the PCHS boys for his first year. “The biggest difference between

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The PCHS Boys Soccer team is composed of the following athletes: Gustavo De La Garza, David Jalomo, Carlos Ramirez, Alexes Quiroz, Zachary Mitchell, Elvis Castro, Alexis Garcia, Andrew Sotello, Ismael Contreras, Ronaldo Rodriguez, Oscar Mendoza, Eric Ugarte, Ricardo Rosales, Juan Jose Lamas, Victor Jalomo-Morales, Adrian Olivo, Samuel Felix, Brian Arteaga, Luis Leos, Jair Garcia, Juan Nolasco, Sky Copen, Joshua Cortez, Dylan Brown, Rex Lott, Epifanio Castro, Deonte Oliver, and Nain Blas-Carbajal.

coaching the boys and girls at PCHS would be the impact that I, as a male coach, can make on male athletes verses on female athletes,” explained Roberts. “You can really get more involved with the guys on a personal level.” The Raiders stand at seven wins, no losses, and one tie in this season to date. The best game they have had was against Durant High School. PCHS won 2-1 and, being that it was an inner-city rival against a really talented team, the Raiders came together and fought hard for a sweet victory. “The biggest strength with our team is the camaraderie between the boys,” Roberts stated. They’ve all known each other for a number of years and have built a tighter bond over the years as teammates. Being really good friends off the field helps them with their performance on the field. The largest obstacle the Raiders have had to overcome this season is having so many good players and trying to balance playing time between them during one game. “It

comes down to playing to win versus letting everyone have time on the field,” said Roberts. The Raiders named their captains halfway into the season on January 3rd before their game against Armwood High School. Ronnie Rodriguez (Senior) and Eric “Peanut” Ugarte (Junior) have stepped up into huge roles both on and off the field. Whether they’re playing, setting up team events, or helping with transportation, these two exhibit great leadership and dedication to the sport of soccer and their team. “Being a captain is a lot of responsibility,” expressed Ugarte. “I know my teammates look up to me and ask a lot of their captains so I feel that by me being a leader I am helping benefit the team.” The most admirable aspect of this soccer team is the family atmosphere the athletes and coach have created. Team members eat lunch in Roberts’s classroom every day and hang out for hours after school on game days playing FIFA (a soccer video game), watching movies, and of course, eating.

“We try to keep them together as much as possible, and they have really taken to the concept of being together,” Roberts explained. They PCHS Boys Soccer team plans to finish their season by winning the District Championship, a title not accomplished for this team since 2012. They plan to stay playing within the system they’ve created and hope to win the Regional Championship, which will put them in the State Finals. With their undefeated record, incredible bond, and winning mentality, you can bet that the PCHS Boys Soccer Team will go far in this season.

Junior captain Eric Ugarte rushes for the ball against a Steinbrenner opponent.


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EXTRA

Leaders in Faith Pastor Ricardo Coronado

BY CHERYL JOHNSTON | PHOTO COURTESTY OF THE CORONADO FAMILY

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astor Ricardo and Vanesa Coronado experience great joy in raising their four children and leading the multicultural congregation at La Red Ministries in Plant City. Both traveled as youngsters with their families to harvest crops, including strawberries, before settling here. In preparation to lead the church they established in 2011, he earned his Master’s degree in Religious Arts from Tabernacle Bible College and Seminary [Brandon, Florida]. Vanesa graduates with hers from Kemuel Christian University this spring. The couple believes “when one in a marriage is called into ministry, because ‘the two become one flesh,’ both have been called for servanthood.” Vanessa shares all responsibilities in leading and guiding their work and also serves wtih the praise team. As to personal relaxation and fun, Pastor Ricardo shared, “It’s all in spending TIME with my wife ALONE and going wherever direction the wind blows.” La Red is also known to be a street ministry. “Having been involved in the middle and high

schools, I see the need for more mentorship and leadership,” the pastor related, “especially in our young men.” He thanks the Gentleman’s Quest clubs at Marshall Middle and Plant City High schools, adding, “There is hope.” He describes our town as the place where “anyone can grow in many ways because opportunity awaits” and one where “there will always be strong citizens to keep pressing forward.” What’s family life like in the Coronado home? Our family of six starts with my Queen, Vanesa Coronado. We have four children: Sydny Coronado (17), Joseph Noriega (14), Isaiah True Coronado (8), and Vida Linda Coronado (5). Living with two teenagers who know all about life and relationships and two adolescents who have figured out how to team up when choices are made combines quite an emotional and debating scenario. Great moments include decisions involving glazed donuts and a Frosty versus a nutritious meal. Times like these

Pastor and Vanessa Coronado with their children (from front): Vida Linda Coronado (5); Isaiah True Coronado (8);Joseph Noriega (14); and Sydny Coronado (17). PAGE

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allow me to smile about what has been granted to me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Focus: Tell us how you determined to be a Christian. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ was a very personal moment of bliss for me. It was a time during which pleasures and happiness were influenced by what I saw around me and what was proclaimed as living ‘my desires’ to the fullest. I knew of Jesus through my grandmother’s teachings and way of life, but I had never met Jesus personally in the sense it would change my life and belief in the word ‘faith.’ I now realize my debt to Him is greater, in knowing that He revealed himself to me as written in John 6:44. What passage of Scripture holds special significance for you? Isaiah 41:9-10, is my life verse. “You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, “you are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.” It’s humbling to know that God made this decision

for me, not myself. I share my faith in Jesus knowing He has had mercy and grace on me and I should do the same with others when pointing them in His direction—understanding that the faith journey is a walk, not a race. What advice can you offer about faith? I suggest to be like Thomas the disciple. Even though others told him Jesus was alive and had been resurrected, Thomas had to see for himself and find Him. In other words, don’t rely on other people’s faith. But do allow people to point you in His direction, as Thomas was told where he was. Find your own relationship with Him and build on it. For those already Christ followers, I suggest: Stop looking for ‘happiness’ in Christ, so instead you can receive the joy of life and peace through what He has already done for our salvation. It’s possible to encounter happiness in just being enthusiastic about things in life, but true ‘Joy in the Lord’ is everlasting, come what may.


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EXTRA

Candy’s Corner BY CANDY OWENS

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld land syne! For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld land syne

F

or as long as I can remember, my family and I have sung those words on New Year’s Eve. What does it mean and where did the song originate? The words “Auld Lang Syne” translate from an old Scottish dialect meaning “Old Lone Ago” and is about love and friendship in times past. The Auld Land Syne lyrics referring to “We’ll take a Cup of Kindness yet” relate to a drink shared by men and women to symbolize friendship. First published in 1787, the song has now become a tradition as we celebrate a Happy New Year! There are many New Year’s customs and traditions people have taken part in for hundreds of years. The custom of “Eating Lucky Food” is my favorite. Every January 1st, the menu for my family is the same. Dried black-eyed peas, cornbread, white rice, fried pork chops or pork roast or ham (from the hambone used to cook with the peas, if plenty of meat remained on the bone from a previous baked ham), sliced tomatoes, green onions, collard greens, and a bottle of hot pepper sauce. That’s it! Nothing more…well maybe a cake or pie thrown in, but nothing less. No way, no how! My Mother was taught by her Mother and her Grandmother that the greens will bring you money and the peas and rice will bring you good fortune in the coming year. Other “Lucky Foods” from around the world include: Eating any ring-shaped treat, such as a donut, symbolizes “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune in Dutch homes. The Irish enjoy pastries called bannocks. The tradition

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of eating 12 grapes at midnight comes from Spain and in Swiss homes, dollops of whipped cream, symbolizing the richness of the year to come, are dropped on the floors and allowed to remain there. The tradition of “Kissing at the stroke of Midnight” is another favorite in my home. I was brought up celebrating New Year’s Eve with family and friends enjoying all kinds of yummy goodies spread out on our dining table, while we watched Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra, coming to us live from the WaldorfAstoria Ballroom in New York City. When the clock got close to striking midnight. everyone would gather around our television and count down the last ten seconds of the year. At the strike of midnight, everyone would shout “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and then turn to their Sweetie and pucker up for a big kiss. I just loved watching the people on television all dressed up in their evening gowns, furs, gloves, jewels,

tuxedos, and party hats, dancing the night away like Cinderella’s ball. My sister Karen and I always said that when we grew up we were going to the Waldorf-Astoria on New Year’s Eve, all dressed up in our evening gowns, gloves, diamonds, and furs and dance the night away with our husbands and kiss them at midnight. HA-HA! I was always told that whoever you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve is the person you’ll be kissing all year long. But, if you do not kiss your Sweetie at midnight then you may have bought yourself a year of loneliness. YIKES! The “NO WASHING” Tradition (or Superstition): My Mother, and her Mother, and her Mother, and even before them would never allow any washing of any sort on New Year’s Day. No washing of clothes, dishes, cars, pets, or anything other than your own body was allowed and still is not allowed in my home. My Mother was taught that if you wash, you’ll wash away the good for the year and that you would be washing for someone who would die that year, and also that your act of washing would actually cause death in your family. So…there is no washing and there will never be any washing in my house on January 1st. The wash can wait until January 2nd. If you think our traditions for New Year’s are strange, you might want to learn about traditions in other parts of our world. The “Rolling Cabbage in the

Front Door on New Year’s Day” tradition: In Mid-Western Europe, some families practice the tradition that as soon as they awaken, the entire family proceeds to roll the cabbage to be eaten that day in their corned-beef & cabbage meal. Everyone helps to roll and the cabbage must be rolled through the entire house (and I mean every room) to bring good luck and wealth to the family, home, and all who helped. The “Eating Herring and Sitting on a Silver Dollar” tradition: In Scandinavia, for good luck and wealth, families eat herring at midnight, while seated on a silver dollar. The “Fireworks and Making Noise at Midnight” tradition: In ancient Thailand, guns were fired at midnight to frighten off demons. In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness. In the early American colonies, pistol shots rang through the air at midnight. Today, Italians let their church bells peal, the Swiss beat drums, and the North Americans sound sirens and party horns to bid the old year farewell. Whatever your traditions are for bringing in the New Year, I wish everyone peace, love, health, and happiness in 2017! Make every day count and live every day as if it were your last!

I just loved watching the people on television all dressed up in their evening gowns, furs, gloves, jewels, tuxedos, and party hats, dancing the night away like Cinderella’s ball.


EXTRA

Wanda’s

Words of Wisdom BY WANDA “LEWIS” ANDERSON

H

appy New Year… I hope 2017 brings everyone happiness and good health. I recently discovered that old pillows make great beds for your pets. I washed and dried a few old pillows and covered them with soft blankets and my pets love them. It’s a great way to recycle old pillows. Socks make great drink cozies. Simply cut the bottom part of the sock and slip over your favorite beverage. You cut it shorter then cut a slit in the middle to sip over your coffee cup. The handle will slip through the slit you cut. If you have an old tennis racket you’re not using any longer, transform it into an earring holder. It will hold many pairs and you can either lean it up in a corner or hang it on the wall. When traveling, use shower caps to wrap your shoes in before you place them in your luggage. Duct Tape - Let’s look at a few tips! To stop the spread of a wart and speed the healing process, try a little duct tape. Just cover the wart with duct tape, changing it every few days.

Duct tape can also help seal holes in your wall around water pipes. This will help keep those pesky bugs out, too. If you have pets, here’s a great tip for getting hair off large surfaces. Wrap duct tape around a paint roller and use it to remove pet hair or lint. Sometimes when you buy new shoes they are difficult to slip on. If you don’t have a shoe horn ,try using a tablespoon. Speaking of shoes, save those foam supermarket trays that meats and vegetables are wrapped in. Cut them to the size of your shoes and insert them as inner soles. They will not only cushion your feet but they insulate them from the cold or damp ground. I wanted to extend a special “Thank you” to Dr. Marks at Turkey Creek Animal Hospital. I am so impressed by his knowledge and compassion for animals. I can’t thank him enough for getting to the “root cause” of my dog being sick and for saving my cat Bobby. You are truly a Blessing for all the animals you treat. Until next time relax, enjoy and be thankful…

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EXTRA

Artist of the Month

Willing a New Existence with Clay and Fire BY HEATHER DAVIS | PHOTOS BY JULIAN CASTORENO

pots, he finds himself getting better and better. This year Joshua has his eyes set on entering pieces in the Strawberry Festival and State Fair art show competitions. He also has goals of creating a strong online presence, as well as one day operating a full-service, open-to-thepublic pottery studio. Joshua recalls a time as a young boy when his dad would dig wells, how the clay formed in the earth was something he felt drawn to create and mold with. Today he continues working with clay in the same soulful and primitive way, continuing to “will a new existence with clay and fire.” To learn more about Joshua and his Raku Pottery, visit him at the Art Lounge Gallery, 119 E. Reynolds Street in Plant City, or visit Facebook at Born in Fire Raku Pottery [facebook.com/ borninfirerakupottery]. After a debilitating accident, Joshua “Jug” McCarty has discovered new purpose and direction through the Raku pottery he creates.

R

aku is a Japanese word that can be translated as enjoyment, happiness or comfort. For local potter, Joshua “Jug” McCarty, Raku means all of this to him and more. In the beginning of 2015, Joshua suffered a debilitating accident that took away the mobility he was used to, and along with it created a great deal of physical pain. During many months of rehabilitation, which involved time spent in a wheelchair, Joshua felt called to return to a favorite pastime, pottery, and more specifically, Raku. Creating pottery took Joshua, in his own words, “from wheelchair to the wheel.” Although he has dabbled off and on in pottery from his high school years, he has not until now given it his full attention. In just little less than one year, Joshua has both a working gallery and pottery studio,

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where he also instructs. As of December, the potter became the newest member of the Art Lounge Gallery, and as the newest member, he has already sold over six pieces. What motivates and drives Joshua to create pottery with such intensity and passion is the continued sense of wonderment and accomplishment he feels with each piece he creates. He also credits his wife, Michelle, as being his source of encouragement and a muse to him when it comes to creating and exploring new techniques and processes. While there are many different styles of Raku, much of the joy comes from the surprise and anticipation of the finished results. After his accident, Raku has given Joshua new purpose and direction. Creating pottery was something he already knew he was good at, but with each batch he creates now, which is about ten

Joshua “Jug” McCarty’s one-of-a-kind strawberry-themed vase will become a treasured possession in a Plant City native’s home.


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EXTRA

Ellie Shouse Senior of the Month BY ABBY ALMON

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llie Shouse is quite an exceptional student at Plant City High School. She is a part of many clubs and extracurricular activities, in and out of school, which makes her perfect for the Senior of the Month recognition. Ellie is the president of the school’s Skills USA and dedicates her time planning and organizing events for the club. As president, she is also in charge of organizing and directing the Every Buddy’s Beautiful Fashion Show held annually at PCHS. This fashion show demonstrates that everyone is beautiful, no matter their race, gender, ethnicity or abilities. Through this club, Ellie is also allowed the chance to work with some of those Exceptional Students with varying disabilities. She enjoys spending time to cut and style their hair for the event. Apart from Skills USA, Ellie is also in a variety of different clubs such as Civinettes, the Teenage Republicans Club, and National Honor Society.

But this highlights only her work inside school. Ellie is also an instructor at Titanium’s Gymnastic and Tumbling, where she’s learned the skills of responsibility and time management. She spends her vacation time travelling to Haiti to offer her service at the Cabaret Children’s Home for orphans. In addition, Ellie is also an active participant/volunteer in Relay for Life, raising money for cancer research. Considering her many contributions to her school and community, it is clear to see why Ellie was chosen for the Senior of the Month. FAVORITES: Subject: English Sports Team: Gators Hobbies: Surfing, traveling Band/Artist: Panic! At The Disco Quote: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever.” –Walt Disney

About the Writer: Plant City High School senior Abigayle Almon, 17, is passionate about writing. She has been the author of Senior of the Month articles in Focus for two years. The varsity swimmer also enjoys participating in the FFA and will show her third steer at the Florida Strawberry Festival in March. Abby has decided to turn her hobby and love of art into a career. She will begin college this Fall at the University of Central Florida, with a plan to major in Visual Art with a minor in Business. One day, Abby would like to own and open her own art gallery. PAGE

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EXTRA

Benji Padgett Senior of the Month BY GRESHAM STEPHENS

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f you are looking for someone with character, dedication, commitment, and talent, look no further than Plant City High School’s Senior of the Month, Benji Padgett. Through his work in school as well as in the community, Benji is a student who is always working hard and looking out for others. Benji stays busy through various school, community and church activities. At PCHS, he is a member of the Plant City Sr. FFA chapter, where he serves as the 2016-2017 Student Advisor. Through his involvement with this club, Benji has been a part of both state and national competitions, placing among the top 16 in the nation in one of those contests. His community service record is remarkable. Benji has helped with ESE students and at Robinson Elementary. He has also been instrumental in the success of the Plant City FFA Alumni cow show, has served meals to the PCHS Faculty, and weekly leads small groups at his church. Aside from his school and church activities, Benji is a talented performer, musician, and song writer.

He has been singing and performing since he was a young boy and has a desire to share his talent with others. Benji shared his talent in December at the East Bay Race Track and Christmas Lane. He also performs live music regularly at the Corner Store in Plant City. Recently, Benji was selected as a finalist in the Tampa Teen Idol contest and will go on to compete in the final round in January 2017. Benji has dedicated his time and given his talent to his school, his community and his church. His hard work, dedication, and kindness have made Benji an obvious wise choice for Senior of the Month recognition. FAVORITES: Subject: Agriculture Artist: Tori Kelly Quote: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” -William Shakespeare Restaurant: Outback Food: Sushi Movie: Suicide Squad Sports Team: Florida Gators TV Show: This is Us Hobbies: Singing, Playing Piano, Photography Plant City Hangout: Krazy Kup

About the Writer: Plant City High School senior Gresham Stephens, 17, is a lifelong member of the Plant City community. As a seven year leader in the National FFA Organization, he is passionate about agriculture and the need for positive role models and ambassadors for the industry. He serves current ly as president of the Plant City Sr. FFA Chapter and vice-president of the Hillsborough County Federation FFA chapter. His busy schedule includes AP classes, dual enrollment at Hillsborough Community College, church youth group involvement, and community service. He has written the Senior of the Month article for Focus for four years. Upon graduation, Gresham plans to attend Mississippi State University, where he will double major in Animal and Dairy Sciences and AgBusiness. PAGE

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DINING

Bella Mare Ristorante A “True” Taste of Italy Comes to Plant City BY HEATHER DAVIS | PHOTO BY JULIAN CASTORENO

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ess than eight weeks from opening, word is spreading fast about Bella Mare Ristorante, located in downtown Plant City. With little to no advertising, except for word of mouth, locals are recognizing and appreciating Bella Mare for what it is—one of the most authentic and delicious Italian dining experiences around. Those who have dined at Bella Mare for the first time have already admitted to returning three or more times in the past few weeks. The secret behind Bella Mare is Chef and Owner, Frank Dragonetti, or Franco as he is called. Franco grew up in Italy cooking at the feet of his mother, Mamma Rosa, of whom he credits learning the art and passion of Italian food. Now with over three decades of restaurant experience, during which time Franco owned and operated several successful Italian restaurants in New York City, he has now come to our town to offer and share what I would describe as nothing short than magic. Twice now I have eaten at

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Bella Mare, the first time being an impromptu occasion where Chef Franco prepared within moments a fresh dish of Carbonara. From the first bite it became evident to me why people were returning regularly. The evening of our dining review was on a Tuesday. Those who have lived in Plant City know and understand that Tuesday evenings in downtown are typically dead. Not so with Bella Mare. The feeling was lively as many faces filled the room. In the corner sat a table of women celebrating a birthday. Ed Verner from City Properties was dining with his wife and admitted this was their third visit. The atmosphere of Bella Mare is both inviting, warm, and classy without being intimidating. The right flavor of music enhances the mood, while the wait staff diligently attends to your needs. Then Franco appears along with his right hand man, Anthony, and you know you are in the best of hands. We began the evening with an Antipasti Sampler, which included Mozzarella in Carozza, Bruschetta

Di Casa, and Calamari Fritti served with a fresh marinara sauce. All appetizers had that desired melt in your mouth quality, where nothing was too heavy or overbearing. A perfect start to a meal. Our next dish was Pappardelle Mare e Monti, a pasta dish that combines elements from the sea and the mountains. The Pappardelle is prepared with fresh white shrimp, radicchio, and mushrooms combined with a garlic shallot sauce. Although the Pappardelle is not typically an item on the menu, Franco explained that they are able to prepare almost any Italian dish requested. Once again, this was another amazing dish, flavorfully balanced where each item complements the other perfectly. Our final entree was La Valdostana, which is an item on the menu. La Valdostana is a meal prepared with tender veal stuffed with prosciutto, fontina in a porcini wild mushroom sauce, and is served with potatoes Contadina. Three dishes in and I was certain I had found my favorite. The server was right when he said we would not need a knife for the veal—

it was so very tender. The menu at Bella Mare is split into three sections including Antipasti (starters), Pasta, and Entrees. Also included is a section of various flat breads and a kid’s menu, making Bella Mare kid-friendly. Many menu items are dishes you may be familiar with, while others described in Italian may be less familiar but are explained in detail by the wait staff. An exclusive wine menu is offered to complement the meal, as well as fine Italian desserts such as cannoli, tiramisu, and limoncello cake, followed by Italian espresso to complete your meal. Bella Mare is bringing a light, vitality, and an authentic dining experience that has not been experienced in downtown Plant City for some time. To repeat Franco’s words in what can only be explained as the best Italian dining experience anywhere, “This is Italy.“

Bella Mare Ristorante 115 E Reynolds St. Plant City, FL 33563 813-756-6461 Sunday – Thursday: 4:30 pm - 9 pm Friday & Saturday: 4:30 pm – 10 pm


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PARKESDALE’S SWEET LINE UP

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Strawberry Shortcake

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DINING

Peach Cobbler Perfect Finish to BBQ Dinner RECIPE BY LAYLA KEELER DRAWDY

N

o BBQ dinner is complete without some southern sweets to finish the meal! This is an old fashioned cobbler recipe you can use with the fruit of your choice and top with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip...or both!

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Layla’s cobbler was made from these fresh peaches the Drawdys picked at Sizemore Farms in Plant City.

Cobbler Recipe

it • 4 cups fresh fru • 2 cups sugar r melted • 1 stick real butte lt Sa of h nc • Pi wder • 1 tbsp baking po

Directions

e flour • 1 cup All Purpos ilk m • 1 cup ce • 1 tbsp lemon jui • Cinnamon • Nutmeg 1

Heat oven to 375. sprayed pan. to 9x13 greased or batter over Melt butter pour in salt, & milk. Pour er, gar, baking powd su p cu 1 ur, flo ix M over stir. a boil, then spoon butter, but do not tbsp lemon juice to 1 r, ga su p cu 1 it, Bring fru t stir. a tad of nutmeg top of batter. Do no cinnamon and only r, ga su th wi ly ht Then sprinkle lig lden brown. til bubbling and go Bake 40 minutes un


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can’t miss

events MLK LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST

January 15 Sunday

The MLK Leadership Breakfast is a Plant City Martin Luther King Festival tradition and a time to make new connections. Cost is $25 for the event at 7AM at the Trinkle Center, 206 N. Park Rd. For details, contact William Thomas, 813-757-6760.

PLANT CITY MLK DAY OF SERVICE & CARING

January 16 Monday & January 21 Saturday

Plant City MLK Day of Service & Caring is a 2-day effort coordinated by The Improvement League of Plant City’s 2-day. From 9AM - 1PM, volunteers will complete community service projects such as painting 2 homes of retired/elderly residents, cleaning trash around a lake, and street beautification (w/gaspowered edgers/weedeaters) along Laura Street into downtown. Advance Volunteer registration required at allforgood.com. Meet at the Bing House Museum, 205 Allen St. For more Info, e-mail William at plantcitymlk@tampabay.rr.com or phone 813-704-5800.

CAREFEST January 16 Monday – 21 Saturday

Carefest Plant City needs volunteers for its Week of Caring, a Christ-centered community service effort that unites churches, businesses, organizations and cities with the purpose of demonstrating God’s love in practical ways. It provides the very powerful benefit of introducing all involved to each other’s work in the community. Meet at the 1914 Community Center, 605 N. Collin St. For details, phone Norm Blanton at 813-326-0749.

FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL® QUEEN’S SCHOLARSHIP PAGEANT January 21 Saturday

To behold brains and beauty, attend the Florida Strawberry Festival® Queen’s Scholarship Pageant at 6PM in the Grimes Agriculture Center. The $15 tickets for the Lions Club sponsored event are available at Walden Lake CarWash, Regions Bank, or FSF Administration Office. PAGE

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JANUARY 20 FRIDAY & 21 SATURDAY • Fresh Grounded Faith Women’s Conference Friday 7 - 9:30 pm Saturday 9 am - 12:30 pm Featuring: Jennifer Rothschild, Angela Thomas Music by Meredith Andrews First Baptist Church of Plant City 503 N. Palmer St. $49; Visit fbcpc.com for event info

10 FRIDAY • Plant City Black Heritage Banquet 6:00 - 9:00 PM The Heritage Leadership Banquet engages attendees in current events that effect our local communities and our nation. A keynote speaker will express their historical endeavors and contributions of Black Americans and the value of all citizens regardless of race, creed or color. Trinkle Center at HCC Campus 1206 North Park Rd. Info: Sharon Moody - 453-7134 Cost: $30.00 per person

21 SATURDAY

11 SATURDAY

• Strawberry Classic Car Show 4-8 PM 102 N. Palmer St., Historic Downtown Plant City Info: 814-754-3707; peggy@plantcity.org www.plantcity.org

• Plant City Black Heritage Jazz Festival 10 AM - 8 PM 3-day weekend event activities features a stage of local entertainment, unique artists, ethnic foods, and parade. Dr. Martin Luther King Recreation Center 1601 E. Dr. MLK Blvd. Plant City Info: Sharon Moody 813-453-7134; www.celebration2.homestead.com Free to the public

27 FRIDAY

• Main Street Food Truck Rally 5:00 - 9:00 PM Plant City Popcorn Day Includes movie or mini-movie locations around downtown, food trucks. Union Station Train Depot 102 N. Palmer St. Info: Karen Collins 813-659-4209 Free to the public

FEBRUARY 4 SATURDAY • Cork Elementary Color Run 10:00 AM 3501 N. Cork Rd. Info: Call 813-757-9353 • Plant City Bike Fest 5:00 - 9:00 PM Now in its15th year! Event features bike show/competition, music, food & vendors, restaurants, & shops Bike show registration 5 - 7PM. $10 entry per class Paid entries compete in Best of Show & People’s Choice Categories: Custom, Metric, Harley, Vintage (pre-’90), Anything Goes, Trike, Stock & Bagger. Union Station Depot, 102 N. Palmer St. Info: 813-754-3707 or plantcity.org/majorevents Free to the Public • Celebrity Chef Benefiting the United Food Bank 7:00 PM Trinkle Center @ HCC Campus Cost: $100/person Info: Leigh Scott - 813-764-0625

• The Florida Opry “Country to Pop: Tribute to Patsy Cline” 7 PM 1914 PCHS Community Center 605 N. Collins St. Info: Shelby Bender, The East Hillsborough Historical Society, Inc. (813)757-9226 Tickets: Adults $15; Students $8 Thefloridaopry.org

12 SUNDAY

• Plant City Black Heritage Gospel Concert 4 PM – 6 PM Celebrating Black History Mt. Olive Baptist Church Ball Street, Plant City, FL Info: Sharon Moody 813-453-7134

14 TUESDAY

• Happy Valentine’s Day


ONGOING 1914 PLANT CITY HIGH SCHOOL COMMUNITY CENTER 605 N. Collins St. Hosts several ongoing opportunities:

• 1) Quintilla Geer Bruton Archives Center History/Genealogy library & archives research facility) Tues. 10AM-6PM; Wed.-Sat. 1-5PM Evenings by appointment • 2) East Hillsborough Historical Society Classroom Gallery Art display by East Hillsborough Art Guild members Thursday - Saturday, 1-5PM Evenings by appointment • 3) Pioneer Museums Tour schedule: call 813-757-9226 E-mail: qcenter@tampabay.rr.com

MONDAYS WEEKLY

• Plant City Daybreak Rotary Club 7 AM South Florida Baptist Hospital Community Rm. Info: George Banning, 813-759-1638

1ST & 3RD MONDAYS MONTHLY

• Improvement League of Plant City 7 PM Historic Glover School Conference Room 5104 Horton Rd. Info: William Thomas, 813-757-6760

2ND & 4TH MONDAYS MONTHLY

TUESDAYS WEEKLY

2ND THURSDAYS MONTHLY

• Plant City Commission Meeting 7:30 PM City Hall, 302 W. Reynolds St. City Clerk: 813-659-4237 (December: 2nd Monday only)

• Plant City Lions Club 12 Noon @BuddyFreddy’s Restaurant 1101 Goldfinch Drive Info: Tony Lee, 813-752-7202

• GFWC Junior Woman’s Club of Plant City 7 PM @1110 N. Wheeler St. Info: Lisa Rhodes, 813-376-8294

2ND MONDAY MONTHLY

• Plant City Garden Club 10 AM (Sept. thru May) info: Christy Linke; 732-322-8392

1ST TUESDAYS MONTHLY

• Economic Development Corp. Meeting 2 PM @PC Chamber unless announced 106 N. Evers St. Info: Jake Austin, 863-712-0655

1ST TUESDAYS MONTHLY (SEPT-MAY) • Arts Council of Plant City 7 PM Chamber of Commerce Public Room 106 N. Evers St. Info: Dodie White, 813-752-5156

2ND TUESDAYS MONTHLY

• GFWC Woman’s Club of Plant City 10:30 AM @1110 N. Wheeler St. Info: Nancy Miller, 813-754-2544

2ND & 4TH TUESDAYS MONTHLY

• American Legion– Norman McLeod Post#26 6 PM @2207 W. Baker St. 813-752-8608 Info: Nancy Miller, 813-754-2544

• Recovery for Life 6:30 - 8PM 12-step Bible-based program to help w/ addictions Lorena Jaeb Rainbow House 504 N. Palm Dr., Plant City Info: Debbie Ray 813-763-1562

WEDNESDAYS WEEKLY

• Walking Club 7:30AM for 45-minute walk Meet @Bruton Library Info: Susan Miles 813-757-9215 • Plant City Kiwanis Club 12 Noon Info: David Wolf 813-717-9300

THURSDAYS WEEKLY

• Toastmasters 7:30 AM @ PC Chamber 106 N. Evers St. Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Services 9AM - 4PM @PC Chamber, 106 N. Evers St. Dottie @813-204-9267 re: consultation

FRIDAYS WEEKLY

• Top 40 Country Fried Fridays 9PM – 2AM Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Grill, 106 E. SR 60 813-737-4444

FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS WEEKLY • O’Brien’s Pub Acoustic Happy Hour 5:30 – 8:30PM Live Music 9PM ‘til close 1701 S. Alexander St. 813-764-8818 • Music in The Loft @Krazy Kup Fridays 6:33-8:33 PM Saturdays 8:33-10:33PM 101 East J. Arden Mays Blvd. 813-752-1220; Facebook

3RD SATURDAYS MONTHLY

• Strawberry Classic Car Show 4-8 PM 102 N. Palmer St., Historic Downtown Plant City Info: 814-754-3707 or peggy@plantcity.org www.plantcity.org

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SPORTS TEAMS Created by Calvin R. and Jackie Mathews

SPORTS TEAMS COME JOIN THE FOCUS COMMUNITY

“LIKE” US ON FACEBOOK FACEBOOK.COM/ THEFOCUSMAGAZINE

ACROSS 1. Upper limb 4. __ Minor 8. Piece of china 11. Aftershave brand 15. Melville novel 16. Exhibit 17. Full of malice 19. Football team’s TD attempts 22. Baseball team’s golf equipment 23. Crew member 24. Counterfeit 25. Rib 27. Landlord’s sign 28. Nebraska river 30. Sink 33. In the style of 35. Gen. Robert __ 36. Football team’s preferences 42. Shallowest of 5 44. Fish 45. Oblong pastries 47. Final 50. Official, for short 52. Brit. military group praised by Churchill 54. Cheerful tunes 55. Cling 57. Drink like Fido 60. Young socialite 61. Basement 62. Roger or Demi 63. Esprit de corps 65. Music from Jamaica 67. Abbr. carved in a cornerstone 68. Baseball team’s detractors 72. Saloon 75. Thirst quencher 76. Like a night sky 77. Lying flat 79. Church season 84. “Norma __” 86. Commit a crime 87. Artist’s purchases 88. Name on many tractors 89. Scottish port 90. Syllable before mo or pitch 92. Encounter 93. Peach’s cousin 95. Make __ at; flirt with 100. First lady’s man 102. Football team’s supporters 105. Bound 108. Spoil 109. River seen from the Eiffel Tower 110. More downcast 112. Songs for one 117. Yellow or red 119. Haughtiness

121. 122. 124. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132. 133. 134.

by Calvin R. & Jackie Mathews 31. Letters before an alias 32. Wrongdoing 34. Dog show sponsor’s letters 36. 1960s singer Bobby 37. Dry 38. He, in Latin 39. Tack 40. Fish’s organ 41. Mex. bride-to-be 43. Indignation 46. Uzbekistan, once: abbr. 47. Like a poor excuse 48. Commotions 49. Injection 51. Like a florist shop aroma 53. Takes in 56. Yank’s foe 58. Common verb 59. Analyze grammatically 60. Prohibit, in legalese 61. Aries or Taurus 63. Mr. Gibson 64. WWII naval vessel 66. Solution 69. Deserter 70. Spanish gold 71. Baden-Baden, for one 72. Vomer or clavicle 73. Feed the kitty 74. Relax 78. Gold-__; having a fancy border 79. City in Oklahoma 80. Actor Johnny __

Rather, for one Baseball team’s victories Football team’s abilities Provided with explanatory notes Electromotive unit Coolers River in Belgium __ Charisse Fluctuate Head movement

DOWN 1. Unprincipled 2. Noisy quarrel 3. Frankenstein’s creation 4. Meat inspection agcy. 5. Geometric shapes 6. Sty resident 7. Wheat fiber 8. Involving a reason 9. Atheism 10. Mac alternatives 11. Folksinger Guthrie 12. Umpire’s call 13. Crest container 14. Helper: abbr. 15. Papal veil 17. TV maker, once 18. Part of fall: abbr. 19. Punch 20. Pronoun 21. Smart 26. High school subj. 29. Wobble 1

2

3

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Aloe __ __ the Red Head holder Fast horse Vegetable container Very cruel act Spanish article Above, in poetry El __ Sour Enjoy the slopes One of 100: abbr. Like Eskimos & Sarah Palin Drunk “Is that so?” Confused Rings out Soon-to-be alums. Hosp. personnel Word to a dog Has Queue __ about; approximately Sound barrier breaker: abbr. Acid, for short Ratio words WWII military Ms. Climbing plant John, to Ringo Solemn vow

22

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© Puzzle Features Syndicate PAGE

77

S T A Y

O W N S

L I N E

A D V D E E A P R P A L A M E

A D O S

S H O T

A O M B R O O A R P L A E L

R M U O O S W N S D S H A T T E E E V E R I E T R E E R E R E M B R E A L E N T R E A I C O T C K E R R O O S C N S W I O T A T R C Y

S T O N E D F L O W E R Y

A P R A E R S A E R A P B A S L O S D

A C E R B L S T

R S A H OW OWN S M T B A S I I K I N A N G

C U R A N C U B E A S E N A L G S L I L E E R A F D E B E S K B O O E A R R Y R O B S L S S A K E R S I N E A I I L L S V O L T Y O Y O

Sports Teams

P A C O R S C L T O A K I N C L A L I C E L A R S P R P A I O M D A M L E S A D R S S K I A D N O

A D D L E D B O N E G I L L F O U L

P E R A N L S S A N T E

R E S T

S R S T S A R T U B E

A S S T


~ Ron W., a patient of South Florida Baptist Hospital

The Care You Need, When You Need It.

Ron had always been healthy and active. But then he faced a life-threatening blood clot. Ron

chose South Florida Baptist Hospital for their advanced technology and the excellent care he

Our Specialties:

knew he’d receive. A member of the community since 1953, South Florida Baptist Hospital

n ER: Efficient medical treatment for minor or major emergencies and illnesses

was built on quality, compassionate care. You’ll find a highly skilled and experienced team that works to make patients and visitors as comfortable as possible during their hospital experience. When you’re treated at South Florida Baptist Hospital, you’ll feel at home, close to home — all your health care needs are covered, without ever leaving Plant City.

Choose South Florida Baptist Hospital. Let South Florida Baptist Hospital be your partner for getting you well and keeping you well. Fill out a health profile online at SouthFloridaBaptistCare.org and you’ll be sent a complimentary travel first aid kit.

n Surgery: Large operating rooms, high-tech equipment and spacious recovery rooms create a pleasant environment for patients n Heart: State-of-the-art heart and vascular center offering cardiac diagnostic services and procedures

BC1607362-1016


TAMPA • WESLEY CHAPEL • BRANDON • LAKELAND • OCALA • BRADENTON

FOCUS Plant City 16-01  

FOCUS Magazine Plant City Edition Issue 16-01 January 2017

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