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Contents Table of
FOCUS is proud to present its annual Holiday Gift Guide to encourage shopping small and shopping local this gift-giving season. Check out the latest offerings from our city’s local businesses to find something from everyone on your list.
Outback Plant City is serving up delicious new flavors this holiday season while also giving back to those in need. Meet Managing Partner Ryan Danielik and the Outback team, as they discuss the 2021 holiday season.
Editor Cierra Craft sat down with three local veterans who reflected on their military service and share stories of their transition into civilian life. Meet Elias Calvillo, Greg Williams, and Jordan Williams, as they discuss their passions after a life of service to our country.
FEATURE: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
SPOTLIGHT: OUTBACK PLANT CITY
FEATURE: VETERANS' VOICES
FOCUS PLANT CITY
focusplantcity.com / Issue 20-11 / November 2021
DINING: TACO REY
An unsuspecting little shop, Taco Rey serves up the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine. This women-managed and operated business dishes out tacos, burritos, and fajitas, with homemade salsa, pico de gallo, and more.
Clothed in Grace is a Christian clothing boutique in downtown Plant City, owned and operated by worship leader and prophetic minister Jenny Weaver. Learn more about Weaver, the creative process behind each item, and the modern, stylish approach to faith-inspired clothing.
Satisfy that sweet tooth with a trip to Armature Works or Davis Islands to shop Bake’n Babes. Owned by Julie Curry, Bake’n Babes serves gourmet cookies, over-the-top milkshakes, and triple-layer brownies. Discover why Bake’n Babes is FOCUS’ first Eat + Drink Tampa Bay feature.
BUSINESS: CLOTHED IN GRACE
DINING: BAKE’N BABES
Cheryl Johnston Emily Topper Jennifer Jordan Katie Hamilton
Candy Owens Gil Gott Natalie Sweet
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 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. 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) 7078783 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The staff will fix the error in a timely manner. FOCUS Magazine is published monthly and is available through local Plant City businesses, restaurants and many local venues. 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.
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As the holidays approach, my mind is filled with so many family memories of Thanksgiving and Christmases past. At 6 or 7 years old, I got my first dirt bike and I remember riding it and my grandma said, “I can ride this!” Grandma crashed and it dragged her across the asphalt. She had scars the rest of her life from that Christmas accident. The following Christmas, my brother Derek and I got a two-seater go-kart. It was so low to the ground, my grandpa said, “the kids are completely safe, there’s no way to flip this thing.” Well, he took a left turn too fast and flipped the go-kart. At the time it was serious, but looking back, it’s pretty funny that two Christmases in a row, my grandparents were hurt from our gifts. So, this year, please keep the grandparents off of the dirt bikes, go-karts, and other rides. This year is the first holiday season without Derek. Not a day has gone by since his passing that I haven’t thought of him, but I know he will be looking down on our family and his son, Gavin as we celebrate the holidays.
SMALL TOWN USA
As you begin purchasing gifts for family and friends, check out the enclosed FOCUS’ annual Holiday Gift Guide. The participating merchants are family-owned and counting on your patronage to provide for their own families this holiday season. The pandemic hit businesses hard, with the Federal Reserve reporting 200,000 businesses—mostly small— closing between March 2020 and February 2021 and thousands more are still at risk. Your patronage could give them a fighting chance. When shopping with our city’s merchants, it’s always a personalized service and I experience smaller crowds, no hustle and bustle of the big retailers. Ryan Danielik of Plant City Outback is on our cover for the first time. He and the Outback team give back to the community throughout the year, but go above and beyond during the holiday season. The restaurant is unveiling their 2021 holiday seasonal menu in this issue and sharing how they’re impacting lives in our city with charitable giving. Sandwiched by our holiday content is a feature dedicated to the servicemembers of the United States Armed Forces. Three local veterans who embody the American Spirit not only served our country proudly, but returned home and continue to serve the needs—spiritual, fitness and a bit of fun—of our city. FOCUS would like to thank U.S. Navy Petty Officer Greg Williams, Sergeant Jordan Williams with the U.S. Army, and Sergeant Elias Calvillo of the Florida Army National Guard for their service to the our country and their time in participating in this feature. In an issue packed with veteran stories and holiday giving, I am reminded how blessed we are to live in Plant City. We epitomize the phrase “small town USA,” when we gather on main street for new mural unveilings and sponsor the little league team. It is my hope as you read this issue of FOCUS, you’re not only filled with excitement for the holidays, but you also are filled with gratitude. Gratitude for our city and gratitude for our freedoms. As you say prayers over Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, please pray for our veterans, active military, and first responders.
Mike Floyd PAGE
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Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee Designates Plant City Main Street as the Florida Main Street Program of November On November 9, Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee announced that Plant City Main Street has been designated the November 2021 Florida Main Street Program of the Month. “Plant City Main Street’s revitalization efforts are inspiring,” said Secretary Lee. “By supporting their local businesses through community partnerships, special events, education, and promotion opportunities, Plant City Main Street is helping to create a vibrant downtown district for residents and visitors to enjoy.” Plant City Main Street was designated in 1985 as one of five pilot communities of the Florida Main Street program. Since their reorganization in 2018, Plant City Main Street has been effective in bringing people, businesses, and jobs back to the downtown. Plant City Main Street has seen a recent resurgence of business openings within their district. Referred to locally as the “Evers Street Wave,” the business recruitment efforts were spearheaded by Plant City Main Street with support from community partners. In May 2021, these revitalization efforts and new businesses were highlighted to the community with the Evers Street Block Party. The block party featured live music, and food and drink were offered at the participating businesses. Plant City Main Street used their “Topics on Tap” events to recruit and educate existing and potential business owners about opportunities in downtown, including grant programs available through the City of Plant City. Matt Morrow, owner of The Tipsy Bookworm, summed up the impact of these efforts; “After I attended ‘Topics on Tap’ and Plant City Main Street walked me through the city grants, it became clear that The Tipsy Bookworm belongs in downtown Plant City.” Plant City Main Street also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including Yoga in the Park and Last Friday in Downtown themed food truck rallies, which average 1,000 attendees per rally. Since their reorganization, Plant City Main Street has reported approximately $1,044,782 in public and private reinvestments and welcomed 22 net new businesses and 91 net new full-time and parttime jobs to the district. The organization has also reported 3,825 volunteer hours. For more information on Plant City Main Street, visit PlantCityMainStreet.org or Facebook.com/PCMainStreet. For more information on the Florida Main Street program, visit FloridaMainStreet.com or Facebook.com/FloridaMainStreet. PAGE
PLANT CITY PERSONALITIES!
CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS?
HERE IS YOUR CLUE: Look at this Bright Eyed, Freckle Faced, Ginger Haired little Baby Doll! Who would have known that this little Sweetheart would end up with a degree in Braaivleis? From Sauteing to Stewing to Smoking, this person is quite the Hash Slinger! He is also a Go Gator and Golfer.
IF YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS CALL CANDY O AT FOCUS MAGAZINE! 813-707-8783 The first 3 people to guess the correct person will win a PRIZE!!!! (The TRUE identity will be given in next month’s FOCUS Magazine) LAST MONTH’S PERSONALITY: DAVID WOLF
PC Optimist Club to Open Annual Christmas Tree Lot on Nov. 22
or nearly 60 years, the Plant City Optimist Club has been helping the youth of the Plant City community, following its motto of “Friend of Youth.” Their work is mainly funded by Christmas tree sales each year. Last year some larger tree sizes were difficult to obtain, and this year proves to be a challenge as well. During the recession years of 2008-2011, growers did not plant many new seedlings to replace trees being cut those years. Now, ten to twelve years later, those trees would be ready for harvesting as the larger nine-foot, ten-foot, and eleven-foot trees. The distributor has advised the club that the larger trees may be in short demand again this year. “We encourage our customers to come out early to purchase their Christmas tree this year as the supply is questionable for the larger trees,” stated Jeff Arnold, Tree Lot Chairman for the club. “We have been told our first shipment is confirmed, but any future shipments during the season may not be available.” Each year, the club sells over 900 Christmas trees at their lot. For several years, the club has offered a discount on a tree purchase with the donation of three or more cans or boxes of non-perishable food items. Partnering with the United Food Bank of Plant City, the commodities will be used for helping local families during the holiday season. "With hundreds of people at the tree lot each season, it is only natural that they might want a discount on their tree, and if they donate some cans or boxes of non-perishable food, we will do just that," stated Arnold. "There are so many families struggling to get by and we thought that this is a way for our club, and the community as well, to assist youngsters whose parents may not be able to provide a nutritious holiday meal." "We do not know how many families we will be able to help, but we hope it will be a lot," said Jack Holland, two-time past president of the local Optimist Club and Director of the City of Plant City Parks &
Recreation Department. "There are a number of families that struggle to keep their children involved in productive activities and off the streets. With this help, maybe these parents will be able to involve their children in one more program to help develop them into our strong leaders of the future." The club has only two fundraisers each year - the Christmas tree lot and a golf tournament, recently held this past October. All proceeds from these two fundraisers go to support local youth programs such as high school graduate $1,000 college scholarships and $500 tech school scholarships, cooking and feeding all the participants at the annual city-sponsored Easter Egg Hunt, recognizing outstanding seniors at Plant City High School during a Youth Appreciation banquet, hosting a Respect for Law banquet for middle school students, participating in the Citizen of the Year program, hosting a youth Oratorical Contest and providing Kid Comfort Packs for the Plant City Police Department. The Optimists are also involved with area youth sports by sponsoring a Little League baseball team, donating to the Plant City High School Booster Club, co-sponsoring youth sports competitions in football, basketball, and soccer as well as being a financial and manpower contributor for the city-run youth flag football, basketball, and soccer programs. The club is offering a $5 discount on any tree on the lot with the donation of three or more cans or boxes of non-perishable food. The Optimist tree lot opens on November 22 and they will sell trees at least through the second week of December. It is located at Maki Road and West Alexander Street, just outside Plant City High School, and is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information on the Plant City Optimist Club or its activities, please drop an email to email@example.com or check out their website at www.plantcityoptimistclub.org. PAGE
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Aspire Plant City Recognizes Gwendolyn Thomas as 2nd Annual Woman of Distinction By Jennifer Jordan
n November 3, Aspire Plant City members came together at Keel and Curley Winery to honor Gwendolyn Thomas at its Woman of Distinction program. The second recipient of the award, Gwendolyn Thomas has lived a life of service wherever she has lived. With her dedication to volunteering and exceptional leadership skills, she has given young women someone to look up to and is an example of what selflessness means. So, who is a Woman of Distinction? Well, the Woman of Distinction honors a woman in the community who has been a role model and/or mentor to other women and girls, exhibits leadership skills, and advocates for positive social change. Marsha Passmore, the first recipient of the Woman of Distinction award, stated about Thomas, “She’s got a great sense of humor, she’s intelligent beyond words, and many of the things she has done have been self-taught. Everything that the Aspire organization stands for and more identifies with the ideals and the persona of Gwen Thomas.” Marrying her high-school sweetheart Bill Thomas in 1969 after meeting at Marshall High School (now Marshall Middle Magnet), they found themselves traveling all over for Bill’s Army career, including living in Germany. While in Germany, Thomas learned to cook German cuisine and is known by close friends for baking delicious cakes. It was in Germany that she and Bill also really learned about sharing and giving back to the community, as it was easy to develop a camaraderie with other military families who lived in the housing areas. She attended Canal Zone College and Armstrong State College and earned a degree in business administration. Gwendolyn and Bill have two sons together, William Jr. and Chad.
Once the Thomas’ moved back to Plant City after Bill’s service was complete, they wanted to make a difference in their own community. Volunteering for years, Gwendolyn Thomas is currently active in many organizations in the area, including Bealsville Incorporated, Improvement League of Plant City, Hillsborough County Parks Conservation and Recreation Department, the Antioch MB Church, the NAACP, and Tampa Bay Academy of Hope. She is on the Executive Board for Brooks-DeBartolo High School, part of the Plant City Community Resources Service Center, serves on the Hillsborough County Action Board, and serves on the Plant City Photo Archives Board. Thomas is Vice President of the Arts Council of Plant City, Secretary-Treasurer for the Plant City Library Foundation, a member of the Plant City Woman’s Club, and volunteers and acts as Chairman of the Board for the Plant City United Food Bank. She also serves on the SFBH Diamonds and Denim Committee and is a Strawberry Festival Ambassador Captain. Even with all those organizations, foundations, and committees keeping her busy, she still managed to start her own organization. Thomas is the founder of Young Ladies of the Millennium. The organization teaches life skills to young women ages 11-18. 100% of the students in her organization have graduated high school or will, and 80% have attended college or a trade school. Upon receiving the honor for all her achievements, Thomas stated, “I didn’t do it for notoriety, I didn’t do it for a pat on the back, I did it because I felt that it should be done, that it needed to be done.” If you know or see Gwendolyn Thomas around Plant City, be sure to congratulate her on receiving Aspire Plant City’s Woman of Distinction honor. If you would like to learn more about Aspire Plant City and/or join the organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www. aspireplantcity.wildapricot.org.
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Keel and Curley Launches New Wine Club By Jennifer Jordan
Walden Lake Review BY NATALIE SWEET
alden Lake Community Association Board Meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7:00 at the Walden Lake Community Association office building on Griffin Boulevard in Walden Lake. The next meeting will December 20. Please keep an eye on the announcement boards at all entrances for dates and times of special meetings and events. Meetings are held in person although you can log in to www.WaldenLake. org and view the meeting virtually. You can also review the video of the meeting if you are registered on the HOA website. Mark your calendars for Saturday, December 4 from 9 AM to Noon for the Donuts with Santa event for Walden Lake residents. You must have a decal on your car for the kids to collect a stocking. Photos with Santa will also be available this year. Please RSVP by November 29 to BetteG@WaldenLake.org or by calling the HOA office at 813-754-8999. The food trucks at the HOA Building/Sports Complex are on the second Fridays and last Sundays of each month. If you have not taken advantage of the delicious offerings, give it a try! Mmmm…. Sauce Man will be here on Sunday, November 28 from 11-8. Keep an eye out for emails from the HOA, the entrance boards, and on Nextdoor for more information. During the month of October, there were 9 sales in Walden Lake and 2 sales in Walden Lake East. The average sale price was $326,825 and an average of 7 days on the market.
The October sales are as follows: Address / Sales Price / Living Area / Pool / Garage 106 Capri Court South / $185,000 / 1581 Sq’ / Community / 2 Car 105 Seville Court North / $230,000 / 1581 Sq’ / Community / 2 Car 1321 Juniper Circle / $270,500 / 1695 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 4317 Barret Avenue / $292,000 / 1511 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 2306 Beechwood Drive / $313,777 / 1957 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 2320 Walden Place North / $340,000 / 2368 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 2905 Laurel Meadow Court / $354,900 / 2103 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 2835 Hammock Drive / $375,000 / 2267 Sq’ / No / 2 Car 3211 Stevenson Street / $386,000 / 1962 Sq’ / Private / 2 Car 1747 Brookstone Way / $412,900 / 2635 Sq’ / No / 2 Car
Love wine? Love Keel & Curley? Then you’re going to love their new wine club! As a Keel & Curley wine club member, you will receive 10% off all purchases in the tasting room, a complimentary gift from Keel & Curley Winery, and receive bottle service while dining in the tasting room. You’ll also receive a glass of Keel & Curley wine on the date of pick-up and get access to exclusive dining reservations for the tasting room. Wines will be chosen by Keel & Curley Winery based on your unique flavor profile to ensure you get the freshest wines that match your taste each month. Memberships start at $25/month and go up to $85/month depending on the number of bottles you want and if you’re picking up your own wine or having it delivered to your doorstep. If you’re picking up the wine in person, you will receive an email when your wine is ready to be picked up. If you choose a wine club delivery membership, you will receive an email when your wine is delivered through UPS. Shipping is included in the cost of the wine club delivery membership. If you enjoy farm-fresh wine and supporting local businesses, then sign up for Keel & Curley’s wine club membership today either at www.keelfarms.com or at the winery, located at 5202 Thonotosassa Road. For further questions about their wine club membership, contact Keel & Curley at 813-752-9100 or email@example.com. PAGE
3212 Alcott Avenue / $435,000 / 2169 Sq’ / Private / 2 Car There is an uptick in the number of homes currently available in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East with 12 active listings for sale priced from $270,000 to $2.2 Million, with an average price of $561,417 or $412,455 without the $2.2M listing. There are 17 properties Pending Contract in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East priced from $299,900 to $799,900. The average list price of $418,724 an average of 10 days on the market. Is this a good time to be a seller? Yes! Year to date, there have been 156 homes sold with an average price of $350,374 compared to the same time period in 2020 when 173 homes sold for an average price of $274,697. Although fewer homes have sold this year, this is a 27.55% price increase in year over year average. Lack of inventory and continued low-interest rates are just 2 reasons for such a large increase in home prices. There will be many New Construction homes coming on the market in 2022 in several communities around the City. We expect demand to continue within Walden Lake, although many buyers may opt to purchase one of the new homes due to energy efficiency, modern floorplans, no remodeling needed or major issues to worry about for several years. Feel free to contact me with any questions about this article or about your real estate needs. NSweet@KW.com or 813-758-9586.
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A Message of Hope: Life Family Church to host “Awaken Plant City” on Dec. 5
Marshall Middle Magnet:
IB Program to Fully Launch Soon By Jennifer Jordan
By Cheryl Johnston One local church is determined to share joy and hope with everyone in our community as we enter the year-end holiday season. For their “Awaken Plant City” event on Sunday, December 5 at the Plant City Stadium, Life Family Church and Jack Myers Ministries mailed 35,000 postcard invites to area residents. Calling it “A Night of Joy and Miracles,” Dr. Jack Myers and his wife, Rev. Marie Myers, feel it’s the perfect time to spread more cheer in a year that has not been easy for many. “We just want the community to come together and celebrate,” said Pastor Jack. “We want to bring a message of hope. He continued, “As a result of the pandemic, people have experienced job loss and financial difficulties. It seemed many were losing hope. We felt led of the Lord to share some joy and family fun.” “So, our church and ministry members decided to invest funds and energy to help families who may need food or Christmas gifts for their children,” added Rev. Marie. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. for the fun that begins at 5:00 p.m. Families can enjoy special live music performances along with praise and worship, free groceries (while supplies last), toy giveaways for the children, and a chance to win a car. Three food trucks will also sell meals and refreshments on site. The evening’s highlight will be an encouraging 15-minute message of hope presented by Dr. Jack Myers. For those desiring personal prayer for specific needs, a ministry team will also be available. Tickets for this free event at 1810 S. Park Road are available at AwakenPlantCity.com. Those who register online will receive one extra raffle ticket for the car giveaway simply by bringing their eTicket or printed Eventbrite confirmation to the registration area at the stadium. Andrew Bartlein welcomes the “opportunity to be a blessing to Plant City with giveaways.” But, he added, “Our heart is always to see this country come back to Jesus…to see Plant City awaken to the truth of Gospel. We desire that people will be touched and changed and awakened to the love Jesus has for everyone.” Worship leader Melanie Myer shared, “We’re also very excited about the support of local businesses through contributions and advertising. As a church, we need to be involved in helping our community’s families know they are loved. We want to serve them, not just spiritually, but also with food and Christmas gifts. We definitely want to point everyone to the Gospel.” Church member Matt Costello explained his excitement about the outreach. “I’m excited because Awaken Plant City is a similar project to what we do overseas and I look forward to seeing what type of revival might be sparked here and in our country.” Rev. Marie encourages everyone to join in “sharing the joy.” She added, “We want our community’s families to know we care about their concerns and that even in these chaotic times, there is hope for our future.” PAGE
Thousands of Plant City residents have attended the history-filled school on Maryland Avenue since it was built in 1957. If you ask residents from different generations which Marshall they went to, you might get different responses. Some residents might say they went to “Marshall High School”, which taught local African American students until 1969. Some might answer, “Marshall Middle School” which it was named in 1995. In recent years, students would answer, “Marshall Middle Magnet”. However, current and future students will now know it as an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, thanks to former Principal Daphne Blanton, current Principal Dennis Mayo, teachers and staff at Marshall Middle Magnet, and Plant City Officials such as City Commissioner Mary Mathis and Taylor Clark of the Plant City EDC. For Plant City IB students, they had Lincoln Elementary School and Strawberry Crest High School to attend. However, when it came to a middle school, local IB students had to find a school in Tampa and surrounding areas to attend. In October 2019, Marshall Middle Magnet decided to change that and submitted their candidacy application to the International Baccalaureate to become an IB Middle Years Programme school. Launching with sixth grade in the fall of 2020, students are being guided by the International Baccalaureate IB World School Philosophy. The rigorous academic program empowers students to pursue lives of purpose and meaning while striving to be openminded, principled thinkers. Students learn to view the environment, the arts, history, science, and human interaction in a macrocosmic, larger-world sense. Students at Marshall have academic options including high school credit courses that consist of algebra, agriculture foundations, Spanish and more. Marshall also has a nationally recognized FFA program that prepares students for the challenges of feeding a growing population. Electives such as the LEGO Robotics Club help students expand their middle school experience, allowing them to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Marshall also offers Culinary Arts, Math League, and AVID college readiness. These and many more features are requirements that the International Baccalaureate needs to see before fully approving a school to have an IB program. For the upcoming 2022-2023 school year, Marshall Middle Magnet plans to add the eighth grade to the IB program, which will officially make those students the first graduating class from the Marshall Middle Magnet IB Program. Principal Dennis Mayo stated about Marshall’s future, “I know that teachers, Plant City officials, and parents are excited about the changes happening at Marshall. It’s amazing to see how far the school has come and how hard the staff have worked by taking extra classes and gaining certain certifications to fulfill our goal of becoming an IB school.” For further questions about the IB program and other changes at Marshall Middle Magnet, visit their website at www.hillsboroughschools. org/marshall or call 813-757-9360.
Tangled Threads: Local Quilts of Valor Group Changes Veterans’ Lives, One Quilt at a Time By Jennifer Jordan
n 2003, the founder of Quilts of Valor, Catherine Roberts’ son Nate was deployed to Iraq, post 9/11. As she was sleeping one night, she had a vivid dream where a young man was sitting on the side of his bunk hunched over. Feelings of despair swiftly filled her dream, as she could suddenly see the man’s war demons trying to bring him down. Then, almost like how a movie changes scenes, Roberts saw this man wrapped in a quilt. That quilt changed the man’s demeanor, uplifting him and bringing him comfort. It was upon awakening that Roberts knew the message of her dream: quilts equal healing. The Quilts of Valor Foundation was then born, with the goal of creating heirloom quality quilts to award to veterans for their service, sacrifice, and valor in serving our nation. They quilt to honor and comfort the veterans and service members touched by war. A Quilt of Valor must be quilted, not tied, which means either hand or machine quilting is used to create them. A Quilt of Valor can be awarded to any living veteran who was honorably discharged. Since QOV began keeping records in 2010, they have presented over 286,000 quilts, providing veterans with feelings of love, safety, and comfort. As of June 2020, QOV has over 10,000 volunteer members across 600 groups in all 50 States, Canada and overseas. QOV is represented by almost 700 volunteer leaders whose objective is to bring healing to Service Members and Veterans. For Veterans in Plant City, Valrico, Brandon, and anywhere from South Tampa, MacDill Airforce Base to Bradenton, QOV group #71033 is responsible for creating their quilts. Tangled Threads Group #71033 is led by Tammy Arnold, a Plant City resident for the past 18 years and retired Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force after 27 years. She has been quilting for over 30 years and joined Quilts of Valor after visiting their website and hearing friends in her quilting group wanting to join. Arnold and her friends then decided to create their own QOV group in December 2019 at just 10 members. Arnold then became the group leader in January 2020. Currently at 25 members, including six Long Armers who make the quilts, Tangled Threads has presented over 100 quilts since they formed. Arnold said about Tangled Threads, “We go a step beyond to make our quilts special and unique. We create the labels
ourselves and, on each label, we include personal information such as their unit, branch, jobs, and medals, who pieced the top, who quilted it and our group presenting it. We research about each veteran’s journey and as we present them with their quilt, we tell their story to remind them why they are being honored with a Quilt of Valor.” Tangled Threads generally takes a couple of days to make a quilt, get it quilted, bound and labels sewn on, with World War II veterans and veterans in hospice receiving priority. The quilt can be presented anywhere but must be presented to the veteran for who it was made for. They get nominations through the Quilts of Valor’s website, but also team up with local American Legions, AMVETS, Marine Corps League, Elk’s Club and even presented at the Chaplaincy Care Banquet of Heroes in October 2021 to get the word out to Veterans to present quilts. Once a month, Tangled Threads visits the American Legion Post 325 in Ellenton, Florida to perform quilt presentations. They make the presentations special with the Honor Guard presenting colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, a Chaplain, and even a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, Sonia DeYampert, who recites the Veterans’ Poem and was presented last January with her own Quilt of Valor. Tangled Threads was even able to present Private First-Class Cosmo Uttero, a U.S. Army Veteran who went viral for graduating high school at 97 years old, with a Quilt of Valor. Uttero was deployed at 17 and was unable to finish high school and was one of three people to survive in his platoon during the D-Day landing at the beaches of Normandy. Tangled Threads consists of 25 members who are either Veterans, Active Duty, spouses of Veterans or anyone who wants to honor our Veterans. They have Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in their group, so making quilts is extra meaningful to them. Arnold stated about making quilts with QOV, “As long as God lets me and Veterans need to be covered, I’m not going to stop making quilts.” If you would like to help Veterans in our area, you can visit a local American Legion, AMVETS, VFW, or Marine Corps League to volunteer. If you would like to join Quilts of Valor, donate fabric, give a monetary donation, or nominate a Veteran to receive a Quilt of Valor, you can visit their website at www.qovf.org. PAGE
CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY
Dancing with the Locals:
Heather and Darry Dykstra win Coveted Mirror Ball Trophy By Jennifer Jordan
n Friday, October 29, friends, neighbors, and families gathered at the John R. Trinkle Center to witness couples battle for the Mirror Ball Trophy, all while raising money at the 14th Annual Dancing with the Locals. Hosted by the Rotary Club of Plant City, the sold-out event gave guests the opportunity to watch nine couples perform a choreographed dance routine across all genres of dance, including Salsa, Tango, and the Cha-Cha. Instructors included Kevin Rios, Teala Mahoney, and Alisa Burkina. The dancers were given 10 dance lessons over three months and spent additional time seeking sponsorships to help raise money. The evening began with emcees Jim Scott and Kayla Drawdy thanking everyone for attending. Rotary President James Boyd then thanked all 90 sponsors, introduced the judges, and discussed what Dancing with the Locals does for the community, including helping Meals on Wheels and Plant City Boys and Girls Club. Judges for the evening included Bryson Keel, Les Miller, and 2019 DWTL winner, Stephanie Eisenbach. Lynn Thomas also became a judge by winning the last judge’s seat from a live auction at the event. The dancers then took to the floor, with each couple showing off their personalities, interests, and senses of humor through their fun routines and props. Melinda Phillips and Arley Smude performed a Showdance routine to music from Queen, with Smude resembling Freddie Mercury and Phillips passing out stick-on mustaches to members of the audience. Strawberry Queen McKenna Jordan turned into Michael Jackson, putting on a white glove and black fedora while performing the moonwalk during her and her father Chad Jordan’s Hustle and Hip-Hop routine. She even blew some glitter at her dad’s face, causing the audience to erupt in laughter. Crystal and Cliff Brown also wowed everyone in attendance when Crystal and fellow Lightning Girl Alumni joined together for a
routine and Crystal performed a quick outfit change in the middle of the dance floor. Their routine even managed to bring in fog machines and fireworks, which added extra flair to their East Coast Swing routine. After the dancers performed their routines, guests were asked to vote for their favorite dancers by donation to the Rotary Club. Each dancing pair was assigned a box and guests had the opportunity to drop cash, checks, or make credit card payments to vote. The couple that raised the most money was recognized as the top fundraiser of the event and would win the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy. There was even a Judge’s Choice award, so the couples had two chances to win. During the voting process, The Voice runner-up and local star Kenzie Wheeler performed, with Cliff Brown playing guitar, and a live auction was held to raise additional money. One item up for auction was a Fender acoustic guitar autographed by Lynyrd Skynyrd and sold for $6,000. First place was awarded to Heather and Darry Dykstra, who performed a vampire-inspired Swing and Rhumba routine. Second place was awarded to Chad Jordan and Strawberry Queen McKenna Jordan, who performed a Hustle and Hip-Hop routine. Third place was given to Ayerim and Elias Calvillo, who performed a steamy Tango routine. The Judge’s Choice award went to Cliff and Crystal Brown, who performed an East Coast Swing routine. A highlight of Plant City’s fall social calendar, Dancing with the Locals came back this year after last year’s hiatus due to COVID-19 and raised an astonishing $150,000. A great event to have fun, raise money and watch fellow Plant Citians show off their dance skills, Dancing with the Locals is an event where you can truly dance the night away, all for a good cause. To purchase tickets and attend or to sign up as a 2022 dancer, please call event chair Jodi Stevens at 813-716-0908.
CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY
City of Plant City Unveils New Mural, Unity in the Community Park By Cierra Craft
n Tuesday, November 16, the City of Plant City unveiled its new downtown mural, Reflections of Plant City, and adjacent park dedicated to Unity in the Community. The project was led by Vice Mayor Michael Sparkman, in collaboration with Whistle Stop owners Jerry and Marti Lofstrom, and Marsha Passmore of the Arts Council of Plant City and Unity in the Community. The former mural’s paint was chipping and the brick wall was crumbling. Vice Mayor Sparkman said A Pro Plastering put up a mesh paneling and a plaster wall to reinforce the historic building and provide a smooth surface for the new painting. Reflections of Plant City embodies the city’s motto “Embracing the Future While Preserving the Past,” with depictions of historic figures in our city’s history such as Henry B. Plant, the city’s namesake, and E.L. Bing, an educator, civic leader, and the first African American of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. The center features landmarks of the city such as City Hall, the strawberry water tower, and the Wish Farms Soundstage at the Florida Strawberry Festival. Mayor Rick Lott gave special recognition to corporate sponsor CITY Furniture, its founder Keith Koeing and VP of Finance and Real Estate Ryan Cronin. The company just invested in property to build a 250,000-squarefoot warehouse in Plant City. “We look for companies that want to come in and be a champion in our city,” said Mayor Lott to the crowd of about 50 people. “[Sparkman] had the mural content together, now it was time to raise funds… so, we mentioned it to Ryan and Keith at [CITY Furniture] groundbreaking ceremony, saying ‘we’re looking for sponsors, you say you want to have an opportunity to invest in the infrastructure and fabric of our community.’ Mr. Koeing had one question, ‘what’s the entire budget?’ It took me back a little bit, and said, ‘well, it’s X-amount’ and [Mr. Koeing] said ‘we’ll do the whole thing.’ For its generous contribution, the mural includes a special plaque honoring artist Keith Goodson and CITY Furniture.
The area in front of the mural was formally known as Collins Street Mural Park, but will now be known as Unity in the Community Park. City Manager Bill McDaniel recognized the nonprofit of the same name for their hard work each year raising funds to then give back to the community. McDaniel said the organization has supported more than 30 charitable organizations in our community with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. The park’s landscaping was designed by the city’s landscaping division of the Parks and Recreation department and features new benches, a fountain, and an arch proudly displaying the park’s new name. The public is encouraged to visit the park, view the new mural, and “embrace the past, while preserving the future.” The new mural is located at 110 Collins Street in historic downtown.
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City Pointe Church 503 N Palmer Street 813-441-6693 CPC Kids “Happy Birthday, Jesus” Party: Dec 12 | 10:30 AM Family Christmas Worship Service: Dec 19 | 10:30 AM Candlelight Christmas Service: Dec 24 | 5 PM Cork Methodist Church 4815 W. Sam Allen Road 813-704-4873 Christmas Eve Play & Candlelight Service with Communion: Dec 24 | 6 PM First Baptist Church of Plant City 3309 James L. Redman Parkway 813-752-4104 Glorious Night: A Drive-In Christmas Light Show: Nov 26 to Jan 2 | 6-10 PM Christmas Candlelight Service: Dec 23 | 6PM Christmas Eve Candlelight Service: Dec 24 | 4PM & 6PM Plant City Church of God 2103 Mud Lake Road 813-752-4591 Buy A Tree, Change A Life Christmas Tree Sales: Nov 26 - Dec 11 | 4-8PM ChristmasTown: Weekends | 2-8 PM Christmas Truck & Car Show: Dec 4 | 5:30 - 8:30 PM Jingle Bell Beach PCCOG Kids Musical: Dec 12 | 10:15 AM Ring the Bells Christmas Celebration Sunday: Dec 19 | 10:15 AM Sounds of Christmas Evening of Holiday Music: Dec 19 | 7 PM
St. Clement Catholic Church 1104 N. Alexander Street, Plant City FL 33563 813-752-8251 Christmas Eve Mass: Dec 24 | 4 PM Christmas Eve Spanish Mass: Dec 24 | 6:30 PM Christmas Eve English Mass: Dec 24 | 10 PM Christmas Day Spanish Mass: Dec 25 | 9 AM Christmas Day English Mass: Dec 25 | 11 AM GraceWay Church of Plant City 3106 S. Wiggins Road 813-752-4879 “Carols” Christmas Series: Nov 28 to Dec 12 | 9AM & 11AM Christmas Eve Service: Dec 24 | 5PM & 7PM Hope Lutheran Church 2001 N. Park Road 813-752-4622 Spanish Christmas Worship with Communion: Dec 24 | 4 PM Christmas Worship with Communion: Dec 24 | 6:30 PM Christmas Worship with Communion: Dec 24 | 10:30 PM Christmas Worship: Dec 25 | 10:30 AM The Crossing Church- Plant City 507 S Wheeler Street 813-626-0783 Celebrate The Coming King this Christmas Service: Dec 24 | 5 PM
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Miss March: Da’Onah Nowells
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Miss September: Skylar Sewell
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2022 CALENDAR GIRLS
STRAWBERRY CREST HIGH SCHOOL
Cover Girl: Lauren Abbey
Miss July: Jenna Mayo
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Miss March: Emma Pitts
Miss October: Kylie Correa
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Miss November: Gabrielle Phillips
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tremendous personal satisfaction moving an organization forward and watching others gain confidence. What is a business or event you would like to see Plant City have in the future? I would love to see an outdoor tailgate party for the FSU/Florida rivalry game in McCall Park. We could shut down the streets and set up big, inflatable TVs to show the game. It would be a fun, community building event! I’d also like to see a restaurant where you can customize your meals, like Subway, combined with The Corner Store menu where all the food is locally sourced and farm-to-table. YUM. What do you enjoy doing with your family? We like to travel and have been blessed to experience many countries around the world. I feel traveling takes the focus off of you and expands your brain to see how others live. It also teaches you to be resourceful. And, we spend a lot of time at the kids’ activities – music, theater, Girl Scouts, sports. How did you choose your career path? I majored in risk management/insurance at FSU and worked at State Farm for eight years. In 1999, I was hired to be an agent and moved to Plant City. Since graduating from college, my entire career has been associated with State Farm.
People of Plant City
Courtney Paat M By Emily Topper
ost Plant City residents know Courtney Paat as a successful business leader. But when she’s not empowering her team at State Farm, you can find her passionately serving her community.
Were you born in Plant City? If not, where were you born and when did you move here? My dad was in the military and I was born overseas on an Army base. I moved to Plant City in 1999 with my husband, Angel, to open the State Farm agency. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? I can back up a horse trailer. I’m actually “tougher” than most people realize. I have ridden horses my entire life, completed several mud runs and ran a half marathon. I also enjoy boot camp-style and kickboxing workouts. PAGE
What local causes/organizations are you involved in? Currently, I am the Immediate Past Chair of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce and lead the Building Committee. I served as the membership chair for two years. I am a founding member and past president of Aspire Plant City, and currently serve as the Membership Chairperson. I am a Girl Scout troop leader and have served on two different Girl Scout leadership teams. I support Strawberry Girl Scouts as the Recruitment Director. My kids have been and are involved in music, so I have supported band and orchestra booster programs for many years, mostly through fundraising and event planning. What inspires you to serve the community? I have a strong desire to learn, grow and improve. This translates to my business and my community. I look for ways I can add value and fill a void. I get
What is a local cause/organization you feel passionately about? Being a female business owner and having two daughters, empowering women and girls is a passion. Whether it’s giving women on my team an opportunity to build a career, creating a platform like Aspire Plant City for women to gain experience and confidence or leading my Girl Scout troop members through a weekend camping trip, it always comes back to encouraging women. Many times, it’s taking on a leadership role ourselves so other women can see what’s possible. Women have so much to offer and I consider it a privilege to help them recognize their strengths. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Despite following a healthy lifestyle for many years, it would have to be pizza. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. What is the best part about living in Plant City? Not commuting to Tampa every day. Seriously, I love that you can get most anywhere in less than 10 minutes. The small town culture is awesome. I love supporting small business owners and it’s great to be a part of that community. What’s one thing on your bucket list? To stay in a hut over the water in Tahiti. What’s your personal motto? Integrity is everything.
Did You Know?
Florida Citrus Hall of Fame Inducts Plant City Businessman, Lew Prosser By Dr. Scotty and Hsiu Huang History Center Plant City Photo Archives, Inc.
lorida has long been known for its citrus production, particularly oranges, which were first brought here by the Spanish in the 16th century. First grown in northern Florida along the St. Johns River, orange production slowly developed from Florida’s early territorial period (1821) until after the Civil War. By the 1870s, the potential for commercially growing citrus expanded and began to flourish. However, the disastrous freezes of 1894 and 1895 wiped out much of the citrus production and the groves in north Florida, causing the citrus belt to shift south into Orange, Lake, Polk, and Hillsborough counties. Citrus has played a key role in the economy of these counties ever since. To pay tribute to those who have made outstanding contributions to Florida citrus production, members of the industry established the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1962, inducting seventeen nominees that first year. Representing various facets of the industry and all production regions, a committee has selected recipients of the award each year since 1962. To date, nearly 200 distinguished leaders in the citrus industry have been inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Partnering with Florida Southern College, the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame honors the history of Florida Citrus, its inductees, and makes that history accessible to the public. The Sarah D. and L. Kirk McKay, Jr., Archives Center on the campus of Florida Southern houses the Hall of Fame wall display along with the State of Florida Citrus Archives. Born in Pennsylvania in 1899 and raised and educated in Miami, Lew James Prosser, Jr., moved to the railroad town of Plant City to pursue his calling. He began his career in the citrus industry in 1921 working for Robert Wade Burch, a pioneer citrus and produce shipper. After Burch’s death in 1928, Prosser assumed
sole ownership of the R.W. Burch Company. By 1930 he had expanded the operations to five citrus packing plants and became the third largest independent shipper of citrus fruit in Florida. By the time of his death in 1996 at age 97, Lew Prosser, Plant City’s quiet entrepreneur, had found success in the citrus industry and in several other businesses. His name had been known and associated with citrus for more than 75 years, not only in his hometown, but far beyond. He was a pioneer, shipper, producer, processor, researcher, inventor, and promoter of Florida’s citrus industry. In November 2021, at the award luncheon attended by his daughter, Sally Prosser Verner, and his grandson, Edward M. Verner, Lew Prosser was posthumously inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Other 2021 inductees include Adam Putnam, former Agriculture Commissioner; former Extension Agent and Professor, John Jackson; and Steve Sorrells, a citrus production innovator and former Chairman of the Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council. Among other Plant City area inductees into the Hall of Fame is Thomas B. Mack, who grew up working in his father’s feed and seed store on South Collins Street. Tom Mack was attracted to the citrus industry and joined Florida Southern College where he developed the citrus agricultural program and later the Florida State Citrus Archives. Mack was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1997. For further information go to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame website. To read the story of Lew Prosser or Tom Mack stop in the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center at 106 South Evers Street Monday through Thursday 10:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
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Not sure what to gift this year? We’ve rounded up a few locally sourced ideas for everyone. Whether you’re looking for Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, the kids, or anyone else, our guide will give you a gift idea. We all deserve some surprises and delights for the holiday season. It’s important to us to support locally-owned, family-owned businesses. For every $100 spent in a small business, about $67 stays within the local economy. Plant City has a remarkable lineup of locally-owned, family-owned shops, boutiques, and restaurants. When shopping local, you often find goods not offered in big-box stores, allowing you to gift something unique with a Plant City flair. Small businesses have been squeezed at every angle by the pandemic and continue to feel the impacts of supply chain shortages and a decade-high inflation rate, according to NBC News. By shopping locally this season, our community can help keep doors open for our city’s small businesses. FOCUS is proud to present this year’s 2021 gift guide. We hope you’ll shop small, shop local, and shop Plant City this holiday season.
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Plant City Outback serves the community & new eats this holiday season By Cierra Craft
Christmas is a time of giving: Giving gifts to friends and loved ones and giving back to those in need. Regardless, holiday giving comes from the heart, just to see others happy. Plant City Outback is ready to give deliciously by launching a seasonal holiday menu that combines the flavors of the season with ingredients such as espresso, gingerbread, and something smoky for the bourbon lover in your life. They’re also helping you give this year with the steakhouse’s annual gift card special: Spend $50 on gift cards, receive a $10 bonus card for you. The Plant City staple for 20 years is also giving back to the city by supporting local nonprofits, schools, and contributing to community events that put people in the holiday spirit. Meet Plant City Outback’s Manager Partner Ryan Danielik, who discusses the restaurant’s new holiday menu, helping the community, and Christmas traditions that make the season merry and bright. For readers who haven’t met you, can you share how you came to work for Outback and become the Managing Partner of the Plant City location? In the summer of 1999, I graduated high school in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and had just turned 18. I was going to be attending Fayetteville State University in the fall on an academic scholarship and wanted to get a job for the summer. The local Outback Steakhouse was always busy with a line out the door. I always loved eating at Outback and knowing the atmosphere there, I knew it was a place I wanted to try and get a job. I applied for the busser position in person with a paper application and no resume. I asked to speak with the owner as I entered, the owner was not there but they said they would bring me one of the managers. I was interviewed on the spot and offered the job position. To this day, 22 years later, I remember the Manager Angie at the Fayetteville Outback Steakhouse who started and catapulted my career. My father was a pilot in the United States Air Force, and we moved around a lot. Fayetteville, North Carolina was where Ft. Bragg was located. Before Fayetteville, we were stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. We lived in Valrico for four years and still owned the home there. When my father decided to retire from the service as a Colonel, we decided to move back to Valrico. After 4 years of working for Outback and going to school, I transferred to the Brandon Outback and worked there from 2002 to 2003. decided to transfer to the Plant City Outback and worked there from 2003 to just about 2008. By this time, I had mastered all positions and was looking to move up with the company. I worked back in Brandon then to St Petersburg where I became a Kitchen Manager. I managed for eight years in St. Pete and then started traveling as a manager and building PAGE
my connections. I managed many different Outback locations throughout greater Tampa Bay from 2016 to 2018, including the Original Outback Steakhouse in Tampa off Henderson Boulevard. By this time, I was on my way to owning one. In March 2018, I was sent to the Plant City Outback Steakhouse as the Acting Managing Partner. I was offered the full position on May 31, 2018. The holidays are here, it’s a busy time for restaurants and a time of need for many. Outback Plant City is known as a great community partner. How will your location give back to the community this year? This is our third consecutive year teaming up with local nonprofit Operation Paying It Forward in donating toys to local children, who are in need. These families may be struggling financially to provide due to medical bills or a loss of a job. Operation Paying It Forward can help them with basic needs like clothing, hygiene products, and fun stuff, like having Christmas for their children. In the past, during the holiday season, we have given to organizations like Everday Blessings, Inc., an organization that provides basic needs for foster children throughout Southwest Florida. We also have teamed up with Christmas Lane in the past, contributing to the kids’ corner with crayons. Additionally, we support local schools, such as Burney
Elementary, Plant City High School, and Faith Christian Academy. The principals will organize a holiday lunch for the staff and we will not only serve them but also provide teachers with a card for a free appetizer or give a gift card to the Teacher of the Year, for example. Even if the school is not dining in with us, we will still provide the school with cards to distribute to the teachers as a thank you for their hard work all year. We are still working out plans with organizations this year, but my team and I are looking forward to giving back to the community this holiday season. If we host a community drive or serve as a toy drop-off location this year, that information will be posted to our Instagram @plantcityoutback and we hope the community will contribute. What holiday menu items can we look forward to at Outback this year? A fan favorite of our Outback guests is the return of the Gingerbread Martini every year near the holidays. It’s got Kahlua, Absolut vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, gingerbread syrup, and a cream base. Then it’s topped with whipped cream and a gingerbread cookie. This year, we will also be featuring a Cinnamon Pecan Smoked Old Fashioned. We bring it to the table with a lid on it and when lifted, the smoke billows out and it’s just an elevated drinking experience. On the dining menu, we’re offering an Espresso Butter steak topping. We’re offering the
topping on the filet and the porterhouse as part of our seasonal features. And for a new one, if you love our favorite Bloomin’ Onion and love seafood, we have a treat for you: Introducing the brand new, Bloomin’ Fried Shrimp. I think it’s going to be hit with our guests and we’re serving them on these wooden pedestals, again, just adding to the experience for our guests. To celebrate the holidays, we’re also offering our annual spend of $50 in gift cards and get a $10 bonus card deal. It’s a great way to give a gift and treat yourself. Tell me about the Outback Plant City team. Any unique stories about the team members the public may be interested to know? The biggest call out about the Plant City Outback team is they are family, as cliche as that sounds, it’s true. As a family, we are supportive of each other and the guests that come through our doors. Even though I am their leader I come in every day to work for them. Without their hard work, determination, and drive I could not be successful. We have many Outbackers that mirror our community and make us who we are, as our guests’ favorite place to eat, drink, relax and be with friends and family. This November, our Outback location is celebrating 20 years in business. We have server Cheri Lacy and bartenders Lucy Davis, and Amanda Grossman who have This year, Outback is introducing a new Espresso Butter topping for the porterhouse and the filet, served with two sides.
worked over 20 years with Outback. Each of these young ladies has delivered on taking care of our guests and because of this, have created so many great relationships with the community and have a following of their own Outback guest regulars. We have guests come in celebrating birthdays, anniversaries—recently, someone got engaged here— and we also have guests who come in after a funeral or visiting a relative in the hospital; we never know what someone is going through, but we want to make our guests’ day better, whether they’re celebrating or not. You and some of the staff have friendships with the regulars. Tell me what it means to you to come into the restaurant every day and see friends supporting your business? Again, we just want an atmosphere where we give everyone a sense of belonging. Every day, I am thankful to have the friends and extended family I have met through the Plant City Outback Steakhouse. It really does bring joy and cheer to my heart. The relationships built by meeting many of the members of the community will last forever. I’ve gone to Gator games and fishing trips with guests who became really good friends I walk around our Outback location all day
with a smile, seeing my friends come in and support not just me, but my staff. I love to just pull up a seat and hang out, and become part of their day. It makes me happy! Do you have any holiday traditions with your family you're looking forward to? My older sister was born on Christmas Day. So growing up we always celebrated my sister’s birthday on Christmas Day and celebrate our family Christmas on Christmas Eve, but it was past midnight so it, in fact, was Christmas. We would have a nice family dinner on Christmas Eve, then go out looking at Christmas lights around 10 p.m., and when we returned, Santa had come. Now, my family gets together to celebrate on Christmas Eve, we still go look at lights and someone stays behind to act as Santa and put out the gifts for the kids. We also play a family game of nickel and dime poker! Also, my family and friends gather each Christmas Day and we go bowling. This has been going on for over 20 years now and I think it’s a tradition my kids will carry on in the future. It started as just our family, but then we invited friends and the group has grown to about 20 of us. Some years we wear Christmas pajamas or festive suits, but it’s always a good time and a little friendly competition.
“...I take pride in working at [Plant City Outback] and I’ve come to know some guests on a personal level and consider them friends. I started at this location in 2002 and back then, I saw pregnant mothers, watched those kids grow up, and now they’re in college. So, I feel privileged to be a part of their lives…” - Cheri Lacy- Outback Server for 22 Years PAGE
GRIEF RELIEF WORKSHOP
“Grief Relief” will be 4 sessions. DATES: Thursday November 18th, 2021 @ 6:30- 8:00
Thursday December 16th, 2021 @ 6:30- 8:00 Thursday January 13th, 2022 @ 6:30- 8:00 Thursday February 10th, 2022 @ 6:30- 8:00
WHERE: Shiloh Baptist Church
In one of our many buildings, to accommodate the number of people who sign up.
ADDRESS: 905 West Terrance Drive Plant City, FL 33563
TOPICS: The 17 stages of grieving The focus on relief and as a counselor, I have come up with a unique category.
It’s new & inclusive P.T.S.E. POST TRAUMATIC STRESS EXPERIENCES
We will cover a large array of emotions & feelings; not just the death of a loved one. The sessions P.T.S.E. – will cover life experiences that have traumatized your life ( Example: Divorce, car accident, unexpected illness, family upbringing, abuse, etc.) ***Note: If you are not able to make all 4 sessions, please attend any of the other sessions. We will teach these again and you can pick-up that session then.
All materials will be provided for you at NO COST. Just bring a friend or family member who you think might benefit from these sessions.
To attend these 4 sessions is $0 they are free!!! Everything will be provided for you as we address this very sensitive subject. I chose these months because the holidays are sometimes the most dreaded times of the year. Covid has devastated the world. I invite you to come out and be with others; even though you may think your fine or this isn’t your comfort zone you will gain something that may help you now or in the future.
Let me introduce myself.
My name is Mitch Weissman and I’ve been counseling for over 40 years, navy veteran ( I assisted the Navy Chaplain), Jewish by birth, all of my degrees from my B.A. from U.C.F. to my masters degree, honorary doctorate have all been connected to psychology and counseling. I’m a published author and have written many articles. 40 years of experience covering marital, individual, family, young adults/children. I have dealt with P.T.S.D., emotional issues, survivors of every horrific life experience you can imagine. Dealing with my own griefs and life experiences, I believe I bring a lot to the table and will do my best to see you and others find relief.
If you have any questions and want to sign up, please call me at 727-219-5558. Or you can call Shiloh Baptist Church directly at 813 752-8345.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM BROWN’S JEWELERS!
We Buy Gold & Silver
1705 Jim Redman Pkwy Plant City, FL 33563
LIFE AFTER SERVICE BY CIERRA CRAFT
There are around 19 million United States veterans and military service can be dangerous, difficult, and demanding. According to Pew Research, about fifty percent of post-9/11 veterans say it was ‘very difficult’ or ‘somewhat difficult’ to transition to civilian life. As these brave men and women return home, they’re leaving an environment of structure, rank, and accountability, with many left seeking routines. The military provides a sense of purpose, well-defined roles, and hierarchy, camaraderie, honor, and mission – things that can be hard to find or define in the civilian world. So when our veterans transition out of the military, it can spark a loss of identity and meaning of life. Returning home, some struggle to reconnect with family or enter the workforce. They have experience, but they don’t hold degrees and certifications. A veteran’s skills
do not easily translate and employers may not be able to recognize how a troop’s skills can benefit the company. Some come home with mental and physical scars of their service overseas and must manage several appointments to the VA. Some veterans report fear of discrimination in the workplace or feel their frequent appointments are damaging to their civilian careers. But most find passion and purpose in their lives after the military, for some that path is decades in the making. FOCUS Magazine is proud to share three inspiring stories honoring Veterans and their journey in life after service. At an Armyled nutrition shop, customer service comes with a salute. Learn how a Navy Petty Officer turned a pastime with the grandkids into business after service and finally, inspired by his grandfather, meet a former soldier who restarts his education in theology for a future in ministry. PAGE
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America became a superpower in the 1980s and reveled in all of its spoils. The decade was marked by a changing political culture, which led to a vibrant economy, the rise of consumerism and self-indulgence. The 80s gave birth to the "material girl" and "I Want My MTV" was more than just an advertising tagline. Hair was reaching new heights and neon clothing made the world shine brighter.
“My job during these ceremonies was to carry the casket and fold the flag of our fallen heroes,” said Williams. “The stories I have from my time in the Navy are not frontline battle stories, but memories of the courageous men and women of our great military that came to their final resting place to be honored for their ultimate sacrifice. I was honored and humbled at the sacrifices made by these amazing men and women.”
But for United States Navy Petty Officer Greg Williams, the 1980s comprised serving as a member of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, DC. He was then and is now, a proud American.
Williams returned to civilian life in 1987 and said the transition was challenging. Life in the military was a daily routine and not about individuals doing what they think is right in their eyes, but rather working as a team.
“I wanted to serve my country, number one,” said Williams. “But, also to get an education from the military that would guide me for the rest of my life.” Williams was not deployed overseas, rather, he was stationed in Washington DC all four years. He was a part of an elite group of men and women who performed ceremonies, duties, and security for dignitaries around the DC area. In doing so, Williams has great memories of meeting dignitaries such as astronaut John Glenn, General Colin Powell, comedian Chevy Chase, and Diana, Princess of Wales. “One very vivid memory I have is during a White House State Dinner when the President of the United States Ronald Reagan came outside of the White House to personally thank us, just as he always did,” said Williams. “It was very cold and we had been outside for several hours because the dignitaries were running a little late. President Reagan told his secret service, ‘bring these boys inside the White House to warm up.’ It was a blessing to have a president that loved the military and would always come by and thank us for what we did.” Not all of Williams’ memories of his time in the United States Navy were as positive. He also served with the Navy Honor Guide performing ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery almost every day.
Life After Service Today, Greg Williams is surrounded by a colorful world of LEGO blocks at his downtown shop, Brick City Bricks. He spends his time purchasing used and new LEGO sets, minifigs, and other merchandise for his loyal legion of customers or hosting weekly Facebook Live Sales for fans across the U.S. Together with his wife, Sandi, Brick City Bricks is Greg’s dream come true. In the nineties, Greg owned a sports card and memorabilia shop in Plant City. When his grandkids came along, they wanted to open and play with his LEGO collectibles. “The grandbabies won, as you would expect,” said Williams. “We started to open and build some cool LEGO sets. It was fun, educational, and a great bonding time with the kids.” Greg and Sandi opened Brick City Bricks in 2017 on Reynolds Street. Since then, the veteran-owned and family-owned shop has become a staple of downtown and a gathering place for those of various fandoms, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel. Williams says his time in the military taught him to be prepared and disciplined in everything in life, which helped him in his business. His favorite LEGO build is the Space Shuttle Challenger, because of the connection to his military service.
“It is a beautiful and detailed set that is also a little sentimental,” said Williams. “I had the honor to help with Commander Smith’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. He was one of the seven heroic crew members of that fatal mission back in 1986.” How can you help veterans? Williams says pray. “Some of our veterans have been through literal Hell to defend our country,” said Williams. “When they get out of the military, they need direction, because it was our way of life for so long… pray every day for our military, our veterans, and especially those that need mental and physical help. Then, I would say talk to a veteran… Anytime I see a World War II veteran, first I thank them for their service, and then I just start a conversation. I have met men that were at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the Korean War, and Vietnam. What an honor it was to talk to and meet these brave heroes.”
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Jordan Williams was just 8-years-old on September 11, 2001, when the United States came under attack. It was the residual effects of that day, that motivated Williams to join the U.S. military. His father served in the Navy and Jordan was filled with patriotism for his country. When asked why he joined the military? Williams without hesitation said, “I wanted to go to Afghanistan, that’s why I chose the Army.” He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011, at 18-years-old, fresh out of high school. Williams was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and six months after enlisting, Williams was sent to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom XII. “My mom cried when I told her I was deployed to Afghanistan… my dad, I think he was proud of me,” said Williams. “What I remember most of my deployment was the extreme heat and in the winter it was extremely cold, the food was good… and the hospitality of the Pashtuns people.” Williams reflected on wonderful memories with the close-knit brotherhood he formed with his team. He shared that when they weren’t on duty for 14 to 16 hours per day, he watched a lot of movies on his laptop to kill time. Williams missed his home church of Victory Baptist Church, but he knew there were “church mamas,” who were praying for him back home and that gave him comfort. He knew the Lord’s will be done and he didn’t worry about his fate much after that. He was in Afghanistan for seven months before returning home for a few short days. His mom, Sandi, says Alexander Street was lined with people holding American flags, welcoming home their hero.
While stationed in Turkey in 2015, the base was without a chaplain. In the absence of a chaplain, the Lord called Williams into ministry and he started a Bible study group. He and his comrades were stationed there for a year. “In doing so, I developed a heartbeat for ministering to military members,” said Williams. Williams served in the U.S. Army until 2018, where he was also a member of the Fort Bragg Criminal Investigation Division, 11th Missile Defense Detachment, and the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment The Old Guard. Life After Service Williams says the transition back to civilian life was challenging, as he, like many other veterans, were so groomed to military life. In the Army, Williams had a brotherhood around him daily, and a mentality of teamwork before self. “Everyone around me seemed to be so focused on themselves and it’s not like that in the military, it’s a team effort, you have to think of a team as a whole, not as the individual,” said Williams. “In civilian life, you don’t have that team or brotherhood to go forward anymore.” He is currently studying for his Masters in Divinity and says he is ready to serve his brothers again. “I draw all of my strength from the Lord and I want to minister to veterans so they can feel that strength,” said Williams. “I know what they’re going through because of my own experience. I know their struggles, I know the depression they feel, and I know the isolation they feel. But, I also know what comfort the Lord can give them.”
Williams is currently being mentored by his grandfather, Charles Hollowell, who has served as lead pastor for 51 years; his father Greg Williams of Brick City Bricks; Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks of First Call, a first responder Baptist church; and James Gardner. Williams says he will re-enlist again one day, to serve as a Chaplain for the United States Army. Once he completes his physical at Military Entrance Processing Station, he will go into Army Reserves training while in seminary and upon completion of all the requirements, then be an active-duty Army Chaplain.
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In 2013, U.S. Army Sergeant Elias Calvillo was deployed to the Middle East. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery, and was serving year five of a six-year contract. He joined the military because he had a desire to serve our country, but he says he was also fascinated by the structured leadership, discipline, and way of life. He joined the Army after graduating from Durant High School in 2008. He completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. When he landed over 7,000 miles away in 2013, the young man was filled with a sense of gratitude. Besides heat and sand as far as the eye could see, Calvillo witnessed the way the civilians lived with the bare minimum. “I remember thinking to myself how good we have here in the states, a place where anyone can truly get ahead if they drop fear and get to work,” said Calvillo. “In these countries overseas, the people are forced to live with the minimum–by force–not by choice. It was eye-opening, this was a huge motivator to pushing me to want to open a business upon returning to the states.” This experience, combined with the structure and chain of command required by the Army, made Calvillo appreciate freedom on a higher level. The saying “you never know what you have until it’s gone,” rang true in his life as he worked to be the best soldier he could be and serve his country with honor. During his deployment, Calvillo was named Noncommissioned Officer of the Month.
Life After Service Upon returning to the U.S. a year later, Calvillo says the transition back to civilian life was challenging without the ranks, structure, and accountability he had become accustomed to during his time in the Army and National Guard. He worked hard to be the best soldier he could be, now he had to work to be the best civilian he could be. He began thinking about how he could combine his love for fitness, his desire to open a business and help others. In 2020, he and his wife Ayerim opened VEV Fitness & Nutrition, a drink shop offering high-nutrition shakes, healthy energy drinks protein waffles, and good vibes. “Maybe I’ve seen too many Jean Claud Van Damme movies, but honestly, I fear aging unhealthy and not keeping up with my kids to go on a simple run or hike,” said Calvillo. “It’s one of the few things we have total control over. There are many factors out of our control, but personal fitness and health is a personal responsibility, no one can do it for us.” At VEV Fitness & Nutrition, Calvillo says his favorite drink is the Galaxy Mega Tea, with orange base. “It’s packed with electrolytes for hydration, energy from B-vitamins, and helps improve focus,” said Calvillo. Thank a veteran for their service, but Calvillo says if you’re looking for a way to do more, he’d recommend donating to an organization focused on helping veterans, such as the Wounded Warrior Project.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service With Holy Communion December 24th @ 6:00 PM EVERYONE IS INVITED!
Location 4815 W. Sam Allen Road, Plant City Fl. 33565
Cork Methodist Church (813) 704-4873 4815 W. Sam Allen Rd. Plant City, FL 33565
You see them in Movies, T.V. Commercials and in Magazines!
MAKENZIE DAVIS Heartland Living Magazine Fashion Print Ad. Principal Role. CALL FOR AN APPOINTMENT TODAY!
CHRIS MULLIS Introducing Successful Movie Actor and Model Chris Mullis who is up for Several TV Commercials and Movie Parts. We are so proud of you Chris!
MELISSA RIESENBERG Lakeland Electric Print Advertisement and Website.
They’re the JESS ANDERSON MODELS!
All ages & types needed • No experience necessary • Free training
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JAYDEN MIMIKOS Disney World TV Commercial and Print Ad. Principal Role.
MARVETTE ROBERTS Disney World TV Commercial and Print Ad for Disney Cruise Line.
RICHARD BOYD Amscot TV Commercial and Print Ad. $900.00 a Day. Principal Role.
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Clothed in Grace By Cierra Craft Photos courtesy of Clothed in Grace
o put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24 Plant City resident Jenny Weaver is a wife, homeschool mother, worship leader, author, speaker, prophetic minister, and the owner of Clothed in Grace, a Christian clothing boutique on West Reynolds Street. But to understand where Weaver is now in her life, one must understand where she came from. “I came to Plant City by chance 14 years ago, going to a party at my nowhusband, Stephen’s house,” said Weaver. “I had a rough start living here and I battled addiction and was homeless. I was in and out of jail...” Jenny got her life cleaned up, got help for her addiction, and came back to Plant City. Her life had been transformed and Weaver says she was changed by God’s glory. God made a way for her to turn her life around and she became a worship leader for Faith Lighthouse Church. She then became the Worship Pastor at Cornerstone Church. In September 2017, during Hurricane Irma, Weaver went live on Facebook for the first time, playing her guitar and she started singing to help people not feel fear. That video went viral and was
shared all over the world. In January 2018, she began Singing the Scriptures. Since then, Weaver has amassed a huge global following online. Jenny says she would travel places to sing worship and was asked to sell merchandise. She made a shirt through an online vendor on a plain white t-shirt. But, then she realized the demand her followers had for more shirts so, she made a small collection with her favorite verses, song lyrics, or cool phrases she heard her pastor say in service. She bought a heat press and opened her business in her and Stephen’s home. During the pandemic shutdown, the demand grew by 1750% and the business opened in the downtown commercial district in June 2020. Today, Clothed in Grace is a seven-figure business sold internationally online, and in September 2021, Jenny opened a brickand-mortar retail store for locals to shop at 113 West Reynolds Street. “Every shirt at Clothed in Grace is significant and a part of my life unfolding on a t-shirt,” said Weaver. “We have tens of thousands of testimonies from people all over the world who say these shirts have touched their lives.” Each shirt is designed by Jenny personally, with phrases such as “Spiritual Gangster,” “Under His Wings” with Psalm 19, and “Daughter of the King,” among many others. The Weavers estimate there are 130 unique, custom designs in the shop’s collection. It’s then pressed in her shop by her team, and prayed over before it’s shipped out. The Clothed in Grace shop also offers jean jackets, shackets, hats, and beanie caps, and more. In October 2021, Jenny launched a collection of Jogger sets and Spanish tees, again inspired by her life experiences. “I was blessed to mission in Ecuador and would sing to the kids,” said Weaver. “The kids knew the songs but in Spanish, so they taught
me how to sing worship songs in Spanish. I began singing in Spanish to my ministry and drew a Spanish-speaking community. Now Clothed in Grace has a Spanish collection!” In November, Clothed in Grace laughed handmade tumbler cups with some of the shop’s popular designs and embroidered blankets that read “By His Stripes, I am Healed” or “I’m covered in the Blood of Jesus.” Clothed in Grace has Tee of the Month Club, for $15 with autopay, club members receive a shirt in the mail every month. Club members can skip a month at any time. To sign up, visit jennyweaverworship. shop/products/tee-of-the-month-club. Shop in-store just in time for Christmas at the corner of Reynolds and Evers Street or shop Clothed in Grace online at jennyweaverworship.shop or visit Clothed in Grace on social media @ shopclothedingrace. To learn more about Jenny, follow her on social media @jennyweaverworships
113 W Reynolds Street | Plant City, FL 33563 | (813) 704-6339 | jennyweaverworships.shop Tues-Fri: 10AM to 5PM | Sat: 9AM to 3PM | Sun & Mon: Closed Facebook & Instagram: @shopclothedingrace PAGE
Happy Holidays! • • • •
12,000 Sq, Ft. Facility Knowledgeable and Service -Oriented Staff Machine Shop Industrial Hydraulic Hoses In Stock & Made While You Wait • Hydraulic Cylinders Resealed • Large Inventory of Tube Fittings, Pipe Fittings & Swivels
• Large Inventory of Oil & Cylinder Seals (Metric & Standard Sizes) • Ball Valves, Brass & High Pressure • 12 Volt Dump Trailer Power Packs • Hydraulic Pumps & Valves • Wide Assortment of Hydraulic Cylinders & More!!!
We Stock & Sell Commercial Pressure Washers and Accessories
808 W. MLK Blvd. Plant City
813-759-0599 Mon. - Fri. 7:30am - 5:00pm
RISING STAR Preston
Rodgers By Katie Hamilton
Preston Rodgers is a junior at Plant City High School and has been a part of the Raider baseball team since his freshman year. Rodgers has been playing baseball for 12 years and has grown both as a person and an athlete during those years. Rodgers states, “I had to choose between baseball and gymnastics at the age of 4 and I enjoyed baseball way more, so I ended up picking baseball.” Rodgers has worked hard on his strengths, recognizing where he can improve. Rodgers explains, “My greatest strength on the field is my pitching, but my weakness is my emotions.” Rodgers is coached by Michael Fryrear who has worked with him on every factor of him on the field. Rodgers’ dedication to baseball over the years has shown his true potential. Not only is Rodgers supported by his teammates and coach, but above all, his dad. Rodgers thanks his dad for all the motivation he has given him even when he fails. Rodgers states, “My dad is also my biggest inspiration because he pitched for the Yankees during their dynasty years, and he made it to Triple-A. I want to be better and make it farther than him to make him proud.” During this fall season, Rodgers has made many improvements from his pitching to his on-field strategy. Rodgers explains, “This season my greatest gain would be my composure and growing consistency with pitching everything I want at all times.” After high school, Rodgers plans to continue playing baseball for a Division-1 college and then play professionally when he graduates. Rodgers is not only dedicated to his athletics, but he is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities and commits himself to his academics. Rodgers is enrolled in several Advanced Placement classes, Honors courses, the Boys Interact Service Club, as well as the Yearbook Staff at Plant City High School.
Wishing You Peace And Joy
Call Our Team at 813-802-3452 813-690-0319 OFFICE Nicholemoody@gmail.com
Team of the Month Plant City Dolphins 8U Football Team By Katie Hamilton
he Plant City Dolphins 8U football team has shown immense success during their fall season. With several practice times a week, the boys meet at Mike Sansone Park, committing themselves to work hard together, improving every aspect of their sport. The team is coached by several team dads, building a strong dynamic for the boys to improve on and off the field. Football has already taken root as one of the boys’ favorite things in their day-to-day young lives. Austin Kroslak is in the 3rd grade at Bell Shoals Christian School, and he loves everything about football. Kroslak states, “My favorite part of football is the games; its where I show off all of my hard work from practice and then If I win, it's even better.” Kroslak’s favorite memory with the Dolphins is winning the Super Bowl year after year with the boys he has played with since he was 5-years-old. Kroslak is excited to continue
playing football all through elementary, middle and then high school, to hopefully continue on to the college level. Brian Childs Jr. attends Rochelle School of the Arts and is in the 3rd grade this year as well. Child’s parents decided to choose football as a sport for him as he has grown up watching his brothers play football, all the while loving the team aspect that it brought into his life. Not only has the Plant City Dolphins conveyed a powerful sense of unity among the young men of Plant City, but it has also formed a team for boys to practice a sport that they love while learning respect, strength, and grit. Gabriel Handford attends Advantage Academy, and when asked what he loves about the Plant City Dolphins he explained, “I love my coaches, friends, and the support from other parents. It’s a lot of fun.”
Handford's mother Tiffany Thurman later stated, “His answer to that question really surprised me. I didn’t realize that at 8-years-old he noticed and appreciated the support, not only from us, but from other parents as well.” Football at an early age serves as an outlet for boys to prepare for the rest of their lives. Braxton Roberts attends Walden Lake Elementary, and he has been playing football with the Dolphins for two years. Braxton loves to play football because it expresses the history of his family. Braxton states, “I love the game. I love to hit. I love wearing my dad’s college number from Youngstown State University #46 and following in my grandfather's footsteps who played in the NFL for the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns.” In short, Dolphin football provides fullcircle moments for these young families and their athletes.
Hillsboro Bank and The Bank of Tampa
Coming together to serve you. Hillsboro Bank and The Bank of Tampa have come together to continue to serve the Plant City area with the same dedicated team and local approach to community banking that you have experienced for the past 22 years. We look forward to serving you as The Bank of Tampa, now and in the future. 509 W ALEXANDER ST. | PLANT CITY, FL | 33563
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Maker: September Lindsey By Emily Topper
n 2018, September Lindsey published her debut collection of poetry, “Shoot for the Ground” on Amazon. This past June, she decided to take her book off Amazon and revamp it. When she posts it again, it will have redesigned cover art and new poems. “My birthday is in June,” September said. “And this year I was going through some personal stuff. I think I had a little bit of imposter syndrome. I know as a writer you’re not supposed to regret the work you do, but there were a lot of things I knew I could either work on or make better, and a lot of new work I wanted to add in.” When she first published “Shoot for the Ground,” the book had 102 poems. The new version will have about 200. “I know I’ve written some good poetry, but I think a lot of it was not my best work,” she said. “I’m not comfortable with it being unfinished. I want to make it feel like me.” September discovered her passion for poetry in the fourth grade. “We all had to write letters to soldiers,” September said. “I couldn’t recite it now, but I wrote a poem that was basically an ode to a soldier about being brave. I think that was the very first thing I’d ever written and I loved it.” Writing, she realized, made sense to her. As the years went on, writing became a personal outlet to deal with life’s hardships. Some of the poems in her book date back to middle school. “At the time, I couldn’t afford therapy and so I got a lot out through writing, she said. “My mom and I don’t have the best relationship. She’s struggled with drugs, alcohol and homelessness. That’s really hard. I think growing up with someone who couldn’t love me enough because they couldn’t love themselves enough definitely put a damper on me.” Now, though, September has been to therapy. And her ability to better articulate her feelings and address her past traumas have helped her heal and make her writing stronger. “I originally picked my title because when I was growing up my family always told me I had my head in the clouds, that I should come back down
to earth,” she said. “My feelings are a bit more grounded now than when I first published my book. I can look back now and see how a poem would make sense a different way if I improved my word choice. It’s more cohesive and less of a rough draft.” While some of September’s poems are about her trauma, love and finding her identity, others simply came about when the inspiration struck. “I have one poem that goes ‘Water me down and let me sit overnight, pour me down the drain in the morning and never think of me again,’” she said. “That was about a glass of Coke with some ice in it next to the sink that I forgot about and it watered down. And my emotional little self decided that it needed to be a poem.” September hopes her updated book, complete with new cover art, will be done before the end of the year. While she is considering self-publishing to Amazon again, she’s also looking at the possibility of finding a publisher. “But for that, I want to make sure I have a full book,” she said. In the meantime, September continues to publish her work on her Instagram page, @septembers_poetry. She would encourage any aspiring poets to put their work to paper and get a few readers prior to publishing. “Get some opinions from someone who is maybe a professional, like an English teacher,” she said. “Have someone look at it for cohesiveness. Make sure you’re really happy with it. And make sure you’re being yourself in your writing.”
Faith Pastor Daniel Middlebrooks By Cheryl Johnston
astor Daniel Middlebrooks and his First Call church congregation believe, “When you walk with God, make your plans BIG!” On March 27, First Call will celebrate its third year as God sustains their dreamwork of serving “as many First Responders and their families and training even more Chaplains to advance the mission of protecting the hearts of our Heroes!” This spiritual sub-station is a place of encouragement that allows local heroes to use its facilities for meetings, food, and restroom breaks. First Call members are daily praying, participating, and producing opportunities to help these families grow spiritually and emotionally through Life Groups, Bible Studies, Marriage and Stress Management trainings and more. The church also partners with other Hero-focused organizations like Hook-A-Hero and Operation Restore. How can community members promote Christ? “When asked ‘How one can be a Christian in such a dark world?’ I oft reply, ‘Easy. Just be you!’ We are nowhere near perfect, yet God calls us a beautiful workmanship. When He saves us from the wrath of Sin and judgment, He gives us a new heart but not a new face, body, family, etc. Although we should have a brighter smile, a stronger spiritual body, and now an extended Family of Faith, we are still working with the same jobs and people. Our greatest expression of faith is not our smile when the sun is shining but the SON who shines through us when storms arise. Then others cannot help but see the difference Christ makes in our life. I am thankful that despite my shortcomings, God is the great ‘Restorer.’ I believe if churches focused on supporting solutions for one or two areas of community need, as God leads, more could be accomplished. With everyone’s devotion to specific issues in each congregation’s vision, He will do ‘exceedingly, abundantly more than we can think or ask.’ Describe your wife’s involvement at First Call. “Since my retirement as a US Army Chaplain in 2013, my family has focused on serving the community I was raised in and have been absent
A powerful picture of First Call church members praying over another who is fighting cancer.
from for over 25 years. Arienne, my incredible wife and spiritual combat multiplier, has dedicated her life to helping children grow strong in their faith and in their hearts to serve the Lord. The impact of her love is seen every Sunday as she teaches and pours into the tender and often ‘battered by the world’ lives of these future warriors for the Lord. In April of 2022, we will celebrate 34 years of marriage and I believe, the best years of love, life, and ministry are about to come!” What prompted your own journey with Christ? “To lead someone to where they need to be, one must have experienced the joy of the majestic horizon of hope dawning in their own life. As an eight-year-old, my ‘Morning-breaking moment’ came on Friday of Vacation Bible School (VBS) week when my Sunday School and VBS teachers, Gary and Cheryl Spooner, presented God’s plan of Salvation and invited us to receive Christ. Even as a child, I realized I was lost in my sin and would not go to heaven, so my hand was first to go up. The Spooners led me and others in a prayer of salvation, which started a journey of loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, and strength.” Any final thoughts? “Although a Christian’s earthly walk will never be perfect, God has called us to be a ‘Masterpiece in the making’ (Ephesians 2:10). We are a work in progress, to which I say, ‘Hallelujah!’ Daily I must learn to give Him the paintbrush to put the needed touches of His grace, mercy, and strength in my heart and life. The question is, “Who holds the paintbrush of your eternity?” “If you’re not sure, please join me for coffee and allow me to introduce you to the greatest painter of promise in all the world! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.” First Call welcomes all to 1831 Sydney Dover Road for Sunday services at 10:30 AM and Thursdays for a lite meal at 5:15 with service at 6:15 PM. For additional information, call 813-652-8178 or visit online at firstcallsbc.com.
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Candy’s Corner By Candy Owens
It’s the Most Wonderful time of the year! With the kids Jingle Belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer. It’s the Most Wonderful time of the year!
s a kid in the early 1970's I had a very busy schedule during my two-week Christmas vacation. First of all, my sister Karen and I would accompany my father to the Optimist Christmas tree lot which was across the street from where the old Kash and Karry grocery store was. We would walk up and down every aisle looking for the perfect one. It couldn't be too tall, too short, too sparse, or have a hole in it. It had to be just right. Once we found the winning tree, the salesman, along with my dad, would tie it to the top of the car for the slow trip home. When we pulled in the driveway, my job was to run get my radio flyer wagon out of the garage. My dad would lay the tree across the wagon and proceed with getting, or should I say forcing, the tree stand on. This process would include the hammer, the saw, the screwdriver, and a great deal of mumbling under his breath. It sort of reminded me of Fred Flintstone. When the tree stand was finally on, we would open the front door and yell to my mother, "We’re coming in!" Her reply would be, "Please don't get that tree sap on my shag carpet". We would carefully walk over plastic garbage bags that mom had placed on the carpet for protection. Once inside and the tree in place, she would fill the stand with water and two Bayer aspirin. Mom said that the aspirin helped keep the tree alive. The next big thing on my agenda was to visit Santa Claus at the Plant City Plaza (what is now the home of Big Lots and USave). During my childhood, I witnessed Santa arriving at the mall by helicopter, by police
car, by personal car, by Christmas float, and my least favorite of them all, by fire truck. My nervous anticipation of speaking with Santa coupled with the scream of the siren made me just want to get back in the car and forget about it. My mother had to basically drag me inside the mall to get in line for my visit on Santa's lap. As the line got closer and closer I would feel my mother poking me in the back reminding me not to talk too long, not to point out the difference in his appearance from year to year, and not to complain about what I did not get the year before, all with a big smile on my face. Once that task was complete, I would take my candy cane in a cold sweat and walk back to the car with rubber legs. The truth of the matter is that I was afraid of Santa. My mother constantly told me that Santa and/or his elves were looking in the window at our house and watching my behavior. I knew that I was in some kind of trouble. The next thing on my agenda was the shopping. I had to find the perfect gift for my sister. I would have my mother drive me to McCrory's and sit outside in the car while I went inside. By myself, that was. In those days you could do things like that. I looked and looked and looked. There it was ...the perfect gift: a giant Claxton fruit cake. She never got one of those before. And then it happened ... Just as I was paying the cashier I heard my mother's voice saying, "No, no, and no! You are not buying your sister a fruitcake for Christmas. Pick something else!" By that time I just threw my hands up in the air and said, "Okay, I will just take that giant peppermint stick over there." It was the size
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of my forearm. Oh! Well, she had never been given one of those before either. When Christmas Eve finally arrived there was even more work to be done. Our rooms, along with our house, had to be spotless. Our kitchen counter was set up with the good crystal platters, goblets, napkins, plates, silverware, glass bottles of coca cola, sevenup, ginger ale, and even my mother's prize punchbowl. Our family would have an early supper and then be off to the Methodist church for the candlelight service. I can remember how the church was decorated with luminary bags around the whole city block and all the way up the staircase. My sister and I would stand alongside our parents and sing the most beautiful Christmas hymns. Before you knew it the service was over. Time to rush home and greet our guests for cookies and eggnog. Soon it was off to bed, but not without mother and daddy reading, "Twas the night before Christmas." We actually followed that tradition until my sister got married and moved away. On Christmas morning my sister and I would awaken to the smell of my father's famous Christmas-morning pancakes. We would jump out of the bed and run into the living room to see what Santa had left under the tree. There would be Barbies and bicycles, dollhouses and hula hoops, books and games, clothes and shoes, stockings stuffed with fruit and candy, too much to name it all. A wo This Christmas Eve at age 59, when I stand with my sister in church, I will sing those beautiful hymns. I will think of all of those wonderful Christmases past and remember my sweet mother and father, who now sleep in heavenly peace. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
708 W. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BLVD. PLANT CITY, FL. 33563 PAGE
Commercial Insurances: Aetna • Avmed • Blue Cross Blue Shield Cigna • Humana • MultiPlan • United Health Care Medicaid: Humana Medicaid • Simply Healthcare United Health Care Medicaid • Sunshine Health
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM PLANT CITY PEDIATRICS
Plant City Pediatrics believes that “children are a gift from the Lord”. We view patient care as an investment in the future of each child and take our mission very seriously. Our providers provide gentle, compassionate care to each patient, offering quality healthcare.
Plant City’s Taste of Mexico BY CIERRA CRAFT
1812 James L. Redman Pkwy Plant City, FL 33563 (813) 754-2100 Open Daily 9 am-9 pm
aco Rey is a quaint authentic Mexican restaurant located on James L. Redman Parkway, that shines bright with beautifully hand-painted murals along the walls and brightly colored plastic festival flags throughout the dining room. Taco Rey is run by General Manager Angie Rodriguez and her staff of eight women, who are proud to serve authentic Mexican flavors with every dish. Every dish at Taco Rey is made with fresh vegetables, homemade tortillas made hot off of the press, and the salsas and pico de gallos are made in-house. It’s apparent with each dish served that the staff cares about quality, speed, and presentation. Taco Rey offers a 10% off discount to students at the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College, and the staff of South Florida Baptist Hospital receives 10% off their individual entree. “We are also proud to support Plant City High School and Durant High School,” said Rodriguez. “We also want to say thank you to the community, who never stopped being there for us during COVID. They kept us in business and we are thankful we didn’t have to shut our doors and were able to provide for our families.”
Tacos: The restaurant’s signature dish is served street taco-style, with corn tortillas topped with cilantro and onions, and a choice of meat. Taco Rey offers 13 meat options such as shrimp, steak, or pork. Flour tortillas are topped with a choice of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Customers can also ask for their tacos to be made supreme. Burrito del Rey: A 12” monster size burrito, filled with steak, chicken or ground beef, mozzarella, and refried beans. The whole burrito is then covered in queso—melted cheese—guacamole, special sauce, and sour cream. It’s served with rice and a small salad. PAGE
NEW Birra Tacos: These tacos have taken over Instagram as the latest trend in Mexican cuisine. Birria is a traditional beef stew that’s slow-cooked until the beef is tender. Birria Tacos takes that dish to the next level, by stuffing the beef in a tortilla and then dipping the entire taco into the stew and frying it. The tacos are served with stew to re-dip as you eat. Taco Rey took the dish a step further by creating a one-of-akind dish: Birria Pizza. The dish is the same premise, but is an open-face tortilla and topped with veggies like a traditional pizza. Opening at 9:00 a.m. Taco Rey touts an impressive Mexican breakfast menu served all day. Options include a breakfast burrito with bacon, egg, and cheese or ham, egg, and cheese. Huevos Rancheros, which are fried eggs bathed with special sauce, served with rice and beans with cheese and three tortillas. Rodriguez encourages those who want to order for pick up, to visit tacorey.com to place an order through Menufy.
TAKE A SEAT AT THE CANTINA
In the dining room, Taco Rey boasts a full bar, offering a large selection of beers and liquors. Enjoy pastor tacos with a cold Corona and Lime bucket or sip margaritas with the girls in a laid-back casual atmosphere. With Jack, Jim, Johnnie, and Jose stocked, bartenders at Taco Rey are ready to serve up any cocktail or mixed drink and offers Coronaritas, or simply put, a Corona served overturned into a margarita. Taco Rey also offers Micheladas, a spicy tomato juice-based beer drink. The concoction combines tomato juice, lime, assorted sauces, and chile peppers. Served in a glass with two beers overturned, shrimp, and lime to garnish. Taco Rey serves Corona, Bud Light, Victoria, Modelo, and Modelo Negra, and Pacifico beers, with a special of buy six and get one free. Looking for a space to host your next event? Call Angie to schedule a private event in the dining room or hire Taco Rey for pick up and local delivery for your catering needs, including parties, corporate events, and more. Let Taco Rey be the taste of Mexico for your next big event. To learn more about Taco Rey, visit them on Facebook and on Instagram @tacoreyplantcity PAGE
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Eat & Drink Tampa Bay
Bake’n Babes BY CIERRA CRAFT
1910 N. Ola Avenue Tampa, FL 33602 Monday-Thursday: 11am-10pm Friday & Saturday: 11am-11pm Sunday: 11am-9pm 231 East Davis Boulevard Tampa, FL 33606 Monday: Closed Tuesday-Thursday: 11am-10pm Friday & Saturday: 11am-11pm Sunday: 11am-9pm Facebook & Instagram @bakenbabes
lant City readers, you may need to double down on your fitness routine after reading this one. Bake’n Babes is a boutique cookie and shake shop located in Tampa, with two locations: Davis Islands and Armature Works. Founded by Tampa-native Julie Curry, Bake’n Babes is known for its over-the-top milkshakes, mega decadent cookies, and a triple-layer brownie known as the Sleazy Brownie. Curry says when she founded Bake’n Babes, she had zero intentions of building a pink palace of sweet treats. She entered a cupcake contest in Ybor City, and the event organizer, Lynn, asked her to come back the next week to sell sweet treats. Lynn took Curry under her wing to help her set up for markets throughout Tampa Bay. “She told me to buy a table, chairs, and sell my sweets so I set up at the Hyde Park Market and people came up and asked, ‘how much?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, what would you pay for these?” Her desserts took off in popularity and Bake’n Babes was born. For three years, the shop was located at The Hall on Franklin. That food hall closed indefinitely and Babe’n Bakes took up shop at Armature Works. Then the brand opened Bake’n Babes To Go on Davis Islands in August 2021. The menu was streamlined to cookies, shakes, and brownies at the beginning of the pandemic.
Must-Try Sweet Treats
Sleazy Brownie: A loaded brownie with a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, an Oreo, and topped with a layer of chocolate brownie batter. Single, $7; 4-pack, $25 Freak Shake/The Works: Vanilla soft serve ice cream, topped PAGE
with a themed collage of sweet treats. Each month, Bake’n Babes creates a new themed shake with the Freak Shake only available at the Davis Islands location and The Works only available at the Armature Works station. The November Freak Shake is topped with a slice of pumpkin pie, light-up wand, a sparkler, a fall pinwheel, a turkey cut-out, a lollipop whipped cream, and seasonal sprinkles. The November Works is topped with a mini housemade pumpkin pie, fall pinwheel, light-up wand, pumpkin gummy, lollipop, turkey cut-out, candy corn, and seasonal sprinkles. A portion of the sales of this month’s Freak Shake/TheWorks will be donated to the Heart Gallery of Tampa, a nonprofit organization that introduces foster children waiting for adoption to the community through photographic exhibits. Bake’n Babes has worked with Heart Gallery of Tampa in the past and continues to support this nonprofit, along with others such as Mary Lee’s House and Beat Childhood Cancer Foundation. “Julie approached us to create a Freak Shake benefiting our nonprofit,” said Jennifer Renspie, board member of Heart Gallery of Tampa. “Bake’n Babes was part of 60 businesses to raise awareness of our mission and our kids. We are very thankful to Julie and Bake’n Babes for their generosity and for giving back philanthropically in support of our mission.” Renspie says the money raised through the sale of the shakes will go back to improving the quality of life of the kids, such as purchasing shoes, purchasing birthday gifts for the child, or taking them to do fun activities like a Bucs game or a fishing tournament. All things, Renspie says, we all take for granted.
Nutella-Stuffed Cookie: Bake’n Babe’s signature salted chocolate chip cookie, stuffed with Nutella inside. Need I say more? Single, $6; 4-pack, $20. Bake’n Babes cookies have won Best in the Bay by Creative Loafing for three consecutive years. Want to try all of the flavors? Opt for the Babe Box, which includes one Salted Chocolate Chip, one Fruity Pebbles Cookie, one Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip, one Sleazy Brownie, and one back of Kore Organic CBD Gummy Worms. Bake’n Babes also offers Babe Shakes, which mixes your favorite Bake’n Babes cookie into a vanilla soft serve or choose an Ice Cream Sammie, which is vanilla soft service sandwiched between either Salted Chocolate Chip or Fruity Pebble Cookies. Unique to Bake’n Babes is also a Taiyaki Cone. Bake’n Babes makes an offshoot of this popular Japanese street food by filling the koi fish-shaped cone with vanilla soft serve and topped with seasonal sprinkles. What makes Bake’n Babe a success? Julie Curry says it’s the community’s love and the company’s heart. “We are successful because of the love and support of Tampa Bay and so, we have to give back to the community and support the city that supports us,” said Curry. To learn more about Bake’n Babes, visit them on social media @ bakenbabes. To learn more about the Heart Gallery of Tampa, visit heartgallerytampa.org
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20th Annual Silver Christmas for Seniors
Happenings November 19 & 20 Plant City Pig Jam
Friday- 5:00PM-10:00PM Saturday- 10:00AM-5:00PM KCBS Barbeque Contest |Food & Market Vendors | Children’s Activities Randy Larson Softball Complex @ 1401 Gordon Food Services Dr Cost: Free Admission; Parking- $10 Info: 813-754-3707 or email@example.com
November 22 City Commission Meeting
7:30PM Plant City | Government | Open to Public Sadye Gibbs Martin Auditorium @ 302 W. Reynolds St Cost: Free Info: 813-659-4200
23rd Annual Lights of Love-Tree Lighting Ceremony
Strawberry Classic Cruise-In
Keel Farms Wine Turkey Trot Race Start Times Available from 8:00AM-9:00AM 5K-Run or Walk | Race is Timed & Scored by J3 Timing | Finisher Medals | Wine Keel & Curley Winery @ 5202 Thonotosassa Rd Cost: $45- price increases after November 19 Info: 813-752-9100
Plant City Christmas Parade 7:00PM-9:30PM Holiday Floats | Beads | Family Friendly Alsobrook & Collins St in Downtown Plant City Cost: Free Info: 813-453-7134
Yoga @ The Tipsy Bookworm 12:00PM-1:00PM (Doors Open @ 11:30AM) Yoga Instructed by Rebecca Galvin | Beer & Wine | All Levels Welcome The Tipsy Bookworm @ 115 S. Evers St Cost: $10; Includes Hour Long Yoga Session & 8oz Glass of Beer or House Wine Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
PCHS Merry Market 9:00AM-2:00PM 50 Vendors |Holiday Gifts | Food & Drinks Plant City High School @ One Raider Pl Cost: $5 Admission (Proceeds help the PCHS PTSA) Info: 813-757-9370
Christmas Movie Trivia Night 6:30PM-8:30PM Top 3 Teams Win Prizes | Christmas Attire Encouraged | Food & Drinks Keel & Curley Winery @ 5202 Thonotosassa Rd Cost: Free Trivia Info: 813-752-9100
5:30PM-7:30PM Community Tree Lighting Ceremony Photos with Santa | Musical Program McCall Park @ 100 N. Collins St Cost: Free; Lights & Sponsorships Available for Purchase (Proceeds to Benefit South Florida Baptist Hospital) Info: 813-757-8478 or www. sfbhfoundation.org
3:00PM-6:30PM Classic Cars & Trucks | Food | Vendors Downtown Plant City @ 102 N. Palmer St Cost: Free & Free Car Registration Info: 813-754-3707
3:00PM-5:00PM Drive Thru | Holiday Meal |Residents 65 & Older | Volunteers Welcome Bing Rooming House @ 205 S. Allen St Cost: Free; RSVP by Calling 813-704-5800 Info: 813-704-5800 or email@example.com
Awaken Plant City- A Night of Joy & Miracles 4:30PM-10:00PM Christmas Toys & Groceries While Supplies Last | Raffle to Win a Car | Live Music & Food Trucks Plant City Stadium @ 1810 S. Park Rd Cost: Free Info: Dr. Jack & Marie Myers @ 813-7082783 or www.AwakenPlantCity.com
Fun with FlowersCreating a Christmas Centerpiece 10:00AM-3:00PM Open to Public | Plant City Garden Club | National Flower Show Judge KC Jeronimo Historic 1914 Community Center @ 605 N. Collins St Cost: $25; includes supplies & a light lunch Info: Joy Brenneman @ 813-752-5874
3012 James L Redman Parkway Plant City, FL 33566
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THANK YOU PLANT CITY FOR VOTING US BEST VETERINARIAN 2 YEARS IN A ROW!
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DANCING WITH THE LOCALS
On Friday, October 29, the Rotary Club held its annual Dancing with the Locals at the HCC Trinkle Center. The event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Rotary Club and welcomes Plant City locals to showcase their choreographed routines. Darry and Heather Dykstra were presented the first place award, 2nd place went to Strawberry Queen McKenna Jordan and her father, Chad, and 3rd place was presented to Elias and Ayerim Calvillo. The People’s Choice Award went to Cliff and Crystal Brown.
e f a. Elias and Ayerim Calvillo won third place for their tango routine. b. Darry & Heather Dykstra were named the first place winners of the 2021 Dancing with the Locals with their vampire inspired dance. c. The Voice Season 20 runner up Kenzie Wheeler performed live, to the crowd’s surprise. He was accompanied by Cliff Brown. d. Clay and Carmen Keel performed a salsa routine for the crowd. e. Tim and Lindsey Hunt performed a cha cha routine. f. Chad and McKenna Jordan were presented with the 2nd Place title.
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HALLOWEEN ON MAIN STREET
On Friday, October 29, downtown Plant City was transformed into Halloweentown, with little princess and superheroes marching the streets for free candy. Plant City Main Street held its annual Halloween on Main Street themed food truck rally.
a. Businesses, such as Southern Roze, embraced the Halloween spirit, by dressing in costume. The city’s children could Trick-or-Treat from the vendors and downtown merchants. b. Katie Hamilton and Barie Fry offered free face painting to the little trick-ortreaters, painting everything from ghosts to this little cupcake. c. Cotton Kraze, of Clearwater, was on site to make cotton candy for the kids, including a supercone, which mixes two of the vendor’s gourmet flavors. d. These little unicorns were among the hundreds of kids to celebrate the fall holiday in downtown. Superheroes, first responders, and witches were favorite costumes this year. e. Downtown merchants, such as Brick City Bricks, not only passed out candy, but took pictures with the kids and welcomed them to shop in-store.
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