FOCUS Plant City 22-01

Page 1

VENUS & SCOTT STONE Stone Mortgage Group Meet the Nominees of a New RCA Category SEE PAGE 49 FOR DETAILS 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Pageant Contestants Jr. Royalty Winners Crowned
2 PAGE

JOIN US TO

CELEBRATE ALL THINGS AGRICULTURE THIS FEBRUARY!

3 PAGE
From the best of the best in youth and open livestock competitions to education programs like Ag-Venture, there’s always something to learn, watch or do in agriculture at the Florida State Fair. Congratulations and thanks to all within our community who invest their time and effort and represent the rich agricultural heritage and future of Florida. FSFA_FullPage23.indd 1 12/16/22 9:54 AM
4 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST INSURANCE

A New Path Forward

Redevelopment efforts for Walden Lake have been ongoing for several years. Now is the time to write a new chapter for the community that builds upon its legacy of family, friendship and a place to call home.

Plans for the community’s future have been completely redesigned thanks to thoughtful feedback from residents, community and civic leaders, removing all retail space, apartments and special approvals. Only 80-foot-wide single-family homes, villas and townhomes remain.

5 PAGE
Do you want:
Long-term stability for the community?
Desirable modern, high-quality homes?
Compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods?
AND preservation of 70% of
as open, green space?
your answer
YES, then support our rezoning effort and let’s Move
Forward together! Visit MovingWaldenLakeForward.com to learn more and:
Review our site plan
Register for
our Zoom calls
Find out
development team Project specifications subject to change. Questions? Call (813) 835-4001 or email Engage@MovingWaldenLakeForward.com
land
If
is
Walden Lake
one of
when you can meet the

FEATURE: 2023 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL QUEEN’S SCHOLARSHIP PAGEANT CONTESTANTS

Twenty-four contestants will compete for the title of 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen on January 21. FOCUS is proud to feature the contestants in this issue.

FEATURE: JR. ROYALTY WINNERS CROWNED

On Jan. 14, the Florida Strawberry Festival crowned its four Jr. Royalty winners. Meet the city’s youngest representatives and catch a re-cap of pageant night.

FEATURE: COOKIN’ THE COMPETITION

New to the 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards, Plant City will vote for their favorite chef/head cook. In this feature, the chefs showcase their culinary backgrounds and ask for your vote.

6 PAGE
37
Table of Contents
43
49

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. www.focusplantcity.com

7 PAGE focusplantcity.com / Issue 22-01 / January 2023
EDITOR
ART DIRECTOR
OFFICE MANAGER Candy Owens
DISTRIBUTION Tony DeVane STAFF WRITERS Cheryl Johnston Jennifer Jordan CONTRIBUTORS Candy Owens Natalie Sweet Sam Poirier Dr. Chap. Dan Middlebrooks 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 editorial@floydpublications.com. 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
FOCUS PLANT CITY 61 SPOTLIGHT: STONE MORTGAGE GROUP With twenty-one years of experience in the mortgage industry, Scott and Venus Stone have seen it all. The
the industry, mortgage types, and their commitment to timely and honest communication.
PUBLISHER Mike Floyd mikef@floydpublications.com MANAGING
Cierra Craft cierra@floydpublications.com
Anthony Sassano asassano@floydpublications.com
cowens@floydpublications.com
couple discusses
66 BUSINESS: FANCY FARMS MARKET The Grooms family have produced strawberries since 1974. In 2021, Kristi Grooms Barnes opened Fancy Farms Market on Lakeland’s Drane Field Road to sell the family’s produce, desserts, and baked goods.
8 PAGE 2023NOMINEE BEST NEW BUSINESS 2023 NOMINEE
9 PAGE Visit FLstrawberryfestival.com or call 813-754-1996 and get your tickets for the best seats available! Concert dates and times are subject to change #berryfest23 Home of OUR • T-Mobile • Alessi Bakeries • AMSCOT • Astin Farms • Candyland Warehouse • Global Frequency Technology • TRUFFOIRE • Circle K • Local Ford Dealers • O’Reilly Auto Parts • Grove Equipment Service • Stingray Chevrolet • Uncommon USA • ZYN • Monticciolo Sedation Dentistry • Netterfield’s Concessions • Verizon Wireless • Badcock Home Furniture &More • Good Health Saunas • Dakin Dairy Farms • Krazy Kup • Lazydays RV • DIRECTV • Images Everywhere! • Master Spas • Florida Blue • Local Ford Dealers • Wyndham Destinations • Entenmann’s • Portillo’s Hot Dogs • The Bank of Tampa The Oak Ridge Boys Front Porch Singin’ Tour Thu. Mar. 2, 3:30 $30 Sara Evans Sat. Mar. 4, 3:30 $35 Neal McCoy Mon. Mar. 6, 3:30 $30 Chris Young Sun. Mar. 5, 7:30 $60 The Isley Brothers Sat. Mar. 11, 7:30 $40 Walker Hayes Thu. Mar. 2, 7:30 $40 Wayne Newton Fri. Mar. 10, 3:30 $40 The Jacksons Wed. Mar. 8, 7:30 $40 Tanya Tucker Wed. Mar. 8, 3:30 $35 SAWYER BROWN Sat. Mar. 11, 3:30 $30 Willie Nelson & Family Fri. Mar. 3, 3:30 $50 CHRIS “LUDACRIS” BRIDGES Sat. Mar. 4, 7:30 $40 CeCe Winans Tue. Mar. 7, 7:30 $25 Josh Turner Mon. Mar. 6, 7:30 $35 Root & Boots Aaron Tippin, Collin Raye and Sammy Kershaw Tue. Mar. 7, 3:30 $35 Train Fri. Mar. 10, 7:30 $50 HALESTORM Fri. Mar. 3, 7:30 $45 The Gatlin Brothers Sun. Mar. 5, 3:30 $25 Lynyrd Skynyrd Sun. Mar. 12, 7:30 $60 FOR KING + COUNTRY Thu. Mar. 9, 7:30 $40 TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS Thu. Mar. 9, 3:30 $35 The Leroy Van Dyke Country Gold Tour Featuring Leroy Van Dyke, T.G. Sheppard, Mandy Barnett and T. Graham Brown Sun. Mar. 12, 3:30 $35 Tickets On Sale Now! • FLstrawberryfestival.com Artists Appearing Soundstage: Mar. 2 - 12, 2023 • Plant City, FL We Have a Winner!

CELEBRATING ALL THINGS PLANT CITY

When settling into a new community, it can be challenging to find a coffee shop with the right vibe and a good roast. The local shop to visit when you’re ready for some retail therapy. A favorite place to gather for a hearty breakfast with your co-workers.

For those of us in Plant City, we have a handy guide with FOCUS Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards contest. We ask our readers to vote in over 50 categories and over 200 nominees for the best of the best. This year, voting will take place from January 30 to February 3. The awards presentation will be on February 16 and the winners will be announced in the March issue. Be sure to get all of the details on voting in this issue, as well as meet the nominees of a brand-new category. Congratulations to all of the nominees of the 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards!

In preparation to celebrate all things Plant City, the Florida Strawberry Festival has crowned its Jr. Royalty winners. Congratulations to the four girls chosen to represent our city! The FOCUS staff is also excited to have the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen on our next cover. You can see the headshots of each of the contestants in this issue and get details on tickets.

Whether you’re a transplant, longtime resident or native of Plant City, there is no denying this time of year is exciting. There is always something new to learn about Plant City as it continues to grow and evolve while holding onto small-town traditions. We encourage you to get out and explore Plant City and all it has to offer.

Warmest Regards,

Mike Floyd

10 PAGE
PUBLISHER From The Publisher
11 PAGE MillenniumPhysician.com Dr. Berchelmann Welcomes Primary-Care Physicians Laura Nall, MD, and Nicholas Heathscott, MD, to his Plant City Practice Christopher Berchelmann, MD Internal Medicine Laura Nall, MD Family Medicine Take charge of your health and schedule with our primary-care physicians today! 1907 S Alexander Street, Suite 1, Plant City, FL 33566 813.754.3344 Nicholas Heathscott, MD, CAQSM Family Medicine and Non-Surgical Orthopedics 2023NOMINEE BESTWINGS, BAR,SERVER THE WOLF FAMILY 708 W. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BLVD. PLANT CITY, FL 33563 THE WOLF FAMILY 708 W. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BLVD. PLANT CITY, FL 33563 THANK YOU PLANT CITY... ...FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

n Dec. 17, the Children’s Board Family Resource Center in Plant City provided 440 gifts to families in need this holiday season. To bring joy to children, the Family Resource Center empowered parents and caregivers to pick out gifts for their children from birth to eighteen and had the gifts wrapped on-site and ready to take home for Christmas morning.

“It is wonderful news that the Children’s Board Family Resource Center in Plant City provided gifts for families this year,” said Kelley Parris, Executive Director of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. “Hillsborough County has a poverty rate of 14% and it is important for organizations in the community to support our children and families during the season.”

Through a partnership with Undershepherds Undershepherds organization, the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers secured spots for 440 children to receive gifts. Other community partners like Sincerely Santa and the Kiwanis Club of Plant City also donated gifts.

The Children’s Board Family Resource Centers offer programs and services to ensure children of all abilities are healthy and safe, developmentally on track, have family support, and are ready to learn prior to going to kindergarten.

The Children’s Board Family Resource Centers demonstrated a true show of neighborly love and togetherness this holiday season.

12 PAGE Community CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY FOCUS LAST MONTH’S PERSONALITY: CARL AND
L’Amour L’Amour This
has
This
where
their
Cart!
HE LOVES GOLF AND THE FLA GATORS!!!!
is a
and
really good at Math. I cant tell you ANYMORE!!! PLANT CITY PERSONALITIES! CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS? Children’s Board Hosted Gift Giveaway for Plant City families HERE IS YOUR CLUE: 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) O
DIANE SMITH BLACK
sweet couple
been married for OVER 20 years now!
HANDSOME Groom is a Plant City native. He went to Jackson Elementary, Lincoln, Marshall and Plant City High School. He went on to graduate from The University of Florida
he met his BEAUTIFUL Bride to Be. They went on to make Plant City
forever home. He was a Champion Swimmer as a young man and grew up LOVING Captain Crunch Cereal, Dr. Paul Bearer, Dark Shadows, Halloween, riding his Big Wheel and driving his Go
He loved ANYTHING scary on TV.
She
Tennis Pro
is

Remembering Timothy H. Cribbs

August 31, 1961 – December 14, 2022

As a leader in the Plant City community and highly regarded educator, Tim Cribbs was a well-loved giant of a man. At the recent Celebration of Life and visitation services, all in attendance shared a mutual sentiment – this wonderful husband, father, grandfather, relative, co-worker, mentor, and friend will be greatly missed.

Large numbers of folks gathered twice, just before the Christmas holiday, to share memories and honor his life on December 21 and 22, 2022, at Hopewell Funeral Home and Bell Shoals Baptist Church, respectively. One especially touching moment on Thursday morning was the crowd of blue-corduroy-jacket-attired FFA students, standing near the front of the chapel to sing the Durant High School Cougars’ anthem.

During both gatherings, those who knew Tim Cribbs best highlighted his priorities, which were God, his family, his friends, and his students.

Also lovingly known as “Coach” and “Uncle Timmy,” this remarkable man accomplished so much in his brief 61 years. Tim and his wife Suzanne were married 37 of those and raised two children: Joshua Timothy Cribbs and Caitlin Rebekah Walker. The University of Florida graduate and Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity member taught agriculture for 39 years and was the Agriculture Department Head at Durant High School. Professionally, he also served as the Florida Strawberry Festival Judging Chair and on the Board of Directors for the Florida Future Farmers of America (FFA). In addition, this FFA

Hall of Fame honoree enjoyed Gator football, hunting, fishing, and time with four grandchildren.

At the memorial service, Tim’s son Josh related how his father “loved being my mom’s strength…loved challenge…and loved winning, although not for the glory of a trophy or recognition.” Instead, Josh added, “my father wanted children to feel and experience success, to realize the work and effort required to achieve it.” He noted that “his drive to coach and teach was just as strong at year 39 as it was in his first year with students.”

Continuing, Josh credited his dad for “setting a standard of leadership in his home, career, and church. He lived a life fully devoted to others… He never met a stranger, never turned away from helping a child believe in their potential, and never wavered in his love for God, for my momma and our family, and for the agricultural program he built at Durant.”

Pam Bowden, retired DHS Principal, described her lifelong friend’s influence over so many young people and their families as “extensive and impressive.” With appreciation she wrote, “Tim Cribbs loved his family and extended family, which included his students, the Ag department, FFA and Durant High School. We became fast friends in 6th grade and had the good fortune to work together for 20 years! I will miss him for the rest of my life.”

Tim’s daughter Caitlin wrote: “Our dad was one of a kind and this past month has reminded us of that. It was truly amazing to see how many

people from our hometown and across the state came to share their respect. We miss him tremendously and our world will never be the same. We know his legacy will live on and we will continue to make him proud.”

Tommy Warnock, Associate Pastor with First Baptist Church- Plant City, encouraged all attending that “Coach has brought us to a crossroad today.” He explained, “This man, who had a relationship with the real and living God, embraced the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6, which is to ‘Trust in the Lord your God and lean not unto your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.’ Coach understood that to be significant in the life of a child is world-changing and he would challenge us today to never settle for less than God’s best.”

Many agree that Tim Cribbs was “all about paying it forward.” And until his move to heaven just before Christmastime this year, this homegrown hero never stopped investing his energy, resources, and love into others.

In memory, may we each continue to follow his beautiful example.

Please note: Even now, expressions of condolence can be shared at www. HopewellFuneral.com and memorial contributions are still being accepted to the Florida FFA Foundation (please include “in Memory of Tim Cribbs in the comment section at www.donorbox. org/flffafoundationdonate).

13 PAGE

“It’s Not Just a Haircut”

Fade Away Barbershop Gives Free Haircuts to Homeless

to 50 people’s hair, free of charge. Originally starting at parks in Tampa such as Curtis Hixon, Centennial, and Lykes Gaslight Parks, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor noticed the barbers’ efforts on YouTube and wanted to help them help others, so she moved the barbers to Tampa Hope, which provides several services and housing to those in need.

When asked why they started giving free haircuts in the first place, Apex said, “We got a lot of love when we started this business. We both came from another barbershop to open this ourselves, and we had a lot of support. All the blessings we received made us want to give that blessing back to others.”

Giving out free haircuts to the homeless for over a year now, A.B., and Apex even started a non-profit organization called Team Gifted. Their hope with starting the non-profit is to make what they do more official and to be taken seriously so churches and homeless shelters will not hesitate to reach out and ask for them to come out and give free haircuts, especially since Apex and A.B. would like to offer more haircuts in Plant City, as they are born and raised Plant Citians. If they can’t cut hair, they will at least get pizza and hand them out to the homeless.

Not only do the barbers at Fade Away help the homeless, they also go to orphanages, foster homes, and juvenile detention facilities. A.B. noted about those visits, “We go in there to give them haircuts, speak some positivity to them, and uplift them so they can see there is a bright future ahead of them and that there are people that want them to succeed.”

A group of outstanding and selfless young men, the owners and barbers at Fade Away Barbershop are not only doing a great thing for the homeless in the community, they’re spreading positivity, hope, and compassion to all those they interact with in the community. If you have any questions about their non-profit, Team Gifted, or would like A.B., Apex, and the barbers at Fade Away to visit a specific location and cut hair for those in need, please call 813-756-6119, or visit their website at www.teamgifted.org. If you would like to see more of what the team at Fade Away Barbershop is doing, visit their Instagram page, @FADE. AWAYBARBERSHOP, or visit their barbershop Tuesday-Friday from 9:00AM6:00PM and Saturdays from 8:00AM-4:00PM.

Walden Lake Review

Walden Lake Community Association Board Meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 6:30 at the Walden Lake Community Association office building on Griffin Boulevard in Walden Lake. The next meeting will be on February 20th. Please keep an eye on the announcement boards at all entrances for dates and times of special meetings and events. Meetings are now being held in person although you can still log in to www. WaldenLake.org and view the meeting virtually on zoom.

It’s time again for the Planning Board to hear any concerns you have regarding the development of the golf course. The City of Plant City Planning Board has scheduled hearing dates regarding the plans submitted by Walden Lake LLC for Tuesday, January 31, 2023 and Wednesday, February 8, 2023. The meetings will be held at the Trinkle Center at Hillsborough Community College Campus from 5:30 PM and doors open at 5:00 PM. For more information, please contact the City of Plant City.

The Sweet Team has scheduled another electronic recycling event for Tuesday, January 31st from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It is open to residents and businesses and will be held at the HOA office on Griffin Boulevard. Please feel free to email me at NSweet@KW.com for more details.

The food trucks at the HOA Building/Sports Complex are on the second Fridays and last Sundays of each month. If you have yet to take advantage of the delicious offerings, give them a try! Watch for more information from emails coming from the HOA, the entrance boards, and Nextdoor for updated information.

During the month of December, there were 12 sales in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East. The average sale price was $396,842 with an average of 2129 square feet, average of $191 per square foot and was on the market for an average of 38 days.

The December Sales are as follows:

Address / Sales Price / Living Area / Pool / Garage

102 Seville Court North / $210,900 / 1401 / 2 Car / Community 4209 Barret Avenue / $320,000 / 1127 / 2 Car / Private 1907 Carriage Court / $345,000 / 2155 / 2 Car / None 2501 Lakeview Way / $450,000 / 2617 / 2 Car / Private 1905 Country Club Drive / $540,000 / 3461 / 2 Car / Private 2814 Pine Club Drive / $556,000 / 2675 / 2 Car / Private 2709 Forest Club Drive / $559,000 / 3122 / 2 Car / Private 2822 Hammock Drive / $560,000 / 2985 / 2 Car / Private

There are currently 21 active listings for sale in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East. The average list price of $422,471 and an average of 83 days on the market. There are 8 properties Pending Contract in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East with an average list price of $454,114 and an average of 80 days on the market. If you have been following this report you will notice there is an uptick in the days on the market for both active and pending contract sales. For more information on these properties, feel free to give me a call at 813-758-9586.

In 2022 there were 142 sales closed through MLS in Walden Lake and Walden Lake East with an average sale price of $421,603. In 2021, there were 180 closed sales with an average sale price of $358,887.

This is still a great time to sell your home. Before you sell your home to an “I’ll buy your home for cash company, move when you are ready”, you should consult with an honest and experienced real estate agent that will be able to give you a value of what your home will sell on the open market. Feel free to contact me with any questions about this article or your real estate needs. NSweet@KW.com or 813-758-9586.

14 PAGE
Community CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY
FOCUS
Two Sundays out of every month, Fade Away Barbershop owners Apex and A.B., along with barbers Miguel, Chris, and Daniel, cut hair for the homeless. Meeting at 8:00AM at the barbershop, located at 1795 James L Redman Pkwy, they gather their supplies and head out to Tampa Hope Shelter and cut anywhere from 40
15 PAGE A FULL SERVICE LAW FIRM & FAMILY MEDIATION CENTER BRANDON LEGAL GROUP Attorneys at Law 844-4BLG4ME WWW.BRANDONLEGALGROUP.COM *Family Law *Mediation *Divorce *Business Law *Real Estate Law *Bankruptcy *Wills and Trusts *Criminal Defense INGRID M. HOOGLANDER OFFICE IN BRANDON SUN CITY CENTER, WESLEY CHAPEL, LAKELAND & TAMPA BY APPOINTMENT

FOCUS announces 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards Details

Now in its 22nd year, FOCUS Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards contest continues to highlight the people and places that make up our incredible community. With over 50 categories and more than 200 individual nominees, this year’s voting will take place January 30 to February 3. Our staff then gathers the results, makes a list, and checks it twice. On February 16 at our annual Anniversary Party at Keel Farms, the winners will be presented with plaques and announced in our March Readers’ Choice Awards issue.

We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions to explain how the RCA process works:

1. Who chooses the winners? Can we trust these results are fair and accurate?

You, the readers, vote in an online survey. The nominee with the most votes wins the category. We use a third party software that is able to detect cheating and bots, or votes generated by a computer program rather than a human. Any nominees whose votes are found to have used a program or other means to gain an unfair advantage over the other candidates may be disqualified and the next nominee with the most votes will be considered the winner. We don’t charge a dime for a candidate to be nominated. Companies cannot pay to enter or win the Readers’ Choice Awards. It comes down to the support of readers.

2. How do I vote and how often can I vote?

On Monday, January 30, FOCUS will share a link on our website, focusplantcity.com, and on our social media channels. Voters must answer every question on the survey for their vote to count. Other forms of communication, like a phone call to our office, a social media comment, etc. will not count as a vote. Only votes made through the survey link will be considered. Voting will close on Friday, February 3. Readers can vote once per day per device, so encourage your friends to vote via their smartphone, laptop, or any device that connects to the web.

3. Can nominees market for votes?

Yes, this is actually encouraged! You may see ads in this issue asking for votes, and/or may receive other communication from nominees asking for your vote.

4. Why are some businesses nominated for more than one category?

Businesses maybe nominated for more than one category as long as they are relevant (subject to the approval of our staff).

5. Can I suggest a new category?

Yes, we are always open to feedback regarding categories, the voting process, and nominations. Please feel free to contact us with your suggestions.

6. How do I get notified of voting and the results?

First, follow us on Facebook @focusplantcity. If you’re a nominee, be sure to accept your nomination with your Account Manager before voting opens on January 30.

7. Do nominees have to attend the Anniversary Party in order to win?

No, your attendance isn’t required. But, who doesn’t love a good party? We ask all nominees to please try to send a representative for your business to the event. If you are not able to do so, please contact our office and let us know.

8. When will the winners be announced?

Winners will be announced at the FOCUS Magazine 22nd Anniversary Party on February 16 at Keel Farms. The winners will receive a free halfpage story in the March issue, currently schedule for release on March 14. This date is subject to change without notice.

16 PAGE Community CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY FOCUS

Two Plant City Natives Compete in NCAA Division III National Football Championship

On Friday, December 16, the Mount Union Purple Raiders (14-1) faced off against North Central Cardinals (15-0) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III National Football Championship. The Mount Union’s senior quarterback Braxton Plunk and tight end Chase Lawson, both Plant City natives. The game aired on ESPNU and ESPN+ and Duke’s Brewhouse aired the game to support the two Plant City boys.

According to d3football.com, three championships and four years had passed since Mount Union’s last Stagg Bowl title. The Mount Union program has thirteen national championships and 22 Stagg Bowl appearances under its belt.

Mount Union struggled for three-quarters to get on the board. Momentum shifted when they put together an 11-play drive that covered 69 yards with Plunk’s 9-yard touchdown with 9:19 on the clock. Purple Raiders, in a valiant fourth-quarter rally, overcame a 21-0 deficit to get within one score of tying the game. Plunk, who was in the running for the Gagliardi Trophy as the best overall player in the country, completed 26-of-36 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Lawson had four receptions for 23 yards.

The Cardinals took down Mount Union 28-21 to win their second Stagg Bowl since 2019. While the season didn’t end as Plunk nor Lawson hoped, the Plant City community sure is proud of these Purple Raiders for showcasing their talents on a national stage after an impressive season.

17 PAGE
Member FDIC 509 W ALEXANDER ST. | PLANT CITY, FL 33563 813.707.6506 thebankoftampa.com
to
Staffed
Committed
Plant City.
with bankers who have deep roots in the Plant City area, our bank’s focus for the past 38 years has been to serve owner-managed businesses, professional firms, and families that want a strong, local connection with their bank and banker. Come grow with us.

Faith Christian Academy Hosts Groundbreaking Ceremony

Faith Christian Academy will be moving to its new campus by April of 2023.

A groundbreaking ceremony held on November 2 at 3611 W. Reynolds Street involved staff members and students who shoveled soil where the 12,500 square-foot modular building will be erected.

From its humble beginnings in 2012 with four students, FCA and its staff of 23 now educates and trains 160 students, ranging in age from kindergarteners to 12th graders. The preschool, with six teachers, accommodates a maximum of 25 children at its original location on South Collins Street.

Founder and Principal, Nicole Williams, desires that the school be a wonderful resource for Plant City, eastern Hillsborough, and Polk County families. She shared, “We know our public school system is very important, so we’re not competing. We also know children need more structure for learning. Our goal is to provide a Christ-centered environment that helps children thrive and experience success.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Assistant Principal Benimowei Jombai credited God for the

school’s accomplishments and especially for this “dream deferred that’s becoming a reality.” He added, “We have pushed through adversity and are grateful for the abundant goodness of Jesus.”

Athletic Director Michael Tinney is excited that the campus will eventually contain its own gymnasium and sports fields. Presently, the FCA Falcons compete with others in Boys’ Football, Girls’ Volleyball, Girls’ and Boys’ Basketball, lowerand upper-level Soccer, Cross Country, and Cheerleading.

During this last year of preparation for accomplishing its own campus, Principal Williams was especially appreciative of Melissa Overton at Centennial Bank who assisted with the financing process.

She is also very grateful for the Church of the Nazarene on Mud Lake Road, which has housed FCA classes for the past two years. Pastor Don Corzine returned the compliment, saying: “It’s been a blessing to participate with Faith Christian Academy in educating young minds with Christian values. We are excited about the school’s future.”

FCA uses a check system that offers students opportunities to make wise decisions.

Striving for the highest standards of citizenship, honor, honesty, and morality, FCA students with no checks are rewarded with a supervised group outing. Most recently, 40 children earned a shopping trip to the mall. And to assist parents and caregiving family members, FCA hosted its first annual series of well-attended “Effective Parenting” classes during the month of October.

In addition to acknowledging good grades and respectful behavior, students are given the opportunity to engage in community service projects such as Stuff the Bus, the United Food Bank’s efforts, Lighthouse Ministries, a Thanksgiving dinner, and a Christmas outreach.

The tuition-based school with a 96% retention rate is accredited by both Cognia™ and the Florida League of Christian Schools. Fees are affordable and scholarships are available, especially for adopted children or those in foster care. Donations to this 501(c)3 educational organization are also welcomed and appreciated.

For additional information about the Faith Christian Academy Falcons, please visit https:// www.fcafalcons.org or phone 813-473-2090 (extension 3) to schedule an appointment.

18 PAGE Community CHECK IN WITH PLANT CITY FOCUS

Dachshund Seeking Forever Home Rescue

They say dogs are man’s best friend, and if you ask Tia Bednarczyk which dog is, she would say a dachshund. Loving dachshunds her whole life, Tia’s love for dachshunds and a decision to help a friend of hers find a dachshund created the opportunity to start Dachshund Seeking Forever Home Rescue, an allvolunteer, foster home based, dachshund dog rescue organization based in Central Florida. Beginning in 2017 with her partner Mike Ellington, nontech savvy friends would ask Tia to help post their dog online to find a home. The friends were elderly and/or unable to care for their own dogs, and majority of the rescue’s animals come from owner surrender, animal control shelters, and other rescues. As Tia found these dachshunds their forever home, more people started reaching out to her via social media, asking her to take their dachshund and find it a good home. Not being able to find them homes as quick as she’d like, Tia couldn’t turn them away, and her and Mike started fostering dachshunds with the purpose of getting them current on shots, spayed or neutered, and in good health to be able to join a forever family. All dogs adopted are fully vetted, dewormed, heartworm tested, treated with flea and heartworm prevention, spayed or neutered if needed, and receive rabies, Bordetella DA2PPV and booster, unless you adopt before the booster is due.

With around nine to 10 dogs in her home at all times and sometimes having as many as 15, Dachshund Seeking Forever Home also has volunteers that help with fostering, transport, and taking the dogs to the vet when necessary. Every year, with the help of adoption specialist Sona Bujdakova in Illinois, Tia and Mike find homes for 70-100 dogs per year through Dachshund Seeking Forever Home. Mainly focusing on dachshunds, Tia and Mike will also take in other small dog breeds, as long as they’re not aggressive, no matter what health condition they might be facing. Not having a physical shelter, they operate primarily through their foster homes, online databases such as Facebook and other social media, and at adoption events and expos. A 501 (c) (3) rescue, Dachshund Seeking Forever Home Rescue gives opportunities to volunteer, foster, and adopt.

Tia said about volunteers, “We can always use help keeping our social media up to date, keeping track of bookkeeping and data entry, maintaining the yard where the dogs play, cleaning, and more. There are a lot of ways someone can help us if they don’t want to work directly with the dogs but would like to make a difference.” If you would like to send supplies such as toys, beds, and monetary donations, or see what dachshunds are up for adoption, foster a dachshund, or volunteer, please visit the Dachshund Seeking Forever Home Rescue Facebook page, call Tia Bednarczyk at 941-999-0077, or email her at dachshundseekingforeverhome@gmail.com.

19 PAGE

PLANT CITY FOCUS

Have You Seen “That” Skeleton? Wheeler Street’s Giant Skeleton

Since October 2021, driving down Wheeler Street in downtown Plant City has been far from boring. For over a year, Plant City residents and visitors have been able to see giant 12-foot skeleton dressed according to the time of year in Thom and Dawn Doner’s front yard. Many of us have wondered since the skeleton was put up, what’s the story behind it, such as its name, why it stays up, and Thom and Dawn’s plans for their boney friend next year.

Skelliot is the name of the skeleton, and barring the few hurricanes, he’s been up in the Doners yard consistently. When COVID-19 first surfaced, Thom and Dawn spent a lot of time driving to home improvement stores. “My wife, Dawn, first spotted them popping up on Facebook groups and we saw one in person on our way home from Home Depot right around Labor Day of 2020. From that point on, my wife was dead set on finding one. It took almost a solid year to find one, and then another, and some more”, stated Thom.

Living in the house since 2011, the Doners always decorate for the holidays as best as they can. At some point, they began wanting to outdo themselves every year, and slowly grew more elaborate with the decorating. Once Halloween ended in 2021, they had one question to ask themselves, “Do we want to break down Skelliot until next year, or be one of “those people” with a 12-foot skeleton in our yard all year long?”

Come to find out, Thom and Dawn wanted to be “those people” and kept him up. Most of Skelliot’s outfits come from ideas from Dawn or from their two daughters, Eris and Athena. Thom

stated, “The only one I take credit for is when he has his Josh Allen Potato Buffalo shirt on. Go Bills! But honestly, the theme we went with for last year was a different outfit for each season. We accomplished that goal and made a few people laugh during their drive home or to work that maybe needed a laugh that day.”

Over the past year, Skelliot has been dressed as Santa, worn bunny ears and held an Easter basket for Easter, worn a kilt for St. Patrick’s Day, and had a clock around his neck for New Year’s Eve. For large skeletons, the Doners have two 12-foot skeletons. Not only do they have Skelliot, they have his cousin, Skeddie. They also have about five or six 5-foot skeletons, two or three 4-foot skeletons, and some various parts from fallen skeletons over the years. They all rest in pieces in the attic until Halloween, with the exception of Skelliot.

Thom said about keeping up Skelliot, “It makes us smile and forces us to be creative and come up with a plan for him. We had no idea so many people took joy in seeing him over the months and seeing him change outfits.”

For 2023, Skelliot will stay in his Bills outfit until the end of the football season, and will definitely be up all year. Thom said about Skelliot’s 2023 outfits, “We’ll keep some of the ones special to us, like the kilt one. We are in a Gasparilla Krewe (Krewe of Celts) so that one is in permanent rotation. Maybe we’ll see if Plant City is ready for Skrampus this year!” The next time you drive down Wheeler Street, be sure to look out for Skelliot at the intersection of Wheeler and Calhoun streets.

20 PAGE Community CHECK IN WITH
21 PAGE

Wreaths Across

America

Plant City resident Kimberly Kitchen is always looking for ways to serve our community. When she reached out a few months ago for folks willing to get involved with the Wreaths Across America effort, she was overwhelmed by the local response.

In addition to the many who sponsored the purchase of a wreath or wreaths, more than 300 volunteers gathered on December 17, 2022 to place 1,164 of those on veterans’ graves in four local cemeteries – Garden of Peace, Oaklawn, Memorial Gardens, and Shiloh.

Nationally, ceremonies like the one here were held in 3,400 locations across America on this date. The outreach started in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery when Maine businessman Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths to lay on the tombstones there. And since the charitable Wreaths Across America organization was officially established in 2007, its impact continues to increase each year, even outside of the United States.

Before those volunteers dispersed to lay the wreaths, they were encouraged by a program presented at the Veterans Memorial Park. After the Plant City High School Army ROTC cadets presented the colors, followed by our national anthem and pledge of allegiance. Mayor Nate Kilton and the City’s newest commissioner, Jason Jones, offered remarks, as did William Thomas, Jr. The former U.S. Army Combat Medic, who now directs the Improvement League of Plant City and the Bing Rooming House Museum, recalled how his father, Lt. Col. William Thomas, had retired after serving as a forensic scientist with the military police.

Kitchen spearheaded Plant City’s effort because her father, Alonso Murray, was a Korean War veteran. He had started a tradition 17 years ago at the family’s annual Christmas breakfast, desiring that they would honor men and women who had fought for our country’s freedom. This year her grandchildren placed a wreath on their

great-grandfather’s grave, so the tradition took on a whole new level of meaning for the family.

“There are many, many generous people I could thank,” said Kitchen. “The City of Plant City was so helpful, including Jeff Black, the City’s Superintendent of Cemeteries. Terry Jones of Marcone Supply arranged for transport of the wreaths to the four locations. Unity in the Community contributed $5,000 to purchase 330 wreathes and plenty of families donated in memory of their family’s military members.”

“And I can’t forget to mention ‘Miss Judy,’” added Kitchens. “Everyone I asked for advice about who to contact, what to do, and how do I get this going, all directed me to Judy Wise, who’s now unofficially known as the ‘veteran lady’ because she has orchestrated the planning and volunteers for the ‘Plant City Honors Our Veterans’ effort in November for the last number of years.”

“I am so proud of Plant City,” she continued. “There is a culture of absolute respect for our military and Veterans in this community. We are truly blessed that our children can grow up understanding the sacrifice so many made for our freedoms. It’s a beautiful place to live.”

Out of this mother’s love for her children and community, Kitchen established a 501(c)3 non-profit in 2017 - Generations ReNewed, A Community Development Corporation (GenerationsReNewed.org). Her own family represents many American families dealing with

poverty and the generational barriers it presents in communities everywhere. Their story of love, hope, and survival drives the mission forward through education/training, resources, community connections, and outreaches.

To learn more or to sponsor a wreath, visit https://wreathsacrossamerica.org/FL1006P or call Kimberly Kitchen at 813-562-4495. She has even greater expectations for the response in the 2023 outreach.

22 PAGE Community CHECK IN WITH
PLANT CITY FOCUS
23 PAGE
24 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST DENTAL PRACTICE

ChiliFest, RailFest

to Join Forces for Jan. 28 event

On Saturday, Jan. 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum will be abuzz with the Arts Council of Plant City’s ChiliFest and the museum’s RailFest combining their events for the first time. Both events serve as major fundraisers for the nonprofits. Chili lovers and railroad enthusiasts are invited to enjoy the day with trains, chili, and family.

The RailFest was previously scheduled for October 8, 2022, but Hurricane Ian devastated much of our State including roof damage to the train museum causing the postponement from the original date. That is when the two organizations decided to partner for the event.

“The Arts Council is excited to combine our ChiliFest with the museum’s RailFest,” said ChiliFest chairperson Frank Cummings. “There will be a lot more than usual with the two events at once and it’s bringing people together to support both nonprofits.”

At 10:00 a.m., the City of Plant City Commissioners will take to the stage to welcome the community, followed by remarks by Vice Mayor Michael Sparkman, who spearheaded the museum and building of the adjacent train viewing platform in 2013. Dr. Dan Middlebrooks of Chaplaincy Care, Inc. will provide the Invocation, Presentation of Colors, and National Anthem. Marsha Passmore, president of the Arts Council and the ChiliFest committee will join Museum Director Bennie Lubrano on stage for introductions and Lubrano will present the RailFest’s 7th annual Golden Spike Award.

“The Golden Spike Award is presented each year to a member of the community for their

leadership, support, and commitment to the Willaford Museum,” said RailFest chairperson Lloyd Thomas.

Past Golden Spike Award recipients include Jim Scott (2019), Bill McDaniel (2018), Robert Willaford (2017), and Michael Sparkman (2016).

Twenty-five competitors will battle it out in the ChiliFest, vying for first or second-place trophies and cash prizes in the Mild, Spicy, and Novelty categories selected by a panel of judges. The community can purchase a tasting bowl and spoon for $5. Monies raised from bowl sales will be used to provide scholarships to high school seniors pursuing a career in the arts, the Arts Council’s lamppost banner project, and bring the J. Seward Johnson statues to town each year.

Those who purchase a bowl will be provided with a ticket and asked to drop their ticket in the box of their favorite chili competitor. The competitor with the most tickets will be named the People’s Choice Award winner.

“We’ve got a lot of repeat competitors, so we are looking forward to seeing what chili recipes the competitors bring this year,” said Frank Cummings.

The Arts Council will also host a 50/50 raffle and the RailFest will have a live auction with an international auctioneer and Krazy Kup owner Frank Trunzo.

“We’re auctioning off historical railroad photographs, railroad maps, as well as items donated by committee members,” said Lloyd Thomas. “The money raised will be put towards renovations needed in the museum’s two-story tower.”

Entertainment will be provided by Drawdy’s

Dance School and Chris Welbon Karate Club. The Willaford Express train will provide rides for the kids, as well as a Bounce House and Face Painting. Umami Smoke will be on sight hot dogs for the kids.

Plant City Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Plant City Fire Rescue, and CSX will be in attendance with units on display and demonstrations. The RailFest committee encourages attendees to also take part in Henry’s Hidden Train Hunt, a project in partnership with Plant City Main Street and MAKE Plant City. Families will be provided with a free map; with clues, the map will send families on the hunt for ten hidden trains throughout downtown streets. Those who find all of the trains will receive a lapel pin for helping Plant City namesake Henry Plant find his hidden trains.

“We want the community to come out to enjoy some chili and enjoy the railroad museum for a day of fun with the family in our beautiful downtown,” said Marsha Passmore.

25 PAGE
26 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST CUBAN AND SOUP
27 PAGE Never Had a Dog! Whoever said Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend 3012 James L Redman Pkwy, Plant City, FL 33566 (813) 588-3540 Plant City’s Only Boutique Pet Store Pet Clothes, Collars, Leashes & More! Highest Quality Dog & Cat Food & Treats Grooming starting at $47

Tanya Brown People of

Plant City

Plant City native Tanya Brown cherishes her “growing up” memories here with Fourth of July family reunions, raising her children, and caregiving for her mother. From her 33 years of service with Frontier, she believes, “It’s important to put in a solid day’s work, one day at a time because before you know it, that longevity has built a solid career, and God willing, you can look forward to retirement.”

Although a country girl at heart, Tanya prefers her daughter’s cooking. She confided, “I tell her, ‘If you do cook, I’ll clean,’ adding, ‘I know how to stay in my lane!’” Tanya, the daredevil, “will try almost anything once.” She fantasizes of one day owning a red motorcycle. Another passion is roller coasters – “the faster and higher, the better!”

I (Cheryl Johnston) was a beneficiary of Tanya’s caring heart when she drove me, a total stranger who’d locked keys in the car, from and back to the Octopus Car Wash. That day we both felt we’d made a new friend through a divine appointment. She’s a “pay it forward” hometown hero, for sure!

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

“I’m the youngest of four and a Plant City High School graduate, Class of 1987, with three children – Fred, Kiara and Wallace. Fred and Kiara have both been featured in the Plant City Observer: Fred (“Tj”) in 2019 for his Sherwin Williams work years here before pursuing his acting dream in New York; and Kiara (“Kiki”) in 2016 for a community service project that inspired Dover Elementary students to create vison boards.

My paternal grandmother, a constant in my life, impacted my childhood tremendously with lots of one-on-one time. She cleaned houses for income and sometimes I helped. It never felt like work because the beautifully furnished homes fascinated me. Even today this housecleaning ability (learned from Grandma and Mama) remains therapeutic (but my kids say I’m obsessive). Memories of Saturdays when Grandma put on her ‘good wig and going to town clothes’ before we headed downtown to browse at McCrory’s and other stores will always be special.

Our family had large, wonderful large Fourth of July reunions at Lithia Springs or Hillsborough State Park! We swam, walked trails, ate delicious food, and caught up with each other’s lives. The Strawberry Festival Parade was special, too. I really miss times along the parade route with cousins, aunts, and uncles and our afternoon of rides, food, and more fun at the fairgrounds.”

Any parenting tips?

“Raising three children as a single parent requires love, hard work, sacrifice, and patience. Even though they’ve grown up in the same household, each child is different. We all have our own journeys to travel. We do our best as parents to lay a good foundation of faith and security, to prepare them for making their own marks in the world. And should they stray, we can have confidence they’ll find their way back to what’s important – God and home.“

You’re a caregiver to your Mom. Please share your caregiving journey.

“I will forever treasure my memories as her caregiver for nine years. After Mama suffered a stroke that left her non-verbal, our bond deepened because I became her voice and advocate. There was no way I would ever let her down. Returning the love, time, and sincere appreciation she had always generously given to my children and me was such a blessing. I’ll never forget her precious smirk and how proud she was of me, her ‘baby girl.’

Since God’s grace and mercy sustained me, I’ve learned with His strength I can do ANYTHING. Caregiving, the most rewarding and humbling act of love, requires putting someone else’s needs and well-being ahead of your own, even when you’re mentally and physically drained. I learned to pray continuously for guidance and to humbly dig in to do the moment-by-moment necessities. When I stepped out of my own way so the Lord could use me, He would boost my energy for her daily grooming, laundry, and medical routines. My Source, Savior, Redeemer, Sustainer, and All-in-All need a willing vessel and will never abandon me!

I would encourage everyone: ‘Tell and show your family and friends often how much you love them because you never know when circumstances will change.’”

28 PAGE
29 PAGE MillenniumPhysician.com
Our Physicians Lead the Nation
the Quality of Care They Deliver
of Medicare Age We're experts in all the preventive care that's proven to keep you healthier. And we pride ourselves on being there for you when and where you need us most with same-day appointments, telehealth service and after-hours availability. Take charge of your health and schedule with our primary-care physicians today! Dr. Cortes: • Accepting New Patients • Fluent in English and Spanish 2023 NOMINEE BEST WINGS, OVERALL SERVICE, BAR, SERVER
Leonila Camba, MD Internal Medicine Plant City, FL - 813.759.1290 Cynthia Cortes, MD Internal Medicine Plant City, FL - 813.759.1290
in
to Patients
30 PAGE
31 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST VENUE

Did You Know?

Guiding Future Leaders

Since the turn of the 20th Century, Plant City has produced a number of organizations whose aim is to help prepare the city’s adolescents for the future through both physical activities and mental development. The 4-H Club, the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, and the Junior Deputy Program are just a few of the youth-oriented programs that continue to be available for Plant City’s youngest citizens.

The 4-H program in Florida goes all the way back to 1909 and approximately 1912 in Hillsborough County. Its members “learn by doing”, participating in fairs and attending classes which involved livestock, agriculture, and domestic projects. Though once geared specifically toward agricultural practices, 4-H has grown to include educating its young minds in the fields of science and technology.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America were founded in 1910 and 1912, respectively. The objective of both programs was to teach young boys and girls habits through wholesome recreational activities and education which would make them

useful and responsible individuals. Plant City’s first Boy Scout troop was organized the same year as the organization’s founding. Troop 5 – sponsored by the Norman McLeod Post of the American Legion in 1931 – became famous in the mid-1930s when it won national recognition after becoming an all-Eagle troop. It is believed that the Plant City Woman’s Club was responsible for the organization and sponsorship of the city’s first Girl Scout troop in 1925, as noted in The Tampa Tribune. Sponsorship of girl scout troops often fell under the outreach of women’s clubs and civic associations across the country.

According to The Tampa Times, a Junior Deputy League for Hillsborough County was first introduced in 1950. This early program was to include teenage boys and girls and the goal was to instill respect for law and order. Students were sworn in and received a badge, certificate, and identification cards. By 1966, Sheriff Beard’s Junior Deputy Program consisted of approximately 600 sixth-grade boys.

Through these programs and the mentorship of

prominent Plant City leaders, like Ruby Jean Barker Redman and W. A. “Mac” Smith, Plant City’s youth have the opportunity to acquire valuable life-long skills, gain confidence and maturity, and give back to the communities which helped foster their personal growth.

There is more to learn about many of our city’s youth organizations and their contributions to the Hillsborough County area at Plant City Photo Archives and History Center, located at 106 S. Evers St. For additional information or if you would like to share your photos and history, or volunteer with the Archives, please email info@plantcityphotoarchives. org or call the office at 813.754.1578.

References

“Hillsborough County 4-H: Always Evolving, Continually Educating”, In The Field Magazine, August 2014, pp: 32

The Tampa Tribune, 26 Apr 1925, pp:69

The Tampa Times, 3 May 1935, pp: 9

The Tampa Times, 9 Jun 1950, pp: 2

The Tampa Times, 27 May 1966, pp: 23

32 PAGE

find more than just a place to work out. With opportunities to connect with neighbors and give back to your community, you’ll discover a greater sense of purpose, too.

33 PAGE
you’ll
Enjoy a friendly, welcoming community
plus: Unlimited group exercise classes Discounts on programs like swim lessons, camp and sports Family time and child watch while you workout FIND YOUR ZEN. FIND YOUR Y. JOIN TODAY PLANT CITY FAMILY YMCA 1507 YMCA Place, Plant City FL 33563 P 813.757.6677
At the Y,
at the Y,
34 PAGE www.astinfarms.com ASTIN STRAWBERRY EXCHANGE LEGACY. FAMILY. FARMING. JOIN US: 9:30 A.M. Life Groups 10:30 A.M. Worship Service 10:30 A.M. Children’s Church (813) 652-8178 1510 CRE ROAD, DOVER, FL. 33527
35 PAGE
36 PAGE BEST VETERINARIAN 2023 NOMINEE 2021 WINNER 2020 WINNER BEST BREAKFAST THANK YOU PLANT CITY FOR VOTING US BEST VETERINARIAN 2 YEARS IN A ROW! 3012 James L Redman Parkway, Plant City, FL 33566 (813) 707-0520 berrypatchanimalclinic.com

2023 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

Queen’s Scholarship ContestantsPageant

On Saturday, January 21, twenty four contestants will take the stage in the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Pageant. Hosted by the Plant City Lions Club, the scholarship pageant will crown the next 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen and Court. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the pageant will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the Charlie Grimes & Family Agriculture Center at 2508 Oak Avenue in Plant City. This year’s emcees are Hannah Hodge Benton, owner of RAOK Boutique and 2006 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen, and David Lang, owner of Ragalia Magnificent Apparel in Orlando, Florida.

“These girls have rehearsed non-stop over the past few weeks to show Plant City their beauty inside and out,” said Gail Lyons, chair of the annual pageant. “We can’t wait to see each of these 24 young ladies own the stage on January 21.”

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at four locations:

Florida Strawberry Festival Admin Office 303 BerryFest Place, Plant City, FL 33563

Fringe Boutique 108 NE Drane Street, Plant City, FL 33563

RAOK Boutique

2804 James L. Redman Parkway, Plant City, FL 33566

Holiday Inn Express & Suites 2201 North Park Road, Plant City, FL 33566

General Admission tickets, as well as tickets to watch the pageant virtually, can also be purchased online at plantcitylions.org/queens-pageant-tickets

Please contact Gail Lyons at (813)-967-6366 or George Domedion at (813)-240-2727 with questions about pageant night or ticket questions.

37 PAGE
SPONSORED BY
38 PAGE
Dayanara Benitez-Baltazar Addison Reid Raburn Fe Ramirez Kennedie Clinton Hailey Lanee Pippin Da’Onah Jisselle Nowells Mariana Gutierrez Yesenia Carranza Gabrielle Elizabeth Howell Kaleigh Salmon Carson Renee Buttram Kaylee Watson
39 PAGE
Reagan Michelle Brownlee Natalee Guevara Bailey Ann Brock Josephina Monadora Mejia Paige Madison Zarecor Jaida Paige Davis Morgan Kayliana Brake Grace Elizabeth Pagliaro Gracie Ashlyn Garner Emmylou Elizabeth Varnum Kendall Austin Donaldson
2023
Pageant Contestants
Jazelynn F Rucoba
Queen’s
40 PAGE FDI-1916M-A © 2022 EDWARD D. JONES & CO., L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. AECSPAD > edwardjones.com | Member SIPC Bank-issued, FDIC-insured APY* % * Annual Percentage Yield (APY) effective 4.5. CDs offered by Edward Jones are bank-issued and FDIC-insured up to $250,000 (principal and interest accrued but not yet paid) per depositor, per insured depository institution, for each account ownership category. Please visit www.fdic.gov or contact your financial advisor for additional information. Subject to availability and price change. CD values are subject to interest rate risk such that when interest rates rise, the prices of CDs can decrease. If CDs are sold prior to maturity, the investor can lose principal value. FDIC insurance does not cover losses in market value. Early withdrawal may not be permitted. Yields quoted are net of all commissions. CDs require the distribution of interest and do not allow interest to compound. CDs offered through Edward Jones are issued by banks and thrifts nationwide. All CDs sold by Edward Jones are registered with the Depository Trust Corp. (DTC). Jim Conrow, AAMS™ Financial Advisor 2501 Thonotosassa Rd Plant City, FL 33563-1464 813-759-1491 4.5 1-year New year, new savings plan. FDI-1916M-A © 2022 EDWARD D. JONES & CO., L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. AECSPAD > edwardjones.com Bank-issued, FDIC-insured APY* % * Annual Percentage Yield (APY) effective 4.5. CDs offered by Edward Jones are bank-issued and FDIC-insured up to $250,000 interest accrued but not yet paid) per depositor, per insured depository institution, for each account ownership category. Please or contact your financial advisor for additional information. Subject to availability and price change. CD values are subject to interest that when interest rates rise, the prices of CDs can decrease. If CDs are sold prior to maturity, the investor can lose principal value. does not cover losses in market value. Early withdrawal may not be permitted. Yields quoted are net of all commissions. CDs require distribution of interest and do not allow interest to compound. CDs offered through Edward Jones are issued by banks and thrift CDs sold by Edward Jones are registered with the Depository Trust Corp. (DTC). Jim Conrow, AAMS™ Financial Advisor 2501 Thonotosassa Rd Plant City, FL 33563-1464 813-759-1491 4.5 1-year New year, new savings plan. 2023 NOMINEE BEST FINANCIAL PLANNER SPECIALIZING IN RESCREENING & REPAIR Pool Enclosures Screen Rooms Lanais Screen Entryways New Door & Hardware Pet Screen & Pet Doors Window Screens Vinyl Window Repairs Aluminum Repairs Quality is #1 in Customer Satisfaction! Serving our customers for over 30 years 5 YEAR WARRANTY ON RESCREENING | 10 YEAR WARRANTY ON SUPER-SCREENING 813-752-3306 1406 W. Knights Griffin Road, Plant City, FL 33565 Free Estimates | Licensed & Insured www.discountscreeninginc.com Marty Johnson-Owner Military & First Responders Discounts BEST ALUMINUM AND SCREENING 2023 NOMINEE
41 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST BURGER
42 PAGE

“We Have a Winner”

2023 Junior Royalty Winners Crowned Jan. 14

The Florida Strawberry Festival’s Junior Royalty Pageant was held on January 14 at the Charlie Grimes & Family Agricultural Center. One hundred twenty contestants from Hillsborough County competed for the titles of Baroness, Duchess, Princess, and Queen.

Emcees Kyle Robinson, President-elect of the Florida Strawberry Festival, and his sister and Tomlin Middle School teacher, Kerri Robinson Knox, brought each contestant to the stage with an introduction. Each contestant showcased their overall beauty, personality, and stage presence.

43 PAGE
2023 Junior Royalty Winners (L to R): Baroness Aubrey Sweeney, Queen Madelynn Hardwick, Princess Giselle McDowell, and Duchess Olivia McDowell.

In the final competition, the Top 10 contestants from each category were called to the stage to answer an on-stage question: This year’s Florida Strawberry Festival theme is “We Have a Winner.” What makes the Florida Strawberry Festival a winner in your eyes?

Duchess contestant Sophia Timian said the community comes together, acknowledging volunteers and law enforcement. Timian said, “all of these people deserve a gold medal.”

Princess contestant Molly Terrell said the Festival is a winner because it showcases young talent, noting the festival’s agriculture shows, neighborhood village, and photography contests.

The Queen contestants, ages 13 to 15, were tasked with pulling one of three questions from a bowl and Kyle Robinson read it to each of the top 10. Contestant Kydal Wynn shared that her favorite festival memory is volunteering with Transforming Life Church’s shortcake booth. Kori Turner said she’d take a firsttime visitor to enjoy Fiske Fries.

Madelynn Marie Hardwick was crowned Junior Royalty Queen. Hardwick says she is so excited for the year ahead and shared in 2020, she was the Junior Royalty Princess along with Olivia McDowell, who was named 2023 Duchess.

McDowell’s sister, Giselle, was named the 2023 Princess. Junior Royalty co-chair Jessi Rae Varnum says she can’t think of a

previous year in which siblings won in the same year.

Hardwick and the McDowells will be joined by Baroness Aubrey Sweeney.

The four girls will represent Plant City, the Florida Strawberry Festival, and the state’s strawberry harvest throughout the year at various community events, including Relay for Life, Suncoast Credit Union Plant City Pig Jam, and the Plant City Christmas Parade.

Pageant Chair Katie Varnum says months of preparation went into the pageant. The pageant officials consist of Varnum, her daughter Jessi Rae, and Committee Members Dee Parker, Katie Butson, and Kate Turner.

44 PAGE
Madelynn Hardwick was crowned Queen by 2022 winner Kennedie Clinton.

“I start in September or October ordering crowns, trophies, and sashes, and getting everything secured,” said Varnum. “There are 20 volunteers backstage on pageant night and there is no way the pageant can run without them. They’re all willing to help and give of their time and I am so appreciative of everything they do.”

Hardwick, the McDowells, and Sweeney are now a part of Plant City history, holding titles of royalty that will be commemorated for decades to come.

The Top Ten Contestants

Baroness (5 & 6 years old):

Vada June Hoyt

Charlotte Annette Gambrell

Reagan Causey- Top 5 Adalynn Swartz Sadie Raeanne Davenport

Piper Timian

Kennedy Belle Battaglia-Top 5 Alexia Maria Pruitt- Top 5 Drew Taylor- Top 5; 1st Runner Up Aubrey Sweeney-Top 5; Finalist

Duchess (7 to 9 years old):

Brooke Thompson Saylor Porter Payton Beil Raegan Cale

Olivia McDowell- Top 5; Finalist

Lyla Jimenez- Top 5 Erin Waters- Top 5 Kenslie Culbreth- Top 5 Kinsley Smythe- Top 5 Sophia Timian

Princess (10 to 12 years old):

Kennedy Ducan- Top 5 Giselle McDowell- Top 5; Finalist Kylee Pope

Lily Gilboe- Top 5 Molly Terrell- Top 5 Brylee Nicole Martinez

Caitlin Abigail Coleman

Ava Rose Bikowski- Top 5

Queen (13 to 15 years old: Kori Turner Taylor Gregory Kendell Wright

Kyndal Wynn Micah Duncan- Top 5 Kacie Lynn Culbreth- Top 5 Madelynn Marie Hardwick- Top 5; Finalist Lylah Anne Linares

Bella Grace Bikowski- Top 5; 1st Runner Up Chesney Stackhouse

45 PAGE
2023 Queen Madelynn Marie Hardwick Princess Giselle McDowell Duchess Olivia McDowell Baroness Aubrey Sweeney
46 PAGE 1705 Jim Redman Pkwy Plant City, FL 33563 754-2360 We Buy Gold & Silver Thank You Plant City For Your Support And Trust!. BEST JEWELER 2023 NOMINEE UNCLE G’S BED & BISCUIT 1821 Stephens Ln, Dover, FL 33527 Phone: (813) 689-6725 | unclegsbedandbiscuit.com Call For Pricing on Boarding Or Grooming. We offer pet boarding in a state of the art facility with television for the pets to watch. We are located on 5 acres of land. BARKER CARD STAY PROMOTION! STAY 6 NIGHTS AND GET THE 7TH FREE! Happy Holidays Our NEW GROOMER has 14 years EXPERIENCE and SPECIALIZES IN DOGS THAT DO NOT LIKE TO BE GROOMED! GROOMING REWARDS! WITH 5 GROOMS THE 6TH GROOM IS FREE! GROOMING SPECIAL! $10.00 OFF FIRST GROOM FOR NEW CUSTOMERS from Uncle G’s Bed & Biscuit
47 PAGE
48 PAGE

MEET THE NOMINEES:

PLANT CITY CHEFS & COOKS NOMINATED FOR NEW RCA CATEGORY

FOCUS Readers, the Readers’ Choice Awards season is again among us. New this year, FOCUS will recognize the chefs and culinary managers behind our city’s favorite restaurants. From fast-casual to farm-to-table culinary approaches, meet the nominees of the first annual 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards Best Chef award. Each chat about their culinary experience and talk about their favorite dishes.

Voting begins on January 30 to February 3 and the awards will be presented on February 16 at Keel Farms. Visit focusplantcity.com or follow FOCUS Magazine on Facebook to cast your vote for your favorite chef/cook.

49 PAGE

DEREK GREEN

OUTBACK

Derek Green is the culinary manager of Plant City Outback. On a busy day, the restaurant can serve close to a thousand people and Derek likes to be hands-on in his management style. “I spend a lot of time training, teaching, and coaching our Outbackers,” said Green. “It’s important for me that our Outbackers feel supported and have fun while working. They all know that I’m readily available for anything that they may need.”

Derek encourages voters to select him for Best Chef because he’s extremely passionate about delivering a quality meal with a dining experience to match. Derek believes it’s important to be part of the Plant City community, noting the restaurant catering to local schools, businesses, and churches. After Hurricane Ian, Plant City Outback was one of the first to open its doors as hundreds were without electricity and needed a hot meal. “Those kinds of services and having a proprietor, management team, and staff that truly care about our community are what I believe set us apart from many other restaurants,” said Derek.

SCOTT DUFFY

For the past 15 years, Scott Duffy has worked as a chef with experience as a private chef and working with an executive chef in New York, who Scott says really finetuned his cooking skills. Scott joined the Keel Farms team in March 2022 and the farm really takes pride in its farm-to-table approach. “I work closely with Providence Cattle Company when purveying our ground beef and all beef hotdogs,” said Scott. “The gator we get is also harvested here in Florida.”

Why should you vote for Scott Duffy for Best Chef? The city’s culture is inspiring his dishes.

“I grew up in a small town in upstate New York that has a similar feel,” said Duffy. “Farms and country all around, and a community that waves hello and supports each other. It’s this culture that has really inspired me to work towards building dishes that will represent Plant City and central Florida. I spend a decent amount of time looking for new and local purveyors for ingredients and really enjoy spending time talking about food with our customers when they are visiting us at the restaurant.”

STEAKHOUSE NORMA’S

ANDY NASSAR

For five years, hungry Plant Citians have enjoyed the delectable bites of Norma’s Chef Andy Nassar. Andy learned the ins and outs of a busy operation and gained hands-on experience at Northeast Texas Culinary before serving as Sous Chef at Air Culinaire, and several other restaurants such as Ciccio Cali, The Landing Bar & Grill, and Stein & Vein.

In 2023, Andy says you can expect to see Norma’s culinary team remain creative while providing a diverse culinary taste through special events like Bar Night, Taco Tuesday, and private catering. It’s through those events that he has served up some of his favorite dishes, like Kimchi Noodle Soup and Demi Glazed Short Ribs.

“Throughout my career, I have been challenged in many different aspects and the previous few years at Norma’s have pushed me to go above and beyond expectations when it comes to private dinners and other events,” said Andy. “It’s great to be in the mix for best Chef in Plant City and I appreciate everyone’s support in helping us get to where we are today.”

50 PAGE

JAMES LONDBERG

DUKE’S BREWHOUSE SMOKIN’ ACES

“I’ve been cooking since I was 16 years old,” says James Londberg, Culinary Manager of Duke’s Brewhouse Plant City. “My family was in the restaurant business and I saw the joy that people got out of good food. I wanted to make people happy and I knew that was where I could be of service.”

James has worked in the kitchen of other local businesses including 1916 Irish Pub and Fred’s Market. But, he says he loves working at Duke’s Brewhouse because of the family atmosphere amongst the staff.

James enjoys sitting at the bar, rubbing elbows, and watching the game with a plate of Duke’s award-winning chicken wings. He says in the kitchen, it’s always interesting to see what combination of flavors customers order for their chicken wings. Duke’s Brewhouse has five dry rubs and more than 20 wing sauce choices.

ROBERT JORDAN

Robert Jordan would grill burgers, ribs, or chicken as a dad in the 1990s, but when he smoked his first pork butt or beef brisket in the mid-2000s, it was apparent barbecue was his true talent.

In October 2012, Robert opened Smokin’ Aces BBQ as a food truck, serving wings, pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. He took a leap of faith and entered his smoked meats into the Plant City Pig Jam and that was all it took—Robert was hooked on the barbecue competition scene. Over the past eight years, Smokin’ Aces has racked up accolades with Robert at the smoker. In August 2015, the Jordan family opened Smokin’ Aces BBQ at its current location on Park Road. Since hungry Plant Citians have enjoyed Robert’s competition barbecue for lunch and dinner.

His daughter Jennifer says from his first pulled pork and beef brisket, “there was passion and flavor in every bite, and there still is today.”

JESUS MACHADO

MI CASA MEXICAN RESTAURANT

The inspiration for Chef Jesus Machado’s recipes and hospitality grows from his life in northern Mexico. His abilities as a chef are intricately linked with his close relationship with his grandmother and mom, as each passed down their culinary wisdom. He has incorporated this extensive knowledge into his work as Chef of Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant. He uses fresh quality ingredients to create traditional dishes, including the restaurant’s highly requested Chile Relleno.

“The Chili Relleno is an authentic, traditional dish from my home state of Sonora, Mexico,” said Jesus. “It starts with a fresh Chile Poblano that we roast, peel, stuff with cheese, and batter in whipped eggs and fry it. Then, we top it with the customer’s meat of choice and more melted cheese. Sonora is on the USMexico border, so the dish became popular in the U.S.”

Jesus says his work at Mi Casa is more than a job—it’s truly a passion.

“I feel privileged to be considered for Best Chef in Plant City,” said Jesus. “I make every dish with love, fresh every day, for our guests to enjoy.”

Jesus learned a lot about traditional Mexican cuisine from the women in his family and he’s proud to share the best of his culture with his Plant City neighbors.

51 PAGE

REY GONZALEZ

FRED’S MARKET

Rey Gonzalez has worked for the Johnson family for 32 years when he began his career at the former BuddyFreddy’s as an 18-year-old dishwasher.

He says when he was growing up, he watched his mom cook, and she served as an inspiration to pursue a career in the kitchen. Rey is truly living his dream.

“I love my job,” said Rey. “I am honored to be nominated for this award but, this award isn’t just about me, it’s for our team and the company.”

Rey’s favorite item on the MarketTable is the iconic Fred’s fried chicken. He says cooking the restaurant’s iconic dish requires a lot of knowledge.

“I like working on the fryers because to make the fried chicken, you’ve got to have knowledge of the timing, temperature, etc. to make it just right,” said Rey. “I take pride in the presentation and making sure it looks and tastes good every time.”

Rey believes that Fred’s Market is so popular because the restaurant follows Grandma Johnson’s recipes to this day.

“If they’ve eaten at the Johnsons’ restaurants as a kid and they’re still eating here as an adult, the food is familiar to them,” said Rey. “It’s homemade, and that’s the key.”

ANGIE LUNA

NICK’S PIZZARIA & WINGS

Of this category’s nominees, Angie Luna probably has the most experience in the kitchen. She says she began cooking as young as age seven, helping her mom in the kitchen or making her own lunches. Angie’s joy in the kitchen remains today.

“I enjoy what I do and I’m happy to do it,” said Angie. “Some regulars will ask if I am in the kitchen and request I specifically make their food. They say it reminds them of their mom cooking for them.”

Nick’s serves wings, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, and more. Angie believes it’s because the restaurant is a “cozy place to have dinner with family with good, quality food.”

In Nick’s kitchen, Angie asks for three things from the kitchen staff: Teamwork, respect, and a positive attitude. She asks that the team have a happy kitchen.

If you haven’t tried Nick’s Pizzaria & Wings, Angie encourages you to come and try the food and dessert— homemade cheesecake, made by the Queen Bee herself.

SPIROS SARRIS

BRICK HOUSE CAFE

Shari Sarris’ Brick House Cafe is one of the most dedicated RCA winners. The restaurant has won numerous titles, and Mellisa Sarris has won Best Dessert with her homemade baked goods. Shari’s son and Mellisa’s husband, Spiros, hopes to add Best Chef/Cook to the wall.

“We truly are a family owned and operated restaurant; my wife is our baker and my children are bussers,” said Spiros. “I’m proud to bring my kids up in the business I was brought up in.”

Spiros works side-by-side with Shari, serving an average of 400 to 450 hungry customers per day. Every breakfast is made to order and with a busy operation from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily, Spiros has to put everything into every dish that leaves the kitchen.

“I’m honored to be among the nominees and when the time comes for my mom to retire, I will carry on the Brick House legacy she has started, putting the customer first.”

52 PAGE
53 PAGE 2022 WINNER BEST INDOOR AND OUTDOOR PEST CONTROL

SHAWN KEEN

O’BRIEN’S IRISH PUB

“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

That’s the philosophy of Shawn Keen, Kitchen Manager of O’Brien’s Irish Pub & Grill.

The father of seven says he is a self-taught cook, learning to make big meals that make everyone happy. He credits his commitment to accomplishing tasks and ensuring customer satisfaction as the reason he quickly rose through the ranks. Keen has worked in the restaurant industry for about 25 years with experience at the former Kazbor’s, working his way from the dishwasher to the prep line, to the kitchen manager. For the past 15 years, Keen

has led the kitchen at O’Brien’s, serving up the restaurant’s burgers, wings, and Irish favorites like Shepherd’s Pie, and O’Brien’s Fish & Chips.

“Fish & Chips would be my favorite dish we offer, crispy on the outside, nice warm and flaky on the inside,” said Shawn. “When you see one go onto the customers table you see the joy in their eyes. That makes it all worth it at the end of the day.”

Shawn encourages readers to show him some love and vote him Best Chef/Cook in this year’s RCA, as he has shown his love for Plant City through every dish he has made.

CARLOS RENTERIA

Carlos Renteria’s entire career has revolved around pizza. He was a five-year employee of the former Cicis Pizza, the present-day site of PetSmart on West Alexander Street. He and other co-workers, including his wife Carolina, left Cicis to work at Olde Town Pizza 18 years ago this January.

“I’ve been married for 20 years to Carolina and we work together here in the kitchen,” said Carlos. “It doesn’t create any problems for us to be together all the time.”

Carlos takes pride in the pizzas that leave Olde Town’s kitchen. He is particular about the presentation and making sure they look good. The restaurant serves hundreds of salads a day and on average about 100 pizzas per day.

Carlos arrives at 9:00 a.m. every day to begin cutting vegetables and making dough for the lunch shift. He gets all of the ingredients prepped as pizzas are made to order with fresh ingredients.

“I love my job and I try to make the best food for our customers,” said Carlos. “When a customer sees their pizza or pasta and they smile, I smile.”

SAMMY SERRANO

JOHNSON BARBEQUE

Asked to pick one item on the Johnson Barbeque menu above all others, Kitchen Manager Sammy Serrano has one pick: Beef Brisket.

“The brisket is moist, juicy, and tender,” said Sammy. If you haven’t tried it, he invites you to come and dine at the busy barbeque joint and try it.

Sammy has worked for Johnson Barbeque for 15 years and says it’s the welcoming atmosphere and the dedication the kitchen puts into each plate that keeps people coming back.

“My team works so hard every day to make sure this restaurant is one of Plant City’s favorites,” said Sammy. “Great job, team!!”

Good barbeque requires a precise mix of time and temperature and it’s made “slow ’n’ low,” on the smoker; barbeque is an alchemy of wood, meat, and smoke. Part of Sammy’s job is to make sure that those smoky flavors come through just as they should, whether the restaurant is serving up ribs, brisket, pulled pork, or chicken. The sides, meat, and buttered roll all work together to create a mouthwatering meal, and washed down with a glass of sweet tea, it’s a taste of Plant City.

54 PAGE
55 PAGE CALL US TODAY FOR YOUR A/C MAINTENANCE NEEDS 8813-752-1970 1133-775522-1-1997700 901 E Baker St Plant City FL 33563 www.GouldsAC.com CALL US TODAY FOR YOUR A/C MAINTENANCE NEEDS 2023 NOMINEE BEST A/C COMPANY

Fernando Rodriguez grew up in Fitchburg, Massachusetts where he began his love affair with food when his parents opened a restaurant in 1985. He is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University’s culinary program. His experience includes Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Old Memorial Golf Club, and St Pete’s Power Design. Chef Fernando has brought his experience to 1916 Irish Pub and is the executive chef of Second Plate Catering.

With his wide range of experience, Chef Fernando perfected the upscale bar menu offered at 1916’s Plant City, Lakeland, and Brandon locations, fusing the authentic Irish feel with a contemporary twist. 1916 takes pride in not only the preparation of the food but in using fresh ingredients.

Whether catering clients are looking for a buffet, food stations, or plated entrees, Second Plate Catering can create the most casual to formal dining experiences. The restaurant is a partner of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, PC Rotary Club, and the Florida Strawberry Festival.

“No matter how big or small an event is, I’m able to provide a special touch to the food and cook a wide variety of styles and cuisines,” said Fernando. Whether he’s cooking for 150 or 850 people, Chef Fernando and his team are ready to help with your next big event.

STEVEN GARZA

For 30 years, the Garza family has served up the flavors of the sea with crab, shrimp, and more. Leading the kitchen is Steve Garza, son of owners Linda and Raymond Garza.

“I’ve always loved to cook and I learned from my mom,” said Steve. “I love to experiment with flavors and strongly believe in seasoning everything with garlic butter, salt, crushed red pepper, and just creating delicious food for our customers.”

Steve says he expects the kitchen team to cook with consistency, whether he’s prepared or another cook is on the line. The dish should leave the kitchen looking and tasting exactly the way it always has.

Steve said he is proud to be nominated among other kitchen managers and is proud to have served Plant City with fresh seafood for three decades. He is teaching his daughter, Abby, his tricks to the trade.

“Thank you for supporting our family-owned and operated restaurant for 30 years and we hope to see you for another thirty,” said Steve. “Thank you to our friends and family who have stuck by us. God bless!”

56 PAGE
RODRIGUEZ
FERNANDO
1916 IRISH PUB/SECOND PLATE CATERING
57 PAGE 2023NOMINEE
58 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE 2023 NOMINEE BEST OUTDOOR PEST CONTROL
59 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE BEST ROOFER
60 PAGE

As Plant City Chamber of Commerce members, the Stones feel blessed and excited in their company’s first official year for the “Best of Plant City – New Business Award” nomination. From among the three nominees, Scott and Venus are hopeful the Annual Chamber Gala awards announcements on January 26 will include Stone Mortgage Group. Stone Mortgage Group was also nominated for two FOCUS Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards: Best Mortgage Lender and Best New Business. The couple is excited about the February 16 anniversary party where the winners are revealed.

61 PAGE Your Trusted, Local Mortgage Solution By
and Venus Stone thoroughly enjoy helping customers accomplish their home ownership dreams! And the company’s motto says it all,
is
with an
has helped thousands of families over his
plus years of experience
the mortgage industry.
they
they’ve been encouraged and humbled by the overwhelming
clients, and industry partners. Stone Mortgage Group 3300 Joe Sanchez Rd Plant City, FL 33565 StoneMortgageGroup.com info@stonemortgagegroup.com Office: 813.798.1020 Fax: 813.798.1030 NMLS #2329637 Scott Stone C: 813.220.0979 NMLS #979561 Venus Stone C: 813.924.2399 NMLS #2022265
Cheryl Johnston Scott
“Happiness
Homemade”
emphasis on “Home”! Scott
25-
in
Since
established Stone Mortgage Group, LLC in March of 2022,
support of friends, family, prior

You’ve received two other mortgage industry recognitions, right?

Scott: Yes, we just received notice of two new recognitions: “Fastest Growing Loan Officer –2022” and “Breakthrough Award – 2022.” These United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) awards are a huge accomplishment. As the current #1 overall mortgage lender in America and #1 wholesale/purchase lender in the country for seven consecutive years (from data compiled by Inside Mortgage Finance), UWM works exclusively with independent mortgage brokers across America. Through its considerable resources and industry leadership position, UWM helps entrepreneurial partners like SMG through training, technology, and marketing support, so clients experience processes far superior to those of banks or retail mortgage lenders. A great example is our closing time. Our customers love that our streamlined process means the average time from submission to cleared-to-close is only twelve days!

Detail the products and services you offer.

Venus: Loans are available for home purchases, refinance, HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), second or vacation homes, long-term investment properties, and even Airbnb properties.

Even though the mortgage industry rules, laws, and lender guidelines are ever-changing, we want clients to know: We don’t have the same overlays and restrictions most banks and retail mortgage lenders impose on their clients, so we’re often able to say yes when others have said no.

We’re also pleased to offer the Florida Hometown Heroes program for qualifying Veterans, military personnel, first responders, and essential workers. This assistance of 5% of the loan amount up to $25,000 can be used for a down payment and/or closing costs. There are twelve pages of eligible occupations approved by the State!

Regarding mortgages, we believe our Veterans are underserved, undereducated, and often misinformed about their options. They often rely on information from so-called “VeteranCentric” organizations based on a relationship they have for banking products (checking, savings, etc.) or car insurance. Because of that existing relationship, they don’t seek a second opinion when they get a mortgage and end up overpaying. We’re often able to offer these Veterans MUCH lower rates/costs and we love doing that!

You’re both very passionate about your profession. What fuels that?

Venus: Real estate and home ownership is the number one wealth builder in America, and we feel very blessed to help our clients maximize that opportunity. But what really drives us is the experience we share with them. From the initial excitement of getting the contract to the joy of closing day – we’re with our clients every step of the way. It’s exciting to be part of that and to build lasting friendships!

What local market changes do you see ahead?

Venus: The cyclical market slowdown didn’t catch us by surprise. In fact, it was an impetus to establish SMG. While extremely low rates created a feeding frenzy in the housing market, we knew the frenzy wasn’t sustainable. Now with home prices and markets adjusting to a steadier position, supply and demand should return to normal. We’re already starting to see that.

What’s different about your business model?

Scott: During my 25 years in this industry, a common complaint has always been the number of people clients had to speak with during the mortgage process. It’s just another transaction for most lenders, but we’re committed to providing our clients with a better alternative. By being the primary point of contact throughout the process, we eliminate the confusion, repetition, and stress typically associated with home buying. With our model, we can leverage our relationships with the nation’s top wholesale lenders to close loans faster, easier, and for less expense than other competitors. Venus and I are determined to make the mortgage experience a pleasant one and the feedback from our clients and referral partners has been overwhelmingly positive!

62 PAGE

Describe the benefits of business ownership.

Scott: People often ask if we’re happy to be business owners, and the answer is “absolutely!”

It’s given us more time with our four daughters and grandson which is huge for us. The freedom we have now has also provided more community service opportunities. This work/life balance has made us even more passionate about helping others.

When we vacationed in Franklin, Tennessee last year, I took a picture of Venus under a wall painting of angel wings, overlaid with the phrase “Trust Your Journey.” This photo is an everyday reminder to be grateful that our passion, skill set, and purpose are aligned with God’s plan for our life. We trust Him and know He will continue to direct our paths if we keep our focus on Him.

Community is “a huge priority” for SMG. Tell us more.

Scott: We earn our livelihood from the people living in our area and we don’t take that lightly. We believe in supporting charitable causes, serving others, and being involved with our community.

In addition to Chamber functions, we recently had holiday opportunities to help with a gift-wrapping event at Three Hands Mead and volunteer with our home church, Plant City Church of God, to help with Operation Christmas Child. We also love the team at United Food Bank of Plant City

and the work they do. They provide 600-700 backpacks with meals every week to students who rely on this resource for weekend food. And that’s just one small part of what this local nonprofit does. At our last SMG-hosted Realtor Lunch and Learn, we encouraged Realtors who attended to support the UFBPC’s work with canned good donations, and they responded in a big way! It’s an ongoing need, so if you’re looking for a great cause to support, please consider this one.

Venus also enjoys her involvement with GFWC Plant City Junior Woman’s Club and Aspire Plant City, a women’s leadership group. Serving others brings us joy, and in 2023 we will be even more involved in other community efforts, not to promote ourselves or SMG, but to bring awareness. We can all do something to lighten another’s load and we should.

Why should customers begin their “Happiness is Homemade” journey today?

Venus: As the market continues to improve, our focus in 2023 is to help many more families realize their homeownership dream. They can begin now at stonemortgagegroup.com, by joining the SMG email list, reading informative blog posts, discovering the various financing options, using the loan calculator, and even applying for a loan.” And of course, those personal phone calls to 813-798-1020 with specific questions are always welcome! It’s 2023, a new year – a new home, and we’re here for you!

63 PAGE
64 PAGE Trinkle Redman, P.A. Attorneys at Law *The hiring of a Lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide,ask the lawyer to send you free written information about their qualifications & experience. 121 North Collins Street Plant City, FL 33563 • 813-752-6133 Corporate & Business Law • Incorporations, Partnerships & LLC”s • Acquisitions, Sales & Mergers Family Law • Dissolution of Marriage • Adoptions Estate Planning & Probate • Will & Trust Drafting • Probate & Administration of Estates Real Estate • Commercial & Residential Closings • Title Insurance • Development, Planning & Zoning • Foreclosures • Landlord -Tenant Litigation & Lawsuits • Commercial Litigation & Collections • Real Estate • Property Damage • Probate 2023 NOMINEE
65 PAGE

Hand-spun milkshakes, strawberry shortcake, and fresh strawberry cookies are among some of the most popular desserts sold at Fancy Farms Market. The market will transition to blueberry, blackberry and peach desserts following strawberry season.

Fancy Farms Market

Carl Grooms likes to say he named his family’s strawberry farm “Fancy Farms” because of his beautiful wife, Dee Dee. But the name is also attributed to having a farm that is well-kept, complies with all regulations, and produces the best strawberries. In 2007, their son Dustin joined the family business as Farm Manager. Since 2017, Dustin has been head of operations at Fancy Farms.

In January 2021, Kristi Grooms Barnes, the couple’s daughter, opened Fancy Farms Market, offering a variety of fresh local produce and desserts, including Dee Dee’s famous strawberry cookies. The same standards operate Fancy Farms Market as the family farm: It’s clean and well-kept, complies with all regulations, and produces the best goods possible.

From December to March, customers can enjoy all things strawberry: strawberry shortcakes, milkshakes, cookies, lemonades, cobbler, bread, Fancy Farms jams produced by local maker We Jammin’ Jams, local honey by BeeHaven Honey, The Pickle Patch, and more. New to the lineup this year is Fancy Fluff Fruit Dip, a sweet, creamy dip sold by the pint, perfect for a Fancy Farms strawberry. The market’s desserts and drinks are made with fresh berries in its on-site kitchen daily.

“We use fresh strawberries in our homemade desserts and hand-spun milkshakes,” said Grooms Barnes. “You can taste the boldness of the fresh sweet strawberries in everything.”

From April into the summer, the market then transitions to a full lineup

66 PAGE
BUSINESS PROFILE
Each day, the Fancy Farms Market uses fresh strawberries in the produce market’s homemade desserts.

In January 2023, the market introduced their newest product: Fancy Fluff Fruit Dip, a sweet, creamy dip sold by the pint, perfect for a Fancy Farms strawberry.

of blueberry, blackberry, and peach drinks and desserts. In May, Fancy Farms Market is all about fresh flowers, opening the fields feet from the market to sunflower and zinnia picking. Barnes says since Fancy Farms Market opened, she’s enjoyed the opportunity to educate customers on how Florida strawberries are grown.

“My brother and I are going to continue my parent’s legacy and keep educating kids on where food comes from,” said Grooms Barnes. “When kids visit the Market, I like to spend time with them in the field explaining what it takes to put food on their plate. It’s amazing how eager they are to learn about farming. We need the generation of farmers.”

The market also sells other seasonal produce grown by local farmers and producers. Other produce available for purchase include tomatoes, onions, a variety of greens, Florida cantaloupe, pepper varieties, summer squash, corn, and a limited supply of shelled Black-eyed peas, Conk peas, and Zipper peas, sold in 5lb bags. Call Fancy Farms Market at (813) 478-3486 with questions about seasonal availability.

Love from the Locals

Market-goers praise the Grooms family and their employees for providing affordable produce, quality desserts, and immersive agricultural experiences to east Hillsborough and west Polk counties.

“Fancy Farms is amazing! The shakes, produce, and strawberries are all fresh and delicious. The employees are all so friendly; we love this place,” said Bob Zolkosky.

Linda Everidge Thomas added, “The Best Strawberry Milkshake I’ve ever had. Strawberry shortcakes and Strawberry cookies are amazing. Wonderful friendly staff. Pick up some great produce also while you are there.”

“I love this place!! Good quality and friendly owners and staff!! I had a great time with my family, and the kids enjoyed the experience,” added Laren Castine.

Be sure to visit Kristi and the team at Fancy Farms Market Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Take a photo sitting on Carl’s vintage tractor and tag @FancyFarmsMarket on Facebook and Instagram.

5204 Drane Field Rd. | Lakeland, FL 33811 | (813) 478-3486 |

Mon-Sat 10AM to 5:30PM | Sun Closed

67 PAGE FANCY FARMS MARKET
Kristi Grooms Barnes and her brother Dustin Grooms are carrying on their parent’s legacy by educating kids where their food comes from. Dustin is the head of operations for the family’s strawberry farm and Kristi operates Fancy Farms Market.

Billy Herold Opens Year with Merger of Universal Auto Sales

Billy Herold Auto Sales, a trusted Plant City dealer of used cars, trucks, and SUVs, announced a merger on January 11 with Universal Auto Sales, taking two small dealerships to make one big dealership.

Billy Herold says the merger will dissolve Billy Herold’s Auto Sales, and the company will be known as Universal Auto Sales, headquartered at 2005 West Baker Street, where he will act as General Manager.

Herold’s 47 years of experience in the automotive industry combined with Universal owner Tom Godby’s 45 years provides 92 years of experience that Plant City auto buyers can benefit from tremendously.

“Tom and I have been friends for 23 years; we met when we both worked for Bill Heard Chevrolet,” said Herold. “We will be combining our inventories and buyers can shop with us at 2005 West Baker Street or online at www.universalpconline.com.”

At Billy Herold Auto Sales, Herold was the company’s only employee. However, in this acquisition, customers can benefit from Universal’s in-house Salesman, Finance Representative, Title Clerk, and Lot Attendant. Herold will buy the lot’s inventory of pre-owned late-model cars, and lean heavily into the market of SUVs and pickups, including diesel trucks. Universal Auto Sales also offers extended warranties for those who want to invest in peace of mind.

Universal Auto Sales offers financing options with rates as low as 3%. Regardless of a buyer’s credit score or situation, there are options to get you behind the wheel. Visit universalpconline. com/credit-app to see if you’re pre-approved or call Universal Auto Sales at 813-704-4854 and ask to speak with Troy in the Financing Department.

68 PAGE BUSINESS PROFILE Universal Auto Sales | 2005 W. Baker Street | Plant City, FL 33563 | 813-704-4854 | www.universalpconline.com Monday-Friday 8am to 6pm | Saturdays 8am to 4pm | Sundays Closed
69 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE
DRY CLEANER
BEST

RISING STAR

Amari

Jackson

When it comes to the world of gymnastics, Amari Jackson knows how to stick it. Tumbling and performing artistic gymnastics since 2014 for Elite World Gymnastics, a premiere professional gymnastics and tumbling facility in Lakeland, Amari dedicates hours to her tumbling every week to ensure her skills only improve. Her dedication has definitely paid off, because in addition to the newly turned 13-year-old accomplishing the elite level, winning two All-American awards, and competing for team USA, Amari also placed fourth in the world for her age division at the 2022 T&T World Age Group Competitions in Sofia, Bulgaria. From November 23-26, Amari competed for team USA in the tumbling portion of the competition. Competing against 41 other countries in her age division, Amari received fourth place, and she stated about earning fourth place, “I was really happy and surprised; I couldn’t believe it at first.” In addition to this incredible achievement, the homeschooled student has also been recognized as an EDP (Elite Development Program) National Tumbling team member for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, and an EDP National Double Mini team member for 2022-2023. Attending six to eight competitions yearly and mostly competing in the spring, Amari said of her future, “I want to try to attend the University of Florida and be on the gymnastics team, and it would be nice to go to the Olympics one day.” With proud parents, serious talent, and determination that makes all competition flip away in fear, Amari Jackson’s future is in her hands.

70 PAGE
71 PAGE 813-966-4304 HAPPY NEW YEAR! NEW YEAR, NEW PERSPECTIVE, NEW HOME SUNSETS BY THE POND FLORIDA CLASSIC IN WALDEN LAKE BEST REAL ESTATE OFFICE FULL SOLAR, 3 BEDROOM 2 BATH WALDEN LAKE $374,900 GATED CHARLESTON WOODS 4/3/POOL HOME $599K 2023 NOMINEE

Team of the Month Plant City Raiders Varsity Basketball Team

Currently ranked 4th in its region in the most current Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) standings, the Plant City Raiders Varsity Basketball team is in the midst of a successful season that the team hopes will culminate in making the state playoffs. The Raiders finished the year with a 10-3 record, and a second-place finish at the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament. Moving forward into 2023, they hope to keep their momentum and to take it ‘all the way to state’.

“We’re a little undersized,” shares Raiders Head Coach, Billy Teeden, “but we play with a lot of heart and character.”

Teeden has coached the Plant City High School varsity basketball team for the past eight seasons and is very pleased with the effort his players bring to the court.

“This group’s been a good group,” he commented, “They’re good to each other and they have a good bond.”

Part of the team’s success is attributed to this year’s seniors. Damian Jones, who averages 17 points per game, leads the Raiders in scoring and was recently honored to be named to the alltournament team at the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament. Elijah Dawson was also named to the all-tournament team, is second in scoring, and leads the team in rebounds. Taylor Teeden is the team’s third-leading rebounder, while Ray Cowen (the starting point guard) is described as a ‘hard-

nosed’ player that leads the team in charges. Avery Alderdice rounds out the seniors and is the “glue guy” that helps hold the team together. Under the leadership of these players, the team is on track to meet its season goals.

“We want to compete for a district championship,” remarked Teeden. “Also, we want to make Hillsborough County’s final 4, which we’re both on track for right now to compete for those, and to make the state playoffs.”

Despite their early success, Teeden believes his team is often underestimated.

“I think the biggest thing for us is that we are undersized and maybe considered the underdog,” he explained, “but these guys are never out of the game because of their effort.”

He continued, “Sometimes we don’t look the part, but these kids play hard.”

Hard work and determination seem to be the cornerstone of the Raiders basketball team, but only time will tell if their efforts will be enough to carry them into the February playoffs. To stay upto-date on the team and their schedule, you can visit https://www.maxpreps.com/fl/plant-city/ plant-city-raiders/ or follow @PlantCityHoops on Twitter.

72 PAGE
SPONSORSHIP PROVIDED BY

READERS CHOICE BEST SERVER NOMINEES

Faith Blackadar

Faith has worked at Fred’s Market for 10 years. She loves that she gets to make new friends during every shift. Her favorite menu item is our Fried Shrimp.

Amy Barrow

Amy has worked at Johnson Barbeque for 3 years. She loves meeting new customers and taking care of her "regulars." Her favorite menu item is our Potato Skins.

73 PAGE
2023 NOMINEE 2023 NOMINEE
BREAKFAST, FRIED CHICKEN, HOME COOKIN, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, OVERALL SERVICE, SERVER
BEST
BEST BBQ, BURGER, STEAK, OVERALL SERVICE, SERVER
74 PAGE CHRISTOPHER MAZZOLA Tires Plus National TV Commercial. LOGAN VAN DYKE Up and coming movie actor just landed a major TV commercial. We’re so proud of you Logan! Keep up the great work. INGRID BERTOCCHI JAYDEN MIMIKOS CALI RIVAS CARLA JOHNSON You see them in Movies, T.V. Commercials and in Magazines! www.jessandersontalentandmodelagency.com Disney Visit Orlando TV Commercial Animal Kingdom TV Commercial Principal Role. Cali Rivas and her family just booked a National TV Commercial for a Major Entertainment Amusement Park! Great Job the Rivas Family! Publix Training Film and Print Ad. Principal Role. $375.00 A Day. Disney World TV Commercial and Print Ad. Principal Role. CALL FOR AN APPOINTMENT TODAY! They’re the JESS ANDERSON MODELS! All ages & types needed • No experience necessary • Free training 863-688-9939 OUR NEW ADDRESS: 809 EAST PALMETTO STREET • LAKELAND, FL 33801 Established For 43 Years LIC#1290000013 Jess Anderson index pg OCT22 take2.indd 1 9/10/2022 7:31:41 AM
75 PAGE MAKE THE JOURNEY COUNT. TraxCU.com | 813.800.TRAX 1701 W. Baker Street, Plant City, FL 33563 Federally Insured by NCUA. Good Luck Kaleigh Salmon!

Meet the Maker:

Matthew

Taylor,

Matt the Welder

Even though the holiday season has come to an end, it doesn’t mean the need to purchase gifts is over. Do you find yourself needing to buy a wedding gift or graduation gift soon? What about an anniversary gift? No matter what special occasion you need to buy for next, you should consider purchasing a hand-crafted piece of metal art, welded and created by Matthew Taylor. Matthew, or Matt the Welder, can create almost anything that can be welded. Putting himself through two different welding schools, Erwin Tech and Hillsborough Community College, Matt started out making horseshoe art with used horseshoes. Matt has made horseshoe flags, crosses, dogs, hearts, flowers, full-sized benches, a pulpit for a local church, and custom dog crates that match the customer’s home décor and can hold larger dogs such as Great Danes. Matt also makes flags and gifts them to our local police and fire departments as a symbol of his appreciation for all that they do for the community. Matt stated about his art, “This does not fully support a family so I have become a jack of all trades. I do mechanic work on tractors and equipment repairs, which is a perfect fit for Plant City. I work on many of our local farmers’ tractors. I also perform stand-up comedy.” Matt was motivated to go into business for himself because he wanted to be home more with his wife Season and their five children. Matt said, “I spend most of my free time with my wife and kids unless I’m traveling for a comedy show. Even then, my wife usually accompanies me. I’m the definition of a family man.” A unique gift for anyone, Matt’s welding art is custom made and can take anywhere from one day to several weeks to create, depending on the size of the piece and the design. Selling his flags for $300, railroad spike pieces and smaller creations can start at $150. Larger items, such as dog kennels, are dependent on the customers’ specific requests. Born and raised in Odessa, Matt moved to Plant City five years ago, as Plant City was where his wife and her family lived. Working on tractors since he was 10 years old with his uncle, Matt stated, “I later learned that mechanic work was much easier if you are able to manipulate metal and that is where welding came in. My hobby is repairing and restoring my own antique tractors. I just love what I do and I’m glad that this town has welcomed me so warmly.” American made from start to finish, Matt the Welder’s creations can be ordered by calling or texting Matt at 813-528-5040, or by sending a message to his business Facebook page at realmattthewelder. For his upcoming plans, Matt noted, “I do stand-up comedy and work as a social media influencer. I also do some acting and have played small parts in several movies and television shows, and even have my own IMDB (International Movie Data Base) page. I am in the process of filming my first comedy special.” With multiple passions and talents, Matthew Taylor is doing what he loves and sharing it with others. Creating art and laughs while being there for his family, Matt the Welder is someone Plant City should be proud to support.

76 PAGE
77 PAGE
78 PAGE
79 PAGE

Leaders in Faith

Christine Mansell

Christine Mansell was recently honored by the Hope Lutheran Church congregation for her 50 years of service as Music Director and organist. Talk about dedication and commitment, this faithful leader is definitely worthy of recognition. She would disagree, however, because she truly loves using the gifts God has given her to bless others.

Christine began her career as an organist at age 24 when in Woodbridge, Virginia during her husband’s Army military duty tour at the Pentagon. An experience she treasures from that time was cutting an album with the Quantico Marine Band/Orchestra.

In her 50 years of ministry in Plant City at Hope, Christine has served under five pastors, with the last 27 of those under the leadership of Pastor Dean Pfeffer, a man she considers to be “supportive, kind, very thoughtful and community-minded.”

Tell us a little about your family life.

My family moved to Lakeland, Florida from Wisconsin in 1954 and we started attending a Lutheran church there. My parents and two sisters also loved music and we often sang in the car as we traveled. Today, I’m married with one daughter and nine step-children, so family life is still full.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I was raised in church and have loved Jesus since I was a child. In the seventh and eighth grades, I attended weekly classes for two years before my confirmation and public profession of faith. My mother was instrumental in seeing we attended Sunday School regularly and I’m so grateful she did.

In addition to your passion for music, describe your other career work

Since 1972, I’ve worked in the manufactured housing industry at a Lakeland dealership my parents established. As a young girl, I became familiar with construction and operating heavy equipment. As the home sales business expanded, we added supplies/parts and an insurance agency. I still serve customers with Jack’s Insurance Agency today.

Do you have a favorite way to share your faith?

People are unique and every situation can be different, so I simply enjoy meeting them, hearing their stories, and getting to know them. God opens the door for us to discuss faith. Compassion is the first step.

Do you expect to retire anytime soon?

Not unless God directs me to change what I’m doing now. I’ve seen people retire and die because they no longer feel a sense of purpose. I have three jobs now and I tell people the Bible doesn’t mention retirement. A sign in my office reads, ‘Worship is my work’ and I will serve for as long as He leads.

What do you love about Hope Lutheran Church?

We are a loving and friendly congregation. We enjoy inviting others and have special classes to help them know us more. The Word is the most important thing here, but we also love singing and serving our community with outreaches. Whether we are celebrating or hurting, we are family together and all are welcome here.

Hope Lutheran Church, located just south of I-4 at 2001 N. Park Road in Plant City, holds services on Sundays at 9:15 a.m. (with livestream at hopeplantcity.com), Family Bible Hour at 10:30 and Adoracion Espanola at 4:00 p.m. The Wednesday night “Living Hope Worship” service begins at 6:30 p.m. For additional information, phone 813-752-4622.

80 PAGE
81 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 www.plantcitypediatrics.com 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. Timothy B. Williams, D.O., M.Ed., F.A.A.P., and Associates THANK YOU PLANT CITY FOR YOUR SUPPORT! 2023 NOMINEE BEST PEDIATRICIAN

Candy’s Corner

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?

As a child I had no idea why when the clock would strike midnight on New Year’s Eve people would kiss each other and sing that strange song. Was it some kind of foreign language?

I didn’t really know. What I did know was that New Year’s Eve meant that my sister and I got to stay up really late, watch television, and eat junk food. That in itself was reason enough for me to celebrate.

My parents were all for staying home with family on New Year’s Eve, but one particular year back in the early 1970s, my mother and father actually accepted an invitation to the Lakeland Yacht Club.

To me that was a big deal. It meant that my parents were going to dress up in their finest, just like the movie stars on TV.

On the morning of the party I accompanied my mother to see Mildred Jackson at Carol’s Fashions (which is now the home of Brown’s Florist) for the final fitting of her outfit. Carol’s Fashions was an upscale dress shop which carried what the well-dressed woman would need. They had everything from hats to gloves, handbags to hosiery, evening gowns to pant suits, shoes to slippers, and even the most up to date in the unmentionables department.

When mother and I walked in the door at Carol’s we were promptly greeted by Mrs. Yvonne Smith, who was a fixture there for many years. Yvonne had us walk to Mildred Jackson’s office, which was located at the back of the store. There sat Mildred behind her desk with that beautiful silver grey hair wrapped tightly in a bun on top of her head. Mildred was a worldclass seamstress who probably hand sewed or altered at least 1,000 wedding dresses during her life here in Plant City. Mildred had a sharp eye for fashion. She could put together an outfit from head to toe and that is just what she did for my mother. Mildred even took care of her shoes and handbag. She would carefully remove a swatch of fabric from the hem of your outfit and send it taped inside the lid of your shoebox along with your handbag down the street to Jones Barber Shop where an African American man worked. He did some sort of process called “dipping the shoes.” If your shoes or handbags came out the wrong shade, she would send them

back down the street to be re-dipped. Mildred took one last drag off of her cigarette before she looked at me and said, “Here Candy, take this dime over to Kirby’s Bakery and get yourself a treat, but stay outside until you’re finished”. (Mildred was a smart cookie and knew how to buy herself some time with my mother before I came back and started getting on everyone’s nerves.) Mission accomplished, I was happy and full of sugar and my mother’s outfit had been put together successfully. The next task of the morning was to get my mother’s hair done at “Wanda’s Beauty Shop.” Mrs. Wanda Glenn, or “Miss Wanda” as she was affectionately known, had a small shop on North Wilder Road which she actually owned and operated until a bout 10 years ago.

I remember that shop like it was yesterday. When you walked in there was a bench just like an old church pew for guests or waiting customers to sit on at your left. At the end of the bench there was a basket of magazines, books with the latest hairstyles, and discontinued pattern catalogs. I must have looked through that basket a million times. To your right was a line of hairdryers that looked like something from outer space. Those hairdryers were always buzzing and singing and every seat was taken. Those heads of hair were cooking and perking along, waiting for the final ding. When the bell went off “Miss Wanda” would walk over to her customer, raise the lid and check their hair. If they were done, then they were done. I mean, “meat-fall-off-the-bone done.”

When it was my mother’s turn to sit in “Miss Wanda’s” beauty chair, I would watch intently as her hair was combed, brushed, teased, and molded into her desired hair-do. My favorite part was when “Miss Wanda” would crank this machine up that looked like a hydraulic pump with a hose and sounded like a lawn mower. She would twirl my mother around and around in the beauty chair and spray her hair with hairspray that looked like shellac. “Miss Wanda” made darn sure that her hair-dos were not going anywhere. My mother’s hair always came out looking like a combination of Dear Abby, Ann Landers, and Norma Zimmer.

When mother and I returned home she had just enough time to dip in the tub and start the getting dressed process. When my mother and father were dressed and ready to go they paraded their outfits in the living room for us.

Wow! There was my father in his dark suit and wingtip shoes, all polished and spit shined. Then there was my mother, standing there in her sea foam green shantung outfit. She was covered in that shade of green from head to toe. She had on dyed podesua pumps, sea foam green hose with silver flecks, a shantung silk coat dress, dyed evening bag, matinee-length gloves, matching earrings, shoes and purse clips. To me it looked like green chandeliers hanging from her ears, shoes, and purse. I remember that I thought that they looked so good they could have been on the Lawrence Welk Show.

My parents returned home early from their party so that our family could be together to ring in the New Year. Now the fun started. Ginger Ale, leftover Christmas cookies, Ruffles potato chips, and French onion dip that was in the metal can. (Watch out, or you might cut your fingers pulling the tab off.) My father would turn on our Zenith television so we could watch the Guy Lombardo Orchestra with special guest Helen O’Connell broadcast live from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. I remember my father swooping up my mother and dancing with her around the family room when Helen O’Connell sang her hit song “Tangerine”. Oh, how they laughed and carried on! They were so young and full of life. What a wonderful evening we all shared.

I am all grown up now, and there is no more Guy Lombardo with Helen O’Connell New Year’s Eve programs broadcasting live from the Waldorf, Zenith TVs, or French Onion Dip in metal cans. I have watched many New Year’s Eve telecasts with my mother since my father passed away. But, I remember fondly. I have also finally figured out the meaning of the song: “Auld Lang Syne.” It is a Scottish folk song that tells of beautiful times gone by and the importance of new beginnings.

I will leave you with an old Irish prayer. May love and laughter light your days, and warm your hearts and home. May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam. May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures. May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours.

82 PAGE
813-752-1111 WELLS MEMORIAL FUNERAL HOME SPONSORED BY
83 PAGE
84 PAGE BEST OF LUCK TO THE CONTESTANTS OF JUNIOR ROYALTY AND THE FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL QUEEN’S PAGEANT from YOUR DIGNITY PROVIDER!
85 PAGE

Plant City Happenings

Tuesdays in January and February

Modern Western Square-Dancing Lessons

6:30PM-8:00PM

No Experience Required | Wear Casual Attire and Comfortable Shoes | Great Physical and Mental Exercise

Strawberry Square and Round Dance Center @4401 Promenade Blvd

Cost: First Lesson Free, $7 per Lesson Afterwards Info: 813-752-0491

Fridays in January and February

Beginning Rumba

10:30AM-12:00PM

No Experience Required | Wear Casual Attire and Comfortable Shoes | Instructors Tom and Cindy Bunn

Strawberry Square and Round Dance Center @4401 Promenade Blvd Cost: $7 per Lesson Info: 813-752-0491

January 26

Chamber Gala

6:00PM-9:00PM

Passing of the Gavel Ceremony | Best of Plant City Awards | 80’s Attire | RSVP Required John R. Trinkle Center @ 1206 N. Park Rd Cost: $125 per Person; Sponsorship Opportunities Available Starting @ $600 Info: 813-754-3707 or matthew@plantcity.org

Last Friday in Downtown- Pirates and Princesses Friday, January 27 5:00PM-9:00PM

Food Trucks | Live Music | Vendors | Kids Zone | Pirate and Princess Attire Encouraged McCall Park @ 100 N. Collins St

Cost: Free Parking & Admission Info: tinamarie@plantcitymainstreet.com

February 7

Rom Com Trivia Night

6:30PM-9:00PM

Top 3 Teams Win Prizes | Wine, Cider, and Beer | Dining Reservations Required

Keel Farms @ 5210 Thonotosassa Rd Cost: Free Trivia Info: 813-752-9100

February 11

Open Mic Night

7:00PM-8:33PM

Performers 13 & Up | Sing | Poetry | Dance | Stand Up

Krazy Kup @ 101 E. J Arden Mays Blvd Cost: Free Open Mic Night Info: 813-752-1220

February 13

Plant City Garden Club

Mac Garner with Summer Blooms - topic is growing Plumeria.

First Methodist Church - Fellowship Hall @ 303 N. Evers Street, Plant City 33563 Info: Christy Linke, clinke3173@aol.com

86 PAGE
February 4 Food for All Gala 6:00PM-9:30PM Live Auction | Raffles | Food & Music | Proceeds to Benefit the United Food Bank of Plant City Plant City Municipal Airport @ 4007 Airport Rd Cost: $125per Person Info: Leigh Scott
@ 813-732-7351
Distance
February 11 Strawberry
Challenge
Run |10K Run | Medals for Finishers |
for Runners | Water & Fruit 3035 Griffin Blvd Cost: 1 Mile- $28; Virtual- $33; 5K & 5K Ruck$38; 10K- $43 (Registration ends February 10
January 21 January 21 Strawberry Classic Cruise-In 50th Annual Optimist Tri-Star Basketball Skills Competition Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Scholarship Pageant 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 9:00AM-10:30AM (Awards Ceremony @ 11:00AM) Youth Ages 8-13 | Boys & Girls Compete Separately | Passing, Dribbling, & Shooting Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center @ 302 S. Maryland Ave Cost: Free
or recinfo@plantcitygov.com
|
7:30AM-9:30AM 5K
T-Shirts
@4:59PM) Info: 813-719-0244
Info: 813-659-4255
6:00PM-10:00PM Pageant| Florida Strawberry Festival
Scholarships Awarded Grimes Agricultural Center @ 2508 Oak Ave Cost: $15 Info: Gail Lyons @ 813-967-6366 or Amy Trinkle @ 813-763-6088
87 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE
BEST ITALIAN

Gallery

of Plant City

JR. ROYALTY PAGEANT

On Jan. 14, one hundred twenty girls competed in the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Junior Royalty Pageant. The girls were judged on overall beauty, personality, and stage presence. Here’s just a sample of the contestants who took part in this hometown tradition.

a. 2023 Junior Royalty Winners (left to right): Baroness Aubrey Sweeney, Queen Madelynn Marie Hardwick, Princess Giselle McDowell, and Duchess Olivia McDowell.

b. Ava Rose Bikowski wowed the crowd in this yellow gown. The girls were judged on beauty and stage presence. Bikowski was a top 5 finalist in Princess division.

c. Sadie Raeanne Davenport blew kisses to the audience as part of the preliminary competition.

d. Duchess contestant Caroline Newman was a crowd favorite, with an eruption of applause when she was onstage.

e. Savannah Heist, a repeat competitor in Jr. Royalty, wore this pink sequined dress. Savannah attends Strawberry Crest High School and is the daughter of Jennifer and Adam Heist.

88 PAGE
503
Blvd.,
poppellinsurance.com a
c d e
W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Plant City, FL 813-752-4155
b
89 PAGE K E E L F A R M S S t r a w b e r r y U - P i c k i s o f f i c i a l l y o p e n ! O u r f i e l d s a r e o p e n d a i l y u n t i l s u n d o w n * w h i l e s u p p l i e s l a s t a n d a s w e a t h e r p e r m i t s . W e w i l l s u p p l y t h e f r u i t b a s k e t s . W e r e c o m m e n d w e a r i n g c l o s e t o e d s h o e s , c o m f o r t a b l e c l o t h i n g , a n d s u n s c r e e n f o r p r o t e c t i o n . I f p l a n n i n g t o d i n e w i t h u s b e f o r e o r a f t e r , w e h i g h l y r e c o m m e n d m a k i n g a r e s e r v a t i o n . S e e y o u s o o n ! 5 2 0 2 T H O N O T O S A S S A R O A D | P L A N T C I T Y , F L 3 3 5 6 5 8 1 3 - 7 5 2 - 9 1 0 0 | W W W K E E L F A R M S C O M 2023 NOMINEE BEST VENUE, BAR, SALAD, BURGER, CHEF

Gallery of Plant City

MLK PARADE

On Jan. 14, city leaders, county officials, and Plant City youth gathered to celebrate the 37th annual Dr. MLK Parade, presented by the Improvement League of Plant City. This year’s themed Excellence in Education was led by Grand Marshal Karen S. Chambers, retired US Army Colonel, who inspired young girls to pursue higher education.

a. Volunteers with Craig Latimer, Supervisor of Elections, handed out American flags down the parade route.

b. Karen S. Chambers, retired US Army Colonel, was the Grand Marshal of the parade. Chambers inspired young women to pursue careers in higher education.

c. City Commissioner Mary Mathis and her granddaughter waved to the crowd. Prior to becoming a city official, Mathis was an educator for many years.

d. Volunteers and members of Mt Olive Baptist Church handed out candy to parade spectors, like this girl named Callie.

e. Marshall Middle Magnet School was one of many bands featured in the parade. Following the parade, the band’s drumlines competed in a competition sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union.

90 PAGE
a
c d e
b
91 PAGE
92 PAGE BEST OF LUCK GRACE IN THE 2023 QUEEN’S CONTEST!
93 PAGE Ray Gutierrez, DMD - General Dentist 512 E. Alexander Street | Plant City, FL 33563 dentalassociateswaldenwoods.com CALL TODAY! 813.305.1382 (Reg. $6,810) Offer expires in 90 days. Includes retainers. Subject to clinical eligibility and Dr.’s discretion. One or more of the following ADA codes may reflect the treatment rendered under this offer. D8660, D8030, D8040, D8080, D8090, D8680. Offer cannot be applied toward account balances or dental services already delivered or in conjunction with other offers, discounts or reduced-fee plans.
$500 O F F Invisalign® Treatment Cleaning, Exam & X-rays $99 (Reg. $305) Offer expires in 90 days. New Patients Only. Includes exam, cleaning (prophylaxis) & x-rays. Advertised fee is the minimum fee. Subject to clinical eligibility and Dr.’s discretion. One or more of the following ADA codes may reflect the treatment rendered under this offer. D0150, D0330, D0272, D0210, D1110. Offer cannot be applied toward account balances or dental services already delivered or in conjunction with other offers, discounts or reduced-fee plans. | 040622 -ORIT IS OUR OFFICE POLICY THAT THE PATIENT AND ANY OTHER PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYMENT HAS THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO PAY, CANCEL PAYMENT OR BE REIMBURSED FOR PAYMENT FOR ANY OTHER SERVICE, EXAMINATION OR TREATMENT WHICH IS PERFORMED AS A RESULT OF AND WITHIN 72 HOURS OF RESPONDING TO THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE FREE, DISCOUNTED-FEE OR REDUCED-FEE SERVICE, EXAMINATION OR TREATMENT. DN18996. Invisalign®, the Invisalign logo, and iTero®, among others, are trademarks and/ or service marks of Align Technology, Inc. or one of its subsidiaries or affiliated companies and may be registered in the U.S. and/or other countries. Gentle, Professional Cleanings Comprehensive Exams Advanced Oral Cancer Screenings Teeth Whitening Wisdom Tooth Extractions Extractions Root Canal erapy Mouth/Night Guards Crowns & Bridges Lumineers Veneers Invisalign ® Treatment Dental Implants COMPREHENSIVE CARE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: ADV58030KS 2023NOMINEE BEST DENTAL PRACTICE
| 040622
94 PAGE 2023 NOMINEE

“We provide compassionate care for you and your family.”

At South Florida Baptist Hospital, the team members who wear this badge give you high-quality care in a comfortable atmosphere. Our wide range of specialty services includes comprehensive orthopedic care, sports medicine services and total joint replacement procedures. We have a comprehensive gynecology program that offers a variety of women’s services, and our weight loss surgery program meets nationally recognized standards. And if surgery is required, we have surgeons who are experts in minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures, which means shorter hospital stays and smaller incisions that reduce the risk of infection. All of this means you get outstanding, compassionate care right here in Plant City. Learn more: SouthFloridaBaptist.org

95 PAGE
It’s not just an ID badge.
It’s a badge of honor.
22-2419203-1022
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.