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You. Your neighbors. Your neighborhood.


thursday, JULY 12, 2012

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Thousands pack Meet our columnist: Plant City Stadium Emilie Plants, for July 4 festivities. mother of two. PAGE 8



+ Children give mom her last wish The children of Plant City native Annie Lee Hallback fulfilled her last wish with a beautiful horse and carriage ride following her funeral June 20, from Mount Olive Baptist Church to the Garden of Peace Cemetery. Born April 1, 1925, Mrs. Hallback, 87, was raised on Ball Street, just a few blocks from Mount Olive. She began making funeral plans in 2008. She died June 14, 2012.

Nation’s top players train in Plant City. PAGE 13

developmental recovery By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Ditch Witch, RaceTrac buy former dealerships The new businesses will operate from space formerly occupied by B.M. Smith Chrysler-Dodge and B.M. Smith Jeep. Ten acres of vacant property at South Collins Street and Park Road will soon see life again. KDM Associates Inc. recently announced the sale of two properties that were former homes of local car dealerships to Ditch

Witch and RaceTrac, according to B.M. “Mac” Smith Jr., KDM chairman. “These are both great additions to our city, and I think they will be both accepted completely,” Smith said.


KDM sold the former ChryslerDodge dealership on the 6.5 acres at 502 East Park Road to Ditch Witch of Central and South Florida, a company that specializes


By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Wrtier

+ Broadway magic takes center stage Plant City Entertainment will bring the Big Apple’s most famous productions to the community during “The Best of Broadway,” at 8 p.m. July 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. July 22, at the theater, 101 N. Thomas St. The production will feature music from “Grease,” “Les Miserables,” “Hair” and more. Tickets are $10 for members; $12 for seniors; $14 for non-members and K-12 students. For more, email

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

Amber Jurgensen

Until Riverview appoints a new principal, Jennifer West will oversee both campuses.

Lincoln Elementary welcomes principal Longtime Plant City resident Jennifer West took the helm at the magnet school earlier this month.

+ Trinity church to host youth rally Trinity United Methodist Church will host Beauty for Ashes, an annual youth rally, at 6 p.m. July 14, at the church, 402 W. English St. Sponsored by Frontline Youth at Trinity, this year’s rally is themed “Comatose: How to Wake Up from Your Slumber.” It Eva Kroon Pike will feature a variety of bands and skit teams, including Eva Kroon Pike, Adam and David, from La Familia Muzik, and Grace Intended. Food will be served after the event; cost is $5. For more, call 752-9316.


bing a jewelry store. Wilson was asked to think of a realistic way paramedics could escape after the crime. He came up with the Opticom, an actual traffic control system that allows emergency ve-

For Jennifer West, taking the top post at Lincoln Elementary Magnet School is a sort of homecoming. The teacher and administrator moved to Plant City from Gainesville when she was in the fourth grade. Now, instead of being an elementary student in the community, she’ll help teach them. West began her work at Lincoln July 2, after two-and-onehalf years as principal at Riverview Elementary. “My favorite thing about being a principal is getting to interact with so many different groups of people — students, parents, teachers and the community,” West said. “Watching everyone work together toward our ultimate goal, student achievement, is very rewarding.” West said she knew she wanted to pursue education since she attended Plant City High School. Inspired by her teacher, she volunteered in a special education program. Following graduation, she earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of South Florida. She then earned her master’s degree in educational leadership. “I’ve always loved kids and working with kids,” West said. “The Lord prepares you for certain things and jobs, and I feel like this is my calling.”



Yes, the famous CSI sunglasses suit Plant City EMS Division Chief Jim Wilson just fine.

Amber Jurgensen



Since 2010, Jim Wilson, division chief for Plant City’s EMS, has served as a technical consultant for several crime dramas, including ‘CSI’ and ‘Bones.’ As a paramedic, Jim Wilson has to think on his feet every day. But he never imagined he would have to use his medical training to brainstorm plot ideas for primetime TV. However, that’s exactly what has happened. Since 2010, Wil-

son, division chief of Plant City’s EMS, has worked as a technical consultant for several CBS Studios hits, including “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “Bones” and “Rizzoli and Isles.” One of Wilson’s favorite episodes involved paramedics rob-

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IN OTHER NEWS During the Plant City Commission’s July 9 regular meeting, commissioners: • Approved placing on the Nov. 6 ballot an amendment to the city charter that would change the way the city handles commission vacancies. The change would eliminate special elections when a commissioner leaves with less than 15 months in his or her term. Commissioner Rick Lott recommended the change after Commissioner Daniel Raulerson announced his campaign for Florida House of Representatives District 58. • Approved the rezoning of 1705 Sammonds Road from C-1 (General Commercial District and C-1A (Neighborhood Business District) to M-1A (Light Industrial District). • Accepted the bid of Marlon Dunn Contracting Inc. for the Mendonsa Road reconstruction. — Amber Jurgensen

governance By Michael Eng | Managing Editor

Horwedel: City finances are sound The Plant City manager revealed the 2012-13 preliminary budget during a Plant City Commission workshop July 9. Although Plant City will end fiscal year 2011-12 with an estimated 3.3% decline in general gross revenues, City Manager Greg Horwedel said he sees signs of stabilization that should continue into the next fiscal year. Horwedel shared his analysis on Plant City’s finances during a special City Commission workshop July 9. In it, he offered a glimpse of the fiscal year 2012-13 preliminary budget. Despite the decline in gross revenues, Horwedel said higher local sales-tax collections, year-overyear increases in building permits and engineering fees and a slowing in the decline of property values are evidence of a stabilizing local economy.

NEWSBRIEFS + City seeks new community leader The city of Plant City currently is recruiting to fill a position on the Hillsborough County CityCounty Planning Commission. The Hillsborough County CityCounty Planning Commission is an independent consolidated planning agency, led by appointed citizens. Appointments are voluntary, and members serve without compensation. All interested parties should complete and return the board application, available online at, to the City Clerk’s office, 302 W. Reynolds St., Plant City, FL 33563. The deadline is 4 p.m. July 25.

+ Body discovered in Plant City ditch Employees from a Hillsborough County road crew discovered the body of a Plant City man in a ditch. According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reports, at about 12:01 p.m. July 2, a road crew that was mowing the right of way discovered the body of Adam Patrick Roark, of the 3400 block of South Jap Tucker Road, Plant City, in a ditch off Old Hopewell Road east of Henry George Road. Roark was operating a Yamaha motorcycle when he drove off the roadway to the south and into the ditch.

+ Detectives need help in counterfeit case Hillsborough County Sheriff’s


Overall, Horwedel proposed a 2012-13 revenue budget of $25,401,016 — a 1.1% reduction from the amended 2011-12 budget, $25,675,104. Horwedel said staffing and budget levels for 2012-13 are similar to what the city had in 2003-04. “It’s like the last eight or nine years never happened,” he said. Horwedel’s proposals include: • No increase in the ad valorem millage rate (4.7157); • No fee increase for Recreation and Parks Department programs, or Building, Planning and Zoning, and Engineering departments; • Waiving a 3% sanitation fee increase schedules for Oct. 1, 2012; • Limit water utilities fee increase to CPI deflator;

• Reducing staff by two positions; • No wage increase for city employees; • Maintaining current level of city contribution to Public Safety Pension Fund; • No new major projects; and • Continuing street-resurfacing program. Of the proposals, commissioners focused most of their attention on wages and asked Horwedel and Finance Director Martin Wisgerhof to try to find a way to offer a boost for employees. “Our employees have not had a pay raise in a great number of years,” Mayor Michael Sparkman said. “I’d like to see if there were some way we could do

missions for mouths

BY THE NUMBERS General Fund Gross Revenue Year Total FY 08/09 $27,530,740 FY 09/10 $26,787,331 FY 10/11 $26,776,291 FY 11/12 $25,889,967 (end-of-year estimate)

Ad Valorem Revenue Year Total FY 11/12 $6,709,679 FY 12/13 $6,496,804 (projected)

(that) and at what cost.” The City Commission will hold its next budget workshop July 23, at Sadye Gibbs Martin Auditorium, City Hall, 302 W. Reynolds St. Contact Michael Eng at meng@

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

Meetings &agendas  Plant City Council — 7:30 p.m., second and fourth Mondays, 302 W. Reynolds St., Plant City  Hillsborough County Commission — 9 a.m., first and third Wednesdays, Second floor of County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa  Hillsborough County School Board — 3 p.m., second and fourth Tuesdays, 901 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa

Office detectives are asking for public assistance in identifying three suspects who passed counterfeit payroll checks Nov. 17, 2011, at Big D’s Deli in Plant City. According to Sheriff’s Office reports, the suspects passed checks totaling $1,490.82. The checks appeared to be payroll checks drawn on a JPMorgan Chase account. Suspect one is a Hispanic male, 50 to 55 years old, 5-foot8, 200 to 210 pounds, with brown hair. Suspect two is a Hispanic male, 5-foot-10, 55 to 60 years old, 185 to 195 pounds, with salt and pepper hair. Suspect three is a Hispanic male, 55 to 60 years old, 180 pounds, with black hair. Anyone with any information reference these suspects is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200.

WARM WELCOME About 30 community leaders welcomed the Plant City Observer to the community during the Plant City Chamber of Commerce’s ribbon-cutting ceremony July 10, at the Plant City Observer, 110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100-A.

Courtesy photo

Dr. Dennis Digamon, right, was supposed to meet two hygeinists at a Frankfurt airport on the way to Biysk, Russia. But he missed his connecting flight. “I thought, ‘Oh boy, I’m in trouble,’” Digamon jokes.

DENNIS THE DENTIST Dr. Dennis Digamon has completed eight dental missions as part of international service for the Plant City Rotary Club. It was like a plot from a spy movie, with Dr. Dennis Digamon starring as the hero. His mission: to deliver specific goods stuffed in a suitcase at a drop-off point 5,000 miles away in Siberia. But he ran into trouble when customs officials unzipped the bag. But Digamon wasn’t transporting top-secret information. He was carrying 250 toothbrushes to an orphanage in Biysk. “As soon as they found out it was for an orphanage, they said, ‘OK, no problem,’” Digamon says. A dentist in Plant City, Digamon is part of the Plant City Rotary Club, which has helped send him on eight missions to the Philippines and Russia to perform dental work for those in need. His wife, Dolores, has accompanied him on six of the missions. Their most recent mission was in May, when they traveled to Baclayon, Bohol, in the Philippines. “You have a patient (for whom) you restore their smile, and that

just makes your day,” Dennis says. He was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to the United States in 1984. Of his eight missions, six were to his home country. In 2009, he returned to his hometown, Oroquieta. There, he saw almost 1,000 people in three-and-one-half days with the help of 15 local dentists. “At 5:30 in the morning, you could see people from the mountain was there lining up waiting to be served,” Dennis says. “So it was very touching for me to be at my hometown and be at their service.” Volunteering in the Philippines comes natural to the father of four, who already knows the language and politics. However, his two trips to Russia were quite different, because of the culture and language. He recounts a farewell party during which Russian volunteers admitted they were apprehensive about Americans coming to help.

“There we were face to face, we’re all human, we love our families, we love our kids,” Dennis says. “It was all propaganda. I could see the tears in their eyes. It was very touching.” In addition to performing exams and procedures, Dennis also brings supplies such as anesthesia. On their most recent trip, the Digamons also shipped toys, books and clothes. Dennis went to dental school at Southwestern University in the Philippines. When he came to the U.S., he took a variety of exams and boards to work as a dentist. In 1993, he attended the University of Florida for post-graduate studies and completed a comprehensive dentistry program. Both Dennis and his wife of 37 years love mission work and have plans for another trip next year. “There’s no price tag on making people happy,” Dennis says. Contact Amber Jurgensen at


Plant city observer



Morgan Davis Morgan Davis didn’t need a quiet office with a beautiful view to write his novel. The 21-year-old wrote the first 6,000 words of “Prescribed Life” on a cell phone during his shifts at Plant City Skatepark. His brother, Jesse Starr, got Davis a laptop to speed up the writing process after Davis ruined two phone keypads. “When I write a book, I watch it in my head like a movie,” Davis says. “Prescribed Life” is about Leah Clark, a high school girl who struggles with socializing. She is put on a trial drug that has a strange side effect, taking her into a dream world, where all her desires come true. But trouble starts when kids at school find out about the drug and abuse it. “It’s fiction, but it’s realistic and relatable,” Davis says. “There’s no vampires or anything in there.” The novel is Davis’ first and is self-published. “Everything that has gone into it has been local,” Davis says. Starr created the cover art for the novel, which is designed to look like a pill bottle. Davis even recorded

a song for the novel using a friend’s equipment. And he is promoting the book locally in high schools, stores and Plant City publications before moving on to other cities. Davis’s love for writing began when he was just a child. “I’ve always liked rhyming and singing,” Davis says. “My mom was always singing.” In high school, Davis began posting poems on Facebook and Myspace. A friend encouraged him to take his poems further by writing a novel. He started “Prescribed Life” in 2010. In addition to writing, Davis has other creative interests. He showcased his concrete poems at several art shows. A concrete poem is one in which the words of the poem create a shape or figure, such as a face. He took up playing guitar after he graduated from Plant City High School in 2009. “I couldn’t play to save my life,” Davis says about his skill when he first started. Now, he writes his own songs. Sometimes, he can be found playing outside of Publix, where he works,

The Plant City High graduate recently published his first book, ‘Prescribed Life.’

or on a street corner downtown, where he lives above an antique shop. Davis is using his creative talents to further promote his book. He hopes to film a trailer that’s like a music video using the song he wrote and recorded for the novel. Davis also uses his talents for volunteer service. In 2010, he went on a mission trip to Haiti with Church on the Rock, during which he played music for services and seminars and brought donations for the locals. Davis also coached volleyball for Special Olympics in Tampa, and one of his 16 tattoos displays the Best Buddies logo on his right arm to represent the work he did with Best Buddies of Plant City. “I like making my own excitement with things that I do like music and skating,” Davis says. That excitement will continue with writing. Davis is working on the second book in the “Prescribed Life” trilogy, which will be titled “Referral to Reality.” For more information about “Prescribed Life,” visit — Amber Jurgensen

Amber Jurgensen

In high school, Morgan Davis used to write poems for extra credit. “In school, I didn’t focus that much. I was more creative,” Davis says.

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West spent six years of teaching special education students at Springhead Elementary and another at Wilson Elementary. She then switched to the administrative side of education at the encouragement of her principal at Springhead, Sandy Black. She later worked as an assistant principal at Alafia Elementary. “Both jobs have their own unique challenges, and I enjoy both,” West said of teaching and administration. “I still consider myself a teacher, and I believe that helps me assist my teachers as their administrator.” West and her husband, Brian, have three children: Elizabeth, 8, Elijah, 5, and Emory, 1. Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver. com.

hicles with an emitter to change traffic lights to green. “It was just the coolest seven minutes,” Wilson says about seeing the show air. Wilson also advises on the side effects of drugs. In one episode, writers needed a drug to knock out a kidnapped paramedic that would also erase his memory. When Angie Harmon’s character, Jane Rizzoli, got shot in the knee, Wilson suggested what medicine to give her and how it would affect her. “I’m really humbled by all of this,” Wilson says of his opportunity to work in TV. “It was something to do that was fun.” Wilson’s work as an adviser began on the website, allexperts. com. He stumbled onto the site one night and noticed many of the paramedic or medical ques-

SALE/PAGE 1 in the leasing and sales of underground equipment, parts and services. Renovations already have begun, and the company plans to begin conducting business at the new location by the end of August or early September. The new location also will add 10 to 15 jobs. Dusty Cinnamon, the general manager and sales manager for Ditch Witch, has relocated from the company headquarters in Oklahoma to Lithia to lead the new location. A current Ditch Witch office in Leesburg will be moving all operations to the new Plant City location. “We were looking for an easy location for our customers and after a lot of searching, we kept

coming back to Plant City,” Cinnamon said. “It’s just a great location that’s right off Interstate 4 and not far from I-75. It’s a large facility that will allow for further expansion and growth in the future.” The former Jeep dealership on the two acres of the northeast corner of South Collins Street and Park Road will be turned into a 20pump RaceTrac service station. The station will join the existing Racetrac off Thonotosassa Road, giving the city one on the west and east end. According to Smith, the company plans to demolish the existing structure in early August and have the new station running by the beginning of 2013, if not sooner. The site is part of a 10-acre property that housed the company’s Dodge dealership and the

tions on the site were not being fully answered. He sent an application to become an expert and now answers a variety of questions. “I get a lot of satisfaction from helping out on allexperts,” Wilson says. “These people are reaching out for some direction.” About two years ago, through, Wilson was contacted by Jon Wellner, an actor and researcher for the crime shows. Wellner asked Wilson if he would volunteer his time to act as a consultant on one of the episodes. “When I got his message, I thought it was a joke,” Wilson says. Since then, the two have collaborated through email and phone. Wilson says he gets a list about 10 questions about a specific topic and then answers any follow-up questions. The

former Plant It Earth Co. on South Collins Street. Both deals were pursued by the buyers, with RaceTrac closing the deal more than three months ago and Ditch Witch closing about six weeks ago — Smith, said. Smith’s daughter, Marion Smith, president of the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, said the two companies should help boost the local economy. “I think that the two businesses coming to town are great,” she said. “RaceTrac is a family-owned corporation, and they try to be active in the community and the chamber. Ditch Witch is a great addition to Plant City, also. They will serve central and north Florida areas. It is nice to see some real estate activity in the area.” Plant City Manager Greg Hor-


exchange lasts about a week. “I don’t know how I got into all of this,” Wilson says, laughing about his experience with Hollywood. “But I am blessed.” This isn’t Wilson’s first run in with fame. In 2002, Wilson flew to New York City to be interviewed on “The Ananda Lewis Show” about being reunited with a small sum of money his mother left for him, which he found using Wilson was also an extra in a re-enactment on “Dr. G: Medical Examiner” in 2004. On “Who’s Watching the Kids,” he played a paramedic who entered a house and had to check the vitals of several abused children. “We were on the set for eight or nine hours for less than one minute on the show,” Wilson says. Wilson started his EMS career after graduating high school in 1980. He was involved in a head-

on collision with a drunken driver. He joined an EMT class to try to cope with the aftermath of his accident. “It was hard getting over it,” Wilson says. His mother encouraged him to stick with the class. Before she passed away, Wilson promised her he would. In 1986, he became an instructor and has worked at the University of Miami, Brevard Community College and the Plant City Fire Department, among other places. From a man trying to commit suicide by taking a bottle of Flintstones vitamins to saving a 2-year-old from drowning, Wilson finds his job very rewarding. “We deal with the rest of society that people don’t see is there,” Wilson says. Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver. com.

wedel said the sales are a sign of development recovery. “The site has been vacant for about year, so I’m happy to see it put to productive use,” Horwedel said. “Any time with the economy the way it is, we are excited to see the possibility of new jobs being created and the revitalization of business in the area.” B.M. Smith Motors, Inc. was founded in 1943 by B.M. Smith Sr. and was located at 1007 W. Haines St. (now Martin Luther King Boulevard) until it relocated in 1964. The company was family-operated for 58 years, beginning with American Motors products before adding Jeep and Chrysler. In 2001, the company sold the franchises and began leasing the property. Contact Matt Mauney at

AT A GLANCE LOCATION: 6.5 acres at 502 E. Park Road THEN: B.M. Smith ChryslerDodge NOW: Ditch Witch, a company specializing in the leasing and sales of Ditch With underground equipment, along with parts and other services. LOCATION: Northeast corner of South Collins Street and Park Road THEN: B.M. Smith Jeep NOW: RaceTrac, a 20-pump service station and convenience store.


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hog wild

By Amber Jurgensen | Staf Writer



presented four counterfeit $20 bills as payment for items. It wasn’t until later that the bills were found to be fake.

June 29


2600 block of James L Redman Parkway. Retail Theft. The suspect stole a pack of four AA batteries, valued at $9.83. Officers also located Darvocet on the suspect. She did not have a prescription for the drug. The suspect was charged with the retail theft and possession of a controlled substance and transported to Orient Road Jail.

June 30

Bike Fest rumbles into downtown Plant City Dozens of motorcycles rumbled into town for the monthly Bike Fest July 7, in Historic Downtown Plant City. The event attracted hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts from throughout the area.


1100 block of West Bates Street. Abandoned Vehicle. A blue Mercury was parked in the 1100 block of West Bates Street with a stolen tag. The registered owner of the vehicle said he had sold the car. The vehicle was towed from the city right-of-way. The tag was seized and placed into property. The vehicle was towed by Southern Towing.


300 block of West Grant Street. Criminal Mischief. Unknown suspect(s) spraypainted the victim’s 1988 Ford Bronco II. The damage is estimated at $250. No other vehicles were spray-painted.


Bill Lonnroth, aka “Teddy Bear Man,” brought a little Christmas spirit to this month’s event. Left: Hailey Foley, 6, Lina Santiago, 4, and Haylie Gudger, 6, love motorcycles.


The following information was gathered from incident and arrest reports obtained from the Plant City Police Department.


Dorsey Dixon and Linda and Dennis Bell love Plant City’s Bike Fest.


500 block of South Maryland Avenue. Abandoned Vehicle. The suspect was observed operating dirt bike in a reckless manner in the area. An officer attempted to conduct a stop, but the dirt bike fled. The dirt bike was later found abandoned at the intersection of Renfro and Hunter streets. There was no sign of the rider.


2000 block of North Wheeler Street. Fraud. A white female entered the store and

2700 block of Thonotosassa Road. Disturbance. Officers responded in reference to an individual who had come into the coffee shop and removed some money from the tip jar. No one saw the individual remove any money. The individual was questioned, and he told officers he had not taken the money.


Corner of Country Hills Boulevard and Bloom Drive. Sinkhole. Officers responded to a sinkhole that measured 1 to 2 feet deep and 2 to 4 feet long.

July 1


1700 block of Oakwood Estates Drive. Criminal Mischief. Suspect(s) used blue paint to write obscenities on the victim’s vehicle.


2600 block of James Redman Parkway. Retail Theft. The suspect concealed two bottles of cologne, valued at $17, and attempted to leave the store without paying for them. The suspect was detained by loss prevention. The suspect had two previous convictions for petit theft, thus enhancing this instance to a felony charge.


1500 block of Sammonds Road. Drug Arrest. The driver stopped for failing to stop at a posted stop sign. After stopping the vehicle and making contact, the officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and then conducted a search. The driver had no driver’s license. A female passenger was found to have marijuana, less than 20 grams, in her purse.

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Plant city observer



“If we are to build a better world, we must remember that the guiding principle is this — a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Friedrich Hayek “Road to Serfdom,” 1944

Publisher / Felix Haynes@ Managing Editor / Michael Eng, Assistant Managing Editor / Jess Eng, Staff Writers / Amber Jurgensen,; Matt Mauney, mmauney@PlantCityObserver. com Advertising Executive / Veronica Prostko, Advertising coordinator / Linda Lancaster Advertising-Production Operations Manager / Kathy Payne, kpayne@ Advertising-Production Coordinator / Brooke Schultheis, bschultheis@ Advertising Graphic Designers / Monica DiMattei, mdimattei@yourobserver. com; Marjorie Holloway, mholloway@; Luis Trujillo, ltrujillo@; Chris Stolz, cstolz@


The Plant City Observer is published once weekly, on Thursdays. It provides free home delivery to several neighborhoods in Plant City. The Plant City Observer also can be found in many commercial locations throughout Plant City and at our office, 110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100-A. If you wish to discontinue home delivery or if you wish to suspend home delivery temporarily, call Linda Lancaster at 704-6850.

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TO ADVERTISE Call Veronica Prostko at 704-6850.


We want to hear from you. Let us know about your community events, celebrations and family member achievements. To contact us, send your information via: Email: Michael Eng, Mail: The Plant City Observer, 110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100A, Plant City, FL 33563

The Plant City Observer LLC Locally Owned


observed | as seen on YouTube

Young love blossoms in Plant City

If this doesn’t tug at your Jovelyn, 23, a native of the heartstrings, you’re either dead or Philippines, moved in February carry around a piece of black coal 2009 to Plant City to enter a Certiinside your chest. fied Nursing Assistant program. Last week, Facebook user That same month, Brian, 24, a James Worley sent us a link to a Plant City native, boarded a plane YouTube video. bound for the Philippines to “Watch this AWESOME propos- begin a mission trip. al video of a Plant City couple,” “We probably passed each he wrote. other crossing the ocean,” Brian I’ve always been a sucker for says, smiling. love stories, so of course, Back home, Jovelyn I clicked through. In the met Brian’s sister, Alicia July 1 video, titled “SurQuigley, through the CNA prise Marriage Proposal: program, and the two Scavenger Hunt,” bridebecame quick friends. to-be Jovelyn Ortiz walks Alicia encouraged Jovelyn through Burchwood Park, to write a letter to Brian in collecting pink gift bags her native tagalog, which containing trinkets and Brian was learning. The notes left by boyfriend two began dating officially MICHAEL 17 months ago, after Brian Brian Smith. The bags ENG chronicle the couple’s returned home. 17-month relationship, “For me, there wasn’t a turning the park into a deeply moment when I just knew (she personal memory lane. was the one),” Brian says. “It’s As Jovelyn reaches the final just been the whole experience of stop, Brian is waiting — not growing together. She’s stuck with with a bag containing another me through the good times and memory but rather a promise for the bad.” the future. Jovelyn agrees. “We started out as something “Brian has always been so simple and became something supportive all the time,” she says. big,” Brian says to her before get“He’s American, but he speaks my ting on bended knee. language. He’s really respectful, OK: Cue the collective, “Awwwand we get along well.” wwww!” So far, Brian’s proposal views Here’s the best part: The couple has garnered more than 800 is every bit as cute in person views on YouTube. The groom-to— with a love story fit for Holbe says he had been thinking of lywood. ways to propose for the last three

Plant City residents Brian Smith and Jovelyn Ortiz shared their engagement story with the world through a video on YouTube. Brian popped the question July 1. months. Then, when the scavenger hunt emerged as the best idea, he, with the help of family members, put it all together in about a week. The couple is planning for a September wedding, which will be held at Brian’s church, the Plant City Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jovelyn already has chosen her colors (light blue and white), and the couple is narrowing down their options for a honeymoon. At first, they thought of Hawaii but now are considering returning to the Philippines,

which would mark the first time the two would be in the country together. “As it turned out, I was doing my mission work very close to where she lived,” Brian says. “So, I am familiar with areas she talks about.” With 10 family-owned acres off Pierce Harwell Road, the couple hopes to build a home near Brian’s parents. From all of us at the Plant City Observer, congratulations, Brian and Jovelyn. We wish you health, wealth and many years of happiness together.


From model to motherhood I must confess: It is early aftermy favorite Japanese Bagel Roll noon, and I’m still wearing my every day for lunch. I got off by pajamas. 3 p.m. and had a few hours to go It wasn’t always this way. shopping or get regular pedicures I was Emilie DuBois: model, before my husband returned beauty queen and Durant High from work. I dressed fit to kill and School’s first Cover Girl. stepped out of my prized Land I still venture back to the Rover with my three-inch heels, Queen’s Hall of Fame at the Florifeeling like a star. da Strawberry Festival every year Thank goodness that mothto see my pictures from erhood saved me from the 1996 and 1998 courts. myself! They never change — and I gave up my job, and neither does my pride. we began downsizing. I Everything as I knew gave up the daily Starit changed at 5:53 p.m., bucks, sushi and shopping Dec. 13, 2006, when I was sprees. My toes lost their granted a new title: Mom. pretty polished shine. I remember the fear I traded in my pricey I felt as I brought home dream car for an affordthat 7 pound, 2 ounce able and practical Town EMILIE bundle of pink I named & Country minivan with PLANTS Scarlett Joy. My dreams automatic doors that were for my baby girl took preperfect for loading up the cedence over my own. baby and all her gear. I had intended to return to my I still had the autonomy to beloved job as a drug prevention leave the house; however, most teacher, where I touched lives of days it was too exhausting to even children throughout Hillsborthink about packing up all of the ough County. Back then, I had the baby items for a trip to Walmart. autonomy to visit Starbucks for Plus, she was colicky, and I coffee during my breaks and have spent most days rocking her

while she cried. And I cried, too. It was just 15 months later that baby No. 2 arrived: a son named Cooper Reese. I doubled up on the sleepless nights, the bottle feedings, the vomit, the dirty diapers and the piles of laundry. Pop culture went out the window, and I found myself singing along to every theme song on “Noggin.” I can only imagine that my husband must have paused before entering the house every day, wondering what kind of wife he was about to meet. Some days, it was the “weepy wife,” who was crying tears of frustration. Other days, it was the “sleepy wife,” who was walking around like a zombie or passed out on the couch while the babies were asleep. The “cranky wife” was present most often and the least welcoming of all. It’s amazing how fast the baby stage goes, although it seems like it’s going to last forever. For every dream I relinquished, I’ve gotten paid back in pure love. My heart is chock-full of their first smiles, first steps, first words and

so much more. The anticipation of future milestones keeps me on the edge of my seat like no movie I’ve ever seen. When Scarlett was 2 and Cooper was 1, I returned to the journalism world and spent three years sharing in the lives of Plant City folks as a correspondent for the Plant City Courier and Tribune. Today, I welcome you to my world as a columnist for the Plant City Observer. In my monthly “Pajama Mama” column, you’ll get a glimpse into my world as I tackle Motherhood 101. I am at the heart of our family. I have a 5-and-a-half-year-old singing diva, a 4-year-old husky boy who loves to pummel me with hugs and kisses, three playful Jack Russell terriers and an A-plus husband who works hard for our family. I invite you along on my journey. It’s bound to have its twists and turns, laughable moments and plenty of life lessons. If you have any suggestions or ideas for future columns, please email them to me at emplants@


Publisher of the Plant City Observer and

President / Felix Haynes Directors / Nate Kilton, Ed Verner, Matt Walsh

110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100A Plant City, Fla. 813-704-6850 ©Copyright Plant City Observer LLC 2012 All Rights Reserved

Left: The historic Lee Building, circa 1922. Right: Today, the Lee Building is home to several businesses, including the Plant City Observer.

Plant city observer


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Summer food bus serves up smiles in Plant City meal deal

Readers respond to Plant City Observer

I can’t tell you how excited I was to just arrive home and find my first copy of the Plant City Observer in my driveway! It is wonderful, and I wish you much success. I’m amazed you are doing this for free. I would have gladly paid for a local paper again. Jo Ann Albritton Kinghorn Love it! Great local — and only local — news about our community and friends. Keep it coming! Great job Felix Haynes and team. Jim Chancey, executive director United Food Bank of Plant City First, allow me to congratulate you on your new position with the Plant City Observer and on the first issue, which my wife and I found of great interest. My wife, being fourth-generation Plant City native, especially enjoyed the old small-town feel of the publication. In 1992, my wife was crowned queen in Plant City’s Junior Royalty Pageant. We both appreciate the goal of the paper to be focused on the people and the news of Plant City and its citizens. Barrett R. Smith Keep up the good work with the paper. It has created a buzz in town, and for the first time in a very long time people — like my wife and me — can’t wait to get our hands on a fresh copy of our local newspaper. Now, for lil’ ol’ Plant City, that says a lot — so, thanks. Ivan Garcia

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

PLANT CITY FSTOPS RCMA Dover 3238 San Jose Mission Road, Dover Breakfast: 8 to 8:30 a.m. Lunch: 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The food bus offers meals twice a day in several locations, including two in the Plant City area. You wouldn’t expect children to be running to a school bus unless they were late. But children in Hillsborough County have been flocking to one particular bus as if it were an ice cream truck. This summer, Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Student Nutrition Services has launched a new initiative — a food bus — to feed migrant students throughout the community. Two of the four bus stops are located within the Plant City community to serve breakfast and lunch. The program, open Mondays through Thursdays, will continue through Aug. 9. “It’s pretty satisfying to see the kids eating,” server Terri Krage said. “They run up to us with smiling faces.” “It’s basically taking our summer food program a little further,” said Ginain Grayes, nutrition marketing and communication manager. “We want to continue to feed the children of Hillsborough County.”

Once the bus arrives, a tent is set up outside. Any child under 18 can pick up a boxed meal, which includes a sandwich, milk and snacks. Children also can eat on the bus, which is air conditioned. “I like the free food,” one student said while she munched on a ham sandwich. “It’s cold. I like to visit with my friends.” “It’s like a social hour,” Grayes said, adding that the bus driver will turn on the radio for the kids. “It’s fun, it’s different,” D. Sutton, the bus driver, said. “You get a chance to talk to the kids. I’m learning a little bit of Spanish in between serving lunches.” A bus also stops in Wimauma and Ruskin in addition to Plant City and Dover. On the first day the bus made its rounds, there were 65 breakfasts and 108 lunches served. The second day there were 102 breakfasts and 145


RCMA Westside Village 3102 Sammonds Road, Plant City Breakfast: 9 to 9:30 a.m. Lunch: Noon to 12:30 p.m. lunches served total. During the first week, the food bus fed an average of 97 breakfasts and 163 lunches daily to the four sites. Grayes expects the numbers to increase. The program is designed to bring healthy meals to those who are not near an existing summer food program site, which includes 95 schools and several parks throughout the county. Children don’t have to be enrolled in the school to get a meal. Last year, there were 243,983 breakfasts served, 335,274 lunches served and 133,088 snacks served at the open school sites. For more about the summer food program or to find an open site, visit Contact Amber Jurgensen at

Loved the first edition (and) cannot wait to see more! Paul Granville To send in your letters, please e-mail them to or mail them to the Plant City Observer, 110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100-A, Plant City, FL 33563. The Plant City Observer gives priority to letters of local interest and about local issues. The Plant City Observer will print all letters to the editor if it feels they are of general interest, but only if the letter is signed and the author’s street address and phone number are given. The editor reserves the right to condense letters.

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Plant city observer


dramatic display By Michael Eng | Managing Editor

Josh Condon, 6, wanted several airbrush tattoos.

Dakota Grigson, 8, worked hard on her baseball craft.

Makayla Holmes, 6, and her mother, Danielle, worked together on a craft project.

Clemson Road will release its first album in a few weeks.

Patriotic pride shines in Plant City Thousands of residents braved the spotty rain for a family friendly night of fun and fireworks July 4, at Plant City Stadium.

Bailie Rickards, 6, and her father, John, were formidable opponents in the tug-of-war challenge.

The night featured performances from local band Clemons Road and the Plant City Community Choir, as well as a variety of carnival-style games, inflat-

able obstacle courses and more. Just after 9 p.m., the stadium lights darkened for a 20-minute fireworks display.

Krisha Maurer and her daughter, Kadie, 3, had great seats for the fireworks display. Florida State Rep. Rich Glorioso was pleased to see the fireworks return to Plant City.

Nicholas Nero, 9, showed off his skills at the soccer challenge. Left: Little Miss Plant City Daisy Duke, 9, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Plant City Community Choir performed a variety of patriotic songs.

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Plant city observer


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By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Faith Christian Academy of Plant City Plant City’s new private school will begin classes this fall for students in grades K through 5. A longtime educator, the idea of running her own school has been a dream for Nicole Williams. This fall, that dream becomes a reality. “I’ve been wanting to open my own school for many years and just didn’t have the right venue, and then it was suggested to open one here,” said Williams, who will serve as president and principal of Faith Christian Academy off South Collins Street in Plant City. Williams found the venue she was looking for in Plant City United Pentecostal Church, led by her husband, the Rev. Raymond Williams II. The church has a small congregation of about 30 and began services just a year ago. It is affiliated with New Life Tabernacle UPC in Tampa, a much larger church with more than 1,800 members. There, Nicole Williams served as the Sunday School superintendent for five years. She has also taught Sunday School for nearly 15 years and served as an administrator for four charter schools and as a teacher for Hillsborough County Public Schools. She is a certified administrator and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, as well as a specialist degree in educational leadership.

Matt Mauney

Nicole Williams will make a longtime dream come true as she welcomes students to Faith Christian Academy of Plant City this fall. Faith Christian Academy will begin classes this fall for grades K-5, with three full-time certified teachers educating students in a spiritual environment. “With our motto being ‘inspire, teach and minister,’ that’s exactly what we want to do — inspiring students and parents of all budgets and all kinds of students,” Williams said. The first-year enrollment will be limited to 45 students. In addition to regular coursework, Faith Christian Academy will offer arts, music, dance and foreign-language programs. Williams said Faith Christian Academy plans to plant roots here. “A lot of people start things here, and then they leave, and we’re not leaving,” Williams said. “We’re here to stay.”

BASICS Faith Christian Academy Address: 1202 S. Collins St. Phone: (813) 473-2090 Grades: Kindergarten through grade 5 Tuition: $489 per month (K-2); $494 per month (3-5) The arts: In addition to the normal academic classes, FCA provides opportunity for children in grades K-5 to participate in music classes, physical education, computer v1.1 classes, art, library and spanish. Website:



John Wayne Hazelett, 57 of Plant City, died July 3, 2012. Born July 19, 1954, in Holden, W. Va., he was the son of the late Cecil Hazelett and Juanita Grimmett Hazelett. Surviving are brothers Bill, Cecil Jr. and Edward Lee Hazelett; and sisters Carrie Frances Watkins and Shirley B. Mastrangelo. A graveside service was July 9, at Florida National Cemetery, 6502 SW. 102nd Ave., Bushnell. The family received friends July 8, at Haught Funeral Home Chapel, 708 W. Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd., Plant City. Online condolences may be made to the family at www.

Harold ‘The Barber’ LaGrone

Harold “The Barber” LaGrone, 76, of Plant City, died July 4, 2012. Mr. LaGrone worked as a barber at Reflections, in Lakeland, for 48 years. He is survived by Mary LaGrone, his beloved wife of  44 years; two daughters, Vicki Passmore and Lisa Hood; son Dennis LaGrone;  four brothers, Frank LaGrone (Shirley) of Plant City, Doyce LaGrone (Carolyn), of Bowling Green, Ky., Dole LaGrone (Gloria), of Plant City, and Roger LaGrone (Janice), of Plant City; sister Carolyn Diodate (Dave), of Plant City; and numerous grandchildren. Mr. LaGrone was predeceased by son Troy LaGrone, brother Larry LaGrone and mother and father, Paul and Ollie Mae LaGrone. A funeral service was at 11

a.m. at Wells Memorial Funeral Home, Plant City. Flowers will be accepted or donations may be made to Good Shepherd Hospice in Auburndale.

Ethel ‘Ruth’ Lane

Ethel “Ruth” Lane, 87, died on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, at the Plant City Living Center. Mrs. Lane was a lifelong Plant City resident. She was born Jan. 8, 1925, to George A. Kelley and Letha I. (Graham).  She married J.V. Lane, who is deceased.  Mrs. Lane was a homemaker and a member of Eastside Baptist Church of Plant City.  She was well known in the area and made  many friends during the 15 years she sat up at the Frenchman’s Market in downtown Plant City. She is survived by two sons, Ronnie Lane (Linda) of Warner Robbins, Ga., and Carl Lane (Becky) of Mulberry; five grandchildren: Leanna Lane, Marcus Lane, Eric Lane, Brittany Graham and Jeff Miller; and several great-grandchildren. Funeral services were Friday, June 29, 2012, at Wells Memorial Funeral Home. Family will accept flowers, or donations may be made  to the  American Cancer Society in memory of Mrs. Lane. Condolences may be offered at www.



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Plant city observer


Celebrating the

Charter Advertisers of The Plant City Observer

You have proved yourself to us Now watch us prove ourselves to you Thank you from your local owners Felix Haynes, Nate Kilton and Ed Verner

Badcock Home Furniture Cameron Financial Management Campaign of Dan Raulerson Campaign of Rich Glorioso City Properties Company

Felton’s Grocery Florida Strawberry Festival Fred’s Southern Kitchen Gibbs Realtor Hillsboro Bank Jenkins Construction Poppell Insurance, Inc. Roadrunner Vet Clinic Sedita Kilton & Company

South Florida Baptist Hospital/Wenstrom Communications, Inc. State Farm Sunshine State Federal Savings Work Comp Partners YMCA Zeno Office Solutions, Inc. 87139




athlete of the week Myke Oyola, 11, is holding his own against the big boys. 15


THURSDAY, july 12, 2012

By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Helping out, giving back Former Plant City basketball standout Steve Hardnett returned to the area to help with the school’s summer basketball camp.

Matt Mauney

Steve Hardnett is helping out in multiple roles at the Plant City High School Coed Basketball Camp this week.

Steve Hardnett knows what it is like to have the odds stacked against him when it comes to playing the game he loves. He is using that experience to give back to the city where he became a star on the basketball court, along with fulfilling another of his passions — helping kids. Hardnett was a key player for Plant City High School five years ago, but because the school and

community isn’t considered a hotbed for college basketball prospects, he didn’t get many looks from colleges. His only “offer” was to go nearly 1,200 miles away from his hometown to Keystone College, a Division III school in La Plume, Pa. Even that wasn’t a sure thing. Hardnett was told that he could follow PCHS teammate and longtime friend Channing Woodall to

show me the mauney

Keystone, but unlike Woodall, he had no guarantee of making the team. “It was kind of a package deal,” Hardnett said. “The head coach up there at the time told me that I could come (with Woodall) but that I wasn’t on the team. I applied to the school anyway, because I liked what they had to offer.”



By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Plant City: Softball capital of the world? When you think of Plant City, a couple things generally come to mind. Strawberries, of course, usually top the list, along with the railroad and the history behind the town. As a sports fanatic, the city’s rich high school football history also stands out. But recently, a new trend is drawing attention, and it doesn’t occur in a strawberry patch or on the gridiron: softball. In addition to competitive local high school programs, former local softball standouts MATT are doing big MAUNEY things in the college ranks. Plant City High is responsible for producing two of the biggest “where are they now” stories recently. One, catcher Kendall Dawson, just wrapped up her college playing career in ultimate fashion, by winning the NCAA Division I national championship while starting 53 games for the University of Alabama. Dawson was a three-sport standout at Plant City (softball, soccer and volleyball) and was a staple behind the plate this season for the Crimson Tide. She caught nine runners stealing this season and recorded a team-high 414 putouts, along with just seven passed balls. The other former Plant


Matt Mauney

Rhett Rollyson, left, keeps busy when not at his day job at Rollyson/Fearnow Insurance by training with nationally ranked junior tennis players such as Jonathan Ho, Danny Mack and Stephen Madonia.

GRAND SLAM Hometown tennis expert Rhett Rollyson is attracting top junior talent to the Ellis-Methvin Park courts.

For Rhett Rollyson, tennis is a passion, but he also understands that its purpose is to be a fun and enjoyable game. And, it’s this mentality that has attracted several nationally ranked junior players to train at Plant City’s Ellis-Methvin Park. “A lot of times, some coaches, take it a little too seriously, and with me, it’s fun,” said Rollyson, a Plant City native and former college player at the University of Florida. Recently, Rollyson has attracted several top-ranked junior

players, including brother/sister duo Jonathan and Jessica Ho. Jonathan, a Wake Forest commitment, is ranked No. 16 in the country in the boys’ 18 singles division, according to the United States Tennis Association, while his sister sits in the top position in the girls’ 16 singles. Originally from Wexford, Pa., the siblings now reside in New Tampa and can be found once or twice a week at Ellis-Methvin hitting with Rollyson. “I met him at a charity event, and I’m always looking for new

people to hit with,” Jonathan said of Rollyson. “When we hit, it’s a lot less structured and a lighter mood then with some of my other training, which makes it fun.” Recent Lakeland High graduate and University of North Carolina at Greensboro commit Danny Mack has been practicing with Rollyson for eight years, after Rollyson approached him at a tournament in Lakeland when Mack was 10. Mack is rated as a four-star recruit by and ranked No. 13 in

CLOSER LOOK Jessica Ho: Ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USTA girls’ 16 division Jonathan Ho: Ranked No. 16 by USTA in boys’ 18 division Danny Mack: Ranked in top 20 in Florida and committed to Univeristy of North Carolina at Greensboro Stephen Madonia: Ranked in top 20 in the nation in his age group. Rated as a five-star prospect by Alexandru Gozun: Ranked No. 56 in nation and No. 21 in Southeast by the state and No. 82 nationally by the recruiting service website. “He just loves to help people



Plant city observer

HARDNETT/PAGE 13 Not only did Hardnett make the team, but also he quickly became one of the Giants’ best players. After riding the bench for the first half of his freshman season in 2008-09, Hardnett became a starter after the Christmas break and was named the Colonial States Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year at season’s end. “Being told that I might not make the team only motivated me,” he said. “I knew what I was capable of, but I wanted to stay humble and not get cocky. I just wanted to let my play do the talking.” And did he ever. Hardnett followed up his freshman campaign by appearing in 26 games as a sophomore and leading Keystone with 15.7 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. He also led his team in scoring his junior year (16 ppg) and was named to the First-Team CSAC before having his best year to date this past season, his last with the Giants. Hardnett averaged 18 points a game his senior season, along with 11 rebounds per game, both team-highs. He also led all NCAA Division III players with an impressive 65.2 field goal percentage and was once again named firstteam all-conference. Now, with a degree in sport and recreation management, Hardnett wants to give back and help young Plant City players hone in on their skills and be able to fulfill any college dreams they may have. “Growing up, I remember my experiences of being in the Boys and Girls Club, and I remember how special it made you feel when others helped you,” he said. “Want-

COMMENT/PAGE 13 City standout making waves is just beginning what looks to be a memorable college career. Mackenzie Audas was a integral part in the University of Central Florida’s historic NCAA Regional appearance this season. Audas, a freshman right-hander, led the top ranked pitching staff in Conference USA with a 1.28 ERA, while starting 33 games for the Knights and compiling a 21-12 record with a team-high 279 strikeouts. Her biggest performance of the year came April 11, against No. 3 ranked Florida. She allowed no runs on just two

TENNIS/PAGE 13 and especially young players that he sees potential in,” Mack said. “He makes practices fun but serious at the same time, but you don’t feel any pressure. It’s just a part of his natural personality.” Stephen Madonia, 15, another top-rated junior player, lives in Lakeland but has some serious Plant City ties. His his grandparents were the owners of the famous Red Rose Inn and Suites. He met Rollyson through a mutual contact and said that he tries to practice with him whenever he can. “There’s just so much I can learn from him, and it’s just a great opportunity to get better,” Madonia said. Rollyson said all the players have separate coaches, and he trains with the athletes at no

ing to work with kids grew on me after some of my courses in college. They are just so full of energy and never get tired. If there is any way I could work with kids for my career, I would do it.” Hardnett currently is helping out with the second session of the fifth annual Raiders Coed Basketball Camp this week at Plant City High. He was a camp favorite at the first session June 18-21 and said he plans on helping out with the final session July 30 through Aug. 2. Hardnett helped out with the first camp in 2008, started by then-first-year head coach Dale Chambers. “When I first came down here, I inherited the team with (Hardnett) on it, and he was one of my captains, and immediately I identified him as a leader,” Chambers said. “The kids here love him, obviously, because he’s a high-flyer, but also because he’s a great person.” Both Hardnett and Chambers have seen the popularity of the sport grow in the community — the camp hosted about 30 in 2008 and had 80 registered for the first session alone this year — but would like to see even more growth in the future. “I was talking recently with one of the coaches here, and he was telling me how most people in Plant City don’t get involved in basketball until after high school or college,” Hardnett said. “I think Plant City has talent when it comes to basketball, and there is some good competition around, so I think popularity will continue to grow.” Contact Matt Mauney at mmauney@plantcityobserver. com.


on the right track

By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Cody Cribbs got enough jump on the ball to slide in under the tag.

Photos by Matt Mauney

11-12 All-Stars advance to finals The Plant City 11-12 All-Stars are one game away from claiming another District 4 title. The team is undefeated through three games, outscoring opponents 53-2. The 11-12s will play for the district championship at 6:30 p.m. July 12, on Field 3 at Mike E. Sansone Park. A 10-2 victory over Haines City Tuesday night put them there, with Austin Eldridge getting the start on the mound and T.J. Gaynor coming in for relief in the fourth. Tate Whatley had a big game in the semifinals, hitting two two-run blasts to go along with an RBI double. Will Johnson also delivered a two-run homer Tuesday. The win came after a 19-0 win over Lake Wales July 6 and a 24-0 win over Polk City July 8.

Benji Hidalgo (7) hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning July 6, to give his team a 17-0 lead over Lake Wales. The 11-12 All-Stars return nine players from last year’s 1011 team that won the district,

section and state titles before losing in pool play in the Southeast regional tournament.

singles to the nationally-ranked Gators, who came into the contest in the top 15 of every major offensive statistical category. Audas also had memorable moments May 1, when she threw a no-hitter against BethuneCookman and April 15, when she led her team to a 1-0 crucial C-USA win against University of Alabama-Birmingham, tossing eight strong innings and allowing just one hit with 10 strikeouts. For her stellar freshman campaign, Audas was named C-USA Co-Pitcher of the Year and Freshman and the Year, along with being named to the first team C-USA and second team on the Louisville Slugger/

National Fastpitch Association All-Mideast Region team. It’s not just local individuals gaining headlines, either. The Durant High softball team is coming off its first state championship, while Plant City High finished as district runners-up to Durant with a 17-6 record and finished in the top 10 in the state rankings, according to The youngest program in the area, Strawberry Crest, also is quickly establishing itself as a regional power. The Lady Chargers finished 18-6 in their third season of play and held the No. 1 seed in the district before getting upset in the first round of the

district tournament to Leto. The talent in Plant City transcends to the hardball game as well, as one of the best young baseball players in the area is a girl — 15-year-old Chelsea Baker — who has been featured on ESPN twice as one of the most dominating Little League pitchers in the country, utilizing her rare knuckleball (learned from the late, great Joe Niekro) to her advantage. Baker also plays softball but plans on trying out for the Durant High baseball team next spring. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise of the amount of success Plant City has had when it comes to softball. After all, the

city is the home to the International Softball Federation, the governing body of softball internationally as recognized by the International Olympic Committee and SportAccord (formerly the General Association of International Sports Federations). Soon, the ISF headquarters off Park Road will be home to the Softball Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that Plant City will be always synonymous with strawberries, but who knows? Soon our city may also be known as the softball capital of the world. Contact Matt Mauney at mmauney@plantcityobserver. com.

cost to them. He also said hitting around and training with them doesn’t just help better their game. “It’s great for me and my game to hit with these young kids that are so good,” said Rollyson, 41, who still keeps active and in shape with local, statewide and national tournaments. “You can just imagine the transition of playing against talented junior players like them and then going to play in tournaments against some guys more than twice their age. “Plant City is not the tennis metropolis of the world by any means, but it’s kind of cool that we have not only some of the top juniors in the area but (also) some of the top juniors in the country that come over here and train at the city courts with me,” he said. Although Plant City may only

be a blip in the Florida tennis universe, the area does possess some young talent, and the multi-surface facility at Ellis-Methvin is bringing in players of all ages and skill levels, both from Plant City and surrounding areas. “That’s the reason these kids come,” Rollyson said. “They wouldn’t come if the facilities weren’t first-class. Yeah, they want to hit with me, but if it’s a cruddy facility, that might deter them from coming.” Jack Holland, the director of the Recreation and Parks Department for Plant City, said community members initially expressed concerns for the amount of money spent on the construction of the tennis courts, but usage of the facility has increased each year. “We get rave reviews from everyone who has used the facility,” Holland said. “We have the

only clay courts on the east side of the county, and we are very fortunate to have the support of the city commission and the city staff to make it a reality and prove itself to be an asset to our community.” According to Jonathan Ho, the clay courts at Ellis-Methvin are some of the best he’s played in the state. “They aren’t as hard as other clay courts in Florida, so it’s good for your footing,” Ho said. Unlike the Ho siblings, Rollyson didn’t take up tennis fulltime until he was 16. After graduating from Plant City High in 1989, Rollyson went on to play for the Gators in Gainesville before graduating in 1994. He credits not getting highly involved with tennis at a young age as the reason that he still loves the game to this day. He hopes he can keep that love alive

in the young athletes he trains with. “When I was in the tennis business, I have seen so many kids ruined by ungodly expectations,” he said. “Sometimes, they get pushed to the point that they are burnt out, and some of these kids like to come to play at a place that’s fun. That’s what I try to do and provide, because a lot of these kids are under a lot of pressure.” Rollyson also hopes some of the outside talent can rub off on local players. “If I can get them to influence some of these Plant City kids and give them someone to look up to and say, ‘Hey, if I work really hard and push myself, maybe I can get to another level,’ then we’re making a difference,” he said. Contact Matt Mauney at mmauney@plantcityobserver. com.

Plant city observer


athlete of the week


By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Myke oyola


Myke Oyola, 11, is solely focused on basketball. He won the Most Outstanding Player award in the middle division (NCAA) in the first session of the fifth annual Plant City High School Coed Basketball Camp June 18-21. Oyola was moved to the highest division (NBA) during the second session of the camp this week, putting the sixth-grader against older and significantly bigger players.

What is the biggest adjustment when it comes to playing against older competition? It’s hard, because in the league that I was in, they are a little bit smaller, and I could usually shoot over them, and I can’t even shoot now. They’re just so big and faster and stronger, which makes it a lot harder.

What would you say is the toughest part of basketball? Defense, because you’re always moving and you have to have a lot of stamina. There’s a lot of running back and forth after steals and switching direction, so you have to have a lot of energy.

And if that doesn’t work out? A veterinarian, because I love animals Finally, what is your favorite thing to eat after a game? I like going to Beef ’O’ Brady’s and having a big burger.

If you could have any super power, what would it be? To fly, maybe, so when I’m on the basketball court, I could fly over people taller than me and be able to dunk.

Edited by Timothy E. Parker




“A B C M C







The number of current head-coaching vacancies within the Plant City High School athletics program. The school has been conducting interviews throughout the summer and will make announcements later this month.

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? A basketball player

Who is your favorite basketball player? LeBron James, because he’s really big and strong and can drive through anybody.



The average number of people per day who currently “hate their trainer” Mike Gartz, owner of Elite Home Fitness in Historic Downtown Plant City. Gartz offers various workout classes and boot camps to get customers in shape, with the motto “I hate my trainer, but I love the results.”

What is your favorite subject in school? Math, because I’m good with numbers.

What’s your favorite part about basketball? That’s a hard one. I just like the whole thing. I like that you have to have the right technique when it comes to shooting.

The amount of home runs the Plant City Little League 10-11 All-Stars hit in the District 4 tournament. The team is poised for another deep playoff run and will begin the section tournament this week.

The season-ending ERA of University of Central Florida pitcher Mackenzie Audas. The former Plant City High standout finished her freshman season with the Knights with a 21-12 record and earned Conference USA Co-Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors.

What position would you like to play when you get to high school? Point guard, because you get to handle the ball a lot and control the game, making a lot a decisions to shoot or pass and running plays.

When did you first start playing basketball? I was in my first league when I was 7, but I wasn’t really into it. I didn’t get where I was into basketball until about 9 or 10.



K C V V E T E VA E F . E A L D N U Q Y ’ A L D M X S Y W L S W . ”



The amount in dollars given to the Plant City Food Bank by O’Brien’s Pub of Plant City. About $3,500 was raised at the sixth annual O’Brien’s Charity Golf Tournament June 23, while the rest was donated by O’Brien’s.

THE GAnG’S ALL HERE by Potter Stern ACROSS 1 Tropical food fish 5 Person kicking himself, maybe 9 Phone in an actor’s hand, e.g. 13 Highest points 18 “How ___ to know?” 19 Momma’s man 20 Change the wallpaper, e.g. 21 River of Tours 22 Beatnik’s “Understood!” 23 Bar, at the bar 24 Cutlass maker, for short 25 Home of Bollywood 26 Yale’s Skull and Bones, for one 29 War room discussion topic 31 Cook crabs or clams 32 “___ we go again!” 33 Hot coal 34 R&B singer Bryson 38 Ouster 40 Yemen neighbor 44 Hot spots for the hip 48 ___ a soul (no one) 49 Load on board 50 Munched or lunched 51 Become accustomed (to) 52 Dirty dishes locale 53 Reach new heights? 54 It’s filled with ink 55 Semicircular letter 56 Colorless, odorless gas used as fuel 59 Torah copyist 61 Short-billed merganser 63 Type of friend or fund 65 Big beer glass 67 Annoy persistently 70 Despite the fact that, for short

129 “___ Little 71 Aquatic South Tenderness” (Otis American rodent Redding song) 72 In mint condition 75 Meddle (with) 77 Gloomy atmosphere dOwn 81 Mary Lou of 1 Cheese choice gymnastics fame 2 West Pointer 3 “Cold ___” 82 Morning sickness (Foreigner song) 84 ___ double take 4 The “th” in “the,” e.g. (show surprise) 5 “Lady Sings the 87 Gal’s counterpart Blues” star Diana 88 Tennis legend 6 ___ no good Arthur (scheming) 89 Subdued attention 7 Distinctive historical getter period 8 Slender swords 90 “Merrily we roll ___” 9 For the time being 92 It’s used to row, row, 10 Depend (on) row your boat 11 Unmatched, as a 93 Christian in fashion sock 94 Grammy winner 12 Stamp stamp India.___ 13 Girl who chased a 95 Mideast political rabbit alliance 14 Collection of people 97 Abbr. on memos in a study 15 Below-the-knee skirt and envelopes 16 Holder in Obama’s 98 Having common Cabinet ancestors 17 “Sail the Seven ___” 101 “A ___ the Life” 19 Animal kept in the (Beatles tune) house 102 “___ Gold” (Fonda 27 Ipecac, e.g. film) 28 “... ___ he rode out 104 Member of British of sight ...” 30 In a competent nobility manner 106 Red tag events 33 Disappear gradually 110 Movement 35 Teen skin affliction concerned with 36 Member of a Israel colorful theater trio 113 John Ritter sitcom 37 Start of the Lord’s 117 “Nay” sayers Prayer 118 “Alas, ___ Yorick ...” 39 “Come ___, the 120 Birth-related water’s fine!” 121 “Be it ___ so humble 41 Chong’s buddy Cheech ...” 42 Hacienda material 122 Los ___, Calif. 43 More current 123 “Gone with the 44 Takes a siesta Wind” locale 45 Agenda element 124 Steer clear of 46 Unit of heredity 125 Eighteen-wheeler 47 Red root veggie 126 Director Oliver 52 Veiled dancer of the Bible 127 It’s got you covered 57 Expression of 128 Free of fat disapproval

58 59 60 62

Laugh track repeats Bashful Police officer Money-wiring service 64 They’re set in place settings 66 ‘70s Chrysler with “Corinthian leather” 68 From ___ Z (completely) 69 Composition of some cups 72 “The Devil Wears ___” (2006) 73 Take again, as an exam 74 “Some Like ___” 76 The Jack before Johnny and Jay 78 Overly eager 79 Hawaiian party 80 Early stringed instrument 83 No longer in the docks 85 Left Turn ___ (street sign) 86 Bias against the elderly 89 Appropriates 91 Terhune’s “___: A Dog” 94 Warring Olympian 95 Gland by the kidneys 96 Poetic foot 99 Iran’s largest city 100Hearing organ 103Crinkly gauze fabric 105Make an exit 107Four-time Wimbledon champ Rod 108Opposing military force 109Damascus is its capital 110 “Zigs” partner 111 Take ___ the waist (tailor’s job) 112 “Exodus” director Preminger 113 Spelling of “Beverly Hills, 90210” 114 Greek colonnade 115 Genesis brother 116 ___ Glory (U.S. flag) 119 Acorn producer


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Plant City Observer 07.12.12  

Plant CIty Observer

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