Category Archives: Our Town

What’s a Family to do in Bradenton, Florida on a Saturday night?

Attend South Florida Museum’s family night!

Now, this is only an option the first Saturday of the month–but, it’s one of the best Saturdays nights our family has had in a while. And did I mention it’s half price after 5pm?

The South Florida Museum is in downtown Bradenton and is home to Snooty, the oldest manatee in captivity.  Learn about local history, as well as Florida’s archaeological and paleontological past. They have tons of local memorabilia and artifacts that you just won’t find anywhere else. The museum incorporates sound and video into many exhibits and did a great job of varying the height of displays–which is perfect for children. The entire museum is spiffed up, compared to years past, and the displays and exhibits are quite modern.

I’ve been there many a time, but never had a visit as enjoyable as this with Snooty the Manatee. Snooty was a real ham, making noises and gestures and practically crawling out of the tank. Perhaps we were lucky or he’s just frisky on Saturday nights–but the manatee presentation was extra fun this time around. The presenter for the manatee show was informative and very good with questions. We went away having learned quite a bit about manatees.

The current rotating exhibit is about Silver Springs and the photos of Bruce Mozert.  It looks like that exhibit is about to change–so maybe the next family night will have something new. But we really liked the old pictures of Silver Springs and especially enjoyed the  up-close look at the equipment Mr. Mozert used.

In addition to the regular parts of the museum, they opened up the planetarium for star talks and a rock-n-roll laser show. These are real treats. Right before you go into the planetarium they have craft stations for the little ones, which really spices up this Saturday night adventure. Since it was mermaid night this time, you could get your picture taken with a mermaid. I saw dads and kids alike take part in this photo session. 🙂

Why not give it a try? Learn more about the specifics at: http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/ThingsToDo/FamilyNights.aspx.

 

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Warm Mineral Springs, Florida

A Florida spring with healing properties

That’s Warm Mineral Springs’ claim to fame, anyway. I’m not sure if that is true, but going there is a lovely way to spend the day. I’ve been there many a time and I do feel refreshed. But, keep in mind that you leave there feeling refreshed in a different way than most springs in Florida.

Warm Mineral Springs is, well, warm! It’s 87 degrees year-round. That’s a really nice temperature for water that you soak in. The other difference is that the water has the 3rd highest mineral content in the world. Because of this, it is a destination for many Europeans and visitors from across the world. That’s one of the fun parts of the springs–hearing many languages spoken around you.

Floating and swimming around the spring is a pretty neat experience. It might not be for the faint of heart–there is a sulfur smell and there is floating algae–but it’s usually enjoyed by all. It’s a great way to relax and meet new people. You can truly say this is not a theme park experience and your northern visitors will have something to write home about.

Now, I haven’t been there since the new owners took it over. So, I truly can’t speak for the atmosphere now. But the many visits I made in the past were highlighted by the food. A quick look at the menu shows me the food is a little different, but I see the pierogies on there. I hope they are the same! Try them! The rest of the menu looks updated and more spa-like. I bet they worked hard to create a menu that went with the healing properties-it looks healthy. Let me know how it is.

It’s also worth the time to read about the history surrounding Warm Mineral Springs. Ponce de Leon thought it was the Fountain of Youth and archaeologists have found cool stuff there. Some of the history is detailed at the springs and some also on their website. Don’t miss reading up on this unique aspect of the springs.

Warm Mineral Springs is a unique Florida experience. Check out their website to learn about their hours and prices. I’d love to hear about your experience, don’t forget to share by posting them on Twitter and doing an @pineapplepress. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Wildlife Rescuers—Responding to Human Impacts

A guest blog by Bonnie Nickel, author of Those Mischievous Monkeys.

There are wildlife rescue groups throughout the state of Florida and beyond, including our own Wildlife Center of Venice, started in 2004. Ours, like many, operates solely on donations from the community, receives no government funding, and is staffed almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

The facility sits just outside of town and on my research trip, all was quiet with the exception of the rustling wings of a flock of opportunistic vultures looking for a free handout. By mid-day, breakfast had been served and the sick had been tended to. When I arrived, one of the founders and licensed rehabilitators, Linda, was feeding the newest drop-off, a young southern flying squirrel, mauled by a domestic cat.

Young squirrels, rabbits, and birds are frequent patients of the center. When asked, center volunteers said that keeping domestic cats indoors would prevent many injuries they treat. Birds in particular are well-represented at the center. A variety of injuries, from golf ball strikes and fishing line entanglements, to a direct and deliberate strike by a kayak paddle (no kidding), land birds at the center. Over half the birds recover and can be released to the wild. The scores of orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals have a higher release rate and are often released in the groups in which they have been raised. Occasionally, a rehabilitated but unreleasable bird or animal will be sent to another facility to provide companionship for another unreleasable critter of the same species.

On the day I visited, the center housed herons, anhingas, pelicans (including the unreleasable blind pelican hit by a paddle), eagles, a hawk, a northern gannet, a frigate bird, an owl or two, a purple gallinule, a sandhill crane, 30+ raccoons, an equal number of squirrels, and a tortoise. Since the objective is to return wildlife to its habitat, encounters with humans are minimized and the center is only open to those dropping off injured wildlife.

After years of work, the infrastructure of the center is really taking shape. Donated metal shelters for raccoons replace older wire and wooden enclosures. Eagle scouts have constructed several individual structures for squirrels and large birds. Plans are being hatched for a new hospital structure and a 100-foot flyway for rehabilitating larger bird species. The latter project is next on the to-do list and will be accomplished with help from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club—they are hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on January 20, 2012 with donations going to the Center.

Any wildlife center is, by necessity, a community effort. Besides frequent fundraisers, and dozens of volunteers, our center relies on professionals in the community for veterinary care, and local businesses for food and services. The center participates in a program with the local community college allowing students to earn course credit while volunteering at the center.  This is an excellent opportunity to develop the next generation of wildlife rescuers and enthusiasts.

The center counts 20 volunteers among it wildlife rescuers—those that actually trap or capture injured wildlife. Some of the most effective rescuers are former hunters. They have the skills required to trap an injured bird or animal and a mindset now focused on conservation. The thrill of the chase still exists but the stakes are higher. For the bird with the fishing line wrapped around its beak, or the fledgling eagle that has lost its parents, the rescue can be a matter of life or death. And the rescuers are persistent. One rescuer responded over 15 times before conditions were just right to trap an injured bird. The great blue heron required a foot amputation because of ever-tightening fishing line around its leg. So far, it is responding well and will likely be released.

One of the center’s few paid employees (funds donated by a local foundation) fields 30-60 calls per day. Not all are rescue requests. Some callers seek information about wildlife in their yard giving the center an opportunity to educate residents about local fauna. The staff and volunteers view community education as one of their critical missions. A little curiosity about our natural surroundings, along with the knowledge imparted by wildlife enthusiasts, can go a long way toward adjusting our actions in ways that will prevent many of the injuries seen at the center. Small actions like properly disposing of fishing line, keeping domestic cats indoors, and refraining from feeding wildlife are simple and effective. Oh yeah, and don’t hit birds with your paddle.

At the center, there are always animals to feed, laundry and dishes to be washed, buildings to maintain, wildlife to capture and transport, events to plan, presentations to give, articles to write, the list goes on. No skill goes unused. Hands-on help, donations of supplies, monetary donations, or attendance at fundraisers like the Casino Night are all helpful. Check the website of the center nearest you to see how you can help.

This is critical work, but in the end, are we just tinkering around the margins by rescuing individual birds and mammals? Maybe, but until there’s a sea change in how we treat nature, wildlife centers help maintain endangered, threatened, and keystone species that may otherwise disappear from the planet. The individuals who engage in this noble work deserve our deepest thanks and whatever support we can afford.

Good news on the global conservation front has been scant lately. I ask myself, is it worth itemizing the good news when it’s vastly outnumbered by the bad? I think so. It’s that little thing called hope—focusing on the good bits while we work on ways to negate the bad. Fortunately there’s been some good news around the world lately about reassessing human priorities. Success in this area may translate into good news for the natural world. In the meantime, here are some glimmers of hope:

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Pictures of the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival

Sarasota Chalk Festival 2011The 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival was home to many amazing artists

The weather was great on Sunday Nov 7th–with no rain in sight! The crowds were phenomenal–perfect for the artists who were trying to win Peoples Choice. The crowds made it a little difficult to move around the festival, but the energy in the crowd really pumped up the event. The artwork was very detailed and colorful and the topics varied from religious, to pop culture, to fantasy. Some of the artists had even made specific viewing points for their work, many using special lenses for the 3D and perspective.

Below are some pictures I snapped. I wish I could have taken pictures of everything, but it was hard to maneuver in to get good shots of all the work. I also don’t know the names of the artists who created such lovely work or I would post along with the pictures. If you do know, please alert me via a comment and I’ll add their names in.

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Sarasota Chalk Festival

The buzz in Sarasota, Florida this weekend is the Sarasota Chalk Festival. It garners attention from around the world because the chalk art is so spectacular! I’ve compiled some resources for you if you are thinking about attending:

Information about the event itself:

http://www.chalkfestival.com/
http://www.bradenton.com/2011/11/03/3620357/sarasota-chalk-fest-to-draw-thousands.html
http://sarasotavisualart.com/2011/09/2011-sarasota-chalk-festival/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarasota_Chalk_Festival

 

 

Information about food for the event:

SRQReviews.com: http://networkedblogs.com/pt1ps

 

Information about Ego Leonard:

Ego Leonard washed up on Siesta Key Beach a while back. He’s a rather imposing plastic-like man and rumor has it that he is connected to the Chalk Festival. Check out these articles to catch a glimpse of him and decide for yourself.

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20111101/ARTICLE/111109970
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2016682761_legoman03.html
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/large-lego-man-ego-leonard-appears-time-beach-florida-article-1.968370
http://www.egoleonard.nl/ego_gb.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_Leonard

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The Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida

I’ve been to a lot of local beaches, but Anna Maria Island‘s is one I hadn’t visited much until I met my husband. He says that his family went there a lot when he was young. It’s nice because it has a playground and bathrooms nearby. The water is really close to the parking, which is great when you are toting a lot of stuff. We went there this weekend and last, at two different spots along the beach.

The weekend before last we went to a spot that is to the right of the City Pier. Our timing was perfect, because the tide was really low and we could go out pretty far in the water—which is perfect for the kids. The water was really calm and warm and there was hardly anyone on the beach. We found lots of neat shells in the water too. This past weekend we went to the spot that is to the left of the Pier, between Rod & Reel and City Pier. This is the more populated side of the beach and it was pretty crowded. The water is a little deeper, but that’s great for the adults in the group. You can see the Sunshine State Skyway from both places, but this second spot gives a view of it and Egmont Key and Fort DeSoto. It’s pretty neat to see all these places in one spot. You can even see the glint of the light on the Egmont Key lighthouse as it slowly turns.  I wanted to take some pictures of this lovely spot but was afraid of losing the camera in the water.

The Rod & Reel has some great food, according to author Bruce Hunt (@BruceHuntImages). He’s taken some photos of the area and has some nice history and related places to visit in the area in his book, Visiting Small-Town Florida Third Edition. Next time I visit I need to go into some of the neat shops that you find along the way to the beach. I think it would be a great place to vacation as I saw many people on rented bikes and scooters.

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Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida

This past weekend I visited Myakka River State Park. Myakka has this rambling scenic drive that is really nice, especially on days with low park attendance. It was perfect for this weekend since it was so hot! This visit didn’t yield a lot of animal sightings along the drive, but we did see some turkeys. There were groups of them on both sides of the road.

We tried the Canopy Walk which is a really popular part of the park, but didn’t make it all the way to the bridge and tower part because I mistakenly left the mosquito repellant behind. If I had been prepared, it would have been the best part of the visit. This is a terrific part of the park for kids because they all love the bridge which sways when people walk on it. The towers seem like they stretch high up into the air forever, and it’s hard to make it all the way to the top sometimes.

I did take a stroll along the Bird Walk though. In the right season, many interesting species of birds nest and congregate there. It’s really popular with birdwatchers, artists, and photographers. We did see a duck and some run of the mill birds, but nothing too spectacular this time. I would like to go back when it’s full of birds so the kids can get the full effect. The coolest thing we saw the whole trip was at the boardwalk though. A baby alligator! It was pretty dry out there, but we saw him slithering along and that was super neat.

Overall, Myakka State Park has been one of the best state parks I’ve visited. We publish a book by the park’s naturalist, Paula Benshoff. She’s a wealth of information and you’ll never meet someone who loves her job and its location so much. Here’s a link to that book, http://new.pineapplepress.com/myakka.html

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Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the second post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

My first post on the Ringling Museum was about the spectacular Beyond Bling show. But the museum has tons more to offer! I think it must be fairly unique in that it has a well-stocked traditional art museum, a circus museum, gardens, and a historic home on the same property. I’ll cover the art and circus museum in this post, followed by a post about the home and gardens next week.

John Ringling, of course, was an owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. The winter quarters for the circus was at one time in the Sarasota, Florida area and Mr. Ringling and his wife eventually made it their home. He had some fabulous art pieces, so he wanted his own museum to showcase them. After his death,  he bequeathed the art museum he had built to the state of Florida. Thus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was born. For more information about this, visit http://www.ringling.org/ArtMuseum.aspx

Today, the Ringling Museum houses wonderful paintings by Rubens, van Dyck,  El Greco, and other artists. In addition, there are sculptures and other priceless items such as furniture and vases on display. The Museum also features traveling exhibitions that span many time periods and subjects.

The Circus Museum was created in 1948 and touts itself as the first museum of its type in the United States. On display you’ll find costumes, posters, tools, wagons, memorabilia, and more. I always enjoy the large display of circus posters. It’s fun to see how they changed over the years. The exhibits also pay respect to many of the important clowns and performers, like Emmett Kelly, and there is a planned expansion in Fall 2011 that will showcase them even more. One of the other popular parts of the Circus Museum is the The Howard Bros. Circus Model. This is lots of fun–very musical and magical.

Something I don’t recall seeing is the private Ringling railroad car on display. Sounds like I need to plan a visit this fall when the expansion opens to see all the new sites!

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Beyond Bling at Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the first post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

The Ringling Museum is another one of those places I’ve been to a lot. I went there for field trips in school and then my family and I started going on Monday holidays (since there is free admission on Mondays to the art museum). I wanted to write a series about this historical place since it’s such an important attraction in our area. I should probably start with a post that talks about the Museum in general, but I can’t stop myself from first writing about the new exhibit, Beyond Bling. This  is a big change from the usual exhibits of wonderful paintings and sculptures from the past.

In a word, the atmosphere is electrifying. I’ve never been so interested in seeing a particular show at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art before. They really step out of their comfort zone with this one and I think it’s worth it. The art, the movie, the books, the music…it all gels into a total experience. The art is bright and shiny (literally since a lot of it has rhinestones or something similar in it). They have iPods you can use to listen to rap music while you see the exhibit–three different playlists to choose from too, I believe. At the end they have a movie and lots of books to look through. It’s a media explosion!

The hip-hop culture really comes alive for visitors through the art and its descriptions. I love the piece of the speakers with rhinestones, where the description says the artist is trying to convey something that is visually loud. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It’s really powerful.

The movie is from the beginning of the hip-hop movement and definitely gives you an inside look at what the youths were doing to express themselves. There’s one part where they talk about graffiti being a way to play a game–who can do something faster, higher-up, bigger. Then there’s this part about how the graffiti is personal and tells a story. I thought the break dancing scenes were pretty nifty too.

In researching this post, I came across the Facebook page for the event. I think the page, along with the subject of the exhibit, really shows how the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is evolving. Beyond Bling is a terrific way for the Ringling Museum to mix the old and the new–it creates a little something for everyone. It runs through August 14th.

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Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

So Siesta Beach was voted America’s best beach by Dr. Beach!! Here’s the link to the article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110526/ARTICLE/110529580/2055/NEWS?Title=Siesta-Beach-in-Sarasota-No-1-in-nation-on-list-by-Dr-Beach-

I feel so blessed to be so close to such a beautiful area, with the whitest sand you’ll ever see. Having grown up here–it was a bit of a disappointment to go to other beaches. The sand was always so brown and coarse. There’s no excuse now…you have to visit Sarasota!! You won’t believe the sand.

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Filed under Beach, Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel