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Need A Ride? RideCommand App Promises To Get You Where You Need To Go

A new partnership makes it easier to find a taxi service when you need it within the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa-based Cab Plus, an upscale taxi service in the Tampa Bay region recently partnered with mobile app RideCommand  to provide a way to book transportation on demand or up to three months in the future through the web or a mobile phone.

The "ride now" feature lets you request an immediate pick-up from the location of your choice, including airports or places of business. The network identifies the closest car who will get to you in the shortest amount of time. A countdown clock displays within the app, and after 90 seconds if no car is available a message displays to please try again.

The "ride later" feature allows car services to compete for business by placing bids that you can choose from. You can pick the type of car and desired fare from those presented. The information provided also includes the company’s customer rating.

"We call it 'RideCommand' because we’re putting the passenger in command of their fate," says Alan Stapleton, founder and CEO of RideCommand.

The idea came about when Stapleton had a bad car service experience while trying to attend a wedding a few hours away from the airport. Having no idea where to start or what competitive prices should be, he went through a frustrating experience only to end up stranded at the airport. Although the company is based in Maryland, the app launched recently in Tampa based on connections made at a recent limo show in Atlantic City.

"We’re in Tampa because it’s innovation-friendly," says Stapleton.

The app is free and available on Android and iPhone.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alan Stapleton, RideCommand

Sun Boxes Emit Music, Light For Art Center Sarasota

From the concrete rooftop of the downtown Palm Avenue parking garage to the sandy shores of Siesta and Lido Key beaches, Sarasota is humming with “good vibrations’’ this week, as the melodious, portable “Sun Box’’ sound installations created by artist and musician, Craig Colorusso, travel around the city, launching Art Center Sarasota’s 2013-2014 season.

Presented in collaboration by Art Center Sarasota and the City of Sarasota, Arkansas-based Colorusso’s Sun Boxes make their first tour of the city this week, from November 4-7, and will return on January 1-3, 2014 to appear at city parks and beaches.

The portable outdoor installation is comprised of 20 solar-powered wooden speaker boxes that emit different sounds, each composed on guitar and recorded with looping pedals by Colorusso. When exposed to sunlight, the Sun Boxes produce a melodious hum. Some people simply lay down and linger in the boxes’ meditative drone, while others prefer to interact with the symphony by moving around and in front of the solar panels to adjust the hum.

“Sometimes When I do a gig somewhere and I have a really long drive, I can still hear the sounds for a few days rumbling underneath my thoughts,”  Colorusso says.

“I’ve been hearing the sounds of the Sun Boxes all my life, and for a long time, I didn’t know what to to with them. I think they sound familiar, and yet I never grow tired of hearing them,“ he adds.

Colorusso says he created the first Sun Boxes in 2009, in response to a call for art that incorporates sustainability at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Nevada.

The Sun Boxes are an outgrowth of Colorusso’s “CUBEMUSIC,” an electric-powered installation of six aluminum cubes that emanate light and musical tones. “CUBEMUSIC” will be on display through January 3 at Art Center Sarasota.

“As a musician, I was always so envious of my friends who were painters and sculptors because they would make these amazing objects. Music doesn’t really exist as an ‘object.’ Our ears are interpreting vibrations in the air. I make environments,” Colorusso says.

The Sun Box tour schedule for November 4-7, 2013 and January 1-3, 2014 is available here.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Craig Colorusso; Emma Thurgood, Art Center Sarasota

Valet Boss App Among Hottest Tech Startups In Nation

After lunch one summer afternoon, Susie Steiner stood in the hot sun for "what felt like forever.'' Steiner was waiting for her valet-parked car to be retrieved by an attendant at International Plaza in Tampa.

"It felt like 95 degrees,'' she recalls, "and I was frustrated that there was not a faster way to retrieve my vehicle.''
 
Steiner, who is CEO of ExecuTrans Services in Tampa and organizer and facilitator of Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, is no stranger to the startup community. So when she identified a need for a more streamlined valet retrieval service, she created one herself. The mobile app Valet Boss was born.

At last week's Tech Cocktail Social at Fox Jazz Cafe, Valet Boss competed with four local startups for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the area, and for the opportunity to continue on to a national conference and showcase in Las Vegas.
 
The October 8th demo "went so well that we couldn't demonstrate the product fast enough!'' Steiner says. "Fortunately, we were allotted two minutes to pitch on stage and ended up winning the community vote -- as well as corporate Tech Cocktail's vote.''

Now, the startup will join 24 other companies from around the country to compete for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the Nation at Tech Cocktail Celebrate, held Oct. 24-25 in Las Vegas.

Valet Boss will launch in Tampa in Dec. 2013, in anticipation of the holiday season. With no outside funding to date, the Tampa startup is completely bootstrapped. The app, which is free to the consumer, can be implemented at restaurants, bars, hospitals, casinos, hotels, airports and private events.

Valet Boss provides as a great a benefit to locations that implement the service as it does to consumers, says Steiner.

"Our peers have spoken, and 100 percent of valet users said they would use the app,'' she explains. "Additionally, many stated they would valet park more frequently because of the cashless system Valet Boss offers.''

The startup's public launch will include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LA and Minneapolis, Steiner says. To join the queue, visit ValetBoss.com.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Susie Steiner, Valet Boss

Service Design + Tourism Conference Explores Creative Thinking, Sarasota

Design, service, tourism and creative thinking come together in Sarasota November 7 – 9 at the Service Design + Tourism Conference.

Hosted by Ringling College of Art and Design, the 2nd annual event focuses on improving services at every point of contact with customers. A global event, the first conference took place in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012.

Attendees include business leaders, designers, service and tourism providers, faculty and students from across the globe. They will walk away with new ideas and the latest best practices to help create meaningful, engaging customer service experiences.

The three-day experience includes speakers from across the world talking about service innovation in every setting from airports to cruises, theme parks and general service businesses. Luc Mayrand, creative director and senior show producer from Walt Disney Imagineering, will talk about developing an authentically Disney experience in a changing international marketplace. Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing, North America for Virgin Atlantic will discuss how the airlines focuses on the passenger experience to engage customers year round and turn them into brand ambassadors. Jonathan Frolich, vice president-global innovation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, will talk about how Hyatt is using design thinking to transform the hotel guest experience.

Several local speakers will appear as well, including Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg who will discuss how thinking local helped transform the theater into a major arts destination.

Thursday a pre-show will feature the first Tourism Service Jam in the United States, led by initiators of the Global Service Jams. Similar to a musical jam, the all-day event brings participants together in a cooperative spirit for a design challenge. Teams will be asked to develop a prototype for a completely new service with a shared theme.

On Saturday afternoon, Lorraine Buck of Marvel Brand of Feld Entertainment will give a preview of Marvel Universe Live.

"Tampa Bay has so many opportunities to distinguish itself as an important business ally to people from around the world." says Michelle Bauer, president and chief strategist for Common Language and member of the conference production team. "By bringing the heads of firms and universities from across the globe here to see this region for the first time, we have an opportunity to create impressions on them that could ripple in huge ways for our tourism, service, and education industries,"

Event partners and supporters include: RIDG, St. Petersburg Chamber, Visit Florida, WeVue, AIGA Tampa Bay, Spark Growth, BIG, Luxury Hoteliers, atLarge, Inc., Visit Sarasota, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, SRQ Airport, and The Ringling Museum of Art.

83 Degrees readers can get 20 percent off the full conference ticket price by using the code DESIGN when registering by Oct. 30.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michelle Bauer, Common Language

FIVE By FIVE Art Show Returns To Tampa Oct. 18

The Hillsborough County Arts Council is hosting its second annual FIVE by FIVE fundraiser on Friday, October 18, at the Tampa Museum of Art. 

The $10 entrance fee is an excellent deal for catching up on culture and to possibly walk away with a valuable piece of art.

"The Tampa area has great artists both visual and performing,'' says Terri Simons, Director of Programming for the Arts Council. "This is a night you can come to one location and see a variety of visual arts, but you can also see scenes from theater, performances by professional musicians, actors, poets and dancers throughout the evening.''

Benefiting the Arts Council's individual artist grants, the FIVE by FIVE international call-to-artists has brought in more than 700 pieces of original artwork fit concisely to the required five-inch-square surface (artists are also permitted to extend five inches in depth). The individual artist grants program has provided $640,335 to 390 individual artists since 1989. Last year's FIVE by FIVE event raised $9,625. "It's truly small art for a BIG cause,'' says Simons.

This uniquely mosaic exhibit will be displayed in the Tampa Museum of Art's Stephen Dickey Lecture Hall and each piece will be available for sale from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a flat price of $25 each. The pieces are displayed anonymously, only after purchase is the artist's name revealed.

The skill levels of participating artists range from beginning student to longtime professional. The organizers hope to encourage patrons to choose their art "democratically'' according to how it appeals to them visually, not by artist name.

Artwork submissions were largely from the greater Tampa Bay region, but a significant contribution came from artists around the nation and the world -- including pieces from as far away as Canada, the Ukraine Europe and Asia. 

Building on its inaugural success last year, which drew in a crowd of nearly 900, the surprisingly multidimensional event includes a powerful array of 38 professional performance artists donating their time, with five-minute performances non-stop throughout the night. Attendees can also avail themselves of the Tampa Museum of Art's current exhibitions during the event, which include the Modern Masters: Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miro as well as Fragile Waters: Photographs from Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.

New this year, and highly encouraged, is the availability to purchase tickets in advance to avoid cumbersome lines the night of the event.  Also, the exhibit will be maintained in its entirety until 9 p.m. so that guests will have the opportunity to view it as a whole before those purchasing the artwork will be permitted to leave with it.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Terri Simon, Hillsborough Arts Council

Tampa Bay Arts Summit Promotes Regional Collaboration

A first-of-its-kind regional arts summit will take place Oct. 25, 2013 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, bringing together arts organizations, arts advocates, legislators and administrators from the five counties surrounding Tampa Bay. 

The Regional Arts Summit: Return on Investment aims to promote collaboration between arts organizations of all disciplines to better leverage advertising and marketing dollars, avoid scheduling conflicts and to build and share audiences.  Through interactive presentations and breakout sessions, participants will discuss topics such as cooperative programming, advocacy, regional funding, cultural tourism, and arts in healthcare. 

“To be successful, the arts have to be regionalized,” says attorney Peter Zinober, Chairman of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and shareholder at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, who came up with the idea of the summit. He envisions the event as a powerful brainstorming and networking session, “Putting people in the same room to develop strategies and ideas, develop more revenue while spending less.”

Presented by the Hillsborough County Arts Council, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, the full-day event will feature keynote speaker Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts from Washington DC. Cohen who will speak on the future of the arts in America -- “Where will we be in 10 Years?” He is a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, policy, and using the arts to address community development issues.

Registration is available online through the Hillsborough Arts, Inc. website

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Source: Peter Zinober, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Webjet Grows, Adds 15 Jobs In NoHo In Tampa

Tampa-based online travel agency Webjet is adding 15 jobs over the next year. The company is seeking experienced travel agents and customer service staff members to accommodate their bustling growth and growing customer service needs.

In 2009, after building a successful career in sales, travel and global business operations and additionally helping to transform Australia’s Virgin Blue Airlines from low-cost carrier to world carrier, Germany native Mathias Friess partnered with Webjet Australia -- the largest online travel agency in Australia and the Pacific -- to form a joint venture that would bring a division to North America.

For Friess, whose wife Carren Rieger-Friess was a Tampa native, the decision was easy. Webjet opened its North American headquarters in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa in April 2010 and soon became among the top 10 online travel agencies for airfare purchases in the United States.

Coupled with a proprietary technology algorithm and a strategic mix of search engine optimization methods, Webjet's goal is to bring low-cost international travel fares to the Americas while providing pristine customer service and support. And the company’s philosophy is straightforward:

Simple online booking with no surprises.

"We put the price first. Our technology finds airfare that others may not find. We find you a way which is convenient, but most importantly gives you a price advantage," says CEO Friess.

Webjet has also established an innovative customer education platform via Google+ Hangouts, collaborating with students, bloggers and customers to share expert advice to those travelling abroad.

"Everyone is on social media. We may as well have certain topics and customer groups -- talk to them and give them our expertise. We have it, and we’d like to share it. Travel is emotional -- you want to be helped with qualified people," says Friess.

The company recently expanded into Canada and Mexico, both new sites which are managed from the Tampa office, and additionally signed an agreement with Kayak, giving the company more growth.

Within three years of its stateside launch, the Webjet team has grown from 9 to 20, recently relocating its offices to North Howard Avenue.

"We knew there was going to be growth moving forward, and we do expect to see substantial growth in the next year," says Friess.

For information on hiring opportunities and business partnerships, visit Webjet’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Mathias Friess, Webjet

Tampa Begins Mobile Payment Option For Parking

Those who work, live or play in downtown Tampa can now pay for on-street parking through a mobile phone app. Can't find your car? The app will help with that as well.

The City of Tampa recently launched a pay-by-phone option through Parkmobile. Customers register with Parkmobile for free and download the app, available for iPhone, Android, Windows and Blackberry. Drivers can then scan a QR code near their parking space and pay for the amount of time desired. There is also an option to pay with a flip phone using a toll free number.

You can receive text message alerts and reminders when your parking session is near expiration. The app has the added benefit of walking you back to your car if you can’t find it.

Three years ago, the city replaced the traditional coin-only parking meters with networked meters that provide the option to pay with cash or credit card at one of many stations. Use of on-street parking has increased since.

"People are taking advantage of the flexibility they have to a greater degree," says Irvin Lee, public works director for the City of Tampa.

The system came at no cost to the City of Tampa because the infrastructure was already in place. Parkmobile charges users a $.35 convenience fee per transaction, which is waived now through September 30, 2013.

"We think this is a great match with the tech-savvy community that exists in Tampa," says Lee. "We believe folks will like this and it will take off."

Eventually, the City plans to expand the program to all parking garages. Parkmobile is also currently available in St. Petersburg.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Irvin Lee, City of Tampa

Travelogues In Tampa Feature Rocky Mountain, Everglades National Parks

Tampa Bay residents will have a chance to hear travel experiences depicted through photography and stories at Travelogues on Friday, June 7, from 7 to 9 pm at Cafe Hey in Tampa.

Travelogues, a mix of travel and monologue, have been represented in film and television for decades. The event series hosted by Vessel Collective started in Tampa Bay in January. Over 200 people have attended the events so far, which have included fun and insightful stories about travel experiences in India, Costa Rica, Macadonia and many areas of the United States.

"Cafe Hey is a great fit for the events, with its welcoming and community-oriented atmosphere," says Gina Moccio, founder of Vessel Collective.

Participants often share their stories and experiences as well, making it a truly collaborative experience.

The June 7 event will feature photographers Julie and James Branaman, who will share photographs taken during artist-in-residency programs at Rocky Mountain National Park and Everglades National Park. (Julie is managing photographer for 83 Degrees Media).

The Branamans decided to concentrate their efforts at Rocky Mountain on night photography, to feature the area in a different way than most people typically see it. The inspiration for this angle came from a quote by Enos Mills in the park ranger’s office: "By moonlight, the mountainous National Parks are enchanted lands. There is a serenity and a softness that is never known in its daylight."

Kristin Stigaard will also share stories from her travels to The Philippines, where she explored rice fields, ate and bartered at street markets, rode on horses and met her family for the first time. Stigaard will also provide a humble account of her first hand experience with third world poverty.

"“Everybody has travel stories," says Moccio. "It’s been really great to pull in these speakers that can come in and share."

The events take place the first Friday of every month, with different speakers each month.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gino Moccio, Vessel Collective

Downtown Tampa Honors 9 For Urban Excellence

What do a hotel, a university, a medical simulation facility and a green river have in common? They are winners in the Tampa Downtown Partnership's 6th Annual Urban Excellence Awards.

The Partnership presented Urban Excellence Awards to nine organizations for their contributions toward making downtown Tampa more bright, creative and inviting:

Floridan Palace, for turning a deteriorating hotel into a restored, vibrant place;

Lights on Tampa: Aqua Luces
, for illuminating five downtown bridges, creating engaging new media works of art;

Oxford Exchange, for creating a community hub that offers coffee, tea, shopping and dining in a posh atmosphere;

Sail Pavilion, for establishing a cocktail lounge on the Riverwalk offering 360 degree views of the city;

Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation
, for being a community leader providing recognition and funding to Tampa Bay nonprofits;

The University of Tampa, for providing a residentially based, intimate higher education experience that contributes to the downtown community;

USF Health CAMLS (Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation), for attracting people to the downtown core from across the country and around the world for specialized medical training.

Special Awards of Excellence were also presented to two organizations:

Mayor’s River O’Green for turning the Hillsborough River green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for promoting the positive aspects of Tampa Bay to millions of viewers during the Republican National Convention
 
"It’s always greatly appreciated to be recognized for making a difference," says Robin Nigh, Manager of Art Programs for the City of Tampa.

The City’s Lights on Tampa initiative worked with property owners to place permanent lights on five downtown landmark bridges in less than eight months. The project has been recognized on both the local and national level, and is now proud to be among the Urban Excellence Award winners.

"We knew the lights would be a game changer for downtown,” says Nigh. "They complement our assets. It’s important to a community to have things like this that celebrate where we live."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Donna Chen, Tampa Downtown Partnership; Robin Nigh, City of Tampa

Sunscreen Film Festival Features Spanish Language Filmmakers, St. Pete

Hecho en Mexico is a documentary about the heart, soul, life, dreams and hopes of the artists and performers in contemporary Mexico. It captures the spirituality, identity, culture and tradition of what it truly means to be made in Mexico.

The film will be featured on opening night of the Sunscreen Film Festival, April 18 – 21 at the Muvico 20 Theaters and IMAX at Baywalk in St. Petersburg. It’s one of 30 Spanish language films that will be screened over the course of the four-day event, in addition to numerous other documentary, feature, short and independent films that span all genres.

The event is hosted by the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Society. Now in its 8th year, it has received national recognition and grown to more than 11,000 attendees.

The Spanish Language Filmmaker Showcase is funded by a grant received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and will feature films from Spain, Cuba, South America, Latin America and other places around the world, all made by Hispanic filmmakers.

Other Spanish Language feature films include: La Gran Facacia (The Great Falllacy), a documentary about the current political, social and economic situation in Puerto Rico, and Girl in Progress, a fiction film about single mom juggling work, bills an affair and her daughter’s attempted shortcut into adulthood.

It's the first Spanish Language film showcase in the Tampa Bay region, reflecting the strong influence of the Hispanic population and heritage in the region.

"Arts play a big role in the community," says Tony Armer, executive director of the Sunscreen Film Festival. "From an economic development standpoint, they bring more to the community than sports do."

The festival offers a way to support the arts, as well as to "enjoy some good films, workshops and parties," says Armer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tony Armer, Sunscreen Film Festival

New Efforts Aim To Attract Residents To Downtown Tampa

Now there’s even more reason to spend time in and around downtown Tampa.

Touring Tampa launched this week and features over 50 tours available of downtown Tampa and the urban core, which includes the Channel District, Ybor City, Davis Islands and Harbour Island. The campaign increases awareness of the tours that were already in existence.

"It’s another way of getting people downtown and discovering their city," says Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Tours on the list include free walking tours, ghost tours, cigar factories, sailing charters, paddle boarding, public art tours and many at indoor facilities such as the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Aquarium.

Another benefit of the campaign is letting residents know about options to explore when they have out of town guests.

The campaign was organized by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, with support from Tampa Bay & Company and the Ybor City Development Corporation. Funding was received from the Hillsborough County Tourism Heritage Program.

The Downtown Tampa Arts and Entertainment Card also launched this week and features free or discounted items at 11 different venues in downtown Tampa.

For $30, the card includes admission to entertainment venues such as the Tampa Theatre and Tampa Bay History Center. It also includes free food and drinks at restaurants such as Mise en Place and Kahwa Expresso Café.

"We’re promoting all of the great things available in the urban core," says Kress.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Karen Kress, Tampa Downtown Partnership

March Madness In Tampa Is All About The Arts

Mayor Bob Buckhorn officially proclaims the entire month of March as Gasparilla Arts Month in Tampa.

It all kicks off the first weekend of the month with the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts March 2 – 3 featuring  traditional fine arts, such as ceramics, glass, pottery, jewelry, sculpture and photography, and two brand new, non-traditional mediums showcasing a different side of the arts.

Exploring Pirates

"PIRACY REDUX: Re-examining the Myth of the Buccanneer," looks at the contemporary vs. traditional idea of the pirate. A diverse group of artists will interpret and re-contextualize the idea of piracy in our local culture, whether it be in the traditional sense or the more modern piracy of copyrighted information.

The pod installation will feature art, video, dance and music in Kiley Gardens through the Sunday. The installation is presented by The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts and curated by TEMPUS PROJECTS and Hampton Arts Management.

"It’s a new venue for art in Tampa, a cultural middle ground," says Tracy Midulla Reller, creative director for TEMPUS PROJECTS.

Kiting Tampa Bay

Kites will also be flying high, along with miniature kite displays featuring aerial photography produced by rigs attached to kites that take photographs while in mid-air. If the weather is right, a 252-square-foot kite will make an appearance.
The project is organized by Kiting Tampa Bay, a club with more than 50 members across the region who will also be on hand with information about kiting.

"Our goal is to share our passion for kiting with others," says Kelly Nunes, co-founder of Kiting Tampa Bay.

Kiting Tampa Bay was founded in October of 2011 with the motto "Just Friends Flying Kites." They chose the arts festival for a kite display because of the two organizations’ mutual goal of supporting children’s cancer charities.

Other Arts Events

Additional arts events in Tampa during the month of March include:

The Gasparilla Music Festival the weekend of March 9. This year's bands include Best Coast, Dr. Dog, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Dawes, Lord Huron, Ozomatli, The Meter Men with special guest Page McConnell, The Iguanas, Applebutter Express, Ozokidz, The Hip Abduction, Nervous Turkey and more.

The Gasparilla International Film Festival the week of March 19-24. Film showings take place in downtown, South Tampa and Ybor City.

Details about all the events can be found on the websites for the Arts Council of Hilsborough County and Visit Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kelly Nunes, Kiting Tampa Bay, Tracy Midulla Reller, TEMPUS PROJECTS

Week-long Event Showcases Tampa Bay's Craft Beer Scene

More than 70 breweries, restaurants, retail establishments, bars and festivals across the Tampa Bay region are coming together for 2013 Tampa Bay Beer Week, March 2 to March 10.

Now in its second year, the collaborative event began with the goal of showcasing Tampa Bay as a vibrant craft and specialty beer destination. 

"We actually have a thriving craft beer community in this area," says Gary Kost, executive director for Tampa Bay Beer Week. "There are some local breweries making world-renowned beer. It’s becoming a bigger culture."

The event is managed completely by volunteers. Participants include breweries, distributors, restaurants and even home brewers. Last year there were 150 events during the week. 188 have been scheduled so far this year, with over 200 expected.

On March 2, Florida Brewers Guild hosts their Annual Beer Festival at Centennial Park in Ybor City, where the Best Florida Beer Championship winners will be announced. The awards ceremony will be held March 3 at the 14th Annual Brewers Ball at the Cuban Club.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will also kick off the week by tapping a ceremonial keg at Tampa Bay Brewing Company on March 2nd.

At the conclusion of the week, Cigar City Brewing in Tampa will host Hunahpu’s Day on March 9, featuring the annual exclusive release of the brewery’s Hunahpu Imperial Stout beer.

Other events include tastings at liquor stores, restaurant events featuring full four and five-course meals and food truck rallies -- all with lots of opportunities to sample local brews from Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gary Kost, Tampa Bay Beer Week

Travelogues Events: Listen, Share Stories, Tampa Bay

Friday evenings in January, the Tampa Bay community will have a chance to hear stories from local residents about their travel experiences to places like India, Macedonia, Ireland and cities and places in the United States.

Travelogues, a blend of travel and monologue, is the second event coordinated by Vessel Collective, a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides interviews and events to document the place where stories, experiences and creative processes meet.

The inspiration for the event series came from Vessel founder Gina Moccio's experience as a high school student. Moccio ran a concession stand at her school's auditorium during events where senior citizens gathered to share travel stories. Wanting to replicate that experience in Tampa, she reached out to people she knew who had interesting experiences to share.

"I really just want to gather people in a room to listen and share stories. … To have a fun experience,'' says Moccio, adding that the lectures will be inclusive and participatory, allowing the audience to share their own stories as well.

Each event will feature two or three speakers with visual and audio presentations. Handmade giveaways will be provided to the first 20 attendees, such as note cards that feature the event poster. 

"The more creativity and the more people get out there and talk to each other and work on things together, the better the community is going feel -- more comfortable, more welcoming -- and who doesn't want to live in a welcoming, place,'' says Moccio.

At the January 11 event, photographer Nicole Kibert will share her experience working in the Peace Corps in Macedonia. Ryan Cragun, assistant professor of sociology at The University of Tampa, will also talk about serving as a missionary in Costa Rica.

The events are free and open to the public. The January 11 event will take place at Cafe Hey in downtown Tampa, from 7 to 9 pm. Future events are at various locations.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gina Moccio, Vessel Collective
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