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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman | Show Photo

Tourism : Innovation + Job News

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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

Eyecrawler: App Connects Social Network To Preview Your Destination, Tampa Bay

Have you ever tried to find something to do on a Friday or Saturday night, only to drive around from venue to venue and not find what you're looking for? Do you want to listen to live music, but not know where to find it? Or, maybe you want to know what's happening at the beach before you arrive.
St. Petersburg-based Eyecrawler is here to help. Download the free app on your Smartphone for access to a network of people currently at each venue. Content is created in the form of a "blink'' with the option for a photo and/or comment. Users see and interact with a live blink stream from locations in close proximity to their device, filtered by categories such as live music, sports or karaoke.

"We're creating a perspective so you can find out what's going on everywhere before you arrive,'' says Shaun Rubrecht, founder of Eyecrawler.  "It gives you a better idea of where to go and what to do.''

Unlike other social networks, you don't have to be directly connected to someone or "follow'' them in order to see what they have posted. The content is open to everyone, and users can interact with each other instantly. 

Companies can build and manage advertising campaigns directly through the app. There's also a widget that websites such as Hobnob St. Petersburg are using to post a content stream directly on their site.

The network eventually plans to add content to more categories such as family friendly (people are already adding blinks at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg) and then expand to all U.S. cities, eventually going global.

Eyecrawler's official launch will take place Thursday, December 13, at Naughty Noel, hosted by Nova 535 in St. Petersburg.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Shaun Rubrecht, Eyecrawler

FEAST Benefits St. Petersburg Arts, Artists

A small contribution can make a big difference to St. Petersburg artists at FEAST Tampa Bay on November 15 at 6:30 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Each $20 ticket includes a taste of St. Petersburg's best restaurants and a glimpse into current and future projects from local artists. Participants use their ticket to "vote'' on their favorite projects, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the artists.

"We're engaging supporters of the arts with the artists that are doing work in the community in a very personal way. You get to meet the people and hear directly from their mouth what they're working on, making a direct line of support,'' says T. Hampton Dohrman, director of Creative Pinellas and co-organizer of FEAST Tampa Bay.

The event is the third of its kind in Pinellas, and the first collaboration between Creative Pinellas, Keep St. Petersburg Local  and the Museum of Fine Arts. The synergy between the three groups with their common support of the Pinellas arts and business community allows this innovative event to localize arts funding with a community voice. 

The partnership allows the event to capitalize on the pride of St. Petersburg restaurants that are donating the food so that ticket sales directly benefit the artists. As a new twist for this event, every artist will walk away with something. Each "vote'' from participants will directly transfer to cash for the artist, with the project with the largest amount of votes receiving additional funding from Creative Pinellas.

 The event "injects cash into the arts community for ambitious artists who are looking to do something cool and can make a lot of impact with the small amount,'' says Dohrman.

Artists can apply online through October 31. Tickets are available online or onsite.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: T. Hampton Dohrman, Creative Pinellas

Snapshot: Images Portray Tampa Bay's People, Places

Tampa Bay's communities offer eclectic blends of culture, creativity and ways of life. A new website uses photographs to profile the people and places that contribute to this vibrancy.

Snapshot Tampa Bay looks at what makes Tampa Bay the cultural mecca that it is -- its people. The project is a labor of love by two local residents and creative advocates, Bryan Hunt and Julia Gorzka Freeman.

"It's our way of spotlighting people, events and places that are going on here in a novel way, to provide a glimpse into how we live,'' says Bryan Hunt.

The inspiration for the website came from their realization that there is lots going on in Tampa Bay that people don't know about. The site offers a different way of looking at people, by taking images inside their homes and businesses to show how they live.

They plan to highlight different neighborhoods to help people discover new restaurants, organizations and people, like Larry and Charlie Schiller of Schiller Salvage in Odessa. The Schillers travel the country to find the neatest and most quirky salvage items to sell in their store.

Other features will include the realm of Tampa Bay's creative economy, from someone living in a condo on the beach to a farmer in the rural areas of Brandon. Future plans include an "explore'' page that will help people navigate the Tampa Bay region and find cool places to go and things to do.

"We're creating a place for people to look at Tampa Bay in a new light,'' says Hunt.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Snapshot Tampa Bay, Bryan Hunt

Selby Gardens Hosts Florida Wildlife Corridor Photos By Carlton Ward Jr.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens' Museum of Botany and the Arts in Sarasota is featuring the photography of environmental photojournalist and Clearwater native Carlton Ward Jr. now through November 27.

A gallery walk and talk will be hosted October 17 from 5 to 6 pm. RSVP here for the special tour or call 941-366-5731, ext. 237.

The exhibit will feature 20 original photographs taken during the recent Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, of which Ward participated along with three other Floridians. The 1,000-mile expedition took place over a 100-day period beginning in January of this year with the goal of raising public awareness and generating support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Project.

The project connects natural lands, waters, farms, forests and ranches from the Everglades to Georgia to protect the health and welfare of the people, wildlife and watersheds. This ultimately ensures the sustainability of Florida's water supply, as well as agricultural heritage and economies.

"Selby Gardens shares a common mission of environmental conservation with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. We are invested in the success of the Corridor from the perspective of native plant conservation,'' says Jeannie Perales, director of education at Selby Gardens.

The exhibit promises to provide a unique opportunity to see the beauty of Florida in its many facets, most of which have never been seen by the general public. The vivid images of water, plants and animals will allow viewers to feel as if they are standing in the actual Florida Wildlife Corridor.

The exhibit will also include select images from Ward's Gulf Coast Collection, including shots of the sun setting and moon rising over Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jeannie Perales, Selby Gardens

Friday Flight? TIA Offers Live Music While You Wait

Tampa International Airport (TIA) is no longer just a place to pass through on your way in or out of Florida. A new monthly event titled "Friday Flight'' aims to make the airport an entertainment destination for locals and travelers alike.

"It's a public space,'' says Kari Goetz, public affairs manager for TIA. "We want people to see it for that, as well as a place they can just come and enjoy.''

The idea was spurred, in part, by the positive response to the live music at TIA that greeted travelers during the Republican National Convention. The goal is to provide a warm welcome to newcomers, as well as bring in locals who want to enjoy the space.  TIA plans to host the events once per month, though not on the same Friday each time, allowing flexibility to work around major holidays or events.
The inaugural event takes place October 5, with a 1950s feel and performances by local band The Vodkanauts. A special vodka menu will be available. You'll find the entertainment on the third floor of the main terminal, between gates A and C. Short term parking at the airport is free for the first hour, and $4 for up to 80 minutes.

"It's another opportunity for people to be wowed by Tampa,'' says Goetz.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kari Goetz, Tampa International Airport

Tampa Celebrates Hispanic Heritage With Entertainers, Role Models

The City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with its 24th annual celebration, taking place Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 11 am. at the Tampa Theatre.
"Our goal is to promote awareness of Tampa's Hispanic roots and diverse population, as well as raise funds for the USF Latino scholarship fund,'' says Israel Segarra, contract management officer for the City of Tampa and chairman of the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee. "It's a great event, and we'll have a lot of fun.''

Entertainment at Tampa Theatre will include performances from the Showstar dance team from Tampa Gym and Dance and Marina Orosco from the local singing duo Latin Fun Singers.

Keynote speaker Lissette Campos, director of Community Affairs and Emmy Award-winning journalist at ABC Action News, will offer her personal story of trials and accomplishments and an inspiring message for local youth. Some 150 to 200 elementary school students are expected to attend, along with senior citizens groups and other members of the community.

Tedd Webb from 970 WFLA radio will serve as emcee.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn will present a proclamation recognizing Tampa’s Hispanic roots and diverse population.

Formed in 1988, the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee is a grass-roots, volunteer committee comprised of city employees and retirees.

The group preserves and celebrates Tampa's Hispanic culture and promotes the importance of education to local Hispanic youth through mentoring and scholarships. Other events include Latin Fest and an annual gala event.

The event is free and open to the public. The first 200 guests will enjoy a light lunch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Israel Segarra, City of Tampa Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Committee

Front Row Tampa Bay: Live Webcasts Offer Media Alternative

The Tampa Bay Partnership and The Victory Group have teamed up to create live webcasts of interviews with community, business and political leaders from across the state in hopes that you and the rest of the world will tune in rather than watch traditional media coverage surrounding the Republican National Convention.

The idea behind Front Row Tampa Bay is to showcase the stories of innovators, investors and thought leaders in their own words unfiltered by outsiders or insiders who may be more focused on different perspectives or unfavorable comparisons.

"The program provides opportunities for organizations of all types to showcase leading industries, groundbreaking research, up-and-coming entrepreneurs and our unparalleled quality of life,'' writes Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Partnership. "Using cutting-edge technology, our four-day Web TV broadcast will spotlight some of the key drivers that position the area so well in the new economy.''

Stories and interviews with people like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn specifically showcase investment opportunities and job growth in industries targeted by the Partnership, namely applied medicine and human performance, high-tech electronics and instruments, business, financial and data services, and marine and environmental activities.

Front Row will also offer stories on local attractions and RNC-related parties as a way to show the experiences and faces of Tampa Bay residents and visitors.

The overall investment -- more than $500,000 -- is among the largest the Partnership and its investors or any other organization is spending to market Tampa Bay.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Stuart Rogel, Tampa Bay Partnership

New Tijuana Flats, 40 Jobs In St. Pete

Bringing its Tex-Mex cuisine and unique ambiance to Roosevelt Boulevard North in St. Petersburg, Tijuana Flats is slated to open its third location in the Tampa Bay region on August 27th.

Featuring a made-to-order menu and 15-pump hot sauce bar, the new 2,000-square-foot Tijuana Flats at 10300 Roosevelt Blvd. N. in St. Pete is expected to accommodate 148 guests with indoor and outdoor patio seating.

“Tijuana Flats, as a brand, has been expanding very rapidly over the past several years with a significant emphasis on new development in West Florida, as well as South Florida,” says Ashley Montgomery, Tijuana Flats director of PR and marketing. “We are constantly getting requests from guests for more saturation in the West Florida market so the Roosevelt location seems like a perfect fit.”

And, obviously, the fast casual restaurant's brightly colored wall mural will be in tow; the artwork at the new location, called “The Zombeez,” will feature zombies playing in a band with a lead singer uncannily resembling a post-apocalyptic Elvis Presley.

An iPad kiosk will also be made available at the Roosevelt Boulevard North location, where guests can sign up onsite for the Flatheads eClub, offering deals, coupons and event information.

In addition, Tijuana Flats plans to become more environmentally conscious, incorporating energy efficient equipment including LED lamps, solar-powered kitchen timers, low-flow toilets and a tankless water heather.

“The front of the house tile is made from 40 percent pre-consumer recycled materials,” Montgomery says.

Prior to opening, the new restaurant is expected to bring about 40 new jobs to the area with a goal of moving several of its employees from part-time to fulltime positions.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Montgomery, Tijuana Flats
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