Creative, Crafty, Crazy, Indie, Derby: Out On The Town In Tampa Bay

For the last two weeks of August, the city of Tampa and surrounding Tampa Bay communities are welcoming more than 50,000 visitors, including 6,000 delegates and alternates along with an estimated 15,000 members of the national and international media, for the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Much of their focus will be in downtown Tampa, where there will be lots going on.

But what is there to do for the rest of us in the rest of the region?

Fortunately, there's a lot more culture, excitement and diversity here than the majority of RNC attendees will get a chance to see during their stay.

Indeed the choices can be overwhelming, so 83 Degrees wanted to help you filter through your options. Our list is designed to offer something for everyone -- whether you're into food, music, crafts, film or sports -- regardless of party affiliation.

Here is a sampling of places and events to get you started.

#1 -- Dinner With Chef Jeannie Pierola

If you're looking for a welcoming, yet inventive dining experience look no further than edison: food + drink lab, the newest endeavor from celebrated South Tampa-based chef Jeannie Pierola, former executive chef of Bern's Steakhouse, SideBern's and the brainchild behind KitchenBar, a popup dining experience started in November 2010.

Pierola, 50, and her culinary think tank of chefs and designers have spent years developing the concept for edison on storyboards. It started with their desire to have a neighborhood place where people could feel just as comfortable stopping by on their lunch break as they would reserving a table for two on a special occasion.

"The idea is to get this food out there in a cool environment with zero pretense or requirements," Pierola says. "Just bring your appetite."

Expect a playful twist on everyday items and dishes using a blend of classical French technique and molecular gastronomy. The restaurant features an all-day menu from 11:30 a.m., until close, in addition to daily trials of unique lunch sandwiches and dinner entrees.

Menu staples include items you might expect -- a wood grilled burger ground fresh daily from brisket and chuck, served on a house-made brioche bun and topped with condiments made from scratch -- and a few surprises, including a Pacific Northwest oyster wrapped in freshly grated yukon gold potatoes, fried until warmed through and presented in its cleaned shell with a dill pickle nectar, house made dijonnaise and micro dijon greens.

"It's like a little jewel," Pierola says.

Her inspiration? A bag of dill pickle flavored potato chips.

"We wanted to create a menu that everyone can access even though it brings our little brand of creativity to the plate."

#2 -- 2012 Worldwide Etsy Craft Party, The Roosevelt 2.0

Online marketplace Etsy deems August 24 a day of global celebration for all things handmade. Tampa joins crafters in more than 515 Etsy communities around the world -- including Brooklyn, Austin and Denver -- in hosting free events for the public that promote the art of crafting.

If you're a crafter looking for inspiration or want to meet other creative individuals, mark your calendar for this Friday when The Roosevelt 2.0 hosts the Tampa Etsy Craft Party from 7 to 11 p.m in Ybor City.

The family-friendly event organized by Tampa Bay Etsy Crew leaders Julie Richarme, Kristen Bird and Tampa Upcycle owner Morgan Abdallah, will feature 25 craft vendors presenting everything from jewelry to wallets, demonstrations, live music and food.

"I think people are intimidated about selling things they make," Abdallah, 28, says.

Events like this get crafters out of their comfort zone of online communities, such as Etsy and Facebook, and encourage face-to-face interaction, she adds.

"It's a good opportunity to come meet like-minded people in the community."

#3 -- Surf, Sink, Sake At The Sake Bomb

Eager to get your live music fix? Meet Ryan Zarra, a 23-year-old St. Petersburg-based freelance filmmaker/videographer who has put together a night of raucous, catchy, sweat-inducing surf rock guaranteed to get you on your feet.

In the local music scene, Zarra is best known for his work capturing performances from Tampa Bay musicians for St. Pete Beat, a La Blogotheque-style web series on Vimeo he created in 2011.

Now, Zarra -- with assistance from his roommate and Antiwarpt co-Founder Anna Serena -- hopes to raise money for a St. Pete Beat music festival through a series of five shows featuring local bands. Up next is the third show at the sake bomb in St. Petersburg on Aug. 24 at 9 pm.

A mere $3 cover gets you admitted for a night of music from Orlando's Girls on the Beach and St. Pete-based bands Archaic Interest and Jensen Surf Company -- both of which delivered buzz-worthy sets at this summer's Antiwarpt music festival.

Funds raised from the show will also benefit a documentary that Zarra and filmmakers Mark Farag and Ryan Grosjean are shooting about St. Pete's art, music and fashion subculture.

#4 -- International Indie Cinema At St. Pete's [email protected]

Cinephiles, take note. [email protected], the premier multipurpose gallery space for St. Petersburg's creative community, recently began hosting a monthly series of selected works from the catalog of The Global Film Initiative.

GFI is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that funds and distributes independent films from emerging nations, such as "My Tehran For Sale" from Iranian director Granaz Moussavi and "Ordinary People" from Serbian director Vladimir Perisic.

The screenings, which began on July 28, serve as fundraising efforts for the forthcoming Tampa Bay International Film Festival in 2013. It's an expansion of the Clearwater Film Festival, established in 2010 by Mike Rembis, executive director of Best Productions in Clearwater.

Monthly screenings will continue in 2013 until the launch of the festival, according to [email protected] Artistic Director Bob Devin Jones.

Catch this month's films --"My Time Will Come" from Ecuadorian director Victor Arregui and an 11-minute short titled "Knock Knock (Who's Dead?)" from Burundi-born director Grace Nzeyiman -- on Aug. 28 at Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

#5 -- Tampa Roller Derby Presents Franky Panky 2012

Members of Tampa Roller Derby, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins, have worked tirelessly since 2005 to establish themselves in the national derby scene.

Whether it's practicing on and off the skates, hitting the gym 5-6 days a week or scheduling team-bonding exercises, Cigar City Mafia co-captain Jenn Possick, 31, believes the league has what it takes to get to the next level.

They jumped two spots to #4 in the South Central rankings of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association and can secure a spot in the Championship tournament in Atlanta this November if they move up one more spot to #3.

"This is the first time we feel the championship is truly in our grasp," Possick says.

Do they have what it takes? Come see for yourself at Franky Panky 2012 inside the Entertainment Hall of the Florida State Fairgrounds on September 1- 2.

What is Franky Panky? For two days, hundreds of roller derby fans will cheer on their favorite teams as Tampa hosts bouts with leagues from Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Wilmington and Nashville.

For $25 a day, or $40 a weekend, you'll witness 12 games of full contact, hard-hitting, adrenaline-pumping roller derby -- including special bouts between junior's and men's teams -- in honor of Tampa's team mascot, Frank T. Flamingo.

Before the players head home Sunday night to heal their wounds with a combination of epsom salt, water and sleep, they'll head to Barbarella's in Ybor City for the after-party around 9 p.m. If the last two weeks haven't exhausted you yet, here's a tip -- everyone's invited.

Matt Spencer, a University of South Florida grad, is a native Floridian who enjoys sharing his love for Patty Griffin, browsing produce stands, spending hours in record shops and gawking at the ice cream selection in grocery stores. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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