Palatka – A Deliberate Detour

Palatka – A Deliberate Detour

Palatka – A Deliberate Detour

By Kai Rambow

Nestled peacefully along the St. Johns River is Palatka. This historic Florida town is off   the beaten path, but not too far. It is a deliberate detour with rewarding scenic surprises. Palatka is known for its murals, and they are quite impressive. Most who drive through Palatka, never see the murals because they are located one street over from the main artery.

Here’s a great way to tackle the murals. Park at the Hampton Inn by the river. Go inside and ask for a mural map. If you mention this article, I’ll deny I ever steered you with these instructions. The map not only shows you where the murals are located, but gives a brief explanation of each one.

Some of the murals reflect how Palatka was once a popular destination with swanky hotels and a total of over 6,000 rooms. Babe Ruth even visited the town. One mural depicts an expedition discovering a Native village located here in 1774. Another shows the train arriving a little over 100 years later.

Annie Oakley brought her show here, and other shows such as high wire acts followed.  Musicians from the area made it big during the Jazz Age, and they returned bringing top musical shows to the town.

As you explore the murals, you may also get a feel for the town’s heyday as the county seat. We’re so used to modern Florida, it’s nice to see some history of the state’s early years. It is an interesting way to catch some art, some history and feel for the past.

 

Tips for a Great Trip

When to Go: I do not recommend this as a stand alone trip. This can be a great addition to any road trip especially if you’re heading to St. Augustine or farther north. You could also make the detour from a road trip heading up I-75. It will take about one hour from each side.

You could do this as a short detour or you might want to stay overnight at the Hampton Inn by the river. One reader talked with me before this article came out and started their road trip one day early to have a short drive and activity on day one. This is a very scenic and quiet spot and you can easily take short walks along the river.

Unfortunately I cannot recommend any restaurants as I ate before reaching the town.

When to Walk: Recommend after sunrise or before sunset. You’ll have plenty of light to see the murals and can beat the heat. You can also beat the sun because you’re sure to find shade on one side of the street.

The total distance is 10 short, city blocks. It was an easy walk to the end and back allowing me to resee those murals that interested me most.

Do remember your sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes and a hat, if desired. A bottle of water might be a good addition.

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!Entertainment, Food, Art, Shopping, and a Health Fair                By Diane M. Loeffler Rain or shine, FallFest will take place on October 16. The day will begin at the gazebo with opening remarks, the flag raising, the...

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Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

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OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

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Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

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Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

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Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

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Buc-ee’s – Road Trip Destination

Buc-ee’s – Road Trip Destination

Buc-ee’s – Road Trip Destination

By Kai Rambow

It is Texas-sized, making it a destination in itself.  Buc-ee’s is well known in its home state, and has recently expanded into Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.  It’s a fun, worthwhile stop.

What’s Worthwhile

I can only make a few recommendations here.  This gas bar/convenience store is well over 10 times the size of a Wawa with over 100 gas pumps.

You can get an extra-large drink for only 79 cents. Beside the typical sodas, there are other drinks, including iced tea. This has to be one of the best deals anywhere.

Hot sandwiches are, for the most part, well-liked. A hot brisket sandwich is very popular.  BBQ lovers have claimed not to rave about this, while others stated it’s good.  I tried a pulled pork BBQ sandwich, which was tasty with a melt in your mouth quality.

Buc-ee’s potato chips, called Beaver Chips, are so popular I couldn’t get any.  Trying to order/coordinate some with your ready-to-go sandwich may require some advice from staff.  I did get a good bite to eat.

Gas prices were competitively priced, and Buc-ee’s had the biggest and cleanest set of restrooms I’ve seen on the road.

What’s Not Worthwhile

If you love Wawa’s coffee, you’ll be disappointed. The taste and variety of choices was just okay. Please note the risks I take for you.

The selection of snacks is overwhelming. Many of the snacks are Buc-ee’s products and have been reviewed as too sweet or too spicy and a little pricey.  If you have a really sweet tooth you might enjoy trying something, otherwise you might want to skip.  It was fun to take a quick walk and check everything out.  Suggestion: You might want to select something you would normally get to do a true comparison.

Where to Find

The two locations in Florida are off I-95. If you’re doing a road trip in that direction, I-4 is mostly clear of the never-ending construction. I cruised right through on a recent trip, in both directions.

Shortly after connecting to the I-95 North, at exit 265 (Daytona Beach) you’ll find the Buc-ee’s.  Take the exit, turn right, then look to turn left at the next set of lights.

Just past St. Augustine, at exit 323, you’ll find the other Buc-ee’s.  Take the exit and turn left.  After crossing the interstate, you’ll see the store on your left.

Heading north on I-75 in Georgia, just south of Macon, you’ll find a Buc-ee’s.  It’s exit 144 (Fort Valley) on your right.

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!Entertainment, Food, Art, Shopping, and a Health Fair                By Diane M. Loeffler Rain or shine, FallFest will take place on October 16. The day will begin at the gazebo with opening remarks, the flag raising, the...

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the PandemicBy Bob Sanchez The Sun City Center Art Club reopened its Art Gallery to the public on September 1 with the work of two dozen members, featuring paintings they created during the 2020 pandemic. The...

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

The fruits of The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program labor were realized with the release of five rehabbed sea turtles including two Kemp's Ridley and three greens in North Ormond Beach. After months of specialized and compassionate care,...

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

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Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar FactoryBy Bob Sanchez In July, a small group from the Sun City Center Photo Club toured the J. C. Newman Cigar Company to see first-hand how cigars are still made in Ybor City. For the senior rate of $12 per...

Ybor City: History Made Fun

Ybor City: History Made Fun

Ybor City: History Made Fun

By Kai Rambow

 

Did you know that: (1) Tampa’s population exploded from 700 to over 7,000 in a year; (2) Tampa was the cigar capital of the world; (3) Tampa was the first place with universal health care? It all started in Ybor City, and you can learn all kinds of things presented in a fun way on a walking tour.

“This is my hometown. It’s so much fun to learn about Tampa’s history,” commented one woman on the tour. A little later, two men debated what was worse in the beginning: the alligators, mosquitos, or heat and humidity. A walking tour, led by Max Herman, was engaging, entertaining and fun.

Vincente Martinez-Ybor transformed Tampa into a real town. Herman has the ability to share history in a fun way. Facts are only important to help the story of Ybor City/Tampa. The stories on tour kept everyone paying attention. While experienced Cubans came here to work, so too did Italians, Germans, and other immigrant groups. Each group built their own social halls (part of the tour) to celebrate and maintain cultural traditions. These social groups also created the first universal health for their members.

 

Background Preparation

A great way to start your tour is a quick visit to the state museum. A short video provides a great overview of Ybor City’s development. Displays in the museum highlight important milestones, complete with historic pictures. This is a great way to get a foundation before taking the tour. Unfortunately, the casita showing original homes in Ybor, is currently unavailable to visitors.

 

The Columbia Restaurant

After the tour, you’ll be hungry. You can continue the history by eating at the 110 year old Columbia restaurant. Cuban bread and the sandwich were invented in Ybor. Their Cuban sandwich is unique because it has salami (remember the Italian immigrants) making a hearty meal. It is the original.  You can order the half-and-half special. You might want to try their famous 1905 salad (created in the 1970s) and Cuban sandwich. Incidentally, the Cuban bread comes from La Segunda Bakery, also in Ybor, and 100 years old.

 Tips: You might want to drive from the garage (see itinerary and parking below) to here as it is a few blocks away.  There is plenty of parking in the back. Be sure to look at the beautiful Spanish tiles on the front of the building. 

 

Cuban Cigars Still Made Here

Tabanero Cigars loves having visitors, even if you don’t smoke. I am not a smoker, but I do know which end of the cigar to dip in brandy. Since Tabanero is a boutique cigar store you can see everything up close, and you are welcome to take pictures.  There is a coffee bar towards the back with great Cuban coffee. 

 

Tips for a Great Trip

Suggested Itinerary:  Arrive at 9 and visit the state museum park. Move car to parking garage around 10:30 a.m. Stop by Tabanero Cigars take some pictures and have a Cuban coffee. Walk across the street and take the historic walking tour with Max (be sure to make reservations) at 11 a.m. After tour head to the Columbia for lunch.

What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen ,and sunglasses are important. Be sure to take a bottle of water with you as well. Note: Herman knows all the shady spots to stop while on tour. 

Where to Park: Street parking is only good for two hours. If you park in the garage on 15th Street, you won’t need to worry about time and it’s only one dollar per hour. From the garage it is a short walk to the meeting spot for the tour.

Ybor City Historic Walking Tours

Max Herman

(813) 505-6779

www.YborWalkingTours.com

Ybor City State Museum

1818 E 9th Avenue

Wednesdays-Sundays; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Columbia Restaurant

2117 E. 7th Avenue

Tampa, Florida  33605

(813)  248-4961

www.columbiarestaurant.com

Tabanero Cigars

(Cuban coffee)

1601 E. 7th Avenue

Tampa, Florida  33605

(813) 402-6316

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

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Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

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OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

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Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

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Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar FactoryBy Bob Sanchez In July, a small group from the Sun City Center Photo Club toured the J. C. Newman Cigar Company to see first-hand how cigars are still made in Ybor City. For the senior rate of $12 per...

2021 Renaissance Festival Fun For All Ages

2021 Renaissance Festival Fun For All Ages

After COVID-19 restrictions forced the 2020 Bay Area Renaissance Festival to close early last season and shuttered many shows across the country for the past year, the theme for the 2021 Bay Area Renaissance Festival was, “We can’t wait to celebrate!”

This was a sentiment expressed by patrons, “playtrons,” vendors, and cast members alike, as many of the traveling cast sat home last year, waiting, hoping, and, indeed, praying for the pandemic threat to be mitigated.

Standing atop a neatly stacked tower of chairs, preparing to juggle fire, one of the fan-favorite returning performers, Ichabod Wainwright, daredevil master of the “Wheel of Death,” expressed that eager sentiment this way: “When there’s a pandemic happening, and your job description is ‘gather people close together in large groups and encourage them to scream,’ well… you’re fired.”

Wainwright was not the only Festival performer excited to be back on stage. It’s been more than a year since the color-coded tumblers Acrobellum performed their signature mix of slapstick humor and awe-inducing acrobatics for a live audience. The troupe was clearly excited to be back dazzling audiences with their feats of skill, strength, and agility.

All across the Festival grounds, guests browsed wares offered by more than 100 artisans; cheered brave knights and high-flying daredevils; tapped and clapped to live music; shared bawdy belly laughs with washerwomen, escape artists, and muddy thespians; met unicorns and mermaids; rode elephants, and indulged in the signature mix of fun, fantasy, artistic excellence, athletic prowess, and mead-flavored frivolity that makes a Renaissance Festival an annual must-go for millions across the country.

After last year’s program was cut short, this year’s Festival almost didn’t happen at all. To make good on that old theater truism, “The show must go on!”, organizers had to secure a new location, contract vendors and performers, then get the word out to faithful fans and new patrons alike. They did. Fans flocked to the temporary new digs at Withlacoochee River Park near Dade City. Sure, it looked and felt a little different, but the show did “go on,” and countless thousands were once again happily transported back in time to a magical, mystical, whimsical, and memorable rendering of the Renaissance.

PHOTOS

“Lady Rayka” (Rosalie Purvis) from the Equus Nobilis Joust company gallops into position to make another pass. (Photo by Adam Porter)

Acrobellum’s “Teal” and “Red” perform as “Pink” (and the audience) cheer them on. (Photo by Adam Porter)

A couple who came ready for Festival fun. Vendors and visitors alike wore outrageously colorful and imaginative costumes. (Photo by Bob Sanchez)

Everyone smiled at the Festival, including the pretty pickle purveyor. (Photo by Bob Sanchez)

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!Entertainment, Food, Art, Shopping, and a Health Fair                By Diane M. Loeffler Rain or shine, FallFest will take place on October 16. The day will begin at the gazebo with opening remarks, the flag raising, the...

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the PandemicBy Bob Sanchez The Sun City Center Art Club reopened its Art Gallery to the public on September 1 with the work of two dozen members, featuring paintings they created during the 2020 pandemic. The...

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

The fruits of The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program labor were realized with the release of five rehabbed sea turtles including two Kemp's Ridley and three greens in North Ormond Beach. After months of specialized and compassionate care,...

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of BeerBy Andrea L.T. Peterson Thanks to a reader recommendation, we discovered the Alafia Brewing Company in Gibsonton. When the Editor asked if I wanted to check it out, I thought: “I’ve been alcohol-free...

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar FactoryBy Bob Sanchez In July, a small group from the Sun City Center Photo Club toured the J. C. Newman Cigar Company to see first-hand how cigars are still made in Ybor City. For the senior rate of $12 per...

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

Getting Wet in the Dry Tortugas

By Kai Rambow

 

Key West may be the end of the road, but you can head 70 miles farther west by taking the ferry to the Dry Tortugas. People love taking this day trip. It is a national park, so that means it’s on many people’s bucket list. There are several other reasons for taking this excursion. It’s remote, so you can get away from it all. It’s historic with a ginormous fort. It’s scenic surrounded by clear, beautiful blue water. And it’s fun, with opportunities to explore the fort, swim and snorkel.

 

Ft. Jefferson

This huge fort covering 16 acres has a rich history. park rangers offer guided tours. If you love interesting history, it’s worth taking the tour so you know what you’re seeing.

 

Snorkeling

There are several spots to go swimming and snorkelling.  Explanations about the different water spots are given during the ferry ride.  The snorkeling is more fun than spectacular.  Clear blue waters will evoke Caribbean feelings.  There are places to rinse off and change clothes near the dock.

 

Tips for a Great Trip

 

Weather

Surprisingly rough seas frequently occur during the winter; calmer waters prevail during the summer.  This trip can be great, but it’s expensive.  One couple took the ferry in the winter and almost everyone was seasick.  They were given a voucher to purchase another trip at 50 percent off.  Recommendation is to check the marine forecast first for Dry Tortugas, not Key West, then check the marine forecast between Key West and Dry Tortugas. If conditions look good, then book your ticket.

 

What to Bring

The ferry’s website provides very good information on almost all aspects of the trip.  Since this is an all-day excursion consider packing the following: comfortable footwear, light jacket, towel, bathing suit, change of clothes, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and possibly something to read.

 

Itinerary

The ferry is a comfortable, fast catamaran with indoor and outdoor seating. Breakfast and lunch are included. Snorkeling equipment, entrance fee for Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson is also included.

Check in time is at 7 a.m. Once you check in, you’re issued a boarding pass, so if you’d like to select a really good seat it’s a good idea to arrive a little early.  Boarding begins at 7:30 and the ferry departs at 8.

Tip:  Crew will tell you that breakfast will be available for some time, so no need to rush.  Breakfast is only available for one hour and once out of a food item, such as fresh fruit, there were no replacements. Recommend you line up and get breakfast early.

The ride is a little over two hours with scenic views leaving Key West, possible dolphin sightings halfway and lovely views approaching Ft. Jefferson.

The ferry arrives at approximately 10:15. Most passengers will disembark and get outfitted with snorkeling equipment. The Fort Jefferson tour starts at 11 and takes almost an hour. It is possible to tour the fort and snorkel after, but a little planning is required.

Tip:  Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. right in the middle of all these activities.  It’s a similar situation to breakfast with the best items available until gone. You can tour the fort, and, if you eat right after, you should still have a good selection.

After lunch, you will still have time to go swimming or snorkeling, as the boat leaves at 3 p.m. Passengers will start to board at 2:30, a return a little earlier will beat the crowds for showers, clothing changes and seats. It’s a full day and many passengers slept on the return trip, arriving refreshed in Key West by 5:30 p.m.

 

Dry Tortugas National Park

www.nps.gov/drto

 

Dry Tortugas Ferry

www.drytortugas.com

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!Entertainment, Food, Art, Shopping, and a Health Fair                By Diane M. Loeffler Rain or shine, FallFest will take place on October 16. The day will begin at the gazebo with opening remarks, the flag raising, the...

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the PandemicBy Bob Sanchez The Sun City Center Art Club reopened its Art Gallery to the public on September 1 with the work of two dozen members, featuring paintings they created during the 2020 pandemic. The...

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

The fruits of The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program labor were realized with the release of five rehabbed sea turtles including two Kemp's Ridley and three greens in North Ormond Beach. After months of specialized and compassionate care,...

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of BeerBy Andrea L.T. Peterson Thanks to a reader recommendation, we discovered the Alafia Brewing Company in Gibsonton. When the Editor asked if I wanted to check it out, I thought: “I’ve been alcohol-free...

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar FactoryBy Bob Sanchez In July, a small group from the Sun City Center Photo Club toured the J. C. Newman Cigar Company to see first-hand how cigars are still made in Ybor City. For the senior rate of $12 per...

Blossoms of Asia at Selby Gardens

Blossoms of Asia at Selby Gardens

Blossoms of Asia at Selby Gardens

By Kai Rambow

 

Stunningly beautiful with seemingly infinite varieties, orchids fascinate even people who don’t pay much attention to flowers.  Selby Gardens does a tremendous job of creating thematic displays showcasing orchids.

Blossoms of Asia showcases Asian orchids in a Japanese inspired setting in the conservatory.  Note: The bamboo and many other materials were harvested on the grounds. The beauty of the flowers is intoxicating; the calming effect of the Zen-like landscape garden is relaxing. It’s a wonderful, ascetic combination.

The Payne Mansion, once again, hosts part of the exhibition. Fabulously colored pages from old botanical reference guides are displayed.  Resplendent Japanese woodblock prints and paintings on vellum are also visually entrancing.  This should be of particular interest to any artists or craft enthusiasts.  Tip: Recommend catching a docent led tour in the mansion to learn more about the displays here.

Selby Gardens is a worthwhile destination and an especially rewarding one during their special themed displays. Blossoms of Asia runs until December 1.

Trip Tip: Mornings and weekdays should give you cooler temperatures and fewer people.  An early time will also give you the opportunity to revisit your favorite display before leaving.

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!

FallFest October 16: Don’t miss it!Entertainment, Food, Art, Shopping, and a Health Fair                By Diane M. Loeffler Rain or shine, FallFest will take place on October 16. The day will begin at the gazebo with opening remarks, the flag raising, the...

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the Pandemic

Art Club Members Paint Through the PandemicBy Bob Sanchez The Sun City Center Art Club reopened its Art Gallery to the public on September 1 with the work of two dozen members, featuring paintings they created during the 2020 pandemic. The...

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

OCTOBER 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Don’t miss FallFest on October 16, browse the Art Club’s latest creations, cruise the St. Johns River, sail on the Eagle, hit the target with a local Olympian, commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, discover some great places to...

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

Aquarium Releases Endangered Sea Turtles

The fruits of The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program labor were realized with the release of five rehabbed sea turtles including two Kemp's Ridley and three greens in North Ormond Beach. After months of specialized and compassionate care,...

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of Beer

Alafia Brewing Company and the Queen of BeerBy Andrea L.T. Peterson Thanks to a reader recommendation, we discovered the Alafia Brewing Company in Gibsonton. When the Editor asked if I wanted to check it out, I thought: “I’ve been alcohol-free...

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar Factory

Touring Ybor City’s Last Cigar FactoryBy Bob Sanchez In July, a small group from the Sun City Center Photo Club toured the J. C. Newman Cigar Company to see first-hand how cigars are still made in Ybor City. For the senior rate of $12 per...