Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Armed Forces History Museum marches on despite challenges

LARGO — It's been about a year since he stood near the Russian MiG-21 supersonic fighter jet and announced changes in the operation.

At the time, John Piazza Sr. announced that the Armed Forces Military Museum he'd founded would become known as the Armed Forces History Museum. He unveiled a new logo and a strategy to expand education and outreach programs.

Fast-forward 12 months.

With 20,000 new visitors walking through the front door in the last year, Piazza has seen success. And through the efforts of marketing director Cindy Bosselmann, the museum has secured additional funding including a grant through the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. The approximately $7,000 grant makes it possible for the museum to provide field trips to Title 1 schools.

However, with annual operating costs at $800,000, the museum is in the red, said Piazza, 74. "We're moving forward, but it is a challenge to run the museum. A big challenge is our location.''

In 2008, Piazza opened the non-profit museum in renovated warehouse space at the end of 34th Way N. The museum includes countless artifacts, equipment and vehicles, including tanks, Jeeps, sticky bombs, bayonets and even a uniform worn by Saddam Hussein. For the last five years, the museum has drawn in school groups, veterans and history buffs despite being tucked out of view from the nearest thoroughfare, Ulmerton Road.

Piazza admits that over the years, he has spent his own money to keep the museum going. He has developed a habit of scanning the horizon, yearning for a new home.

In September 2011, he made headlines when he met with then-Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard to discuss moving the museum into the downtown Harborview Center. But that location needed too many repairs.

A few months ago, Piazza met with officials in Pinellas Park to discuss the former Scott Buick property on U.S. 19.

Piazza called it a fact-finding meeting to see if the 14-acre site would accommodate his large equipment and interactive exhibits, such as the M8 Greyhound, a World War II reconnaissance tank.

"It would be an absolutely beautiful site to get,'' Piazza said. "But General Motors owns the Scott Buick property, and it's been rather difficult to move forward in talking with them."

According to Tim Cadell, spokesman for the city of Pinellas Park, the location is intriguing for the museum to consider because of its proximity to Freedom Lake Park, known for its military memorials as well as the F-16 fighter jet on display.

"I'm sure there would be some that would welcome them with open arms. This kind of thing can bring a lot to a community,'' he said.

Bosselmann agrees with her boss that the museum would do well at a location like the one in Pinellas Park. "It would help if we were seen from a main road,'' she said.

However, she believes the museum will persevere where it is now. "Once people find us, they come in and love us. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about us. We'll continue finding ways to pull new people in,'' she said.

Ryan Laughlin, a teenager from Brandon, visited the museum this month with his grandfather, Brad Cheaney.

"I can't get enough of going out to see this type of place,'' said Ryan, 16. "My grandfather has liked it, too. He was telling me a story about World War II and he even almost cried.''

As Ryan led his grandfather over to the cashier, he showed him a membership application. "Hey, Grandpa, so my birthday is in March,'' Ryan said.

And as they made their exit, Cheaney waved to the cashier and tucked the membership information away in his back pocket.

   
Comments
Portion of I-75 closed in Sarasota due to smoke in road

Portion of I-75 closed in Sarasota due to smoke in road

SARASOTA — A portion of southbound Interstate 75 is closed in Sarasota County due to smoke in the road.According to broadcast reports, smoke from a prescribed burn in the area has settled over the roadway. The roadway is closed at mile marker 205, ne...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Suspect identified in slayings of Gilchrist County deputies

Suspect identified in slayings of Gilchrist County deputies

The Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office has identified the man who fatally shot two deputies in a restaurant Thursday afternoon before taking his own life.Deputies say John Hubert Highnote, 59, of Bell, — who has reported ties to St. Petersburg and Cle...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Tampa Bay students to stage walkout; ‘Crabby Bill’ Loder dies; details emerging in deputies’ killer; breaking down the Bucs’ 2018 schedule

The Daystarter: Tampa Bay students to stage walkout; ‘Crabby Bill’ Loder dies; details emerging in deputies’ killer; breaking down the Bucs’ 2018 schedule

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• A dry cold front moved through the bay area overnight but it won’t affect temperatures much. It might be a little cooler in the North Suncoast, but that’s it. Bay area highs will stil...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Fugitive suspected in Bradenton woman’s death arrested in Texas

Fugitive suspected in Bradenton woman’s death arrested in Texas

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — A woman suspected of killing her husband in Minnesota, then fleeing to Florida and killing a woman who resembled her in order to assume a new identity, was captured Thursday night at a South Texas resort.Two federal deputy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Flight attendants say ‘appalling’ Southwest flight photo confirms it — you’re not paying attention to the safety demo

Flight attendants say ‘appalling’ Southwest flight photo confirms it — you’re not paying attention to the safety demo

Mario Nunez called it a "huge shaking my head moment" when the photo inside the cabin of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 appeared on his TV.The story was about a terrifying emergency landing after an engine exploded 20 minutes into a trip from New Yor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways.In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall for...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18
Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

After President Donald Trump announced the U.S., France and England had carried out attacks on three Syrian chemical weapons centers, a Tampa company began its own analysis of the bomb damage.The analysis, by geospatial intelligence firm Radiant Solu...
Published: 04/20/18
St. Petersburg celebrates with long tables and literacy

St. Petersburg celebrates with long tables and literacy

At 500 feet, this year’s Longest Table really was the longest table yet for the annual WUSF fundraiser. That’s 200 feet longer than last year. More than 1,100 supporters of the radio station ate dinner at the table stretching between the Museum of Fi...
Published: 04/20/18