New York City residents Julixa Campusano and Sergio Claudio have won the second annual "Wedding of a Lifetime" contest sponsored by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Gold and Diamond Source. The wedding package is valued at more than $20,000.
Campusano served for 545 days in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army and now works for the Department of Veteran Affairs. Claudio is a New York City firefighter and was part of the rescue unit on Sept. 11, 2001.
The two have been engaged since Valentine's Day 2006 and will get married at the Clearwater aquarium on a platform over the main dolphin pool on Valentine's Day. Resident dolphins Nicholas and Winter will assist in the nuptials.
Eighty couples entered the contest, including couples from New York, Iowa and all over Florida. The winning couple was chosen by staffs from the aquarium and the Gold and Diamond Source.
"It was a tough decision as there were so many incredible stories, but Julixa and Sergio have given back so much to our country, and we felt they had the most compelling story," said director of media relations Jeni Hatter.
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Fire Medic Travis Connolly was named Firefighter of the Year and Rescue Lt. Anthony Tedesco was named Paramedic of the Year at the Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department's annual employee recognition ceremony Dec. 10.
Connolly, hired in March 2007, is a member of the department's honor guard and dive team. Tedesco was hired in May 2001.
During the ceremony, 13 new firefighters were sworn in. They are Dominick Briganti, Aaron Campbell, Robert Finke, Jarett Hood, Christopher Johnson, Douglas Kellin, Casey Matz, Christian Miller, Kyle Mueller, Steven Peters, Alan Ryan, David Sowers and Hieu Tran.
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Clearwater police Detective Anthony Monte was promoted to the rank of sergeant during a special ceremony at police headquarters recently.
Monte is a 13-year veteran with the Clearwater Police Department.
During that time, he has served as a detective in the criminal investigations division and also worked in the crimes against children and families and robbery/homicide units.
Most recently, he was the lead homicide investigator for several high-profile cases.
He has also worked as an investigator in traffic homicide and sex crimes, has held positions as field training officer and school resource officer and was a member of the SWAT team.
"Sgt. Monte brings all the right tools to the table," said police Chief Sid Klein. "He has had an outstanding career to date and will make an excellent supervisor."
Monte will be assigned to the patrol division.
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The first-, second- and third-place winners of the 2009 Memorial Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Clearwater have been announced.
Best in parade: Retriever, Drew Braun's 30-foot Renaissance.
In the 30-foot-and-under category, the winners are as follows: first place, Fiddler's Green, Tom Shaffer's 23-foot Sheaffer; second place, J Crew, Jim Boswell's 28-foot Crownline; and third place, Budlite Lime, Chris Paine's 21-foot Paramount.
In the 31-foot-and-over category, the winners are as follows: first place, Mutual Fun, Greg Deichman's 31-foot Sea Ray; second place, One Wish, Gene Williams' 38-foot Regal; and third place, Semper Fi, John Tornga's 42-foot Bluewater.
In the sailboat category, the winners are as follows: first place, Annalea II, Anton Hopkins' 28-foot Catalina; second place, Vento Divino, James Thurber's 35-foot Catalina; and third place, Karenann, Bennie Ficarotta's 40-foot Island Packet.
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Winners in the 20th annual Tarpon Springs annual holiday boat parade that took place Dec. 12 are as follows: first place, Harold Pelky and Sean Kennedy for their pontoon boat; second place, Miss Chris, owned by Jason Rogers; and third place, Trophy King, owned by Greg Karantonis.
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