Saturday, August 18, 2018
News Roundup

Weeki Wachee receives Blue Star designation to start weekend for veterans


Mary Hazen remembers seeing the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids when she was a little girl. The St. Augustine native also recalls that attraction founder Newton Perry in 1947 helped train the Navy's underwater demolition team there.

Thus, the military owns a stake in the early history of the site, now a part of the Florida state park system.

Hazen, now a 60-something resident of Belle Chasse, La., and Louisiana chairlady of the Blue Star project for the National Council of State Garden Clubs, has long felt that Weeki Wachee's affiliation with the military should be honored.

On Friday, the recognition came to fruition with the unveiling of a Blue Star marker at the park, designating the site a Blue Star Memorial By-Way.

"(Hazen) really got the ball rolling," said Jill Anderson during remarks addressed to a gathering of about 100. Anderson, District VIII director of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, noted it is the first such memorial in Hernando County.

Hazen, who has brought her granddaughters to the park to attend mermaid camp for the past two summers, mentioned the springs' role with the Navy to park manager Toby Brewer. She suggested that the park needed Blue Star designation.

"Toby said, "Yes, we do. Get it done.' "

Hazen did, working with the Florida federation, which invited the Timber Pines Garden Club to come aboard.

From a program statement about Blue Star memorials, which began in 1945, Anderson read: "This nationwide living memorial projected a ribbon of dedicated highways across the country in every state with markers at appropriate locations. ... A blue star was chosen because it symbolized the blue star on the World War II service flag, which hung in so many homes of servicemen and women as a tribute."

In an aside, Anderson added: "We're so pleased it's in an area where people can see it; so many of them are along highways."

The plaque is set in a rough-quarried stone donated by the nearby Weeki Wachee Stone Yard.

Mermaid Shannon Tooker of Hudson, wearing a navy blue tail bearing white stars, unveiled the marker.

The 23-year-old mermaid is a boatswain's mate with the Coast Guard out of Clearwater. And Brewer, the park manager, is a volunteer recruiter for the Coast Guard.

The dedication ceremony also marked the official opening of the Formula H2O Underwater Scooter Racing Challenge, a joint undertaking of the Wounded Warriors Project supported by U.S. Special Operations Command. The challenge takes place this weekend at the springs.

Competitive races for veterans, using diving propulsion vehicles and hypobaric scuba apparatus, are scheduled from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday in the park's underwater theater. Some 30 veterans from around the country are registered to race. More, along with their families, are being trained during the weekend event.

Training and practice sessions may be viewed intermittently today. In those activities, for wounded soldiers who have lost limbs, no pain is experienced, said David Sirak of Orlando, representing H2O and Wounded Warriors. The lack of pain lingers for a while, he said, and the supercharged oxygen promotes healing.

"We want to give new recreational activities to the wounded," Sirak said. "Being in the water unleashes a range of mobility they do not have on land."

Retired U.S. Special Operations Col. David MacDonald, who also represents the nonprofit Special Operations Bionic Warriors, was on hand to watch the program, which is being at Weeki Wachee for the second year. The bionic group aims to speed up access of recreational underwater gear for veterans.

Sammy Lugo of Riverview, who lost his lower left leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, led a color guard from VFW Post 10209 of Spring Hill during Friday's dedication ceremony.

Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]

Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

TAMPA — When moving on to your third football program in four seasons, it helps to have a familiar face on the scene to help make things click faster.For Hillsborough quarterback Charlie Dean, fresh from playing for Tampa Catholic last fall, that per...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Yeah, but …Every Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate is full of them.Winston has completed more passes (939), gained more passing yards (11,636) and thrown more passing touchdowns (69) before his age 24 season than any quarterback in NFL histo...
Updated: 4 hours ago
It’s David Price time, from Rays ‘openers’ to rise of Blake Snell

It’s David Price time, from Rays ‘openers’ to rise of Blake Snell

BOSTON — David Price heard about the recent reunion of the Rays' 2008 American League championship club that he played a big role on as a small part of, and he had a few questions.What players were there? How did it go? Did second baseman Akino...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Rays journal: A 3-0 first-inning lead turns into a loss to powerful Red Sox

BOSTON — Scoring three runs in the top of the first inning is typically a good start toward a victory.But not so much at cozy Fenway Park.And definitely not against these red-hot Red Sox.Facing their AL East rivals for the first time since late...
Updated: 6 hours ago
From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE — Ten thousand blue leis were distributed to Titans fans for the NFL draft on the day their team picked Marcus Mariota.The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner wasn't even at Nissan Stadium for the party, which drew a crowd of 20,000. But the w...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Preseason football: Clearwater Central Catholic 24, Wiregrass Ranch 14

Preseason football: Clearwater Central Catholic 24, Wiregrass Ranch 14

WESLEY CHAPEL — Clearwater Central Catholic, held to 11 yards rushing in the first half, turned on the power game behind senior Casey Levy, whose 120-yard performance helped carry the visiting Marauders to a 24-14 win at Wiregrass Ranch.Levy’s lone t...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Preseason football: Tampa Bay Tech 54, Brandon 6

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech earned all the momentum it needed heading into next week’s sizable test at Armwood.The Titans powered by visiting Brandon 54-6 in a preseason classic on Friday night. The game was cruising along until a 20-minute lightning dela...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Preseason football: Tampa Catholic 36, Robinson 15

TAMPA — First-year Tampa Catholic coach Jeris McIntyre hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet, but Dylan McCain shined in his job interview Friday, running a Crusader offense that scored 22 points in the second half on the way to a 36-15 preseason v...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Preseason football: Jefferson 53, Newsome 0

LITHIA — Jefferson’s Tyler Thomas needed less than a quarter to throw down a challenge to the area teams: Catch him if you can.Unsuspecting Newsome, playing host to the preseason classic, never had a chance in the 53-0 loss on Friday.Thomas, a senior...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Preseason football: Sunlake 22, Lakewood 20 (one half)

ST. PETERSBURG — Following two lengthy lightning delays, Sunlake used two blocked punts and several key defensive stops to knock off Lakewood in an abbreviated preseason game, 22-20.Matt Paduani led the way for the Seahawks, notching two touchdown ca...
Updated: 7 hours ago