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Daystarter: Cool, then warming; volunteers needed for college title game; meet poop-scooping Santa

Volunteers are needed for the College Football National Championship. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]

Volunteers are needed for the College Football National Championship. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]

• Cool this morning, with temperatures climbing into the mid to upper 70s in the afternoon, according to 10Weather WTSP. It should continue to warm up through Christmas day, with highs reaching near 80 degrees.

• As you head out for your morning commute, check out our live blog for the latest traffic updates and road conditions across Tampa Bay.

• The College Football National Championship is 18 days away from kicking off at Raymond James Stadium, but organizers still need volunteers to help fill about 1,500 volunteer shifts for the big event. Most won't be working the big game, but will instead be needed to work the 30 playoff events that will take place from Jan. 4 to game day Jan. 9. To find out how the Tampa Sports Authority is recruiting people, read read Anastasia Dawson's story.

• Oh the weather outside is … actually pretty hot for this time of year. But Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano is a lot better with Christmas carols than we are. Read his annual take on the news in holiday musical form at Here's a preview: "Here comes sewer waste! Here comes sewer waste!"

• By day, Paul Chesler of Seminole runs a dog poop-scooping business. But come December, he dons a $1,500 Santa suit and works private events as jolly ol' Saint Nick. In a wide-ranging interview, we talk to Santa Paul about what comes with the job — the Santa job, not the poop scooping one. Read the story by Tony Marrero at

• The Magic Kingdom was once alcohol-free, but starting today four more restaurants will sell beer and wine daily to visitors at Disney World's most popular theme park.

• ICYMI (Part I): After being drenched and battered by two hurricanes in 2016, Florida is facing a new weather threat in 2017: Wildfires. It's been years since the state has faced the kinds of fires that killed 14 people in Tennessee, but officials fear wildfires will return next year due to a dry winter. Craig Pittman reports why officials are concerned.

• ICYMI (Part II): In 1996 the breakneck growth of no-frills airline ValuJet ended when one of its planes crashed into the Everglades, killing all 110 people aboard. The name ValuJet was irreparably tarnished. But for the past 14 years, one of ValuJet's founders has been using the same business blueprint to transform a tiny charter service into one of the largest carriers in the country: Allegiant Air. Check out our special report.

• ICYMI (Part III): Wondering how we built our scale model of the Howard Frankland Bridge for our stop-motion, Lego-driven story last week? Get a behind-the-scenes look.

• If all that shopping has made your wallet a bit light, here are 5 things to do under $5 this week including a Ferris wheel in the park, a bowl game block party and a free concert at an indie music store.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including Broadway's American in Paris a musical version of the TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Daystarter: Cool, then warming; volunteers needed for college title game; meet poop-scooping Santa 12/22/16 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2016 6:13am]
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  1. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Rays' Blake Snell erasing memories of his poor start

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — As Blake Snell strides up the mound at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night with an 10-game unbeaten streak, doesn't the miserable start to his sophomore season, when he was winless in eight starts and got demoted to Triple-A, seem like a long time ago?

    To him, too.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) in the dugout during the fourth inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  3. St. Petersburg youth baseball concession stand vandalized

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — The early-morning phone call warned Charles Castle, president of Burg Baseball, to "expect the worst.'' The organization's concession stand had been vandalized.

     Cliff Williams, Vice President of the Burg Baseball Inc., St. Petersburg, looks at a damaged and trashed concession stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex, home of the Burg Baseball. According to Williams someone vandalized the concession stand either Saturday or Sunday. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  4. Tampa charter school teacher charged with firing handgun at ground


    TAMPA — A Tampa charter school teacher was arrested Sunday after she fired a gun into the ground during a dispute with her boyfriend, police said.

    Melody Patrice Bing, a teacher at the Village of Excellence Academy in Tampa, emerged from her home holding a weapon and dropped it when police confronted her at gunpoint. [Tampa Police Department]
  5. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg


    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.