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Grand Prix numbers are hard to come by

Remember the last time officials released figures showing attendance, ticket sales and the millions the Honda Grand Prix brings to the Sunshine City? Me neither.

At first glance, it would seem that the lack of annual figures was just a mere oversight. But upon further review, no one seems to have figures since the event's inception in 2005.

Ask city officials and you'll get vague numbers tossed about from the economic development department comparing events in Baltimore and Long Beach, Calif.

Dig a little deeper and you get the runaround. City officials will tell you to check with race officials. Race officials say check with the chamber; and the chamber will say those figures are tabulated by the city. And so it goes.

Like spring training baseball, the race is a rite of spring in these parts. And yes, it's pretty cool to see the city's beautiful skyline and waterfront on ESPN each year. But at some point, someone, anyone should release hard figures.

There are few businesses, other than hotels and maybe a few shops, which get a windfall from the event.

Attend the event once, and you'll understand why it's not a boom for restaurants and other businesses in town.

The Grand Prix rolls into town with its own cache of restaurants, shops and vendors within its gates. Once inside, there's plenty to see and buy. And when it's all over, the money rolls out of town.

Then it's on to the next city.

The one thing city officials are telling us is that ticket sales for this year's event are outpacing last year's sale. But at this rate, that claim can't be contested.

Here's hoping this year's attendees spend a few dollars in local businesses.

In the meantime, the Saturday Morning Market will not operate this week. I would argue it is a bigger draw.

Lakewood graduate on NBC's 'Fashion Star'

The last time we checked in with St. Petersburg native Talesha Byrd, she had earned a spot as one of three trophy presenters at the 84th annual Academy Awards show.

But that was more than a year ago.

Since then, the 1999 graduate of Lakewood High School has been busy working the runway on NBC's reality show, Fashion Star.

The 13-episode season features 12 designers competing for the chance of launching their original collections with three of the nation's largest fashion retailers.

Byrd, who has been modeling professionally since she was 19, serves as one of the show's models and is featured weekly on the runway wearing contestants' latest designs.

This isn't Byrd's first foray with reality shows. She also was featured in 8th & Ocean, a show based in South Beach about the lives of models.

Byrd, who lives in Los Angeles, also worked for the New York Modeling Agency and Irene Marie in Miami and once traveled abroad with a girl band, Heaven Sent, considered the Supremes of Europe.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.

Grand Prix numbers are hard to come by 03/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 4:25pm]

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