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Michele Miller, Times Staff Writer

Michele Miller is a Tampa Bay Times writer in Pasco County. Miller coordinates and provides stories and photographs for Pasco entertainment features as well as the Top of the Class education feature.

Phone: (727) 869-6251

Email: miller@tampabay.com

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  1. Calusa Elementary School club aims to educate students about the problem of bullying

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Madison Morrow might be just 10 years old, but she already has found a purposeful cause, one she takes on every other Thursday morning in the media center at Calusa Elementary School.

    That's where members of the school's Anti Bullying Club meet, Madison said, to learn "that bullying isn't cool and how to be a be a friend when kids are getting bullied and sad."

    She already has the makings of a public speaker, quieting the chattering din of 40 club members with the lilting sound of a mallet being dragged across a three-note chime. Then she takes command, wearing the club's signature purple T-shirt and bedazzled handkerchief skirt and leggings, her hair pulled back neatly in matching french braids....

    Calusa Elementary fourth-grader Madison Morrow works on a mural on April 17, Global Youth Service Day. 
  2. Centennial Middle School seventh-grader finds a cause: cancer patients

    K12

    DADE CITY — Sally Campbell never got to meet the great-grandmother after whom she was named. Cancer had a hand in that. But the memories shared by loved ones helped propel the Centennial Middle School seventh-grader into joining a cause to help others affected by cancer — maybe even help put a smile on their faces.

    Sally, 12, found something to pour her heart into after hearing about SOCKS (Students Organizing Cancer patients Krazy Socks), a nonprofit organization started by Pasco High student Courtney Nathe that provide socks to cancer patients....

    Sally Campbell, 12, has  collected thousands  of socks for cancer patients.
  3. Nature Coast Handbells turn to pops for spring concert

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — The age-old practice of ringing handbells is a staple in many Christian churches, particularly come Christmas and Easter, when the melodic clinking of clappers against shiny metal heralds a joyful celebration.

    But there's more than one way to ring a bell in these modern times, and the Nature Coast Handbells group promises to show just how at their concert Sunday at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School....

  4. Seafood, blues and boat show highlight annual Cotee River fest

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — This weekend's 2015 Cotee River Seafood and Blues Festival promises to serve up some of the gulf coast's best offerings, whether it be a basket of deep-fried grouper bites drenched in lemon, a lazy paddle down the Pithlachascotee River or a slice of local blues — all played out over three days at Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey.

    Live music is the main attraction at the three-day event, and there's plenty to like, particularly since admission is free. ...

    Charlie Morris Band plays Saturday at 3 p.m.
  5. After hiatus, Ragbirds happy to head south for Stringbreak festival

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — It's been awhile since the Ragbirds have been on the road, and the band is eager to be making its way south for the 10th annual Stingbreak Music Festival, which runs through Sunday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch.

    "It's been a long, long, long, long cold winter," percussionist Randall Moore said from his home in Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Ten years ago, Moore founded the Ragbirds with his wife, front woman Erin Zindle, who also plays fiddle and mandolin and is the primary songwriter for the band. Until the birth of their daughter, Aviva, 18 months ago, touring was a way of life for the couple and the band, which got a reputation for ramping up audiences with an authentic, upbeat musical mix of Americana folk-rock, Latin, Middle Eastern and Celtic rhythms and African percussion....

    The Ragbirds will be hosts for the Last Island Dance and Limbo Contest during their Saturday evening performance.
  6. Still performing at age 75, Tommy Johnson says his musical ability is 'kind of a miracle'

    Human Interest

    HUDSON

    After 60 years of performing professionally, Tommy Johnson knows what gets people going, and he aims to please.

    Donned in signature stage clothes, the hint of a silver ponytail sprouting from his black fedora, Johnson takes turns playing three digital keyboards positioned against a red velvet backdrop. Fingers bounce rapidly across black and white keys as he leans in to hold a chord or flip a switch to bring up the sound of a flute, clarinet, saxophone or percussion....

    Self-taught musician Tommy Johnson started playing the piano at age 4. He performs without sheet music.
  7. Pasco festival celebrates under-appreciated loquats

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — So maybe you're wondering about that tree the landscaper planted in your yard, the one with the large, leathery leaves that's covered in bunches of small, yellow ripened fruit — that right this minute is being devoured by birds.

    Maybe you already know that tree is a loquat, but have no idea of what to do with all that fruit. Or perhaps there's an open spot in your yard just begging for planting. ...

    Market off Main owners Rose Mohr, right, and Jerry Kuss prepare a loquat pie Monday while testing recipes for Saturday’s festival. About 300 people attended last year’s event and Mohr thinks the event could grow.
  8. Festival brings bluegrass stars Tyler Williams, IIIrd Tyme Out to Hernando's Sertoma Ranch

    Music & Concerts

    BROOKSVILLE — When Tyler Williams takes the stage for his first appearance at Sertoma Youth Ranch's annual Spring Bluegrass Festival, event promoter Ernie Evans will be standing nearby, taking it all in.

    Not just the music, mind you, but the looks on the faces of the first-timers in the audience. Evans has watched it time and again — ever since he caught Williams' act about 10 years ago in Nashville, at a place called the Station Inn....

    Award winners Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out headline Saturday at the Spring Bluegrass Festival.
  9. Chasco Fiesta celebration set to start soon, raise money for nonprofits

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The party gets going this weekend as New Port Richey begins nine days of festivities associated with the 69th annual Chasco Fiesta.

    From carnival rides to boat and street parades to music in the park to a Native American festival, there's a lot to take in for both locals and out-of-towners looking for some fun.

    At the same time, nonprofit organizations and charities in Pasco County will get a boost. Philanthropy is, after all, the seed that got it all started in 1922, when some local do-gooders decided to create a hometown festival to raise money for New Port Richey's library....

    Troy Elvrum, of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington state, displays wares at the Chasco Fiesta in downtown New Port Richey’s Sims Park last year.
  10. For Florida folk fans, Will McLean Festival is 'like a family reunion'

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — The strumming, picking and singing about Florida's natural charm and indigenous folklore is the main attraction of the annual Will McLean Music Festival.

    As is paying homage.

    McLean was the father of Florida folk — a storied, gentle-natured man; a black-hatted troubadour who roamed the state in dilapidated rides, writing and singing about what he saw with the thought of preserving it through song. ...

    Fan favorites at the annual Will McLean Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch include 2 PM members Mike Jurgensen, left, Pete Price and Pete Hennings.
  11. Annual festival at Anclote High gives culinary nod to Black History Month

    K12

    HOLIDAY

    The aroma wafting down the hallway is like the cast of a fishing line, making you want to follow your nose with hopes of getting a sample of what's been cooking.

    Open the door to chef Robert Wright's culinary classroom at Anclote High School, and there's a beehive of activity. Kids in whites and a couple of volunteers are creating stick-to-your-ribs fare — fried chicken, pulled pork, St. Louis ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, salmon croquettes and plumped-up corn bread muffins. Add to that some sweet offerings — sweet potato pie piped with whipped cream, red velvet cake, Sierra Mist cake and Mallory Baack's oatmeal crumb cookies....

    Jesse Jackson, 57, volunteered to come out for the day to cook St. Louis ribs with his son, culinary student  Kaden Jackson.
  12. Port Richey woman moves on with life after two cancer diagnoses

    Human Interest

    PORT RICHEY

    Terri Hesse keeps the photo handy, ready to show to anyone with just a few finger swipes to her cell phone.

    "Does that look like skin cancer to you?" she asks, holding up the selfie she snapped of the small, pink and white spot that showed up on her backside a couple of years ago.

    To the average person, probably not.

    It resembled a blister, Hesse thought, the kind that tear up your heels when you're breaking in a new pair of shoes....

    Already fighting a type of leukemia, Terri Hesse didn’t worry much about the pink spot on her buttock. But it didn’t go away.
  13. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • March 13: End of third grading quarter

    • March 16-20: Spring break

    • March 23: Teacher planning day. No school for students.

    • March 30: Report cards are issued.

    Theater/Music/Art

    • Pasco County eSchool student photography will be exhibited during March at the Downtown New Port Richey Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd. An opening reception, which will include the work of various artists participating in the exhibit, "The Feminine Mystique," and featured artist Edith Huber, will be from 6 to 9 p.m. March 6. For information, call (727) 848-6500 or go to nprgallery.com....

  14. Pasco class notes

    News

    Theater/Music/Art

    • Student artwork from the VSA State Organization on Arts and Disabilities will be on display through Feb. 28 at the Downtown New Port Richey Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd. For information, call (727) 848-6500 or go to nprgallery.com.

    Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7381

    • Mitchell High band pre-music performance assessment concert, 7 p.m. Feb. 25....

  15. Bigger, better Pasco Music Festival will assist nonprofits

    Music & Concerts

    SHADY HILLS

    Northern folks might be lamenting all the snow they've received, but trees are budding, flowers are blooming and festival time is in high gear in the Sunshine State.

    The Pasco Music Festival might just be the ticket — and an inexpensive one at that — for those looking to spend a day taking in an eclectic mix of rock, blues and country, all while giving a boost to local nonprofits....

    Country rock band Fast 4 Ward will perform Saturday at the second annual Pasco Music Festival and donate to various diabetes charities.