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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

  1. Improvements promised for second SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival


    HUDSON — If crabs are your thing, you're in luck this weekend.

    The SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival kicks off Saturday with two days of live music, carnival rides, craft vendors, seafood and culinary offerings at the spring-fed water park in northwest Pasco County.

    Add to that the thrill of watching hermit crabs toting their painted shells to the finish line.

    A little bit of new and much improved is the motto for the second annual event, which admittedly got off to a rocky start in 2016....

    JIM DAMASKE   |   TimesRacing hermit crabs will be among the featured activities at the second annual SunWest Park Crab and Shrimp Festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday at SunWest Park in Hudson.
  2. Pasco County Fair will add some new twists to traditions


    DADE CITY — A celebrity milk-off and the Axe Women Loggers of Maine. Racing pigs and a Barnyard Revue. Whirling midway rides and the wafting aromas of fried dough, corn dogs and freshly baled hay.

    The 70th annual Pasco County Fair kicks off Monday for a seven-day run, and organizers have been switching things up with hopes to entice visitors.

    "It's been 70 years of homespun fun. We're trying to make it exciting and new for everyone," said fair general manager Clark Converse. ...

    The Pasco County Fair runs Monday through Feb. 26 and offers something for everyone with new acts and all-time favorites.
  3. After 50 years, San Antonio's Rattlesnake Festival is finished


    SAN ANTONIO— It was a good, long run — 50 years. But times change. People move on. Traditions fall by the wayside.

    So it goes with San Antonio's annual Rattlesnake Festival and Run.

    Last week, the Rotary Club of San Antonio announced it had decided to discontinue the festival, a mainstay since 1967. That's when Jaycee Club members Gerald McLeod and Willie Post came up with the idea of rounding up rattlesnakes and gopher tortoises as a way to entertain, educate and raise a little money for local causes....

    Dennis Moore of Snakes Alive Shows in Tampa shows off his 5-foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake’s fangs to the crowd as he milks venom from it in 1992 during the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival and Run.
  4. Florida Ranch Days will celebrate the beauty of Little Everglades Ranch


    DADE CITY — Little Everglades Ranch will fling open its gates this weekend, and everyone is invited to come and check out the place.

    Florida Ranch Days, a celebratory open house of sorts, will be Saturday and Sunday at the 2,050-acre working ranch. The event will feature more than 20 bands, educational snake and birds of prey shows, a high-wire act, tours, a swamp buggy obstacle course ride, crafts, kids activities and plenty of food and drink....

    Little Everglades Ranch opens the gates this weekend for Florida Ranch Days, a two-day event that will feature live music, swamp buggy and tethered balloon tours, birds of prey and snake shows, and family-friendly fun.
  5. For state School Nurse of the Year, advocacy for kids never stops



    Tuesday is clinic day at Pasco High School, and that means Margaret Polk is likely to be interrupted.

    She is more than happy to chat about her job and the news that the Florida Association of School Nurses recently named her Florida's 2017 School Nurse of the Year.

    But the kids come first.

    "We might have to stop because students will be coming in for their sports physicals," Polk warns....

    Margaret Polk takes and records vital signs as part of a sports physical for Pasco High’s Samaria Gant, 15. Polk has earned a reputation for going the extra mile to tend to her students.
  6. In encore career, veteran finds fulfillment in helping others get back on their feet


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Veterans Day likely will be the same as most other workdays for Darrell Barnes. That's okay with him. He loves his job.

    Barnes, 49, is a veterans employment consultant for the Boley Centers' Veterans Integration Assistance Program. He's part of a core group, working out of an office tucked in a strip mall at Trouble Creek Road and Grand Boulevard, along with veterans — Paul Kendrick (Marines) and Lee Browder (Air Force)....

    Darrell Barnes, left, a retired Air Force master sergeant, speaks to Alex Holmquist, an inmate at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center, during one of Barnes’ visits. There, he talks to veterans about work opportunities after their release.
  7. John Schneider, partner bring CineFlix Film Festival to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — John Schneider is a man of many roles. Some might know him as Bo Duke on the television series The Dukes of Hazzard, Superman's adoptive dad on Smallville or currently as Jim Cryer on Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots. He's also a country singer and songwriter and touts a long-held passion for independent filmmaking.

    Now Schneider is promoting the works of other indie filmmakers through a traveling film festival....

    John Schneider is bringing indie films to places “people might not typically see them.”
  8. Screenings give students in health academies hands-on experience


    HOLIDAY — For students working their way toward a career, hands-on experiences can be every bit as important as opening a textbook or taking a test. So when it comes time for school health screenings, students enrolled in academies of health at local high schools get some exposure to the real world while helping to accomplish what can be a daunting task.

    As sixth-graders poured into Paul R. Smith Middle School's media center on Oct. 11, Health Academy students from Anclote High stood at assigned posts, dressed in navy blue scrubs. Their task: to record each student's height and weight, conduct initial vision screenings and help with hearing screenings alongside volunteers from the Sertoma Speech and Hearing Foundation....

    Anclote High student Dechardonae Gaines, right, measures Paul R. Smith student Tyler Watrous during a health screening.
  9. Music, fun, run on tap at 50th annual Rattlesnake Festival


    SAN ANTONIO — Up North, October heralds the start of cooler temperatures, changing leaves and apple-picking season.

    Here in Florida, it's time to celebrate venomous reptiles.

    As tradition would have it, the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival & Run kicks off Saturday at City Park and continues Sunday. It's the 50th year for the festival, which takes an educational and altruistic approach to celebrating the much-feared snake. Last year, 5,000 to 6,000 people attended, according to festival chairwoman Betty Burke....

  10. New Dreamhouse Theatre fills a gap, offers performances in Lutz

    Human Interest

    LUTZ — Dreamhouse Theatre continues its 2016 season with the on-going production of Little Shop of Horrors today at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

    The show also will be performed on upcoming weekends through Oct. 30 at the theatre at 1840 Oak Grove Boulevard, just off busy State Road 54. The black box theater seats 111 in a space that once housed the Arthur Rutenberg Design Center.

    Artistic Bryan D'Onofrio, 47, and his wife, Darci, 46, teamed with Chris and Melissa Van Schaik, another couple they met at Victorious Life Church in Wesley Chapel to help start the theatre....

    Dreamhouse Theatre owners, from left, Darci D’Onofrio, Bryan D’Onofrio, Melissa Van Schaik and Chris Van Schaik will open Little Shop of Horrors today. The theater is in a building that housed the Arthur Rutenberg Design Center.
  11. Gulf High senior honored for ROTC accomplishments



    Allison Segard may be the new kid in town, but she is already catching some attention at her new school.

    Segard, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Gulf High School, was recently awarded the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross. The award recognizes her achievements in academics, leadership and service to the school, community and nation while attending her former school, Franklin High in Franklin, Tenn. It is one of the top recognitions awarded to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets in the nation....

    Allison Segard, center, a senior in the I.B. program at Gulf High, was recently awarded the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross, one of the top recognitions in the nation for JROTC cadets. She is pictured with Army Veteran Michael Perry, left, and her parents, Timothy and Dawn Segard.
  12. Thousands expected for weekend Cotee River Bike Fest


    NEW PORT RICHEY — If you haven't heard the roar, you will. Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from near and far will be sweeping in Friday through Sunday for the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce's annual Cotee River Bike Fest in downtown New Port Richey.

    "This is the 12th annual, and the event is growing every year," said Chip Wichmanowski, president of the West Pasco Chamber. "If the weather cooperates, we expect to have 35,000 to 40,000 in attendance."...

    The streets of downtown New Port Richey during Cotee River Bike Fest 2015
  13. St. Anthony students show appreciation for first responders


    SAN ANTONIO — The parking lot was buzzing with anticipation as students gathered last week at St. Anthony Catholic School to honor local first responders.

    Pasco sheriff's Deputy Jim Cloversettle and Sgt. Arthur Morrison, who patrol the local area regularly, stood at attention, smiling broadly during the brief celebration that was sandwiched between lunch recess and afternoon lessons....

    Pasco Sheriff’s Sgt. Arthur Morrison, left, and Deputy Jim Cloversettle high-five students at St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio after they honored the deputies for their service recently with notes, handmade gifts and care packages. St. Anthony Catholic School, along with other schools in the St. Petersburg Diocese, participated in the Week of Caring and Christian Services. At St. Anthony, each class worked on projects to benefit the community. The first- and second-grade classes honored the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.
  14. Richey Community Orchestra announces plans for six 2016-17 concerts

    Music & Concerts

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Tickets go on sale Saturday for the Richey Community Orchestra's 2016-17 season, which will open with a "Great American Songbook" concert Nov. 13 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. The 50-piece orchestra will perform six concerts, including two dinner shows at Spartan Manor in New Port Richey.

    "Expect a lighthearted and fun season," executive director Denise Isaacson said, adding that all but one concert will feature performances by multiple guest soloists. "We are really jamming a lot of entertainment into every show. It's a lot of bang for the buck."...

  15. Thursday Musicale gears up for 69th season of song

    Music & Concerts


    The morning sun streamed through stained-glass windows as James Urbanski sat on a tall stool and led a group of about 25 female singers through a medley of Disney classics in the empty sanctuary of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs.

    One line at a time, Urbanski gently prodded members of the Thursday Musicale into an enthusiastic delivery of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song) from Cinderella, as his wife, Ruth, played accompaniment on the piano....

    Music director James Urbanski leads the Thursday Musical during a rehearsal.