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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. With concern over disease looming, kumquat capital prepares for annual festival Saturday

    Events

    DADE CITY — The kumquat, a pint-size citrus fruit with a powerful punch, is an exotic that originally hails from south Asia. It can be popped in the mouth whole or mashed and mixed into confections, casseroles or desserts.

    According to Dade City native Margie Goodwin, it takes a lot of thinking and experimentation to conjure up palate-pleasing recipes such as kumquat chicken chili, kumquat chicken and wild rice, kumquat cannoli cake, kumquat dream bars and a dessert she calls kumquat bliss....

    There is concern about future kumquat harvests in the area.
  2. Pasco class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • Feb 15 — Presidents Day, no school.

    • Feb. 19 — Progress reports are distributed.

    Art/Theatre/Music Events

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

    • Gulf High drama presents Almost, Maine at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13. Tickets are $10 at the door.

    • River Ridge High band concert, 7 p.m. Feb. 16....

  3. Suncoast Arts Fest to feature work of 130 fine artists and craftspeople

    Visual Arts

    WESLEY CHAPEL — To support his family, Alan Metzger spent his working years in advertising and various business ventures. Brick Brickel used to be a nurse who helped pay her bills by selling handmade beaded necklaces to friends and colleagues.

    Four years ago, the light bulb went on for both of them.

    That's when, after years of procrastination, Metzger, 69, finally drafted a financial plan, quit his job and started painting for a living. It dawned on Brickel, 65, that she should venture into the art of glass fusion....

    This painting by Alan Metzger is an example of the juried art work at Suncoast Arts Fest.
  4. River Ridge freshman takes top honor in district thespian festival

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Sidney Dorey has a certain affection for the oddball character.

    That's likely what led the River Ridge High School freshman to sing Screw Loose from the musical Cry-Baby at the District 12 Thespian Festival in early December. Well, that and an inspirational-yet-comical performance by Broadway performer Alli Mauzey, who played the part of Lenora, a psychotic stalker out of 1950s Baltimore in the musical adaptation of John Waters' film....

    Sidney Dorey, 15, will perform on the big stage with overall winners from districts throughout the state at the Florida State Thespian Conference in March at the Straz Center in Tampa.
  5. Fivay High culinary arts students nourish teachers with holiday feast

    K12

    HUDSON

    Just a few days before the winter break and the culinary kitchen at Fivay High was a beehive of activity. Students donned white and black chef coats and teamed up at work stations to prepare an elaborate holiday luncheon for teachers at the school.

    On the menu — roast pork and turkey, chicken cutlets, meat lasagna, pesto macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots, sauteed vegetables, pumpkin pie and assorted cupcakes....

    In the days before the winter break, culinary arts students Mikalia Feagans, foreground, and Sarah Shinn prepare dough for buttermilk biscuits to be served at a holiday luncheon for teachers at Fivay High.
  6. Knights of Columbus council brings holiday cheer to Special Olympians

    K12

    PORT RICHEY

    Richey Elementary School student Ariana Thrash could barely contain herself as she tilted an ear, listening for the jingle of sleigh bells amid the din of 249 kids awaiting Santa's arrival at the Knights of Columbus hall in Port Richey.

    "I'm happy. It's a party. I like dancing," said Ariana, 7, before launching on to the packed dance floor to join in a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells as word got around that Santa was still circling above in his sleigh. ...

    Santa Claus (Bill Quinn in costume) presents a plush teddy bear to Cotee River Elementary student Shayne Perry as she greets him head on.
  7. Tour de Clay offers a look at the process and plenty of gift ideas

    Visual Arts

    The eighth annual Tampa Bay Tour de Clay kicks off Saturday, offering folks an opportunity to embark on a two-day, self-guided tour of four art studios.

    The event has attracted thousands over the years — some who visit one or two studios, others who take on the entire trek.

    The work of 25 artists — some nationally and internationally known — will be on display and for sale. From functional to decorative, tiny teapots to sculptured pieces, it's sure to be found somewhere on the tour. Those who visit will be rewarded with the opportunity to win a piece of pottery after having a "passport to pottery" stamped at each studio....

    Fong Choo, a potter from Louisville Ky., will be one of the artists featured at Pottery Boys Clay Studio as part of the annual Tour de Clay at four local art studios Saturday and Sunday.
  8. Annual Prism concert is a favorite of band members at Mitchell High School

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — It's winter concert season, and, predictably, Sleigh Ride and The Nutcracker Suite will be on the program. But there will be a lot of other things going on when the Mitchell High School band program presents its annual Prism concert today and Saturday at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge.

    The whirlwind concert is an annual tradition that has become a favorite of students and their families, faculty and even some members of the community who have no connection to the school other than a shared appreciation of well-played music....

    J.W. Mitchell High band members will perform their popular Prism concert, featuring over 20 acts, at 7 p.m. Dec. 11-12 at the Pasco Schools’ Center for the Arts at River Ridge in New Port Richey. Kelton Crane, 17, (pictured here) will perform in the concert band and as part of a student-led group presenting an arrangement of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.” The concert is free and open to the public.
  9. New community garden is latest in a growing trend in New Port Richey

    Human Interest

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Sunday afternoon was proving to be fruitful for the volunteers working at Grand Gardens, a new community venture at Georgia Avenue and Grand Boulevard.

    Yellow Scotch bonnet peppers and the more mild green, bell variety were ripening on the vine. Tomato plants were sprouting pale blooms. Winter greens that had been stunted by an unseasonably warm fall were finally perking up. And the herb garden, planted in vertical beds constructed from repurposed bricks that were removed when the street out front was repaved, was showing a bountiful return for those who had poured their sweat into the garden since breaking ground in September....

    Grand Gardens facilitator Dell deChant, 61, shows volunteer Sylvia Spencer, 41, the benefits of using cow pots to start seedlings that will be planted in beds at Grand Gardens.
  10. Area musicians delight students with Teach-In performance at Gulfside Elementary

    K12

    HOLIDAY — Looking back, Scott Myers figures he was pretty fortunate to grow up in Chicago during a time when arts programs were a given, right from the start.

    "In elementary school, we had a full jazz band and a full orchestra and a full dance program," said Myers, who spends a lot of time these days playing trombone with a well-known cover band called the Black Honkeys. "It kills me that (school) budgets are not funding those arts programs like they used to."...

    Gulfside Elementary third-grader McKenna Schmidt-Cole dances to the music of Souled Out during the Great American Teach-In.
  11. Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival offers an alternative to holiday bustle

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — The turkey and fixings will be designated to leftover status and then comes the music.

    The annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival, which began Thursday, continues through Saturday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, offering a toe-tapping, knee-slapping, get-up-and-dance alternative to the post-holiday hustle and bustle at local shopping centers.

    The music kicks off at 11 a.m. today with 11 bands performing over two days under an 8,000-square-foot covered pavilion. Those who go are welcome to purchase tickets by the day, or camp overnight in the ranch's woodsy setting....

    Sarah Harris, center, and the Trinity River Band play Friday at the Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival.
  12. Fifth annual Ecofest offers an opportunity to commune with nature in a single location

    Events

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Looking for a weekend respite? Yearning to spend a couple of days communing with nature? The fifth annual Pasco EcoFest at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park just might fill the bill.

    The two-day event this weekend, organized by Lia Gallegos and twin sisters Kacey and Kira Atkinson of Rock the Boat Productions, promises a schedule packed with activities meant to appeal to all ages....

    Pennsylvania herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore leads an edible mushroom walk at Jay B Starkey Wilderness Park during last year’s Pasco EcoFest.
  13. Pasco Fine Arts Council celebrates grand opening of new facility

    Visual Arts

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The boxes have been unpacked, there's artwork on the walls and the grand piano has found a place that flows well with the green sitting benches and the partitions that shield the long classroom tables splattered in paint.

    Art classes have been up and running since early September at the Pasco Fine Arts Council, now at 4145 Fairford Drive, all while volunteers and board members have worked furiously to spiff up the new digs in what once was the Grove Park Community Center....

    Jennifer Mathis, 34, works on the pottery wheel during a class at the Pasco Fine Arts center’s new site in New Port Richey. The Pasco Fine Arts Council will host a grand opening celebration today and Saturday.
  14. More student assessments? That's music to the ears of marching bands

    K12

    When it comes to high school marching bands, halftime is showtime. It's a brief performance window for well-practiced musicians, who often take the field on Friday nights just as the audience heads for the concession stand.

    Come Saturday, marching bands from Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties will have the spotlight all to themselves at the District 5 Florida Bandmasters Association MPA (Marching Performance Assessment) held from 2 to 10 p.m. at Hernando High School. ...

    Gulf High Buccaneer Band members, from left, Rachel Groudas, Alisha Phoeun and Sarai Guilarte perform during a recent game.
  15. Downtown New Port Richey seeks to turn potential into profits

    Economic Development

    NEW PORT RICHEY

    Market Off Main, a quaint restaurant and fresh market, nestled on the banks of the Pithlachascotee River, was a favorite spot for people hankering for locally grown vegetables and comfort food offerings.

    But there was always a feeling of being on the outskirts of downtown for business partners Rose Mohr, 68, and Jerry Kuss, 73. So when the opportunity came to relocate to the heart of downtown, they made the leap, and quietly moved their operation over Labor Day weekend to a space that once housed the Cafe Grand....

    Rose Mohr, above, and business partner Jerry Kuss quietly moved their operation over Labor Day weekend to a space that once housed the Cafe Grand.