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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


  1. Miller: Where's my Fitbit? Shame, shame


    Past experience, or maybe mother's wisdom, tells you that once you stop looking for something you've lost, it will turn up.

    That's the tactic I was going to use when I relinquished the furious search for my newfangled step counter.

    I have had my share of pedometers, but none like the Fitbit Charge, a wireless device with all sorts of bells and whistles that you wear on your wrist.

    My gadget was a gift from my tech-savvy kids and a nudge for Mom and Dad to embrace the new world order. They've also bestowed us with e-reader devices, Bluetooth speakers and another wireless gizmo that can turn what you thought was a state-of-the-art TV into an even smarter model....

  2. Women rock the boat to promote local products

    Human Interest


    They've heard the wise cracks. All it takes is another off-beat news story and one person or another is shaking their head and making the comment, "only in Pasco."

    But there's a lot of good going on. Just ask the owners of an event/promotion company Rock the Boat Productions — Lia Gallegos, 42, and identical twin sisters, Kira and Kacey Atkinson, 32.

    That they love where they live is obvious as they giddily pose for pictures on the corner of Grand Boulevard and Nebraska Avenue, the facade of the Richey Suncoast Theatre serving as a back drop....

    Kira Atkinson, 32, left, Lia Gallagos, 42, center, and Kacey Atkinson, 32, all of New Port Richey, own Rock the Boat Productions. They specialize in promoting events that support downtown New Port Richey businesses.
  3. EcoFest offers a chance to commune with nature


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The weather's been perfect for getting out and about. So those itching to do a little communing with nature might want to head over to Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park on Saturday and Sunday for the annual Pasco EcoFest.

    The free event, sponsored by Encore Music and several local businesses, promises to be jam-packed with educational, ecological activities for all ages. Among the fun stuff to take in: bird watching, stargazing, nature walks and herbalism and gardening workshops....

    Herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore leads an edible mushroom walk at J.B. Starkey park in 2014.
  4. Teen shares bullying experience to help educate others


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Levi Fallavollita has a message to deliver — an important one, according to Seven Springs Elementary School teacher Laura Fink.

    That's why she invited the Mitchell High sophomore to come to Seven Springs during National Bully Prevention Month in late October to speak to fifth-grade students.

    What better way to get the message home, she thought, than to bring in someone who has earned accolades for sharing his personal story and for writing a couple of books about it....

    Mitchell High sophomore Levi Fallavollita, 16, has written two books on bullying. New to Pasco County, he’s hoping to do more antibullying presentations here.
  5. In encore career, veteran finds fulfillment in helping others get back on their feet



    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 takes notes during his conversation with inmate Alex Holmquist.
  6. 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.”
  7. 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.
  8. 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....

  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. 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 Deputy Jim Cloversettle visits with students at St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio during a program in which the children honored deputies for their service with notes, handmade gifts and care packages.
  13. 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."...

  14. 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....

    Thursday Musical members rehearse for their season opener, set for Oct. 6. The women, who range in age from 56 to 89,  also bring in school and community choral groups and bands to perform during their concerts.
  15. Unity Day at Wiregrass Ranch High celebrates students' differences


    WESLEY CHAPEL — Sometimes, diversity can be a unifying factor — particularly when there's a chance to see beyond what separates one from the group.

    That's part of the focus of Unity Day, an annual celebration that was held last week in the gymnasium at Wiregrass Ranch High School.

    About 170 students attended the event, which took place during morning and afternoon sessions, hosted by the school's Unity Club....

    Pictured clockwise, students Alyssa Carter, 15, Alexandra Kimball, 15, Rany Harb, 16, and Dev Montgomery, 16, recently participated in Wiregrass Ranch High School’s Unity Day.