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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. One man's dream lights up Safety Town



    The holiday season just got a little brighter in these parts.

    With the flip of a switch, the first Celebration of Lights was set to kick off on Thanksgiving night, casting a luminous glow on Safety Town and the road that weaves through the surrounding woods.

    It's winter wonderland, Florida style — where an animated Santa can be caught snowboarding on a balmy night, where drummers drum amid glittering palms and an elf called Feather offers a home-spun welcome to those hankering to stroll through the illuminated village or join in reindeer games. ...

    Scott Vargas guides lights into place from atop a bucket truck as a lighted 35-foot Christmas tree takes shape.
  2. Round out the Thanksgiving weekend with a little bluegrass music

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING LAKE — Those looking to round out their Thanksgiving weekend with a little American roots music might want to head to the scenic Sertoma Youth Ranch on the Hernando-Pasco county line.

    Whether you're a bluegrass-loving day-tripper, a primitive camper or hankering to settle in for a few days in the luxury of your own RV, there's a spot for you.

    After serving up some 400 pounds of turkey, countless trays of dressing and country casseroles of all sorts at Thursday's Thanksgiving potluck, the music continues through Saturday at the 35th annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival....

    The Spinney Brothers, out of Canada, perform Saturday.
  3. Girls on the Run program builds confidence, compassion and stamina



    Ask any runner, and they'll tell you that motivation comes in different forms.

    Sometimes it's an inner nudge — maybe the positive message you taped on your bathroom mirror or the sense of well-being that wells up somewhere around the 3-mile mark.

    Sometimes it's inspired by others.

    For Jenna Panchuk, it was the collaborative effort she witnessed a few years ago while running a 5K with her mom in Charlotte County....

    Coaches and members of Connerton Elementary School’s Girls on the Run program in Land O’Lakes finish up an afternoon of activities with a parting group cheer.
  4. Second Lake House Bluesfest mixes music, fun and charity

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL —Annette Doying wasn't sure what to expect when she decided to plan a music festival that would mix the blues with an altruistic effort to feed the hungry in her community.

    Doying, who had recently started Winding River Promotions, was pretty green when it came to the concert business. Even so, the 2013 Lake House Bluesfest went off without a hitch.

    About 700 people ponied up for a ticket at the inaugural Blues for Food event, donating a truck full of food items and more than $1,000 to help stock two local food pantries....

    Local blues man Damon Fowler and his band will be among the bands featured  at the Blues for Food/Lake House Bluesfest Saturday in Spring Hill.
  5. Dreamy dessert is a winner for Land O'Lakes High culinary student


    LAND O'LAKES — The challenge was to come up with a guilt-free dessert with a Florida twist.

    Kyler Roy, 15, was thinking oranges on kebabs.

    The trick to making it work, Roy said, was to freeze the oranges just enough so that you could still bite through them, then slather them with an orange cream dip that tastes similar to a Creamsicle ice cream bar.

    His "Dreamsicle Dessert" recipe turned out to be a winner....

    Kyler pours batter into pans for pumpkin bread to be served at a breakfast banquet at Land O’Lakes High.
  6. Weekend's Pasco Ecofest displays nature's beauty


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Autumn brings an array of brilliant hues for northern folks, but some of the most lush foliage in these parts can be viewed during a quiet paddle down the Pithlachascotee River.

    Albeit green.

    That's according to Ed Lawlor, a 4-star paddler who started a business called Peace-Love-Paddle a couple of years ago to train others how to weave through local waters. He knows well that the best-kept secrets are sometimes nestled close to home. One of his favorite treks launches at the James E. Grey Preserve off Rowan Road and stretches through undeveloped landscape before ending at Sims Park downtown....

    Participants can enjoy the Pithlachascotee River alongside Sims Park in New Port Richey as they take part in this year’s EcoFest.
  7. Riverhawk festival returns with eclectic mix of music, fun for family

    Music & Concerts


    After 20 years of organizing what's become one of the largest Americana music festivals in Florida, promoter Mitch Lind has a pretty good idea of who will show up.

    The eclectic mix of about 25 bands playing rockabilly, Cajun, bluegrass, alternative country and roots rock at the Riverhawk Music Festival doesn't draw on the broader appeal of bands featured on the radio, Lind said, but there is a following for the annual festival that runs through Sunday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, south of Spring Lake....

    Nicholas David, who in 2012 had a good run with Team CeeLo on NBC’s The Voice, will be Sunday’s featured musician at the festival.
  8. Pasco class notes



    Nov. 17: Progress reports.

    Nov. 24-28: Thanksgiving break, no school.


    The artwork of Genesis Preparatory School students will be on display through November at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd. The school's jazz band will perform at the opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. today. Also on exhibit will be items for the annual Holiday Gift Gallery....

  9. Local author's book provides images of Dade City history

    Human Interest

    DADE CITY — Unearthing the past been a long-favored hobby for Madonna Wise. It's a passion that often has the local historian digging through old letters and ancestry websites to connect with her own heritage, and poring through other people's yellowed photographs to create a cohesive record of what once was.

    Her latest efforts come in the release of Dade City, a recent addition to Arcadia Publishing's Images of America, a series of folksy picture books featuring the regional history of some 8,500 cities and small towns throughout the United States. This is the second book Wise has written for Arcadia. Zephyrhills was released in 2010 during that city's centennial celebration....

    Madonna Jervis Wise’s Dade City is a part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series that shares the history of small towns and cities. Her first book chronicled Zephyrhills.
  10. Pasco class notes



    Nov. 17: Progress reports.

    Nov. 24-28: Thanksgiving break, no school.


    The artwork of students from Genesis Preparatory School will be on display through November at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Boulevard. The school's jazz band will perform at the opening reception from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 7. Also on display will be the Holiday Gift Gallery, which will include paintings, mixed media, jewelry, wearable art and more....

  11. Skydive City Brewfest blends skydiving with a variety of beers



    When it comes to stocking beer, having a wide variety is essential in servicing customers at Skydive City.

    According to general manager T.K. Hayes, the drop zone's Sunset Bar offers one of the largest selections of ales, lagers, stouts or whatever else floats your boat in Pasco County.

    "You have to when you get over 3,000 people from all over the world coming throughout the year," Hayes said....

    Curt Bartholomew, a member of Team Alter Ego, swoops in for an accuracy landing during a practice jump in May. In swooping, pilots compete in speed, landing accuracy and distance.
  12. Pasco class notes, Oct. 24



    Report cards are distributed Monday.


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

    • J.W. Mitchell High drama presents Bed and Breakfast and Thespian Showcase at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday. For tickets call (727) 774-9200.

    • Dallas Children's Theatre presents The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley at 10:30 a.m. and noon Monday. Grades K-5. $5....

  13. Class notes



    Monday is a teacher planning day. There is no school for students.

    Oct. 27: Report cards.


    • The Zephyrhills High Band Officers invite all alumni band and auxiliary members to partake in the 2014 homecoming game today. There will be a section reserved for alumni band members who will play with band students from Centennial and Stewart Middle School and Zephyrhills High. Bring your own instrument and meet at 6 p.m. in the band room. Admission is free. For information, email Russell Schmidt at ...

  14. Autumn Art Walk debuts in downtown New Port Richey

    Visual Arts

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The temps are dropping some and it's finally feeling like autumn is kicking in. Might be a good time to take a stroll.

    New Port Richey provides the perfect destination Saturday when sidewalks in the historic downtown area transform into a pedestrian art gallery.

    The works of about 40 local artists will be on display at Autumn Art Walk, a first-time event presented by the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, Pasco Arts Council, West Pasco Art Guild and the Altered Minds Art Group....

    “Seduction,” a watercolor painting of a poppy flower, is one of the works that will be on exhibit and for sale at the Autumn Art Walk on Saturday in downtown New Port Richey along both sides of Grand Boulevard.
  15. Pasco schools welcome dads as volunteers


    NEW PORT RICHEY — David Molodecki was smiling big as he made his way down the covered walkway at Moon Lake Elementary School.

    "Hey, you got a haircut," someone called out as the older man doled out high-fives to every upraised hand in a long line of youngsters headed in the opposite direction.

    "Yes, I did," he said, before rounding the corner to sit and listen to a couple of fifth-graders sounding out words outside Nicole Gunn's fifth-grade classroom....

    “This is getting close to my favorite part,” Moon Lake Elementary School fifth-grader Gavin Griffith, 10, tells volunteer David Molodecki, 51, while reading from a favorite graphic novel, Amulet, Prince of Elves. Molodecki is part of the award-winning Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) program, now in its second year at the New Port Richey school.