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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. Gasparilla? Kumquat Festival offers an alternative in Dade City


    DADE CITY — From stone crabs to frog legs, from oranges to strawberries and blueberries, Florida's festival calendar offers a bounty of foodie celebrations meant to appeal to the conventional or the eccentric palate.

    With the end of January comes the Kumquat Festival, a quirky kind of old-Florida celebration traditionally held the last Saturday of the month in downtown Dade City.

    The kumquat, which looks like a miniature orange and originally hails from Asia, can be popped into the mouth as a snack, peel and all, or folded into recipes of all sorts....

    Julious Hill unloads bins filled with kumquats as he prepares them for washing, sorting and packing at Kumquat Growers Inc. on Wednesday morning. An open house will be held at the Kumquat Growers packing house at 31647 Gude Road, Dade City from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.
  2. Pasco County class notes



    Feb. 13: Progress reports

    Feb. 16: Presidents Day, no school.

    Library note

    • Read to Your Bright and Beautiful Furry Friends, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Regency Park Library, 9701 Little Road, New Port Richey. Story time with therapy dogs for students in grades K-5. For a full calendar of events happening at all Pasco County library branches, go to For information about events at the New Port Richey Public Library, go to

  3. Standout Pine View Middle ESOL student also a BMX champ



    Beating everyone else across the finish line is the goal of a BMX racer. But for 14-year-old Alejandro Chica, there's nothing quite like the rush of adrenaline that begins to well at the starting gate. Alejandro was just 8 when he caught the fever in his birthplace of Medellín, Colombia. Bicycle motocross is practically a rite of passage for youngsters growing up in the country's second-largest city, where springtime is a mainstay and the rugged dirt tracks have a way of building champions....

    Pine View Middle School student Alejandro Chica, 14, launches over a jump during practice on a BMX track in Lutz on Jan. 7.
  4. Pasco class notes



    Jan 29: Adult Education graduation.

    Feb. 13: Progress reports

    Feb. 16: Presidents Day, no school.


    • The artwork of students from Millennium Academy will be featured through Jan. 31 at the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd. For information, call (727) 848-6500 or go to

  5. Hernando Harmonizers take a trip down Broadway for Saturday's annual Extravaganza

    Music & Concerts


    It's mid January, and some of the snowbirds in the Hernando Harmonizers are still making their way south. But come Saturday, there should be about 40 gents perched on the risers at Springstead Theatre, crooning away in four-part harmony for the group's 13th annual Barbershop Extravaganza.

    A new director, Jacki Scott, will be leading the Harmonizers through renditions of songs from Broadway musicals such as Oklahoma!, The Music Man and Les Miserables. The Springstead High chorus will also take the stage for a turn. Highlighting the show will be Boardwalk, an award-winning quartet out of Atlanta that is known for its folk-influenced renditions, melding the barbershop sound with some instrumentation....

    The Hernando Harmonizers present the 13th Annual Barbershop Extravaganza, “Harmonizers on Broadway” with special guest quartet, “Boardwalk” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Springstead High School Theatre
  6. PHSC freshman mentoring new business club at Weightman Middle School


    WESLEY CHAPEL — There was a lot of buzz under the covered shelter at Wesley Chapel Elementary School last week as hoards of students took turns playing games and chatting it up with local business people.

    Despite the din, Logan Pomerenke, 9, was getting valuable information from those who had come out for the day to give insight on their professions and the role they play in building a thriving community....

    First-grader Quintin Hargorve peers into a computer with Chris Wilson of Sagat’s Computers. 
  7. Suncoast Arts Fest marks 10th anniversary this weekend at Shops at Wiregrass


    WESLEY CHAPEL — About 125 artists and craftsmen will be rolling in, pitching tents and setting up their wares for the 10th annual Suncoast Arts Fest on Saturday and Sunday at the Shops at Wiregrass.

    The event will feature an eclectic offering for serious and casual art collectors, plenty of entertainment and a variety of hands-on art projects, all while giving a boost to arts in the local community. Proceeds will go to the nonprofit Arts in Education program, which in 10 years has funneled roughly $80,000 in grants to private and public schoolteachers in Pasco County....

    The Suncoast Art Fest will feature a variety of artists, including Diana Tonnessen of Gainesville, who creates hand-colored, limited-edition linoleum block prints that offer a Florida feel. 
  8. Pasco class notes


    Class notes


    Monday: Report cards will be distributed.

    Jan. 19: Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. No school.

    Jan. 29: Adult education graduation.


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

    • Stages Productions presents Charlotte's Web at 10:30 a.m. and noon Jan. 27. For kindergarten to Grade 4. $4....

  9. Monthly Audubon bird strolls bring discoveries, but require patience



    The morning fog had settled in and so had the birds, making it a quiet trek for the dozen or so hikers ambling through a swath of blooming dog fennel along the Bluebird Trail in Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park.

    Among those who had come out early for the West Pasco Audubon Society's monthly stroll were chapter president Peter Day, who was equipped with a box of extra binoculars, and Bill Kuehue of New Port Richey. As a kid, Kuehue moved from the inner city of Chicago and is simply wild about anything to do with birds and fishing. ...

    Birding is the main focus of those who attend the West Pasco Audubon Society’s morning bird walks at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey, but other creatures are often out as well. Here a gopher tortoise hangs out in his burrow.
  10. A holiday concert, and a new conductor, for the Hernando Symphony Orchestra

    Music & Concerts

    SPRING HILL — It was 1982 and Michele DiLuzio was fresh out of high school when she and 12 others founded a community orchestra in Hernando County. The small group started out playing light classical music at ice cream socials at the local Methodist church and at events at the Atria Evergreen Woods retirement community.

    Over the years, the group blossomed. Conductors came and went, the genre evolved from classical to a Boston Pops kind of sound, and the Hernando Symphony Orchestra, now just shy of 50 members, began hosting concerts in local high school theaters and now at Stage West Community Playhouse....

    Michele DiLuzio, one of the 13 people who started the group in 1982 that became the Hernando Symphony Orchestra, and who served as its principal trumpeter for 32 years, replaces retired conductor Wayne Raymond. “Working with them full time has been an amazing experience,” DiLuzio said of the orchestra.
  11. Weekend tour will highlight artists and their work with clay

    Visual Arts


    Jack Boyle makes his work look easy, wearing a white linen potter's apron splattered with clay remnants of the bowls, plates and goblets that line his studio shelves.

    He starts by splashing water onto a mound of heavy gray clay, then miraculously spins it into a tall, ridged vase that swallows his forearm in about 10 minutes.

    As potters go, Boyle is a master at production, and it's something to watch....

    Examples of the work of Jack Boyle which will be on display and for sale during the tour.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.