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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers Oldsmar and Palm Harbor. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163


  1. Winter fun, Florida style: Holiday Lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens


    Along with a variety of entertainment each night, Santa Claus will be on hand to visit with kids through Dec. 23.

    More than 60,000 visitors came through the Holiday Lights in the Gardens last year, with donations totaling about $170,000, according to Terry Berube, the director of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation. Although it was Pinellas County that began the annual light display in 2002, since 2008 the foundation has been in charge, with more than 400 volunteers staffing it over the 30-day period. ...

    A Don Juan rose blooms in front of a display of lights for the annual show. More than 60,000 visitors saw the show last year.
  2. What's Catherine McKenzie reading?



    Catherine McKenzie

    Smoke is McKenzie's fifth novel and an Amazon Best Book of 2015. It is based on fires — wild as well as metaphoric. Over the course of six days, protagonist Elizabeth Martin, an arson investigator, works to protect residents in a small town in the Rocky Mountains from an encroaching wildfire as she tries to come to terms with a failing marriage. McKenzie, 42, is a lawyer in Montreal....

  3. Website promotes Oldsmar Trail

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — A new website promoting the Oldsmar Trail is up and running. The idea for the website came about several months ago as the communications staff, together with the city clerk's office, was creating a glossy map of the trail that includes all 10 of the city parks. Ecotourism has long been on the minds of city officials and a website designed to promote the trail that stretches 11 miles was appropriate, according to Debb Pauley, communications specialist who will help manage the new site....

  4. Indian Rock Beach baker's Eiffel Tower becomes symbol


    INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Luigi de Marchi, 22, took down the first mini Eiffel Tower from the front of Cafe de Paris, 2300 Gulf Blvd., several weeks ago. It had grown old and lost its luster, after 13 years of service at the French bakery owned by his parents, Valerie and Xavier.

    However, customers missed it, and de Marchi installed a new one.

    "I put it up about a week ago, and I didn't think much about it, but now, looking back, it is interesting that we did that, just days before the attack on France,'' he said. ...

  5. What's Christopher Still reading?



    Christopher Still

    Still, a member of the Florida Artist Hall of Fame, is renowned for his paintings depicting the state's history and environment, with several of his works gracing the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives. Still, 54, is a graduate of Dunedin High who received a full scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and continued his studies with courses in human anatomy at Jefferson Medical School and an apprenticeship in traditional techniques in Florence, Italy. The artist talked with the Tampa Bay Times on Nov. 10 by phone, from his studio in Tarpon Springs....

    Artist Christopher Still is a Dunedin High grad.
  6. Tarpon Springs' Heritage Museum reopens


    TARPON SPRINGS — At 11 a.m. today, the public will be able to once again visit the Heritage Museum, which has been closed for several months while workers updated one area and repaired another that was damaged from an electrical fire last winter.

    Although it continues to be a place inviting visitors to celebrate the history, culture and environment of the city, one portion of the museum reopens with major changes. The area formerly known as the Ecology Wing will now be called the Gen Haley Ecology Wing, dedicated to the longtime city employee who was shot by her husband in a murder-suicide in 2014....

    The interior at Heritage Museum in Tarpon Springs. They're reopening to the public the Ecology Wing portion where Tarpon Springs artist Christoper Still has donated 10 new prints of his paintings (he had prints in there before, but the colors were becoming dull).
  7. What's Michael Lisicky reading?



    Michael Lisicky

    Lisicky, an oboist with the Baltimore Symphony, has a peculiar hobby: studying the history of department stores. Out of his fascination with the retail giants have come several books: Wanamaker's: Meet Me at the Eagle, Gimbels Has It!, Hutzler's: Where Baltimore Shops and Woodward & Lothrop: A Store Worthy of the Nation's Capital. Last month, Lisicky released Remembering Maas Brothers, about the Florida chain. Part of the Images of America series, the book has a foreword written by Sandy Freedman, former mayor of Tampa, whose family ran a jewelry business next to the flagship Tampa store....

    Michael Lisicky, an oboist with the Baltimore Symphony, released “Remembering Maas Brothers” last month. Part of the Images of America series, the foreword is written by Sandy Freedman, former mayor of Tampa, whose family ran a jewelry business next to the flagship Tampa store.
  8. North Pinellas forms arts alliance

    Human Interest

    There are Safety Harbor's firehouse murals and Art Park. There are the Dunedin Fine Art Center and the dozens of artists who consider Dunedin their base. In Tarpon Springs, the city has the Leepa-Rattner Museum displaying its expanding collection of 20th and 21st century art as well as the new sculpture, Ama the mermaid, by French artist Amaryllis near Spring Bayou. And in Clearwater, there are Ruth Eckerd Hall and the recently refurbished Capitol Theatre....

  9. What's Lidia Bastianich reading?



    Lidia Bastianich

    When we caught up with Bastianich, renowned chef, restaurateur and host of the PBS show Lidia's Italy, she talked about her new book and her memories of cooking for her children (Joe Bastianich and Tanya Manuali) when they were small. "I think I always reverted to my culture. The basic soup, the basic stock, the basic sauce for the pasta, and I changed according to the season. I reverted to recipes that I learned from my grandmother and mother.''...

    Chef Lidia Bastianich’s latest book, “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook,” is a collaborative effort between her and her daughter.
  10. BMX Gator Nationals drew 900 participants from 24 countries to Oldsmar

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The numbers are in from the Gator Nationals Supercross Series held on the city's renovated BMX track in mid-October.

    The weekend saw more than 900 registered participants from 24 countries and 38 states, according to Debb Pauley, communications specialist for the city, who received the information from officials at USA BMX headquarters in Arizona. "It was the largest state spread and the greatest country reach in the 15 years of the Gator Nationals,'' she said....

  11. What's Tracey Reed reading?



    Tracey Reed

    Because Oct. 17 marked the grand opening of a new Countryside location for the Clearwater Library system, we caught up with Reed, a Clearwater librarian for 15 years. For the last four years, she has served as the Countryside Library branch manager at its spot on State Road 580. She is thrilled to be in the larger building next to the Countryside Recreation Center on Sabal Springs Drive. ...

    Tracey Reed
  12. What's Bobby Braddock reading?



    Bobby Braddock

    He Stopped Loving Her Today, D-I-V-O-R-C-E, Golden Ring and People Are Crazy all sat at the top of country music hit lists, and all were written by Braddock. Although Braddock, a graduate of Auburndale High School, "still has a lot of Florida inside,'' he has lived for the last five decades in Tennessee, where he has been immersed in the music industry. Along with his storied songwriting career, Braddock, 75, is an author. His new book, Bobby Braddock: A Life on Nashville's Music Row, is "a historical journey, a history of both modern America and Southern culture,'' he said. "The characters included are both infamous ones and the unknown.''...

    Country Music Hall of Fame’s Jay Orr presents songwriter Bobby Braddock, right, with a custom print to celebrate Braddock’s new book.
  13. Sheryl Crow taps local fifth-grade cancer fighter to sing at Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    With a peach-colored bow in her hair and shiny beads around her neck, Marissa Peddie, 10, took center stage last Saturday at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and harmonized with Sheryl Crow. Although she is in remission now, Marissa has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for two years, and after Crow, a well-known cancer survivor, heard her sing backstage, she asked the Lake St. George fifth-grader to help her cover Cat Stevens' The First Cut Is the Deepest. Turn to page 4 for a Q&A with Marissa....

    Courtesy of Clearwater Jazz Holiday
  14. Heritage Village Jubilee: Sailing into the future by celebrating the past



    It started with Honey and a group of sailors who wanted to preserve a little history.

    Honey is a Snipe, a racing sail boat made from juniper, that was built by Clark Mills in 1947 for his childhood buddy, Francis Seavy.

    Although he was barely 30 when he crafted Honey's hull, Mills was already known for his expertise in boat building and in the years to come, the Mills name would eventually be synonymous with the Optimist Pram, a small boat originally made for young sailors to use on Clearwater waterways. When he died in 2001, more than 200,000 children worldwide had learned the basics of sailing on his design....

    This Optimist pram from 1947 was built by the Clark Mills Boat Works for the Dunedin Boat Club.
  15. Clearwater Jazz Holiday preview: Lineup, schedule, set times, interviews and more


    Four years in, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday's strategy of booking more pop-friendly acts seems to be paying off.

    "We have worked to introduce new genres into the festival that have had the effect of not only appealing to a wider demographic, but also introducing new audiences to the wonderful heritage of jazz music that we have," said Steve Weinberger, CEO of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation Inc. "Certainly it's affected attendance. There are new people attending, more so than ever."...