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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. Aerial adventures zipping their way to Oldsmar

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — As you soar 70 feet above the ground, secured in a harness, you'll see Old Tampa Bay to the west and Mobbly Bayou to the east. In between, you'll float over a mix of mangrove swamp, salt marsh and oak hammocks. And if you're lucky, from your perch, you'll spot an assortment of shorebirds often spotted here, at the northernmost part of Pinellas County — ospreys, herons and roseate spoonbills....

    Jason Clement with Empower Adventures says, “Our goal is to increase exposure and visibility” to Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve in Oldsmar. The water on the right will be crossed by two legs of Empower Adventures’ $1 million zip line course, which also will include an aerial adventure park.
  2. What's Marc Kelly Smith reading?



    Marc Kelly Smith

    We caught up with Smith on Jan. 26 in Safety Harbor, where he presented a performance poetry workshop for the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center's Sideshow off Main Street. Smith made the stopover after appearing as a featured poet at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Smith, 66, is considered the founder of the poetry slam movement. In the mid 1980s, he began holding competitive readings that were judged by audience members at the Green Mill tavern in Chicago. Called the Uptown Poetry Slam, his project continues today....

    Marc Kelly Smith is considered the founder of the poetry slam movement.
  3. Safety Harbor Art and Music Center nears completion



    Their art is everywhere — a manatee sculpture in City Hall, mixed media mobiles in the community center and Whimzeyland, their multicolored house on Third Street with its collection of countless bowling balls. For more than two decades, Safety Harbor has been Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist's canvas, and the couple is aiming to unveil their largest undertaking, the nonprofit Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, in less than two months....

    Todd Ramquist works on the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center. Construction on SHAMC started four years ago. “It has taken us a long time, but this was the first time that we had to deal with City Hall and the engineering was challenging,’’ Ramquist said.
  4. What's Kathy Castor reading?



    Kathy Castor

    U.S. Rep. Castor represents Florida's 14th District, which includes parts of both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Castor was first elected to Congress in 2006. Before that, she served on the Hillsborough County Commission and chaired the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission. She is the author of the Florida Coastal Protection Act to make the drilling ban for waters up to 235 miles off Florida's west coast permanent. In 2013, the Center for Democracy in the Americas presented her with the Courage in Congress Award for her work in changing U.S. policy toward Cuba. Politics run in her family. She is the daughter of former Hillsborough County Judge Don Castor and former University of South Florida president and statewide-elected Education Commissioner Betty Castor. ...

  5. Fifth Friday kicks off Oldsmar's centennial celebration

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Two years in the making, it's time to get the party started. With the inaugural Oldsmar Fifth Friday at R.E. Olds Park today, the city is kicking off the People's Centennial, a nine-month celebration recognizing Oldsmar's 100th birthday. Tonight's entertainment includes the Black Honkeys, a soul and blues band, and Mister Pickles, a three-piece Americana band.

    "With all the events we're going to hold in the coming months, we are hoping people come out and celebrate this great place," said Dan Saracki, of the City Council and chair of the Oldsmar 100 Committee....

  6. What's C. David Frankel reading?



    C. David Frankel

    We caught up with Frankel, a theater professor at the University of South Florida as well as the artistic director and co-founder of Tampa Repertory Theatre, on Jan. 20 as Tampa Rep concluded its run of Sam Shepard's True West. When asked about his perception of Tampa Bay's theater community, Frankel, 61, talked about "an enormous amount of talent and variety.'' However, the Long Island, N.Y., native said he does see a need for theater groups to make sure "to reach out from both sides of the bay to make sure people know the different companies exist.'' ...

    C. David Frankel is a theater professor at the University of South Florida.
  7. Four candidates compete for two Oldsmar council seats


    OLDSMAR — Four candidates running for two City Council seats will square off for the first time Tuesday in a forum sponsored by the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of North Pinellas County.

    Vying for Seat 2 is Daniel Belcher, a financial adviser who is running against Dan Saracki, the incumbent. The candidates for Seat 4, held by Linda Norris since 2010, are Becky Afonso, the head of the Florida Bicycle Association, and Jerry Beverland, a former mayor with four decades of experience....

    Becky Afonso
  8. 'Mutts Gone Nuts' visits Largo Cultural Center

    Human Interest


    When Scott Houghton took the phone call, he was in his living room in Maryland. He admitted he was being watched.

    "Nine dogs are around me, and some are staring at me," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "One is asleep. One is looking out the window. If they start to bark, my wife promises she'll take them out. It's pretty typical here."

    Houghton is one of the human performers in "Mutts Gone Nuts," a comedy show that will make a stop at the Largo Cultural Center on Jan. 28. Along with Houghton, the show will feature his wife, Joan, dog trainer Samantha Valle, whose videos of her athletic dogs have garnered her thousands of followers on YouTube and Facebook, comedian Jonathan Burns and dogs, lots of them — jumping dogs, flipping dogs, magician dogs, tightwire dogs and at least one talking dog....

    Comedian Jonathan Burns will perform with “Mutts Gone Nuts” at Largo Cultural Center on Thursday
  9. What's Rick Moody reading?



    Rick Moody

    The author of Garden State and The Ice Storm, Moody, 54, is recognized for both strong prose and a daring and ever-changing style. In his newest novel, Hotels of North America, Moody marks this digital era we are in with Reginald Morse, a character whose collection of online hotel reviews is less about travel tips and more about desolation. ...

    Rick Moody, author of Garden State and The Ice Storm
  10. Former Largo resident writes for the dogs

    Human Interest

    Laura Coffey, a former journalist with the Tampa Bay Times and Largo High's 1988 valedictorian, returned to Seattle from Florida after her mother's funeral. It was June 2013.

    Still in mourning, she went back to her work for the website, the portal for the Today Show. One of her regular readers had sent her an email urging her to look into a story on a California photographer involved with rescuing senior dogs from shelters....

    Former bay area journalist Laura Coffey is the author.
  11. What's Rick Bragg reading?



    Rick Bragg

    In My Southern Journey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former Tampa Bay Times reporter Bragg, 56, pays homage to the South with countless colorful passages, including this one: "I love all-night gospel singings and flea markets four miles wide, and hounds that wail on the mountainside while the raccoons they chase double back on the trail and steal the cat food off the front porch.'' Bragg, the recipient of the 2009 Harper Lee Award for Alabama's Distinguished Writer of the Year, is a professor of writing in the journalism department at the University of Alabama. His other work includes Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story as well as a trilogy on his family in Calhoun County, Ala.: All Over But the Shoutin', Ava's Man and The Prince of Frogtown....

    Author Rick Bragg is a professor of writing in the journalism department at the University of Alabama.
  12. A myriad of moments make Epiphany celebration special


    TARPON SPRINGS — The three teens arrived at Spring Bayou early to see what they were up against.

    By 8 a.m., it hadn't broken 60 degrees, and they wondered what it was going to feel like to plunge into the bayou.

    "I wanted to do this because it's a huge religious experience," said Yianni Stauropoulos, 17, a freshman at St. Petersburg College. "It does look cold though."

    They all hoped to find the cross, but decided they really had nothing to do with the outcome....

    Worshippers gather for church service before Tarpon Springs' 110th Epiphany celebration on Wednesday afternoon, January 6, 2016 at St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]
  13. What's Laura Coffey reading?



    Laura T. Coffey

    Coffey, 45, a former Tampa Bay Times journalist and valedictorian of the Largo High Class of 1988, is currently a writer, producer and editor for She's also the author of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts, which shares the stories of more than 15 senior shelter dogs from across the United States and the owners who rescued them. Coffey, who lives in Seattle, will discuss and sign her book at 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at Barnes & Noble Clearwater, 23654 U.S. 19 N....

    Laura T. Coffey is the author of “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts.”
  14. Unitarian minister sees local solutions to global problems


    CLEARWATER — It's been about three months since Patrice Curtis began her new role as minister at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater on Nursery Road. Curtis, who spent more than a decade working in humanitarian assistance as well as at refugee camps in Kenya, Sudan and Eastern Europe, holds a master's of divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif., a master's in international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor's in anthropology from the University of California-Davis with further post graduate work at Oxford University....

    Patrice Curtis, a new minister at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, hopes to begin to work with an area refugee family.
  15. What's Marilyn Johnson reading?



    Marilyn Johnson

    "The past is everywhere around us, and the forgotten is always underfoot,'' wrote Johnson in her book Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble, a nonfiction work that delves into the lives of archaeologists in places including Machu Picchu, a Caribbean slave plantation and Fishkill, N.Y. Johnson, 61, has worked for Esquire, Redbook and Outside magazines and was a staff writer for Life, where she wrote profiles and obituaries of celebrities, including Diana, Princess of Wales. She has also written two other books profiling particular professions: librarians in 2011 with This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All and obituary writers in 2007 with The Dead Beat. "All three books came from the same place, which is my interest in people talking about their work,'' said Johnson, who lives in the Hudson Valley. "I really loved Studs Terkel's Working and reading how deeply people got into their work and how it formed their perspective. It made an impression that stuck with me.''...

    Marilyn Johnson is author of “Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble.”