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Training for voters; back for the bash

At first, I thought it was my cell phone vibrating.

But it was actually my stomach, rumbling like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors that always moaned, "Feed me."

I was in the middle of a four-hour training session (yes, four hours) for election poll volunteers. I had skipped lunch and walked into the Elections Service Center on Falkenburg Road at 5:30 Wednesday evening, thinking I would be home eating lemon-peppered chicken in less than 60 minutes. How long could it take to tell me how to apply an "I Voted" sticker?

Truth be told, the four-hour training session was necessary. Hey, we weren't learning how to say "welcome," we were learning how to be "touch screen technicians."

The new touch screen technology is not overwhelmingly complicated, but it does require a degree of knowledge for those of us who will be helping voters deal with it on Election Day.

At the end of the session, I think we were all pretty confident we could be proficient TSTs. Plus, our instructor, Diane Jamai, promised Election Day would be "a day at the spa" (the operative word being day, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

But we do get a trial run. An open house will be held Aug. 3 at all polling sites, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feel free to kick the tires, look under the hood and take the system for a test run.

Sherri Simonetti wanted to do more than just gather together a bunch of family-oriented vendors in a convention center. The Tampa woman says her Back To School Bash, created in 1995, has become more than that.

"I wanted to watch a child walk through the door and say, "Wow,' " Simonetti said.

Seven years later, Simonetti has a two-day event that will attract 15,000 wows. Exhibitors will cover 75,000 square feet in the Tampa Convention Center this Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-4 p.m.). Kids can do everything from play on the Willy Wonkamobile to audition for a Meow Mix commercial.

Admission is free for kids 12 and under and $7 for adults.

Kudos to Creative Recycling Systems and For The Family Inc., a not-for-profit agency designed to help foster families. The two local groups donated computers to five foster families on Thursday. For The Family hopes this will be just the start of their efforts to provide financial and in-kind support to foster families. I know they need it.

I've been meaning to check out the new Jazz On The Bay series that happens every Friday at the Radisson Riverwalk, but it seems it rains every time I'm ready to go. However, Lex Entertainment officials say the pavilion at the Radisson can shelter 250 people. A little wet weather shouldn't scare you.

Theo Valentin & Friends are set to perform at 5:30 tonight.

Kingsway Oaks II, my Seffner subdivision, was one of six homeowners associations to receive a 2002 Neighborhood Recognition Award from the county's Office of Neighborhood Relations. The others were Plantation (most successful youth program), Westchase (most successful special event), Old Seminole Heights (best Web site), and Tampa Homeowners an Association of Neighborhoods and Valencia (best environmental projects).

My subdivision was recognized for having the best newsletter, which is no surprise when my prose graces the newsletter each month.

So I called the county to receive my proper laurels. I was told the selection committee liked the newsletter's calendar of events, neighborhood watch information and the puzzles and games for kids.

And what did the committee say about my wonderful neighborhood profiles? Not a word.

Thanks for nothing.

In all seriousness, newsletter editor Lisa Schmeling and everyone else who contributes deserve a big shout out. It's a nice place to live.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hoopersptimes.com.

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