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Weathering the storm

RAIN WAS A PAIN, but why complain? A smaller turnout for the Krewe of Sant' Yago's Illuminated Knight Parade on Saturday just meant more beads for those who showed up. And no waiting for a drink at the Columbia Restaurant, party central for knights, pirates and a slew of krewes seeking shelter from the storm.

Among the partiers: Ronan Tynan, formerly one of the Three Irish Tenors, who ended the soggy ride with dinner at the Columbia as a guest of Jenny and Steve Swindal. Now Tynan can add long-haired pirate to his amazing resume, which includes winning 18 gold medals and 14 world records competing as a double amputee in the Paraolympics, earning a medical degree and specializing in orthopedic sports injuries and frequently singing at New York Yankees games.

MAKING FRIENDS: Beer and beads sounds so trivial after meeting a group of African journalists traveling to Tampa with the Visiting International Professionals Program. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Susan Sexton hosted a Sunday afternoon reception for the group and their interpreters at her Harbour Island condominium. The journalists are spending three weeks in the United States visiting Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Antonio and Tampa, said Mary Ellen Upton, executive director of VIPP, who organizes the visits for the U.S. state department.

Benoudjita Nadjilzimo, called Nadji, publisher of Notre Temps in Chad, spent two months in jail for writing critically about the mother-in-law of the head of state. He said he was "most impressed with America's absolute freedom of press, which is absolutely not the case in Chad."

Other visitors included Lea Ratsiazo, publisher of Mada Journal in Madagascar and Christian Martial-Poos from Congo-Brazaville. Activist Saidou Arji exposed a health crisis in Niger caused by over fluoridation of the water system. Zakiatou Boubakari works for the Cameroon Tribune. Charlotte Cans lives in Paris where she writes for Jeune Afrique L'Intelligent, a weekly magazine circulated in French-speaking African nations.

Dimas Dzikodo from Togo risked his life to report opposing views as managing editor of the weekly newspaper Forum de la Semaine. In October, he survived poisoning "by a miracle" and lived to come to the United States with help from several human rights organizations.

FREEZE FRAME: Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival guest speaker Dan Katzir has shown his movies at hundreds of film festivals but never on a jumbo scoreboard in a hockey arena. The Feb. 8 gala opening at the St. Pete Times Forum was a high point (high above the ice) in the Israeli writer/director's career.

Some of the 400 shivering guests got a kick out of cinema on ice. Many others wondered why the buffet dinner and movie screening was called a gala and why they hadn't seen the small print on the invitation: cocktail attire - dress warmly. They huddled around TV screens in the 55-degree XO Club and tasted wines from the Cork & Olive. Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation director Nancy Crane offered blankets from the gift shop for $20.

Gary Gould, chief executive officer of Tampa/JCC Federation, and Bob Kokol, president-elect of the Federation and a Raymond James Trust vice president, asked Lightning president Ron Campbell to express their thanks to team owner Bill Davidson for his support.

"Best owner in all of sports," Campbell said.