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Ernest Hooper: Here, with love, is the annual list, 'You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until ...'

DIRK SHADD   |  Times  SP_342840_SHAD_WKJOHNSPASS_10 (08/25/11 MADEIRA BEACH) A view of the John's Pass Boardwalk at John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach. [Dirk Shadd, Times]
DIRK SHADD | Times SP_342840_SHAD_WKJOHNSPASS_10 (08/25/11 MADEIRA BEACH) A view of the John's Pass Boardwalk at John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach. [Dirk Shadd, Times]
Published Dec. 27, 2017

Every year we celebrate the grandeur of Tampa Bay with a mix of suggested experiences and witty observations.

The obvious — Cuban sandwiches, grouper delicacies, sunsets on the beach — are a given. Add these suggestions to the traditional staples of bay area living.

Remember: Don't just reside here, live here.

You haven't lived in Tampa Bay until you have ...

... heard the mayor of Tampa say, "Bring his head to me."

... seen the Seminole Heights community unite while enduring the threat of a serial killer.

... seen a legislator from Pasco County become one of the most powerful people in the state without ever getting more than 10,000 votes in a single election. C'mon Richard Corcoran, be a better leader.

... inhaled the pizza burger at Thee Burger Spot on N Tampa and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. When you see the firefighters and the police at a restaurant, you know you've found a hidden gem.

… wondered when people will stop saying, "Tampa Bay" is a body of water. Folks, it's the name of our region. We are one.

… had a seagull steal the ice cream right out of your hands while walking down the boardwalk at John's Pass.

… kiteboarded under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

… saluted South Tampa's Mott & Hester Deli for 35 years of business.

... watched a daring suitor with a mariachi band in tow stroll into a Mexican restaurant, like Miguelito's in Tampa, and propose to his girlfriend while singing in Spanish. Beautiful.

... spent so much time at The Bunker in Ybor City you inquire about bringing a cot.

... taken a ride up the Hillsborough River on a Pirate Water Taxi.

... witnessed a sinkhole swallow an entire Land O' Lakes neighborhood.

... seen retired mermaids return as "Legendary Sirens" at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

... rooted for Clearwater's downtown to replicate the success of other downtown districts in the region.

... enjoyed the blueberry goat cheese at Room 901 in St. Petersburg. (Note: blueberry goat cheese subject to availability).

... saluted our first responders for a job well-done during Hurricane Irma (not you, Duke Energy).

... looked around your community and wondered if there's any benefit to having area representatives at the top of leadership in Tallahassee.

... wondered what the CEO of Blue Pearl Veterinary Services is going to do with $60 million of property in Ybor City.

... been dazzled by the singing and dancing of Pasco County's Longleaf Elementary Freedom Review Show Choir.

... drove around downtown St. Petersburg or Tampa searching for a parking spot.

... been in the confessional at Coppertail Brewing's hip location in Ybor City.

... imbibed under the succulents at O Cocina Mexican restaurant in South Tampa.

... Listened to totally amazing, and completely terrible karaoke at the Beer Shed.

... gotten mad about the Bucs losing in October and even madder about them winning in December.

... said, "Please don't trade Evan Longor- ... dang."

... seen students stand up for their teachers as they fight for a promised pay raise from the Hillsborough School District.

... marveled over the Burgert Brothers incredible photo collection.

... snorted about the region's chances of landing Amazon's coveted HQ2 headquarters.

... asked how Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman could oppose a transportation referendum but support one for a Confederate monument?

... realized former HART CEO Katharine Eagan was asked to put together a public transit system with a paper clip, a gum wrapper and two copper pennies. Maybe the next CEO will be named MacGyver.

... celebrated Diane Williams and her heart-warming "Jesus Cares" sign-waving effort in Tampa.

... reveled over the cool vibe in downtown Dunedin.

... seen a mayoral candidate lose his bid because he wouldn't tell people how he feels about Donald Trump. Take note Tampa mayoral candidates.

... confessed to loving the Lightning even though you don't love hockey.

... concluded the area's roadways have turned you into a civil engineering expert, an urban planner and a master of defensive driving.

… been serenaded by drunken Christmas carolers from the Jolly Trolley on Indian Rocks Beach.

… worked up a sweat while decorating a palm tree with Christmas lights in 80-degree weather.

... attended Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay awards celebration.

... watched chefs battle in the Epicurean Hotel's kitchen theater.

... realized that if Tampa Bay's politicians put a football team together, their favorite play would be taking a knee.

... kayaked through mangrove tunnels at Weedon Island.

... seen a school of mullet thrash the water's surface as you promenade along Tampa's Riverwalk.

... watched as a former orange grove or strawberry field gets turned into a mega-housing development

... wondered how that mega-housing development is going to impact your daily commute.

... joined in a celebration with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. for its outgoing national president Paulette C. Walker. That girl is on fire.

... been enthralled by the musical stylings of saxophonist Marlon Boone at a Delta Sigma Theta gathering, or a Jazz Tyme Production concert, or in the Raymond James Stadium club lounge.

… come to understand that I do this column every year because I absolutely love Tampa Bay.


Emotional Support Squirrel? The weirdest Florida news stories of 2017

Look Ahead: New things to look forward to in Tampa Bay in 2018


  1. Pasco County's Fivay High School has added new security measures to keep the peace on campus. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
    A student made up a threat against the school on Tuesday. That led Pasco deputies to discover a teacher brought a gun to campus.
  2. Pinellas high school students march alongside Lynda Blackmon Lowery, center, during Tuesday's Unity Walk in Clearwater to commemorate the iconic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. “Use your power," Blackmon told the students. "Use your voice.” [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
    With chants of "mighty, mighty children” they summoned lessons from the civil rights era in search of inspiration for the future.
  3. Rep. Bobby DuBose says he hopes 2020 will be the year the Florida Legislature limits the use of restraint and seclusion on students with special needs who grow violent. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘I pray to God this year will be the year,’ sponsor Rep. Bobby DuBose says.
  4. Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden (left) and Public Defender for the 13th Judicial Circuit Julianne Holt received the Tampa Tiger Bay Club's fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday. [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Times]
    Public Defender Julianne Holt and Tax Collector Doug Belden were awarded the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa’s fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award Monday.
  5. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of what he believed to be a former African American cemetery next to the parking lot of FrankCrum Staffing, 100 S Missouri Ave. in Clearwater. Now, it appears the cemetery may have been on an adjacent lot where the building stands. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
    Archaeologists were scanning a vacant lot for bodies until an old city record pointed them to an adjacent property.
  6. Authorities say these six suspects are responsible for at least two dozen home burglaries in unincorporated Hillsborough and Pasco counties and the city of Tampa. Top row, from left: Arleys Bonet Mustelier; Alain Rodriguez Roig and Ernesto Hinojosa. Bottom row, from left: Yarisley Cuervo Reyes; Yuniel Hinojosa-Gallardo and Yasmani Hernandez Rodriguez. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    Investigators said they served a search warrant at one of the suspect’s homes and it was like a jewelry store in stolen stuff.
  7. The U.S. Geological Survey says a powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica on Tuesday. [Google] [Foto: Cortesía]
    Witnesses reported strong shaking but there was no immediate word of casualties or heavy damage.
  8. Kayakers enjoy a morning paddle down the Weeki Wachee Springs River at Weeki Wachee State Park. [Michele Miller]
  9. Chris Murray with the Downtowner ride service drops off a passenger in the Channelside area. The popular free service is now in jeopardy. [Times (2017)]
    Money for the service runs out March 31. Members of the Hillsborough transit agency board are reluctant to pay for it.
  10. The statue of John Harvard sits in Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged Charles Lieber, chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology, with lying to officials about his involvement with a recruitment program run by the Chinese government. Prosecutors said he received tens of thousands of dollars through the program. [CHARLES KRUPA  |  Associated Press]
    Charles Lieber was arrested in his campus office Tuesday, accused of lying about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents program.