Post Tagged with: "festivals"


2009 Freedom Swim in Punta Gorda, (Photo courtesy Sun Herald)

2015 Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim: Cool 4th of July ‘happening’

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, June 29, 2015 – PUNTA GORDA — It started small and spontaneous. Twenty four years ago, Punta Gorda attorney Michael Haymans and some friends decided to celebrate the Fourth of July by swimming the 1.5 mile distance across the Peace River. They weren’t athletes in training; they had heard stories about how in the 1940s, swimming across the river was a rite of passage for teens. They had a good time, they told their friends, and […]

Photographers love the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. (Photo Snowmanradio via Wikipedia.)

St. Augustine Alligator Farm: Superb bird rookery at historic attraction

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to,June 24, 2015 – For years, I’ve seen stunning photographs of birds taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery. Meanwhile, my love of things Old Florida means I am always intrigued by surviving vintage roadside attractions. So when I visited St. Augustine this June, I needed to check out the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The historic marker out front confirmed the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is […]

St. Sebastian River (Photo by Kyle Gabriel)

Roughing it: St. Sebastian River Preserve

By Bob Rountree,, Special to, June 18, 2015 – There are no fancy entrance gates, nor is there a groomed campground within the preserve. To get there, you travel on unpaved roads that require deft handling. Other than a buffer road along the C-54 canal, which divides the park, motorized vehicles are prohibited. But you can hike here.  You can hike until you drop — on 60 miles of trails through 22,000 acres of wilderness, trails that are also open to mountain bikes […]

Chill at a Florida spring: This is Rock Spring Run at Kelly Park

Six cool outings for hot Florida weekend getaways

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, June 17, 2015 – It’s hot, but that doesn’t mean you have to seal yourself in air conditioning for the next five months. You can enjoy the natural and authentic Florida, even in the summer. Here are six weekend outings that are perfect for a hot, sunny summer weekend: 1. Bicycling. Try Jupiter Island. Why is it cool? The tree-shaded road on Jupiter Island gets ocean breezes. As long as you keep peddling, you stay […]

Avast ye lubbers! Pirate Festivals invade Florida

Avast ye lubbers! Pirate Festivals invade Florida

By Bob Rountree,, Special to, June 16, 2015 – Florida was strategically important for the protection of Spanish galleons that plied their way home with precious metals plundered from South America and the Caribbean. Heavily-laden vessels called the plate fleets sailed up the Gulf Stream through the straits that parallel Florida’s Keys, and pirates would prey on the fleets from their hidden sanctuaries in the Keys and along the Florida coast. Hurricanes created additional hazards, sometimes wrecking the ships on the […]

Flamingos have returned to a remote site in Palm Beach County for nine years. (Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District.)

Flamingos in Florida: Back for good? Birders can see them in spring

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, June 8, 2015 – For years, the only flamingos in Florida were at zoos, Hialeah Race Track or decorated people’s lawns. Today, however, the Audubon Society says flamingos are back, and maybe for good. Instead of random sightings, Audubon reports a flock of migrating flamingos has returned to the same spot in Florida for nine springs now. In 2014, 147 were counted. In 2015, there were eight. Still, says Mark Cook, lead scientist of Everglades […]

Best mango recipes: Mango BBQ sauce,  chutney, daiquiris, & bread

Best mango recipes: Mango BBQ sauce, chutney, daiquiris, & bread

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, June 1, 2015 – Dozens are heaped on my counters. My freezer is full of mango chutney and jars of mango jelly. I gave away 50 or 60 yesterday by handing a bag of mangoes to every member of my book club as they left. My book club menu included chicken breasts in a mango chutney sauce, a fruit salad starring mangoes, mango bread baked as muffins and ended with a new recipe I […]

The old general store in White Springs, a historic town next to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.

Stephen Foster State Park: Glorious river; great cabins, odd old museum

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, May 27, 2015 – We visited Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park so that we could kayak the Suwannee River and stay in the outstanding cabins in this park. Once in the park, however, we discovered a strange time-machine that took us back to the 1950s – the museum devoted to the composer Stephen Foster, who in 1851 wrote “Old Folks at Home (aka Swanee River)” without ever visiting Florida. It became Florida’s […]

Steep banks on Suwanee at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.

Suwanee River: Skip the song; but go for kayaking & camping

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, May 26, 2015 – If you think all there is to the Suwanee River is an old song with problematic lyrics, you’re missing out on one of Florida’s greatest kayaking, canoeing and camping rivers. While it’s a long drive from some parts of Florida, if you can spare a couple of days, the Suwanee will reward you with tranquility, beauty and a paddling trip that is different from rivers and streams elsewhere in Florida. […]

Islamorada Sunrise

Time right to head for the Keys

By Bob Rountree,, Special to, May 24, 2015- There is no better time of year for Floridians to visit the Keys than late Spring. Spring breakers and winter snowbirds have gone home or back to school. The weather is absolutely gorgeous, traffic on the Overseas Highway lightens up, rates go down, sometimes dramatically, and campsites suddenly become available, although savvy Floridians have already booked their camping reservations at the Keys’ four state parks. If you can get away for a […]

Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs

America’s best beaches: Four in Florida make annual list but not #1 — again

By Bonnie Gross,, Special to, May 22, 2015 – Four of Florida’s best beaches seem to have bridesmaid syndrome – they’re close, but never in the top spot. Every Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Beach, Florida International University professor Stephen Leatherman, dominates the Internet with his annual list of the 10 best beaches in the United States. For 2015, the No.1 beach is in Hawaii, as it often is. (The winner: Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu.) On the top 10 […]

Florida Folk Festival: May 22 – 24, 2015, way up on the Suwannee

Florida Folk Festival: May 22 – 24, 2015, way up on the Suwannee

By Bonnie Gross & Bob Rountree,, Special to, May 17, 2015 – WHITE SPRINGS — The Florida Folk Festival began with the music: It was 1953, and Pete Seeger and the Weavers had had a big hit recently with  Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Folk music was exploding with acoustic guitar, coffee houses, banjos, beatniks and sing-alongs. Sixty-some years later, the Florida Folk Festival is still held every Memorial Day weekend, and you’re sure to hear plenty of folk music.  But […]