World Renowned Ocean Conservationists Sail Into Palafox Pier
By: Kelly Woodard
The Sea Shepherd’s research vessel, Odyssey, is working hard to conserve our waters one study at a time. Now you can get on board and get up close and personal with the ship and her crew as they sail into Palafox Pier this Friday, June 20th through the 23rd.
Marine researchers Ocean Alliance is partnering with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a marine whale activist group / Animal Planet featured in “Whale Wars”, on a fifth Operation Toxic Gulf research project.
The project is studying the impacts of the BP oil spill and dispersants used to dilute the oil on Gulf of Mexico whales and other marine mammals.
For many, the 2010 Gulf disaster is merely a distant memory. For the wildlife and residents of the Gulf, the legacy lives on, more often than not in the abyss. Ocean ecosystems are so complex and intertwined that it can sometimes be hard to link events with consequences. However, common sense can give you a good start on that long journey.
When an oil well explosion releases more than 200 million gallons of oil and the slick it creates gets treated with an unprecedented 2-million-plus gallons of dispersants, reason should lead you to conclude that there will be significant consequences. Four years later, tar balls are still washing up on the Gulf’s beaches, and the dolphin pods known and beloved to the local residents and regular stream of tourists are dwindling.
Also declining are the number of whales in the area. There are more than 20 species of resident whales in the Gulf of Mexico and half a dozen that visit the Gulf. Among the visiting species is the blue whale, the largest animal this planet has ever produced.
The voyage of the research vessel Odyssey, a 93-foot, steel-hulled ketch, equipped with a state-of-the-art, cell-culture laboratory, is running June through August, collecting data on the environment as well as the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. With this data, the two organizations expect to have further proof of the extent of the disaster of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, considered the most significant manmade environmental disaster in the history of the United States.
The Sea Shepherd’s Odyssey will be in Pensacola stocking up on supplies before heading out for a two month expedition collecting biological samples from whales and ocean food chains to determine a baseline and routes of exposure to petroleum products, chemical dispersants and metals; developing cell lines to determine impact of oil, chemical dispersants, mixed dispersant and oil, and metals on whale DNA. The campaign will largely focus on Gulf sperm whales and be able to put them in global toxicological context with previous Odyssey expedition data.
The ship will be open to the public while docked at Palafox Pier from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd. Tours are free.
For more information, visit www.whale.org.
Perdido Key Gets “Tanked”
By: Kelly Woodard
Pirates are on the prowl as the cast and crew of Animal Planet's show ‘Tanked’ completed the installation of a 400-gallon pirate ship themed aquarium at the Chamber and visitors center in Perdido Key this week. The show's two stars, Wayde King and Brett Raymer, arrived on Thursday afternoon to begin installation of the aquarium, which was unveiled late Friday afternoon.
The 403-gallon aquarium boasts a giant pirate's ship, treasure chest, gold coins, and colorful reefs along with exotic species of fish and an ecosystem native to the Gulf of Mexico including lookdowns, damsels, wrasses, and everyone’s favorite, porcupine and dog face puffers. The tank even boast cannons that both light up and sound with cannon fire at the touch of a button.
Tina Morrison, director of the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, said “Perdido Key and on the Alabama side have seen hurricanes, ice storms and floods, so we need something here on the Florida-Alabama state line for people. We are basically trying to create a tourist attraction.”
Raymer said that although this isn’t their first time here on the gulf coast, it was their favorite. “Perdido Key is such a beautiful place, so we are honored that it now has a tank just as beautiful with our name on it.”
King agreed adding, “We were so excited for the reveal at the chamber because the tank is spectacular. We knew that Tina and everyone that came out to see it was going to love it. I think we’ve captured the essence of this beautiful beach town and its people.”
The aquarium is currently on display at the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center, located at 15500 Perdido Key Drive in Perdido Key. For more information, call 850-492-4660.
Jackson’s and the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra Do “Dinner With Strings Attached”
By: Kelly Woodard
Jackson’s Steakhouse is pairing up once again with the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra to bring an evening of elegant dining and culture to the table as they present “Dinner With Strings Attached”, next Thursday, June 26th.
In an effort to celebrate the PSO’s 89th season here in Pensacola, the night will be filled with performances by Nathan Mitchell on violin, Armine Hayrikyan on viola and Barbara Gabriel on cello. Musical selections for the evening will feature a variety of favorite classics, light pops, and tango selections. Guests are sure to delight in the range of musical styles.
The PSO’s goal for the season is to spread enthusiasm through free concerts, programs for families, and involvement in other community and cultural arts initiatives including this special performance at Jackson's! Don’t miss your chance to see them in an intimate setting while enjoying some of the best cuisine in the South.
Chef Miller will be whipping up a special feature for the evening, a 12-ounce Wagyu strip, grilled tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil, aged balsamic and black rice. In addition to Chef Miller’s one of a kind creation for the evening, Jackson’s full dinner menu will also be available throughout the night.
With just two seating’s for the evening, the first at 5:00 pm and the second at 7:30 pm, reservations are required and seating will be very limited. To book your tickets now, please call Jackson's Steakhouse at 850-469-9898.
Florida Passes ‘Charlotte’s Web’ Bill Allowing Limited Medical Marijuana Use
By: Kelly Woodard
Relief will soon be coming to ailing children in Florida thanks to Governor Rick Scott signing the ‘Charlotte’s Web’ bill on Monday. The bill will allow the limited use of a special strain of marijuana to treat epileptic seizures and other diseases.
Named for a Colorado girl whose epileptic seizures have shown some response to the drug, Charlotte's Web substance is not for smoking and is specially cultivated to be very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the element that gets users high.
Republican state Representative and supporter of the bill, Matt Gaetz, said, “Charlotte's Web is an oil extract placed under the tongue. Although it is made from marijuana, approving this bill is not a step toward marijuana legalization.”
Gov. Scott, who has be a strong advocate against the legalization of marijuana said of the decision to pass the bill, “As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer. I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.”
The "Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act" will severely limit marijuana sales, keeping them well below those in Colorado and Washington State, where recreational marijuana has been legalized.
Under the new Florida law, the drug may be used by people suffering from epilepsy, cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Florida is estimated to have 125,000 epilepsy sufferers, a fact that one local family knows all too well.
Gulf Breeze resident, RayAnn Moseley, suffers daily with seizures so severe, they have become paralyzing. RayAnn’s father, Peyton Moseley, said, “We have been praying for this for a long time. Seeing your daughter suffer every day, knowing there is something out there that can help, is devastating. We are so thankful that she will be able to receive the medicine she needs to give her some relief.”
Thanks to the new bill, doctors will be allowed to prescribe low-THC marijuana treatment for state residents beginning January 1, 2015. The bill also appropriates $1 million for medical research in medical uses of marijuana.
Scott's decision to sign the bill comes while a campaign is underway to pass a state constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana to anyone with a "debilitating medical condition," including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease or any condition in which a physician believes the drug would outweigh any potential health risks.
Although the Charlotte's Web measure is separate from the constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana on the ballot in November, it's still, of course, medical. It's even been backed by the biggest medical marijuana opponents, the Florida Sheriffs Association.
“We applaud Governor Scott's signing of this bill,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager at United for Care, via a release. “He is joining the ranks of the millions of Floridians who agree on one indisputable fact: marijuana is medicine.”
Moseley agreed, adding, “The facts are there, and this is long overdue. This bill is going to allow our children to live a more normal life. We are so thankful and hopeful for, not only our own daughter’s future, but for all those who suffer.”
The Army Pelican Is Set To Return To Its Perch In Downtown Pensacola
By: Kelly Woodard
You can’t keep a good pelican down, thanks to the new version of Pelicans in Progress in downtown Pensacola. The new statue will honor the U.S. Army and will be outfitted in black and gold when it makes its debut for Independence Day.
The new Pelican, which will nest on the corner of Palafox and Garden Street, will replace the previous fiberglass bird that was destroyed by a car accident a little over a year ago. In honor of the U.S. Army, the pelican will be hand painted by troops both past and present.
“Everyone who wears or has worn an Army uniform is welcome,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Stevens, an ROTC instructor at the University of West Florida and an organizer of the painting event, which will be held at 10 am on June 26th at 101 E. Romana Street.
The other four military branches have their pelicans at the Palafox-Garden intersection, and some Army veterans say they have missed having a representative.
“It’s the senior service that just celebrated its 239th birthday,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roger Rowe, a director of the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation. “The Army needs to have its pelican back.”
A dedication ceremony for the new pelican is scheduled to be held at 9 am on July 3rd at the Army Pelican’s roost located at the corner of Palafox and Garden Street.
‘Tanked’ cast to install amazing aquarium this week at Perdido Key Visitor Information Center
Action begins Thursday; reveal is Friday afterno0n
The cast and crew of “Tanked” this week will install an eye-catching, 403-gallon aquarium on Perdido Key to showcase fish and an ecosystem native to the Gulf of Mexico.
The aquarium will be a major feature at the Perdido Key Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 15500 Perdido Key Drive.
Look for it to be filled with all the elements of a buccaneer party, including a pirate’s ship, treasure chest, gold coins, and a few other surprises to pay homage to Perdido Key’s annual Pirate Festival, which will be held this year on Oct. 25-26.
The aquarium is the creation of Wayde King and Brett Raymer of Animal Planet’s hit show, “Tanked.” The bickering brothers-in-law host “Tanked,” which airs at 10 p.m. Fridays on Animal Planet.
The Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce is using a BP grant received after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to include an interactive component for school children and other visitors.
“We’re basically creating a new tourist attraction,” said the chamber’s executive director, Tina Morrison.
HERE IS THE SCHEDULE
Thursday, June 12th:
-Filming consult and interviews: 9:00am-1:30pm
-Installation of Tank - 2:00-6:30pm
-Cast & Crew Leave 6:30-7:00 pm
Friday, June 13th:
-12:00-1:30 - Filming treasure hunt on the beach
-1:30-2:00 - Lunch
-2:00-2:30 - Prepare for Reveal of final tank
-2:30 - Be in Pirate costume and prepare for short ride down Perdido Key Drive in Pirate Float.
-3:30 - 4:30 Arrive in Pirate Float and film Reveal of Tank
-5:00 pm - Cast leaves.
-5:00 - Midnight - Crew stays to shoot pictures of tank.
About PERDIDO KEY, FLA.
Located on a narrow strip of snow white beaches and crystal blue waters, Perdido Key is between Pensacola, Fla. and Orange Beach, Ala. No more than a few hundred yards wide in most places, Perdido Key stretches some 16 miles, with almost 60 percent located in parks open to the public. For more information visit: www.visitperdido.com.
As co-owners of Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), one of the country’s most successful builders of aquariums and two of Sin City’s most imaginative businessmen, Wayde King and Brett Raymer are tasked with building some of the most enormous and awe-inspiring tanks and aquariums for top celebrities, luxury hotels and casinos, Fortune 500 businesses, private homes and millionaire homeowners across the country. The tanks are filled with the most exotic, unusual, colorful and dangerous fish in the world. ATM takes on more than 200 projects every year with tanks ranging from 50 to 50,000 gallons in size.
The Grass On the Gulf Coast Turns “Blue” At the 2nd Annual White Sands Music Festival
By: Kelly Woodard
This week it’s all about the music as the Escambia County Equestrian Center, located at 7750 Mobile Hwy in Pensacola, presents the 2nd Annual White Sands Music Festival this Thursday, June 12th through Saturday, June 14th. This Bluegrass lover’s dream will feature 14 bands that will leave you stomping your feet.
This year’s featured act is the Trinity River Band, a full time national touring band that has steadily been winning fans and devotees with their high-energy performances, impeccable vocal harmonies and inspiring country-flavored, bluegrass music. Since their beginnings in 2008, they have progressed steadily toward the tight and professional sound they are known for today and are set for numerous high profile performances this year.
There is no better harmony than that of a family band, and the group’s harmony blend perfectly serves their musical style, which they term “Countrygrass”. The years spent honing their vocals are evidenced by their recorded and live performances.
The group includes the talents of Mike Harris (Guitar, Lead & Harmony Vocals); Lisa Harris (Bass, Harmony Vocals); Josh Harris (Banjo, Dobro, Harmony Vocals); Brianna Harris (Fiddle); and the mesmerizing lead singer and Mandolinist, Sarah Harris, who is a 2013 IBMA Momentum Award Nominee in the Vocal Performance category.
The Trinity River Band will have four performances during the festival, the first at 3:15 pm on Friday, then another at 9 pm. Then on Saturday, catch them in two shows, one at 2:30 pm and another at 6 pm.
Performers on the Thursday schedule include Delta Reign, Rowell Family Band, Alan Sibley, Down Home, and Southern Gentlemen.
On Friday, the performances continue with acts including High Cotton, Alan Sibley, Driskill Mountain, Valley Road Band, and the headliners, Trinity River Band.
On Saturday, the Bluegrass keeps on coming with performances by Gary Waldrep, TruGrass, Crossin’ Jordan, Sweetwater Road, and the Trinity River Band.
In addition to great music, the festival will feature amazing food and arts and crafts vendors. There will be a special kid’s area with face painting and fun activities for all the little Bluegrass lovers in your life.
Campsites are available and RV hookups will be on site. Prices will be as follows and include tax:
Water & Electric.................... $22.50
Golf carts will be permitted. To reserve a spot, call 850-932-3734.
Tickets are on sale now. Ticket prices are $15.00 on Thursday, $20.00 on Friday, and $25.00 on Saturday. 3 Day passes are available in advance for $50.00 or at the door for $55.00. Children under the age of 12 are free with a paid adult admission.
Or more information about the festival or to purchase advance tickets, visit www.whitesandsmusicfest.com, or call 850-932-3734.
Fins Shut Down Local Beaches Over the Weekend…But Is Safe To Go Back In the Water?
By: Kelly Woodard
A gathering of sharks just off the coast brought a bit of Hollywood legend to the beaches near the Perdido Pass last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, double red flags, warnings to would-be swimmers to stay out of the Gulf of Mexico, were raised over the half-mile stretch of beach where the number of sharks continued to grow.
A local news helicopter first spotted the group of predators in shallow waters popular with swimmers after a routine fly-by on Saturday. As many as 18 sharks were photographed schooling dangerously close to unsuspecting swimmers, and authorities were force to take action.
On Sunday, even more sharks had been drawn to the beach. Nearly 50 sharks were spotted in the same area, and safety officials were enforcing the “no entry” rule to swimmers, boaters, and jet skiers. Orange Beach safety director Melvin Shepard said, “While sharks are always here along our shores, we felt that the sheer number of them in this situation was dangerous.”
Shepard said that while this congregation of sharks may have been extreme, it isn’t uncommon for these predators to cruise our beaches. “They come close to shore in search of food. They have a tendency to be brought in closer by fishermen returning to port to clean their catch. The heads, tails, guts, bones are thrown into the water making it literally a chum bucket. If the sharks see a free meal, they're going to come get it.”
According to Orange Beach safety officials, the sharks began to move away from the beach Monday. Aerial reports later that evening confirmed substantial dissipation in the sharks' ranks.
It was not until early Tuesday afternoon that Orange Beach was given the all-clear. The ban on entering the water was lifted after officials aerially observed only a few sharks off the jetties at Perdido Pass.
All the excitement has locals wondering…..is this the summer of the shark?
Recently, reports of great white shark sightings in the gulf have been rolling in. Just this week, two fishermen spotted a great white shark four to five miles off the Jupiter Coast in south Florida, raising more questions about the great whites’ possible new behavior.
Grant Gilmore, a senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., said great white sightings in the gulf used to be rare, but at least three sightings in recent months shows it could be a new trend.
Katherine, a 14 foot 2300 pound great white, was tagged in Cape Cod and has since traveled around the Florida peninsula and into the warm gulf waters. With over 4,600 miles of travel under her belt since being tagged, Katherine is now headed towards Northwest Florida waters and researchers are watching her every move.
You can track Katherine and her whereabouts in real time by visiting www.ocearch.org/#sharktracker.
Media reports have been swirling around what researchers are calling a "mystery sea monster" that devoured a 9-foot-long great white shark. A tracking device that was implanted in the shark was found washed up on the beach, and upon further inspection it was determined that the tracker had experienced “a rapid increase in temperature and a swift 1,900-foot (580-meter) dive beneath the waves”.
Scientist say that the more than 30-degree spike in temperature to the shark entering another animal's digestive system, and the unexpected plunge could be explained by the larger animal's rapid descent. According to researcher’s reports, record breaking great white sharks have recently been spotted in the area where the tracker disappeared and are more than likely the culprits of the smaller shark’s fate.
Whether you fear sharks or not, one thing is for sure--they’re not going anywhere. Gilmore said, “These creatures have been here for millions of years. We have to understand that when we are stepping in the water, we are stepping into their territory. They don’t intentionally do humans harm, but we must learn to respect their space. It’s a chance we all take when we enjoy a day at the beach.”
Covenant Hospice Benefit Prove Once Again That ‘Life’s A Dance’
By: Kelly Woodard
This year’s Dancing with the Stars pairs may have had some steamy chemistry, but Pensacola’s own elite will bring their own heat to the stage at the 6th Annual Life’s A Dance benefit on Saturday, June 20th at 7:30 pm at the Saenger Theatre.
Fred Astaire Dance Studio owners Victor Luna and Dawn Westberry will present a star-studded evening of dance featuring local celebrities and cast members of ABC's hit television series Dancing with the Stars. Don't miss your chance to witness professionals Tony Dovolani, Val Chmerkovskiy, Karina Smirnoff, and more take to the stage and compete with you friends and neighbors.
Local celebrities including Amber Southard, WEAR-TV3 News Anchor; Anna Patti, lifelong Pensacola resident and owner of Anna’s Fine Wines; Brian Tucker, owner of Wade Scott Salon, Craig & Mollye Vigodsky, local attorney and brainpower at Studer Institute; Jessica Lee, General Manager & VP of Pensacola’s KIA Autosport, Dr. Jerry Mastaw, pain management Doctor at Medical Center Clinic; Susan Clark, owner of Pure Pilates; and Thom Newcomb, President of T.W. Newcomb & Associates franchise of Ameriprise Financial will dazzle you with a variety of dances from the tango to the two-step. As always, WEAR anchor Sue Staughn will be on hand to emcee the event.
Local celebrities will compete again this year for the “People’s Choice Award” contest for the dancer who raises the most money. Vote for your favorite dancer by visiting www.eventsatcovenant.org/lifesadance.
Be sure to enter the Life’s A Dance special drawing where the lucky winner will have his or her choice of either a men's or women's TAG Heuer watch valued at $2700, courtesy of Beré Jewelers. Tickets for this drawing are (suggested donation) $50 each. Only 200 tickets are available for this drawing! Purchase your tickets for the Grand Prize Drawing set online through the Covenant Hospice secure site or call 850-438-9714 to purchase by phone. The prize drawing will take place at the Life's a Dance cast after party on June 20th, 2014.
Tickets for the Life’s A Dance event are available in three price levels for $35, $50 and $75. Tickets may be purchased at the Pensacola Saenger Box Office at 850-595-3880 or online at ticketmaster.com.
A limited number of VIP tickets will be sold for $150. VIP ticket holders will be invited to an exclusive casting party that will take place in the Saenger's beautiful mezzanine and ballroom, where they will eat, drink and mingle with the stars.
Proceeds from this event support Covenant Hospices mission to add life to days when days no longer can be added to life.
For more information, contact Leah Harrison, senior development manager, at 850-208-7122 or via email at email@example.com. Visit the Life's a Dance web site at http://eventsatcovenant.org/lifesadance/index.html for up to the minute details.
The “Funniest” Fishing Tournament Around Benefits Special Ops Soldiers
By: Kelly Woodard
Bait a line and get in on the fun as the Flora-Bama Yacht Club and Marina presents the “funniest fishing tournament on the Gulf Coast”, the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 13th through 15th.
The inaugural tournament will be held at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club across the street from the world famous Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store. Described as the “every man’s” fishing tournament, the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo brings fishing fun to everyone of all skill levels. Categories will ranging from Cat Fish to Bill Fish and everything between.
The FBFR is a 3-day Captains Choice tournament with anglers competing for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in 30 categories including red snapper. At the conclusion of the tournament the FBFR will present top junior angler, top female angler and Master Angler awards along with cash prizes in Red Snapper, King Mackerel, Speckle Trout and Big Game jack pots. Big Game jack pots will include Tuna, Wahoo, Dauphin, Swordfish and Tag and Release Billfish.
There will be over a $130,000 in prizes in hand to give away including an 18' Sea Hunt Triton Center Console for the Master Angler courtesy of Legendary Marine, a 4 Night/3 Day Fishing Trip for 4 to Paradise Lodge to the Paradise Lodge Top Lady Angler, and a $2000 College Sponsorship to the Mississippi/Alabama Sea Grant Young Angler.
With over 30 categories of fish to chase, you can also win big for the Most Unusual Catch, the Largest Mullet, or the Biggest Lionfish. Weigh-in at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club across the street from Flora-Bama and larger boats at Orange Beach Marina.
Accompanying the tournament will be a three day Beach Party and Awards ceremony that will include daily weigh-ins with fish viewing area, live music, great food and hospitality presented to you as only the Flora-Bama can.
Rodeo Tickets are just $35.00 per angler, and Jackpot tickets are as follows:
Red Snapper Jackpot: $250.00 per boat
King Mackerel Jackpot: $250.00 per boat
Speckled Trout Jackpot: $150.00 per boat
Inshore Grand Slam (Flounder, Redfish, Speckled Trout): $50 per boat
All proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization that ensures full financial assistance to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty, and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded and hospitalized special operations personnel and their families.
Tickets are available now, and can be purchased at the Flora-Bama Gift Shop, Flora-Bama Marina, Flora-Bama, Flora-Bama Yacht Club, Orange Beach Marina, Shades (The Wharf, Orange Beach, & Malbis), Bluewater, J&M Tackle, Hot Spots (Gulf Breeze), Outcast, and Greer's (Dauphin Island).
For more information, rules, prize listings, and ticket locations visit www.florabamafishingrodeo.com.