Spring Gets Spicy At the 30th Annual Pensacola Crawfish Festival
By: Kelly Woodard
Bugs are invading downtown Pensacola! Mud bugs, that is. Show your love for these spicy little critters at the 30th Annual Pensacola Crawfish Festival, next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday May 2nd through May 4th in downtown Pensacola’s beautiful Bartram Park.
One of the state’s largest crawfish boils, this favorite festival brings a little of the Louisiana bayou right here to Pensacola Bay. There will be a wide range of Cajun fare such as crawfish poboys, crawfish pies, and of course, 16,000 pounds of boiled crawfish, as well as other traditional fare like hot dogs and hamburgers.
Along with great food, festival patrons will enjoy a variety of foot-stomping music straight from the Louisiana Bayous. Kicking off the live entertainment on Friday, May 2nd at 3 pm is The Upstarts, followed by The Redfield, and Wayne Toups at 8:30 pm.
On Saturday, May 3rd, the music gets started early with Hazy Ray at 11 am followed by the AJ Ghent Band at 1 pm. Later at 3:30 pm, Chubby Carrier takes to the stage followed by Roddie Romero & the Hub City All Stars at 5:30 pm, and Super Funk Fantasy at 8:30 pm.
Rounding out the music lineup on Sunday, May 4th is Gravy at 11 am, Rollin’ In the Hay at 12:30 pm, and Cowboy Mouth at 3 pm.
Get ready for the 9th Annual Cat Country 98.7 Crawfish Eating Contest. Choose from the kids, adults, and CrawDADDY divisions. Entry Fees: Kids - free, Adult - $5 and CrawDADDY - $10. Registration begins 30 minutes before the competition starts. Bring your cheering section and enter for your chance to win prizes from Cat Country 98.7.
Don’t leave the little ones at home! Saturday and Sunday, there will be plenty for the kiddos to do in the family area. Tons of crafts, games, face painting and the famous "NASCRAW" crawfish races.
Daily admission to the 2014 Pensacola Crawfish Festival is $5 for adults, with free admission to children 12 and under. A weekend pass for Friday, Saturday and Sunday is available for $10. Pop in for lunch on Friday and get in FREE before 3 pm. All active duty military with valid id will receive free admission all day on Friday, May 2nd.
Handicapped parking will be available Friday through Sunday, across the street from Bartram Park at Fountain Park. Additional handicapped parking for Saturday and Sunday will be available behind the Florida Public Archeology Network Building on Barracks Street.
The Fiesta 5K and 10K Run/Walk is sponsored by the Pensacola Runners Association and will be held Saturday, May 3rd at 7:30 am. The 10K participants will begin at Pensacola State College, while the 5K runners will start from Scott Street and 12th Avenue. Both races will finish at Seville Square. Those who run in the race will receive free admission to the Pensacola Crawfish Festival on (Saturday) that day. Come Eat, Run & Relax with some Cajun flair! For more information, please visit www.pensacolarunners.com.
For more festival information, call 850-433-6512.
Mayor Hayward In Hot Water Again Over Using Tax Dollars For TV Show
By: Kelly Woodard
Controversy swirls around Pensacola’s Mayor Ashton Hayward once again this week as it was announced that he will be spending more than $23,000 of taxpayer money on a television show starring himself.
The weekly show, which is scheduled to air on Sundays for nine weeks on BLAB TV this summer, is said to promise viewers a look inside city operations with Hayward as their host. The show is scheduled to end just two weeks before the Aug. 14 primary election, a coincidence that Hayward’s opponents find a little too convenient.
Mayoral candidate Donna Clark said of Hayward’s decision to produce the show, “Hayward hasn’t chosen to institute such a program in his prior three years in office. Why now? He is using taxpayer money to benefit himself, and it's just wrong.” Tamara Fountain, the mayor's press secretary, fired back saying, “The timing of the show was intentional, but innocent.”
Pensacola City Councilman and fellow Mayoral candidate Charles Bare voiced his concerns on Monday saying, “The show will come from Mayor Hayward’s point of view. I highly doubt that the show will be unbiased in the presentation of the city’s needs. I'm not even considering this a campaign issue. It’s an agenda issue.” Bare went on to say that he intends to revisit the matter at Thursday's regular city council meeting.
Although Hayward’s opponents have been vocal about their opinions, local residents are still divided on the issue.
Jackie Sweetley of Pensacola said, “I think it will be interesting to see inside our local government. I personally have no idea what the Mayor of our city does, and it will be nice to know what is going on in our town beyond festivals and events.”
But Pensacola resident Pam Berindeaux disapproves, saying, “I think it’s sad that anyone would support this show. If people want to know what is going on in their city, they need to do their homework. Don’t be so dumb as to trust one person’s view on our issues.” She went on to say, “If he wants to produce a show, that’s fine. Just don’t do it with our tax dollars. What a waste!”
City Councilman Bare noted that for just $7,000 more than Hayward is spending in tax dollars on his television show, a new police officer could be hired and put to work on the street, a fact that Bare says is important due to, “Pensacola’s recent bad publicity regarding small town crime statistics”.
No official word has been given on the time slot in which Mayor Hayward’s show will air, but Bare and Clark suggest that “residents educate themselves” on the issues before watching and making any decisions regarding their city.
Local Cousins Go Viral With Possible World Record Mako Catch
By: Kelly Woodard
Milton cousins Earnie and Joey Polk set out for a promising night of fishing on local beaches last week, but never expected to become viral sensations when they hooked into an 805 pound mako shark that is suspected to be a new world record.
The two had intended to keep the potentially controversial catch under wraps, but when they stopped for gas with the massive fish strapped to the bed of their truck it’s no shock that they drew some attention. Passerby West Calhoun snapped a photo which set social media ablaze and was soon picked up by a local paper. Within hours, word of the Polk’s catch had gone viral.
The Polk’s say that the mako that weighed 805 pounds and measured 11 feet long was caught after they used a kayak to drop bait about 300 yards from shore. Once the monster was hooked, it took over an hour to haul the giant predator onto the sand. But not everyone thinks the shark should have been killed.
Pensacola Beach resident, Farrah Johnson said, “These creatures are such an important part of our ecosystem. Taking them out of our waters can potentially throw things off balance.” Gulf Breeze resident, Jeremy Hillson agreed saying, “Although I’m glad that this shark won’t be prowling where I’m swimming anymore, it’s a shame that these guys didn’t release it. It didn’t have to die.”
The Polk’s say that in the past two years, they have worked closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to tag almost all of their 300 catches for release. “Out of those catches, we have released all but about 20, including this guy,” Earnie Polk said. “That’s probably the best fish we ever caught.”
That’s really saying something for this duo. Earnie Polk already holds the current world record for a mako with the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association. He and Joey worked together to take that 684-pound female shortfin in 2009 on Navarre Beach. Overall the pair holds a combined three world records from ILSFA.
The two went on to say that the decided against releasing the fish due to its fatigued condition once on the shore. “It wasn’t doing too well by the time we reeled him in, and we made the decision to take it rather than let it die a slow death,” Earnie Polk said. Joey Polk added, “We generally only keep what won’t swim off.”
The Polk’s say that they won’t be wasting any of the fish either. “We plan on giving about 600 pounds of it away to our family and friends.” Whatever is left will go to local consumers. “It's a $10-per-pound fish at the fish market. It will sell right along with tuna and swordfish. Between all of us, there won't be a bit wasted,” Joey Polk said. “We respect these animals, and hope people understand that we take their lives very seriously.”
For now, the cousins are basking in their unintentional fame saying, “We never intended on being approached by the national media, but it does feel good to be recognized as great anglers.”
Nature Lovers “Paddle Up” For An Amazing Journey Along the Gulf Coast Shores
By: Kelly Woodard
Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown wants you to “paddle up” and join him on the End to End Seashore Paddle, a series of eight paddles along the shores of the Emerald Coast, April 19th to April 26th, weather permitting.
The program, which Brown says is designed to educate visitors and locals alike about our shores and it’s delicate ecosystem, will host park rangers as guides to point out local wildlife and answer any questions fellow nature seekers may have along the way. Brown said, “We have so many amazing things to see here along our coastline from Osprey to dolphins to sea turtles. You name it, we’ll probably catch a glimpse of it. This is a great way to get active in our own backyard.”
The paddles begin at 9 am at the canoe launch area near Rosamond Johnson Beach on Perdido Key and concludes at the East Pass access on Okaloosa Island, (south of the Destin bridge). The paddle is segmented into eight consecutive days with varying degrees of length and difficulty. Participants may paddle the entire 58 mile length of the seashore or choose any number of the individual segments.
Participants should provide their own kayak or canoe, life jacket, paddle, drinking water, and lunch. A limited number of kayaks are available free of charge by reservation on a first come first severed basis. Please call Susan Teel at 850-934-2618 or Steamer Lawhead at 850-934-2629 for more details. Participants will also need to provide their own transportation for each leg of the paddle.
Each leg of the paddle is about three hours long, and camping is also available at the Fort Pickens Area of the Seashore. All sites are $26 per night with water and electricity hook-ups, grills/fire rings and picnic tables.
Superintendent Brown encourages visitors and residents to explore and enjoy the beautiful beaches, museums, programs, historic forts and recreational opportunities within the National Seashore, and added, “With so many things to see and do, this event is sure to give people the thrill of a lifetime.”
For a full description of the facilities and programs currently available, visit the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/guis or contact the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center at (850) 934-2600.
Bubba Watson May Have Two Green Jackets, But He’s Still A Down To Earth Guy
By: Kelly Woodard
Pensacola’s hometown PGA hero, Bubba Watson, went home once again with the coveted green jacket last Sunday at the 2014 Masters in Augusta, Ga. Watson dominated the rest of the field through the week, especially in Sunday's final round where he broke a tie game just before Turn Four on No. 9, then cruised to an easy win by three strokes. For Watson, a fan favorite, a University of Georgia product and a gulf coast native, that makes two jackets in just three years. Not too shabby.
Watson says his success is still unbelievable even to him. “To win one green jacket is a dream come true. To win two is icing on the cake. I never thought I’d get this far…I’m just trying to keep my Tour card every year, and I’m lucky enough to have won two green jackets. I play the game not to be called a great player. I love it and want to grow the game,” he said.
Although Watson has remained humble, his success is no fluke. He trains hard. He plays hard. He takes risks. Although he may have had a 3-shot lead on 15 in the final round on Sunday, Watson chose to hit an iron between pines, over the pond and over the green’s backside, proving that when the pressure is on, so too is Watson’s ability to deliver.
Jordan Spieth, PGA’s Rookie of the Year in 2012, chased Watson all weekend for the coveted title but says Watson is a forced to be reckoned with. “When he’s driving the ball well, he’s tough to beat. Every time I’d hit a decent shot, here comes Bubba with a better one. He answered back every time.”
Watson’s recent win seemed to be a bit less dramatic than his first win in 2012 where in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen, he pulled off a ridiculous shot; a slinging hook off pine straw under the most intense pressure. Despite the crowd pleasing antics he was able to deliver in 2012, Watson said, “Playing this way was a lot better…a lot easier.”
One thing that didn’t change from his 2012 Masters win was his emotionally charged reaction that makes him one of the most loveable characters in golf. As he sunk his final put to clinch the title, Watson embraced his wife Angie and their now three year old son Caleb as the tears began flowing down his face.
“Back in 2012, we adopted Caleb just a week before the Masters, and I thought about pulling out of the tournament because I wanted so badly to be with my new family. My wife encouraged me to play, and I never imagined that I would win,” Watson said. “This time around, things felt more stable and grounded. I was able to focus on my game. At the end of the day, win or lose, I owe everything to Angie and Caleb.”
Watson’s good friend and fellow PGA teammate Rickie Fowler said, “Being a dad has really brought out the best in Bubba. He was already a great guy, but now we can see how he has matured in both his family life and his game. He’s gone from being like 12-and-a-half years old to 14 mentally. He’s just a kid at heart.”
As he left the 18th green crying tears of joy, he did so with Caleb in his arms, high-fiving the fans on the way by. Watson said shortly after slipping on his green jacket and once again picking up his son, “Winning the Masters is a dream come true. To have two of these jackets is overwhelming, but it’s not what makes me great. This little guy is.”
After the excitement settled down, Watson, green jacket and all, headed out for a post win meal at the local Augusta Waffle House. Even though he may have made $1.62 million from his victory, Watson is still a down home boy at heart tweeting a late night pic that read, “Champ dinner @WaffleHouse! #hashbrowns #covered”.
Pat Warner, Waffle House's vice president of culture, told ESPN.com, “It's a testament to Bubba's character that even though he has two green jackets, he still comes to us for his grilled cheese and hash browns.”
Bubba’s down to earth personality and sincere tears are quickly becoming, like the Masters itself, a tradition like none other.