Tag Archives: Florida

FL Ice Cream Festival

Did you know there was a Florida Ice Cream Festival? I didn’t until a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon it online. And then I promptly forgot about it.

But then yesterday, April 6, I made a trip to Sarasota and as I was driving past Lakeland on I-4, noticed a billboard for it. My trip to Sarasota was a long drive, but I wasn’t there very long either. So as I approached Lakeland I decided to check out the festival.

This was apparently the “first annual” FL Ice Cream Festival. They did some things well, and they did some things poorly. Hopefully, they learned from this year and can make some changes to improve it next year.

Joker Marchant StadiumThe festival was held at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers play spring training. I’d never been there before. It’s a nice stadium. The Festival was mostly in a grassy field outside of the stadium, though there was a stage behind homeplate that allowed guests to sit in the stands and watch live bands, the ice cream eating contest, and other things. There was a second stage out in the field, too.

Since I’d never been to the Stadium, I wasn’t quite sure where to go, and followed other cars that looked like they knew where there were going (zen navigation). It worked out okay for me. I ended up parking one street over at a public park, and not in the Stadium lot, which looked full anyway.

Ticket and ProgramAs I walked toward the Stadium, there was a huge line in front of it. But everyone there had tickets, so I headed for the box offices. These lines were short, especially if paying cash. And here’s one of the best things about the festival – admission was only $3. After I got my ticket, I had to join the really long line. Apparently everyone arrived at the park at the same time I did. Even though the line was long, it moved fast, and half way through, they opened an additional gate. The weird thing about the ticket – they didn’t tear them. And I’m pretty sure later I saw people reselling them in the parking lot. Scalping $3 tickets seems weird.

Once in the park, it was a bit of a madhouse. All the lines for ice cream were long. No one was taking cash – you had to purchase event money from one of the sponsors, not unlike fair tickets. They were $1 for 1, so it was simple. You just had to plan in advance. The sponsor seemed to be a bank, specifically for a charity they run. Not quite sure. The tickets could then be used for ice cream or food or entertainment. Prices seemed fair. Ice cream was $2 or $3. Food from $3 to $8.

ImageI only ended up visiting two booths. My first stop was Fred’s Southern Kitchen, which I think is local-famous. You see their billboards on I-4 around Lakeland. The line was long, but it was worth the wait. I had a good portion of pulled pork and french fries for $3, and an apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for another $3. The pulled pork was supposed to be a slider, but they had run out of buns. This seemed to be something common at the event – many of the booths had run out of flavors or ice cream all together. Next to Fred’s was a booth that didn’t have a line, though I’m not sure why. It was for The Cuppin Cake Truck from Tampa. Their cupcakes were $3 each, or 2 for $5. I tried their banana split cupcake, and it was delicious – a moist banana cupcake with a vanilla bean buttercream on top, with a drizzle of chocolate and a cherry on top. They had other ice cream-themed cupcakes, too, and they’d sold out of at least one flavor. I’m surprised there wasn’t a line. 

ImageThe entertainment was typical small town festival. There were bouncy houses for the kids, a pony ride, a little miniature golf course, etc. All of those required tickets. The police and fire departments had a significant presence, maybe mainly because they set up exhibits of their vehicles for the kids to check out, but they were patrolling, too, and the event felt extremely safe. There was free entertainment, too, like singers and bands. There was an ice cream making contest and a few ice cream eating contests. I think there was other stuff going on, but it was just too crowded to find out.

ImageI think the first annual Florida Ice Cream Festival was a success. It seems like the only thing they got wrong was underestimating the crowds that it would attract. I wonder if there are better ways to do it. Having been to the also-crowded Great American Pie Festival, I wonder if there are some ideas they could borrow. The pie festival has an all you can eat bracelet, and walking through the pie area, flows pretty smoothly. This may because there’s a linear flow to the setup of booths, too, but maybe because the pie slices are prepackaged it just makes it easier to grab and go, where Ice cream may need to be handscooped. Also, holding the festival on two days instead of one may split the crowds. I think next year, it will be worth checking out again.

Great American Pie Festival

Every year, Crisco hosts the Great American Pie Festival in Celebration, Florida. Pie baking contests that go on in conjunction with the festival have been shown on the Food Network. The main draw of the pie festival is the all-you-can-eat pie buffet. This weekend was the 8th annual Great American Pie Festival, and I took my son on Sunday. I really wanted to like the pie festival. All you can eat pie? Sold. But we were disappointed.

Tickets were $10 for adults and $5 for children or seniors. I’d say in general, that’s not a bad deal. But apparently, I just can’t eat that much pie.

Alexander contemplates his pie.

There was a pie eating contest going on later in the day that we didn’t stick around for. There is no way I could have participated. I think Alexander and I shared four pieces of pie. Alexander picked out the chocolate peanut butter pie, which he didn’t really like. He said it was too peanut buttery.

We also tried a “sugar pie” that they said was like creme brulee, but tasted like… nothing. It was gross. There was a lemon curd pie that tasted good, but not great. The best was a white chocolate raspberry cream pie. I wish everything tasted that good. There was a lot of variety in the pie buffet, but nothing that just said “you have to try me.” Everything seemed pretty standard. Apple, cherry, lemon meringue… You’ve seen it all before. And of all those, you’d hope it was the best pie you’ve every tasted, and I don’t think an all you can eat pie buffet is really going to showcase the best pie ever.

There were 12 booths within the buffet area, including a tent where they just handed out Publix bottled water. That was my favorite booth. It was in the upper 80s. There were a couple of demonstration booths, mostly from sponsors, and then a main stage. When I was there, they were telling people how to make a great pie crust… using the sponsor Crisco, of course.

The kids area activities were an extra cost, but benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank. They let kids roll out dough for pie crusts. There was a “Piecasso” station for them to make art in pie shells. Stuff like that. Best was the photo op with the Pillsbury Doughboy. Even though Alexander wouldn’t poke him in the tummy.

I think some of our disappointment was just a lack of excitement in the festival – it was lacking energy. There was some live music but they weren’t playing when we got there. I think if you could vote for best pie, maybe with tokens in a box or something, that would have added a level of excitement. As it was, it was just kind of impersonal. Part of it could have been the heat, too. It was in the upper 80s. On Saturday, there was also an exotic car show going on. I think that may have helped with the energy, and given another option – and a break from pie.

Did you know that Joey Fatone from N’Sync owns the original KITT from Knight Rider? He left his car there even though there were no other cars from the show.

Alexander liked this speeder from Star Wars. I wonder… does Joey own this, too? There wasn’t a sign for it.

Save the Libraries!

This morning on the way into work, I was listening to the news on NPR, and they were talking about the inauguration of Rick Scott, Florida’s new governor. They said one of his first acts may be to eliminate the budgets for public libraries in Florida.

This sounded crazy to me, so I looked it up.

And it’s true!

You can find Scott’s Economic Development Transition Team’s proposals here: http://scotttransition.com/Economic_Development.pdf

Check out page 17 of that document and notice that it is labeled “Potential Cost Reductions:

Evaluate Cultural/Historical/Library Grants

I think looking into the grants and evaluating the role of a library in modern Florida is a great thing. But to do that evaluation as a cost reduction methodology is very wrong.

There Florida Library Association has a good rebuttal to the proposal at http://flalib.org, focused on the value of libraries.

Libraries support modern Florida every day:

 helping job seekers

 assisting Floridians with e-government business

 strengthening businesses

 providing resources to students

 encouraging early learning by helping very young children learn to read and helping parents as their child’s first teacher.

This is a good article from the Palm Beach Post.

Librarians contend that library use has skyrocketed since Florida’s economy hit the skids more than two years ago. Patrons are using library computers to search for jobs and apply for benefits because so many government services are accessible online, said Florida Library Association executive director Faye Roberts.

A recent report found that every dollar spent on libraries returns $8.32 to communities, Roberts said. She said evaluating libraries would be a good thing.

This year, I visited the Orange County Public Library many times and read dozens of books. My son used their computer. We checked out films. We did research. We found projects.

And libraries aren’t just about the materials within! The library can serve as a community center. At the library you will find book clubs, computer classes, art exhibits, music programs, storytelling, citizenship classes.

Public libraries are vital parts of the community and the culture.

I hope Rick Scott evaluates the role of libraries in modern Florida and sees their importance and continues to support them, and even finds a way to increase their budgets.


Renting in Neverland

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!”

I moved to Orlando full-time in December of 1996. I rented a small 1 bedroom apartment for about $500 a month, which was good, because I was only making $6.10 an hour.

This was the first apartment I rented in Neverland.

“There is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies.”

I moved to Florida after college, not knowing what I was going to do with my life, stuck between childhood and adulthood, surrounded by pirates and mermaids. I rented apartment after apartment, looking for good deals in convenient places.

Orlando is a neverland, as I’m sure many other places in the world are. People are constantly going, moving, flying, never settling, never landing.

I stumbled into a career – one could question how grown up of a career it is.

“I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”

Eventually, I began to grow up, little by little, breaking out of the egg, and not stopping there. I got married. I had my own child. I got divorced.

But I continued renting in Neverland. My roots remained shallow. The cost of renting went up. The last apartment was a two bedroom for $912. And that was a good deal.

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if only you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

And now, feeling very grown-up, I am looking at houses. And like the house built for Wendy, they are houses made of roots. Family is here. Career is here. Friends are here.

It’s a crazy process. I still feel very much the child, though, grown up at the same time. Hopefully, I won’t have to sacrifice everything for this.

But it feels good to be buying in Neverland, and growing roots in Neverland.

I still will never grow up. Not me!

All quotes by JM Barrie (Peter Pan)

Meet Pencil Boy

Meet Pencil Boy.

He wants to teach you about pencils.

[pen-suhl] noun, verb, -ciled, -cil·ingor ( especially British  -cilled, -cil·ling.
1. a slender tube of wood, metal, plastic, etc., containing
a core or strip of graphite, a solid coloring material,or
the like, used for writing or drawing.

  • Did you know that even though the center of the pencil is called lead, pencils have never contained the element lead?
  • The graphite core of pencils is not poisonous, and is harmless if swallowed.
  • The first American wood pencils were made in 1812, but erasers weren’t attached until 1858. I guess we didn’t make as many mistakes back then.
  • The metal band that holds the eraser on is called a ferrule.

Famous Pencil Pushers

From Reader’s Digest:

  • Henry David Thoreau was the son of a pencil maker.
  • Thomas Edison The inventor had his pencils specially made by Eagle Pencil to be three inches long (6.6 centimetres), fatter than ordinary pencils and filled with very soft lead.
  • Vladimir Nabokov The Russian writer famously stated: “I have rewritten – often several times – every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasures.”
  • John Steinbeck The author wrote obsessively in pencil, sometimes going through 60 in one day. It is said that he used 300 pencils to complete his novel, East of Eden.
  • Vincent van Gogh The Dutch artist is reported to have preferred a Faber-Castell pencil for his large studies. He claimed, “they are of ideal thickness; very soft and in quality superior to carpenter’s pencils, a capital black and most agreeable …”

Herman Miller suggests the best pencils to use, including some that smell like root beer and watermelon: http://www.hermanmiller.com/lifework/pencils/

Forbes.com recognizes the pencil as number 4 in their list of most important tools.

More than 2 1/2 billion pencils are sold each year in the United States alone—about 11 pencils for each person in the country!

For a tool that has been so important to so many people for so many years, can you believe that not everyone has access to pencils?

In Florida, about 50% of kids qualify for the Free or Reduced School Lunch Program. You can look at statistics here: http://www.fldoe.org/eias/eiaspubs/pdf/frplunch.pdf

In Orange County for the 2008-2009 school year, the percentage was 48.55%. In Osceola County, it was 65.11%!!

If these kids can’t afford lunch, how will they afford pencils and other school supplies?!

That’s where Pencil Boy comes in!

Pencil Boy is the mascot for A Gift For Teaching, an organization that distributes school supplies, including pencils, to teachers and students in need! They operate a Free Store for Teachers where the teachers can come in and shop without spending any money and get supplies for their students and classrooms. Through their excellent staff and kind donations and volunteers, they are able to take a $10 donation and stretch it into $100 worth of school supplies. That’s a LOT of pencils!

Please visit their website and find out more about them!

We’ve learned a lot about pencils today! But now I have some homework for you!

Please visit my fundraising site and consider donating even a small amount to A Gift for Teaching. Every little bit counts! Skip today’s Starbucks run, and give that $5 to them so kids can have pencils and erasers, glue, paper, scissors, etc.

It only takes about $7 to fill a backpack with supplies for kids. Could you give $7 to fill a backpack?

Thank you so much for donating! Pencil Boy thanks you, too!