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On final day of rest, Tampa residents brace for RNC, Isaac

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:11 AM

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Eating grapes out of plastic container, Rene Chapados sat on a bench in the playground at Al Lopez Park on Saturday, watching her two children scamper up and down the slide.

For Chapados, a pediatric intensive care doctor, hanging out in the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon with her children and dachshund Ruby was a respite from the tumult of her neighborhood on Davis Islands, about six miles to the south.

"We are seeing limos already," she said, alluding to the increased traffic, thanks to the Republican National Convention.

Around the Tampa area, as delegates, reporters and protesters stream in, life goes on for those who live here.

Ron McGraw, who runs a shop on Gunn Highway, said he can't wait for the convention to end.

"Then I can watch my TV shows again," he said.

Instead of mixing it up with the visiting dignitaries, McGraw, 43, said he will be scouring storage units for bargains.

Wheeling a cartload of water bottles out of the Home Depot at 1712 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Roger Labart, 62, of Odessa was more worried about Tropical Storm Isaac.

"I hope it goes well," he said. "It won't really affect me. I live too far away."

Sitting beneath the canopy of his hotdog stand on Ben T. Davis Beach, Bob Eledge said he already is feeling the effects of the RNC.

His wife, Katie Eledge, has two hotdog carts, one in Curtis Hixon Park downtown and one at the beach.

"We had to shut down the one in Curtis Hixon," he said. "It's like losing four weeks of pay for us."

For Chapados, the Davis Islands doctor, the convention is a mixed blessing.

"It will be really good for the economy," she said. "It will create some jobs."

The downside?

"We worry about security and the possibilities of protests and violence," said Chapados.

And then there are the two school buses stolen from Miles Elementary School Aug. 19.

"I am concerned about them," she said. "I have two young children."

Normally, Chapados said, her 5-year-old daughter, Sadie Pierce, rides a bus to school.

"But for the next week," her mother said, "I am driving her."

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