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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Holiday mayhem starts off with a bang

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The shooting in the Home Depot parking lot on North Dale Mabry on Wednesday reminded me that it’s probably already too late to do my Christmas shopping.

Details of the shooting were still a little fuzzy as of this writing, but the incident apparently included lots of spitting and people running to their cars to get their shootin’ irons in the battle over a parking space.

Yes, the holiday season is in full swing. The shopping networks are already doing “final holiday decoration’’ sales.

I see where “Black Friday,’’ the shopping frenzy that traditionally kicks off after midnight on Thanksgiving, has been moved up to where the retail stores will be opening Thanksgiving Day.

You wonder if all of this is eventually going to drive us back to our home computers and shopping online instead of going out into that mayhem. I hope not. I’ll miss seeing old Santa in the mall and that giddy adventure of trudging through the mall the night before Christmas looking for that perfect gift that you already know isn’t there.

Chili contest heats up

The debate will rage on regardless of which team wins the 24th annual Steve Otto Chili Contest Nov. 16 at “Smoke on the River’’ in downtown Tampa.

Last week at the Lutz Centennial, a team called Red Rock Chili won on a soggy day. Considering it was Lutz, the entries were pretty solid with only a few suspected roadkill teams included.

On Wednesday, the University of South Florida student veterans held their fourth annual chili contest. There are nearly 1,700 military veterans at USF, which offers a tremendous counseling and guidance program for them.

Joining me on the judges panel were USF men’s basketball coach Stan Heath, women’s coach Jose Fernandez and baseball coach Lelo Prado.

I was a little worried checking out some of the teams, which focused on veggie and other healthy ingredients. At least none had tofu that I could tell. Fortunately, the winning It Must Be Chilly squad had plenty of heat and no trace of anything good for you in its concoction.

I did get a list of some of the teams lined up for my contest, and there are several former winners, including the Krewe of Zingaro, K.A.T.N., The Chili Dawgs, Margarita Jack and the Chili Bandits, and Smokey Ayers, which I think has competed in every competition. A dark horse team might be Ulele’s Maiden Voyage, which I suspect comes from the new Columbia Restaurant going up in the newly restored Water Works Park at the end of the Riverwalk.

Sad superstars

Finally, earlier this week it was Mayor Bob Buckhorn who showed up at the Forum to announce the upcoming concert by Billy Joel in January.

For some reason he did not stick around for the announcement that “Global Superstar Miley Cyrus’’ would be appearing at the same venue in March.

It’s interesting what goes into becoming a “global superstar’’ these days and not just a little sad.

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