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Tampa in 24: The best of the Bay area on a typical day

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:55 AM

Please don't say it.

Don't say there isn't anything to do around here this time of year.

Because we know better. And so should you.

Whether you're a morning person or a night owl, a cultural wanna-be or an artsy always-have-been, an I-have-to-be-outdoors fishing freak or a keep-me-in-the-air-conditioning movie geek, there's a way for you to get your fix.

To prove the late-spring slow-down doesn't have to keep you from getting out on the town, we picked a random Friday – May 4 – and spread out around the Tampa area for a quick refresher on all the things there are to enjoy … every day.

We found plenty – from concerts to a cook-off to a people-watching stroll through Ybor City and a streetcar ride to Channelside.

It was our pleasure.

A long night for heroes at AMC Veterans theater

He became a fan of superheroes when he was 8. Fourteen years later, Blake West is among the first in line for a midnight screening of "Marvel's The Avengers," the blockbuster film that also happens to be the culmination of every comic book fanatic's dreams.

"I've been waiting for this movie since I was 8," says West, now 22. "I read the books and always thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be cool if all these characters came together for one movie?'"

West is wearing a hooded, zippered sweatshirt that resembles the costume of his favorite hero, Captain America. He pulls the hood on and it fits over his face like a mask.

Around him, dozens of moviegoers are dressed as the other heroes in the film: a 12-year-old girl swings a replica of Thor's hammer; several young women donned skin-tight leather outfits to impersonate superspy Black Widow; and a gaggle of children wearing Iron Man masks run around the lobby of the AMC Veterans theater in Tampa pretending they can fly.

Even West's girlfriend, who isn't a fan of superheroes at all, joined in on the fun. She's wearing West's Captain America cap and matching belt buckle and says she fully supports her boyfriend's enthusiasm for the comic book character.

"I came to terms with this a long time ago," says Megan Claflin, 21. "It's out of love."

Ray Reyes

A peaceful morning on the Ballast Point Park Pier

As the dark of night turns into the grandeur of another gorgeous sunrise, there is nowhere Leroy Carnegie would rather be.

He's at Ballast Point Park Pier in Tampa, with a handful of fishing lines in the water, trying to land himself a shark.

As seagulls dance above the water and pelicans plunge in looking for their morning breakfast, the 71-year-old former truck driver glances at the mixture of pink, orange and purple splashed on the canvas that is the eastern sky.

It's a few minutes before 7 – when many people are still in bed or busy getting ready for work.

"That is a beautiful sunrise over there," Carnegie says. "It's so nice and peaceful and quiet out here."

The peacefulness is broken temporarily when a bird gets tangled in a fishing line. Carnegie has to throw a rag over the bird's head and wrestle with it to unwrap the line.

He'd rather catch a blacktip shark than a bird any day.

"They make you feel like you are on top of the world," the North Carolina native said of being able to pull a shark to the pier. "They are good to eat. I'd rather eat them than any other type of seafood."

Shark or no shark, Carnegie says you can't beat a day that starts out on the water.

"A rod and a reel and the water, you won't find nothing better," he says. "I love to fish."

Rob Shaw

Surrounded by students at the Tampa Museum of Art

Of course there are kids everywhere.

You can't go to a museum on a weekday and expect not to find at least one school group. Or 10.

On this midday Friday, classes from Dale Mabry Elementary are at the Tampa Museum of Art to see the amazing Romare Bearden exhibition.

Is there a moment of sighing disappointment upon spotting hundreds of small children in matching aqua T-shirts inside and outside the museum? Sure there is.

The idea, after all, is that you're going to stand quietly in front of an interesting piece and let the art and artist speak to you. You might even exchange a bon mot with a sophisticated stranger who just happens to look like a young Pierce Brosnan. The way it always happens in the movies.

Or, more realistically, you hope you still can remember one or two nuggets of knowledge from that art history class you took in college. Twenty-five years ago. When you, and Pierce Brosnan, were a little more sharply drawn.

This alternative isn't so bad, though, thanks to a well-behaved batch of second-graders, more parent chaperones than you ever would dream would take off work to tag along on a school field trip, and docent Sue Tritschler, who leads a lively, informative and snappy--paced tour of the museum, from ancient art to Bearden's collages. Turns out, Tritschler and these inquisitive students are nearly as entertaining as the art.

Is it always this way? Do the kids really get it?

"You never know what's going to seep in," she says. "You just hope it made a memorable impression."

And that depends on the audience, Tritschler says.

"Different ages want different things."

Kim Franke-Folstad

A winning afternoon at Tropicana Field

There's a place in St. Petersburg that offers folks looking for some weekend fun plenty of variety.

There's a quiet full-service bar, a place for kids to gather and unwind, and adults can blow off steam with a few beers and their friends.

If you look up, you can even catch a few innings of baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field aren't reserved just for baseball fans. Stephanie DuBose, who scored free tickets to the Friday game from work, has only been to two Rays games. But she and Matt Kral – who have been dating for six months – are making a night of it. They stopped at Ferg's first, then headed to the stadium to pick up her Carlos Pena T-shirt, free to the first 10,000 women in attendance. Now they're settling in for some quality time in Section 212. Later, they'll head downtown for the monthly First Friday celebration.

Rick Martin, on the other hand, is a regular, sharing season tickets with three other couples. Praising the Rays' "amazing team," he calls the full liquor bar/pasta bar "the best-kept secret here."

It's no secret that anyone looking for a good time heads to the Party Deck in left field. That's where James Halker and his buddies can be seen approximately 20 times a year, hitting the Ybor Cantina for some refreshments while joking with the children who'll spend the last two innings of a Rays blowout victory playing catch in the concourse.

"We always come to the Party Deck. We love it," Halker says. "The atmosphere is great."

And even better when the Rays win.

Carl Lisciandrello

Dinnertime at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

A chorus of ooohs and ahhhs erupts as a flock of handlers brings nine hamburgers into the judging tent Friday evening at the Burger Showdown in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

The awed reaction is warranted.

On each plate is a half-pound hunk of perfectly cooked medium-rare ground beef sitting on a bed of crisp Carolina cole slaw and topped with bourbon-molasses pulled pork. On top of that is a blanket of smoked cheese, sweet potato fries and a bun laced with Tabasco mayonnaise. Perched on top like a mountain climber: a slice of dill pickle encased in crunchy tempura batter.

Oooh. Ahhh.

It's a blind judging, so the panelists, a mix of local chefs and media personalities, don't know who made this beast, but they are captivated nonetheless by its girth and excessive deliciousness.

"What exactly did they leave out?" one chef asks.

The burger, dubbed "The Ala Damm Bama Bourbon BBQ Burger" by its creators at The Green Iguana restaurant chain, took the prize as Best Burger in the Bay.

Taking the People's Choice award: BGR The Burger Joint, which built its "Wellington Burger" with deep-roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, black truffles, blue cheese and mojo sauce on top of a door-stopper sized burger.

For the best non-beef burger, the Ashley Street Grill's fresh amberjack burger with Fennel and Jicama slaw won the top prize.

The end result? After sampling eleven burgers, judge and WFLA AM radio personality Corey Dylan sums it up best. "I need a nap," he says.

Jeff Houck

A little something Extra at the Lowry Park Bandshell

Men still in suit jackets watch from the sidewalk while mothers and daughters wearing glowing fluorescent necklaces dance to "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo." Others lay out food worthy of a wedding reception, while kids kicking soccer balls and throwing Frisbees behind the bleachers keep hitting people in the head with their errant toys.

The Friday Extra Concert Series is back at the Lowry Park Bandshell, and young and old from all walks of life are enjoying the show by Ruben Rey and the Undercover Band.

Somewhere in the middle of the packed lawn Ruthie and Milton Carabello of Lutz are sitting in camp chairs, soaking it all in.

"We love the different kinds of music," Ruthie says. "And the atmosphere … it's like a family."

She and her husband have been enjoying the shows for 16 years.

"We're groupies," she says and laughs.

Kim MacCormack

A streetcar ride to Channelside

With the work week in the rearview mirror, the mood is upbeat on the TECO Line Streetcar as it rolls toward sun-splashed downtown Tampa.

About 15 people – families and couples and some riding solo – laugh and share stories, pointing out scenery as the streetcar rides along. The trolley stops at #10, or the Dick Greco Plaza Transportation Center, marked by a statue of the former mayor.

A small group exits. "Nice to meet you," a passenger calls back as the trolley rolls ahead.

Outside the window, families and couples stroll along Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, near the next destination at Channelside.

As the trolley empties at #8, The Tampa Tribune Station, driver James Michael of Valrico smiles and says goodbye, and in the next breath welcomes aboard a new set of passengers.

Channelside is buzzing. Young families and couples fill the outdoor seating at Hooters and TinaTapas. A singer at The Boat House belts out "Unchained Melody" to a captive audience drinking a few cold ones. A few feet away, an artist spray paints a picture of Jim Morrison. To his right, shoppers check out feather earrings.

Around the corner, Precinct Pizza on Channelside Drive is packed and energized. At one point, several tables of strangers join in to sing "Happy Birthday" to a young man celebrating with his friends.

Bellies full, it's back to the streetcar and street-lit ride back to the car.

Clarisa Gerlach

Signs of change at Stageworks Theatre

Before settling in for an evening of K rations, buzz cuts and fatigues, theatergoers toasted Stageworks Theatre's new marquee, courtesy of Creative Sign Designs.

The lighting ceremony coincided with the opening of Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues," which runs through May 27.

First, patrons were fortified with a bevy of heavy hors d'oeuvres, wine and chitchat.

Outside, hoots and hollers saluted the 30-year-old theater's new home base in the Channel District.

The crowd moved back inside for a blast of air-conditioning, but the cool didn't last long. Moments later, the curtain call came for everyone to enter Eugene Morris Jerome's sweaty-hot boot camp in Mississippi.

Kathy L. Greenberg

An evening of old school at the Forum

If there is anybody sitting in their seats when New Edition takes the stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this Friday evening, they are in the minority.

Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe, decked out in black tuxedos, are giving the audience what they came for – plenty of old-school R&B.

The atmosphere is playful as folks dance in their seats and in the aisles, clapping and screaming for their favorite band member.

Although most of the crowd probably knows the group from its '80s heyday, there are young bloods here, too, peppered throughout the auditorium.

And the fashions are just as diverse. Some ladies wander around in sequined Daisy Duke shorts and cat suits, while some men are wearing their Sunday best, with a hat and the occasional cane as accessories.

And they are all groovin' to the music.

"They definitely took it back old school," says Lynda Lozano, who's there with three girlfriends. "Nothin' like an old school reunion with some old school friends."

Cloe Cabrera

Hoisting a few at twilight in Ybor City

Twilight in Ybor City on a Friday. The day tourists are gone. Happy hour is winding down. The late-night bar-hopping clubbers are hours away.

It's peaceful here as the dinner crowd arrives. All along Seventh Avenue sidewalk tables are filling up. From The Acropolis to The Stone Soup Company and in between (The Green Iguana, Bernini, La Terrazza, Gaspar's Grotto, the Carne Chophouse and others) people are dining al fresco.

At La Creperia Café, the cook looks out on the street from the large front window. He puts the finishing folds on a savory Jambalaya crepe stuffed with shrimp, sausage, caramelized onions, green peppers, garlic and Tabasco.

Up the street at The King Corona cigar/coffee/and sandwich shop, every outside table is taken by men puffing on fat cigars.

Across the street at Centro Ybor, the outside fountain courtyard of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company becomes prime real estate. People circle the courtyard bar looking for a seat. Families, dating couples, happy hour holdovers and parties of friends hunker down for a bite and a drink.

Bartenders wearing "Beer Is Your Friend" T-shirts hustle about, serving up pints of TBBC's own brews: Old Elephant Foot IPA, Iron Rat Stout, Moosekiller Barley Wine and One Night Stand Pale Ale.

Walt Belcher

A fan-friendly concert at Dave's Aqua Lounge

To say Hymn for Her's concert at Dave's Aqua Lounge on Friday night was performed in an intimate setting is a vast understatement. Wherever everyone is, it isn't here.

About a dozen or so people are inside the tiny roadside bar on Gandy Boulevard, just west of Beer Can Beach in St. Petersburg. Dave's calendar says the concert starts at 8 p.m., the Hymn for Her website says 9, and it isn't until 10 that the duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing take the tiny stage and begin singing the roots-rocky, punkish, stompy kind of music that really defies labeling.

Before the live music starts, some good ol' Motown classics are on the juke and a guy by the name of Claude, or Clark, loudly sings along while downing a fresh draught beer. "Have you seen her? Tell me, have you seen her?"

Between choruses, he confides: "I got some real personal stuff going on right now," and he won't say any more about it. The Tampa Bay Rays game is on a tiny television behind the bar; two cups of charity lollypops are on a shelf above the cash register and a sign is prominently posted: "Everyone is entitled to my opinion."

Finally, the band arrives and sets up, as Lucy's and Wayne's 4-year-old daughter, affectionately called Diver (they don't like to publicize her name), scuttles around the dance floor wearing heavy duty headphones to protect her hearing. She draws pictures on the backs of the Dave's Aqua Lounge yellow calendars that are on each table.

Halfway through the first set, an older couple comes in and Lucy greets them by name from the stage. She proceeds to say hello and calls out the names of each and everyone in the bar, except for the bartender and a reporter, whose name she asks for.

More than fans. Friends.

Keith Morelli

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