SW Florida Events, Activities and Information

There are always things going on in and around SW Florida.  Check back here often for the latest news!

Aug. 10, 2018

Florida Realtors 2018 Convention and Trade Expo

Classic Chevy Truck Spotted At The Florida Realtors 2018 Convention

Earlier this week we had the pleasure of attending the Florida Realtors 2018 Convention and Trade Expo.  This is an annual event sponsored by the Florida Association of Realtors held at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando and is open to Realtors licensed in the state of Florida.  Attendance was strong and there were dozens of interesting breakout sessions covering a wide range of topics related to technology and industry trends.  And of course there was a huge Trade Expo.  While there, we spotted a classic Chevy truck at the 1st Financial booth.  Can you identify the model year?


Posted in Events
July 31, 2018

Sommers Family Restaurant Cruise In

Morning Cruise In at Sommers Dutch Family Restaurant

It was great to see a break in the weather this past Saturday with partly cloudy skies and dry for most of the day and evening. So, I figured I’d seize the chance to put the top down and get in a little cruisin’. My first destination of many was Sommers Dutch Family Restaurant in Sarasota where they were hosting their monthly cruise in. With blue skies and sun dominating that morning I figured there would be a good turn out and I was right. A glorious display of vintage steel and power along with nuespeed muscle was in full effect. The Dutch style eatery was surrounded by colorful street rods, customs, muscle cars, led sleds and imports and a lot full of spectators enjoying these fantastic rides.

One of my favorites was there. “Blue Mamba”; a 1934 Ford Roadster boasting a ’55 Super Red Ram
270 c.u. HEMI bored .60 over and a 600 Holley carb. Another impressive ride was John Magine’s ’57 1500 MGA roadster which is a rare triple black combo with matching numbers. Jim Wright’s 1963 Chevy Impala 2 door hard top always brings back memories of when I rode in my grandmother’s ’64 4 door hard top. Running a 327 V8 and that button interior with that classic Impala dashboard it’s a great tribute to Chevy’s iconic best-selling automobile in North America. And I can’t forget to mention two well preserved autos that were recently found and purchased by two locals. One was John Azar’s pristine red/orange 1972 Datsun 240Z which was hidden away in storage for 34 years until he took possession of the little Z. Another was John Calkin’s turquoise 1955 Chevy 2 door 210 Del Ray. A survivor with only a few OEM refurbs, this all original Blue Flame 6 was built and sold and owned in California until John brought it home to Florida becoming only the fourth owner. Stay tuned as we’ll be featuring John’s Del Ray in a future blog.

The atmosphere was set by Lance’s Cruizin’ to the Hop as he played popular rock n’ roll tunes from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Cruisers that registered their vehicles were eligible for door prizes, discounts to Sommers, and trophies. Sommers Dutch Family Restaurant offers both a buffet and a full menu and are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Inside you can find memorabilia reflecting the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish lifestyle as well as a small store with Amish books, preserves, candies, and those famous pies and pastries available for purchase.

Conveniently located at 4000 Cattlemen Rd, Sarasota, Florida, just south of Bee Ridge Rd. and just west of I-75; Sommers Dutch Family Restaurant’s morning cruise in’s are held on the fourth Saturday morning of every month from 9am to 1pm. There’s plenty of shade for everyone to enjoy as well as two large dining rooms inside to take in some good home cooking.

Cars, coffee, and breakfast! What a great combination!


Content and photos by Kelvin Etchison

Posted in Events
July 25, 2018

Skyway Classics

Cars and Hotcakes Cruise In

If you happen to be in Palmetto on the first Saturday and it happens to be in the morning you just might notice something is out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s the rumbling of dual exhaust, or the roar of high octane horsepower, or possibly the shimmer of chrome and shiny paints both vintage and modern. That would be a sign that it’s once again the morning car party held at Skyway Classics. Long ‘55 Chevy Bel Airs with continental kits, ‘34 Ford street rods, buffed up Challengers, and modified Mustangs just to name a few of the wild rides you’ll see there. The show is open to all makes and models and is free to participate. There is free coffee and hotcakes to cruisers and classic rock n’ roll tunes to set the mood. Music and entertainment is provided by Cadillac Jimmy. Spectators and enthusiast of all ages come to enjoy the beautiful vehicles and soak in the atmosphere.

The event is spread out around and in between the multiple buildings which make up Skyway Classics.  The buildings are open to the public during the cruise-in offering a view of their collection of exquisite automobiles, restoration facilities, and amenities. Skyway Classics is a vintage car dealership that specializes in personalized service and quality inventory. If you’re looking for a classic or a modern specialty vehicle they will work with you to find the right car or truck that will meet your taste and budget. They also offer consignments for those looking to sell their special rides. Whichever is your goal, they want to make sure you’re needs are met with the upmost care.

Located at 1800 14th Ave E, Palmetto, FL, the cruise-in runs from 9am to 12noon on the first Saturday morning of every month. For more information, please call 941-212-1322 or visit their website at http://www.skywayclassics.net.


Content and photos by Kelvin Etchison

Posted in Events
July 13, 2018

Anna Maria Island

A Timeless Treasure

When I was a young boy I had the privilege of growing up in two wonderful locations. During the week I could be found in my hometown of Auburndale, located in central Florida. That’s where I attended school, played cowboys and Indians in my Grandmother’s back yard in the afternoons, and enjoyed family dinners at my parent’s home on Lake Arianna. On the weekends my time was spent primarily on Anna Maria Island, or as most has come to call it “AMI”, fishing and boating.

In the early 80's my parents and I took our first cruise which was out of Miami to the Bahamas’. My dad was hooked. So, he purchased a 1948 Matthews 40’ cabin cruiser out of Englewood and brought to it to its new home at Anna Maria Yacht Basin, or what is now known as Galati’s Marina, at the end of Bimini Bay Dr. I was eight years old and quickly grew fond of our new weekend retreat. I loved running around with the local kids and hitting the favorite fishing spots. With my parents, we explored the local shops and restaurants. And, of course, we cruised the waters surrounding the area. Some of my fondest memories are from when we anchored out at Jewfish Key with other boaters. I remember the “Cantina” at the marina. I used to go there for breakfast. Oh! Those thick fluffy pancakes that filled our plates! Yum! Another fun spot was the City Pier which was right across from Fast Eddie’s Seafood Restaurant. The pier had it’s own little eatery on the end and the fishing was bountiful. In the evenings, if we weren’t dining at Fast Eddies’, my parent’s enjoyed places like the Gulf Drive Café and the Captain’s Table where you could catch a great view of a sunset overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the pristine white beaches. We liked the island and surrounding area so much that we permanently relocated here in ‘88. Back then, AMI was laid back. A mixture of small hotels, tropical bungalows and subdivisions, and mom and pop restaurants and cafes that allowed people to escape from the daily hustle and bustle. Wasn’t it inevitable that time and progress would eventually see commercialization and redevelopment of this quiet little Island? Not so fast!

Sure, some things have changed and a few places have come and gone, but Anna Maria Island is one of the last strong holds where time has mostly stood still. Those small hotels and tropical bungalows are still there. Fast Eddies’ is gone, but in it’s place there are locally owned boutiques as well as Two Scoops ice cream parlor that serves up some tasty treats. The Gulf Drive Café is still a popular destination as well as many mom and pop eateries that dot the island from one end to the other. The beaches are still white and pristine and those sunsets continue to attract people from all over the globe. All while maintaining that small town atmosphere. Visit Homes Beach, where the Beach Café still serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as live entertainment on weekend evenings. Located a little under half a mile west of the Manatee Draw Bridge or SR64, this beach offers plenty of parking and a wide area for swimming, sunbathing, and volley ball.

A little further south is Bradenton Beach, accessible from the mainland by the Cortez Drawbridge. This long stretch of beautiful white sandy beach runs right along Gulf Drive Blvd. Let the water lap at your feet and the kids play in the sand. When you get hungry, there are several popular locally owned restaurants within walking distance such as the Beach House Waterfront Restaurant which hosts entertainment on their beachside deck. As well as, a long standing landmark, Oma’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant. More eateries, pubs, and shops reside at the entrance and down Old Main Street that leads to the Bradenton Beach Pier. Don’t forget about Anna Maria Oyster Bar located on the pier. Just to the south is world famous Coquina Beach; the largest beach with avid parking, multiple pavilions, and a playground. Coquina rounds the southern tip of the island with fine white sand and Australian pines that offer cool shade. There is also a boat ramp on the intercostal side. There are several festivals held here throughout the year as well as a weekly market on Sundays from 10am-4pm. Enjoy jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, and more here at Coquina Beach.

Whether you’re planning a vacation on the Sun Coast or if you’re local looking for a great weekday or evening adventure, visit Anna Maria Island and discover (or rediscover) why it’s still a timeless treasure.


Content and photos by Kelvin Etchison


Posted in Interests
June 30, 2018

Manatee Village Historical Park

A Glimpse Back In Time

If our recent post on the Gamble Plantation Historical Park whets your appetite to learn more about old Florida living then be sure to visit the Manatee Village Historical Park. Here you can learn about the beginnings of Manatee County and the pioneers that tamed the 5,000+ acres of wilderness to make this the great community it has become today.

There are several historical buildings located at the Manatee Village which includes Manatee County’s first Courthouse built in 1860 and the 1887 Church once home to the Union congregation, then the Methodist-Episcopal Church South. Another structure which provides a great example of how pioneers lived back then is the Settler’s house. Once built on a farm in a neighboring county’s small town of Ona, it now resides here at the village to give testimony on how homes were constructed with Florida’s tropical climate in mind. There is also a one room schoolhouse originally built by a local community of Bunker Hill, a replica of the cow hunter’s bunkhouse, and a replica of a blacksmith’s shop that was so crucial to the settlers of the time; just to name a few of the attractions.

Of course, there’s the iron mascot of the village, Ol’ Cabbage Head. Named for the large round smokestack, this steam engine served the Manatee-Nocotee Crate Company after retiring from the turpentine industry in North Florida. Children of all ages love climbing around and getting their pictures with the vintage 1913 Baldwin locomotive.

The Wiggins Store is where the park officers and the Whistle Stop gift shop are located. Inside you can cool off and browse the museum or purchase a book on old Florida or Manatee County’s past. There are also different exhibits which are on display throughout the year. This building was constructed of bricks shipped in by railroad. It offered a boarding house on the second floor for guests to stay as some travelled a great distance to purchase supplies at the town of Manatee.

The Manatee Village Historical Park is located at 1404 Manatee Ave. E. (or S.R. 64), Bradenton, FL 34208. Hours are (May-August) Mon-Fri 11am-2pm with the 2nd and 4th Saturdays 11am-2pm and (Sept-April) Mon-Fri 10am-4pm with the 2nd and 4th Saturdays 11am-2pm. Come explore the many historic sites at the village, relax under the majestic oaks and catch a glimpse back in time before paved roads and electricity. For more information, call 941-749-7165 or email manatee.village@manateeclerk.com.


Content and photos by Kelvin Etchison.

Posted in Interests
June 29, 2018

Gamble Plantation Historical State Park

Visit This Historic Landmark Located in Manatee County


The Gamble Plantation is a historic site that is part of the Florida State Park system and is the last standing plantation house left in the state. The grounds offer 16 acres of lush green grass, tall shady oaks, and a covered picnic pavilion. There is a gazebo on the front lawn where you can sit, relax, and take in the scenery. Additionally, the Patten House is also on the front grounds and is open for tours on select days and events, though currently closed and under renovation. Inside the visitor’s center you can find artifacts that date back to life and operation on the Plantation. You can also read about the history from it’s start in the 1800’s to present as well as purchase memorabilia.

Construction began in 1843 and took six years to complete. Originally built by Major Robert Gamble Jr., he acquired 3,500 acres and built his sugar plantation that stretched from the Manatee River to the north of the mansion. Later, Major Gamble fell into debt due to natural disasters and the waning sugar market and sold the mansion in 1859. After the Civil War ended in 1865 one of the Confederate Secretaries of State, Judah P. Benjamin, is believed to have taken refuge at the Mansion until he safely escaped to England in fear of being tried for treason. After the mansion fell into ruin, the United Daughters of the Confederacy bought the remaining 16 acres along with the mansion, saving it from certain destruction and donated it to the state. The mansion is now fully restored and is filled with furnishings that would have been common in a successful mid-19th century plantation.

The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday; it is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Guided tours of the house are given six times a day, Thursday through Monday. Come learn about the tabby construction and why it allows for cool summers and warm winters inside in a time when there was no central heat and air conditioning. Expand your trivia knowledge on why the phrase “sleep tight” was coined. And find out how folks stored and prepped their food in those days as well as ward off attacks by Seminole Indians. The tours last about an hour and are well worth taking as there is so much to learn about the plantation and other old Florida history. The park staff is friendly and courteous and you can tell they have a passion for sharing their knowledge on the history of the Plantation and the surrounding area of Manatee County.

 Located in Ellenton on U.S. Hwy 301 South; the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is just 1 mile west of I-75 (exit 224) on the north side of the road. The park hosts events throughout the year like the Bill Mergens Memorial Car Show (in it’s 24th year since the show’s inception), historic re-enactments, holiday events, as well as weddings. For more information call 941-723-4536.
Content by Kelvin Etchison, Photos by Kelvin Etchison and Tom Floyd courtesy www.floridastateparks.org

Posted in Interests
June 26, 2018

Sarasota Powerboat Car and Truck Show

Powerboats and Muscle Cars - A Great Combination!

Some of the best cars around assembled at the Sarasota Fairgrounds last Sunday to launch the inaugural annual Sarasota Powerboat Festival Car and Truck Show.  Despite the threat of rain, nearly 100 enthusiasts turned out to display a wide variety of classic and late model cars and trucks. A healthy collection of Muscle Cars was complemented by some great looking imports.  Mopar was very much in evidence with a fantastic group of Challengers and Chargers.  And of course Mustangs and Camaros made their presence known.  There were a number of "exotic" vehicles as well, including a VW "Rail" buggy and even a Mercedes Maybach!

We shot a number of pictures from the field and would like to share them with you.  Just click on the picture of the Powerboat below and enjoy!

Posted in Events
June 8, 2018

Music On Main

A Lakewood Ranch Musical Festival Every First Friday

On the first Friday of every month Main Street in Lakewood Ranch hosts a free concert series and block party called “Music on Main”. Starting at 6pm visitors bring out their chairs and listen to the bands rock the stage. There’s a dance area where you can “get down” and “boogie”.  And when you feel like strolling you can browse the vendors that line the street. There’s also an area with kids activities, rides, and DJ entertainment with their own dance area.

Main Street Lakewood Ranch offers a variety of boutiques and international restaurants with outdoor dining. Shops with fine clothing and gifts as well as a studio where you can create your own art. There’s Italian cuisine, Irish dinning, American grill and taverns, and a creamery and coffee Shoppe, of course. One of the main anchors is the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas which not only show mainstream movies but independent films, too. If you’re in a little competitive mood; play miniature golf at The Fish Hole which overlooks the lake.

Each month Music on Main features a different band and music genre. In between the sets a DJ keeps the party rockin’ with the top 100 hits. This past Friday, June 1st, Tropical Avenue had everyone dancing to their Latin rock, Top 40, and R&B. This month’s event benefited the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida.

Music on Main is the first Friday of every month from 6pm-9pm. Here’s a quick list of the upcoming schedule:

  • July 6th: The Lauren Mitchell Band – Blues and Soul – Benefiting the Rotary Club of Sarasota Southside
  • August 3rd: Wild Root – Rock and R&B – Benefiting CAN Community Health
  • September 7th: Jah Movement – Reggae, Top 40, R&B, Funk, Soul – Benefiting the Animal Network
  • October 5th: The Hydramatic – Soul – Benefiting Lakewood Ranch Band Boosters
  • November 2nd: Dr. Dave Band – Classic Rock, Country, & Bluegrass – Benefiting Leukemia & Lymphoma Society    

Content & Photos by Kelvin Etchison    

Posted in Events
May 31, 2018

Siesta Key Village

Sarasota’s Hottest Spot “Off the Beaten Path”

Another great destination on the Sun Coast that offers both day and night life activities is Siesta Key Village. A short hop southwest of downtown Sarasota and just up the road north of Siesta Beach, the Village attracts locals and visitors year ‘round. Whether you’re looking for a light lunch or a cool drink after a day at the beach, a souvenir to take back home, or to get pampered spa style, you’ll find it in the Village.

Siesta Key Village is home to several favorite eateries like Gilligan’s Bar and Grill, Daiquiri Deck, and The Hub Baja Grill to name a few. To satisfy your sweet tooth, check out Big Olaf Creamery, Ciao Gelato, or Sunnibunni that has gluten free options and is vegetarian friendly.

Maybe you’re visiting and want to take a little SW Florida back home with you. Stop in at Beach Bazaar, which has been in the Village for over 32 years, offering clothing and gifts that reflect the Sun Coast lifestyle. How about some local tropical wine (or imported if you like) from Siesta Key Wines and Gifts?

Of course, there’s nothing like getting pampered with a warm message and aromatherapy by Message Experience. Get a manicure and pedicure or a hair makeover at La Playa Spa.

And on the weekends when the sun sets and the night falls in, the Village comes alive with music. From classic rock, to island music, to contemporary pop; restaurants and other locations host a variety of musical artists. Siesta Key Oyster Bar is a great venue with outside dinning and live bands. Another hot spot is Blasé Café and Martini Bar where live bands play classic rock n’ roll on an outside deck. If you want to hear the hottest local groups and DJ’s then The Beach Club is the place with one of the largest dance floors.

Siesta Village boasts a wide range of activities for both singles and families. Experience the Village and find out why it’s Sarasota’s hottest spot “off the beaten path”!

Content and Photos by Kelvin Etchison

Posted in Interests
May 22, 2018

Ruskin Family Drive In Car and Truck Show

A Classic Night Out!

Last Saturday afternoon, Thunder Road Classic Car Club in conjunction with Lance's Cruizin' To The Hop productions hosted an exciting classic car and truck show at the Ruskin Family Drive In - one of the the last Drive In theaters around!  The field was shared by a variety of classics.  Over 40 attendees  braved the threat of rain and were treated to some fantastic examples of  Fords and Chevy's from the 40's, 50's  and current models.  Imagine how delighted enthusiasts were to see Chevy's from the 30's, 50's and 2013  parked next to each other! Many attendees were dressed in 50's attire so poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and slick back hair do's were everywhere.  Even Elvis made an appearance! 

And the event was for a good cause too!  All proceeds and donations were made to benefit the Food Bank of the Knights of Columbus of St. Joseph's Church in Bradenton.

We snapped close to 200 photos from the field before the rains came.  We are pleased to share these with you.  Just click this link to view the photos.


Posted in Events