On Friday, December 30th, the Outback Bowl will have its annual “Beach Day” on Clearwater’s sugar sand beach near the Hilton Hotel and Pier 60. The Florida Gators and Iowa Hawkeyes will play in Raymond James Stadium on Monday, January 2, 2017, in the Outback Bowl, and the annual “Beach Day” is one the bowl’s most favorite pre-game event. There will be pep rallies for both teams, visits by both head coaches, a pie-eating contest, a cheerleaders tug-of-war, and other activities, all of which will begin at 11:00am. Outback Steakhouse became the title sponsor of the game in 1995 and is now the longest continuous title sponsor of any bowl game. Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the City of Clearwater, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Hilton Hotel on Clearwater Beach coordinate the “Beach Day” which is free and open to the public.
The 21st annual meeting of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce was held this morning at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort. David Downing, executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, gave the keynote address prior to the Hilton Hotel on Clearwater Beach’s Mary Reischmann being installed as chairman of the Board of Directors. She succeeds Frank Dame of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The chamber enjoyed a most successful year, and as I reported my address, 2017 is anticipated to be another most successful year for Clearwater and the beach.
The New York Yankees and the Steinbrenner Family have hosted a special holiday concert featuring the Florida Orchestra and John and Mary Kay Wilson for the last 27 years. The 28th annual event in Clearwater was held on December 6th at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The Steinbrenner family and the Yankees also host similar concerts in Tampa and St. Petersburg for children in elementary schools throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. A special guest at the Clearwater concert was Yankee legend Tino Martinez who spoke to students and then read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” For the conclusion, Santa Claus and Tampa Yankee mascot Blue joined the Florida Orchestra, the Wilsons, and dancers from Ballet International for caroling. As they were dismissed, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helped distribute Yankee souvenir bags to all the students.
The Albanian Heritage Foundation of Tampa Bay was honored by the visit of Ambassador Floreta Luli-Faber this week to celebrate the 104th anniversary of Albanian independence. It was on November 28, 1912 when delegates from all over Albania gathered in Vlora under the leadership of Ismail Qemali to declare independence from the Ottoman Turks who had ruled Albania for more than 400 years. Rovena Kasilaj of the Albanian Heritage Foundation of Tampa Bay and I welcomed Ambassador Luli-Faber at a reception, which included traditional dances and songs and was held on Saturday, November 26th.
The City of Clearwater is working on Advanced Water Purification Plant and Recharge Well Construction project. It is the first of its kind in Florida, and the work will be funded by the city and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. When completed, this innovative project will replenish the aquifer and provide a new local, high-quality water supply. Currently, the city treats and delivers approximately 11.5 million gallons of drinking water and 7 million gallons of reclaimed water every day. Groundwater replenishment will purify reclaimed water to better than drinking water standards. This purified water will then be pumped into the aquifer, so that it can pass back through the aquifer before being drawn for treatment and use as potable water. A video describing the process can be found at myclearwater.com/groundwater, and additional information is available through the City of Clearwater’s Public Utilities department.
There were several events to commemorate Veterans Day in Clearwater this past week. The Clearwater Garden Club placed a memorial wreath on the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker located on the west side of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge on November 11th. The first Clearwater for Youth Sports Fan 5K was held the next day, and then later that same morning, the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance joined with the City of Clearwater for a formal salute to veterans at the Florida Veterans Memorial which is at Crest Lake Park. There is still an opportunity to help complete the plaza project by purchasing a memorial plaque in memory of a veteran or active duty military personnel. More information is available through the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance link – http://tampabayveteransalliance.org/. Please stand up for the nation’s veterans and armed forces by supporting the completion of this memorial plaza.
US Representative David Jolly and I were at St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport Tuesday night to welcome home the veterans and their traveling companions (“guardians”) who visited Washington, DC as part of the Honor Flight Network program. The group left early Tuesday morning for a day trip that allowed them to visit the memorials dedicated to their service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and other sites in the Nation’s Capital. Hundreds of family and friends were at the airport baggage claim area to give the returnees a special welcome home and thank you. Honor Flight Mission 28 was sponsored by the west central Florida branch of the Honor Flight Network, which has hosted over 179,000 veterans since the program’s inception in 2005.