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Aaron Harshman and Alex Vehling, both juniors at Lakewood Ranch High, do a little dancing when they aren't playing their trombones at Wawa's opening.
East County Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 6 years ago


Don't be a meatball, try Festa Italiana
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

As a kid I used to work in an Italian restaurant in upstate N.Y. that had those red and white checkered tablecloths.

Come on, you know the kind. The spaghetti actually swam in the red sauce and the baked ziti oozed with two pounds of melted cheese.

Every bottle of Chianti was wrapped in a basket and the biggest highlight of the night was that first slice of bread.

I don't know if an Italian would have considered that restaurant to be "authentic," but as a kid growing up around a lot of Italians, I certainly did.

Over the years, as I traveled to various places in the U.S., either to visit or live, I endured a long line of crummy Italian dishes. Sure, the people in the area might have loved it, but it wasn't my idea of Italian food.

Having moved to Lakewood Ranch a month ago, I have discovered all kinds of wonderful Italian restaurants. I am not Italian myself, but that red in my blood is pure spaghetti sauce. I'm eating pizza for breakfast again.

So when I see that the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Association has put together "Fiesta Italiana" for Saturday at the Greenbrook Adventure Park, I had to start planning an attack. How do I get through Friday without eating so I am ready?

The event runs 11 a.m. through 4 p.m., which should allow enough time to eat both lunch and dinner. If you are a kid and you don't understand that Italian food is the main event, pony rides and those fancy, twisty balloons will be available. Music and dancing and all that other great stuff will be presented as well.

Myself, I will be quizzing the cooks. "Do you put sausage in your lasagne?"

I sure hope so.


Along my tour of newspaper duty, I've stopped in places where the high school bands were so busy competing against other bands that they didn't perform at community events, such as holiday concerts, parades and athletic contests. So when I pulled up to Wawa's grand opening on S.R. 70 and Lorraine Road on Friday, I got a huge kick out of seeing Lakewood Ranch's marching band out in full force.

Back in the day, I joined the high school chorus not because I could sing, but because my friends did it. We took chorus as a class in school, and much of it was pretty much drudgery, except for those few moments we sang in public.

I don't really understand this ... kind of like figuring out how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly ... but when you take 50 crummy voices and blend them together, it's not half bad. 

We had a sense of pride when we performed at a home for seniors or a hospital or such. I'll always remember that our music teacher would look at us all after we sang that final note, and give us a nod and a big smile.

That was the payoff then, and I hope it remains that way today, whether it involves a chorus or a band.

Lakewood Ranch band leader Ron Lambert said that he believes his group should act as ambassadors for the area. Way to go Ron. Hope to hear you soon.








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