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‘The Blair Witch Project’ Turns 20 By Sandra Carr

Watching The Blair Witch Project on the big screen 20 years ago was an eye-opening experience. I believe film making changed and took an in-your-face and more authentic storytelling approach after the film hit theaters. Plus, the film popularized the found-footage technique, which was successfully used by thriller films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and the Chronicle.

Writers and co-directors Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez were inspired to make The Blair Witch Project after discovering that documentaries about paranormal phenomena were much scarier than traditional horror films.

The result was a film about three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard) taking a jaunt in the Black Hills of Maryland to shoot a documentary about Elly Kedward who was banished from the Township of Blair for witchcraft in the late 1700s. One year later, their footage is found, revealing the eerie events leading up to their mysterious disappearance.

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The Florida Film Festival at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida celebrated The Blair Witch Project’s 20-year anniversary with a 35mm print-film screening and question-and-answer session with Haxan Films’ filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Ben Rock and Michael Monello and actors Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard on Sunday, April 14. Actress Heather Donahue wasn’t able to attend the film screening.

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I’m posing in front of the Enzian Theater’s marquee before The Blair Witch Project’s 20-year anniversary screening during the Florida Film Festival.

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The Blair Witch Project’s filmmakers and actors are pictured in front of the marquee from l-r: Eduardo Sanchez, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Ben Rock, Joshua Leonard, Michael Monello and Michael Williams

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Full Sail University’s Course Director Carol Nowlin and the Enzian Theater’s Program Director Matthew Curtis introduce the filmmakers and actors of The Blair Witch Project before the film’s 20-year anniversary screening during the Florida Film Festival.

I relived the fear that I had experienced 20 years ago during the horror movie’s anniversary screening. I was still on the edge of my seat and felt the very raw and real moments of The Blair Witch Project once again.

One thing that attracted me and others to the film was how relatable the characters were on camera. Plus, you truly felt their anxiety, anguish, frustration and sleeplessness during their terrifying ordeal in the woods. After seeing the film again, my feelings haven’t changed. I also think that folks who are watching the film for the first time will also appreciate the film and characters in the same way.

The Blair Witch Project Brush Figure

A figure made out of brush, leaves and sticks is hanging in a tree during The Blair Witch Project.

Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams

Actors Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams are in the woods during The Blair Witch Project.

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A nest filled with rocks in a tree creeps out the three student filmmakers during The Blair Witch Project.

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Actress Heather Donahue is experiencing a happy moment during The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project Ending

Actor Michael Williams stands in a corner of an abandoned house in the woods during The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 1999 and had a north American release on July 14, 1999 before expanding to a wider release beginning on July 30, 1999.

The low-budget, sleeper hit cost $60,000, but reaped an amazing award after it made nearly $250 million worldwide at the box office for the UCF filmmakers.

The Blair Witch Project also opened a lot of doors for the filmmakers and actors and put Orlando and UCF’s film school on the map.

The filmmakers and actors discussed The Blair Witch Project during a question-and-answer session with UCF Center for Emerging Media’s Studio Director Rich Grula after the film screening.

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Pictured from l-r: Rich Grula, Eduardo Sanchez, Michael Monello, Ben Rock, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard

The Enzian Theater was pivotal for The Blair Witch Project. The test screenings were conducted at the theater before the film was submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.

The filmmakers are forever grateful for the Enzian Theater’s support. The Florida Film Festival’s home base was an instrumental component for the film’s success.

The discussion provided fans with some interesting tidbits. One thing I learned is that the twine that was used for the stick figures cost $8 a roll. The Haxan Films’ team have not let production designer Ben Rock live it down to this day!

Rock’s inspiration came from the Rune Man pictured in the Magical Alphabets: The Secrets and Significance of Ancient Scripts – Including Runes, Greek, Ogham, Hebrew and Alchemical Alphabets book by Nigel Pennick. Rock and Fahad Vania worked tirelessly to create the stick figures featured in the movie.

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The Haxan Films’ team still gives Ben Rock a hard time about the $8 twine that was used to create the stick figures during The Blair Witch Project.

Producer Robin Cowie shared a hilarious story about him getting distracted by a bikini-clad teen walking her dog, which caused him to hit the Senior Vice President of Blockbuster Video’s brick mailbox with his car in Atlanta, Georgia. It turns out; the girl was the executive’s daughter. Cowie pitched him The Blair Witch Project and he decided to invest in the film. The backer also predicted that the film would be a hit.

Co-producer Michael Monello discussed the movie’s marketing. He said the marketing campaign that was associated with the film was accidental and happened organically. The website, which included footage, was designed to engage and provide viewers with an opportunity to ask questions before the film was released, but turned out to be a wonderful way to promote the film before it hit theaters.

I had an opportunity to ask a question during The Blair Witch Project’s panel discussion. I wondered if the filmmakers or actors would change anything in the film 20 years later as well as what was their favorite part in the film.

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Rich Grula and the audience get up close and personal with The Blair Witch Project’s filmmakers and actors during a question-and-answer session.

Williams jokingly said he would change his contract. Seriously, he said he wouldn’t change a blessed thing. He also felt there was no way that the actors and filmmakers would be able to create the film today on nonunion terms and is happy for the relationships that everyone has established over the years because of The Blair Witch Project.

Williams is currently writing a book about his Blair Witch Project experiences. Plus, a book titled Eight Days in the Woods, which was written by a fan of the film, discusses all-things Blair Witch and will be publishing soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate Cinema at Florida Film Festival By Sandra Carr

Do you fancy film festing? The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival has your back and is your movie mania solution!

Support filmmakers from around the world by embarking on a movie-watching journey with 184 films representing 41 countries. Plus, moviegoers have an opportunity to pick the best flicks by voting during the festival.

This year’s Florida Film Festival features 87 women directors with amazing girl power and 25 world premieres. Additional festivities include celebrity guest appearances, forums and parties at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village Stadium 20 Movie Theater in Winter Park, Florida from April 12-21, 2019.

Florida Film Festival 2019

The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival is April 12-21, 2019.

The film fest is an Oscar-qualifying festival that will be premiering top-quality current, independent and international cinema throughout its 10-day run.

Oscars

The opening-night film and party is occurring on Friday, April 12 at the Enzian Theater and features Woman in Motion, a documentary filmed by Full Sail University students about actress Nichelle Nichols who is renowned for portraying Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer aboard Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise. The film showcases Nichols’ undying support and how she helped lead the way for women and minorities who dreamed of having a space exploration career. Attendees will have three opportunities to watch the movie screening that night at the Enzian Theater and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village Stadium 20 Movie Theater.

Woman in Motion

Woman in Motion begins at 7:15 p.m. and the party follows at 8:30 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. The film frolic will include cuisine, craft cocktail and beer samples and cake provided by Eden Bar, MidiCi, Nothing Bundt Cakes, the Outpost Neighborhood KitchenRoque Pub, Terrapin Beer Co. and other local bars and restaurants. The film and party admission is $125 and the party only ticket cost $100.

Opening Night Party

The fete continues during a Festival Block Party on Saturday, April 13 from 3-5 p.m. at the Winter Park Village’s fountain across from the Regal Cinema. The festivities include free drinks and appetizers from select Winter Park Village restaurants and live entertainment. The free event is for Florida Film Festival ticket and pass holders only. Space is limited.

Florida Film Festival Block Party

Festival Block Party

Relive your fear during the 20-year anniversary of The Blair Witch Project on Sunday, April 14 at 8 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. Three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard) take a jaunt in the Black Hills of Maryland to shoot a documentary about Elly Kedward who was banished from the Township of Blair for witchcraft in the late 1700s. One year later, their footage is found, revealing the eerie events leading up to their mysterious disappearance. The sold-out film will include a post-film reunion and question-and-answer session with the cast and crew. A backstage pass is available for $60 and will include a limited-edition, screen-printed poster created specifically for the event by Lure Design, a meet and greet and photo opportunity. Patrons must supply their own camera for the photo opportunity.

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Spend Good Friday (April 19) with Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss at the Enzian Theater. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for The Goodbye Girl, which film festival attendees will have a chance to see on the big screen at 7:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session with Dreyfuss will follow the film. Tickets are $60. Producer-pass holders will have an opportunity to meet the actor following the event.

The Goodbye Girl

See why actor Richard Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for The Goodbye Girl on Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Quench your thirst during the free Sip and Savor: Cocktail Tastings on Monday, April 15 and Tuesday, April 16 from 6-8 p.m. at Eden Bar. Sample flavorful concoctions provided by Diageo on Monday night and Tito’s Handmade Vodka on Tuesday evening.

Sip and Savor Cocktail Tasting

To be or not to be, that is the question after William Shakespeare decides to retire after his Globe Theatre burns to the ground in 1613 in All is True. He returns to Stratford-upon-Avon, England to mend the broken relationship with his wife and daughters after the disaster. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen.

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The world lost the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Aug. 16, 2018, but her music and legacy will live on forever. The documentary Amazing Grace keeps her spirit alive as she performs gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California in 1972.

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The documentary Marching Forward examines how music overpowered division in Orlando, Florida when Jones High School’s all-black marching band and Edgewater High School’s all-white marching band performed during the World’s Fair in New York City in 1964. This UCF Burnett Honors College production features interviews with band directors and former students, many of whom are now professional musicians.

Marching Forward

Marching Forward photo is by Lisa Mills.

Did the devil make you do it? The Satanic Temple advocates for religious freedom and challenges authority in the Hail Satan? documentary.

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Award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss portrays a burned- and strung-out rock star trying to find her way back to stardom in this riveting, rock ‘n’ roll drama, Her Smell. The cast includes Eric Stoltz, Amber Heard and Virginia Madsen.

Her Smell

Sudan, 45, is the last male northern white rhinoceros in the world. The Kifaru documentary follows the lives of two young Kenyan recruits who join Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s rhino caretaker unit in Kenya, which features a small group of rangers who protect and care for Sudan.

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Punk rockers took their angst away from Los Angeles, California to the Mojave Desert during the 1980s. This movement started the Desolation Center, which featured DIY music showcases in remote locations that included performances by the Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Redd Kross, the Meat Puppets, Einstürzende Neubauten and the Swans. Talent will be in attendance during both Desolation Center screenings.

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The music adventure continues with Our Most Brilliant Friends, a documentary about the British indie-pop duo Slow Club. The film explores the ups and downs of being in a band and the not-so-luxurious life and challenges with touring.

Our Most Brilliant Friends

Experience Italian-style boogieing during the 1980s in the Dons of Disco. Italian model Stefano Zandri a.k.a. musician Den Harrow, is one of Italy’s biggest stars. Years later, the truth came out that he lip synced his way to the hearts of fans after American singer Thomas Barbey revealed that he’s the voice of Den Harrow.

Dons of Disco

Bang your head! Watch the Maori Metal documentary about three native New Zealand brothers who are proud of their Maori culture and enjoy rocking out in their metal band Alien Weaponry.

Maori Metal

Princess of the Row is the inspiring and moving story about Alicia Willis who travels to Los Angeles, California to find her homeless, military-veteran dad Sergeant Beaumont “Bo” Willis.

Princess of the Row

Computer startup General Magic was ahead of its time with concepts for smartphones and the other technological devices and ways that we communicate today. Learn about this company’s innovative ideas and pitfalls in the General Magic documentary.

General Magic

Weddings can be stressful for the bride, groom and everyone involved in the big day. People have a say with social media at gatherings and life-changing events nowadays. Can a social media poll determine a bride and groom’s fate? Should they still take the plunge and say “I do?” Find out in the humorous Made Public short.

Made Public

Wear plaid attire or a kilt while watching the Chef’s Diaries: Scotland. Foodies can travel with the three Roca brothers who are chefs at their El Celler de Can Roca restaurant, which was named the world’s best restaurant in 2013 and 2015.

Chef's Diaries Scotland

Table football, better known as foosball, was the rage during the 1970s. Two players at a table spin little men on rods, trying to slam a ball into a goal. A small, but mighty group is keeping the game alive with tournaments for foosball fanatics. The Foosballers documentary explores the sports history, trick shots and foosball champions.

Foosballers

The Interpreters is a film that illustrates the challenges and risks that Iraqi and Afghan translators face after they have joined forces with the United States.

The Interpreters Roll Red Roll explores how a high school football team in Steubenville, Ohio tried to ignore a sexual assault in order to protect the team’s star players.

Roll Red Roll

Three filmmakers are on a mission to save one of the last Blockbuster Video stores in this documentary. The Saving Blockbuster documentary was the 2018 Brouhaha Grand Jury Award winner.

Blockbuster Video

John Waters’ films come to life in the Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary. The film’s star is Donnie Corker who contracted spinal meningitis—which his mother pronounced as Spider Mites of Jesus—as an infant. He later became a cross-dresser and drag queen and was the heart of Richmond, Virginia before he passed away two years ago.

Spider Mites of Jesus The Dirtwoman Documentary

Doomsday prepper and retiree Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) has a connection with Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner). These two eccentrics form a bond and are happy together despite their emotional baggage, which comes to a head and spews out before them.

The Tomorrow Man

Marine life evolves and causes the rules of survival to change in Hybrids.

Hybrids

The Florida Film Festival says farewell to its 28th year by celebrating Easter and the 40-year anniversary of Monty Python’s Life of Brian on Sunday, April 21 at 8:30 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. The comedic film is set in 33 A.D. in Judea where Romans are trying to bring order to the country, but experience some pitfalls after would-be messiah Brian Cohen develops a following.

Monty Python's Life of Brian

Individual film tickets are $12, packages are $55-$200 and passes are $125-$1,500 per person.

Browse the film schedule by downloading the free Florida Film Festival app for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. For more information, including the Florida Film Festival schedule, visit floridafilmfestival.com.

 

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All Roads Lead to Toll Road Brewing Company By Sandra Carr

Craft breweries are popping up everywhere in Central Florida nowadays, but Toll Road Brewing Company is making its mark in downtown Ocoee. The cozy brewery opened back in June and is quenching thirsts with its signature brews.

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Toll Road Brewing Company serves its signature craft beers. Photo by: Matt Geleske

Brewery founders and owners David Strickland, Duane Morin and Russ Balazs had been planning to open the brewery for the past three years.

Morin was impressed with the small breweries that he visited during a trip to San Diego along with the successful business models, which put the brewery plan into action when he returned to Ocoee.

Morin and Strickland had been brewing beer for the past 15 years. The time was right for taking the next step and fulfilling their brewery dream.

The brewery has been a labor of love. The owners did the building demolition and refurbishment themselves, but had technicians do the electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s founders and owners during the brewery’s grand-opening celebration: l-r Russ Balazs, Duane and Melissa Morin and Donna and David Strickand Photo by: Sandra Carr

The brewery’s name and location were a perfect match since it seems like you have to drive on a toll road to get anywhere in Orlando. Plus, State Roads 408 and 429 and Florida’s Turnpike all converge in Ocoee.

Toll Road Brewing Company’s tasty craft beer keeps the customers coming back for more.

“We serve sours and a lot of typical American style beers,” said Strickland. “We brew what we like to drink. Our plan is to have 8-10 beers rotating regularly and a few guest taps, a cider and glasses of wine.”

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s menu. Photo by: Sandra Carr

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s beer is brewed on the premises. Photo by: Sandra Carr

During my Toll Road Brewing Company visit, I ordered The Crowdpleaser. The refreshing and delicious Kölsch beer and the name said it all! I can see why this beer is a favorite with the brewery’s customers! Kölsch beer originated in Cologne, Germany and is fermented with ale yeast and then conditioned at cold temperatures like a lager. I’m a wheat beer fan, but this brew has become one of my top faves!

I also enjoyed sampling the brewery’s robust porter The Sheriff. My palate isn’t a fan of dark beers, but this brew didn’t leave an aftertaste in my mouth and was very rich and smooth. I finally found a porter beer that I can drink! Porter beer fans will rate this brew high on their list, that’s for sure!

My husband Dan drank the Irish Red called Shamrocks & Shenanigans. I thought this brew’s name was catchy and perfect for Irish beer aficionados. He loves malty beers and this brew passed the test! The porter is also Strickland’s favorite Toll Road Brewing Company beer. He says, “the beer is a little bit different from most porters you’ll get around town and has more substance.”

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Image courtesy of the Toll Road Brewing Company.

The comfy taproom has wood tables with high top chairs and stools for those who want to belly up and hang out at the bar. The walls are gray with decorative tile accents with neutral tones and the main seating area features faux red, white and blue painted panels. Plus, there are purse hooks and USB ports for charging your phone, which are nice touches. If you want to get some fresh air, then you can hang out on the outdoor patio. The brewery is also dog and kid-friendly and provides pooches with treats.

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Toll Road Brewing Company Photo by: Sandra Carr

You can tell a lot of thought went into planning this neighborhood brewery in west Orange County. The owners went the extra mile to ensure the taproom had a homey ambiance.

“We wanted a comfortable taproom that was a low key place to hang out and have a few beers,” said Strickland.

His wife Donna Strickland added, “craft beer camaraderie is experienced at Toll Road Brewing Company. We want our customers to hang out, enjoy a good beer and experience Ocoee. We aimed at having the brewery to be a comfortable place where people feel like they’re at home.”

Customers can take a piece of Toll Road Brewing Company with them by purchasing one of the brewery’s T-shirts. Tasty Trivia, which has “Friends,” “Star Wars” and ’80s themes, is every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and happy hour features $1 off beers on Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s merchandise. Photo by: Sandra Carr

The Toll Road Brewing Company is included on the Central Florida Ale Trail, which features 26 breweries, and is a must-see craft beer destination in downtown Ocoee.

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Disney and Debonair and Dazzling Vintage Styles are Displayed during Dapper Day By Sandra Carr

Retro revelers took over Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot during Dapper Day last April. The step-out-in-style soirée included craft cocktails and mingling with other vintage aficionados at the steam punk-themed restaurant The Edison, located at Disney Springs, the Charles Phoenix Retro Disneyland Slide Show, traipsing around the theme parks and shopping galore during the Dapper Day Boutique at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s convention center.

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I attended Dapper Day at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa last April.

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My husband Dan is striking a pose during Dapper Day!

I enjoyed seeing dashing gents and gorgeous gals dressed to the nines during Dapper Day. I have been wearing vintage clothing since the 1980s, so I’m extremely pleased that others are carrying the torch and keeping the vintage spirit alive!

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Josh Ramsey and Judy Pop are wearing their stylish vintage attire during Dapper Day!

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She’s looking vintage posh!

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This cute couple is wearing matching Orange Bird couture outfits!

The boutique featured vintage clothing by Orlando Vintage Clothing and Costume, Retromended, Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing and other fabulous vendors.

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Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing.

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Charles Phoenix for Couture for Every Body by Pinup Girl Clothing.

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A Dapper Day attendee is browsing at the boutique.

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A vintage dress paired with a beaded sweater and antique jewelry is on display at the Dapper Day boutique.

Charles Phoenix, the ambassador of Americana, was the main attraction during last spring’s Dapper Day. Phoenix presented a vintage Kodachrome slide show on the big screen, featuring folks who visited Disneyland during the 1950s and ’60s. The slide show also featured legendary, long-gone Disneyland attractions, including the Monsanto House of the Future, Skyway, Skull Rock, Rainbow Caverns, Flying Saucers and The Carousel of Progress. Besides the spectacular slides, Phoenix’s hilarious commentary and backstories are what make his laugh-out-loud slide shows even more special. I know!

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Tomorrowland and the Monsanto House of the Future.

Disneyland Slide

A Disneyland slide, featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse, one of The Three Little Pigs, an employee and child.

Skyway

Disneyland’s Skyway.

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I’m hanging out with Charles Phoenix during Dapper Day!

Disneyland

The classic and iconic Disneyland sign!

Disneyland holds a special place in Phoenix’s heart.

“I’m a child of Disneyland and an enthusiast,” said Phoenix. “It’s the only place that I go with my family and it’s the greatest time. Thank you Walt Disney for making your great magic a part of our lives.”

Phoenix was also selling and autographing his latest book, “Addicted to Americana.” The book celebrates classic and kitschy American life and style. The book retails for $29.95 and includes his autograph. Bonus! Phoenix’s book is a treasure trove of information, which includes roadside attractions, classic cars and space-age style that he has encountered during road trips. Add this must-have book to your holiday gift list! You will be delighted and learn about a plethora of places before you plan your next trip!

Charles Phoenix Book

“Addicted to Americana” by Charles Phoenix.

This was the third time I have seen and experienced Phoenix’s slide show. He didn’t disappoint and was a real hoot! He also has slide shows, tours and other exciting events listed on his website throughout the year.

I’m a native Orlandoan, so visiting Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as a child with my family was always an adventure! My parents bought my brother Vernon and I Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls, hats and frisbees during our first visit to the Magic Kingdom in fall 1973 (Note: The photos are dated Jan. 1974 because my parents developed the Kodak 110 camera film after the holidays). My parents took photos of us with our souvenirs after we got home from the Magic Kingdom. Vernon and I still have those memorable keepsakes!

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My brother Vernon and I are posing with our Magic Kingdom souvenirs.

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My brother Vernon and I are posing with your Magic Kingdom souvenirs in front of our dad’s Chevrolet Chevelle.

Dapper Day’s fall excursion is happening Nov. 16-18, 2018. The fun festivities will include an evening at Paddlefish, located at Disney Springs on Friday, Nov. 16, taking a walk on the wild side at Disney’s Animal Kingdom from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and reliving your childhood at the Magic Kingdom from 3 p.m. until close on Saturday, Nov. 17 and drinking around the world at Epcot on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Experience Disney while looking dapper every fall and spring! Learn more by visiting Dapper Day’s website.

Dapper Day Fall 2018

Dapper Day fall 2018.

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Refreshing Mexican Flavors are Savored during MargaritaFest By Sandra Carr

Tequila was flowing while the summer rain showers held off during the ninth annual MargaritaFest at the Wall Street Plaza last Saturday, Aug. 25.

Partygoers were cooling off with marvelous margaritas and relaxing to the reggae beats. VIP attendees took advantage of the Tequila Terrace’s offerings, which included access to the Monkey Bar, a high-end tequila tasting, complimentary Corona beers and full-sized tequila drinks.

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My husband Dan and I enjoyed experiencing the margarita madness during the annual fete!

Dan and Sandra at MargaritaFest

Bottoms up! Dan and I are sipping margaritas at the Wall Street Plaza.

The margarita tour began by tasting the Wall Street Cantina’s Te-Kill-Ya-Rita. The Orlando Pub Crawl’s crew were dressed as sorcerers while serving the margarita and promoting its A Wizard’s World Pub Crawl on Saturday, Sept. 15. Bonus points for creativity! The Te-Kill-Ya-Rita was my hands-down favorite during the festival! The delicious and refreshing margarita tasted fruity and pleased my palate. Plus, you couldn’t taste the tequila, which in my book that means the margarita was mixed to perfection.

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The Wall Street Cantina’s Te-Kill-Ya-Rita was served by sorcerers!

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The Heritage Square’s alligator gives the Te-Kill-Ya-Rita five chomps!

The Wall Street Cantina also served its Cantina Rita during the festivities. I could taste the tequila, but it was fruity and mixed well.

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The Wall Street Cantina’s Cantina Rita.

The next sample was Don Julio Tequila’s Paloma margarita. I could taste the tequila and grapefruit and lime juices, but the tequila didn’t overpower the other ingredients. Find out for yourself by creating the Paloma margarita with Don Julio’s recipe.

Don Julio Tequila Paloma

The Don Julio Tequila’s Paloma margarita.

Casa Noble’s The Tommy margarita was very strong and you could definitely taste the tequila. Unfortunately, the margarita was hard to enjoy, especially since I couldn’t taste the other ingredients in the drink recipe.

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Casa Noble’s The Tommy margarita.

Casamigos, which means house of friends, was launched by actor George Clooney, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber and property developer Mike Meldman five years ago. The tequila brand served its Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita during the festival. The cucumber and jalapeño drink elements were prominent in this clear and refreshing margarita. Make the Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita at home with Casamigos’ recipe.

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Casamigos’ Spicy Cucumber Jalapeño margarita.

I experienced the best of both worlds with Tijuana Sweet Heat’s Sweet & Spicy margarita. The recipe included tequila, cranberry and sour mix. The concoction was mixed well and one ingredient didn’t overpower the other, which was a huge plus.

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Tijuana Sweet Heat’s Sweet & Spicy margarita.

Blue Nectar Tequila’s Cherry Latino margarita was refreshing to drink on a hot and humid day. The cherry-tasting margarita was delicious with a slight bite.

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Blue Nectar Tequila’s Cherry Latino margarita.

Jose Cuervo, one of the MargaritaFest sponsors, served its classic margarita. You can’t go wrong with a traditional margarita!

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Jose Cuervo’s classic margarita.

Another favorite margarita that I sampled was the 1800 Tequila’s Coco Loco margarita. I would enjoy sipping this yummy margarita while sitting in a cabana on the beach! The mixture included 1800 Tequila Coconut mixed with cranberry and pineapple juices.

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1800 Tequila’s Coco Loco margarita.

Maestro Dobel Tequila went the extra mile with its Black Diamond margarita. The original recipe features agave syrup, but the tequila brand served its concoction with  black cherry syrup instead. The drink was topped with a black cherry, which was a nice touch. Try the Black Diamond margarita for yourself with agave or black cherry syrup.

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Maestro Dobel Tequila’s Black Diamond margarita.

The fan favorite was probably Patrón since the tequila company had the longest line during MargaritaFest this year. Patrón served its pineapple daiquiri instead of a margarita. The bold choice paid off! The smooth and tasty cocktail wasn’t a margarita, but it was worth the wait. Keep the summer vibes going all year long by making the pineapple daiquiri at home with Patrón’s recipe.

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Patrón’s pineapple daiquiri.

Would you like wine with your tequila? Absolutely! Tequila Cazadores served its Mexican Chardonnay, which was a unique twist on the margarita. The tequila, agave and chardonnay wine actually tasted well together. Wine connoisseurs may want to give this margarita a shot. Make the Mexican Chardonnay with this recipe.

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Tequila Cazadores’ Mexican Chardonnay margarita.

Dulce Vida, an organic tequila, provided MargaritaFest attendees with samples of its Pineapple Jalapeño margarita. The pineapple, jalapeño and tequila were stirred well. You could smell the jalapeños, but there was just a veiled hint of the chili peppers existence in the margarita.

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Dulce Vida’s Pineapple Jalapeño margarita.

el Jimador joined forces with the energy drink Red Bull to create its margarita. The mixture was simply tequila and orange Red Bull. The concoction was delish! Bravo for thinking outside of the box!

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The el Jimador margarita with orange Red Bull.

Suerte tequila took a different spin on the classic Tom Collins cocktail with its Juan Collins margarita. I had an ah and Zen moment when I was sipping Suerte’s Juan Collins margarita. The grapefruit seltzer ingredient made the margarita more flavorful. Find out for yourself with the Juan Collins recipe.

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Suerte’s Juan Collins margarita.

Cenote Tequila’s Watermelon Mint margarita was disappointing. It was watered down and you could only taste the tequila. Hopefully, this was an off day for the tequila brand.

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Cenote Tequila’s Watermelon Mint margarita.

MargaritaFest provides tequila fans with a chance to try an array of margaritas without having to travel south of the border. The annual margarita festival happens in August or September, so get your taste buds ready for next year’s event.

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Fine Artist Chelsea Smith Brings Celtic Creatures to Life By Sandra Carr

Shapeshifting, mythological goddesses who transform into animals emerge from hibernation in “Chelsea Smith: Magical Realism…Etching Myths and Legends” exhibit in the Orlando Public Library’s first floor gallery through July 31.

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“Chelsea Smith: Magical Realism…Etching Myths and Legends” exhibit is on display at the Orlando Public Library through July 31.

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I’m posing with Chelsea Smith during her meet-the-artist reception at the Orlando Public Library.

Fine artist Chelsea Smith is influenced by artists and printmakers Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt and her Irish and English heritage. Her artwork, which explores the empowerment of women, is inspired by Scottish, Welsh and Nordic animal symbology of ancient civilizations and folklores and brought to life with etched copper plates.

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Chelsea Smith’s artwork is created with etched copper plates.

Smith drew pets to raise monies for Pet Rescue by Judy as a child and graduated from Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Fla. as the Dora Lee Russell Scholarship for Fine Arts recipient. She established herself as a copper plate etching and printmaking artist after graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Central Florida.

The copper plate etching process features an image drawn on a copper plate then transferred onto paper by using a printing press.

Smith’s favorite piece of artwork is the black-and-white “Tempus Fugit Vanitas Vita,” which means time flies vanity life.

“The artwork is a throwback to art history and the Renaissance period,” Smith said. “As a 21st century female artist, I wanted to represent a female artist because women weren’t allowed to draw human figures during the Renaissance.”

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“Tempus Fugit Vanitas Vita” artwork by Chelsea Smith.

Smith has been garnering prestigious, fine-art accolades during juried national fine arts festivals. She has been bestowed with numerous national level fine art awards, including poster artist for the 2017 Mount Dora Arts Festival, a merit award during the Mayfaire-by-the-Lake Art Fest Lakeland 2016, the judges choice at the Central Park Art Festival Winter Haven 2016, first place in fine arts at the Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival and a merit winner during the 2015 Winter Springs ArtoberFEST. She also was selected for judging during the 2015 Winter Park Autumn Art Festival.

42nd Annual Mount Dora Arts Festival Poster

42nd Annual Mount Dora Arts Festival poster by Chelsea Smith.

She has provided former U.S. President Barack Obama, musicians and bands with her artwork, including Duran Duran, the Goo Goo Dolls, Boy George of Culture Club, Adam Ant and Johnny Marr. Actresses Dichen Lachman from “Agents of Shield” and Billie Piper from “Doctor Who” also own her artwork.

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Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran is posing with Chelsea Smith’s “The Third Eye.”

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John Taylor and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran are posing with their dog portraits.

This is Smith’s first solo exhibition at the Orlando Public Library, which features artwork from her “Sacred Feminine” and “Celtic Mythology” series. Her meet-the-artist reception was held on June 21. The festivities included an introduction by City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner and artist Patty Sheehan, discussion, question-and-answer session and artwork raffles.

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City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner and artist Patty Sheehan introduced Chelsea Smith before her discussion during the meet-the-artist reception.

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Chelsea Smith discusses her artwork and copper plate etching process at the Orlando Public Library.

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An attendee won Chelsea Smith’s artwork during the meet-the-artist reception at the Orlando Public Library.

Smith is honored to have her exhibition and reception at the Orlando Public Library.

“Having my first solo exhibition has been a lifelong dream of mine,” she said. “This is one of those milestone events featuring my whole body of work during my first 26 years up to this point. I got to meet new people and see my family and friends during the reception who have been supporting me throughout this ride. I enjoy showing people what I love to do along with educating them about my artistic process.”

 

 

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RumFest Brings Tropical Spirit to Orlando By Sandra Carr

The rain couldn’t keep revelers away as they quenched their tropical thirst during the 14th Annual RumFest at the Wall Street Plaza last Saturday.

The festival featured more than 20 different rums, live music by local reggae band Hor!zen and DJ RED i spinning the island beats. Attendees sipped concoctions, played with beach balls and had a passport stamped by the rum company representatives for a chance at winning a year’s supply of rum during a drawing.

VIP ticket holders experienced the Red Stripe Terrace at the Monkey Bar, which included complimentary Red Stripe beer, select rum cocktails and Caribbean-style snacks along with RumFest sampling.

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My husband Dan and I have been attending RumFest since the very beginning and look forward to our rum rendezvous every year!

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Dan and I are striking a pose during the 14th Annual RumFest at the Wall Street Plaza.

The first stop was one of our faves Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. The retro-inspired rum brand served its Cherry Jerry and handed out buttons and koozies. The delicious cocktail tasted like a cherry-flavored drink and was mixed just right with rum, pineapple juice and grenadine ingredients.

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Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry cocktail.

Sailor Jerry Cherry Jerry Recipe

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry recipe.

The Kraken Black Spiced Rum poured its Cephalopunch, which features the same ingredients as Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum’s Cherry Jerry, but with less grenadine. For those of you who aren’t anatomy aficionados, the drink’s name refers to a human’s head.

The tasty concoction made me want to sit back and relax while enjoying the tiki vibes. Create your own cocktail with this rum recipe.

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The Kraken Black Spiced Rum’s Cephalopunch.

RumChata never disappoints with its Dirty Banana. The creamy and tasty cocktail is always popular during RumFest and worth the wait. Ingredients include two parts RumChata and one part banana liqueur shaken and poured over ice.

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RumChata’s Dirty Banana cocktail.

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RumChata girls served the Dirty Banana cocktail.

The Dos Maderas’ Pineapple Smash didn’t make a big splash. The cocktail tasted watered down with hardly any rum.

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Dos Maderas’ Pineapple Smash cocktail.

The rum excursion continued with Bayou Rum. The Louisiana rum company presented its Gator Bite during the festival. This flavorful and perfectly blended cocktail contained its silver, spiced and satsuma rums mixed with pineapple, orange, cranberry and lime juices. If there was a rum concoction competition during the festival, then this drink would have won hands down. Create your own Gator Bite with Bayou Rum’s recipe.

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Bayou Rum’s Gator Bite cocktail.

Bacardi, one of the RumFest sponsors, had not one, but three cocktails this year. The options included the Coconut Colada, Limonade and Rum Punch. Dan and I sampled the Coconut Colada, which was a refreshing cocktail that urged me to hang out in a beach cabana. The ingredients included Bacardi coconut rum mixed with pineapple juice and served over ice.

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Barcardi’s Coconut Colada, Limonade and Rum Punch cocktails.

Captain Morgan has provided festivalgoers with unique cocktails in the past, but decided to keep it simple with just Captain and Coke this year.

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Captain Morgan’s Captain and Coke cocktail.

Country musician Kenny Chesney wanted to give back to his island adventures by launching Blue Chair Bay Rum five years ago. The Caribbean rum presented its Pineapple Paradise during the festival. The concoction was creamy like RumChata’s Dirty Banana, but didn’t make its mark since you couldn’t taste the pineapple or any other tropical ingredients. However, I was impressed that the rum company’s representatives provided attendees with mini Caribbean cocktail recipe books, so they can create their own drinks at home.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Pineapple Paradise cocktail.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Caribbean cocktail recipes.

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Blue Chair Bay Rum’s Caribbean cocktail recipes.

Bounty Saint Lucia Rum’s Spirit of Saint Lucia and Don Q’s Pina Fizz cocktails were uber popular during the festival because both rum companies ran out of their mixtures before Dan and I could sample their cocktails.

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Bounty Saint Lucia Rum’s Spirit of Saint Lucia cocktail.

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Don Q’s Pina Fizz cocktail.

RumFest is a wonderful opportunity to sample new rum brands and cocktails and experience the Caribbean in the heart of downtown Orlando. The annual rum festival occurs in June or July, so add the event to your summer calendar next year.

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