Tag Archives: orlando

New Year’s Eve in Orlando – Top 5 Ways to Ring in 2011

Of course there are many places to have a rocking New Year’s Eve in the Central Florida area. Most of the local clubs will be having parties, as well as all the theme parks, each ending in a fabulous fireworks show. But to narrow down your choices, here’s where we are recommending that will be sure to be a great end to 2010 and awesome start to 2011.

Long a favorite because of its party atmosphere, ring in the New Year with a concert featuring Bret Michaels!

From Universal's website

Picture nine different venues at this block party!  This is perhaps Orlando’s largest New Year’s Eve event, featuring an outdoor dance floor. Nice!

A repeat of last year’s theme, the Enzian always has plenty of character on-hand for a great time. Here’s a video to show what’s in store:
A true family event with activities for children, classic rock n’ roll, rides, and fireworks at midnight.

Another family place with great restaurants and shops, both open late for the party. And, listen to bands throughout the night, including VonRay and the Mo Geetz Band until fireworks at midnight.

VonRay

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Filed under family, Fun, Seasonal

Festivus Orlando 2010! (Just For the Rest of Us!)

It’s December 23, and as Seinfeld fans everywhere know, today is Festivus!  That means airing of grievances, feats of strength, setting up a metal pole, and even Festivus miracles…Festivus is all too real!

For the uninitiated, here’s a short summary of the holiday:

Yes, people everywhere pour into the streets and bars to perform heroic acts of strength, to loudly complain, and to jubilantly celebrate the day!  Even Orlando-based AirTran got into the mood by offering their “Don’t be distracted by Tinsel, Celebrate Festivus with AirTran.”  (Unfortunately, their celebration ran from December 1-12, missing the actual holiday by quite a bit, but they still get kudos for effort.)

Fortunately for the rest of us, Festivus is alive and well in the rest of Orlando with a few observances around town (Or you can have your own!):

  • Head to the Festivus for the Rest of Us festival at Orlando Tastings Wine Bar
  • Try the Festivus Holiday Party at Graffiti Junktion, Thornton Park
  • Demand that Ben & Jerry bring back their Festivus flavored ice cream (an ice cream for the rest of us) at your favorite stores around town
  • Order this special Festivus pin
  • Perform a feat of strength (don’t get hurt, though)
  • Gripe and complain to air your grievances
  • Dance around a metal pole (Hmmm… that sounds a bit risqué!)
  • Hope for a Festivus miracle

So, friends, happy Festivus for the Rest of Us! Enjoy the day!

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Filed under Fun, Just Plain Weird, Seasonal

Flash Mob in Orlando! Be a Part of It!

The Top 5 is so excited that a flash mob is being organized in Orlando to celebrate tourism!  So, what’s a flash mob, you ask? Here’s one performed in Stockolm in tribute to Michael Jackson:

So, we definitely want to be a part of this, and we’re sure you do, too. First of all, sign up here: FLASH MOB FACEBOOK INVITE

Who:
Singers, Dancers, EVERYONE (that means you and me). They’re hoping to have one core group to be our “voice” and then have EVERYONE else in our community that wants to be part of history…and well, something very cool.

How:
Sign up here and put your email into the comments. All event locations and times will be handled via email…not through Facebook.

Flash mob choreographer:
Michael Wanzie, master of all that is entertainment.

When:
End of January (have to be vague about the date at this point, but they have already zoned in on the event and location). The goal will be to target a time when the MOST people can be present.

Where:
Rehearsal will be announced 2 days before the event via email. They will then announce, via private email…where we will rehearse (1 hour).

Event:
You will learn where the event will happen the night prior to the actual event.

Cost:
$0 but the memory will be priceless!

Why:
There is no doubt this will go viral. What we’ll hope for is the event will be impactful, moving and help clearly illustrate that Orlando is open for business and we’re FUN.

We love this idea! Come on, Orlando, and let’s make it BIG!

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Filed under Fun, New & Hot, Orlando

Fight for Air Climb: Are You Tough Enough?

The Central Florida Top 5 is a very proud supporter of the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb.

Why? Because just over two years ago my brother passed away, struggling to breath as he lay in intensive care.  So, the work the American Lung Association does is very dear to my family.

So, please take a moment to consider donating to the American Lung Association in general, or perhaps this Saturday you might take the challenge to climb all 25 floors of the Bank of America Building in downtown Orlando. (You can register online to participate in the event through this Thursday, November 11. More info here.)

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Filed under Charity, family, Just for Me, Non-profit

Greenwood Cemetery: Orlando’s Most Exclusive Gated Community

With all the terrifyingly thrilling buzz about Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights XX and Sea World/Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream, the Top 5 is embracing the spooky season… we’ve dusted off our collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales, along with Washington Irving‘s ghost stories. (Yep, we’re kind of geeks!)

So, when Don Price, the sexton of the Greenwood Cemetery–the City of Orlando‘s only cemetery–invited us for a Moonlight Walking Tour, we jumped at the chance to stroll among the headstones and crypts, and ponder the souls that dwell there.  So, into the car we went and bravely made our way to the Greenwood Street entrance, where a set of intimidating wrought iron gates lit by flickering lamps awaited us.

With a sardonic smile, Don greeted us, along with a few other unfortunate souls from the Orange County Convention Visitors Bureau and the Orlando Arts Magazine, and so our small pack followed our fearless leader armed with a single flashlight into the night.  Dark clouds masked the eye of the moon and from time to time helicopters cryptically flew overhead as if searching desperately for someone or something. Other than that, the grounds were quiet as we were followed by our own footsteps. Silent owls swooped and the whisk of bats’ wings could be heard. I, of course, shivered despite the heat and humidity, and was fully prepared for a shadowy figure to be stalking us.

What I found instead, was a truly refreshing new look at the city I call home.

The first grave we happened upon was that of July Perry, a black man who in 1920 was stabbed, shot, and then hanged on the property of Orlando judge  John Cheney as a dire warning.  (I had no idea the namesake of Old Cheney Highway had played such a large part in the racial tensions that historically plagued the South!) During the time of the Jim Crow Laws, Perry had been denied the right to vote, and Judge Cheney was attempting to aid Perry, by sending him back to the voting precinct to get the names of the men denying him.

Perry made the ill-choice to return with a friend and a shotgun for support. In Ocoee later that night, retired sheriff Sam Salisbury would be shot in the right arm as he was attempting to serve a warrant on Perry, and things quickly spiraled out of control resulting in a lynch mob, as well as 25 black homes, 2 churches, and a masonic lodge burned to the ground.

Perry was laid to rest in the “black part” of the cemetery, and ironically enough, I discovered the cemetery was segregated in many more ways:  “Union” vs. “Yankee” soldiers,  the “in” crowd and the “out” crowd, the “English” colony vs. the “Americans.”

I had studied Florida’s past, hadn’t I?  Why was all this missing from the history books!

It should be noted we later crossed near the grave of Sam Salisbury, the retired sheriff who got shot while serving a warrant on the tragic July Perry. Karma apparently has a way of finding itself and its unknowing victims…Sam’s right arm was left paralyzed as a result of the gunshot wound on election night in 1920.  However, 54 years later, Sam tripped down the stairs, and the gun he had tucked in his belt went off, killing him with a bullet to the head!

Continuing to meander through the stones, Orlando’s streets came to life as we were told stories about their namesakes.  We met Samuel Robinson, think Robinson Street, who served as county surveyor for 16 years. In his travels across Central Florida, he gathered a large collection of gold and silver ornaments from Native American mounds, a collection that now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And, it should be noted that Sam Robinson chose the highest point in Central Florida for his gravesite.

Samuel Robinson's "terrazo stone" marker.

We also heard about Aaron Jernigan, Orlando’s first settler and the city’s original namesake. It would be called Jernigan until the name was changed to Orlando by Judge J.D. Spear. Spear was a great fan of Shakespeare, and relished the performances of Shakespeare among others at the Orlando Opera House, and so it is rumored that he chose to name the city after one of Shakespeare’s characters from As You Like It.  (This would make sense with Rosalind Street, Orlando’s love interest.) However, other rumors of the city’s naming center around an unconfirmed account of a heroic soldier named Orlando Reeves.

Orlando Opera House

We also heard about other city founders and pioneers, including Holden, Delaney, Gore, Leu, and Beacham.  (I remember my mother telling me stories about the old Beacham Theater.) Apparently, Beacham teamed with J.F. Ange of the Angebuilt Hotel across the street. It turns out, there is a tunnel running under Orange Avenue connecting the two, so Beacham’s actors could make their way to and from the theater in secret. (Yes, the tunnel is still there, although bricked up on either side.)

We ran across other names, fixtures in Orlando’s history, albeit not quite as famous as those with streets named after them. We saw the grave of Ruth Pounds, of Edgewater Drive’s Pounds Dance Studio, where generations of teens have been sent for ballroom dance and etiquette lessons. (Your Top 5 editor is included in this! I spent every Monday night during 7th grade at her dance studio…)  We saw the headstone of Chauncey Boyle, at one time the strongest man in the world.

Strongest man in the world, as shown by the barbell on his headstone

We also saw the grave of Delta Burke‘s father. Apparently she visits fairly often, casually chatting a while with Don and the other caretakers at the cemetery.  (My hubby liked hearing about this as Delta was a companion of his mother, when they both were in their pageant days!)

And then we saw the grave marker of Francis Eppes… who is he?  He is Thomas Jefferson’s grandson (he was even born at Monticello) before making his way to Florida. Want to know why else he’s important? He founded the Florida State College for Women… now known as Florida State University! (Hmmm…shouldn’t we ship him back to the panhandle or something?)

Francis Eppes, Founder of FSU

We also saw large crypts, straight out of H.P. Lovecraft‘s “The Outsider.” (By the way, if you’ve never read this tale, it is my all-time favorite!) The Wilmott family, who owned the Tremont Hotel, has a crypt with a curious window of orange glass in the back, and on certain days of the year, when the sun is just right, the entire crypt is aglow with the eerie orange color.

On certain days, this glows orange

Another crypt, hand-built by its owner, mysteriously has no death date. It simply reads “1836  – 19–”  This leads many a mischief-maker to light candles on the doorstep, in hopes the still-living undead might make an appearance. (Apparently the owner died with no heirs to pay for the remaining numbers, thus it is not quite as mysterious as it appears!)

So as we made our way around in the dark listening to Don spin his sinister stories of Orlando magic, I found myself reflecting on this wonderful city of ours.  It is thrilling to now understand that we have an actual history–one that is great and turbulent and full of true characters that forged us into “The City Beautiful.” (Yes, we also saw the grave of Jessie Branch, the lady responsible for giving Orlando this motto.)

I believe we should all come to understand the factors that led us to today, we should embrace both the warts and the beauty marks. If we don’t, how can we truly appreciate all that Orlando has overcome to be “The City Beautiful” it is today?

Mrs. R. Greer - Orlando's first professional painter

Don retold history in such a respectful yet intriguing manner, that he rivals any professional story-teller. So, in between your trips to the theme parks this Halloween season, make your way to the 100 plus rolling acres near downtown where Orlando’s most exclusive and famous residents now call home. You will be glad you did!

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Filed under Celebrity, Convention Center, Education, Fun, General Info, History, Just Plain Weird, Seasonal, TV Fame, Uniquely Florida, Universal

“American Idol” Star Visits Orlando for a Hunger-Free Summer

Last week, American Idol star Katharine McPhee visited Orlando in hopes of bringing a focus on hungry children. She has partnered with the ConAgra Foods Foundation. Many local children depend on schools to provide perhaps their only consistent daily meals, and so when school is out, that means their next meal becomes a question mark.

During the school year, 19.5 million children receive free and reduced-price meals at school. But during the summer months, only 2.2 million children participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, coordinated by many Feeding America food banks across the country. That leaves millions of children at risk of hunger during the summer when school is out. The Hunger-Free Summer initiative aims to close that gap through a $5 million donation from the ConAgra Foods Foundation to Feeding America. The goal of the Hunger-Free Summer initiative is to provide at least 25 percent more meals for children in need over the next five years, and will account for a significant portion of ConAgra Foods Foundation’s goal of delivering one million meals to children in need this summer.

McPhee was in Orlando to launch Hunger-Free Summer on Wednesday, July 7, with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando at the New Image Youth Center. While there, Katharine volunteered her time, raising awareness for the cause, and singing with the children served by the center.

“This summer, I am going to be traveling across the country to Feeding America food banks from Orlando to Los Angeles – to volunteer my time and, more importantly, to raise awareness about this important issue,” said McPhee. “I want to challenge every community to come together to help end child hunger in the United States.”

Let’s hope her work brings attention to the problem of hunger here and across the nation!

In this photo provided by ConAgra Foods Foundation, entertainer Katharine McPhee sings with children at the New Image Youth Center.

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Even the Possum Looks Like Mickey Mouse!

So, if you follow the Top 5 on Twitter, and were tweeting away on Sunday night around 10 p.m., then you probably saw the ruckus at my house. Somehow, an opossum had snuck its way into our house, past two dogs, three, cats, and a teenager, and was nestled in the corner of our living room! Well, here’s the resulting video…

By the way, several tweeters informed me it is extremely rare for an opossum to carry rabies… whew! (Does this type of thing happen to other people???)

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Filed under Agriculture, family, Just for Me, Just Plain Weird, Uniquely Florida