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The annual state python hunt which is open to the public wrapped up recently; Craig took a look at the efficacy of these contests for his latest "Florida Phoenix" column.This week's guest is Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation owner of the Columbia Restaurant with its original location in Ybor City. Richard explains how the two sides of his family - one from Cuba, one from Spain - came to America and opened the restaurant which has survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, World Wars and, most recently, COVID.From the original, the Columbia Restaurant has branched out to open locations across the state including St. Armond's Circle in Sarasota. The Columbia Restaurant is the oldest eatery on St. Armand's and is part of a perfect day spent exploring this unique shopping, dining, history attraction.Welcome once again to our newest partner, the world's largest online retailer of hurricane hardware. sells the screws, bolts, wingnuts and supplies which will secure your home or business from hurricane wind damage, and like the Columbia Restaurant, is a family owned Florida business.
Our episode begins with Craig's latest Florida Phoenix column on how state Republicans are trying to connect fighting climate change and transitioning to clean energy with the culture wars in order to delay action.Our guest is Florida woman Deb Rogers, author of the book "Florida Woman." The novel uses the escaped monkeys of Central Florida as a plot device. Rogers researched the monkeys, how they got here, how they escaped, and what is being done to control them.We welcome new sponsor to the podcast. Windstorm Products is a Florida small business which has become the world's largest online retailer of hurricane hardware. Hurricane hardware is the bolts and anchors and products you need to secure your home or business from hurricane wind damage. Learn more by visiting their website, "Welcome to Florida," as always, is sponsored by Visit Sarasota which has a surprisingly robust mid-century modern architecture history. "Garden & Gun" magazine recently featured Sarasota as an architecture "hotspot" and Architecture Sarasota is a new group working to preserve, interpret and provide tours around that history.
Florida isn't serious about water quality, if it were, it wouldn't keep allowing developers to install septic tanks.Our guest this week is Jennifer Lemmer-Posey, an author of two books about the circus as well as a curator at the Circus Museum at The Ringling in Sarasota. Jennifer tells us how the circus came to Sarasota for its winter quarters and what the future of the circus is.This episode of "Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota, home to The Ringling. John Ringling's presence and incredible wealth are a big reason why Sarasota has such an outsized arts community for a city its size from performing arts, to visual arts and museums. Explore Sarasota's cultural offerings and begin making plans for your next visit.
Every see that "King Ranch" decal on the side of a Ford pickup truck? King Ranch is a real thing and up to no good in Florida.Our guest this week is a longtime collector of Florida related memorabilia and material culture and promoter of the annual Floridania Fest - which celebrates such things - Ken Breslauer. The Floridania Fest just passed its 30th anniversary and Ken joins us to discuss the event and the ongoing interest in collecting Florida."Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota where St. Armond's Circle offers circus history, art, dining and shopping in a world class gorgeous setting all overlooking the Gulf. 
This week's episode begins with a look at how the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants will impact Florida. Our guest is historian and author Cesar Becerra who published an historical novel, "Orange Blossom 2.0," about Mary Brickell and the founding of Miami in the summer of 2021 to coincide with the city's 125th anniversary. Becerra's research has led him to believe that Brickell deserves at least as much credit as does Miami's more well-known founding mother, Julia Tuttle, when it comes to establishing the city. Why has Brickell been overlooked? What about the Tuttle-Flagler Orange Blossom myth? Cesar introduces us to a fascinating female Floridian."Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota where Discover Sarasota Tours offers a variety of trolly excursions around town highlighting the area's circus history, Amish influence and arts, as well as ghost tours, psychic tours and murder mystery tours to name a few. Take a seat and take a ride to experience Sarasota in a fun and engaging way on a Discover Sarasota Tour.
This week's episode is all about the St. Petersburg Pier where Craig Pittman was married! That was 30 years ago and took place at the "old" Pier, the inverted pyramid pier. This week, we're talking to Raul Quintana, St. Pete's city architect, who was instrumental in overseeing the planning, design and project management for the fabulous new St. Pete Pier which opened in summer of 2020.The all-new attraction features 26 acres of park, playground, beach and market on the city's picturesque waterfront. Visitors will find endless adventures and experiences from walking and biking to sunbathing and swimming at Spa Beach, shopping, dining (Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille!), enjoying native plants in the Coastal Thicket and educational opportunities at the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center and St. Petersburg Museum of History.There's a splash pad for kids along with a "destination" playground completed at a cost of $1 million, family park and picnic area. Fishing. Public Art. Concerts. Guests never run out of things to do and see at the new St. Pete Pier.
An innocent mistake or a devious plot to sell 18,000 acres of conservation land from under the nose of Florida residents without anyone noticing? You be the judge.Our guest this week is Florida author Rick Kilby whose latest book, "Florida's Healing Waters: Gilded Age Mineral Springs, Seaside Resorts and Health Spas," details an era from the state's history where wealthy northerners would visit seeking the restorative powers of  our springs. "Welcome to Florida," as always, is presented by Visit Sarasota where 99 Bottles Tap Room and Bottle Shop serves real deal New York bagels - from NYC - every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning!
This week's episode begins with details regarding the capture of the largest ever Burmese python found in Florida. To learn more about Florida's efforts to eradicate - or control - invasive pythons, search the archives for our pythons episode.A new movie about Elvis Presley hit theatres this weekend. Our guest is Bob Kealing, author of "Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida" which details Elvis' time in Florida including the critical period between 1955 and 1956 where a young Elvis was transforming from nobody to the biggest start in the world.Visit Sarasota presents "Welcome to Florida" and if you're looking for great seafood in Florida, try Walt's Fish Market Seafood Restaurant!
The focus of this week's episode, John Muir, was well-known for getting outside. Taking long walks. Communing with nature. In a recent column, Craig Pittman encouraged state education officials and teachers to get kids in Florida outside, introduce them to the natural places around this state so they can better understand them, more deeply care about them, and, ultimately, more passionately protect them.One of the fathers of the conservation movement, John Muir, set out on a nearly 1,000 mile trek across the South in 1867. He started in Indiana, entered Florida at Fernandina Beach, and concluded his adventure in Cedar Key. Dan Chapman has lived in Atlanta since 2000, covering environmental issues for the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution." He decided to follow in Muir's footsteps to personally experience the ravaged ecological condition of the region. His book detailing the experience is titled, "A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir's Journey Through an Endangered Land.""Welcome to Florida," as always, is sponsored by Visit Sarasota and there's no better place to get outside in Florida than Sarasota. From Myakka River State Park to the world's best beaches, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts have endless options for exploration in Sarasota.
Fitting for this week's episode, Craig's latest article for Flamingo Magazine centers on a fiction writer highlighting Apalachicola. Our guest is Florida historian and author Jim Clark whose latest book details Florida's astonishing literary history which dates back to the 1500s and includes Earnest Hemmingway, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, John Grisham, Michael Patterson, Carl Hiasson and countless others. The book is called "Florida Literary Luminaries: Writing in Paradise" and was published in May of 2022.Thanks as always to Visit Sarasota for sponsoring this week's episode. Summer in Sarasota means beaches and the Visit Sarasota website can help you find your favorite Sarasota beach.
With the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in upon us - an event which would lead to a fundamental change in American politics, society and media - we take a look at the numerous and surprising ways in which the Watergate scandal connects to Florida.Helping us do so is Garrett M. Graff, author of a new book released in 2022 sharing the full story of Watergate which goes back much further than the break-in."Welcome to Florida," as always, is presented by Visit Sarasota. Start planning your perfect beach getaway in Sarasota at, and be sure to follow Visit Sarasota on social media @visitsarasota / @visitsarasotacounty. 
What "resiliency" and Florida's fight against rising sea levels and climate change means to you and what it means to Ron DeSantis are likely two very different things. Craig examined the governor's narrow, contractor-first approach to "resiliency" in a recent column.Our guest today is Panayotis (Paddy) League, Assistant Professor of Musicology and Director of the Center for Music of the Americas at the Florida State University School of Music. He specializes in the traditional music of the Greek islands and spent part of his boyhood with the Greek community at Tarpon 2019 was named a Master Artist by the Florida Folklife Program for his work performing and teaching the traditional music and oral poetry of Kalymnos in the Greek immigrant community of Tarpon Springs.He is a performer, composer, recording artist and has written numerous papers, books and commentaries about Greek culture and history, including its connection to the American South and Florida. This week's episode is presented by Visit Sarasota where you'll find one of the state's best native plant nurseries. 
Yes, Florida has black bears, and yes, people are the greatest threat to their survival. We begin this week's episode with Craig Pittman's latest column which digs into bears, and bear poaching, in Florida.With hurricane season starting June 1, our guest this week is Eliot Kleinberg, author of "Black Cloud: The Great Florida Hurricane of 1928." The 1928 "Okeechobee Hurricane" remains the deadliest storm in Florida history... and little known about."Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota. For fine dining at an affordable price, visit Sarasota for Savor Sarasota June 1-14.
For our 100th episode of "Welcome to Florida" we finally discuss perhaps the most Florida thing of all, the Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids. Now a state park, Weeki Wachee Springs has a colorful history we learn all about from one of the very first class of mermaids at the park, Mary Fletcher, and mermaid historian and author, Lu Vickers.This week's episode is presented by Visit Sarasota where Marie Selby Gardens is making history with an upcoming Patti Smith artist in residency.
As much as Florida is recognized nationally and internationally for our tourist attractions and cities - Disney, Universal, Miami, Orlando - an equally important, and increasingly imperiled part of the state is rural, natural, farmland and small towns. That part of Florida is our focus this week.Our guests are Bridget Bihm-Manuel, Collections Coordinator for Florida History, and Hank Young, Principal Cataloger, at the Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida. The two recently wrapped up an exhibition at the library focused on Florida's lost communities which can now be found online. Their research continues and they join us today to discuss what they've found."Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota which offers Florida's sweetest attraction just 13 miles from downtown, Mixon Fruit Farms. Welcoming visitors and locals alike for 80 years, Mixon Fruit Farms has citrus groves, Florida wine, homemade fudge and much more to satisfy your cravings, plus a wildlife care and education center. Find them online at
This week's episode begins with the love/hate relationship present day Florida inspires.The 70th annual Florida Folk Festival takes place this Memorial Day at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. Panama City Beach native Del Suggs has been performing at the Festival for almost 40 years and visiting longer than that. We discuss Florida folk music, Jimmy Buffett the festival and how it's changed over the years."Welcome to Florida" is sponsored by Visit Sarasota which reminds you May through October is sea turtle nesting season in state and offers these tips for beachgoers to help protect the turtles during this time.
The 2022 season of "Welcome to Florida" has been about uncovering forgotten stories. We continue today as the anniversary of the Tampa Bay Skyway Bridge collapses approaches. On May 9, 1980, a container ship was blown off course by a freak weather system and into a piling of the Tampa Skyway Bridge. The collision caused a span of the bridge to collapse, sending 35 travelers over the edge and to their death below.Bill DeYoung wrote the definitive book on the tragedy, "Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay's Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down." Bill, a St. Pete native who now works at the St. Petersburg Catalyst, a local news source, joins us to discuss the accident and the ship's pilot.This week's episode is brought to you by Visit Sarasota where polo season has just wrapped up! That's right, Sarasota has polo. Sunday matches are open to the public mid-December through April. Learn more at and begin planning your next getaway at
Craig got into with the governor and his press secretary on Twitter over Ron DeSantis' refusal to appoint African American candidates to the state's Water Management District Boards.Before the famous Mariel Boat Lift, 600,000 Cuban exiles immigrated to Florida following Fidel Castro's rise to power in Cuba in 1959. David Powell sought out these immigrants and allowed them to tell their stories in their own words. The result is his fascinating book "Ninety Miles and a Lifetime Away: Memories of Early Cuban Exiles.""Welcome to Florida" is presented by Visit Sarasota, home to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, a cutting edge marine research facility and public aquarium offering education and experiences with manatees, sharks, sea turtles and more. Mote Marine is one of the top attractions in all of Florida and a must-see in Sarasota. Visit Mote Marine online and start planning your next getaway at
Another week, another proposal for a new toll road tearing through a protected natural area to service a new housing development.This week's guest is Steve Carr an authority on The Ashley Gang which operated in the Palm Beach County area during the 1910s and early 20s. The Elliott Museum in Stuart recently opened a permanent exhibition detailing the exploits of The Ashley Gang with the help of Carr's collection of materials related to the group."Welcome to Florida" is presented by where Marie Selby Botanical Gardens welcomes an encore performance by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Patti Smith as part of its ongoing exhibition devoted to Smith and her dear friend and collaborator, Robert Mapplethorpe. The show is also supported by the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg which presents the landscape photography of Ansel Adams and Florida's Clyde Butcher side-by-side through July 31, 2022.
We start this week's episode exposing a developer with close ties to Ron DeSantis - uncomfortably close - wanting to use his political connections to force new roads and houses in Volusia Country, right over top of a protected wetland.Our guest this week is Michael Phillips, Keeper of the House at the House of Refuge in Stuart, the last House of Refuge still standing in Florida.This week's episode is presented by Visit Sarasota where a surprising diversity of wildlife experiences await visitors, including one with elephants! Start planning your next weekend getaway or week's vacation at "Welcome to Florida" is additionally presented by the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg which presents two exhibitions of landscape photography by Ansel Adams and Florida's own Clyde Butcher now through July 31, 2022. Learn more about this remarkable presentation.
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