Author: Riley Wolf

Performing Arts Venues

The performing arts such as theater, music and more are alive in the Jacksonville area. From the Jacksonville Symphony to the Florida Theatre, the choices are endless. But what does it take to put on these performances? It takes talent, heart and passion to create these encore-worthy performances, and we have those kind of people in Jacksonville.

“Everybody has a nine to five job here,” says Sadie LaManna, a volunteer at Players by the Sea, “We don’t get paid. So you have to be here because you love it. And that passion is what makes us all work, makes all the moving parts from, from the people that you see on stage to the creative side, the directors, we’re all volunteers.”

Players by the Sea hosts many different performances and features actors in the local area. For over 50 years, they have been working with volunteers in all of their shows. They’re currently rehearsing for their newest show, Godspell which will open on December 4th.

“That’s what I really love about theater, is that it causes you to think, you can be entertained, you can cry you can laugh it evokes all these different emotions you might not be in touch with day to day,” says LaManna.

Not far from Players by the Sea, is a well-known dinner theater that has hosted local talent and celebrities for almost 50 years. The Alhambra Theatre and Dining is the longest running dinner theater in the United States and is the oldest Equity Actor’s Union theater. It takes almost 100 employees to run the Alhambra, from the wait staff to the stage crew.

“I grew up going to theater and watching musicals. While kids were watching Barney, I was watching My Fair Lady and BrigaIMG_6137doon and really old classic movies,” says Kelsey Clifford, stage manager for the current show at Alhambra, “I started performing and I got really lucky and I got to work [at Alhambra] and it’s been a dream come true. I’ve gotten to do everything that most people only dream about doing. It’s something I would love to do for the rest of my life.”

Clifford has worked at the Alhambra for three year. However, she has done every job possible at the theater. From stage crew to main star, Clifford has had a piece of everything. While she was in many shows growing up and worked in the administrative side, stage-managing a show has always been her passion. ”I love being in charge of creating the show. The show can’t go on without the actors and the stage manager to run the show and I love making that creative atmosphere happen,” says Clifford.

Music from the 904

When it comes to music, Jacksonville is the birthplace of many notable groups. As the starting point for classics like Lynyrd Skynyrd – and more contemporary bands such as Yellowcard – the list of prominent musicians that hail from Northeast Florida only begins in the Bold City.

While many bands are known for getting their start in Jacksonville, some solo artists aspire to reach the same heights on their own.   Savanna Leigh Bassett is a local musician who hopes that her unique twist on country music both locally and on a national scale.

“I’ve played in several local cities, and to be able to be successful through my music would be a dream come true,” Bassett said.

While her goal is to make it big through her music, Savannah is also humbled by getting the opportunity to play at several different venues in her hometown of Jacksonville.

“Jacksonville is an interesting market,” Bassett said. “The public here really values live music.”

While music has become a career for solo acts like Savannah, other musicians, such as Fletcher High School’s own “The Implications” started as a group aspiring to do one thing – play the music they love for the people they love.


“It’s just awesome to get to play all this music with my friends, for my friends,” Lane Pittman, one of the guitarists in the band, said.


The Implications have made a name for themselves by going to local venues and packing them – as well as rocking them.

“It’s funny, when he [Lane] told me we had a show at Mellow I was super pumped, and it actually was a really good turn out for the people,” said Christian Pittman, the band’s drummer, as well as Lane Pittman’s younger brother.

From solo acts like Savanna, to groups like The Implications, the primary goal is to create perpetual sound, while inspiring those around them to do what they love – just as they’ve done.




Art work is all around us. You don’t even have to visit an art gallery to see exquisite paintings. All over Jacksonville beautiful colorful murals cover buildings and local businesses.

Scott Briggs, one of the many local muralists prides himself on his spray painting art and recently worked on a mural in Downtown Jacksonville at 1904 Music Hall.

“Its a much bigger, much more in demand scene than it was even when I started. There’s more people open to public art and murals. I only use spray cans on murals, for the main reason that I don’t think any one can afford to have me out there with a paintbrush because it would take like three times longer for me.”Performing Arts Venues

Scott isn’t the only artist who finds painting large-scale to be fun. Jessica Becker also has work spread all over Jacksonville.

Becker’s most infamous mural is displayed on the patio of Taco Lu, an extremely popular restaurant on Beach Blvd. She also has murals at other local businesses including Backyard Pops and Caribbean Connection.

“Our art scene is definitely expanding, now that we have the elbow district, which is like the art district, its hopefully getting better.”

It took Becker 16 hours to finish the large scale mural at Taco Lu that now gives them a better ambiance and experience for the outdoor seating area.

Coloring our city everyday, local artists are bringing life to our area through their designs. So the next time you’re out and about take a look around and you might find yourself in front of a masterpiece.

Culinary Arts

When it comes to art, food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But here at the Florida State College at Jacksonville Culinary Institute, food is an art that is close to many people’s hearts and food still shotstomachs.

“A recipe is just a guideline. it’s a guideline to get you started and then it becomes your own,” Chef Joseph Howard, culinary professor at FSCJ said. “You have, you start out with a plate and that becomes your canvas, right. And that canvas, you design the food, right. whether it be symmetrically put on the plate, different colors, different flavors, obviously different whether it is crunchy or whether it’s soft. So it does become a canvas just like an artist. It is art, it’s not just throwing stuff on a plate.”

The pieces of art here present themselves as dishes. It requires the hands of a lot of skilled and dedicated artists to create the final masterpiece.

“I am so grateful for FSCJ and for Chef Harold, for this opportunity to come full circle in my life,” Phyllis Parker, FSCJ culinary student said. “Everyone can take the same ingredients and still get a different flavor from them, unless you do an exact recipe. That’s why it’s important to have a primary recipe in a kitchen. Because my style gonna come out, his style gonna come out, and that’s where the art comes in with the situation.”

The tools here aren’t brushes or microphones, they are knives and spices. Every little decision made can greatly affect the the overall presentation.

“I think food is an example of art because people put a lot of work into it. They think about how these flavors interact together, how they are going to take all these individual flavors and make one main one, one big one. How are they doing to make something special of all these little ingredients. It’s like a sculptor looking at a marble. He sees the sculpture inside of it, all he’s got to do is figure out how to get to it. Well that’s exactly what putting ingredients together is,” John Perritt, FSCJ culinary student said. “It’s like you know what you want, you just gotta get there. And if you do it right, it is an exact representation of where you’re from, or who you are. It’s an expression. And, and you can eat it. So that’s cool too.”

There’s a lot that goes into the art of cooking. While it is fun learning how to create these tasty creations, the best part is getting to eat them. The people who eat the food are the critics of the culinary arts. Although chefs cook for their own reward, it comes down to other people’s approval.

This art looks so good you could eat it, and luckily, that’s what you’re supposed to do. So, next time you sit down to a delicious meal, remember the creativity and effort that went into the art on your plate.

Halloween History

Candies, costumes, ghosts, and ghouls – Halloween is here. Halloween History

When most people think of Halloween, they may think of what to wear, or how they’re going to carve their pumpkins. But, the roots of Halloween heritage run much deeper.

In its early years, Halloween stemmed from the Gaelic festival, Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year – the winter.

David Sheffler, Associate History professor at UNF notes, “There’s an Irish tradition, called Samhain, that’s associated with the harvest festival, that may be one of the origins of Halloween. In fact, a lot of the connections with things like spiritualism and concerns about the dead are often concerned about Samhain as a celebration.”

“I would probably make the argument that in several ways, certainly the way that Halloween is today, is directly related to Christianity,” Sheffler said.

As a means to protect their mortal selves from the spirits, people would wear scary masks and costumes to ward off evil spirits.

What started as a Celtic Harvest Festival, soon spiraled into a cultural phenomenon.

Today, Halloween is one of the most profitable holidays on the calendar.

Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of consumer spending in the United States. Between candy, costumes, and decorations retailers can expect to earn over 7 billion dollars in the United States alone.

Many events locally and nationally play upon peoples’ fascinations with delighting in fright.

Lucas Meers, the Director of PR at the Jacksonville Zoo, says, “We get our information just by paying attention throughout the year by kind of looking at different organizations, we’ll visit other zoos, other facilities, that have ‘Spooktacular’ type events, we’ll maybe steal some of their ideas, but we are inspired, we have a lot of parents that are on the staff, so they kind of bring to the table what excites their children, what sort of movies are out, that sort of thing, that’s how we get our inspiration on our different themed characters and our areas.

From the modest celebrator to the Halloween fanatic – Halloween is marked by history.

After thousands of years, Halloween has become the one day a year when people indulge in fright, sweet delights, and play pretend.

Safety tips and alternative options for children on halloween

Trick or treating on Halloween night is the highlight of October, and kids look forward to it all month long. While going door to door is all about the perfect costume and the most candy for kids, it’s important for us all to remember safety comes first.

Cynthia Dennis of Safe Kids of Northeast Florida.

Cynthia Dennis of Safe Kids of Northeast Florida.

Typically, parents remind their little ghouls and goblins to be careful what doors they knock on and to get their candy checked before eating anything. While these are common safety concerns and practices for trick-or-treaters, Safe Kids Northeast Florida has some preventative safety tips that are more often forgotten.

“A lot of these things are your normal pedestrian safe walking rules, like children should walk on the sidewalk when there is a sidewalk available. If there is not a sidewalk, they need to walk on the left  side of the road facing the traffic so they can be seen,” said Cynthia Dennis, Coordinator of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Northeast Florida for the Players Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Make sure their costumes fit them well, that they aren’t a trip hazard. Just paint their face and wear hats and things rather than a mask, which can obstruct their vision.”

Knowing how to keep Halloween safe and fun is important, but why limit all that fall fun to just one night? Local businesses put on fun festivities for kids, allowing them to indulge in candy and costumes all month long.

Children enjoying the Chick-Fil-A Fall Festival.

Children enjoying the Chick-Fil-A Fall Festival.

The annual Fall Festival at Chick-fil-a is one of many events held by local businesses that give kids another chance besides Halloween to show off their costumes and just have fun. During the festival, Chick-fil-a offers kids activities including face painting, balloon animals, inflatable football and ring toss games, a DJ with dancing and games and candy and treats distributed from tables by local vendors.

One of the kids attending the event, Jade Long, said that her favorite activities to do there are dressing up, eating and dancing. These activities keep her coming back year after year.

“I’ve been here since I was about five,” Long said. “Sometimes I see all my friends here from school, cause I usually go here. I usually go against them in something.”

The Fall Festival at Chick-fil-a isn’t the only fun place for kids to keep the anticipation of Halloween at bay. In St John’s County, Tommy Outley opens the doors to his event for kids of all ages to come and have what he says is “the best time of their life.”

“There is not a lot of events going after the preschool and elementary school kids,” Outley said. “So my thought was, what can I do to help the community, and also, what can we do for the families that really have nothing to do in the fall season.”

From September 26 to November 2, Outley converts his landscaping business into Tommy’s Pumpkin Patch and Fun Zone. No day at Tommy’s would be complete without gathering the family together for hay rides, bounce slides, duck races with old fashioned well pumps and even a leaf room. It also has a petting zoo with almost every farm animal imaginable.

When I first came up with the idea, I wanted some old fashioned fun. So my thought was that there’s no electric, no video games, nothing to do but old fashioned fun,” Outley said. Every kid comes in in ‘AWE,’ and every kid leaves screaming and crying cause they don’t want to leave.”

If trick or treating seems forever away, remember, you don’t have to wait for Halloween to have family fun this fall. There are lots of fun events for kids right here in Jacksonville all month long.

Local special effects artist shows off his talent for Halloween

Horror Film - Inside Jax - Makeup SideFreddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. They have become household names in the film industry.

Horror movies have been terrorizing it’s viewers for decades, and we love it. In fact, horror has become one of the most profitable genres in Hollywood-making over 250 million dollars last year alone. But why do we enjoy being scared so much? Professor Stephen Boka explains the psychology behind horror films.

“Generally speaking horror just works because it’s something we all understand. It’s don’t get eaten alive,” says Boka, “you don’t have to say anything if something is coming after you, you run, you drive to survive instinctively.”

Sometimes that love for horror films is greater in certain individuals. New and talented actors, producers and writers are working on their craft everyday in hopes of getting better and making it big. Jacksonville is home to many budding talents.

Ben Howard, a University of North Florida student, enjoys writing horror movie scripts. He lives and breathes horror. Understanding how popular and loved these horror movie characters are helps Ben write better, memorable individuals.

“That’s the great thing about horror films is that they’re actually pretty complex characters … even more interesting than the heroes. Because can you even remember any of the names from Michael Meyers victims? No,” says Howard, “we don’t because they’re just there to be butchered.

One hidden horror gem in Jacksonville is Jay Woodley of Woodley Special Effects. Jay is the only licensed special effects artist in Jacksonville. His job is to make monsters come alive, on and off the big screen. To him, Halloween is just another day out of the year.

“The best way I can say it is, it’s kind of like being addicted to drugs,” says Woodley, “If I’m not making monsters, if I’m not making something scary, I feed for it, I have to have it, I have withdrawals, I go crazy.”

Woodley has worked on indie films, local haunted houses and even children’s plays. He is also only one of five special effects consultants for the United States military. He says he’d rather make monsters here in Jacksonville because of its rich film history – The Creature of the Black Lagoon was shot here in 1954.

“So horror culture, I think, is really black and white. It’s not so much of a culture as it really is a way of life,” says Woodley.

To him, this city holds many opportunities for horror film fans and he’s hoping the next Freddy or Jason just might be created right here in Jacksonville.


Isle of Faith Pumpkin Patch

Isle of Faith Pumpkin Patch

It’s that time of year again, the swelter of summer is giving way to the chill of fall. In celebration of the season, people are looking to decorate their doorsteps. Isle of Faith Church is one of the places Jacksonville locals go to find pumpkins for their houses.

David Liedtke, a patch volunteer, said the church will sell about four truckloads worth of pumpkins. They won’t get rid of all 10,000 pumpkins, but there won’t be many left. He said the leftovers are given to local pig farms.

             Liedtke said they don’t charge for pumpkins, instead they recommend prices. “But we let people pay, some people may pay nothing, others probably pay more than what they’re worth,” said Liedtke.

             Pumpkin patches aren’t the only places people are going to get their pumpkin fix. Cinotti’s is a local bakery creating its own fall favorites.

              Owner Michelle Vining said the holidays are crunch time for the bakery. She calls the it her first home at this time of year. Among the many treats Cinotti’s has, pumpkin donuts are the biggest hit. In preparation for the release of the pumpkin donuts they fried for over 21 hours. She says they have become a yearly anticipated event, donuts sell out by 11 a.m.

Whether you’re carving a pumpkin or eating some sweet treats, fall has arrived to Jacksonville.