Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Celebrate America, Celebrate Pasco

Lee Greenwood wrote a song about it- Proud to be an American. On July 4, what are you proud of? In tourism and Visit Pasco, we are proud of this destination’s growth.  Since 2006, the numbers of quality events, parks and partners have grown and have assisted in more visitors to Pasco County.

On July 4, we are also thankful for our freedom. At Visit Pasco we are also thankful for June 28, 1834. That’s the date Samuel Pasco was born. We would be remised for not mentioning the Harvard grad’s namesake to the County.
Happy Birthday Sam! Happy Birthday USA!  
Remember to leave some room in the tummy after the barbequing and cake for great fun at Sparklebration! Dade City and the Pasco County Fairgrounds are proud of their firework extravaganza.  Be safe and send your firework pics to our Facebook page. Be proud Pasco!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Celebrate your County

The USPA Nationals was a great event during Tourism Week 2013!
Once again Pasco County joined the celebration and honored National Travel and Tourism Week from May 4-12.

Travel and tourism is one of America’s largest industries and it’s Florida’s number one industry. In 2012, the tourism-related spending in Florida contributed more than $60 billion, while collecting more than $4 billion in total sales tax revenue.
Without travel and tourism’s contribution to the tax base, each household could owe up to an additional $1,000 per year in taxes.

How do those numbers relate to Pasco County? More travel means more sales tax is pumped into our local businesses.  The sales and tourist tax revenues contribute to a more vibrant Pasco.  

In fact the County’s tourism revenues in the Fiscal Year 11/12 increased nearly 20% than the previous year.  The tourist tax revenue is collected from overnight accommodations. Visitors also eat in our restaurants, shop, buy gas, rent cars, buy groceries and visit local attractions like the Giraffe Ranch and Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City.   

The County’s Tourist Development Plan 2010-2014 still focuses on creating a tourist experience based on promoting our natural attractions, cultural programs and creating new sports business.  Pasco County is a premier sports and travel destination thanks to the number of sports tournaments, special events, outdoor recreation and ecotourism. “It’s Only Natural” has been our brand for decades. But sports, art, festivals and culture are “our nature” as well.

The efforts of County leadership to promote Pasco as a sports destination are paying off. Major field and lacrosse events contribute an annual estimated economic impact of more than $4 million.  That is why Pasco County is pursuing a multi-sports facility on the Wiregrass Development.

Our private venue partners, like the Little Everglades Ranch, continue to lure adventure races. On any given weekend the ranch can host nearly 20,000 visitors who like to play in the mud and then spend their money in downtown Dade City.

This past week Skydive City once again proved its economic impact to Zephyrhills by hosting the USPA Canopy Piloting National Championships. The event should return next year and Skydive City may host the world championships.

So invite your friends and family from other parts of the state or country to promote Pasco County. As our State partner Visit Florida says “Share a Little Sunshine.”
For more information on Pasco County tourism, visit and join us on Facebook at Visit Pasco County Tourism.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What the Auk? Razorbills in Florida

By Ed Caum (Photos courtesy of Joe Colontonio)
In an interesting turn of events, Razorbills have recently been seen in Florida waters in astounding numbers. This cold-water bird is normally found offshore in the northern Atlantic with   jaunts as far south as   New Jersey and Virginia.
This medium-sized water bird has a black uppers with a white under parts. Its bill is stout and deep in adults and thinner in immatures. It resembles a penguin at first glance, except it flies. Experts   call these birds alcids, or the auk family, and there are several species - like puffins - that are referred to in that manner. Local birding expert Bill Pranty*, an editor with American Birding Association, and author of A Birder’s Guide to Florida, has viewed Razorbills off of Anclote Gulf Park, Green Key, and Hudson Beach. “There has also been a sighting at Gulf Harbors,” he said.
Local birder, Joe Colontonio was able to get photos of some of them just off the Hudson shoreline.
“You need to look for them at high tide,” Colontonio said. “I haven’t heard of people seeing them during the low.” What brings them to Pasco’s coastline? Pranty says there may be several factors.
“Super Storm Sandy did major damage to the estuaries up north and may have spread pollution into areas that the Razorbills would find food,” he explained.
“ Razorbills also had an had unusually high population growth this last nesting season and the waters off the North Atlantic have gone up several degrees [relating to climate change] so this could also be factors in why they are so far south searching for food.”
Razorbills are from the bird family Alcidae and take three years to reach maturity. Most of the reported sightings in Florida are of immatures; this may be their first migration, which means, with more competition for food along the East Coast, they had to keep moving south to find fish to eat.
“The reports I have heard is the birds are feeding on glass minnows in Florida waters,” said Pranty.  In northern waters, sand eels are one of the food sources available to the Razorbills and the glass minnows in Florida waters are similar in shape and size. Razorbills are powerful swimmers and can dive to considerable depths to capture prey.
“Razorbills literately fly underwater,” said Pranty. “They flap the wings for propulsion and are very agile.”
If the timing of past migrations holds true, (not this one to Florida), then the Razorbills should be around until March.  That’s when they head back north for their nesting season on the cliffs of the cold water islands in the North Atlantic. Because there have never been so many this far south, it will be interesting to see if they all head back or if part of the population remains in Florida waters. These birds are rarely seen on land and rely on the safety of tall cliffs to safely rear their offspring. Florida’s coastline is a far cry from Iceland and Newfoundland terrain.
In the past 120 years of recorded birding history, only 14 razorbills have been recorded in Florida waters, according to Pranty. This current irruption [that’s the technical birding term] is a highly unusual turn of events but the local birders are enjoying being able to check another bird of their life list.
*Bill has been a resident of central Florida since 1978, when he and his parents moved from their native Pittsburgh. He has been birding since age 14 and joined both the American Birding Association (ABA) and Florida Ornithological Society (FOS) in 1984. He has compiled bird sightings statewide for the FOS Field Observations Committee since 1992 and is a former member of the FOS Records Committee.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From Mud to Main street to Mobile

If there is an asset Pasco County has it's land! Private ranches, environmental lands and our parks naturally promote Pasco County as an ecotourism destination. The number of mud, obstacle and adventure events the County is drawing is mind numbing like some of the "ice-cold" obstacle dips promoted by Savage Race and Tough Mudder. However, October and November kickoff the festival season that highlight many main streets from New Port Richey to Zephyrhills.

In case you missed all the fun of events like the Savage Race at the Little Everglades Ranch, make sure to check our sports  and events calendar for upcoming events like the Pretty Muddy on November 10. In addition, a 5k Zombie Run will be lurking at the Little Everglades Ranch on Saturday, December 22. That's if we make it past the Mayan Apocalypse on Friday, Dec. 21.

Now for those of you looking to stay clean I suggest you hit the many main streets and fairgrounds for some great events in November.
The Pasco County Fairgrounds hosts the largest Volkswagon show in the Southeast. The Bug Jam traditionally draws more than 600 VWs entered in 59 classes of air- and water-cooled classes. More information is available at

The Pasco Ecofest returns with a New Focus on Nature. The EcoFest, Nov. 9 -12,includes six parks, the New Port Richey Recreation & Aquatic Center, Peace Hall, at Sims Park, the New Port Richey Public Library and Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve. Starkey Park will be home base, with other activities all across west Pasco County - for more information visit

In addition, the Greater New Port Richey Main Street is currently planning for the Harvest Fest – Bluegrass and Bar-B-Q on that same Ecofest weekend of November 9-11 in Sims Park. Harvest Fest is one of eight locations in West Pasco for this year’s Eco-Fest. More information is available at

Finally, you can keep up with all these events in and out of the mud on's new mobile site. Just type in on your cell/mobile device and surf. It's free and mud free!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eco Ed on the water with the Don of Chicago Fishing

 Don Dziedzina of Illinois Outdoors Inc shows off a perfect tournament catch
 Watching fishing television shows are at times not realistic. I'm sure you know the feeling when the professional is reeling the fish on the boat. It's a 30 minute program and they have caught dozens of fish. Next week you hit the same fishing hole and nothing.

Pasco County's ecotourism expert "Eco" Ed Caum was thinking the same thing. Except this time he was not only fishing, he was also hosting Don Dziedzina of Illinois Outdoors Inc., on a mini media tour. Fortunately, the video below proves that you can get out on the water (Ed and Don were with Captain Randy Schone of Barefoot Bandit Charters) and witness a real fish story. That's when they are biting for the angling pro and the ecotourism expert. Check out the video blog on You Tube and

Friday, April 13, 2012

Brenda's Berry Farm

April in Florida means the season is ripe for picking a dark blue commodity that used to be associated with colder north climates, blueberries. This sweet little berry, rich with fiber and full of anti-oxidants, has moved south.
The University of Florida launched a blueberry breeding program in 1976 and it produced three strains of southern highbush blueberries developed for Florida’s mild climate. Thirty years later these efforts have bloomed, so to speak. 
Pasco County now boasts numerous commercial blueberry farms and several of them are you U-Pick patches. One is Brenda’s Berry Barn. Located on Hudson Road three miles east of little Road. The Short family has a U-Pick farm which backs up to Brenda’s son Brad’s commercial farm.  What’s the difference? Brad’s produces more than 80,000 pounds of berries while Brenda’s hosts people from around the world who pick the 30,000 pounds her farm produces. 
Brenda Short

International you say? Yes, on a recent morning the Gottwald Family from Berlin, Germany stopped by and harvested ten pounds of berries to enjoy while on vacation here in Pasco. Later that day tourists from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia stopped by to pick a few pounds, according to Brenda.
You can also purchase fresh berries that Brenda has ready for you. Visitors can also pick up a bottle of blueberry syrup or jam to satisfy their sweet tooth. Brenda has also written a children’s story about her berry farm and it makes a nice memento for time spent in the patch picking our own dark blueberries full of bliss with your family.
In an effort to increase the knowledge of blueberry farms in Pasco, local farmers have put to together the Blueberry Jerry Jamboree in memory of Brenda’s husband Jerry and there son Justin she lost several years ago. The jamboree on April 27-29, features none other than a blueberry pancake breakfast (Sat & Sunday), puppet shows, a ham dinner, face-painting, balloons and music and lots of blueberries.
If you want to strike up a conversation with Brenda when you visit ask her about her Blueberry Cobbler.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New twists rekindle Suncoast Arts Fest

Wesley Chapel -- This year’s Suncoast Arts Fest at the Shoppes at Wiregrass drew crowds in excess of 100,000 in late January and added a few new aspects to what many consider one of the fastest growing art festivals in Central Florida. For the seventh year in a row the show continued to grow and draw talented artists from across the region.
A 5k run was added to raise money directly for area schools’ art classes and chalk artists were dotted through the hundreds of vendors. Fantastic food was featured and there was a Flash Mob Dance on Sunday.
“The dance group was excellent,” said Pam Marron, co-chair of the Suncoast Arts Fest. “It was kind of a surprise because normally Wiregrass doesn’t allow flash mobs, in-line with a lot of other area malls. So it was a neat one-time event.”
The two-day festival featured 85 artists displaying and selling their work. There were also ten vendors offering a variety of goods.
“We had people from around the region come to this event to display their wares and art,” explained Marron. “I also had 21 other artists come to the event to see it first-hand and they decided to sign up for next year.” The dates for next year are already set for Jan 19-20, 2013. Artists came from the local area plus, Orlando, Punta Gorda and Sarasota. “Each year we draw artists and visitors in from further and further distances,” said Marron.
As in the past the Fest used smart phone technology to push out the information on the musical performances, as well as specials offered around the Shoppes of Wiregrass.
“We worked hard this year to make the event more interactive,” Marron said. “We used QR codes, Facebook and twitter to keep our visitors aware of the events as they happened.”
The School District played and even larger part in the festival this year according to Marron. Art teachers and their students made up a bulk of the volunteer force.
Marron said that a number of the sponsors were extremely happy with the turn out and one boasted a 40% increase in sales over the previous year. What will they think of next as they continue to grow what has become a featured art festival in the region?