They are gentle giants. Known for whiskery faces and large, seal-like bodies that taper down to powerful flat tails, Florida’s largest herd of endangered manatees makes their annual migration to the Crystal River in November. The good-natured mammals can survive comfortably during the winter months in the natural warm springs that originate here and flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
Each winter more than 500 of these friendly “sea cows” gather in King’s Bay, a newly protected sanctuary ten miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the largest in the world. Thousands of visitors come to Crystal River every year to see and, even better, swim with the manatees in the clear warm waters.
With its enormous oak trees and wilderness waterways, Citrus County resembles what most of Florida must have been like a century ago. The Withlacoochee, a healthy 157-mile wilderness river ecosystem, forms the eastern and northern boundaries of Citrus County. Nearly half of the county has been designated as public parks and preserves destined to remain untouched.
With an eye on Horse of the Year honors, Rick Porter pushed all his chips into the center of the table when he decided to send his prized four-year old filly to run against the boys for the first time in the $750,000 Grade-1 Woodward Stakes.
Porter’s buccaneering attitude paid off as Havre de Grace roared down the stretch and pulled clear defeating seven male rivals by a comfortable 1 1/4-length margin at Saratoga on September 3.
The classy daughter of St. Liam became only the second female winner in the 58-year history of the prestigious race, joining Rachel Alexandra who parlayed her Woodward into the 2009 Horse of the Year award. Another powerful filly, Zenyatta, won the HOTY honors last year.
Porter and trainer Larry Jones would like to keep that trend going.
“Obviously, we think we have a chance to be Horse of the Year,” said Porter, sporting his trademark red bow tie in the winner’s circle. “After we got beat a nose in the Delaware Handicap, we thought we had to do something aggressive, either run against Blind Luck again in the Personal Ensign or take the boys on. We had to do something to get everybody’s attention.
Intrigued by pigs? Not many of us are, but in the steady eyes and paint brush of Jamie Wyeth, pigs are one of God’s most enchanting creations.
Take the 2,200 pound porker Den-Den who one day ransacked Wyeth’s painting station on the Ball Farm near his home in Chadds Ford. Snorting wildly, she appeared at a corner of the barn, her snout plastered with cerulean blue, cadmium orange and lemon yellow. Den-Den had just swallowed 22 tubes of oil paint.
“The next day I arrived in the morning and I was expecting to find a corpse,” Wyeth recalled with a laugh. “She was perfectly fine, snorting away, and of course, all these rainbow color droppings were everywhere.”
Months later Den-Den was ticketed to the local butcher. Wyeth thought, “My God I can’t have that.” So he took her to live at his Point Lookout farm where she became the infamous subject of his life-size “Portrait of Pig.”
Wyeth’s love for animals is quite evident in the artist’s new show “Farm Work” on display at the Brandywine River Museum through September 11. It is a cracker of an exhibition, encompassing so much of the artist’s personality, humor, wit and sense of wonder. The extensive collection surveys four decades of a mix of farm animals, equipment, buildings and landscapes at Wyeth and his wife Phyllis’ farm on the Brandywine River as well as his farm on Southern Island off the coast of Maine.
Thirty years ago “On Golden Pond” stole the hearts of American moviegoers and scored Oscars for Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Its filmmakers told the story of family reconciliation scattered across the deep, dark blue waters of Squam Lake.
With its 273 lakes and ponds, the New Hampshire Lake region is aptly named. Visitors discover an exquisite combination of lush rolling hills, the un-obscured backdrop of the White Mountains, and most of all, pristine lakes. Names like Squam, Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee are reminders of the region’s past and the Native Americans who once navigated its waters.
Last summer we floated back thirty years taking a lovely pontoon boat tour around “Golden Pond.” We heard stories of Norman and Ethel Thayer at their summer house on their beloved lake, the song of the loons and the perilous attempt to catch the big fish “Walter.” In the early stages of our expedition, Captain Dale spied a 14-year old eagle, then a pair of shaggy eaglets nesting in a stand of towering pine trees on Potato Island.
Dawn has broken over the broad fields and patches of woodlands that unspool in all directions. Stable lads scurry about delivering the morning feed and toting sloshing water buckets then tacking up the horses. Ruddy-cheeked stable lasses are legged up, their mounts blowing steam in the chilly morning air. In Unionville another working day has begun.
This gallop-and-jump terrain first attracted foxhunters, master horsemen and distinguished racehorse owners from Long Island, N. Y. near the turn of the 20th century. Among the leading lights of that sport horse movement in southern Chester County were Cuyler Walker’s ancestors.
His grandmother Carol married W. Plunkett Stewart who brought his pack of English foxhounds to Unionville full-time in 1929. Stewart helped establish the famed King Ranch division near Doe Run in the late 194os. Stewart’s step-daughters later assumed prominent roles—Nancy Hannum was the legendary master of the hounds, while her sister Avie Walker (four years younger) became a renowned racehorse owner and breeder, and was Cuyler’s mother.
“The respect and appreciation of the land was instilled in them by their parents, that their lives should make a difference,” relates Walker, trustee of the Cheshire Land Preservation Fund. “Those early horsemen were attracted to this spectacular land that wasn’t much different from when Native Americans and the first settlers lived here. For those horsemen it was a means to an end. Today, the means is the end. The preserved land is the key to growth and promotion of our multi-discipline horse world.”
Veterinarians and racing officials from around the globe didn’t mince words to their American colleagues at the two-day Belmont Park Summit in June. Abandon the widespread use of race-day medication.
“If the U. S. is serious about the breed, it should eliminate Lasix now,” said Denis Egan, an Irish Turf club executive who urged North American horsemen to abandon the widespread use of race day medication.
“The view in Ireland is that racing in the U. S. is tainted because of the use of drugs in racing.”
Bill Nader is a former chief operating officer of the New York Racing Association. In 2007, he was named the executive director for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“I left New York thinking it (Lasix) was part of racing,” Nader related. “I’ve now seen another part of the world and it gives me no satisfaction to tell you day-to- day racing in Hong Kong is much better than racing in New York or California.”
The marquee dazzles. Set just off the historic Queen Theatre’s front entrance, a 40-foot-high blue blade sign etches the name "World Café Live at the Queen" into the twilight sky.
In early April the World Café Live at the Queen opened its glass doors at Fifth and Market Street hosting a stream of music fans in a downtown stretch of Wilmington that was once foreboding. These days the storefronts are spiffed up and new feet stroll down the formerly empty sidewalks. An entrepreneurial energy is in the air.
With two stages, a five-tiered balcony, and six floors that stretch across a city block, the Queen has undergone a $25 million makeover over the past 20 months.
“Music has a distinctive power to transform the landscape of a city, and we hope it will bring a vibrant new energy to Lower Market Street," said World Café Live President Hal Real. “It’s a world-class venue engineered from the ground up for the purpose of experiencing live music at its best.”
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.