Archive for October, 2013

Find Your Inner Artist at the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Painting by Visual Arts Center student, Nancy Andreae

Painting by Visual Arts Center student, Nancy Andreae

Have you always dreamed of being an artist?  Or maybe you’d like to make some creative friends? Many people view their move to Punta Gorda as a chance to pick up those hobbies they have always dreamed they would do. Now is the time. Whether you are a lifelong artist, interested in learning a new craft, or want to meet new people, the Visual Art Center on the corner of Maud Street and Marion Ave can help you.

Classes and workshops

At the Visual Arts Center, highly accomplished artists teach six-week sessions in an array of areas. Class fees range from $95 to $130. The center divides the classes into three different sections:

  • Fine arts-Painting, drawing, and open studio classes
  • Fine crafts—Jewelry, Pottery and sculpture, and stained glass
  • Art and technology—Digital photography and editing and website design

The next class session begins November 4, 2013. Click here to see a complete list of classes and to register.

The center also offers morning and afternoon workshops. The workshops provide opportunities for you to experience the Visual Arts center before signing up for a six-week class.

Exhibits and Special Events

If you are not quite ready to pick up your own paintbrush, you can still experience the Punta Gorda art scene. The Visual Arts center houses two exhibit areas: the main gallery and the Wayne and Donna Goff Gallery. Throughout the year, the galleries host themed, judged and juried exhibits.

Beginning November 1 and continuing through November 29, 2013, the center will celebrate the life and works of John Singer Sargeant. Sargeant was the premier American portrait painter in the early 1900s. Throughout the month, the center has planned several events for the community to come together and appreciate Sargeant’s art.

For a complete listing of events, click here.

Membership and Volunteer Opportunities

The center maintains close to 1,000 members. Members receive discounts on classes and exhibits. In addition, the center invites members to display their art in all painting exhibits. Currently, membership fees are $55 annually for individuals, $80 annually for families, $25 annually for students, and $750 for lifetime memberships.

Membership is not required to participate in classes, workshops, or enter most exhibits.

As a non-profit organization, the center appreciates all of its members and volunteers. They allow the center to consistently contribute to the Punta Gorda art scene. If you are interested in volunteering, download their volunteer form here.


5 Spook-tacular Things to Do this Halloween in Charlotte County

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

kids halloweenBOO! Halloween is hiding around the corner. When I was a kid growing up in Burnt Store Isles, it was impossible to Trick or Treat in our neighborhood. Houses were sparse and vacant lots don’t give out candy.

Therefore, my mom would drive us over to PGI, which had its own stretches of vacant lots, but was generally more populated. She would drop us off on one built-up street. We filled our bags and she would loop around to pick us up to find another street with houses.  While I have many fun memories of Halloween, I admit to being a bit jealous of kids in Punta Gorda today. Through the years, Punta Gorda residents have decided if Halloween is going to kick off the holiday season, they are going to do it up right. Halloween has become one of our favorite holidays around here.

If you are not down here yet, I hope someday you come down early enough to check out the festivities.

If you are here, I have compiled a list of ways to you can enjoy Halloween around town.

1. Get down at the Boo Ball: Otherwise known as the Zombie Prom, the Boo ball is an annual event that benefits the American Red Cross. The Boo Ball takes place at 7:00 p.m. Friday, October 25 at the Cultural Center. Tickets are $75 in advance and $90 at the door. You can purchase them online here.
Cultural Center of Charlotte County
2280 Aaron Street
Port Charlotte, FL 33953

2.      Trunk or Treat at the Muscle Car Museum: Gather in the parking lot at the Muscle Car Museum on Friday, October 25, 2013 for some family fun. Presented by the Burnt Store Presbyterian Church, the Trunk or Treat will have games, free food, beverages, and candy. The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes to 7:30 p.m.

3811 Tamiami Trail
Punta Gorda

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch: Pick your perfect pumpkin at one of the following patches around town:

Christ Community United Methodist Church
27000 Sunnybrook Rd.
Punta Gorda (in Harbor Heights)

Port Charlotte United Methodist Church
21075 Quesada Avenue
Port Charlotte, FL

(941) 625-0144

 4.      Spend the weekend Haunted at the Harbor: For one weekend a year, Charlotte Harbor transforms from beautiful to BOO-tiful! The fun kicks off on Friday, October 25, 2013 with live music, an adult costume contest, and the opening of the haunted house. The next two days are filled with events. You can participate in a Zombie run with obstacles, several costume contests, carnival games, and hayrides. For a complete listing of events, click here. The festival ends on Sunday, but the Haunted House stays open through the 31st.

 5.      Trick or Treat Downtown: As I said, Trick or Treating has come a long way in Punta Gorda in the past 30 years. These days people come from all over Charlotte County to Trick or Treat in Historic Punta Gorda. And the locals don’t disappoint. If you don’t make it to a haunted house, don’t worry, there are usually a few set up in resident’s homes. For those of us who grew up skipping past vacant lots looking for doorbells to ring, it is mind-blowing.

To give you an idea of what Trick or Treating means in Historic Punta Gorda. Here are some pictures from last year:

halloween town girls-pumpkins halloween hw



Solomon’s Castle: The Quirkiest Day Trip in SWFL

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

DSCF2558Ever wanted to live in your own castle?

Ever dreamed of having a bell tower, dungeon, and your own moat?

Maybe even your own Alamo?

Wait, Alamo?

To Howard Solomon, castle living isn’t just a dream. He built one with his own hands about an hour from Punta Gorda and filled it with his art. After a visit to Texas in 2007, he decided his castle needed an Alamo, so he built one of those as an add-on.

While welcoming guests into your home via drawbridge may not be for you, it is for Solomon. Every October, he opens up his castle for tours of the castle and his original artwork.

History of the Castle

In 1972, Solomon began building his castle  in a swamp in Ona, Florida. The artist built the castle out of aluminum printing plates discarded from the local newspaper. Besides the usual castle amenities—bell tower, dungeon, moat, and drawbridge–the castle has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 90 stained glass windows.

While there isn’t much else in Ona, FL, the castle has gained a lot of attention over the past 40 years. It has appeared on CNN, HGTV’s ‘Extreme Homes’, and in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

DSCF2554What You Will See on Your Visit
The castle is more than a home to Solomon. It is an ever-changing gallery of his artwork.  Solomon has created hundreds of pieces for you to enjoy and is constantly updating the collection. You don’t need to be art connoisseur to admire a Solomon sculpture. All you need is a pair of eyes and a sense of humor.

Like the castle, Solomon’s creates his artwork from discarded items. On your visit, you will see cans, bike gears, automotive parts, and other ‘parts’ made up in ways you’ve never imagined. His artwork includes “The Car with a V-8 engine”; “Evil Kornevil”, a motorcycle made from automotive parts; and “Jeb the Bushman”, an elephant made from oil drums.

If you need more explanation on any of the hundreds of sculptors, sign up for a tour. Often, Solomon leads the tours himself, although sometimes an employee or family member does it.

The Boat in the Moat
What makes this a true day trip is the Boat in the Moat. Even if you’ve never had a moat of your own, you know every moat needs a boat. This boat doubles as a restaurant which is convenient, because you won’t find anywhere else to eat in Ona, FL.

This boat seats about 250 and serves lunch from 11:00-4:00 p.m. And we always recommend eating lunch on a boat, even if the boat is stuck in a moat.

Drive time from Punta Gorda: Approx. 1 hour



Hours: 11am – 4pm
Closed all Mondays
Closed July, August & September
Children under 12=$4.00

Punta Gorda’s Beauty Shines through in Our Community Pride

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Recently, Punta Gorda was a finalist in the Rand McNally Best of the Road most beautiful small city contest. The Charlotte Harbor and Gulf Islands Visitor and Convention Bureau posted this video detailing how beautiful Punta Gorda really is.

I love this video. If you have been to Punta Gorda, you have seen the beauty in our waterways, palm trees, and historic buildings. What this video really exemplifies is how eager Punta Gorda residents are to show off that beauty.

There is a lot of town pride in Punta Gorda.

You don’t see pride in community everywhere you go. It sets Punta Gorda apart. While it might be the stunning waterfront views and sunny days that brings you to Punta Gorda, it will be the welcoming attitude here that makes this town home.

Punta Gorda is set up for community. Small towns often have the reputation for being hesitant towards new residents. Nothing could be farther from the truth in Punta Gorda. Everyone who comes here has a chance to jump right in. Perhaps it is because most of our residents arrived here from some snowy land looking for a more peaceful, easier life. And they found it here.

Whether you play golf, tennis, take art lessons, volunteer for the community, boat, or get involved in another way, you will easily assimilate right into the Punta Gorda life. Everyone welcomes you. We are proud of that. Punta Gorda’s beauty is all around us, but it shines brightest in our community spirit.

Oktoberfest Comes to Punta Gorda

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Punta Gorda OktoberfestIt’s time to pull out the lederhosen and the dirndl dresses! Friday is Oktoberfest in Punta Gorda.

History of Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest began in Munich in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig married Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The couple invited the citizens of Munich to celebrate the royal event at the fields in front of the city gate. The festivities ended with the royal couple and their commoner guests cheering on horse races.

The city repeated the horse race the next year and the festivalgoers followed. Oktoberfest was born.

Punta Gorda Oktoberfest

The citizens of Punta Gorda, never ones to miss out on a good time, will celebrate Oktoberfest on Friday, October 4, 2013. There won’t be any horse races and probably no royal couple, but there will beer, wine, soda, German pork dishes  and, of course, wurst. Who needs anything else?

While you munch on your wursts and drink you beer, you can dance in the street to authentic German Oompah music.

Admission is free. The Oktoberfest celebration takes place in front of the Historic Court House on Taylor Street. The party starts at 5:00 p.m. and wraps up at 10:00 p.m.

Can’t get enough beer and bratwurst?

Is your mouth watering thinking about Friday night? Did  you know you can eat real, authentic German cuisine year-round in Punta Gorda? Visit Sandra’s restaurant at 111 West Olympia to satisfy all of your German food cravings.

Sandra’s serves schnitzels to sauerkraut to spätzels five nights a week. Their menu also dips into other parts of Europe with such tasty offerings as an Italian Antipasti and a Grecian grilled Feta cheese dish. When you get thirsty, you can chose from one of their eight German beers on tap. There is even a menu for the kids. And I have heard—straight from two little girls’ mouths—that the two potato pancakes with applesauce is really yummy. After dinner, you’ll love their Heiβe Love (hot love) German sunday with vanilla ice cream and rich raspberry sauce.

If you are thinking of checking out Sandra’s, they are open Tuesday and Wednesday 2:30-8:30 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday 2:30-9:00 p.m. They will be closed this Friday, but you can still get some of their delicious dishes. Head on over to Oktoberfest and you will see them there!