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Holiday Gift Shopping – Fun in the Sun

In Tampa, Florida, thousands of people will mix business with pleasure on the second weekend before Christmas. The Tampa Holiday Art & Craft Expo promises to be a fun affair, but Christmas shoppers hunting unique gifts for their friends and loved ones might be of a more purposeful mind as they wend their way through the rows of tents displaying items different from the usual household and personal paraphernalia filling the stores.


Tents, or booths if you prefer? Yeah, there’ll be a few. A few hundred, that is. Make it 300. So what on earth can the hand of man and woman come up with to fill that many spaces – without duplication, that is? We’ll take a shot at it: jewelry, hats, tapestry, throw rugs, wall hangings, carved pieces, leather goods, and of course paintings of a myriad of styles – everything the imagination can conceive, and all made by hand.


Speaking of imagination, products of my own fevered (no, I didn’t say feeble) brain – Brink’s brain, you might say – will be displayed on a table snuggled amongst the big tents housing the creations of a plethora of talented artists and crafts people. My three novels – Blood on Their Hands, Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, and Breaking Out – all in paperback format, will jump into your shopping bag if you’re not careful, and I won’t interfere.


So many handiworks to choose from, you’ll be agog. To paraphrase the lyrics of a song firmly entrenched in the annals of Americana: “If you can’t find it there, You won’t find it anywhere, It’s up to you, Start looking now.”


Now is coming up soon: Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Florida State Fairgrounds on the city’s east side. For me, it’ll be a fond return to the city where I landed eons ago, fleeing the cold Midwest to work as a reporter for the (now defunct) Tampa Tribune, where I spent two happy and productive years, enjoying the relationships with my associates.


Tampa Bay

Again, I am given to song: “I'm going home to my city by the Bay. I left my heart in Tampa/St. Pete. Bridges galore, they call to me.”

Out-of-towners – who constitute almost all readers of this piece – likely will be looking for evening dining and entertainment if they’re not pooped from a day or two of browsing among the fair’s riches. Not far away, near downtown, is Ybor City, the historic settlement where cigar makers from Cuba plied their trade for decades and nightclubs now beckon revelers, as does the renowned Columbia Restaurant, dating to 1905 and still holding to tradition with waiters clad in tuxedos and bow ties. Likewise, the famous, gourmet Bern’s Steakhouse southwest of the flourishing downtown, retains a semi-formal dress code. Near Ybor is the expansive Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.


Howard Frankland Bridge

The expo is billed as A Celebration of the Human Spirt, and live music will keep festival-goers in a festive mood as a variety of foods and beverages fulfill their gastronomical cravings.


Did we mention that this event is free to attend? The only charge is a $10 parking fee. The Fairgrounds is at 4800 U.S. Highway 301.

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