Thursday, December 14, 2017

Entertainment News

I Do, I Do: Bold prediction leads to ‘fireworks’ - Wednesday, Decem

By Robyn Brody

For the Times-Union

Taylor Hunter and Robert Johnson were both on dates with other people when they met at a bonfire in the fall of 2014. They engaged in small talk and went their separate ways. Taylor thought nothing of it, but Robert was captivated. He actually joked with his friends that very night, telling them he was going to marry Taylor.

Robert sent a friend request to Taylor on Facebook later that night and asked her to go fishing. She politely declined. “I told him no, because I didn’t know who he was. I said, ‘I don’t even know you.’ ” That didn’t stop Robert from trying. He continued to ask her out on dates and, by the fifth time, Taylor gave in. “I knew if I didn’t go, he wouldn’t leave me alone.” She clearly was not looking forward to the date. In fact, as she left her home, her mother quipped, “Good luck to Robert Johnson.”

Robert and Taylor met for pizza in Green Cove Springs and the sparks were flying. Taylor described it as “fireworks across the table.” They laughed and talked and closed the restaurant down. Still, their next date wasn’t for two more months. Robert admits it may have been a case of him playing hard to get. But it wasn’t long before they both realized they were a perfect match. Taylor fell in love quickly. “He was a country boy with good manners. It was so much like home to me. He reminded me of everything I grew up with in my family.” Robert loved the way Taylor would come to his house and start decorating it. “It was a bachelor’s house that she turned into a home.” Robert explained that he had been through some rough times in his life and built a tough exterior, but Taylor found a way into his heart.

In November 2016, Robert went to church with Taylor and her family. Following the service, Taylor’s father suggested they look at an acre of property the couple purchased together in Keystone Heights. As Taylor walked on the heavily wooded lot with her parents and brother, she came to a clearing. There was a blanket with rose petals that spelled out the words “Will you?” More rose petals were formed in the shape of a heart. Robert got on one knee and proposed. “This is where we are going to build our life together. This is where we are going to start a family together.” Taylor was thrilled her family could witness this moment. They all went to celebrate at a restaurant with Robert’s family, as well.

Robert, 25, and Taylor, 23, were married on Oct. 28 before 200 guests under beautiful oak trees at the Rustic Events venue in Sumterville. They did not even mind that it was raining just a bit. “When those doors opened and I saw him, everything faded away. I only saw him. It didn’t matter that it was sprinkling. This was the moment that made all the planning worth it.” Robert said seeing his bride was his favorite moment. “When she walked down the aisle, I felt the adrenaline. My heart was beating so fast. It was amazing.” Their reception followed inside a large barn on the property. Their first dance was to “God Made a Woman,” an emotional song that both said described them perfectly.

When it was time for their honeymoon, they were given the chance to take the trip of a lifetime. Friends offered them a place in St. Lucia. Robert said he is a bit of a home body and had only been on a plane one time before, but they could not resist. They took a sunset cruise and bathed in volcanic mud and are forever grateful for the opportunity.

Robert works in construction. He said his favorite part of being married is coming home after long days to his beautiful wife. Taylor, who works in a dental office, could not be happier that Robert pestered her into going on that first date. “We are a team and we do everything together. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.” They are both still in awe that Robert actually predicted the future, when he told his friends the night he met Taylor, that she would one day be his wife.

If you have a wonderful wedding story for “I Do I Do,” please email your suggestion to

Tracy Dot Com: Nothing to do? Think again (And think holiday entertainment and giving) - Tuesday, Decembe

Tracy Collins, or Tracy Dot Com to her many fans, spotlights her entertainment picks for the upcoming two weeks.


Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Casa Marina Hotel

Admission: A toy, book and canned food item

Every birthday you have a choice. You can turn one year older. Or … you can turn one year more fly. Sterling Joyce, the unofficial mayor of Jax Beach, always chooses the latter to benefit BEAM. Join the who’s who from both sides of the ditch as we celebrate the man, the myth, the legend, and collect a crazy amount of gifts for those in need. High-fashion show starts at 7:45 p.m. Details on Facebook.


Friday, 6-10 p.m.

Law office of John M. Phillips

Admission: unwrapped toy

You know him as the guy who says, “I’m not a lawyer. I’m your lawyer.” And this weekend John Phillips is a hometown hero to kids right here in our area. Come to his office at 4230 Ortega Blvd. for a little Christmas cheer and a lot of fun sightings, including Santa, Jaxson De Ville and music by DJ E.L. and Mama Blue. Your toy gift will go to a child in need through Children’s Home Society. RSVP requested at


Friday &Saturday

Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

Tickets: $20

It’s been 15 years since humorist David Sedaris read his essay about being a Macy’s Christmas Elf on NPR. That appearance turned this lump of coal on his resume into a delicious plate of Christmas cookies you’ll want to eat up one word at a time. His hilarious recollection of the bah humbug craziness that surrounds the happiest time of year in the New York City department store is now a one-man show you don’t want to miss. Tickets available at


Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Florida Theatre

Admission: Canned Food

Make a magical Christmas memory while providing much-needed help for Feeding Northeast Florida. Your gift of a canned food item gets you in to the pre-party for photos with Santa, hot chocolate, sweet treats and an ornament-making station. “Elf” stars Will Ferrell and screens at 2 p.m. A great time for the whole family. Get tickets now at


Friday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m.

Times-Union Center for Performing Arts

Tickets: $26 -$82

It’s an old-time favorite with a fabulous new twist. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra has been pairing some of our cinematic favorites with a live score production. Discover Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in a whole new way with live music. Seating is limited. Options are online at



Tracy “Dot Com” Collins is known around the area for her entertainment insight. Her mantra: If you’re bored in Jacksonville, it’s your own fault.

Concert Review: Janet Jackson plays nearly her whole songbook during Jacksonville show - Wednesday, Decem

Got a favorite Janet Jackson song? Odds are real good she played it Tuesday night at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

The five-time Grammy winner ran through more than three dozen songs in less than two hours, hitting highlights from more than 30 years as a dance-pop diva. Some were full-length versions but many were part of medleys. She’d do two or three minutes of a hit, then flow seamlessly into another one and another one and another one.

The effect was a bit overwhelming. Once the crowd started getting into the groove of a song, she was on to the next one. But in the end, no one could say they didn’t hear their favorite, even if they only got to hear part of it.

She started the show more than an hour late — the ticket said 8 p.m. and the first tune didn’t start until around 9:08. A DJ came on a little after 8 and played for about 20 minutes, announcing at the end of his set that it was “one minute until Janet!” It was more like 40. But, considering that the show was originally scheduled for August 2016 and postponed when Jackson got pregnant, an hour wasn’t really all that long to wait.

The show itself was more about dance than music — her music is meant to be played loud and danced to, so that makes perfect sense. Jackson’s five-piece band spent the entire show on a riser at the back of the stage, leaving the front wide open for Jackson and ten dancers to strut, spin and stomp. It was all carefully choreographed so that Jackson could join in with the dancers for parts of each song without overworking herself. For a 51-year-old who had a baby just last year, she’s remarkably limber.

For most of the show, she wore a headset microphone, leaving her free to move around the stage, work the whole crowd and jump in with the dancers. She doesn’t have the mammoth voice of some of her contemporaries, and her vocals got lost behind the thumping beat on some songs Tuesday night. She sounded best during a handful of songs midway through the show when she sat on a stool center-stage, ditched the headset and sang “Twenty Foreplay,” “Where Are You Now” and “Come Back to Me” on a hand-held microphone.

The show got topical at several points, including right from the start when huge videoscreens flanking the stage flashed the buzzwords —“hate groups,” “domestic terror,” “white supremacy,” “we want justice” — as she launched into “Knowledge” and “State of the World,” which are pretty topical themselves. Later in the set there was some uncomfortable play-acting by Jackson and her dancers, who pantomimed some pretty ugly domestic violence scenes during “What About,” ending with Jackson pointing to the dancers and proclaiming “this, this right here, this is me.” (She’s in the middle of a messy divorce case, but it wasn’t clear if that was what she meant by her comment.)

That was different: Jackson introduced her band and dancers individually, but by first name only.

Where’d everybody go?: Midway through the show, during one of Jackson’s three costume changes, a video played for several minutes with no one on the stage.

The crowd: Not many kids, but that’s no surprise — it was a school night and most of Jackson’s biggest hits are decades old. But the crowd was wildly enthusiastic, singing and dancing for most of the show.

The dancers: Jackson’s ten-member dance troupe never stopped moving, and were constantly shuffling on and off stage. Sometimes she’d be dancing with one or two, other times with all ten. They each got a spotlight during “Throb,” which was a nice gesture considering how hard they worked all night.

Ticket Tracker: Steve Martin and Martin Short book show in Jacksonville - Monday, December

They’re calling it “an evening you’ll forget for the rest of your life.”

Comics Steve Martin and Martin Short have booked a show at Jacksonville’s Times-Union Center for Friday, March 9. They’ll do stand-up comedy, show film clips and tell stories. Martin will also pull out his banjo and play with bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers. Pianist Jeff Babko will also perform.

Tickets are $74.50-$199.50 and to on sale at 10 a.m. Friday.

That’s just one of the new concerts announced this week:

Puddles Pity Party, 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. $36-$46.

Gordon Lightfoot, 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Florida Theatre. $30-$69.

Rodriguez, 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, at the Florida Theatre. $29-$49.

Tower of Power, 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. $69-$79.

Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band and the Outlaws, 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. $44-$94.

Steve Martin, Martin Short and the Steep Canyon Rangers, 8 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Times-Union Center. $74.50-$199.50.

Earth, Wind & Fire, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at the Florida Theatre. $66-$126.

Yanni, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 27, at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. $34-$129.

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall, 8 p.m. Friday, May 4, at the Florida Theatre. $35-$65.

Marc Cohn, 8 p.m. Sunday, May 13, at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. $44.50-$54.50.

Golden anniversaries: Corrigan, Dawson, Rittscher, Perez - Sunday, December


Caroline and Michael Corrigan of Jacksonville celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at the wedding of their grandchild — the first in the family to be married — with a special dance at the wedding reception. Family honored them with a brunch for extended family and friends the following Sunday after a special mass at St. Paul’s (Riverside) Catholic Church. They were married Oct. 27, 1957, in Charleston, S.C. She is the former Caroline Shaw. Their children are Shawn Corrigan Asmuth, Kelly Corrigan Wood, Michael L. Corrigan Jr., Carol Corrigan Yazdiya and Casey Corrigan Rogers, all of Jacksonville. The Corrigans have 13 grandchildren.


Roberta and William (Ed) Dawson of Jacksonville celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a family reunion in Kissimmee. They were married Nov. 2, 1957, in Galveston, Ind. She is the former Roberta Hollingsworth. Their children are Angela Tibbets of Sycamore, Ala.; Diane Weidenhamer of Madison Heights, Mich.; Terri Dawson of Jacksonville; and Shari Bush of Jacksonville. The Dawsons have five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren


June and Bill Rittcher of Jacksonville celebrated their 50th wedding with a dinner and reception with family and friends. They were married Dec. 6, 1967, in Jacksonville. She is the former June Diane Vinzant. Their children are Vondy Hilbert of Jacksonville and Allen Ritscher of Norton, Mass. The Rittschers have six grandchildren.


Doreen and Noel Perez of St. Augustine celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a cruise to Alaska. They were married Dec. 6, 1967, in Philadelphia. She is the former Doreen Fretz. Their children are Dean Perez of Jacksonville and Mark Perez of St. Augustine. The Perezes have five grandchildren.

Arts Notes: Banksy’s 2010 street painting of a rat will be at Jacksonville Main Library for two months next year - Sunday, December

A work of art that has an estimated worth of $2 million created by acclaimed British street artist Banksy will be on exhibit at the Jacksonville Main Library at 303 N. Laura St. from Feb. 18 to April 14 next year. The work was created by Banksy, whose identity remains a mystery, on the side of a San Francisco bed and breakfast in 2010.

A 2017 documentary, “Saving Banksy,” focused on how art collector and street art curator Brian Greif worked to conserve the piece, paying to have it removed from the San Francisco building. Greif’s plan had been to donate the work to a contemporary art museum. But that was complicated by the fact that Greif could not authenticate the piece because Banksy remain anonymous.

The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Public Library, supported by a donation from VyStar Credit Union, are bringing the 7- by-7½-foot work to Jacksonville. It will be exhibited at the downtown library because of the stipulation that it has to be accessible to the public at no cost.


Friday Musicale’s first Family Holiday Concert, featuring the Don Thompson Chorale, will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to the venue at 645 Oak St. Those attending are urged to wear ugly holiday sweaters.


The Stetson Kennedy Foundation will host a “Second Sunday at Stetson’s” Sunday from 1-5 p.m. at Beluthahatchee, 1523 State Road 13, St. Johns. From 1-2 p.m. and from 4-5 p.m. visitors can tour Kennedy’s home, museum and park. From 2-4 p.m. there will be a concert featuring performers from the Florida Music Food Initiative. Admission is $10. Reservations should be made by calling (904) 206-8304 or emailing


The North Florida Women’s Chorale will present “Cradle Songs and Carols” at 3 p.m. Sunday at Community Presbyterian Church, 150 Sherry Drive, Atlantic Beach. The concert is free.


The Jacksonville Artist Guild will hold a holiday open house from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Anthem Lakes, a senior living community located at 905 Assisi Lane near Mayport. There will be hors d’oeuvres, holiday music and a drawing for a flat screen TV. To make a reservations call (904) 601-1299 or email


The Jacksonville Symphony, led by symphony assistant conductor Deanna Tham, will give four performances of the “First Coast Nutcracker” next weekend in the Moran Theater in The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, 300 Water St. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17. Former Jeffrey Ballet dancers Yumelia Garcia and Mauro Villanueva will be the lead dancers.

Tickets, which range from $20 to $61, can be purchased at or by calling (904) 354-5547.


The Jacksonville Symphony, led by symphony assistant conductor Nathan Aspinall, and the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Donald McCullough, will perform Handel’s “Messiah” at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, in the Jacoby Symphony Hall in The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets, which range from $19 to $79, can be purchased at or by calling (904) 354-5547.


The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus will present its annual Cool Side of Yuletide concert at 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, 4001 Hendricks Ave. The concert will featured a performance by ChoRuss, an a capella group from St. Petersburg, Russia. Tickets, which are $21, can be purchased at or by calling (904) 353-1636.


The St. Augustine Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17, in the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Grenada St., St. Augustine. Tickets are $25 and $30 with discounts for anyone older than 64 or younger than 13. They can be purchased at or by calling (855) 222-2849.


Danu, a traditional Irish ensemble, will perform at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 1150 N. Fifth St., Jacksonville Beach. The concert, part of the Beaches Fine Arts Series, is free. Following the concert, there will be a reception across the street at Stormes Hall, which will feature work by local artist Elbert Shubert.


Duval County Public Schools, in partnership with local nonprofits and businesses, are collecting new and lightly used musical instruments for music students throughout the county. A variety of instruments are needed and will be collected through Jan. 26. Partners include Alhambra Theatre & Dining, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 129, Florida Blue Center at the St. Johns Town Center, the Florida Theatre, Geer Services Inc., the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, the Jacksonville Public Library, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Keiser University and Riverside Fine Arts.

More than 200 instruments have been collected and the goal is to collect another 100 by Jan. 26. Donations are also needed to buy new instruments and repair used instruments. For more information visit or call (904) 739-48699, ext. 1.

Send items for Arts Notes to

I Do, I Do: A love story, with fries - Sunday, December

It all began in 2011, when they were teenagers working at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Clay County. Beatriz Daquiog, a junior in high school, was at a job interview at the fast food chain. Matthew Gonzalez was a customer. He spotted her right away. “She caught my eye. I saw her being interviewed. A few weeks later, I was back in there. She had been hired and she took my order.” Matthew decided the best way to get to know her was to apply for a job there, too. His plan worked perfectly. Beatriz described him as the cutest thing ever, and she loved flirting with him. “I would yell to him when I needed fries.” Beatriz said they were clearly a case of opposites being attracted to each other. She calls herself a free-spirited public school girl and he was the shy and quiet type at a private Christian school. Beatriz couldn’t believe that Matthew would pick her up and pay for dinner when they went out on dates. “You don’t expect that from a teenager. I was very impressed.”

When it was time to think about where they wanted to go to college, they knew they wanted to go together. Both were accepted at the University of South Florida. Right after the first semester, they found out Beatriz was pregnant. As Matthew put it, “Life changes in the blink of an eye.” Beatriz said her mom was a big proponent of waiting to get married until they both got their degrees. So they both worked hard in school and got jobs to make ends meet to support their daughter, Azalea. They worked opposite shifts, so someone was always with the baby. At one point, Beatriz worked three jobs. They both majored in marketing and could share books and study together. Beatriz was grateful some of the professors actually let them bring the baby to class. “They were very understanding. We were very lucky. Everyone enjoyed her company.” They were both so proud to earn their college degrees in 2016.

On Dec. 30, 2016, they went out to dinner and then went for a drive. Matthew stopped at Kraft Azalea Park just north of Orlando. He chose the spot because of their daughter’s name. They walked around and could hear a romantic Michael Buble’ song playing on a speaker. Then, Beatriz noticed there were candles burning that illuminated rose petals which spelled out the words, “Marry me?” Matthew had a speech planned out, but he never got to it, because Beatriz was screaming with joy. “I just shortened it to “’Will you marry me?’ and she said yes.”

Beatriz and Matthew were married on Oct. 22 before 80 guests at St. Johns Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine. Their daughter Azalea, now three years old, was the flower girl. She was a bit confused while walking down the aisle and never quite knew what to do. At the very end, she threw one petal in the air and promptly sat down.

The couple did a “first look” prior to the ceremony. Matthew said he will never forget turning around to see his bride. “When I saw her in the dress, it blew my mind.” Their reception followed at the same location. Their first dance was to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Everyone enjoyed the “potato bar,” where whipped and sweet potatoes were served in martini glasses and guests could choose their own toppings. They described it as a magical day that was worth the wait.

Matthew, a digital marketing engineer, said he loves his wife’s determination. “She has a desire to always push ahead and not settle for things. She is always striving for greatness in everything she does.” Beatriz, a media services coordinator, is happy to have her own personal “Google” in her husband. “I ask him everything because he really knows everything. He is level-headed and keeps me grounded.”

Every once in a while, they can be seen dining with their daughter at Chic-fil-A — and now someone else is there to make the fries.

If you have a wonderful wedding story for “I Do I Do,” please email your suggestion to

Read All About It: ‘Three Little Monkeys’ can teach valuable lessons - Sunday, December


Author: Emma Chichester Clark

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

Data: HarperCollins, $18.99; ages 4 to 8

A lady named Hilda Snibbs owns three monkeys, Tim, Sam and Lulu. Each day she feeds them slices of banana and apple. They maintain their liveliness based on the healthful diet she serves. One day, she heads to the shop.

“Be good while I’m away,” she said.

Once she leaves, the trio grows bored. Cue the ominous music, here.

The monkeys creep into the closet, and soon everything is in the hall. They try to open umbrellas. They climb into boots. They pull out shoe laces and then remove the feathers from Hilda’s best hat.

When Hilda returns, she finds a double-page spread of messiness. Tim, Sam and Lulu look at her with their big eyes and say nothing.

The next day, Hilda decides she must replace her ruined hat, so she leaves home again to shop.

Again, the monkeys grow bored. This time, they venture into the living room to see what they can find to play with. They empty the wastebasket. They tear up newspapers. They tip over flower vases. Next, they discover Hilda’s knitting, and before long, they have climbed all over the furniture with it, leaving nothing more than a lot of knots.

“What have I done to deserve these mischievous little monkeys?” she wails when she returns to the ruined room.

Tim, Sam and Lulu look at her with their big eyes and say nothing.

Still determined to replace her ruined belongings, Hilda plans another trip out, this time to get some more wool for her knitting. Still determined to battle boredom, the monkeys go into the kitchen. There they pull all the scrub brushes out of the cupboards. They empty cleaning powder — an entire package — onto the floor. Then, they tumble into the garbage pail, which is full of potato peelings, as they overturn a saucepan of soup.

Hilda bangs the saucepan on top of the stove and shouts, “Great grief! How long can I put up with these terrible little monkeys?”

Tim, Sam and Lulu look at her with their big eyes and say nothing.

Disgruntled but undaunted, Hilda heads out to buy a can of soup. Also undaunted, the monkeys get into mischief, and this time it’s in the bathroom. They squeeze the toothpaste. The nibble the soap before rejecting it and they pour Hilda’s favorite shampoo into the sink.

The long-suffering Hilda returns from her outing and tries to wash her hands. She can hardly do it because the bathroom is a disaster zone of tissue, suds and water.

The last day documented in the book, Hilda visits her mother. When she returns, all the rooms are just as she left them. Spic and span with no monkey business in sight.

She looks everywhere for her pets, but they are nowhere to be found. Soon, she cries in despair. In search of a dry handkerchief, she goes to her bedroom closet. When she opens the door, she finds her cheeky charges, sitting on the shelves as innocent as can be.

Young readers will like this book because it has hilarious illustrations of the havoc the monkeys wreak and it features the repeated paragraph about the three imps looking at Hilda with innocent eyes without uttering a peep. (Children develop a sense of mastery when they can predict plots and “read” along with stories.) Grown-ups can use these rooms-in-shambles scenarios to teach wee ones what not to do.

It’s not giving away too much to note that the story contains a final twist. It involves a hidden mess of silverware, three cans of sardines (one for each monkey) and some tomato sauce. Hilda ultimately decides that such a brouhaha is the price to pay for having three loving monkeys.

Brandy Hilboldt Allport writes Read All About It. You can send her an email at

Book review: St. Augustine author shows promise with ‘Consort Conspiracy’ - Wednesday, Decem


Author: Kaye D. Schmitz

Data: TouchPoint Press, 318 pages, $16.99 paperback

In St. Augustine author Kaye Schmitz’s debut novel, “The Consort Conspiracy,” the protagonist stumbles and tumbles her way into solving a 190-year-old murder mystery and a modern conspiracy involving a philandering president, his greedy first lady and a couple of studly young men. But the mystery deepens when our intrepid young heroine finds that she may be involved more than she ever thought.

Thirty-ish Kate Covington has been hired to do a documentary on the current United States president, whose ancestors were the town fathers of the historic coastal town of Midway, Georgia. His ratings have fallen afoul of his womanizing ways and it is hoped a little positive PR will help them out. The plot begins to thicken when Kate discovers that her mother, a reporter and columnist for the Atlanta Constitution – killed in a car wreck when Kate was 6 years old — had visited the town a few days before her death.

Schmitz has done her homework, giving the readers a special feel for the area and its past by alternating historical chapters with the current storyline. Her vivid descriptive prose adds to the allusion of time travel as the protagonist gets some ghostly help while she heads down a twisting road littered with bodies, old and new.

Some readers like to read the last chapter of a mystery first. Don’t with this one. Let Schmitz be your guide. You won’t be disappointed.

With the tagline “a Covington Family Mystery,” Schmitz promises more in the future. We look forward to the next one.

C.F. Foster lives in Riverside.

Lighting the night with Christmas joy - Sunday, December

A cascade of white snowflakes defined by intricate patterns swirled amid a blanket of tiny softly glowing red and green lights to bathe the home of John Siniscalchi and his family near the Ortega River in Christmas cheer.

The animated and laser-projection lighting accentuated a nearby reindeer pulling Santa’s sled brimming with brightly lit presents, a snowman, gift boxes with bows and path of red candy canes in his front yard.

Technology is putting a little more muscle into holiday decorating.

“It’s a little easier. I used to decorate with [regular] lights all the time. After a while — years of doing it — I wanted to do something different. With this new tech stuff, I figured I’d give it a shot. And it turned out really nice,” Siniscalchi said of how he incorporated projection lighting this year in his Christmas display.

Siniscalchi is among a growing number of people taking their decorating up a notch. He’s been celebrating his love of Christmas and joy in sharing the holiday since he was about 8 years old stringing old-fashioned lights, glass ornaments and tinsel garlands at his grandmother’s house.

“It’s my whole life, decorating,” said the 55-year-old retired U.S. Army staff sergeant, who carefully maps out plans for the decorations with input from his wife, Daisy, and their son, Devon, 23.

Siniscalchi then puts them up.

“They have all different types of displays. I saw them, and told my wife, ‘Lets try them,’ and I’ve been very happy with the outcome. The laser lights themselves, you position them just right and they look really good,” Siniscalchi said. The lasers are low voltage and use very little electricity, he said.

Holiday projection lighting displays are flying off Jacksonville store shelves with the speed of eight tiny reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh. Energy efficiency is a key selling point, as well as the variety of options — one disc boasts multi-holiday animated displays, according to store employees.

Depending on how elaborate the display — such as a movie/slide show featuring Santa or other Christmas characters, falling snow flakes or a star shower of red and green lights — which store is selling them and whether they’re on sale, prices ranged from about $14 up to $89.

“People come in all the time, like the lady who just asked me for one, and she turned around and bought two of them,” said Bonnie Randall, who works in the Christmas decoration department at the Home Depot on Lane Avenue South, where shoppers flocked Tuesday in search of projection lighting, inflatable holiday characters and other decorations.

Randall said last year was the first time the store sold the projection lighting displays. Around this time time back then, they already were sold out. This year, the store has more in stock and a large assortment, said Randall, noting they also have similar displays for Halloween and other holidays.

“It just took off. They’re reasonably priced and I think that’s another reason people are coming in and buying four or five at a time. Because they’re buying one for their neighbor, their auntie or other family members,” Randall said.

Randall said Santa Claus and his reindeer currently are the most popular displays. But people also are buying some of the Halloween projection lighting for next year, she said.

But not everyone is a fan.


“I don’t care for them because they’re not Christmasy. They’re just like going to a movie theater. It just doesn’t say Christmas to me,” said Sharyn Willis of Jacksonville as she shopped for more traditional Christmas decorations at the Home Depot.

Willis conceded the laser and projection displays are popular. But it’s a matter of personal taste.

To her, the glittery multicolored laser lights are over the top and too showy. Slides of Santa in the window detract from the magic of the season, she said.

“Santa’s not supposed to be in your house all year long, you know? He’s only supposed to show up that one night,” Willis said.

Willis said she has traditional reindeer and Santa Claus decorations at her home, but they are not the reason for the season.

“I would like a sign that says ‘Jesus is the reason for the season,’ or ‘Joy to the world’ or ‘Noel,’ something like that. That gets forgotten. And if we don’t say anything about it, nobody else is going to say anything about it,” said Willis, adding she had seen a “Joy to the World” sign in the store.


Retirees Tommy and Katherine Godfrey surveyed row upon row of projection lighting displays Tuesday at the Walmart Supercenter on Philips Highway. They discussed the pros and cons of each type — Santa waving from a window versus festive red-and-green star shower lights — at length as they stood in the aisle.

“It’s for the kids. A surprise,” said Katherine Godfrey, explaining they are celebrating Christmas early when their grandchildren — Shernice, 6, and Kaleb, 5 — along with mother, Audrey Michael, arrive this weekend. Michael, the couple’s daughter, is bringing the youngsters from their Lansing, Mich., home for a holiday visit with their grandparents, who moved to Jacksonville about 13 years ago.

“I’m not as young as I used to be, and can’t shinny up the ladder to put on the lights. And she’s afraid of heights so she won’t do it,” Tommy Godfrey, an 81-year-old retired mechanic, said grinning as he nodded at his 77-year-old wife, a retired librarian.

The couple said their grandchildren excitedly told them all their friends have projection lighting displays at their homes. The youngsters also have seen television advertisements for the lighting.

He said he liked the red-and-green star shower lights, while she was leaning toward toward the Santa Claus display. After talking about it for 10 minutes or so without concensus, the Godfreys decided to get lunch and think about it a little more.

But they were in total agreement on one key point.

“Christmas is for kids ….We enjoy seeing them happy,” said Katherine Godfrey, adding they will pack up the lighting to send home with the youngsters.

Siniscalchi and others say Christmas is a time of celebration for all ages.

Before the big day arrives, he plans a few tweaks to put the finishing touches on his display, which he lights for six hours each evening.

“I still have more to do. I have two reindeer for here and an inflatable one to put out. Next year, I’m going to change some things and add some more,” Siniscalchi said.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075