Monday, July 30, 2012

Florida Outdoors: What You Can See in August

The summer holiday season may be winding down, but its still hot and humid in Florida.  The seasonal rains are historically at their most heavy over the next three months.  We'll all be watching the Caribbean Basin for signs of storms. 

 It's August in Florida. 

Wildlife is still on the move.  Many species begin their migration periods in August.  Other species move into the woods to simply find a cooler spot.  Gators are active as their young are now hatching.  The rains bring snakes and other squirmy critters out of the wetlands and closer to our homes.  It's the height of the Summer Season.  

This is a good time of year to be outdoors, provided you’re prepared with sunscreen, mosquito repellent and maybe a Thermacell to keep the bugs at bay.  

Remember to drink plenty of water.  This is also the season for heat-related health problems. 

Here are a few of the natural activities going on around you in nature this August:

The August 2012 Night Sky

Photo by Sky and Telescope

August 2 - Full Moon. 

The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:27 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

August 6 - Curiosity Rover at Mars.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is scheduled to land on the red planet between August 6 and August 20, 2012.

Officially named Curiosity, it is an autonomous rover similar to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that previously visited Mars.

This much larger rover will carry many more instruments and experiments than its previous cousins. Curiosity’s high definition color cameras will photograph the Martian surface while a host of instruments will sample the soil and air and search for organic compounds.

August 12, 13 - Perseids Meteor Shower. 

The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak.

The shower's peak usually occurs on August 13 & 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 - August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus.

The near last quarter moon will be hanging around for the show, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a shower with up to 60 meteors per hour. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.

August 17 - New Moon. 

The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:54 AM Eastern Daylight Time.

August 24 - Neptune at Opposition. 

The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Neptune. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

August 31 - Full Moon - Blue Moon. 

The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 9:58 AM Eastern Daylight Time.

Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”


The first flocks of blue-winged and green-winged teal arrive on Florida lakes and wetlands in preparation for winter.

Yellow warbler migration begins.


Black bear mothers will wean their two-year old cubs in August in Florida. 

Short-tailed shrews will begin a second round of breeding for the year.


Young sea turtles are hatching. 

Young alligators and crocodiles have begun to hatch now.
Keep an eye out for mama!

Older alligators are still on the move.

Latest News Release from FWC on Florida Alligator Movement


Thousands of great southern white butterflies can be seen migrating through coastal areas.

Mosquitoes and chiggers are abundant in August.  .  

Summer rains bring out more insects.  

Marine Life

Recreational Bay scallop harvesting continues all month. 

Corals along the Keys spawn at the full moon


Levy County, Florida - Photo by Jeff Norcini

Coreopsis leavenworthii is blooming along the highways of Florida

Lake County, Florida - Photo by Peg Urban

 Standing Cypress and Softhair Cornflower

For an extensive plant list, please see links below.

Resources:  UF/IFAS, Florida Fish & Wildlife, Water Management Districts, Florida Native Plants Society, Florida Audubon

Friday, July 27, 2012

Famous Floridian Friday: Scott Thompson, The Comedian “Carrot Top” – Florida Native

 High energy, topical comedy and creative use of props made “Carrot Top” a national pop culture icon, but he learned the ropes right here in comedy clubs of Florida.

The comedian known today as “"Carrot Top" was born Scott Thompson on February 25, 1965.  He is the youngest son of Lawrence Thompson and Donna Thompson Wood.

Scott grew up in Rockledge, Florida, the oldest city in Brevard County.  Situated on both the Indian River and the St. Johns River, Rockledge lies just south of Cocoa and is part of the greater Melbourne-Palm Bay-Titusville area on Florida’s Central East Coast.  The Thompsons also lived in nearby Orlando during part of Scott’s youth.

Larry Thompson, Scott’s father, worked as a scientist with the NASA Gemini and Apollo space programs at nearby Cape Canaveral.  He was active in the design of the moon-rover and later in his career he worked on the Space Shuttle missions.

As a boy, Scott was a small and skinny fair-skinned “ginger” with a ready smile.  He didn’t yet have his trademark curly locks, though.  Curls would come later—during a growth spurt while Scott was in college.  In his boyhood, Thompson’s hair was red, but straight, according to his mom, Donna.

Friends and family describe Scott as a quiet but charming young man who had a way with people.  Not necessarily funny, but nice and accommodating.  People naturally gravitated towards him.

Scott Thompson - age 17 with Prom date
Thompson’s early teens were years of change.

 At 13, his parents divorced.  In 7th grade, he transferred into public school after years at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Rockledge. 

The period was a rocky one for Scott but his sense of humor bloomed as he found comedy to be a way to connect with the new kids around him.

Thompson graduated from Cocoa High School in 1983 and enrolled at Florida Atlantic University (“the Harvard of Florida,” he jokes), in Boca Raton, Florida.

His freshman year he went to a club and saw live stand-up comedy for the first time.  Shortly thereafter, he happened upon a campus bulletin board with an announcement for an “open mic” night at a local comedy club.

“I wasn’t going to do it but my roommate said I should.  “Do it!  You’re funny,” his roommate argued. 

Thompson was scared but pulled together some old jokes for a routine and the club crowd liked him. The next semester he signed up again, but this time he came up with his own jokes, written especially   towards the college audience.

“The street in the center of town was Butts Road. I stole the sign and told the audience, “This must be where the assholes live!” Thompson remembers.   

He was a hit with the campus crowd, but he needed to broaden his jokes in order to perform before larger audiences, so he went home and got to work.   

“So I came up with more visual jokes, coming up with props like high heels with training wheels for young girls,” Thompson recalls, and he attended every amateur night he could find performing under the name “Carrot Top,” as a shout out to his looks and one of the many nicknames folks had called him.

Scott earned a degree in marketing and graduated from FAU.  Father Larry Thompson vividly recalls a conversation with his son just prior to that day.  Skeptical about the value of his new degree, Larry wanted to discuss Scott’s career options.

“The only marketing major from FAU that I knew was selling cars,” Larry says. “We went to see Scott on campus in Boca Raton, and I asked him, ‘You’re about to graduate, what are you going to do?’

He said, ‘I think I’m going to go into comedy.’ I was stunned.  My response was definitely ‘You have got to be kidding!’”

It was no joke.

Garrett (age 4) and Scott Thompson (age 2)
Scott’s older brother, Garrett, earned a scholarship to the Air Force Academy and was now securely on his way to becoming a fighter pilot with the United States Air Force.

 Scott, on the other hand, would spend his first year after college as a bank courier while he honed his comedy act.

 His parents were worried about Scott’s plans for his future.

Scott gave it a year. 

But when finances got so bad that his car was repossessed, he quit in frustration, taking jobs driving a bread truck, cleaning office buildings and even shucking oysters. 

One night, months after leaving the comedy circuit, he bumped into a club owner who asked incredulously “What do you mean you’re not doing comedy?  You’re terrific!”

 Hearing Scott’s plight, he offered  “Carrot Top” his club’s New Year’s Eve gig, and with one stroke, put Thompson back in comedy.

"I forgot just how much fun this is to do--and that I could do it well,” Scott explained. 

But breaking into comedy would continue to be an uphill struggle. 

Many clubs wouldn’t book Thompson because he didn’t fit into the mold of the angst-filled comedy of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

 Scott’s fans were still to be found on the college campuses where his imaginative hyper-reality became a real hit with young people, so he learned to play to them. 

His first big break came in 1990 when Scott Thompson got his first booking outside Florida. 

The show in a North Carolina club introduced Carrot Top to the outside world and led to a club owner/talent manager who set him up with gigs each weekend all across the country. 

Carrot Top and Jay Leon on The Tonight Show
Nationwide jobs led to his first TV appearance on Comic Strip Live. 

Thompson later said it was traveling to California and performing on this television show that made him realize he was legitimately a professional comedian.

In 1992, Scott made his first appearance on The Tonight Show. 

There would be more than two dozen more visits to the show after that first one. 

Regis Philbin and Carrot Top

In 1993, Carrot Top became and remains the only person ever named both Entertainer of the Year and Comedian of the Year in the same year by the National Association of Campus Activities.   

In 1994, he took home the American Comedy Award for Best Male Stand-Up.

In 1996, Scott became an author when he published a retrospective of Carrot Top inventions called “Junk In The Trunk: Some Assembly Required” through Simon and Schuster. 

Carrot Top and Hulk Hogan in Clearwater, FL
Carrot Top was a headliner for 15 weeks annually at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for many years;  after which he would leave Las Vegas and tour for hundreds of concerts across the country, squeeze in appearances on  television, in movies, and act as a celebrity spokesperson in commercials. 

His work ethic is prodigious and well-respected in the industry.

Over the past 25 years, Carrot Top has been seen in hundreds of TV programs – from “Regis And Kathy/Kelly”, “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”, Comedy Central’s “Strip Mall”, “Carrot Top’s A.M. Mayhem” on the Cartoon Network, Last Comic Standing, Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, Chriss Angel-Mindfreak, Gene Simmons-The Family Jewels, Larry the Cable Guy, many ESPN commercials, and the American Movie Classics presentation of Three Stooges shorts, Tosh.0, to name just a few.

 He’s been in movies such as Chairman Of The Board, Dennis The Menace Strikes Again, and many, many others. 

Carrot Top and Kim Kardashian on The Tonight Show
Here is Carrot Top's Filmography where you can see a complete list of his body of work.

 "I went from two trunks and a strobe light to an 18-wheeler and 35 trunks full of props...from a Yugo to a tour bus for the crew and myself. I actually had to hire people to carry my props. It got pretty crazy pretty fast." 

And the statistics agree…Carrot Top was selling out more than 200 concerts every year.

Carrot Top's Mega-Deal at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas

 After headlining at MGM Grand in Las Vegas for many years, Carrot Top inked a very lucrative and long-term contract with the Luxor Hotel and Casino through the year 2015 and moved to a new venue.  This mega-deal brings Carrot Top’s total run with the Luxor to an amazing 10 years in length.   

Scott now performs as Carrot Top in nearly 300 shows each year in the Luxor’s Atrium Theatre.  

Tightly produced and manically performed, Carrot Top’s shows are current as today’s headlines and a combination of stand-up routines and prop jokes. 

The audience reaction has been pure joy.

 Even those who thought they never wanted to see a Carrot Top show, walk away from the experience as diehard fans.

 The show is fast-paced, energy-filled, and very funny. 

 Comedy Has Been His Calling

Becoming a pop culture icon is a difficult thing to achieve but Scott "Carrot Top" Thompson has done just that. With two and a half decades of comedic performance behind him now and having played to more than 3 million fans, Carrot Top is one of the most popular, recognizable and successful comedians in America.  He continues to write and produce much of his material himself.  He loves his career and is an avowed workaholic.

Personal Life

When he’s not Carrot Top, he enjoys time to himself; going to the gym, watching sports, hanging out with his girlfriend, surfing, riding his jet-skis, and working at home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Okeechobee Celebrates National Day of the American Cowboy

The National Day of the Cowboy is this Saturday, July 28th. 

Where else to celebrate the Day of the Cowboy but in Okeechobee...the top cattle-producing county in the State of Florida!

Okeechobee's Cattle Industry

Okeechobee County is at the heart of Florida’s cattle industry. 

More cattle are raised in Okeechobee than anywhere else in the State of Florida. 

Okeechobee ranchers carry 140,000 head of beef cattle alone, and that's not counting their large herds of dairy cattle.

And that's in a county of only 40,000 people!

The beef cattle industry in Okeechobee primarily produces feeder calves--animals which are sold at 6 to 10 months of age and weighing 400-600 pounds.

 Ranchers who sell calves at this stage run what is called a cow/calf operation.

But Okeechobee isn’t just a leader in the production of cattle; it’s also a leader in the sale of cattle.

The Okeechobee Livestock Market is the largest volume livestock market in Florida, selling over 150,000 head of cattle through the auction ring annually and drawing cattle sales from within a 100-mile radius.  

While cattle business is often done over the Internet today, the old, proven, reliable method of selling cattle through the auction ring is still practiced.  If you’re in the area and would like to see how cattle are marketed, sales days are Mondays and Tuesdays, starting at 11AM. Check their website for details.

Florida Cattle Ranching By the Numbers

Large Florida ranches with more than 1,000 head of cattle comprise 44 percent of the Florida beef cattle market. 

However, these large cattle ranches make up only 20% of the Floridians raising cattle.   

80% of Florida cattle producers are small family operations.  These small ranchers often hold jobs off the farm as well as manage their cattle ranches. 

Four of the ten largest ranches in the United States are in Florida. 

The Deseret Ranch, owned by the Church of the Latter Day Saints, is the largest brood cow ranch in the nation and Florida’s largest ranch.

With over 1.1 million head of beef cattle, Florida is the third largest beef-producing state east of the Mississippi River.  It is ranked 10th in the nation.

The monetary value of Florida’s breeding herd is nearly $900 Million dollars.  On top of that, Florida calves are valued at $350 Million.

Florida's cattle ranches are primarily in commercial cow/calf production.  Florida’s feeder calves are shipped to stocker conditioning and finishing operations in Texas and the Midwest, and then on to feedlots in other states to be processed into beef. 

Cow/calf operations in Florida have benefited from university research over the years with improved breeder stock, superior grasses for use in Florida, better health practices, and an up-to-date best practices system for water and land conservation.

Much of "Natural Florida" remains in the working landscape of Florida's cattle industry.  A healthy ranch means healthy natural resources and an intact environment for all wildlife.

Nearly one-half of all Florida agricultural land is involved in cattle production. There are 4 million acres of pastureland and 1 million acres of grazed woodland in use in Florida today.

The Differences Between a Cattleman and a Cowboy

The celebration is called National Day of the Cowboy.  

So what is the difference between a cattleman and a cowboy?   

Well, a cattleman owns cattle.

A cowboy possesses a high level of trade skill to handle or “work” the cattle.

Cattlemen are often cowboys, although it’s not absolutely necessary to be one.  A cattleman can always hire in help.  

There’s no way around being a cowboy.  You either have the ability or you don’t. 

Famed Florida cattlewoman and cowgirl, Iris Wall

While there are cowboys and cowgirls, and cattlemen and cattlewomen, when speaking of folks who actually do the job, a cowboy or cattleman can just as easily be a woman.    

When out in cattle country, there are plenty of Floridian women who can do what the boys do.


There are several things that remain a constant in the life of a cowboy. 

First is the love of animals.  The cowboy cares for what he tends.

Second, a love of the Florida land he works.  Most ranchers are wholeheartedly involved in environmental preservation. 

Third, is a commitment to a job well-done.  The quality of a person’s work speaks volumes in this line of work.

Lastly, is the devotion to a life of hard work.  Raising animals is a 7 day a week job.  Work often can’t wait.   

There’s a saying in the ranching community that cowboys work from “can to can’t,” a subtle way of  telling you that he’ll be out working from the break of day 'til he's run out of steam after dark. 

National Day of the Cowboy is July 28th

The National Day of the Cowboy on July 28th, recognizes the hard work done daily by these guys and gals in the cattle industry across the U.S, and allows the rest of us to appreciate the unique skills of our American cowboys.

Want to learn something about Florida cattle-raising yourself?  

 Visit Okeechobee during the final weekend of July and join in as they celebrate The National Day of the Cowboy.

Okeechobee Celebrates National Day of the Cowboy

National Day of the American Cowboy activities begin early in Okeechobee with a Barbecue Contest at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center Friday night, July 27th.  

The gates open at 5PM.

Bring your appetite…barbecue rib dinners will be for sale. 

The cowboys will be in town Friday night.  There will be cowboy demonstrations.  

Cowboy art, cowboy stories, cowboy hats, boots, belts, whips, jewelry and other cowboy accoutrements will be on display. 

Rounding it out, there will be plenty of festival arts & crafts, food and games suitable for the entire family. 

Members of the Kicco Ranch Rodeo Team
Starting at 7 PM, area ranches will compete in Ranch Rodeo contest.  

This is always a hit with the general public. 

Come watch as families and ranches face off in this contest of cowboy skill.  Friday night is day 1 of the 2 day event.

On Saturday, July 28th, Okeechobee will celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy with a cattle drive right through the middle of town on Florida State Road 70.   


Traffic will be halted on this main East/West thoroughfare as they bring the cows home to the Agri-Civic Center.

The route is long, so you’ll find you have a pretty good choice of where you want to be to watch the cattle drive.  

Many folks line the highway along the 5 mile route.  This will give you a great view.  You’ll want to bring a lawn chair and drinks for while you wait.

You could also choose to wait for the drive at its termination spot, the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center.  Gates there open at 3PM, so you can browse among the displays while you’re waiting for the cattle drive to arrive.

Leading the cattle drive is considered quite an honor in this cattle raising community.

This year Andrew Bowers of the Seminole Tribe of Florida will be the lead cattle driver.  At his side will be Seminole Tribe Chairman, James Billie.  The cattle drive will begin at 4PM Saturday afternoon. 

Andrew Bowers, (right) with Mike Wilbur (left) at the Seminole Brighton Ranch

Bowers will lead Okeechobee cowboys and cattlemen as they push a herd of cattle east through the heart of Okeechobee, down the main highway, up over flyovers and across state highways, all at a slow, even pace.  The art of cowboy-ing will be on full display for townspeople and visitors alike.

At 6PM Saturday evening, the Ranch Rodeo will begin its final rounds.  Winning teams will be announced at the close of session.  

The evening concludes with a live music concert featuring the band “Burnt Biscuit,” a Southern Country band out of Fort Pierce, Florida.

Burnt Biscuit performs Saturday evening

Admission at the Agri-Civic Center is $5.00 per person; children under 12 are free.  Watching the cattle drive from along the parade route is free.

The Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center is located at 4601 Highway 710, Okeechobee. 

Okeechobee Main Street and the Okeechobee Cattlemen's Association are co-sponsors of Okeechobee’s celebration of National Day of the Cowboy.  You can reach them before the event at 863-357-6246.