Terry Roen - SaintPetersBlog

Terry Roen

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Spring Hill mother uses daughter to steal stroller at Disney World

A Spring Hill mother is facing grand theft charges after being accused of stealing an $1,800 stroller at Hollywood Studios, then selling it online.

Michelle Craig turned herself into Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday after Orange County detectives issued an arrest warrant. A Disney surveillance picture showed the alleged thief placing her young daughter in the fancy Bugaboo stroller before pushing it out of the park.

Police also found multiple high-end strollers, diaper bags and designer purses for sale on Craig’s Facebook page.

The theft occurred on April 15 and ruined a visit to Walt Disney World for Lauren Collazo, who reported that her car keys, wallet and her niece’s EpiPen were missing from the stroller basket. Her husband had to fly from Miami to rescue the family.

A Texas woman contacted Collazo after buying her stroller online from Craig.

Orlando is the number one destination in the U.S.

Visit Orlando announced Thursday that a record 68 million visitors came to Orlando last year, making it the number one destination in the United States.

The number was released during Visit Orlando’s annual Travel & Tourism Luncheon at the Hilton Orlando.

“Orlando’s visitation number represents the emotional connections we make with millions all over the world,” said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “The love they show us never ceases to inspire us and led us to launch a yearlong campaign about two important words: thank you.”

To mark the occasion, Visit Orlando achieved a Guinness World Records title by gathering 3,144 handwritten thank you notes from local attractions and hotels to mail to visitors that supported the Orlando destination. The cards will be mailed to visitors that used Visit Orlando’s social media channels, destination websites and member programs.

“Orlando and Orange County continue to be the number one vacation destination in the nation,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “But this wouldn’t be possible without the many millions of guests who choose to come here year after year for our world-renowned attractions and entertainment options.”

SeaWorld to add new rapid river ride ‘Infinity Falls’

SeaWorld Orlando unveiled plans Thursday to open a twisting water rapid ride that will be the centerpiece of a new themed rainforest attraction.

Infinity Falls is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2018. The ride’s 40-foot drop is the world’s tallest river rapid drop, according to SeaWorld officials.

Inspired by the South American rainforests, riders will rush through the feel of an exhilarating Class IV rapids. Guests will sit atop a family-style raft that will wind through a lush jungle setting. A vertical elevator will lift each raft to the top of the ride.

Infinity Falls is the first new attraction SeaWorld Orlando has opened since the Mako roller coaster debuted last June. The new ride will be located between the Nautilus Theater and Shamu Stadium.

“Infinity Falls continues our commitment to investing in our park, and developing new ways to entertain and inspire our guests with meaningful, fun-filled vacations,” said Jim Dean, president of SeaWorld Orlando Parks.

The new ride is just another example of how SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is moving away from animal shows, which have been criticized by animal rights groups for keeping wild animals captive. The company stopped breeding orcas last year and has vowed to focus on education and conservation.

SeaWorld Orlando’s last new ride was the Mako roller coast, which debuted last June.

The designers were inspired by the flowing rivers found in the rainforests of South America. Infinity Falls will be the core of a newly themed rainforest canopy area, which has yet to be named.

After riding the rapids, guests can explore the village and take part in interactive experiences that combine play with education to create a positive impact on freshwater ecosystems. SeaWorld’s Animal Ambassadors will also provide up-close encounters with animals native to South America.

Disney releases dates for Halloween and Christmas parties

Walt Disney World Resort announced the dates for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, stretching nearly four months with a one-day break for Thanksgiving.

The two events expand the holidays to 53 days of special events at the Magic Kingdom.

The hard ticket events will close the park early so a new group of guests can enjoy the private parties. Ticket go on sale next month. Prices have yet to be released.

Entertainment returning this year are: The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular stage show in front of Cinderella Castle, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular.

The Halloween party runs for 32 dates:

– August 25, 29

– September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 29

– October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31

– November 1

Returning favorites for the Christmas holidays include Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Holiday Wishes, A Frozen Holiday Wish and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.

The 21 dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas are:

  • November 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 28
  • December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22

Gondolas could be Disney’s next new ride

A construction notice has given more fuel to the rumor that Walt Disney World is planning to build a gondola system connecting Epcot, three Disney resorts and Hollywood Studios.

An official notice of commencement filed in Orange County for the construction of “foundation and building infrastructure” at six different locations could be the gondola’s route, according to WDW News Today.

Walt Disney World remains mum on the rumor.

The proposed gondola would connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and  Pop Century resorts. It would help relieve an overloaded system of buses that transport guests around Walt Disney World Resort.

It’s believed that Disney is contracting with the Doppelmayr/Garaventa group, an Austrian-Swiss company whose chairlifts, cable cars, gondolas and urban people movers can be found in 89 countries around the world. The company’s 3S cable system consumes less energy, has a high passenger capacity and increased wind stability, important assets for Central Florida’s theme parks.

Doppelmayr is not new to Central Florida. It built the elevated train used as the Hogwarts Express between the two Harry Potter lands at Universal Orlando Resort.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex celebrates 20 years

Amateur and professional athletes have played more than 70 different sports at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today.

Since it opened in 1997 the story of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort has been written through the athletes who have competed on its fields, courts and diamonds.

The grand opening of the sports complex featured the Atlanta Braves as they defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 9-7, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 at a spring training game.

Each year the complex hosts more than 100 annual athletic events. It has become a place where athletes challenge themselves, push their limits and make their sports dreams come true.

Michelle Obama spoke to hundreds of children and their parents about the importance of healthy living during the Let’s Move! health initiative February 11, 2012, at the complex. Orlando City Soccer played its full regular soccer season there in 2014. More than 500 wounded, ill and injured military personnel competed in 10 sporting events during the 2016 Invictus Games led by Prince Harry.

Disney refuses to cut ‘gay moment’ from Beauty and the Beast

Walt Disney World Company has refused to remove a scene involving a “gay moment” from its “Beauty and the Beast” release in Malaysia, a country that has laws against homosexuality.

Instead, Disney has decided to withdraw the film from the Malaysian market, rather than censor the scene.

Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board approved “Beauty and the Beast” for a “P13” rating after requesting cuts of about 4 1/2 minutes from the subplot with a “gay moment,” according to Film Board Chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, Variety reported on Monday. A “P13” rating requires those below 13 years of age to be accompanied by a guardian.

Golden Screen Cinemas, Malaysia’s largest theater chain, posted on its website that patrons who purchased advance tickets will receive refunds.

“The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” according to an email statement from Disney.

This is not the first time the gay scene has met with controversy.

The Russian government initially considered banning the film, but instead decided that no one under the age of 16 would be admitted to see it in theaters without accompanying adults. Additionally, a theater in Henagar, Ala. will not screen the film because of the gay character.

“Beauty and the Beast,” is a remake of the 1991 animated musical classic. The new movie includes a scene with character LeFou, who makes references to his affection for Gaston in the film and later dances with a man at a ball. LeFou is the first and only openly homosexual character in a Disney film.

The movie will be released in Central Florida Thursday.

Enterprise Florida names Mike Grissom interim CEO

Enterprise Florida’s Executive Committee named Mike Grissom interim CEO Tuesday, a day after the embattled agency’s CEO abruptly resigned.

Former CEO Chris Hart IV resigned after serving only three months on the job.

Stan Connally, vice chairman of the Enterprise board of directors, hastily called the meeting Tuesday and nominated Grissom, who served as interim CEO last year. Grissom is the current executive vice president of the economic development agency.

“Mike Grissom served in the previous interim CEO role,” said Connally. “He has familiarity with the issues and it makes good logical sense to put him in that role again.”

Grissom served as interim CEO from June 2016 to January 2017, before Hart officially became the CEO. Connally suggested that there would be no time limit on Grissom’s interim role.

“Let’s let the dust settle from the last day and half before we make bigger decisions,” Connally said.

The measure passed with a unanimous vote, ending the 13-minute meeting.

Hart was hired Nov. 30, after the agency spent five months looking for a replacement for former CEO Bill Johnson, who resigned 15 months into his two-year contract. Hart never signed a formal contract with Enterprise Florida. He left the department leaderless amid a battle with the state House, which is pushing a bill to eliminate both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Before joining Enterprise Florida, Grissom served as a senior director at the Florida Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. He also held positions in the offices of Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Grissom will continue his duties as both executive vice president and interim CEO of the agency.

LEGOLAND to celebrate The LEGO Batman Movie with special event this weekend

LEGOLAND Florida Resort will celebrate the Caped Crusader with activities centering around The LEGO Batman Movie Saturday and Sunday at the place #BuiltForKids.

Fans can meet Gotham City’s iconic superhero –  in LEGO form – at the Winter Haven theme park. LEGO Batman Movie Days will include a photo op with LEGO Batman, a Batman-themed scavenger hunt throughout MINILAND USA and a variety of hands-on LEGO building activities inspired by the movie. Guests can also watch master builders create a 7-foot tall LEGO Joker.

The Big Shop and LEGO Studio Store will have LEGO building sets, limited-edition LEGO mini figures, costumes, accessories and more from the Batman movie.

Regular admission and annual passes will apply for the LEGO Batman Movie Days. No extra ticket is required.

 

Aerial survey shows increasing manatee count

Florida manatees are thriving during this warm, sunny winter.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) count found the highest number of sea cows since 1991 and the third straight year of a minimum count greater than 6,000 during its annual flyover of popular manatee spots.

A team of 15 observers from 10 organizations counted 3,488 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 3,132 on the west coast of the state during the aerial survey. That top’s last year’s county by 370 manatees.

And while the Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 survey is not a population count, it’s a good indicator that Florida manatees are using the state’s springs, power plant discharge areas and warm water tributaries as their winter refuge.

The survey is done every winter following a cold front, said Holly Edwards, FWC biologist and assistant research scientist, who stressed that aerial counts are not accurate population counts because they can often miss manatees. Warm, sunny weather aided this year’s counts with low winds and good visibility.

“We did have every nice weather conditions this year, and it was cold enough to move the animals into our survey areas,” Edwards said. “This is not a record; this is a minimum count.”

Numbers vary depending on whether it is warm or cold, sunny or cloudy, calm or windy. Manatees are more easily counted a few days after a cold front when it is slightly warmer, clear and windless. A warming trend with sunny, windless conditions following cold weather increases the likelihood that manatees will be resting at the water’s surface, where they can easily be spotted. 

The survey is conducted to meet a Florida state statute, which requires an annual, impartial, scientific census of the manatee population. The counts have been made 31 times from 1991 through 2017.

“The relatively high counts we have seen for the past three years underscore the importance of warm-water habitat to manatees in Florida,” according to Gil McRae, FWC biologist and head of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, in a statement released Monday.

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