Former WWII Prisoner of War Marks POW/MIA Day in Lakeland

Randall Edwards stood up as straight as the 20-year-old sailor he once was after being unexpectedly introduced early Friday morning in a tree lined Veterans Memorial Park in Lakeland.

The occasion was an observance of POW/MIA Day, which took place all over the nation. In Florida, the day was marked with a special declaration by Gov. Rick Scott.

But Lakeland’s ceremony, held in a monument-studded park overlooking Lake Beulah, included the dedication of a monument to those who have been prisoners of war and to those missing.

Edwards never thought about missing the event just because he is 99 years old. He strode up the lengthy walkway from the lakefront to the ceremony.

When World War II broke out, Edwards was a sailor aboard a submarine tender stationed in the Philippines.

“We serviced 19 submarines and we were loaded with torpedoes, the best food around explosives, but we had only one gun. The rest of the fleet was pulled out, but we remained taking care of the submarines,” he said.

Don’t ask him about being captured by the Japanese because he will immediately correct you.

“I wasn’t captured; I was surrendered by Gen. (Jonathan) Wainwright,” the Navy veteran said.

It is still an event that bothers him.

The Japanese invaded the Philippines Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. American forces held out until May 6, 1942. According to many historians, Wainwright offered to surrender his forces on the island of Corregidor only, but the Japanese commander insisted all of the American troops in the Philippines be surrendered, including Edward’s ship.

The ceremony and unveiling of the POW/MIA memorial were sponsored by the family members of the late Foster Heath, a community leader who, as a tail gunner in World War II, was one of only two to survived from his bomber and spent 11 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

Veterans Memorial Park is larger than most in Florida. It contains memorials to fallen members of the military, a Pearl Harbor monument, memorials to the fight against terrorism, to local fallen police officers and to firefighters and EMT’s who died in the line of duty.

“We have no tanks or artillery here,” said Air Force Col. Gary Clark (retired), chair of the Polk County Veterans Council. “This is a place for quiet reflection, remembering, and education.”

CSI Polk County: “Yep, That Corpse Chomping Gator Was Full of Human Remains”

On Tuesday, police in Lakeland, Florida responded to a CSI: Miami-esque citizen 911 call describing an alligator cruising around a lake with a corpse, allegedly a man’s, in its jaws.

Upon their arrival, the police witnessed the alligator drop the body and swim around until trappers were called in to trap and kill it for a stomach examination. Right now in Florida is alligator mating season, which means that the reptiles can “store their food for some time” after an attack, Sergeant Gary Gross told People.

Police have yet to determine the body’s identity or if the cause of death was an alligator attack, but the body’s state of decomposition has led police to think its been in the water for over a day.

On Saturday morning, someone had reported to the police that there was a backpack and clothes in the lake, as well as an aggressive alligator. The next day, on Sunday, police received a call about a large object being circled by an alligator, but couldn’t locate anything.

There are currently no open missing persons who would fit the body’s description, according to Gross.

This isn’t the first alligator-chewing-on-mankind situation that the police have come across recently. Just last month, two fishermen in the Everglades in Florida came across two alligators feeding on human remains.

High Heel Brewing Launches in Lakeland

High Heel Brewing, an innovative new craft beer company founded by master brewerKristi McGuire, will introduce a line of craft beers specifically aimed at female craft beer consumers. The company, which produces its beers in partnership with St. Louis-based Brew Hub, plans to introduce its first two beers this summer. High Heel’s beers will be brewed at Brew Hub’s brewery in Lakeland, Florida, and will be available throughout the state beginning in June. Republic National Distributing Company will distribute the beers throughout Florida.

“It’s incredibly exciting to launch High Heel Brewing and introduce our first two beers,” said Kristi McGuire, master brewer and founder, High Heel Brewing. “Our goal was to fill a gap in the market and to celebrate women in brewing and all women who love craft beer. It has been a dream come true to collaborate with the women of Brew Hub, and this launch would not have been possible without them.”

High Heel Brewing’s first two beers will be Slingback, a Perry Ale, and Too Hop’d to Handle, an American IPA.

Slingback is a hybrid beer brewed by combining the taste of a traditional ale with pear cider. The brew includes natural passion fruit juices, Hallertauer hops and subtle spicing with chamomile and elderflower. The result is a fresh, fruity, floral beer with a crisp, clean finish. Slingback is 5.4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), 15 international bitterness units (IBUs) and is slightly more carbonated than most ales. Slingback pairs well with shellfish, berries and soft cheeses.

“With Slingback we created an entirely new style of beer, hitting that sweet spot between ale and cider,” said McGuire. “It’s the Prosecco of beers – perfect for the hot summer days to come.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Too Hop’d to Handle, a bold American IPA assertively hopped with Columbus, Mosaic and Simcoe varieties and brewed with Munich and honey malts for a toasted flavor. Belgian candied sugar is added to balance the beer and give it a smooth finish. A rotating fourth hop varietal will be added to both the kettle and dry hops to reflect seasonal flavors and trends. For the initial launch, Calypso hops were used as the fourth hop. Too Hop’d to Handle is 8.4 percent ABV, 89 IBUs and pairs nicely with grilled meats and strong cheeses such as sharp cheddar, Stilton and Roquefort.

“The growth of IPAs has been compelling, and we expect hop-forward beers to continue to flourish,” said McGuire. “Craft beer consumers are looking for new flavors and styles of IPA, and we feel Too Hop’d to Handle is going to stand out in the crowd of pale ales. We brewed the beer with several varieties of hops that normally aren’t used together. The result is a bold, confident IPA we think women will love.”

McGuire completed the Master Brewers program at the University of California, Davis, and was honored as an Associate with Distinction at the Institute of Brewing in London, England. She has spent more than two decades developing beers from the ground up at companies such as Alaskan Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch.

Slingback and Too Hop’d to Handle will be initially available in 12-ounce glass bottle four-packs throughout the state of Floridaand will be priced similarly to other premium craft beers. The beers will also be available on draft at Brew Hub’s tasting room in its brewery in Lakeland, Florida.

Facebook Moonshine Probe Leads to Three Arrests in Lakeland

Police in Florida said a Facebook post offering illegal moonshine for sale led to the arrests of three people in an undercover operation.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said detectives received a tip Jan. 12 about illegal moonshine being offered for sale on the Facebook page of Alton Trowell, 31, of Lakeland.

An undercover detective called the phone number on the Facebook page the following day and spoke with Christie Comkowycz, 31, Trowell’s live-in girlfriend.

“Are you a cop? Cause I don’t want to go to jail,” Comkowycz allegedly asked during the conversation.

The detective arranged to meet with Comkowycz, who arrived at the arranged place with her roommate, Dalton Ridlon, 20.

Detectives arrested Comkowycz and Ridlon after they allegedly sold the illicit alcohol to the undercover officers at $20 per pint.

Police seized the moonshine, which was packaged in mason jars, and Comkowycz told investigators she advertised the alcohol on Trowell’s Facebook page because he had been arrested and she was trying to raise bail money.

Comkowycz told deputies she purchased the moonshine from Richard Lott, 48, who works at Mizkan distillery in Lake Alfred.

Undercover detectives contacted Lott, who offered to sell the 192-proof grain alcohol for $20.00 per gallon.

Lott was arrested with assistance from Lake Alfred police. He told investigators he had taken the moonshine from the distillery before it was processed and reduced.

Lott told police he traded the moonshine to Comkowyz in exchange for meth.

Comkowycz was charged with possession of one or more gallons of illegal liquor, conspiracy to violate beverage law and unlawful possession/sale/transportation of alcohol.

Ridlon was charged with conspiracy to violate beverage law and unlawful possession/sale/transportation of alcohol.

Lott was charged with use of a two-way device to commit a felony, conspiracy to violate beverage law and unlawful possession/sale/transportation of alcohol.

All of the charges are felonies, the sheriff’s office said.

Two Lakeland F*ckTards Trash Stranger’s House To Celebrate ‘Jail Release’ Party

When Kit Thompson arrived to his Florida home after staying a couple of nights at his mom’s house due to a minor illness, he shockingly discovered two mysterious men sleeping in his bed. Who were these strangers you ask? One of the intruders Jaquel Fleming was recently released from prison and wanted to celebrate his freedom with buddy Keilow Roundtree so they broke into Thompson’s house. The two criminals hosted wild ‘jail release’ parties for five days!

Thompson immediately called 911 and within minutes police officers surrounded the home and demanded Fleming and Roundtree come out, according to ABC WFTS. Deputies had to release the K-9s into the home because both men refused to exit the home. Once Thompson was able to safely enter his own home, he noticed an immeasurable amount of damage everywhere, like $4,000 worth of damage. Investigators learned Fleming and his buddy broke into Thompson’s house to “party and smoke weed in celebration of Fleming’s recent release from jail.” Though that didn’t last too long.

Fleming has been arrested seven times in Polk County for carrying a concealed firearm, burglary, theft, possession, resisting arrest and grand theft of a motor vehicle. He was most recently arrest for burglary, grand theft and possesion of marijuana by the Lakeland Police. He was sentenced to 220 days and was recently let out.

Lakeland Woman Periscopes Her Drunk Driving, Gets Arrested for DUI

A Lakeland woman who appears to be what medical professionals refer to as “shitfaced” Periscoped her drive home and (miraculously?) was pulled over and charged with DUI on Saturday.

Whitney Marie Beall, 23, titled her Periscope stream – which could literally be seen by anyone with a Twitter account – “girl driving drunk.” Shortly after it started, people began calling 911, the Tampa Tribune reports.

“I am driving as you guys know, but I think I’m, I think I’m on a flat tire, which is horrible,” Beall says in the video before shouting at the red light she’s stopped at.

The whole thing is soundtracked by “The Hills” by The Weeknd, about which Beall adds, “This song is super hot, I’ll be damned to know.”

According to a release from the Lakeland Police Department, a cop used his own Twitter account to watch the stream and figure out where Beall was from landmarks in the background.

When she was finally pulled over she had a flat front tire on her Corolla and hit the curb, police said.

Kevin Gates Gives His Version Of Why He Kicked His Lakeland Female Fan On ‘The Truth’

Kevin Gates barks back at the recent blowback associated with the Florida fan assault incident on his newly released track “The Truth.” Even with a battery charge pending, Gates doesn’t shy away from putting his version of the events out there, contending that the young lady in question grabbed his d*ck after he had already warned her multiple times. “You should have respect for yourself, You a queen and you wasn’t respecting yourself,” he says in the song. Three sides to every story folks. Listen to Luca Brasi tell his below.

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A Petition Has Been Started To Ban Kevin Gates From Performing In Florida After He Kicked A Fan at Lakeland Club

When Florida considers you disgusting enough to ban you, you’re definitely doing something very wrong. That’s the predicament Kevin Gates finds himself in after recent video emerged of him kicking a fan at a show. Couple that incident with his song lyrics and comments about incest and you get a Change.org petition started to ban the rapper from performing in the state again.

Calling him a “disturbed rapper,” the petition claims the “Kno One” MC is “ruining the hip-hop culture and it’s strongly believed that his presence in the music industry will incite more violence.” By banning him from performing in the state, their hope is to show the world that Gates’ words and actions won’t be tolerated. The petition is seeking 2,500 signatures and has more than 1,700 at the moment with the plan being to submit their request to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama. The comments section of the petition seems to be fed up with Gates, although I’m not 100 percent sure how many of them listen to his music.

“Kevin Gates is a lowlife despicable creature that needs to be in jail. His actions were horrid and he should be reprimanded immediately.”

“He has no music talent and is basically pointless. Teaches violence against women and incest.”

“It’s disgusting that someone could do that!! That is someone that likes your music and is a fan!!”

Whether you agree or not, we’re reaching a point of redefining what is and isn’t acceptable from rappers. Starting with Rick Ross’ rape lyrics to the lengthy discussion surrounding Dr. Dre’s abusive past, rap’s treatment of women seems to be undergoing a shift to change how women are treated within the music and culture.

I’m not a fan of Gates music, and a lot of his off-the-mic antics definitely make it hard to tolerate him. For a while there, he was on a straight path to being Plies with the incest talk and animal sex sh*t. Those were a little easier to overlook because he wasn’t harming anyone — at least not publicly, who knows what he did with the damn dog and a groupie in private. But seeing him kick a female fan for what looks like no reason leaves him on an island by himself to explain his actions because I can’t back buddy.

Polk Beer Scene: Orange Blossom Pilsner

You’ve heard of beer and food pairings, but how about beer paired with authentic Florida experiences?

Join us as we explore the state through the flavors of Florida’s craft beer culture.

No other fruit is as synonymous with Florida as the humble orange. One Florida brewer has been adding a bit of this sun-kissed citrus to his beer – not from the fruit itself, but from the flower.

“Beer is my passion,” said Tom Moench, Orlando-native and owner of Orange Blossom Brewing Company. “I’m intensely serious about the blend of art and science that goes into brewing beer.”

Orange Blossom Brewing Company’s flagship beer, Orange Blossom Pilsner, or OBP, uses 2.3 ounces of local orange blossom honey in every can, which gives the beer a crisp, clean flavor that’s perfect for a warm summer day. With all that honey, it would seem the beer would be overly sweet, but the sugar in the honey is actually fermented.

After playing around with honey in his home-brewing days, Moench knew he’d found a great beer when his friends, eager taste-testers but new to craft beer, said that he was onto something. That something became OBP.

Orange Blossom Pilsner gets its signature flavor from orange blossom honey, but for bees to make this type of honey, they’ve got to go to the citrus grove.

Nestled between the rolling hills of Central Florida backcountry is Ridge Island Groves, a family-owned citrus grove in Haines City that’s been soaking up sunshine since 1992. Roll down the windows as you pull in and listen to the crunch of gravel under the tires, the crickets humming in the warm air, the quiet murmurs of shoppers inspecting golden spheres of citrus in neatly arranged stacks. You’ve entered real Florida.

A little off the beaten path, Ridge Island Groves rewards patient travelers with fresh produce

“We built this place just trying to sell our own fruit commercially, but people just started coming out,” said Ridge Island Groves owner Archie Ritch. While Ridge Island owns another location in Clermont, the real work happens here in Haines City.

“We call this location the mule,” said Ritch. “The mule does all the work.”

Ridge Island Groves is more than a citrus operation; here, you’ll also find a gift shop, produce stand, and animal and hydroponic farms. For a small fee, you can take a guided tour of the grounds, passing rows of fruit-laden citrus trees, free-range chickens pecking around their coop, and cattle that quietly stare back as you drive by on the tour golf car.

At the hydroponic farm, brilliant red strawberries poke out from the leaves – all arranged in vertical planters about five feet tall. If you want a taste of those strawberries, the gift shop makes an amazing strawberry short cake.

“Diversification is the future,” Ritch said of his family’s grove. “Farm-to-table is a strong movement.”

As visitors filed into the open air store, many made a beeline to the counter to sample the orange juice. Ritch pointed to the OJ machine.

“Most people, most Floridians even, haven’t had real, fresh-squeezed orange juice before.”

That fresh-from-the-tree taste has a window of about seven months, so the best time to visit the grove is from October through May, before the grove closes for the season. During the citrus season, a local beekeeper brings his bees out in February for the orange blossom bloom. The result? Sweet, golden orange blossom honey.

“It’s the real Florida, family owned and operated, born and raised, parents and grandparents,” said Ritch.

Want to try the honey-infused Orange Blossom Pilsner at its source? Try nearby Brew Hub, a place where growing breweries go to expand and brewers without breweries, like Orange Blossom Brewing Company, go to make beer.

Brew Hub is helping craft brewers reach the masses.

“The thing we’re trying to do is take the stigma off contract brewing – we call it partner brewing,” said Christopher Schoen, events and bar operations manager at Brew Hub, located along I-4 in Lakeland’s industrial district. “We’re here to help them and us.”

“Brew Hub is a perfect match for Orange Blossom Brewing,” Moench said. “They have a new, high-tech facility and a brew master with a Ph.D. in fermentation science. Who better to produce my art on a large scale?”

Large-scale production is something Brew Hub can easily handle. Standing in a canyon of 300 barrel fermentation tanks, Schoen was dwarfed on both sides by three stories of gleaming steel. But even given its massive size, Brew Hub still has a local tasting room feel with its spacious yet cozy atmosphere complete with a long wood bar running the length of the room.

“(Brew Hub) is a fun place because you have all these great brewers coming in and collaborating,” said Schoen. “There’s no other place on earth that you have this meeting of the minds in one area brewing together. It’s like the Justice League of beer.”

Superheroes of suds aside, the tap room at Brew Hub not only offers Orange Blossom Brewing beers like Orange Blossom Pilsner, Orange Blossom Pilsner Squared (an 11-percent alcohol behemoth), and Toasted Coconut Porter but other beers from Brew Hub partners like Cigar City Brewing and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.

Hungry? Lakeland’s Red Door Wine Market has a food truck on location that serves local, farm-to-table dishes infused with beer like Beer Cheese Mac & Cheese.

The result of hard work and dedication

Take away the tasting room, food truck and massive tanks from Brew Hub and you’re left with a man and his beer. For Moench, that connection to his beer is key to its success. “As a blend of art and science, my vision for craft beer is very personal and that’s the thing that can’t be replicated,” he said.