Jim Jones' Eastword column: The seven wonders of East Manatee revisited

March 17, 2013 

There are more nooks and crannies in Bradenton, Palmetto and East Manatee than we can ever know. The walking tour of Palmetto's historic places this past week sounded fascinating.

In 2001, I wrote a column about one of the seven wonders of East Manatee, and promised that in the future I would write about the other six.

Oh, but the procrastination.

I wouldn't get around to the other six until two years later. Well, it's been 10 years now since the full list of seven was assembled (by me) and I wondered if the list would still be so wondrous.

Well, yes and no.

Like the seven wonders of the ancient world, some wonders have gone and only remain in history books.

Here are my picks for the seven wonders of East Manatee, circa 2013 (in no particular order):

n Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E., Parrish. The museum is a full-sized train that runs from Parrish to Willow and back on weekends. This weekend, and next, Thomas the Tank Engine is in town, always a popular attraction for children. There are plans being made to add a standing structure, with Real Rail and its miniature trains co-locating there. What's keeping that from happening? Money.

n Polo Grill, 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch. The 24,000-square-foot facility with its huge ballroom has become a prime destination for large meetings and gatherings of all kind. Owner Tommy Klauber has hosted as many as 1,500 folks at a time there. Klauber -- who, incidentally, has cooked for four presidents during his career (Reagan, Bush the elder, Bush the younger and Clinton) -- is an equal opportunity host. This weekend, he had Charlie Crist and the Democrats there, and during the gubernatorial campaign hosted Rick Scott and the GOP.

n ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale, a resident of Lakewood Ranch, who you can see most days at an outside table at the Broken Egg restaurant, 6115 Exchange Way, Lakewood Ranch. It's rare that someone so famous as to

have nearly half a million Twitter followers makes himself so available to the public. Dicky V has used his celebrity to raise millions of dollars for cancer research, and opens his home every Christmas to some of the area's most disadvantaged children.

n Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, 5309 29th St. E., Ellenton. It's Florida. They have ice, where we almost never see snow. In the land of sunshine, figure skaters and hockey players train. That alone makes it a wonder.

n Herrmanns' Royal Lipizzan Stallions, 32755 Singletary Road, Myakka City. Gen. George Patton helped rescue them during World War II. Now home base is Myakka City, but they tour around the country. You can catch a practice rehearsal through the first weekend of May at 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. While you're out that way, you might also want to check out Dakin Dairy, which is very visitor-friendly. Check its website for hours and other details.

n California is wine country and so is East Manatee. We have two family wineries that are well worth checking out: Rosa Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard, 4250 County Road 675 E., and Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery, 8905 Bunker Hill Road, Duette.

n Lake Manatee State Park, 20007 State Road 64 E. It is 556 acres of solitude and peace around a 2,400-acre lake. Ideal for camping and fishing. And it just happens to supply Manatee and Sarasota counties with much of their drinking water.

n Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, 7671N. Lockwood RidgeRoad, and Saint MarkOrthodox Christian Church, 1517 Morgan Johnson Road. What are the odds that Manatee County's two orthodox churches would be in East Manatee? If you get a chance, check out the sanctuaries and the religious icons.

Did you count 'em? As you can see, math was never my strong suit.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.

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