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Memorable moments in a year we sometimes wish we could forget

So long 2008.

Goodbye and good riddance.

But before we usher out a year we wish we could forget, there were a few things that did make it memorable.

There was Syesha.

There was Keith Stansell.

And a kid named Sam.

Who?

Read on:

n Sam Azbell was Manatee County’s first baby of 2008, nosing out brother Max by a minute at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. Jack Jr. and Carissa were the proud parents.

n U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Feldman, a 10-year vet, flew to Bradenton from Fort Campbell, Ky., in order to vote in the primary after a mixup on his absentee ballot.

n Despite the usual dose of January cold and rain, the 92nd annual Manatee County Fair drew 137,000 folks, the third highest turnout ever.

n Lakewood Ranch High’s cheerleaders won the fair’s 13th annual cheer competition for the third time in five years.

n Former Georgia Bulldog fullback and prominent funeral home director O.M. “Buster” Griffith received the 2008 Manatee County Distinguished Citizen Award.

n Little Lexi Antorino returned home to Palmetto from the hospital after three months in a coma following a swing set accident in December 2007.

n Anthony Negrin attended the Class 1A state basketball Final Four in Lakeland to see his Bradenton Christian Panthers vie for a state championship.

BCS students, proudly adorned in T-shirts that said “4-Ant,” helped orchestrate the ex-BCS hoopster’s trip from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where Negrin had been undergoing treatment for a blood disorder.

n A hairless calf was born on a Duette cattle ranch owned by Flint Gullett. They named it, “Kojak.”

n David Brazelton, a former aerospace engineer and uber-volunteer at Mote Marine, received both the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Governor’s Points of Light Award.

n The New York Yankees were in town to play the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first night game at newly lit McKechnie Field, but the game was called after one inning due to inclement weather.

n The stars of the 10th annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Holmes Beach were Judy, a 7,200-pound Asian elephant, folksy trainer Bones Craig and grand marshal and D-Day veteran Jim Gabaree.

n The Village of the Arts held its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Herbie Rose as grand marshal.

n Joyce Marckmann and her three teens were homeless no more after a network of churches and an anonymous donor helped her find a three-bedroom home to rent.

n A sign of things to come, the Tampa Bay Rays swept the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox at the Trop to move into first place in the AL East.

n Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Mike Jenkins achieved the dream of every Manatee County high school football player — and became instant millionaires to boot.

Rodgers-Cromartie, a Lakewood Ranch grad who played at Tennessee State, and Jenkins, a star at Southeast and USF, were both first-round selections in April’s NFL Draft. Rodgers-Cromartie was selected 16th by the Arizona Cardinals and Jenkins, 25th, by the Dallas Cowboys.

n Diane Bakan was one of 18 national finalists in Hallmark’s “funnyness” greeting card design contest. Her entry took seventh.

n Jeannie the Palmetto greyhound turned 20. The breed’s usual life expectancy is usually 10 to 13 years.

n After a four-month run that reached a crescendo around here, Daughtrey Elementary alum Syesha Mercado finished third on “American Idol.”

n Charles E. Hill bought a $2 Lotto ticket at Bud’s Mini Mart in Carlton Arms and hit the $16 million jackpot. The 56-year-old took a one-time, lump sum of $9,072,011.

n The Southeast High School Drama Club received the Asolo Guilder Award for the fourth time in five years for its production “Nickel and Dimed.” Palmetto High received an honorable mention for its program’s growth.

n Snooty turned 60 in July.

n And we missed Hurricane Dolly.

n Keith Stansell, a military contractor held hostage by Colombian leftist rebels for 5 1/2-years, is freed by Colombian intelligence agents and welcomed home by his family in Lakewood Ranch.

n We got soaked by Hurricane Fay but miss Gustav in August.

n Bradenton’s Travis Clark, Danny Duncan and Drew and Hunter Thomsen, aka “We the Kings,” finished a national tour and rocked the Trop after a Rays game to help benefit Manatee County schools.

n American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24, the Bradenton institution on 75th Street West, observed its 90th anniversary.

n Dick Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in September.

Along with wife Lorraine, the ESPN college hoops icon, who has made the fight against cancer a personal cause locally and nationally, went on to receive the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund’s 2008 C. John Clarke Humanitarian Award in November.

n The Rays clinched a playoff spot and went onto win the AL East.

n We dodged Hurricanes Hannah, Ike and Josephine.

n “One Night Rodeo,” which includes Cory Hildreth, Duane Allison, Mike Elrod and Jack Tamburin, won the Next Great American Country Star on the Great American County Network and Music Nation.

n Former State Sen. Edgar Price was the first recipient of the Edgar H. Price Lifetime Achivement Award to be given annually to an outstanding community leader by Manatee County Rural Health and its non-profit foundation.

n The Rays won the AL pennant at the Trop with a tense 3-1 Game 7 victory over the Red Sox. But they’d lose the World Series in five games to the Phillies.

n Habitat for Humanity completed the 34-unit Village of the Palms neighborhood in Palmetto, the largest project the local chapter has undertaken since its 1994 inception.

n Shirley Groover Bryant was sworn in as Palmetto’s new mayor.

n Ground was broken for G.D. Rogers Gardens School in central Bradenton. It was named for Garfield DeVoe Rogers Sr., a prominent black entrepreneur and community pillar whose legacy includes community leaders and educators.

n Students at Myakka Elementary School donated $500 for upkeep of the school’s original building, which was built in 1914. They’ve raised $1,500 altogether.

n Construction began at last on the new Norma Lloyd Park, a 25-acre, $10-million complex named for the petite matriarch with a big heart for kids.

Mannix About Manatee, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com.

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