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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Behind-the-scenes at The Pirate Museum

It’s 10 p.m. on a Thursday night and I’m down on my knees scraping errant splashes of paint from wooden floors.

On the model ship’s deck, our director of sales and marketing is working the dry vac, sucking up scattered sawdust with an intensity that screams Virgo.

“I have. To get. It All. Up,” Cindy pants.

Out back in Shipwreck Island, I spot museum founder and head honcho Pat Croce sweeping up dust from the exhibit’s tabby-like floors. For this is how Pat is: A hands-on man; titles don’t matter when you’re working as a team.

In fewer than 19 hours, city officials will descend on the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum for its soft launch—and we’ll be ready.

For the past seven months, I’ve had the privilege of working with Pat and our burgeoning super team of museum, construction, creative and business experts to bring The Pirate Museum to life.

We shut the doors of Pirate Soul Museum in Key West—opened by Pat in 2005 to share his extensive collection of authentic pirate artifacts—in August and made for St. Augustine.

A year ago, I knew more about state government and Flagler County as a reporter than I knew about pirates, and public relations was an unlikely home. But Pat’s passion for pirates is viral.

And here I am on a Thursday night on my knees, scraping errant splashes of paint from wooden floors—and loving every moment of it.

The task of breaking down a museum in one city and moving it to new digs 800 miles north is not easy. From artifact shipping and storage and new exhibit design to local permits, rebranded promotional materials and temperamental creatives, it’s definitely a logistical challenge; one that we were charged by Pat to pull off in less than a year.

Bring it.

In the past several weeks as we’ve picked up speed, it’s been inspiring and gratifying to see the final pieces begin to fall into place, to see teammates clink glasses after heated words, to finally get a very real picture of what we’ve all been working toward: The most emotionally immersive, interactive and authentic pirate experience in the world, right here in St. Augustine.

In a very real sense, we now all share Pat’s passion for pirates and excellence and it will be an exciting moment when we’re able to in turn share it with you all.

I invite you to visit us at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum next month and beyond to unleash your pirate soul. With hundreds of centuries-old artifacts, rarely-seen state shipwreck treasures, and dozens of interactives, it will blow you out of the water.

I promise.

Kari Cobham is a former staff writer at The Daytona Beach News-Journal. She now does public relations for Pat Croce & Co. projects. She's working on her first novel and doesn't watch CSI as often as she used to. Writing in third person is awkward and fun.

Photo Credit: Florida Times-Union

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How did the Palm Coast Seafood Festival fare?

When Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon mentioned the plans in late July for a Palm Coast Seafood Festival scheduled in November; Palm Coast and Flagler County residents mostly reacted positively:
"Palm Coast Seafood Festival sounds like an OUTSTANDING idea!"

"LOVE Seafood. Seems like another great event for our community."

"I am all for good seafood. And love this idea."

"Did someone say seafood? I'm in!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Love the idea of a November Seafood Festival here!  Most are during the hot summer months and it is too hot to have an appetite to eat or walk around looking at the sites.  Kids activities? That's easy. The last Seafood Festival we went too was in Palatka, and they had rides and bounce houses for kids. I'm happy to see the county trying to hold events."

"I love the idea of a seafood festival also. I think its something that people dont get around here."
 ...though some weren't as enthusiastic:
"Not good for Palm Coast! We're not a seaside town and there are plenty of other seafood festivals that are very good close by each year that we won't be able to compete with." 

"Oh, it best not be the same time as the Chowder Debate in St. Augustine."

"Why? What qualifies us to have one when we can't even buy good seafood in Palm Coast."
In the late July announcement Landon mentioned that the festival was just one of several special events as ways for the city to attract more visitors and help local businesses.

Mayor Jon Netts was immediately on board with the idea, asking "If you sell spaghetti, what is the best thing government can do for you? Get you customers."

But not every member of the council was convinced of the merits of the idea.  "I hate to see the city go into business," said Councilman Bill Lewis. "I would like to see our expenditures reduced down maybe to a minimum."

Inaugural Palm Coast Seafood Festival came to life during the span of a weekend, on November 6 and 7, 2010, and visited by thousands of people.  But how did the first annual Palm Coast Seafood Festival fair?

Here are some thoughts and reflections:
On the positive side:
  • City pulled off the event successfully in a really short time from concept to materialization. 
  • Additional sponsors such as WNZF radio station came on board (helping to spread the word).
  • There were diverse activities from a Frisbee-dog-show, to rock-climbing, to children's fair grounds, music and entertainment, to hermit-crab races.
  • Weather was on the cool side but nice and sunny.
  • The venue, City Park (aka Central Park) in Town Center is a pretty setting.
  • There were decent participation from food vendors.

On the negative side:

  • There was a $3 entry fee that cause some complaints. 
  • There was not enough seafood vendors.
  • There was no presence by local Seafood restaurants (i.e. Flagler Fish Market, JT's, Blue, Fisherman's Net did not attend).
  • People were complaining about the food prices.
  • The venue (City Park) is very pretty, but not compact enough to have a true Seafood Festival feeling. 
  • Whether intentional or by oversight, the Palm Coast Seafood Festival overlapped two other events: The 11th Annual Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, as well as the another Seafood Festival in Palm Coast's northern neighbor, Great Chowder Debate in Saint Augustine.
If you missed the event, here's is a video of the sights and sounds from the First Annual Palm Coast Seafood Festival:

If you attended it, what are your thoughts?

References and Resources:
Daytona Beach News Journal, Palm Coast Facebook Page, Flagler Online, FlaglerChat

Friday, November 19, 2010

St. Augustine 17th Annual Nights of Lights

The 17th annual St. Augustine Nights of Lights will begin on Saturday, November 20.  Be there at 6:30 PM to witness the illumination of the nation's oldest city’s historic district with the glow of more than two million tiny, white lights.

St. Augustine was named last year by AAA as one of the 12 best places in the United States and Canada to experience holiday cheer. 

A dazzling array of special events and activities await visitors. Nighttime tours of ancient buildings and inns led by storytellers in period clothing, rollicking train and trolley tours through the narrow brick streets, art walks featuring more than 30 galleries serving free holiday refreshments on the First Friday in December and January, special Saturday night antique shopping events, a dazzling regatta, Florida ice skating, luminaries in the town plaza, holiday concerts, and even a Christmas parade, are among the special events to be added to the memory books of visitors and residents alike.

Enjoy the video below for a taste of this wonderful Holiday Event, which runs nightly from November 20th through January 31st, 2010. 

For a complete list and schedule of events visit the calendar published by the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hands On With Barnes and Noble's Nookcolor

Demos arrived two days ago for the Nookcolor in our store.  It was like Christmas morning for me ripping open the packaging to get my hands on the new device.  After powering it up, signing onto our account and playing around with all of the features I have only one phrase to explain it, "Very very very cool!" (sorry for the grade-school like description, but it is very fitting).

The size and weight is very comfortable to hold and the full-color 7" touch screen display is perfect.  You can easily and comfortably hold the Nookcolor in one hand.  while using a fingerswipe to turn pages.  Setting up is simple and includes a video walk-through at startup, user manual and quick tour on the device.  Plus you can sign up for an account right on the device if you don't already have a account.  Then there are the other great features:
  • Change font size, margins, types and background colors within books
  • Place your books you want to access quickly right on any of the 3 'desktop' screens by dragging them and arrange them to your liking.
  • While reading touch a word and easily look up it's definition plus touch a button to get more information on Google or Wikipedia.  Or highlight a whole phrase and share it out on Facebook, Twitter, or your Gmail contacts (easy linking to these accounts in the settings). 
  • Add notes and highlights in books
  • Password protect the device itself or making purchases.  This is great for families that are concerned with kids waking purchases at will.  
  • Lending and borrowing.  This is a really cool feature.  You can designate which books to share with friends and family who can then easily see which books they can borrow from you for 14 days rather than simply waiting for you to initiate the lending.  
  • Magazines, newspapers, and kids books are in full color and have a great look and feel to them.  Kids picture books often have the read-to-me feature where a pre-recorded voice is overlayed in the book and kids can hear the words spoken to them as the follow along with the text.  
  • The web browser is very nice on the 7" screen and can be viewed in landscape or portrait.   And, yes, YouTube videos play too.
  • You can add music, .mp4 video, photos, PDF, Word documents, and Excel files for viewing.  
  • B&N's ebook (now called Nookbooks) is second to none.  With over 2 million titles that includes Google Books is an amazing selection.  And it's growing everyday.
  • And the list goes on.  
This is already a highly talked about item and will definitely be one of the top gifts this season.  Stop by your local Barnes and Noble and check out the Nookcolor today!

Is Technology and Online Social Networks Making us Less Social?

I was scanning through a local forum the other day and came across a topic header which posed the question of whether technology was making us less social?  It's a great question to ask.  Some of the responses spoke of preferences for people to want to receive text messages rather than phone calls, reduced customer service, so forth an so on.  In all honesty, there really isn't a viable means to actually measure this question and the idea of 'less social' is purely speculative in my opinion.  The better questions are whether technology is increasing our interactions and how is that changing.

The truth is that interactions online are actually measurable and there is very interesting data that is available.  Of the roughly 137 million users in US (roughly 500 million worldwide) on Facebook alone, statistics show that users typically stop by daily.  One of the biggest components to any of these services (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) is the ability to 'share' information with others in real-time.  We are seeing this component built in more and more to things we use everyday such as smartphones (iPhone, Droids, Palm OS, etc.), ereaders (Kindle, Nookcolor), even our TV's and Blu-ray players.  If I see a news article on my phone, I can easily share that with others with a tap of the screen.  I can even share photos at Disney to others immediately while at the park which I actually did recently.  I can easily rate Netflix movies on my blu-ray player instantly letting others know my recommendations.  And the list goes on and on.  So, if anything, my 'interactions' have actually increased.  In the past, doing any of this would have required me to either get on the phone or tell the person the next time I saw them which would have most likely been forgotten by then.

Then there is the business world.  This is the area where I see huge advances in improvements to serving customers through technology.  One of the things I hate to do is call the customer service line and tediously navigate through the labyrinth  of menus or wait on hold forever.  Now there are online chat options for support.  I love this when I need a question answered in most cases.  For technical support questions not only can I have a print out of the steps I might need to correct the issue, but I can share better detailed information for the support person.  There are usually far less delays in getting someone as well.  Likewise, support forums users provide their experiences, issues, and resolutions which provides a great way to find resolutions.  In these cases you've now taken the 'support' department and expanded it by empowering users to share their findings with others. 

Are there 'pitfalls' in the way in which some use technology which reduces their physical interactions with others?  Absolutely.  One of the biggest problems I see being the reason is the lack of properly educating people on how to properly use these new tools.  We've all just been left to 'figure it out', and the most important places to incorporate these tools and teach young people which is schools; often shy away from these tools and incorporating them into daily education mostly due to fear of misuse and understanding at the educator level.  Take for example email.  Every student in school today will undoubtedly be using email within their jobs in the future.  Where do they learn to use email?  Either at home by just being given an account with little or no direction at all in proper use or nowhere.  Why don't students have school provided email accounts?  The benefits are enormous and better prepares students for the future by properly teaching them to use organization provided email.  You actually don't even need much today to put this in place.  If it is a financial issue and one had to choose between a TV and a computer (most have them) and internet (about $30/month), take the computer and internet.  The information and uses are far superior.  In fact, schools can provide this today for next near nothing through services like Google Apps for Education.  Ok, enough of my education rant.

The other issue I often see is that we view the online world as something entirely different and over-consumption can in fact cause people to become 'disconnected'.  Take video games for example.  It's very cool that I can play a game with others all over the world at the same time.  But playing the same violent game for hours and days on end can cause people to become disconnected to the reality of the harm they can cause others.  So should parents monitor and place boundaries on video game play?  Absolutely, and they should also reinforce the values of treating others with respect. 

Granted, just like any technology tool; people will use them improperly and inappropriately.  It's almost tradition around this time of year for someone to sit on the copy machine at the office party isn't it?  Someone will undoubtedly post something online that may hurt another, but haven't hand-passed notes done the same in the past?  The truth is that they have.  So the technology isn't the issue but rather just common breakdowns in making good social decisions.

How is technology improving your interactions in personal or business life?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Food, Music and Fun Abound this month!

             If you’re into food and music,  First off,  come down toFlagler Beach Friday evening for Live Music and Entertainment tonight (Friday, November 5) from 6-9 pm in Veteran’s Park.  You can also enjoy their 4th Annual Flagler Beach Chili Cook Off Contest along with crafts and vendors.  there is certainly something to capture your interest in the coming weeks. 

Then on both Saturday and Sunday you have two great events to catch.  The 11th   Annual Tommy Tant Surf Classic at Flagler Beach featuring surf contests on both days at 7 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, a Food Festival at  Veterans Park.   For a cost of $15 per adult and $10 for students, you can enjoy the seafood delicacies from over 14 local restaurants.

And if seafood is really what you want,
be sure to stop by this weekend at the Palm Coast Town Center for the First  annual Palm Coast Seafood Festival. The City along with their co-sponsors, WNZF/Beach 92.7 Radio, Rue & Ziffra, P.A., Geico, Intracoastal Bank, Daytona Beach News-Journal, United Way of Volusia/Flagler Counties, CPH Engineering, the Palm Coast Observer, Flagler Magazine, Cline Construction,  Hilton Garden Inn of Palm Coast and Yuengling Traditional Lager, promise delicious cuisine from favorite seafood restaurants. 
Along with the delicacies from local restaurants,  Champion Chef Danny Veltri, of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame  will be sharing some of his favorite “Floribbean” dishes on the main stage in Central Park. His specialized cuisine combines fresh fish, flavors and cooking techniques indigenous to Florida and the Caribbean. And his flair for food and fun will delight audiences.
The highlight on Saturday Night will be “Rockin’ Oldies Under the  featuring country/rock music. There will also be kids’ games, fishing, a car show, a K9 Frisbee dog exhibition, art show,  and food demos.
Event hours are noon to 10:00pm on Saturday, November 6th and noon to 6:00pm on Sunday, November 7th. Admission is only $3 for the entire day, with kids under 12 and parking free of charge.
Thanksgiving Celebration on Wednesday, November 24th
Later in the month the entire community is invited to share in the second  Community Thanksgiving Celebration.  The event takes place at a variety of community centers and church facilities throughout Flagler County.  Donations and volunteers are needed to makes this year’s event as successful as last year’s. This is a true community event.  You can get involved in a variety of ways.  For more information about the event or to learn how to get involved, call Flagler Volunteer Services at 386-597-2950m, the Chamber at 386-437-0106, Flagler County at 386-313-4001 or the City of Palm Coast
386-986-2341 (you can also email:  You may also visit any of their websites by clicking on the hyperlinks within this post.

Upcoming Music Festival in December!!
Watch for information about a great music festival at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach in my next posting.  Be sure to visit my blog where I talk about all the different ways that we communicate!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Keep Your Smartphone Safe With MyLookout

Smartphones are great.  Plus they are expensive and vulnerable to viruses just like any computer.  So naturally you want to keep your investment safe.  So when I found an app that combines virus protection, phone locater, and backup protection all in one for free I had to check it out.  I'm talking about MyLookout.  This is an awesome free app available for Android phones, blackerry, and Windows 7 phones.  No, iPhone isn't in there because iPhone offers the MobileMe service.  Darn you Apple!

Anyway, this free online service allows you the following benefits:
  1. Add multiple phones to one account.  Manage all your household phones in one spot.
  2. Virus protection.  Yes, viruses can invade smartphones.
  3. Phone Location.  Track phones over the web via the mobile network or GPS.  If GPS is turned on on the phone you will get better accuracy obviously but the mobile network option is pretty close.  Need to keep track of the kids?  What a great option . Also great if you lost your phone.
  4. Backup your data.  
  5. Stolen phone?  Two great features for this:
    1. Scream. Click the 'scream' button and no one will want to hold onto the phone.
    2. Wipe your data over the web. 
You can't beat free for this type of functionality.  Check it out.  Only takes a few minutes to  set up and is well worth the time.

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