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Kellie Burns' Scene & Heard

Beauty Queen … Wine Fest Royals … Champagne Chandelier ... AC/DC



Fort Myers native Haeley Jardas at the Miss America pageant (The Miss America Organization/Bruce V. Boyajian)

Wasn’t it great to see one of our hometown girls in the running for this year’s Miss America honors? Haely Jardas (above), born and raised in Fort Myers, goes to school in Washington, D.C., and represented that area as Miss District of Columbia. Her mom, Beth, is a familiar face in town, working for years at Hope Hospice, and her dad, Tim, ran the famous crab races on Captiva Island. With motherly pride, Beth created the hashtag #crowntheredhead to promote her ginger-haired daughter’s chances. Though Haely didn’t finish among the finalists, she won great respect for addressing mental illness and being honest about the anxiety disorder she suffers from. Sounds like a winner to me ...

Our Southwest Florida wine fest royals can’t resist attending and supporting a grand wine event nor ignore a chance for some reconnaissance on how others stage festivals. When California’s Sonoma Wine Country Weekend began last September, there were incoming co-chairs of the Naples Winter Wine Festival Laura and Jim Dixon bidding high and often along with Naples friends Pat and Dave Gibbons, Denise and Brian Cobb, and Retta and Elliott Singer. There, too, were incoming co-chairs of the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest Sandy Stilwell—and her guest Tim Youngquist—and Andie Vogt—with her husband, Don. Auctioneer Scott Robertson helped the organizers raise a record $4.5 million for charity. We’ll be looking for the California royals to return the favor here this winter, don’t you think? ...

There’s movement ever forward on realizing the dream of the Golisano Children’s Hospital of the future. In September, 200 supporters gathered on the top floor for a topping-off ceremony, signing the wall of fame and having a nice little party as well. Roger Bireley attended in honor of his parents Frank and Betty, who were early supporters but passed away before seeing the new hospital built out. Roger said, “I kept glancing at the food tables thinking I might see my dad pop up. If you think I am joking, I am not.” Those of us who knew Frank don’t doubt Roger on that. Frank donated and raised millions of dollars for local charities, but he still loved the free food at any fundraiser. Staff and supporters have raised $80 million of the $100 million needed to get the hospital built. Good news, and we’re looking for more of that in the months ahead ...

Lee County attorney Liz Kagan (left on left) celebrated her 60th birthday party in September with a blowout party at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. More than 350 guests turned out, including Congressman Curt Clawson and former NFL stars Jevon Kearse and Warren Sapp. The highlights included a human champagne chandelier greeting attendees with the beverage pouring from her trapeze—a swinging way to get your bubbly ...

In a move to refocus his life, beloved chef Harold Balink is leaving Cru in Bell Tower to open up Harold’s, a small, upscale farm-to-table restaurant just down the road. He wants to spend as much time as he can with his wife, Julie, whose cancer recently returned. “I left Cru,” he said, “to have more time with my wife and, honestly, because it was time. She’s doing OK. She’s one tough cookie.” Best wishes all around ...

Dance as an Olympic sport? Well, not in 2016, but USA Dance continues to push for inclusion—and in the meantime dance. Our Southwest Florida branch celebrated its 20th anniversary in September. “It’s been a long process to make (the Olympics) happen, but we’re getting close,” says Mary Bonnette, founding president of USA Dance Chapter 6049, who hosted a black-tie affair at the City Pier building in downtown Fort Myers. A new partnership between USA Dance and the National League of Junior Cotillions in Fort Myers aims to encourage cotillion grads, who learn ballroom dancing as part of their curriculum, to continue dancing and keep the Olympic dream alive. Victor McCormick and Danielle Cambareri were the first student beneficiaries—and wowed guests with their performance. And Mary confides the group is trying to get social dance back into the downtown Fort Myers scene. “We have wonderful art and music and theater,” she says, “but the one thing we don’t have is dance.” ...

AC/DC bass player Cliff Williams of Fort Myers sure has his followers. On tour this past summer across North America and Canada, he saw a number of familiar faces in the big crowds turning out for the concerts. Some 25 locals turned up for the performance in Ottawa, including Victor Mayeron and his wife, Kathy; Scott and Mary Fischer; and Gary Tasman and his wife, Karen. Scott and Diana Willis flew to Chicago for just one night to catch the performance at Wrigley Field. In Boston, at least a dozen Fort Myers people were on-hand, including Gloria Jordan d’Cabral and her husband, Brian (right). Very moved by it all, Gloria said, “His concert will stay in my heart forever.” ...

Hip-hop-loving Trey Radel has reinvented himself once again. Having gone from television reporter to newspaper publisher to TV anchor to talk-show host to U.S. congressman, he’s now in business as a crisis consultant. And for the first time since he resigned as congressman after getting caught buying cocaine from an undercover agent, he talked a little on conservative website Independent Journal Review about his experience and his new life. Many dramatic chapters in the story so far and many more, no doubt, to come.

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