Florida travel calendar for January

Check out festivals and events in January across the state.

This list is organized by region.

Central Florida (including Orlando, Kissimmee, Daytona Beach, Sanford, the Space Coast, Lakeland/Polk and Lake County)

Nov. 28, 2014 - Jan. 4, 2015: Poinsetta Display, Lake Wales. The River of Stone at the Visitor Center courtyard features hand-made displays while unique white poinsettias steal the show in hanging arrangements outside of Pinewood Estate. Included with admission. Enjoy a spectacular show of unique poinsettias on display during the Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens season. Visitors can learn the story behind this traditional Christmas plant and get ideas for making your own poinsettia displays at home. Included with admission to Bok Tower Gardens. www.boktowergardens.org

Nov. 28, 2014 - Jan. 4 2015: Winter Walking Tours, Lake Wales. Volunteer garden guides lead visitors on an hour-long walking tour sharing information about the winter flora and fauna, with tours leading from Pinewood Estate to the Singing Tower. Monday through Saturday, 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Meet one of our volunteer garden guides at Pinewood Estate as you start on an hour-long tour of the Gardens. These are great opportunities to ask questions or learn the names of plants and animals found on the property.Your tour will take you through the Gardens and end at the Tower lawn viewing area overlooking the moat and the Great Brass Door. Inquire about tours upon your arrival to the Gardens. No reservations are required. Included with admission. www.boktowergardens.org

Jan. 2: First Friday Art Walk, Melbourne. Every first friday of the month, the Eau Gallie Arts District hosts a First Friday Art Walk. The public is invited for this plein-air celebration of art, music and food. Galleries and shops will have special discounts or events and there's always live music. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information visit EGAD's website. http://www.eaugalliearts.com/

Jan. 3: First Saturday Jam, Barberville. On the first Saturday each month visit the Pioneer Settlement for entertainment and fun for the entire family. Includes informal music jams, free workshops, a chili cook-off, yard sale. 386-749-2959. www.pioneersettlement.org

Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31: Old Eau Gallie Farmer's Market, Melbourne. Held every Saturday from 8 am - 2 pm at Eau Gallie Square Park in Melbourne. You can expect to find vendors selling items to include: fresh produce, honey, hot food and drinks, homemade pasta sauce and bread, baked goods, handmade jewelry, arts & crafts items, and much more! For more information, visit the market's website or call 321-917-0721. Corner of Eau Gallie Blvd. and Highland Avenue 32935. www.brevardfarmersmarkets.com

Jan. 3-4: Dade's Battle Re-enactment & Trade Fair, Bushnell. Often called a massacre, the battle that sparked the Second Seminole War definitively gave first blood to the Seminoles. This annual re-enactment takes history buffs back in time to the Indian ambush of U.S. Major Francis Langhorne Dade and his troops in 1835, a battle that only three of his 107 men survived. Florida may be a vacation destination for many now, but for a weekend, the Dade Battlefield Society provides a glimpse into the hard road that led us here with its Civil War-era encampment and demonstrations. From 9 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 3-4 (with battles at 2 p.m.). Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, 7200 County Road 603, Bushnell $5 adults, free ages 5 and younger. 352-793-4781. dadebattlefield.com

Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31: Winter Music Series at the Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, Clermont. Each January, Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards is the hot spot for live music, winery tours, and wine tastings. The winery is located west of downtown Orlando, on a 127-acre estate in gently rolling countryside. 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Free admission. 800-768-WINE. www.lakeridgewinery.com

Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31: Guided Nature Hikes, Titusville. Every Saturday, Enchanted Forest Sanctuary hosts 45-minute interpretive nature hikes beginning at 10:00am.  Bring a hat, water and walking shoes. No reservations needed. Groups of 5 or more, please RSVP. 444 Columbia Avenue, Titusville, 32780. http://www.brevardcounty.us/

Jan 7, 14, 21, 28: Cocoa Village Farmer’s Market, Cocoa. The City of Cocoa's Farmers Market is held every Wednesday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. in Mryt Tharpe Gazebo Square in downtown historic Cocoa Village. Vendors will have fresh produce, jams, sauces, fruits, honey, flowers and more for sale! cocoamainstreet.com

Jan 8, 15, 22, 29: Rockledge Farmer’s Market, Rockledge.  Rockledge. Every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the City of Rockledge hosts a farmers market at Levitt Park on the corner of Fiske Blvd and Levitt Parkway Drive. Items sold include: fresh produce, honey, jellies, jams, baked goods, flowers and plants, handmade soap and bodycare, and arts and crafts. Levitt Park and Fiske Blvd. 32955. http://brevardfarmersmarkets.com/rockledge_farmers_market

Through Jan. 4: Light Up UCF!, Orlando. Check out UCF's fifth annual event offering 50 nights of music, lights and ice, where you can skate at an outdoor ice rink outside of the UCF arena, along with carnival rides and special holiday events. Prices vary. lightupucf.com

Jan. 7-11: Walt Disney World Marathon and Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Lake Buena Vista. Thousands of participants are expected for the annual event that charts a course through Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The two races are the climax of a whole weekend of fitness fun that also features Disney's Health and Fitness Expo in The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Admission $170 for half marathon and marathon. 407-938-3398. www.disneyworldsports.com

Jan. 8-9: Bell Tower Shopps Art and Craft Festival, Clermont. Fine arts, fine crafts, food. At U.S. 27 and Cagans Crossing Blvd. Show  hours Sat.  10a.m. - 5p.m., Sun.  10a.m. - 4p.m.  Free admission and parking. 352-344-0657. www.tnteventsinc.com

Jan. 10: Fly-in Breakfast, Titusville. Every second Saturday of the Month, the Valiant Air Command and Warbird Museum hosts a FLY-IN BREAKFAST from 8am-11am.  To participate is only $8 per person and includes a full, hot breakfast. To attend, please RSVP two days in advance by either calling (321) 268-1941 or by email. Menu: pancakes, omlet station, sausage, fruit and coffee/juice.Please RSVP at least 2 days prior to 321-268-1941 or publicrelationsofficer@vacwarbirds.net with the expected number in your party. www.vacwarbirds.net

Jan. 14-17: Florida Flywheelers 27th Annual Antique Engine & Tractor "Swamp Meet," Fort Meade. http://www.floridaflywheelers.org

Jan. 15: Cruisin' Downtown DeLand Classic Car Show, DeLand. Every 3rd Saturday of the month (Except November). East Indiana Avenue in Downtown DeLand. Classic cars & rods line East Indiana Avenue in Downtown DeLand. Live DJ, giveaways, shopping & dining. 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. Free. 386-624-5027. www.MainStreetDeLand.org

Jan. 15-16: NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests, Daytona Beach. Kicking off the “Road to Daytona” which culminates with the 56th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23, 2014, Preseason Thunder testing begins Thursday and Friday, Jan. 15-16, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series participating in two days -- and four sessions -- of on-track activity. All test sessions are scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-Noon ET, and again from 1-5 p.m. ET.  For ticket information for all Speedweeks events, call 1-800-PITSHOP or go online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Jan. 15-18: Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, Fellsmere. This festival is celebrating its 24th year of serving up frog leg dinners to hungry festival goers. In addition to frog legs and gator tail, the festival features a lineup of activities including live entertainment, a midway, crafters, pony rides and helicopter rides. At Mesa Park. 321-268-5224. www.froglegfestival.com

Jan. 16-25: DeSoto County Fair, Arcadia. 62nd edition of the DeSoto County Fair. All funds raised go into maintaining our fairgrounds, producing the yearly fair, and the awarding of ten $1,000 scholarships to deserving DeSoto County High School graduates. The fair consists of pageants for the young ladies and talent shows for the youth and adults. In the barn, beef, swine, rabbit, poultry and goats are exhibited and judged. Beef and swine are sold at auction to benefit our exhibiting youth.  863-494-5678. www.desotocountyfair.org

Jan. 16-19: Otronicon, Orlando. Now in its 10th year, Otronicon is the premiere technology event that you can’t afford to miss. Discover how we will live, learn, work and play in the years to come through video games, simulation and other technology — most of which is made here in Orlando. Features larger-than-life video game experiences, state-of-the-art medical and military simulators, workshops taught by industry pros and so much more. www.otronicon.org

Jan. 16-25: Mecum Auction and Collector Car Show, Kissimmee. 10 days of auction and 3,000 vehicles. Osceola Heritage Park, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee; $20; 321-697-3333. www.mecum.com

Jan. 17: 4th Annual Florida Key Lime Pie Festival, Merritt Island. The Florida Key Lime Pie Company is presenting the 4th Annual Florida Key Lime Pie Festival held at the Kiwanis Island Park in Merritt Island. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Top chefs, food vendors and restaurants will showcase dishes to the theme of "Fresh from Florida." There will be a Miss Florida Key Lime Pie contest, Florida Key Lime Pie Eating Contest, Key Lime Chili head's Hot Sauce Competition, Best of Florida's Bartenders Key Lime Pie Martini and Key Lime Pie Margarita Challenge. 951 Kiwanis Island Park Road. Merritt Island, FL 32952. $10 Adults $5 For Children age 5-12. Children 4 and under free. www.floridakeylimepiefestival.com

Jan. 17-18: Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, Winter Springs. Traditional Scottish sporting events take the field for a day of history, culture and excitement. Also included are drum and bagpipe competitions, highland dancing, sheepdog demonstrations, archery competitions and Scottish singers. At Central Winds Park. Admission adults $20 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday, students $10 with ID, children $5 for advance tickets. 407-426-7268. www.flascot.com

Jan. 17-18: 35th Annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment, Brooksville. Annual Civil War re-enactment. Camps open at 9 am. Battle re-enactments, artillery demonstrations, entertainment, food, vendors. Tour the “authentic” Confederate and Union camps and enjoy the Grand Review on Sunday. Bring your chair and your camera. Adults: $8; Age 6-12: $4; under age 5 or Scouts in uniform: Free. For accommodations visit www.naturallyhernando.org. Sand Hill Scout Reservation, Brooksville FL 34613. 352-799-0129. www.brooksvilleraidreenactment.com

Jan. 18: Unity Heritage Festival, Winter Park. With gospel artists and family events: 1-5:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Jan. 18. Residents and local businesses will come together to celebrate the City of Winter Park’s 13th annual Unity Heritage Festival on Sunday. The annual festival will promote family history and raise funds for the Educational Fulfillment Fund for local economically disadvantaged youth. Activities will include children’s games, food and retail vendors, entertainment by various gospel artists, and the presentation of the annual Heritage Award. Shady Park, 721 W. New England Ave., Winter Park; free; 407-599-3275. cityofwinterpark.org

Jan. 21-26: 18th annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville. The 2015 Festival is located at: Eastern Florida State College - Titusville Campus (Brevard Community College) 1311 North US1 Titusville, Florida 32796. We will be offering new classroom presentations and field trips as well as having four great Keynotes. 800-460-2664. www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org

Jan. 22-24: 21st Yeehaw Junction Bluegrass Festival, Yeehaw Junction. This festival presents pickin' and foot-stompin' music at Yeehaw Junction on Jan. 23-25. The music fest also features arts, crafts and carnival fare. Admission is $25 Thursday, $30 for Saturday or Sunday, and $75 for the weekend at the gate ($75 in advance if purchased by Jan. 5). Children ages 12 and younger are free with paid adult ticket. For details, visit www.yeehawbluegrass.com

Jan. 23-March 1: Melbourne Civic Theatre - Our Leading Lady, Melbourne. This quirky comedy, set in Washington, D.C., in 1865, revolves around the British-born stage actress Laura Keene whose wacky company is performing at Ford’s Theatre the night Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth. Even though this sounds sad, the backstage mishaps take focus over the national tragedy, giving the old theatre maxim, “The show must go on!,” a truly different dimension. Just picture the Civil War meets Waiting for Guffman! http://www.mymct.org/index.php

Jan. 23: Fourth Fridays Art Walk, Sanford. Central Florida's only monthly juried art show. With exhibits and music at participating venues. 6-9 p.m. Downtown Sanford, First Street, Sanford, FL, 32771. Free. 407-323-2774. www.sanfordinfo.com

Jan. 24: 4th Friday DeLand Art Walk & Art in the Alley. Deland. 6-9p.m.Downtown DeLand is the place to be on 4th Fridays! Enjoy the Art Walk along the Boulevard, see demonstrations and meet artists hosted by our local merchants. Continue your stroll to Artisan Alley for more festivities including the farmer's market and Art in the Alley. www.FourthFridayDeLand.com

Jan. 24: Chanitcleer, Daytona Beach.  Grammy Award-winning Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices”. The ensemble’s seamless blend of its twelve male voices, ranging from countertenor to bass, will amaze all. The program includes vocal literature from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to venturesome new music. At the Daytona Beach Symphony Society. Tickets between $39 and $68. www.dbss.org

Jan. 24: Art Walk on Flagler, New Smyrna Beach. Held on the fourth Saturday each month, Flagler Avenue livens up with entertainment and wine tastings at participating venues. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (wine walk 1-7 p.m.). Free ($25 for wine walk or $20 with previous month's glass). Flagler Avenue, 100 Flagler Ave., New Smyrna Beach, FL, 32169. 386-428-1770. www.flaglergallerygroup.com

Jan. 24-25: Blue Spring Manatee Festival, Orange City. Two-day festival featuring manatee viewing from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Valentine Park on W. French Ave. off Hwy 17-92 in Orange City. Central Florida Zoo presentations and animal ambassadors, arts and crafts, dancing, walk-on-water balls, good, face painting, shows and rides, sand sculpting and entertainment. Cost: $8 per person, children 4-10 $2, children 3 and under FREE.

Jan. 24-25: Rolex 24 at Daytona, Daytona Beach. The Rolex 24 isn’t just a race – it’s 24 hours to explore, experience and expect the unexpected. Live every second to the fullest and celebrate the power and prestige of North America’s premier sports car event. $40-$95. Kids 12 and under are free. www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Jan. 24-30: Polk County Youth Fair, Bartow. 863-519-8677. www.pcyf.net

Jan. 25: Music at Pinewood: Rising Artist Series featuring Harrison School for the Arts, Lake Wales. The Rising Artist Series features up-and-coming artists in the intimate setting of Pinewood Estate. Faculty and hand-picked scholars from Harrison School for the Arts perform a variety of classical programs with piano, strings, woodwinds, guitar and vocals. $25/person or $65/series. www.boktowergardens.org

Jan. 29-31: 26th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Orlando/Eatonville. This festival highlights the life and works of one of America's most celebrated collectors and interpreters of Southern rural African-American culture through theatrical performances, educational programs and a juried art show. The annual event takes place in various locations throughout Orlando and Eatonville, the nation's oldest incorporated African-American municipality. Prices vary by activity. 407-647-3307. www.zorafestival.com

Jan. 30-Feb. 1: Images, a Festival of the Arts, New Smyrna Beach. A 39-year history of artistic excellence, offering more than $70,000 in prize and patrons' monies. Free and open to the public. 386-423-4733. Friday, 1-5p.m., Saturday 9a.m.-5p.m., Sunday 10a.m.-5p.m. www.imagesartfestival.org

Jan. 23-25: Orlando Home & Garden Show, Orlando. The Seventh Annual Orlando Home & Garden Show will be from noon to 7 p.m. on Jan. 23,  10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Jan. 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Orange County Convention Center, 9800 International Drive, Orlando; $9 adults, $6 seniors and retired military, free active military and ages 16 or younger; 407-685-9800.

Jan 17: 31st Annual MLK Holiday Parade, Orlando. Commemorate the life, legacy and values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the annual MLK Holiday Parade downtown. Free admission. 407-246-2121. www.cityoforlando.net

Tampa Bay-Sarasota (including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Palmetto, Tarpon Springs and Homosassa)

Jan. 3, 23: Sue Blue’s Historic Trolley Tours, Sarasota. Saturday Downtown historic tour from 10 a.m. to noon. Departs from the Crocker Memorial Church. Reservations required. Visit www.hsosc.com

Jan. 3-4: Sunshine City Antiques and Collectibles Show, Venice. This nationally recognized show features nearly 100 exhibitors of antique furniture, art, pottery, jewelry, silver, toys and glass. The event also features a two-day Antiques Appraisal Fair, held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 727-892-5202. www.sunshinecityantiqueshow.com

Jan. 3-4: Coquina Beach Winterfest Arts & Crafts Show, Bradenton Beach. Right on Gulf Of Mexico Drive that runs from St. Armand’s Circle north to Anna Maria Island. High traffic area with lots of tourists from Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island that look forward to coming to this show. Limited Motor Home parking. $185. http://sunsetboulevardpromotions.com/

Jan. 6: The annual Epiphany celebration, Tarpon Springs. The annual Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs features services at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and such highlights as a procession including bands, choir, school children dressed in traditional Greek costumes as well as a dove bearer bearing a white dove; blessing of the waters and dive for the Epiphany cross in the bayou, and an Epiphany Glendi with Greek food, music and dances on Jan. 6. Admission is free. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral is at 36 North Pinellas Avenue. St. Nicholas Community Center where the Epiphany Glendi takes place is at 348 North Pinellas Avenue. For information, visit www.epiphanycity.org.

Jan. 11: Elvis Ultimate Birthday Bash, Clearwater. Back by popular demand, the top two "Elvises" return with one phenomenal show! Scot Bruce as the young Elvis and Mike Albert as the Las Vegas Elvis along with the Big "E" Band offer a rockin' birthday party celebration of America's first rock 'n' roll icon. This performance sells out every year! Tickets range from $18 to $35 (limited number of VIP seats are $35 each). The Ruth Eckerd Hall is at 1111 McMullen Booth Road. For details, visit www.rutheckerdhall.com

Jan 11: High Tea and Paintings Off Easel, Sarasota. Plein Air Artists will be painting outside while we sip tea inside. Artwork may be purchased off the walls or “off easel.” Reservations required, $25. 2-4p.m. www.hsosc.com

Jan. 15-25: Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, Tampa. The 15th Annual Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival will be celebrating 500 years of Florida History. The 11 days of cultural events provide educational philanthropic and community-based diversity to the Tampa Bay Community. TBBHF features local and nationally known speakers musicians artists poets and craftspeople. The Festival always encompasses the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The highlight of the Festival is our free 2-day Heritage Street Festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa. tampablackheritage.org

Jan. 15-25: Manatee County Fair, Palmetto. Showcase for the best of Manatee County. Includes exhibits and vendors, livestock shows and auctions, competitions, a midway, a variety of entertainment and great fair food. At Manatee County Fairgrounds. Ticket prices vary. 941-722-1639. www.manateecountyfair.com

Jan. 16-18: Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show, Sarasota. Dealers from across America will offer an outstanding variety of gems, jewelry, crystals, minerals, and beads for show and sale. Municipal Auditorium. 801 N. Tamiami Trail (Hwy. 41). www.stpete.org/coliseum

Jan. 17: 90th Annual East-West Shrine Game. St. Petersburg. The East-West Shrine Game is the oldest college all-star game in the country and features the finest athletes in the U.S. and Canada. Tickets are $15. 813-281-8686. www.shrinegame.com

Jan. 17-18: Sarasota Fine Arts Festival, Sarasota. Main Street and Gulfstream Avenue in Downtown Sarasota set the scene for the Sarasota Fine Arts Festival showcasing the creations of more than 100 artists on Jan. 17-18. Event hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For information, log on to www.paragonartevents.com.

Jan. 17-19: Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks Art and Craft Festival, Tarpon Springs. Fine art, fine craft, food, music. Free admission. 352-344-0657. www.tnteventsinc.com

Jan. 24: The Gasparilla Piratechnic Extravaganza & Children’s Gasparilla Parade, Tampa. Tampa is getting ready for some swashbuckling fun! The Gasparilla Piratechnic Extravaganza & Children’s Gasparilla Parade is an alcohol-free event that ushers in and celebrates the return of Gasparilla Season in Tampa Bay on Jan. 24. It is followed by the 100th Gasparilla Pirate Parade with the Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on Jan. 31. Tickets for the Child’s Gasparilla Parade start at $30.84; for the Pirate Parade they start at $40.19. For details, visit www.gasparillapiratefest.com.

Jan. 26: Lu the Hippo's 55th Birthday, Homosassa Springs. Park visitors, staff and schoolchildren are invited to attend Lu the hippo's 55th birthday party. Join in singing Happy Birthday songs to Lu, enjoy cupcakes, and fruit punch. Lu will be presented with his own special birthday cake. Regular park admission applies. The party will be held at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Parties are scheduled at 10 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. 352-628-5343. www.floridastateparks.org

Jan. 23-25: 8th Annual Sarasota Indian Festival, Sarasota. Find 100 percent authentic, handmade, one-of-a-kind fine arts and crafts, paintings, pottery, jewelry, sculpture, bead work and leather work, along with fantastic Native American food. Little Big Mountain and the Big Mountain dancers will be sharing traditional Native American drumming, fluting, singing and various styles of dance throughout the weekend. Event is at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Admission $7 adult, $3 children 6-12, 5 and under are free. 941-928-3694. www.visitsarasota.org/event

Jan. 31: Gasparilla pirate parade and street festival, Tampa. The festival reminiscent of Mardi Gras has been going on in Tampa since 1904. The event pays homage to a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar, who sailed off the west coast of Florida in the 18th and 19th centuries. City leaders back in 1904 decided to adopt Gaspar for their own street festival to be on the scale of New Orelans' Fat Tuesday. The crux of the early festival that continues today is pirates, namely high society members in pirate outfits, capturing the city. While they initially invaded on horseback, the yearly invasion soon came by sea, and now each year Ye Mystic Krewe invades aboard the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, flanked by hundreds of more modern boats, sailing into Hillsborough Bay to downtown Tampa where they cermoniously seize the key to the city from the mayor. The invasion then gives way to the Invasion Brunch at the Tampa Convention Center, a parade with nearly 100 floats down Bayshore Boulevard rife with bead throwing as well as the daylong Pirate Fest Street Festival on Ashley Street in downtown Tampa. The invasion, parade and festival are all free. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with the sailing invasion running from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The parade runs from 2-5:30 p.m. and the street festival into the night. Parking will be difficult to navigate. Expect to pay at least $20 or more to park in the sundry downtown garages. In years past, many people have taken advantage of park and ride services from Raymond James Stadium or parking in Ybor City and taking public transportation to the festivities. gasparillapiratefest.com

Jan. 31: Pinellas Folk Festival, St. Petersburg. Listen to dozens of the Tampa Bay area's premier folk musicians on traditional folk, gospel, country and bluegrass music on stages throughout Heritage Village. Also historical demonstrations, food court, old-time games, storytelling, traditional craft demonstrations, traditional fiber arts show, Fleece to Shawl activities, antique cars and more. At Heritage Village from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free admission; suggested $5 donation. 727-582-2123. www.pinellascounty.org/Heritage/events_folkfest.htm

Jan. 31: Kumquat Festival, Dade City. Ready for some old fashioned Florida fun? Dade City features the annual Kumquat Festival in its historic downtown on Jan. 31. The fest offers family-friendly entertainment, arts and crafts and all manner of kumquat treats. Admission is free. Event hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, visit www.dadecitychamber.org.

Jan. 31: 21st Annual Highland Games & Celtic Festival, Sarasota. Athletics, piping and drumming, highland dancing and more are part of the 20th Annual Highland Games & Celtic Festival on Feb. 1. The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Boulevard. Tickets are $12 in advance  (children 12 and under are free). www.sarasotahighlandgames.com

Southwest Florida (including Naples, Fort Myers, Venice, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda)

Jan. 3-4: Bi-Annual Estero Fine Arts Show, Estero. The Bi-Annual Estero Fine Arts Show features the work of artists from 30 states and Canada on Jan. 3-4. Glass, clay, wood, fiber, jewelry, sculpture, painting, photography, and metal will be on display. A youth art competition also takes place throughout the weekend. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The festival is at the Miromar Outlets, 10801 Corkscrew Road. For details, visit www.hotworks.org

Jan. 3-4: 18th Annual Downtown Naples New Year’s Art Fair, Naples. The 18th Annual Downtown Naples New Year’s Art Fair greets 2015 in an artistic way on Jan. 3-4. Historic Fifth Avenue South is cordoned off so visitors may browse in booths showcasing original art in a wide variety of media. Event hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission is free. For details, visit

Jan. 10-11, 17-18: Medieval Faire, Fort Myers. This annual event includes jousting, a human chess match, entertainment, live sword fighting, children's games and rides, medieval clothing, period food and beverages, artisans, jugglers, magicians, and other live entertainment on seven stages. At Lakes Regional Park, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily on dates shown. Admission $15 adults, $5 children, toddlers free. 239-839-8036. www.medieval-faire.com

Jan. 10-11: Florida's Creative Coast Weekend, Pine Island. On the second weekend each month November-April, Pine Island businesses offer themed artistic events. Galleries and shops are open extended hours on Friday, many offering special openings. Take a cooking class, or listen to live music. Other special events and workshops are planned at individual shops on Saturday and Sunday. 239-283-4842. www.floridascreativecoast.org

Jan. 10-11: Cape Coral Festival of the Arts, Cape Coral. This 30th annual street festival attracts some 85,000 people each year with 300 juried artisan booths and entertainment. Artists and craftspeople will be located on both sides of the median down the center of Cape Coral Parkway from Cape Coral Street to Vincennes. There will be plenty of food, activities for the kids, and fun for people of all ages. Live music is continuous from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, but the party continues up and down the street at local businesses on Saturday night. Admission is free. 239-443-7666. www.capecoralfestival.com

Jan. 11: River, Roots and Ruts Trail Run, Alva. The 12th annual event includes a 13.1-mile half marathon, relay races and a 5K run. At Caloosahatchee Regional Park, approximately 15 miles east of Fort Myers. 8 a.m. start time. 239-694-0398. www.rrrtrail.com

Jan. 11-14, Jan. 31- Feb. 1, March 14-15: Bonita Springs National Art Festival, Bonita Springs. This annual outdoor exhibition features more than 200 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists working in a variety of media. More than 200 national and international artists applied to exhibit and sell their works in paintings, glass, jewelry, clay works, photography, sculpture and more. Food and beverages will be available. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 239-495-8989 www.artinusa.com/bonita

Jan. 15: Downtown Gallery Walk, Punta Gorda. Held monthly on the third Thursday, 5-8 p.m. Visit any of the downtown merchants, restaurants and galleries for your game card. As always, there will be live entertainment, food and drink samplings, art, beauty and health demonstrations, a free trolley, and an evening of fun. Free; free parking. 941-505-1915. www.charlotteharbortravel.com

Jan.  15: 28th Annual Circus Ring of Fame Induction Ceremony, Sarasota. The St. Armands Circle Ring of Fame was first started in 1987 as a way to honor world famous circus performers and the rich circus heritage of the Sarasota area. Among the circus greats who have been inducted are the five Ringling Brothers, P.T. Barnum, John Ringling North, and Emmett Kelley, the famed clown. 2011's honorees were Andrews, Alberto and Alfredo Atayde, owners of the Circo Atayde Hermanos; John "Tarzan" Zerbini, a renowned animal trainer and owner of his own American Circus; Charles Schlarbaum, a long time circus bandmaster and Ward Hall, a veteran showman and sideshow performer. 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. At Harding Circle Park, St. Armands Circle. 941-957-1877. http://www.escape-to-sarasota.com/

Jan. 16-18: Southwest Florida Nature Festival, Naples. At the Rookery Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserve. Onsite activities are as follows: Friday, Jan. 16: admission to the Environmental Learning Center is $5 Buy-One/Get-one FREE (includes daily programs at 11 am and 2 pm) Saturday, Jan. 17: admission is $10 and includes entry to all 5 daytime lectures. Advanced registration is not required, must pay at door. Admission to the keynote presentation is $15, registration is required. 300 Tower Rd., Naples, FL 34113. 239-471-6310. www.rookerybay.org

Jan. 17: Sunshine Blues Festival, St. Petersburg. Doors open at 11:30a.m. Shows start at noon. Two stages, all day music festival. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Galactic, Leon Russell, Hot Tuna, Stanley Clarke, The Ringers, Tab Benoit, Bobby Lee Rodgers, Oli Brown. General admission tickets are $49.50. For details, visit www.sunshinebluesfestival.com

Jan. 17-18: Venice-Nokomis Rotary Art Festival, Venice. In addition to regular arts and crafts displays, this event also features an activities tent for children, free entertainment, and a car show. At Venice Airport Festival Grounds. 941-468-1254. www.venicenokomisrotary.org/art.html

Jan. 17-18: 18th Annual Sullivan Street Craft Fair, Punta Gorda. Outdoor show featuring some 150 crafters, who offer affordable original works. Downtown. Free. 941-639-3720. http://www.artfestival.com/Festivals

Jan. 18: The Rat Pack, Fort Myers. Nat Chandler, Sal Viviano, and Eric Jordan Young perform a tribute to the music of Sinatra, Davis, and Martin, featuring their biggest hits and original Rat Pack routines. You’ll think you’re swingin’ at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. Tickets are $40 - $73. For information, log on to www.gulfcoastsymphony.org

Jan. 24-25: Goodland Mullet Festival, Goodland. The three-day festival attracts nearly 5,000 people to the tiny town of Goodland. Fried and smoked mullet are featured and a Buzzard Lope Queen and a Buzzard Lope Princess contest. The late Stan Gober, who was the owner of Stan's Idle Hour Seafood Restaurant, had hosted the Mullet Festival and Buzzard Lope Queen Contest for 13 years. The Buzzard Lope is a dance based on "The Buzzard Lope Song" composed and sung by Stan. 239-394-3041. www.goodland.com/buzzard.htm

South Florida and the Keys (including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Key Largo, Key West and the Treasure Coast)

Jan. 3: Orange Bowl Swimming Classic, Key Largo. The Orange Bowl Swimming Classic attracts some of the best college swimmers in the country -- perhaps future Olympians -- to Key Largo on Jan. 3. The competition, each year at Jacobs Aquatic Center, Mile Marker 99.6 oceanside, is a free-to-attend event that is part of the celebration surrounding the annual Orange Bowl college football game in Miami. For information, visit www.jacobsaquaticcenter.org

Jan. 3-4: 27th Annual Las Olas Art Fair, Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale sets the scene for the 27th Annual Las Olas Art Fair Part I on Jan. 3-4.  Considered one of the top art festivals in the nation, it features the work of some 150 artists on Las Olas Boulevard in the heart of the city. Festival hours ar e from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and admission is free. For information, visit artfestival.com.

Jan. 4: Suntrust Sunday Jazz Brunch, Fort Lauderdale. Live outdoor concert series bringing the area's best local jazz artists to the city's scenic Riverwalk the first Sunday of each month. Listen to the soulful sounds on four different stages.  Everyone is welcome to attend, including well-behaved, leashed pets, and there is ample room to set up chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free admission. 954-828-5363. www.fortlauderdale.gov/events/jazzbrunch/

Jan. 5-8: 2015 Beach Wedding Expo, Key Largo. Many out of state brides have never heard of the Florida Keys. Most have never visited the Keys. We want to give these brides a reason to do more than look at photos online. We intend to give these brides a reason to visit in person so they can experience the Keys firsthand. The itinerary will be filled with hands on learning about hosting their wedding here with emphasis on how to use the natural beauty and charm of the area to their advantage. The brides need to understand why their wedding here will be the talk of their friends and families for years to come. We will include on the water activities to get the brides settled into the true beauty and feeling of the keys. Daily activity pass is $50. 321-946-5569 www.floridabeachweddingexpo.com

Jan. 8-10: World Quilt Show Florida VI, West Palm Beach. Handmade treasures are on display during the World Quilt Show Florida VI on Jan. 8-10. The event, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, features the World Quilt Competition XVIII – On Tour. General admission to the Quilt Show and Merchants Hall is $12 and includes re-admission (accompanied children under 16 are free). There is a $5 parking fee. The Palm Beach County Convention Center is at 650 Okeechobee Boulevard. For information, visit www.quiltfest.com.

Jan. 8-17: Uncorked Key Largo and Islamorada Food and Wine Festival, Key Largo. Come on down to the Keys and enjoy all of the tasty temptations, and some of your favorite wines, as South Florida’s culinary experts step up to the plate to show you what Key Largo and Islamorada have to offer. Ten glorious days of wine tasting events, cooking demonstrations, wine dinners, live music, food and wine pairing classes, progressive wine dinners, art and wine shows, and of course, our fabulous sunsets, scuba diving, fishing, many tourist attractions, shopping, and a great time! Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $57 plus tax for general admission and $77 plus tax for VIP ticket. keylargofoodandwinefestival.com/

Jan. 10-11: Redland Heritage Festival, Homestead. A tradition at Fruit and Spice Park since 1976, this annual festival features local arts and crafts, a large selection of tropical plants and great food. Children's activities include a petting zoo, pony rides, an interactive puppet and magic show, and a wild and wonderful Everglades reptile show. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8, children 11 and under are free. 305-247-5727. www.fruitandspicepark.org

Jan. 10-11: 28th Annual Boca Fest, Boca Raton. Ranked one of the top festivals in the country by Sunshine Artist, the nation's leading publication for art and craft shows, this show returns for its 26th anniversary. At the Shops at Boca Center. Hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free admission. 954-472-3755. www.artfestival.com

Jan. 8-11: 31st Annual Key West Literary Seminar, Key West. The 33rd Annual Key West Literary Seminar, Jan. 8-11, is themed to “How The Light Gets In – Literature of the Spirit.” The
event will explore literature’s relationship to the inexplicable. The event features readings, discussions, lectures and parties. The Sunday afternoon program is free and open to the public. Registration fee for the seminar is $575. Speakers include Pico Iyer. A Writer’s Workshop follows on Jan. 11-15. For details, visit www.kwls.org/seminar33.

Jan. 15: Third Thursday Art Walk, Islamorada. The Morada Way Third Thursday Art Walk presents local fine arts, music and culinary specialties. The galleries of Morada Way are between Mile Markers 81 and 82. Event hours are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For details, visit moradaway.org

Jan. 16-17:  Historic House Tours, Key West. Presented by the Old Island Restoration Foundation, this house and garden tour offers a rare opportunity to see inside some of Key West's magnificent, charming and tropical residences. Admission $30 per person. 305-294-9501. www.oirf.org

Jan. 16-18: Art Deco Weekend, Miami Beach. Step back in time and celebrate Art Deco style on the Broadway stage with live music, art and antiques dealers, walking tours, films, lectures, classic cars, street theater and more. Along Ocean Drive, between 5th and 15th Streets. 305-672-2014. www.artdecoweekend.com

Jan. 16-Feb. 1: South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach. Since 1912 each January, over a half million visitors enjoy 17 fun filled days at the South Florida Fair, one of Florida’s oldest and largest community events.  Fairgoers are entertained by first class stage shows, national concert performances, sensational midway rides, unique shopping and the best of fair food. Admission: adults, $15; children, 6-11 $8; kids 5 and under are free. 561-793-0333. www.southfloridafair.com

Jan. 17: Art Under the Oaks, Islamorada. This art show at the San Pedro Catholic Church features arts and crafts in many mediums, as well as food vendors and live music. 305-360-8556. sanpedroparish.org

Jan. 17-18: Florida Keys Seafood Festival, Key West. Seafood lovers, rejoice! The Last Key sets the scene for the 10th Annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 17. On the menu for this family-friendly fest, are fried fish, grilled spiny lobster, stone crab claws (yum!), Pick n' Peel Key West Pink Shrimp, lobster bisque, conch chowder, conch fritters, conch salad and other delights from the bounty of the sea. Beverages and desserts will also be available for purchase. The event is at Bayview Park (corner of Truman Avenue & Jose Marti Drive). Also on the festival's agenda are children's activities, marine-related crafts and live music. Admission to the festival is free. For information, visit www.keywest.com

Jan. 17-18: Big Pine Key Nautical Market, Big Pine & the Lower Keys. Nautical-themed crafts and merchandise will be displayed and sold during the 11th annual Big Pine Key Nautical Market on Jan. 17-18. Other activities include live music, food and beverages. The event takes place on the grounds of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Mile Marker 31 ocean-side. 305-872-2411. Visit www.lowerkeyschamber.com

Jan. 17-18: Downtown Delray Beach Festival of the Arts, Delray Beach. A signature event for the city, this annual show is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation. Along a one-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue, starting at U.S. 1 and continuing east over the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to A-1-A on the Atlantic Ocean. Free. 954-472-3755. www.artfestival.com

Jan. 17-18: 2nd Annual BayGrass Bluegrass Festival, Islamorada. The third annual Baygrass Bluegrass features Oldgrass, Newgrass, next generation Bluegrass and variations of the genre on Jan. 17-18. The event is at the ICE Amphitheater, Mile Marker 87 bayside at Founders Park. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the gate (children 17 and under are free). Money raised helps fund music, dance and art scholarships for local students. For details, visit www.baygrassbluegrass.com.

Jan. 17-18: 50th Annual Broward Shell Show, Pompano Beach. Thousands of beautiful and unusual shells from Florida, the Caribbean and around the world will be on display or for sale. Includes competitive displays by dozens of collectors and craftspeople, an International Shell Market featuring shells, shell craft, jewelry, educational shell books and more and a Shell ID Clinic. This year the show has added five educational programs on seashells and shell craft to be presented during the shell show. At Emma Lou Olson Civic Center. Hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking are free. 305-467-4412. www.browardshellclub.org

Jan. 18: 17th Annual Key West Half Marathon, Key West. The gun will sound at 7 a.m. for one of "Runners World" magazine's recognized 10 great winter half marathons. The run is a 13.1-mile course through Old Town Key West, historic landmarks and Key West's scenic waterfront. 305-296-7182. http://www.keywesthalfmarathon.com/

Jan. 18-23: Key West Race Week 2015, Key West. Nearly 300 racing yachts compete for class championships in this international midwinter sailboat regatta presented by Quantum Sail Design Group. 781-639-9545. www.premiere-racing.com

Jan. 23-25: International Chocolate Festival, Coral Gables. Join us for the celebration of that divine tropical plant, the obroma cacao, the source of chocolate. For three days guests are immersed in the wonderful and diverse world of chocolate. From chocolate treats to tree sales, cooking demonstrations to chocolate sculpture competitions, chocolate will reign supreme. 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. 305-667-1651. www.fairchildgarden.org

Jan. 24: 9th Annual Port Salerno Seafood Festival, Port Salerno. Local seafood specialties, live music, family fun area, maritime exhibitors, arts and crafts and more. Along the waterfront. 772-634-9862. www.portsalernoseafoodfestival.org

Jan. 24-25: Sixth Annual Key Largo Stone Crab & Seafood festival, Key Largo. Oh, yum! The Sixth Annual Key Largo Stone Crab & Seafood festival celebrates the bounty of the sea on Jan. 24-25. In addition to stone crabs, conch and local seafood, the family-friendly festival will feature music and live local entertainment. On the agenda are peel-and-eat shrimp and Key lime pie eating contests, cooking demonstrations, a “little mermaid” contest, kids’ play area with live fish aquarium, arts and crafts, Junkanoo band, magic shows and more. Admission is $5 for adults and children over 12 years old. The event is at Rowell’s Marina, Mile Marker 104.5 bayside. For information, visit www.keylargoseafoodfestival.com.

Jan. 24-25: Key West Craft Show, Key West. The 30th Annual Key West Craft Show features juried artisans and crafters displaying their work at a show on lower Whitehead Street in historic Old Town Key West. For details on the Key West Craft Show, visit www.keywestartcenter.com/craft.html

Jan. 27-Feb. 1: VIP Key West Food and Wine Festival, Key West.  Key West Food and Wine Festival Hospitality Suite will be open Wednesday, Jan. 28 through Saturday, Jan. 31
10 am -3 pm daily. Festival events will be held at various locations. www.keywestfoodandwinefestival.com

Jan. 31: The 26th Mariners Hospital Bougainvillea Ball, Islamorada. To be held at Founders Park in Islamorada. The Ball begins at 6 pm with a large silent auction, and dinner and dancing from 8 pm until midnight. Proceeds from the Ball benefit Mariners Hospital Oncology Services. 305-434-1026 www.keylargochamber.org

Jan. 27-Feb. 1: Key West Food & Wine Festival. The Last Key serves up the Key West Food & Wine Festival on Jan. 27-Feb. 1. Top chefs and restaurateurs showcase their culinary creations during a variety of happenings including wine tastings, a shrimp boil, a pizza and prosecco event, neighborhood strolls, and wine dinners. Ticket prices vary. For information, visit

Northeast Florida (including Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Flagler County and Amelia Island)

Nov. 22-Feb. 1: Nights of Lights Festival and Celebration, St. Augustine. This inspiring display of more than two million tiny white lights adorning the palm trees and buildings throughout the city's historic district is based on a custom by the town's original Spanish colonists, who placed a white candle in their windows to brighten the nights during the Christmas holidays. Among special events and activities awaiting 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, even a Christmas parade. 902-825-1004. www.NightsofLights.com

Jan. 2: First Friday Art Walk, St. Augustine. One of the city's most popular cultural events, held the first Friday of each month. Enjoy new exhibits, music, entertainment and refreshments at 15 participating galleries, plus great food courtesy of the St. Augustine Independent Restaurant Assn. Tours begin at Rembrandtz American Craft Gallery. St. Augustine Sightseeing Trains and Old Town Trolleys offer complimentary shuttle service to most galleries. Shuttles run on a continuous loop every 30 minutes. 904-829-0065. www.floridashistoriccoast.com

Jan. 16-25: Annual Amelia Island Restaurant Week, Amelia Island. Includes 19 participating restaurants. Residents and visitors enjoy pre-fix meals at great rates (priced at either $19 or $29) which includes three courses and a nonalcoholic beverage. In conjunction with Restaurant Week, several of Amelia Island accommodators are offering a "Free Night, Any Night" deal, which allows visitors to receive a Free Night with a minimum nights stay. For more information on Restaurant Week, visit www.ameliaisland.com

Jan. 23-25: Fifth Annual St. Augustine Film Festival, St. Augustine. The Old City presents its Fifth Annual St. Augustine Film Festival on Jan. 23-25. Screenings and parties take place at various venues. A VIP pass to all events is $100; a Film Only Fast Pass is $60. For information, visit www.staugfilmfest.com.

Jan. 31: Spanish Garrison Grand Muster, St. Augustine. The Old City’s Colonial Quarter sets the scene for the annual Spanish Garrison Grand Muster and torchlight parade on Jan. 31. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., there is an encampment and demonstrations as well as a torchlight parade from the Castillo de San Marcos to the Governor’s House in Plaza de la Constitucion. The public is invited to follow the parade route. Admission is free. For details, visit www.historiccoastculture.com.

North-Central Florida (including Ocala, Gainesville and Tallahassee)

Jan. 17-18: 27th Annual Florida Manatee Festival, Crystal River. In honor of its namesake, the endangered manatee, the festival gives visitors the opportunity to view the gentle creature in its own environment. Boat tours are offered for a small charge into Kings Bay, which the manatee calls home. Festival also includes a Fine Art show featuring everything from watercolor artwork and photography to sculptures, stained glass and handmade jewelry. Live entertainment will be provided continuously and includes the Annual Jimmy Buffet Sound-Alike contest. Downtown on Citrus Ave. 352-795-3149 or 726-2801. Admission $3 donation. Children 12 and under free. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sautrday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. www.gomanateefest.com

Jan. 24-25, 31, Jan. 30 - Feb. 1: Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, Gainesville. Come be swept away by medieval magic as troupes of actors, street performers and musicians journey back to the days of yore. Alachua County Fairground is transformed into a bustling medieval marketplace where there is jousting on horseback, street performers and minstrels, living chess match, medieval games, and eight stages of live entertainment. Admission $17 adults, $7 for children 5-17, under 5 free. 352-334-5064. www.gvlculturalaffairs.org

The Panhandle (including Pensacola, Panama City Beach, Apalachicola and Destin)

Jan. 10: Pensacola Beach 1/2 Marathon, 5K and 10K Run, Pensacola Beach. All three courses are flat and fast. Pick the distance you want at the turns. If you feel good at the 5K turn, just keep going for the 10K, and the same is true for the 1/2 Marathon. Several exhitors, and drink and food specials. 7:30 a.m. Casino Beach. Pensacola Beach, FL 32502. 850-261-2200. www.pensacolarunners.com

Jan. 12-Feb. 13: ADSO 23rd Juried Southeast Regional Art Exhibits. Destin. This annual juried art exhibition in the McIlroy Gallery at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville showcases the best of works in all media by professional artists throughout the Southeastern United States as presented by the Arts & Design Society. Heather Mitchell, the 2013 Best-in-Show winner, will be honored with a solo exhibition in the Holzhauer Gallery. (850) 729-6044.  www.mattiekellyartscenter.org

Jan. 16-17: Apalachicola Oyster Cook Off, Apalichicola. Fundraiser for the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department. Submit recipes. Oysters all sorts of ways. Children's activities and live band. 86 Water Street/ Riverfront Park, Apalachicola FL 32320. 855-272-5224. http://www.oystercookoff.com/

Sentinel staffers Angele Maraj, Emon Reiser and Special Correspondent Georgina Cruz contributed to this report