The Coastal Star

Around Town: Pine Crest grooms a ‘Teen Jeopardy’ champ, and surf’s up for artist Aho

By Thom Smith

After nearly two weeks of Teen Jeopardy competition, Alan Koolik of Boca Raton and Jeff Xie of Edison, N.J., surprisingly were tied with $54,200 in winnings. So on the Aug. 1 broadcast, for one of the few times in history, the winner was decided by a tie-breaker.
Category: The Civil War.
Clue: The battles Shiloh and Collierville were fought in this state.
    Both knew the question, but Xie buzzed in a few milliseconds quicker with “What is Tennessee?” to claim the $75,000 top prize. Koolik, 17, a senior at Pine Crest School, still kept his winnings and said the experience was “one of the most exciting moments of my life.”
    Koolik led through the semifinals, amassing $25,000, and added $29,200 in Final Jeopardy to total $54,200. Xie who had started the night with $15,000, wagered his entire pot, doubling his winnings to $39,200 and forcing the tie.
    The hardest part, however, may have been keeping a secret for four months; the shows were taped in March.   
Paul Aho made it home in mid-August, if only for a few days — his daughter Eliza married Ben Elias on the beach in Delray Beach. The weather was great. He saw old friends. Everything was up … except the surf, which for Aho was a bummer, since he doesn’t see many waves near his new home in Paducah, Ky.
Surfers, however, are perennial optimists and Aho knows he’ll have other chances to catch waves, plus he’s stoked that his book, Surfing Florida, a chronicle of the sport and lifestyle in the state that was published last spring, is selling a few copies.
    “Sales are going as they should be,” Aho said, knowing his is a niche market.
    While his passion is surfing, the former Ocean Ridge resident is professionally an artist who has been recognized locally and internationally. He was the first recipient of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County’s Ubertalli Award for Artistic Achievement. He twice received fellowships from the South Florida Cultural Consortium. For two years, he has served as dean of Paducah School of Art and Design at West Kentucky Community and Technical College and recently completed his first capital project, raising $2.5 million to match a state grant.
    So Aho is positive.  
    “I like it fine here,” said Aho of the campus that’s only a couple of miles from the Ohio River, “although I’d like it better if it were a thousand miles closer to the ocean.”
Aho’s previous recognition includes the All Florida Juried Exhibition, the oldest juried event in the state, that runs through Oct. 18 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. His work is not included this year, but among the nearly 100 entries are several from local artists. Donna Hixson, Malanie Hurwitz and Florence Roghaar from Boca; Sharon Lee Hart (Boynton Beach);  Lynelle Forrest, Isabel Gouveia and Clarence “Skip” Measelle (Lake Worth) and Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouporov plus Robert Vail (Lantana).
    Wayne Thornbrough, also from Lantana, claimed one of five merit awards and $500 for his inkjet print Outside Looking In. Miami artist Tony Vazquez won best in show for his 160-pound sculpture depicting decrepit aluminum espresso pots made from bitumen, a petroleum byproduct.  

Rick Marshall, Mark Pafford and Steve Michael

    Surprisingly, Sundy House in Delray Beach hasn’t come up with a dish that includes sawgrass, but the abundant sedge did get a mention recently. New owners Steven Michael and Rick Marshall hosted a reception for the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades to introduce its new boss and announce plans for its annual gala.  
    Marshall CEO Mark Pafford is best known now as a member of the Florida House of Representatives for West Palm Beach. Previous jobs included senior coordinator for the village of Royal Palm Beach, legislative assistant to then Florida Rep. Lois Frankel and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Florida Chapter.
    Early in his career, he worked as a naturalist at a Miami public park and he’s ready to fight the good fight to protect Florida’s fragile environment. That means raising money, much of which comes from the River of Grass Gala, which this year will be held Dec. 6 aboard the 167-foot yacht Lady Windridge (233-9004 or email
    Unless you just have to shop in the vicinity, you might save some aggravation by avoiding the area in Delray Beach around Federal and Linton on Sept. 5 and for a few weeks after. That’s the day Trader Joe’s arrives, and if everyone shows up who said they would, the streets will be impassable. The soon-to-open Boca Raton store is still accepting crew member applications through Sept. 13. Interested individuals must apply in person at the store, 855 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, and can obtain an application on site or online at ;
    At the age of 9, Leslie Uggams was the opening act at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. As a teenager, she won a ton of cash — “$12,500’’ on Name That Tune and caught the eye and ear of Mitch Miller who put her on Sing Along With Mitch. She won a Tony for Hallelujah, Baby!, had her own show on CBS and received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her role as Kizzy in Roots. And beginning Dec. 4, at the perfect age of 71, she’ll play the legendary Mame at The Wick in Boca Raton, Tickets will go fast (995-2333).
    “It will be bittersweet … it will be filled with fun … we will laugh through our tears,” proclaimed a Facebook statement from Evening Star Company for opening night (Aug. 22) of its production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at Sol Theatre in Boca Raton. The show opened as planned, just as director Laura Ruchala intended. A mainstay in local theater with the Miami Shakespeare Company, Florida Shakespeare Festival and Outre Theatre Co., Ruchala collapsed during an Aug. 10 rehearsal and never regained consciousness. She died from a brain aneurysm a day before her 36th birthday.
“This is a terrible blow,” friend and fellow thespian Missy McArdle said, “especially after losing Kevin Crawford (a founding member and director of the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival) last December. We’ll miss her.”
 On Sept. 13 Arts Garage will present “Havana Nights,” a celebration of Cuban music and mojitos, plus dancing and hors d’oeuvres to benefit Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. Reservations at 450-6357.
Dance, dance, dance. Led by plastic surgeon Albert Dabbah and Bloomie’s manager Paula Pianta, the 10 competitors in the seventh annual Boca Ballroom Battle (SEE PHOTOS) raised more than $210,000 for the George Snow Scholarship Fund. Boca’s answer to Dancing With the Stars was held Aug. 16 at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. For their performance, each contestant was paired with a professional dancer from Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Boca, but unlike previous years, no awards were given for footwork, only for legwork in raising money.
    “Everybody had a great time and the money’s still coming in,” fund spokeswoman Gabriella Snow said. Once again former WPTV reporter and now mother of twins Paige Kornblue returned from Texas to emcee and was joined by Tony Dovolani of Dancing with the Stars.
    Established in 1982, the fund has awarded more than $6 million in educational grants. Last year 73 students received $580,000.
Long-vacant Old Calypso, on the east side of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach, will reopen in mid-October as Hudson at Waterway East. Concept: classy, casual, contemporary American with a menu featuring seafood, steak, and pasta, washed down with craft beer, spirits and wine.
    The proprietor, new to the area, is identified as Sam Bonasso,  former proprietor of an Outback Steakhouse in Mason, Ohio, a bedroom community about 20 miles northeast of Cincinnati.
    According to county property records, the property was bought in July 2013 for $2.75 million by Walnut Grove Investment Partners in Boynton Beach. Walnut Grove’s address is the same as that of Bevan Behn Wilson, known to hockey fans as Behn Wilson, a defenseman for nine seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks. He retired in 1988.   
    Restaurant wizards Dennis Max and Rodney Mayo are at it again. Max has been cooking up a storm in one form or another since the ’80s, Mayo followed suit a few years later and both are expanding their operations in Delray Beach.
    Max’s Harvest, the popular farm-to-table spot on Northeast Second Avenue, will be joined by Max’s Social House in the old ’20s era cottage at 116 NE Sixth Ave. Head chef will be Scott Pierce, presently sous chef at Max’s Grille in Boca Raton.Max grabbed it after Tampa-based Ceviche closed July 31. An upscale gastropub, it will feature four “Fusion Towers” — large chrome-and-glass drink-making machines that can infuse a beer or cocktail with just about anything a customer might desire.
    For Mayo, who also has a stake in Tryst and Dada in Delray Beach, the concept is much simpler — coffee and doughnuts. He’s teaming with Boca restaurant broker Tom Prakas to turn the former Atlantic Smoothies shop at 123 E. Atlantic into Subculture Coffee. The big difference: the coffee beans will be fresh-roasted and the pastries from Prakas’ new venture, Rhino Doughnuts. Prakas sells fresh-roasted fair-trade coffee at his Rhino shops, but the beans aren’t roasted in-house.
    Rhino’s website lists a future location at 126 NE Second St. in Boca’s Mizner Plaza, formerly Beany’s sandwich shop. It’s just a short walk from Mayo’s Dubliner pub and Kapow! Noodle Bar in Mizner Park and even closer to another new Mayo-involved venture, Shaker & Pie. An Italian gastropub, anchored by flying pizzas and hip cocktails, it’ll be next door to iPic and its hip Italian bistro, Tanzy.
And another: This establishment used to be the Clearview Lounge. Then it was Ted Teddy Bear’s. Now, after a transformation by its new owner, Ryan O’Riordan, it opened up in July as the Vintage Tap, a “juke joint” beer garden featuring live music, 20 craft brew taps and full bar. It’s at 524 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach.
    It was inevitable that football fans would be reminded permanently that Howard Schnellenberger played a major role in establishing the football program — actually the entire athletic program — at FAU. On Aug. 20 the school’s trustees voted to name the field at FAU stadium in his honor, made possible by a contribution from an anonymous donor. Dedication will come Sept. 13 at FAU’s first home game, against Tulsa.
    Too bad they couldn’t name the stadium for Howard, although S-C-H-N-E-L-L-E-N-B-E-R-G-E-R might not fit on the wall facing I-95.
    Plus, stadium naming rights are a different animal. Remember the fuss last year when the trustees tried to cut a $6 million deal with private prison operator GEO Group. Big embarrassment that cost FAU President Mary Jane Saunders her job. If only IBM hadn’t packed up and left, but Boca is home to other big companies. How does Office Depot Stadium sound?
    Howard, whose autobiography, Passing the Torch, was published Sept. 1, calls it the highlight of his coaching career, although he’s still short one milestone — the College Football Hall of Fame.  
    The sticking point: his won-lost record. At Kentucky and Alabama, where he was responsible for signing Joe Namath, he was an assistant coach, so “credit” went to Bear Bryant. No credit either for helping Don Shula build the Dolphins.
    The University of Miami, formerly known as “Suntan U,” became a national powerhouse, as his teams went 41-16 and won its first national championship. He turned also-ran Louisville into a contender and built FAU from no program to bowl-bound in five years.
    But as a head coach, his teams were 158-151-3, barely .500, and National Football Foundation rules require a hall-of-fame candidate to have a .600 winning record. Unless …
    A special committee that examines “unique cases” could recommend induction. Look in Webster’s. Next to the definition of unique is a photo of Howard.    
    Meanwhile, the FAU stadium will host a bowl game Dec. 23. A creation of ESPN, it will feature Mid-America Conference and Conference USA champs. Of course, FAU would love to represent Conference USA.
    The city and the county will split a $240,000 production fee to ESPN, but it still needs a name. For $200,000 the city can acquire naming rights, and the “Boca Raton Bowl” — thanks to the weather plus two 30-second pro-Boca commercials — would mean good PR.

    The ALS Bucket Challenge has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, in some cases pushing other causes that also need to raise millions into the shadows. Alzheimer’s is one. As with ALS, the suffering is eased only by death. For the first time, the National Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held in Boca Raton. The walk, set for Oct. 11, starts at Mizner Park Amphitheater. To register or to volunteer, go or call 496-4222. Unless it rains or you choose to jump into a fountain, you won’t get wet.

Thom Smith is a freelance writer. Contact him at

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