Events and Things to Do in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are among the most vibrant communities you’ll ever find.

Both cities feature a vast array of events year-round that are sure to interest people of all ages and interests. From arts festivals and music events to a vibrant food scene and cultural landscape Boca-Delray has it all.

At YourDelrayBoca.com we strive to curate the best events and give you insider’s tips to make your experience the best it can be.

A Get Together With Jesse Colin Young

Jesse Colin Young will be at Boca’s Funky Biscuit for two shows this weekend.

Editor’s Note: One of the perks of co-owning a local newspaper (Boca Newspaper, Delray Newspaper) is that sometimes you can cross off a bucket list item by meeting and interviewing someone you have admired. I had two such opportunities recently: a chance to talk with Jethro Tull lead guitarist Martin Barre and the legendary Jesse Colin Young. For a boomer music fan, it doesn’t get much better than that. Plus, this weekend we get to see Max Weinberg’s Jukebox at Delray’s Arts Garage. #bliss. We thought we’d share our Jesse Colin Young story in anticipation of his Feb. 16-17 shows at Boca’s Funky Biscuit.
There’s not too many people who can claim to be the voice on a song that sums up an era.
But Jesse Colin Young can make that claim and the song “Get Together” not only captures the vibe of the 60s, but it’s message is timeless and as Mr. Young describes it: “beautiful.”
“I remember the first time I heard the song,” says Young. “It hit me right away…unlike any other song, before or since. And I immediately knew I wanted to record it. I felt the song was destiny for me, in some way. I have a love for it. It’s spirit is what I believe in and it’s what the world is crying out for. It’s incredibly special.”
Get Together was a huge hit for the Youngblood’s and the song has since been featured in movies, TV shows and even a Walmart commercial which was released shortly after this summer’s protests in Charlottesville. In the ad, people of all ages, colors and ethnicities grab chairs and gather at one table.
“It’s what my generation stood for,” says Young who called us from his home in Hawaii, where he lives with his wife and where he has grown and sold organic coffee since 1990.
After stepping away from music for 7 years, Jesse Colin Young is back touring, recording and writing. And he couldn’t be happier.
Jesse and his band, which features his son bassist Tristan Young, will be at Boca’s Funky Biscuit for two shows Feb. 16-17. Tickets range from $50-65 and can be purchased at www.funkybiscuit.com
For 50 years Jesse Colin Young has been singing songs about peace, relationships and the environment. From his folk days in Boston and his first record, “Soul Of a City Boy”, he has articulated and recorded the tumultuous times of the 60s, 70’s, 80’s to the present, while reminding us that it is all about family, community and the precious natural world we live in. His musical style is now considered Americana, but in fact, it’s his unique fusion of jazz, blues, folk and rock with an emphasis on his extraordinary voice that makes his signature sound.
These are productive times for the artist. He is currently working on new material which he will release in 2018. The Boca shows will be a mix of long time favorites and the first ever live performances of new songs that Jesse is anxious to share.
“I will probably play 30-35 minutes solo with an acoustic guitar,” he says. “Then do another 90 minutes with the band. I want to see how the new songs do before an audience. That’s how you know if they’re any good. I think they are. But the audience will decide.”
Jesse says he’s writing steadily these days and about subjects that are relevant to today’s world including a new song about Dreamers, young people who came to America as children who are now caught up in immigration politics.
“I’ve written four new songs in the past few weeks,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this productive.”
His Hawaii coffee farm has proven to be a creative oasis with beautiful views and– more importantly– limited cell phone service which has enabled him to write without distraction.
He bought the farm after his home “Ridgetop” near San Francisco (which is a beautiful song) was lost to a fire.
“I healed myself by becoming a farmer,” he says. “It was my wife Connie’s idea. We both love to grow things.”
Born in 1941, Jesse went to grade school with Art Garfunkel and remembers being in “Artie’s” fourth grade class. At this stage of his career, he’s touring to be with his fans, play, travel and enjoy life.
“I haven’t lost the high notes,” he says. “Playing for me is like coming home. I’m doing this for the pure joy of it. I also love the band. I like how they play and they put a smile on my face every night. It’s great that in my golden years, I get to play with the best bands I’ve had.”
Throughout his professional life of recording and touring, Jesse has always taken the time to dedicate his life to giving back to the world. He has performed on behalf of organizations ranging from No Nukes in the late 70s, The Dream Foundation and Saratoga Warhorse, to Prep Fest and the Kona Pacific Waldorf School. Holding environmental accountability, veteran support and quality education as a moral code of action, Jesse remains committed and active as an individual and performer.
He takes great pride in the No Nukes movement, which is on his mind, a few days after Hawaii had a scare with a false alarm about a missile attack.
He became involved with No Nukes along with his friends Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt after wondering if people really understand the dangers of a nuclear age.
“I think we got people’s attention,” he said. “You didn’t see a facility built facility for decades. It wasn’t a high falutin’ idea. We tied into community groups and supported the groundswell that was building. It was a special time. Artists make a difference..they truly do.”

Making Never Again A Reality

CBS 4 Anchor Rick Folbaum interviews Ben Ferencz at Boca West.

Benjamin Ferencz is barely 5 feet tall, but he is a giant of a man.

At age 98, the Delray Beach resident, remains a passionate crusader for human rights, international law and a living testament to the horrors of genocide.

He is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials and captivated a room full of people at Boca West last week with his experiences and life lessons– which remain relevant to our world today.

Mr. Ferencz was the keynote speaker at a dinner that raises funds and awareness for the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

Mr. Ferencz was born in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania in 1920. When he was ten months old his family moved to America. His earliest memories are of his small basement apartment in a neighborhood known as “Hell’s Kitchen.” Even at an early age, he felt a deep yearning for universal friendship and world peace. He also found an early love for the law, having witnessed crime, he told the audience he wanted to be on the side of the law—and the good guys.

After he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1943, he joined an anti-aircraft artillery battalion preparing for the invasion of France. As an enlisted man under General Patton, he fought in every campaign in Europe. As Nazi atrocities were uncovered, he was transferred to a newly created War Crimes Branch of the Army to gather evidence of Nazi brutality and apprehend the criminals.

“Indelibly seared into my memory are the scenes I witnessed while liberating these centers of death and destruction. Camps like Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau are vividly imprinted in my mind’s eye. Even today, when I close my eyes, I witness a deadly vision I can never forget-the crematoria aglow with the fire of burning flesh, the mounds of emaciated corpses stacked like cordwood waiting to be burned…. I had peered into hell,” he said in a 1988 interview.

 

On the day after Christmas 1945, Ferencz was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry. He returned to New York and prepared to practice law. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited for the Nuremberg war crimes trials. The International Military Tribunal prosecution against German Field Marshal, Herman Goering and other leading Nazis was already in progress under the leadership the American Prosecutor, Robert M. Jackson on leave from the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

The U.S. had decided to prosecute a broad cross section of Nazi criminals once the trial against Goering and his henchmen was over. General Telford Taylor was assigned as Chief of Counsel for 12 subsequent trials.

Mr. Ferencz was sent with about fifty researchers to Berlin to scour Nazi offices and archives. In their hands lay overwhelming evidence of Nazi genocide by German doctors, lawyers, judges, generals, industrialists, and others who played leading roles in organizing or perpetrating Nazi brutalities. Without pity or remorse, the SS murder squads killed every Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on. Gypsies, communist functionaries, and Soviet intellectuals suffered the same fate. It was tabulated that over a million persons were deliberately murdered by these special “action groups.

Mr. Ferencz became Chief Prosecutor for the United States in The Einsatzgruppen Case, which the Associated Press called “the biggest murder trial in history.” Twenty-two defendants were charged with murdering over a million people. He was only 27. It was his first case.

All of the defendants were convicted and 13 were sentenced to death.

Mr. Ferencz emphasized that the men he prosecuted were generals and PhD’s; evidence he said that war can warp the hearts and minds of educated and accomplished people.

The verdict was hailed as a great success for the prosecution. Mr. Ferencz’s primary objective had been to establish a legal precedent that would encourage a more humane and secure world in the future.

His lifelong motto became “law not war” and he told the crowd in Boca Raton last week that his work is not done; the mission remains elusive as we experience genocide in places like Rwanda, Syria, Myanmar etc.

Even at this advanced age—though he does 120 pushups every morning—he continues to work for the cause. He travels extensively to speak and advocate and was recently featured on 60 Minutes.

“Nuremberg taught me that creating a world of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous task. And I also learned that if we did not devote ourselves to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality that made the Holocaust possible might one day destroy the entire human race.”

We felt honored and lucky to see and hear him speak. As guests of Shelly and Billy Himmelrich—two longtime supporters of the museum (Shelly was recently honored with a national award for her work with the museum) we were motivated to support the mission.

Eli Wiesel said the best museums pose questions, not answers and he is correct.

As a young journalist I had the opportunity to travel to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The experience was indelible and motivated me to get involved with Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoah” program which was launched after he made the movie “Schindler’s List.”

That experience allowed to meet survivors and to research their experiences.

It’s important for current and future generations to study history, because what happened in the past informs our present and our future.

While it is a rare occurrence to be in a room with a living legend like Ben Ferencz, if we open our eyes there’s a lot of history we can access in our communities.

If we talk to our parents and grandparents and ask them about their lives and experiences we are sure to learn great lessons.

I have been truly blessed in my life to have a father still alive and vibrant, grandparents who were wonderful storytellers and who lived rich lives and friends who have seen and experienced a lot of history.

On occasion—when invited—I will eat breakfast at Donnie’s Place with a group of Elders who never fail to educate me on local history, race relations and what Delray Beach was like “back in the day.”

I also have another close friend who reads widely on history and is generous to share what he learns over monthly lunches.

The opportunities are there. It is important that we never forget and it is also important that we share what we have learned.

 

 

12 Things We Liked About January

A dozen things we liked in January

  1. The Delray Chamber’s installation of Rob Posillico as the new chair. Rob is a dedicated chamber volunteer and a talented young business leader who understands the importance of an effective business community to a city’s well-being.
  2. The private dining section at the Seagate Hotel is simply terrific. If you have a small group gathering and want to show some class book a room, you won’t forget it.
  3. The chicken francese at La Cigale is magnificent. It just defies description.
  4. We enjoyed an excellent cybersecurity seminar with Brad Deflin of Total Digital Security in Delray this month courtesy of JP Morgan. Great information, albeit scary. There are a lot of threats out there. Be careful.
  5. Lunch on the deck at Prime Catch overlooking the Intracoastal on a nice day is simply hard to beat.
  6. Sometimes you have to get out of Boca/Delray and try a new experience. We did with gourmet Mexican at the wonderful Eduardo De San Angel in Fort Lauderdale. It was sublime and we saw a few Delray folks dining there as well.
  7. Boca makes Livability’s 2018 Top 100 Places to Live list. Boca beat out 2,100 US cities. Very cool.
  8. It was good to see the non-profit Connected Warriors open their doors at Boca’s Innovation Campus.
  9. Kudos to the City of Boca’s Office of Economic Development on the launch of its new quarterly newsletter. Lots happening in Boca and this publication captures a lot of it (so does The Boca Newspaper).
  10. Seeing Vince Canning recognized by the DelrayCity Commission. He’s a good man and highly deserving of recognition.
  11. Congratulations to the Delray chamber for a great kickoff to 2018. The sold out “installation” luncheon at the Delray Beach Golf Club didn’t hide the fact that the chamber had a tough year in 2017. But the event boldly highlighted the importance, relevance and need for a strong chamber. Newly installed chair Mr. Posillico set out a vision for an innovative chamber that would match an innovative community. We wish the chamber well.
  12. Words can’t describe the feeling of being in a room with a true living legend. Delray’s own Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg trials prosecutor, charmed an immense crowd at Boca West gathered to support and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Mr. Ferencz, 98, shared his experiences at Nuremberg and his lifelong work to prevent genocide and encourage “law not war.” We’ll have more in a follow-up blog post. Special thanks to Shelly and Billy Himmelrich for including us what was an unforgettable evening.

A Man For All Seasons

A painting of Churchill by his granddaughter.

We went to see a magnificent exhibit at the Society of the Four Arts last weekend.
“A Man for All Seasons; The Art of Winston Churchill” features paintings and notebooks from the legendary British leader.
Churchill took up painting in his 40s and it quickly became a passion. It lifted his dark moods and he became quite prolific.
As you meander through the exhibit (and you should catch it before it closes Jan. 14) you can see Churchill’s growth as an artist. He just gets better and better.
And you marvel..
At his art.
At his sculpture.
At his writing.
Not to mention his speaking and his amazing mind.
It makes you wonder—do people like him still exist?
Where are the giants? Where are the leaders?
As we walked to the car– having spent the past two days or so being bombarded with what sadly has become a steady drumbeat of political claptrap in our society– we briefly discussed why many (maybe most) of our best and brightest shun political office.
And we are not just talking about president or prime minister, senator or governor. Lots of good people are avoiding running for local office too.
Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t superstars who run or serve—there are.
But not enough.
And if we’re honest, we know why.
While politics has never been genteel, civil, nice or easy it just feels particularly nasty, unusually small and extra frustrating these days.
It’s the inability to compromise, the competing sets of “facts”, the ridiculous trolls running their mouths on social media (often devoid of facts, empathy, context, respect or personal experience). It’s overwhelming.
Winston Churchill would have related to today’s ennui.
He once said about politics: “In war, you can only be killed once. But in politics many times.”
And yet..we need the Winston Churchill’s to do what they do.
Lead us. Inspire us. Save us from despots and fascists. And yes..paint.  So that we can marvel at their genius.
So that we can remember that having adults in our midst makes all the difference…

Things We Love: December Edition

Things we loved in December

December was a blur for many of us. But we didn’t want to let the month pass without pointing out some gems.

We enjoyed a great dinner with close friends at Fries to Caviar in Boca. The intimate spot which features a nice bar, great outdoor space and a varied menu has a sister restaurant in Delray, the excellent Jimmy’s Bistro. We highly recommend both places.

Speaking of great meals, we had a terrific “wine” dinner at Caffe Luna Rosa in December with special guest Max Weinberg of the legendary E Street Band. For me, that’s like having dinner with a Beatle.
I mention this because Max is playing a benefit show at the Arts Garage February 17.
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox has been playing several venues to big crowds and rave reviews. If you love great music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, don’t miss this show. And it benefits a great cause —our Arts Garage.

If you haven’t been to Beer Trade Company you really should give it a try.
This cool little spot on 4th Avenue is a nice locals spot with a vast array of craft beers and cider and the world’s best risotto balls.
There’s a companion location in Boca as well.

December is typically a philanthropic month with successful toy drives, food drives, and last minute charitable donations.
Those who organize and contribute to these efforts deserve our thanks.
Still, let’s try and remember that the immense needs of our community don’t disappear in January. If you are in a position to help, you are needed. It feels good to pay our civic rent.

Finally, we truly enjoyed December and it was gratifying to see Delray and Boca abuzz with people.
We shouldn’t take it for granted. Yes, finding a parking space is a little challenging, but you know what the alternative is; empty streets, vacant stores and not much to do.
We are truly blessed.

We didn’t have a chance to do a year end list but this was the year I put down the phone long enough to start reading books (actual physical books again) and it was great.
I’ve been a lifelong voracious reader: books, magazines, newspapers and later blogs.
But somewhere along the way, books fell by the wayside. This despite having written my own book. I was embarrassed. And I made a conscious effort to get back to reading books.
The effort was worth it. First, I figured out that I had the attention span to finish a book, something that I had begun to doubt.

I really believe that the barrage of media and content coming at us has compromised our ability to focus—at least it has impacted my attention span. But I’m happy to report that with a concentrated effort it’s possible to overcome.
So here’s a list of my 10 favorite books of 2017. In no particular order.
1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. Ferris is a best selling author, successful blogger and popular podcaster. Tools is a huge compilation of his podcast interviews and he has talked to a who’s who from every conceivable walk of life. The book is a collection of valuable advice from world class performers.
2. Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris. Tribe is a great companion piece to Tools of Titans featuring more interviews with amazing people who answer questions about their favorite books (Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a favorite of many), failures and best practices. The big reveal: it seems like nearly everyone who performs at a peak level is meditating.
3. What I found in a Thousand Towns by Dar Williams. We blogged about this book a few months ago. Williams is a folk singer who has travelled the country and has managed to get out of her hotel room to study the cities she plays in. Her insights are spot on and her writing is sublime. She knows what makes towns work. A great primer for those who love cities.
4. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss’ autobiography is a delight. Beautifully written, bravely revealing and always entertaining this fan came away with even more love and respect for this musical legend.
5. The New Brooklyn by Kay Hymowitz. I’m not from Brooklyn nor have I been lucky enough to live there. But my grandparents, aunt and cousin lived there and I spent a lot of time in the borough in the 70s and 80s. So I have been curious about Brooklyn’s history and how it became synonymous with cool. This book answered those questions. A great read.
6. Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon. This charming book focuses on several neighborhoods in places as varied as Philadelphia and small town Vermont. It focuses on walkability and community building and the towns that get it right. It made me want to visit Brattleboro, Vt. But not in the wintertime.
7. The Content Trap by Bharat Anand. May be the most insightful business book I’ve read in recent memory. A blurb can’t do it justice but let’s just say the book provides answers for businesses that care about not being disrupted into oblivion.
8. Hooked by Nir Eyal. A sobering look at how technology hooks us.
9. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. A terrific book that examines what it takes to create work and art that lasts.
10. The Amazing City by James Hunt. I bought this book after seeing Mr. Hunt speak at a League of Cities luncheon. A former president of the National League of Cities and former City Councilman in a small West Virginia town, Hunt’s book explores the elements that cities need to succeed. It’s a good list. We will share in a future blog.
Tied  for #10. Principles by Ray Dalio. This book (more like a tome) outlines the principles that Dalio used to build Bridgewater Associates into the world’s largest hedge fund. He believes in radical transparency and it worked for Bridgewater—spectacularly. An interesting book that also addresses life.

The Arts Warehouse, Empty Bowls & Public Service

A display at the new Arts Warehouse in downtown Delray.

We attended the long awaited soft opening of the new Arts Warehouse Friday night.

It was worth the wait.

Kudos to the CRA for having the vision—and the fortitude—to stick with this project near Third Avenue and Third Street in the burgeoning Artist’s Alley area of Pineapple Grove.

The addition of the Arts Warehouse which has gallery space, public space and artist’s studios will enable artists to build their skills and their clientele in a low-cost environment in a high value part of town.

Those of us who remember Pineapple Grove founder Norm Radin will remember that the original vision of the district was to be an artsy complement to Atlantic Avenue.

With Old School Square, the Arts Garage and now the Arts Warehouse, Delray Beach is rapidly building an arts and cultural scene that will keep the city relevant and interesting to residents, visitors and creatives.

The CRA’s investment in the old warehouse and its imaginative design (great job Currie-Sowards-Aguila Architects) will pay dividends for years to come.

We ran into one of my favorite local artists the wonderfully talented Ralph Papa who was beaming with excitement. Mr. Papa says it’s critical for artists to have low cost space to grow their talent and that the lack of such space often stunts or even stops artists from developing their artistic vision.

It was also gratifying to see fans and patrons of the Arts Garage and key staff and board members from Old School Square at the opening. Their presence shows support and the potential for collaboration which only leverages each organization and the city as a whole.

The CRA often endures blistering criticism for their investments—much of it way off the mark although no agency is perfect. The fact is the true mark of a good investment is whether there is a return on that investment—in terms of tax base, business activity, vibrancy and quality of life.

Time and time again for three plus decades, the CRA has consistently delivered.

My bet is that the Arts Warehouse will prove to be a solid investment yielding dividends for years to come in a myriad of ways.

When you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to check it out.

 

Empty Bowls

I had the privilege to serve soup (delicious black bean from Cabana El Rey) Sunday afternoon at “Empty Bowls Delray Beach”.

This is the second year for this unique event at Old School Square at which we “eat simply so others can simply eat.”

 

When you think of Palm Beach County, we mainly think of our gorgeous weather, many activities and prosperity. But, even here in our beautiful county, more than 200,000 residents don’t know where they will get their next meal. Last year this event raised more than $100,000 for hungry Palm Beach residents served through the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

Not sure how they did this year, but the event seemed well attended. Kudos to the volunteers and especially Shelly and Billy Himmelrich—two amazing people—who helped to organize and promote the event.

 

The Food Bank provides food to more than 110 food pantries, soup kitchens and residential programs who serve our neighbors in need. They also provide weekend feeding packs for children (Food4OurKids), nutrition education in partnership with the University of Florida (Nutrition Driven) and connect residents with federal programs through Benefits Outreach. Each month, the Food Bank’s partner agencies serve more than 100,000 individuals across the county and annually they distribute more than 5 million pounds of food.

Those are astonishing numbers.

 

But despite the yeoman’s work of the Food Bank, the need remains great.

And particularly this time of year, when we are focused on family, fellowship and celebrations, it’s a perfect time to give back and to think of others less fortunate.

The need is year-round and unfortunately growing. Yes, there is hunger in our own backyard.

Here’s a list of the generous sponsors—- and to the chef who made the artichoke soup—well let’s just say words can’t describe how good it tastes.

Empty Bowls Delray Beach sponsors: Old School Square, Old School Bakery, Elmore Family Foundation, Patty & Rod Jones, Pechter Family Foundation, Under the Sun, Brenda Medore & Leanne Adair, Bethesda Hospital Foundation, Katherine and Joshua Littlefield, Jeffrey Pechter, Deborah and Michael Pucillo, Transforming Kids, American Heritage school, Michele and Randy Broda, Caffe Luna Rosa, Cheney Brothers, City Capital Group, Menin, Coco & Co, Delivery Dudes, Delray Beach plastic Surgery, Floridian Community Bank, peacelovesolve, Red Steel Property and Stuart & Shelby Development, Inc.

 

Our trip to the Glades….

Every year, the Palm Beach County League of Cities hosts its year-end meeting at a beautiful waterfront park in Belle Glade.

The event collects toys for needy children and also serves as a reunion for municipal leaders from throughout the county. County officials and state legislators also gravitate to the event for a fun afternoon of food, home grown vegetables and networking.

I like to go every year because it keeps me connected to city government. So while I have been termed out for a decade now (hold your applause), I still feel a kinship with local elected officials and staff. I also know quite a few from my era who are still serving (bless their souls) and it is fun to catch up and trade stories. (It was nice to see you, Chevelle).

We have such a vast county—which you realize when you make the long trek to the Glades.

It’s also a diverse county—with bigger cities such as West Palm and wealthy towns such as Palm Beach, sharing common challenges with smaller cities such as South Bay and Pahokee.

The League of Cities is an important organization because it’s a convener, a connector and a fierce advocate for the principles of Home Rule and the needs and interests of cities.

As the government closest to the people, local cities and towns have the ability to be nimble and affect positive change rapidly…if they are focused, determined and willing to stand up against the naysayers who exist in every town.

There’s not a lot of glory in local government service, but there could be immense satisfaction and opportunity if local leaders engage stakeholders, forge a vision and most important of all, execute.

You have to make decisions and get things done.

It’s that simple….if you choose to take advantage of the huge opportunity presented by public service.

 

Things We Love: November Edition

Fifth Avenue Grill’s holiday decorations are a Delray tradition.

Things we liked/loved in November…

Thanksgiving at Fifth Avenue Grill—great food, unmatchable holiday decorations and terrific service add up to a great experience. While we prefer staying home for the holidays, with kids spread out and other family traveling, we decided to go out. We had a memorable time.

The Cornerman Bar—Have you seen the Delray Boxing Gym? It’s incredibly cool. On the other side of the glass you can sit at a great bar and watch the action and be served by the amazing Marit Fitzpatrick. You can also enjoy Copperpoint beer and other libations and dream of hoisting your own championship belt. A very unique concept. Only in Delray as they say.

Breakfast gatherings at Ellie’s 50s Diner. Bob Smela and his lovely wife were pioneers on the North Federal Highway corridor more than two decades ago. Today, they and their great team are still thriving serving great breakfasts, awesome lunches and great dinners at fair prices. When I can, I like to go on Friday mornings when I’m sure to run into some great Delray people. Topics range from politics and business to family and our aches and pains. Count me grateful to have people to share with.

Old School Bakery—Billy Himmelrich and his team bake the best bread imaginable at a terrific facility on Congress Avenue in Delray Beach. When you visit, you’ll be taken by the great aroma of bread baking. Warning: the bread can be addictive.

The new Cornell Museum—thanks to a generous gift by the Blume’s—two wonderful people—the Cornell Museum has been re-imagined and it’s truly incredible. Don’t take my word for it—visit the new museum at Old School Square. You will be impressed. We guarantee it.

 Dinner at Café Martier—We love the historic ambience of this Atlantic Avenue gem. Great signature cocktails, an interesting menu and a choice between dining in a really historic restaurant or a very hip breezeway. It adds up to a winning experience. We recommend the falafel appetizer and the hummus is out of this world.

The Walk to Cure Arthritis—Ok the event is actually in December (Dec. 2 to be exact) at John Prince Park but we wanted to alert you because there is still time to be a sponsor and support the Arthritis Foundation. It’s a great cause and a great organization. Visit www.walktocurearthritis.org/palmbeach for more information and to get involved.

The Blackberry Cider at Saltwater Brewery—Ok, so most of you don’t go to a brewery to taste the cider, but we did and we loved it.

Deli On Rye—If you are looking for a p lace that can quickly whip up a great sandwich on those days when you are on the run, look no further than Deli on Rye on U.S. 1 in Boca. The friendly staff is lightning fast and the food is always good.

Special shout out to our good friend Chuck Halberg of Stuart and Shelby Development for his crowdfunding efforts that made sure our public safety personnel had good food and cheer on Thanksgiving. We are proud to support Chuck’s efforts, which are always heart felt and generous. Also, a shout out to Kate Volman and Ryan Boylston co-hosts/creators of Delray Morning Live. The Facebook show (which has a large and growing following/buzz) recently marked its one year anniversary. It’s a great forum to showcase community events, news, non-profits and people doing good things for Delray. Check it out on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 on Facebook’s Better Delray page. The show is archived so you can watch it at your leisure.

Have a great December!

 

Thankful…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’d like to offer a short list of what we’re thankful for in Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
This is by no means a complete list, just some things that are top of mind these days.

Wise Tribe -this Delray Beach based organization is quietly but effectively building community and asking provocative and important questions via a series of events and talks. We’re grateful for their passion and willingness to convene.

Boca Bowl– Isn’t it cool that we have our very own Bowl game?

Boca’s Office of Economic Development—This very active office is crushing it. Just check out their social media feed. Always positive, always newsworthy and always announcing lots of jobs and partnerships with local companies and CEOs.

The holiday display at 5th Avenue Grill–Simply magnificent and a great Delray tradition. GM Glenn “Zippy” Fiedler and his staff do an amazing job.  Make sure to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Delray’s downtown seasonal festivities– Lots of hard work goes into making Delray a holiday hot spot. We appreciate it. So do tens of thousands of visitors and residents.

Community Greening—this nonprofit has a simple but profound mission: plant trees in Delray and educate people about the benefits. If you want to see how this works up close head to Knowles Park on November 25 from 9 am to noon to help the group plant trees. You’ll have fun and they’ll give you pizza.
Sounds like a deal.

Creative Mornings —At the risk of being sappy, we just love the positive energy and smart conversation. This month’s meeting at Saltwater Brewery was lots of fun and an eye opener about the health of our oceans and planet.  They have built something very special at Creative Mornings. Very very special.

Delray Art League–This community institution is a local treasure. Not only do they produce wonderful works of art, but they support young artists with scholarships. You can catch this amazing group during its next Artists in the Park outing Dec. 2 at Veterans Park. You won’t be disappointed and the artists are also very nice.
Happy Thanksgiving!

The Power of Saying Yes

Peter Kageyama preaches the virtues of loving your city.

The talk could have been titled: “Just Say Yes.”

“Or for goodness sakes….relax and experiment.”

We’re talking about author/speaker Peter Kageyama’s keynote at last week’s “Community Conversation” at Old School Square convened by the Delray Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Kageyama is the author of “For the Love of Cities” among other books and pieces that encourage people to fall in love with their city and experiment. The St. Pete resident is a dynamic speaker who shows real world examples of how cities from Auckland to Anchorage and Grand Rapids to Greenville, S.C. have benefitted from “co-creatives”—people who move forward with ideas and projects that help you fall in love or stay in love with their cities.

Most of the projects are small—some are bold and some are simple and they can range in cost from $20 to a whole lot more—but the end result is often surprise and delight.

Kageyama believes cities should be fun places that encourage experiments and pop-up experiences—even if you have to break a few rules along the way.

Examples ranged from a lip dub version of “American Pie” in Grand Rapids that garnered 5 million views on YouTube to a $1,200 project in Greenville, S.C. that placed statues of brass mice in fun places downtown. It may sound silly—and it is—but the message is that’s Ok, cities should be fun.

But these projects also create value—Grand Rapids’ version of the Don McLean classic was in response to a report that the city was dying (Get it: “the day the music died”) and stirred hundreds of citizens to show the world that their city was alive and had pride. The statues of cute little mice in Greenville is an endless source of fun for visitors and locals alike and even led to a children’s book.

From murals and dog parks to public art and drum circles—cities that have personality win our hearts, minds and wallets.

And when you fall in love—you tend to commit, volunteer, invest, interact and put down roots. It’s community building and in a polarized world full of all sorts of sad and calamitous stuff these little “endearments” make a huge difference.

The cities that are fun will win and the cities that are boring will lose.

This debate has been simmering in Delray for a few years so Mr. Kageyama’s presentation was both timely and relevant. While Delray was named “America’s Most Fun City” there’s been a lot of hand wringing over festivals, parades, parks, 100-foot trees, tennis tournaments etc.

We hear about “full cost recovery” and the burdens that some of this stuff place on city budgets, staffing etc.

But we never really talk about the value of these types of activities or the cost of being boring.

Kageyama started his presentation with a pyramid giving a hierarchies of elements cities strive to deliver.

At the base is functionality and safety: cities need to function (permits, toilets flushing, roads in good shape etc.) and they need to be safe. The next level is the ability of a city to be comfortable: are there places to sit, is their shade, is our downtown walkable, can we ride a bike without being killed etc.)?

The next rung is conviviality—are we nice to each other? Is our public discourse toxic or civil?

The top of the pyramid is fun. Do we enjoy living here? Do we enjoy each other as neighbors? Does our city create opportunities for us to connect?

A local panel consisting of our Downtown Development Authority Director, Old School Square President, West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition Director, Chamber President and the head our Marketing Cooperative talked about the need to work collaboratively—which is the true definition of an All America City.

There was a palpable sense in the room—and I see and hear this in my travels around town—that Delray is tired of dysfunction, infighting, divisiveness and a lack of progress on key initiatives ranging from ideas to help South Federal Highway to enacting the hard work of the Congress Avenue Task Force. (Disclosure: I chaired the task force, it’s no fun to see the hard work of dozens of volunteers gather dust on a shelf).

But it’s not just the big ideas and vision that is lagging—it’s the small stuff too. The sense that city staff has been stifled, that talent is frustrated and that we are at risk of losing the creative spirit and sense of community that distinguished Delray.

Interim Chamber President Vin Nolan—an economic development professional—said it best when he said in cities “you are never done” and if you think you are then.. you really are done.

Rob Steele of Old School Square senses a desire to take Delray to a new level of creativity and inclusiveness. He’s right.

You can have progress, job creation, opportunities and fun without breaking the bank or losing your uniqueness and charm. Nobody said it was easy. But enlightened leadership welcomes ideas—isn’t afraid to experiment and looks for ways to engage citizens. Kageyama mentioned the Delray Affair—our city’s signature event, both historic and important.

Why not have a series of events that encourages us to have an affair with our city?

Why don’t we invite people to fall in love with Delray?

We can fix leaky pipes, collect parking fines and fill potholes—that’s the functional part and it’s important. But we can have fun too.

I think we’re ready.

Check that, I know we are.

 

10 Things We Liked About October

 

Matthew Farmer serenaded Lifetime Achievement Award winner Frances Bourque and hearts swooned.

10 Things we liked in October.
1. Bat Mitzvahs. Especially Bat Mitzvahs at Boca Pointe. Especially Bat Mitzvahs that include blackberry mojitos and chocolate fountains. Oh and a great young woman and great people too. That we love.
2. Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” in Pittsburgh. We know lots of Pittsburghers in Delray and Boca and we like them all.
3. The Matzo Ball soup at Deli On Rye in Boca.
4. Sitting at the bar for lunch at the Gazebo in Boca, a local classic. Elegant and delicious.
5. Frances Bourque being recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delray Chamber. The founder of Old School Square is quite simply a local heroine. She made it all possible.
6. We loved seeing good guy Pedro Andrade recognized by the Chamber as Business Person of Year. The GM of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is terrific. Period.
7. Congrats to the Conde Center for Chiropractic Neurology for also winning an award from the Chamber for their business success and growth. Founder Dr. John Conde also finds time to give back.
8. Margaret and Robert Blume stepping up to lead the effort to rethink the Cornell Museum at Old School Square.
9. The pork chops at 5th Avenue Grill. We knew they had great steaks, but the pork chops are magnificent as well.
10. Believe it or not– but I’m told by a well known deli maven that Caffe Luna Rosa serves a great pastrami sandwich. Maybe the best.
See you in November a month devoted to giving thanks.