Connect with us


Tampa Bay elected officials share their Thanksgiving traditions and favorites

There’s even some family gaffes.

As Americans nationwide prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Thursday, elected officials across the Tampa Bay region are preparing to take some time for themselves, too.

Florida Politics reached out to several elected officials in the region to see how they plan to spend the holiday, hear any family anecdotes or find out if they have any wild Thanksgiving menus.

Here’s how they responded.

Lobbyist Ana Cruz on dinner with her mother, Sen. Janet Cruz — “At mom’s we Thanksgiving karaoke — where family and friends come to mom’s for dessert and karaoke after they have gone to their respective family dinners. It’s hysterical. One year it got into the 50s. Mom had an outdoor fire pit, but no wood. So we scavenged the garage for anything we could use as firewood and ended up finding wood tw0-by-ones from old campaign signs!”

Sen. Ed Hooper — “All the traditional stuff. Turkey, all the fixings, football and leftovers. Sounds boring but I love the whole day. NO SHOPPING for me.”

Rep. Jennifer Webb — “We visit Cynthia’s family in East Texas each year. They retired to their former hunting camp, where we eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal, target shoot (we compete in the annual, memorial Golden Turkey Shoot Out), and feed the deer. The rest of the weekend we spend lounging around reading histories and novels, watching movies and having great conversation long into the night. Oh, and we also engage in the obligatory political debate with our Elbert each visit. He is a far-right intellectual octogenarian family member, born and raised in Texas, who loves us as much as he disagrees with us politically.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor — “We have a very large blended family and welcome any and all to our holiday celebrations, which means dinner for 20-30 friends and family. Everyone says what they are thankful for prior to the blessing.”

“One funny story is my nephew Thomas, when he was young, was asked if he wanted more green beans and some of Grandma’s dressing. He said he would take some green beans but didn’t want any of Grandma’s clothes.”

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman — “Usually I take great pride in cooking the turkey each year, but this year we’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with St. Pete’s Second Time Arounders band in New York City.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long — “The highlights and traditions of our family rely on all coming together at ‘Granite’s house’ to be together and enjoy my great grandmother’s favorite recipes. Quiche and fruit for brunch, homemade stuffing cooked inside the turkey, homemade bread which I start kneading and allowing to rise the day before, special snacks prior to dinner and each one of us talking about the things we are most grateful for that have happened to us during the year. No phones, just talk around the table for hours!!!!!! Since I grew up in New England and my husband in North Carolina, we have interesting stories about our childhood memories, which our kids and grandkids never tire of hearing.”

St. Pete City Council member Ed Montanari — “The Montanari family gets together for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We will have over 20 family members at my brother’s home. Before the traditional dinner, we also have a ‘who can cook the best ribs contest.’ It is a small version of rib fest with the addition of a lot of trash talking about how others cheat to win the bragging rights of the winner.”

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice — “My mom, Janell, prepared an incredible oyster stuffing that stole the show. Green beans always have a nostalgic place at our table, since her father farmed and trucked green beans for over 35 years as a vegetable broker in FL and TN.

“Eve’s family is a musical family. A favorite tradition is to sing ‘Over the River’ and other songs usually at the end of the meal or before dessert. That tradition came from her grandmother, Rita, a talented accompanist, when family would sit around her piano to sing.”

St. Pete City Council member-elect Robert Blackmon — “Every year, we always have a large dinner for extended family and friends. It would sometimes be as large as nearly 20 people, with my mother, sister, and grandmothers all working together. I was typically relegated to potato peeling duty but took pride in my craft. As the years have gone on and my grandparents and others have passed away, we still do a family dinner but it is smaller. The highlights are mom’s pumpkin pie, my great grandmother’s stuffing recipe … and of course, spending time with loved ones and reflecting on what is truly important, and how blessed we all are.”

St. Pete City Council member-elect Deborah Figgs-Sanders — “Meals prepared by our family matriarchs (twins Bessie Camble & Lessie Stotts.) Began in 1970 combining families at my parent’s home. As the family grew, the location then began rotating. Large family & friend dinner that always begins with a family prayer @ 4P. Average attendance — 15-20 people. My favorite dishes are homemade dressing, cranberry sauce, chocolate cake, jelly cake. Favorite family games are Dominoes & Spades.”

Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson — “I remind my kids that the real first Thanksgiving was in Florida at St. Augustine. We need to make sure that Florida’s history is included in America’s history.”

Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers — “Ever since I can remember, the women in my family gathered the night before Thanksgiving to begin preparing the meal for the next day. My grandmother, the family matriarch, never measured anything … she just pinched a little here and poured a lot there. Everything had to be flavorful, cooked just right and made with love.

“Flowers takes special pride in her family’s dinner, which includes a Cajun turkey and traditional turkey, vanilla cornbread, collard greens, southern potato salad, the traditional fixins, peach and mango tea and her ‘famous’ five cheese macaroni and cheese.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.