“A Christmas Carol”

Fox 10 weatherman McCloskey brings Scrooge to life

Published in SanTan Sun News Dec. 6, 2014 issue

For years, Cory McCloskey dreamt of playing Ebenezer Scrooge, but he never believed he looked old enough to pull it off.

Despite that, the popular Fox 10 Arizona Morning weatherman decided to audition for the role in “A Christmas Carol” at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. He figured he would try out and leave the rest up to theater staff. Apparently, they believed in him. He serves in the role in the “red” cast, while the “green” group features Mark Kleinman as Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol“I think people who know me from television will be shocked at how disgusting I look in this role,” McCloskey says.

“A Christmas Carol” runs Monday through Saturday until Wednesday, Dec. 24, at the Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert. There are 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances, as well as matinees at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays.

Tickets range from $20 to $36 and can be purchased by visiting www. HaleTheatreArizona.com.

“This has been a thrill and a half for me because I really haven’t thrown myself into a complete role in a show in 25 years,” McCloskey says. “I’m enjoying this so much.”

The role of Scrooge is nonstop. He has to have the “pedal to the floor from scene one to the curtain because Scrooge is on the stage every scene whether he is speaking or not,” McCloskey explains.

He enjoys playing the character because Scrooge evolves from being unpleasant to generous.

“The journey is rather grinding for him and for an actor, too,” McCloskey says.

His favorite moment in the play is when Scrooge sees himself as a young man in love. McCloskey describes the scene as heart-wrenching and powerful.

“I love doing it,” he says of the scene. “It still hits me very hard every time.”

McCloskey explains “A Christmas Carol” is a special production because of the many magical moments.

The musical version of Dickens’ classic is full of special effects, stunning costumes, talented singers, dancers and actors.

“It is going to be an exciting show to see,” he says.

McCloskey recounts his journey of acting as that of a typical high school kid growing up in a small Pennsylvania town. After discovering he enjoyed musicals, he performed in his first community theater production of “Camelot” in his 20s.

“I was spotted there by a director of another theater, a dinner theater,” he explains. “She approached me and told me they needed a young man of my type for a few shows for their upcoming season. (She asked) would I be interested in coming on board and she said we would pay.”

That was a selling point for McCloskey. When he moved to Philadelphia, he was referred to a modeling agency, which led to an eight-year career.

“It was a city in the 1980s that had a few large, family-owned department stores that had enough work to keep a few men pretty busy,” he explains.

During that time, he traveled to New York  to audition for commercials and films.

“I had some moderate success,” McCloskey says. “I had a small role on a soap opera ‘Another World’ and sang some jingles.”

He also toured with a company that did children’s productions, all the while earning his Actors Equity Association card. Soon, his inspiration changed.

“We were sitting in the living room one night watching the evening news in Philadelphia and the weatherman came on,” he says. “I remember saying, ‘You know honey, I think I can do that job.’ The way (wife) Mary Jane is, she said, ‘Well call him up and see how he got his job.’”

The initial conversation with Philadelphia WPVI Channel 6 weatherman Dave Roberts turned into career move.

The couple moved to Illinois where McCloskey landed a part-time job, for which he learned how to work the camera. He then moved on to weatherman. He relocated to Arizona and has been a popular weatherman at Fox 10 Arizona for 13 years.

“The acting was just the best preparation, at least for me, for that job,” he says.

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced Rum

Southwest Florida’s only distillery sets up shop in Cape Coral; tours available

Published in South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles February 2014

A Cape Coral distillery has created quite a following from individuals who enjoy savoring a rum created with all Florida ingredients.

Wicked Dolphin Florida Spiced Rum Owner JoAnn Elardo said, after traveling back and forth from New York to Florida, the idea of starting a distilling company took hold.  Many of her friends always asked her to bring something back from Florida, which usually meant oranges or perhaps a key lime pie.

“We thought this was a perfect thing,” she said of Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum, which uses all Florida ingredients. Elardo said now people are returning home with rum when they leave Florida, rather than just the proverbial citrus.

She said it took a long time to acquire the Cape Coral location and build a distilling facility. Cape Spirits Inc. is located at 131 SW 3rd Place, near the Kohl’s plaza on Pine Island Road.

“We fired up the still in 2012,” she said, adding that they came out with their first batch in July 2013. “We took some time, perfected it,made rum and put them into barrels.”

A true family-like atmosphere, the company employes 10 staff members.

“It’s a family business, we want to keep it that way,” Elardo said. “We want to keep that look of a family business.”

Shortly after Elardo opened the business, she began looking into a Florida law that eliminated the opportunity to sell products from a distillery.

“We started here in 2012 and as we were cooking and making our rum, people were knocking on our doors asking for a tour,” she said. “I said we had to do something about this.”

A guild was formed after Elardo got in touch with an individual in St. Augustine to try and get a bill passed to allow sales at a distillery. That bill was Florida HB 347, which allows craft distilleries to sell to customers two bottles of spirits at the distillery.

“It is a start and it helps us generate some income to hire enough help to cover the tours,” Elardo said. “It has worked well for us in helping market our Wicked Dolphin Rum.”

Because of that bill, Elardo can now offer free tours at her Cape Coral facility, as well as set up tastings. A retail store is also offered on premises that sells everything from small barrels to glasses and apparel.

The hour-long tours and tastings are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, on the hour between 1 and 4 p.m. The tour takes individuals through the entire facility while showcasing how Elardo and her staff makes Wicked Dolphin Rum, from start to finish. The tour provides a glimpse into the barrel room to show individuals how they are made and what it looks like inside. The bottling line is also showcased during the tour.

Elardo said they have volunteers who come in and bottle the rum, which ranges from two to three times a month. The volunteers show interest by emailing the company.

“The first 20 people come in and they get a free bottle of what we have done that day,” she said, adding that they have pizza on hand for the fun day of bottling and labeling.

She mentioned sometimes individuals have an opportunity to taste rum right out of the still during the tour.

“We started out doing tours with maybe 30 a day,” she said, adding that now they have about 100 people on each tour. “We get buses as far away as Boca Raton.”

The rum is made from products solely from Florida. Elardo said since 50 percent of the sugar cane grown in the U. S. is grown right here in Florida, they are using local sugar cane farmers to make their product.  They also use Florida oranges, various spices found in the Sunshine State and honey from Lehigh Acres.

“We have one of the best rums, nationally award-winning rums,” Elardo said.

The first rum, the Wicked Dolphin Silver Rum, which received a gold medal from the annual Miami Rum Festival and an award from the American Distillers Best in Category for white rum, is a premium silver spirit. Elardo said the white rum is made with 100 percent Florida sugar cane and distilled in small batches, barrel-aged to give the concoction a creamy vanilla flavor.

The second rum, Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum, is referred to as “Wicked Coke.” The spiced rum includes notes of Florida oranges and honey, with a warm vanilla undertone and a spicy finish.

“Age rum is added to the blend for a smooth and mature taste,” Elardo said.

The company goes beyond just a good-flavored concoction. The most detailed thoughts and considerations even went into the bottle design. It’s narrow at the bottom so women can hold it with one hand, and the logo is embossed on the side, curved at the top for easy grabbing by bartenders.

The company plans on announcing another blend within the next month or so, she said.

If you can’t make it on a tour for a while, individuals can purchase the spirits at Publix, ABC Liquors, Total Wines, some smaller package stores and most local bars and restaurants.

“We are in over 800 locations throughout Florida,” Elardo boasted. “We are becoming known as Florida’s rum because we are strictly using Florida ingredients.”

She said becoming a part of the community has been the best part about opening the distillery in Cape Coral.

“We are having a lot of fun with the people of Cape Coral,” Elardo said. “I love Cape Coral; that is why I am here.”

For more information on Wicked Dolphin Rum or to schedule a tour call 239-242-5244 or visitwickeddolphin.com.

‘I felt like a princess’

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to Megan about her trip to New York, a trip she won through a contest. I enjoyed talking to her as her excitement grew as she explained her experiences while in New York with her family.

Local student rings in 2014 with dream trip

Published in Herald & Tribune Jan. 14, 2014 issue

A flyer, which was spotted in a “Seventeen” magazine, won one Jonesborough resident a trip to New York with her family.

“I can’t believe I actually won. It’s still crazy to think about,” said Megan Cottage, 19.

Megan Cottage, 19.  Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

Megan Cottage, 19.
Photo Credit Charlie Mauk.

The flyer’s instructions were to text a certain number if you wanted to win a trip to New York for the “Best New Year’s Ever” contest through Aeropostale.So, not thinking anything of it, she sent that text and eventually received a call from New York.“But I didn’t answer it, because I don’t answer numbers I don’t know,” Cottage said.

Her phone continued to ring numerous times before a message was left instructing her to claim her prize before the next day.

Cottage called her dad and asked “Can this be true? Do you think they are scamming me?” Her father told her to call the woman who left the message.

Cottage provided her name, age, email address and the names of two people she would want to bring with her to New York when she returned the phone call.

“I waited a couple of days,” Cottage said. “Finally they emailed me, ‘You won.’ ”

Megan Cottage and chauffeur

Megan Cottage with the chauffeur that greeted her at the airport. She provided the photograph.

Cottage, along with her brother, mother and father, traveled to New York from Dec. 30 until Jan. 2. She said the contest paid for three airfare tickets, a hotel in Times Square, $150 for food every day and a $500 gift card to Aeropostle.“It was amazing,” Cottage said. “New York at Christmas is beautiful.”A highlight of the trip was when they arrived in New York.

“Probably one of the coolest things was a chauffeur holding up my name when we got to the airport,” she said. “I felt like a princess.”

Once they arrived at their hotel, there was an assortment of items in a goodie bag from Aeropostale waiting for her.

Since they were staying in Times Square, the family walked everywhere over the few days they were there.

They spent the first half of New Year’s Eve shopping and the latter half watching the ball drop in Times Square.

“New Year’s Eve is my dad’s birthday,” she said, adding that he was a real trooper and shopped with them before eating at a cafe.

With Christmas just passing, Cottage said she had received almost everything she needed, so she only spent $100 of her gift card at Aerpostale in Times Square.

With the cold temperatures, Cottage said they arrived for the New Years countdown in Times Square after 9 p.m., instead of noon like many others, to watch the ball drop.

“We stood there for two hours,” she said. “We got to see the ball drop and see the fireworks from Central Park.”

Cottage said the experience of being in New York on New Year’s Eve is much better than watching it on television. It’s an experience, she said, she will never forget.

“Millions of people are all counting down at the same time,” she recalled, adding that everyone was waiting for the countdown to begin because of the freezing temperatures. “The streets were covered in confetti; it was still dropping two days later.”

The family also went to the Statue of Liberty, the 911 memorial, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and they stood under the tree at Rockefeller Center.

“The tree is amazing; no picture does it justice,” Cottage said.

The trip also provided Cottage with the opportunity for quite a few firsts.

Megan Cottage saw the Statue of Liberty during her trip. She provided the photograph.

Megan Cottage saw the Statue of Liberty during her trip. She provided the photograph.

“We did take the subway to Liberty Island, and that was fun,” she said, adding that it provided a completely different atmosphere because they rode with residents of the city.Cottage said they also went to the Today Show.“Our signs made it on TV,” she said.

Cottage, a 2012 graduate of David Crockett High School, was born and raised in Jonesborough. Now a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, she is majoring in public relations and advertising with a minor in photography.

“I live on campus and have that freedom of getting out on my own,” Cottage said.

Although she visited many campuses, she fell in love with the beauty of ETSU and the close proximity to her parents.

She is also a sorority sister of Alpha Delta Phi.

“We do community service, and I meet some great people,” Cottage said.

Something that has stuck out for the college student is how everyone has supported and rallied behind her roommate from last year when she was diagnosed with leukemia.

“I’m in a sorority and I love it. It’s a perfect fit for me,” she said.