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First Coast Connect

12/13/2017: NTSB El Faro Report; Legion Oratorical Contest; Alhambra 50th; Christmas At Congaree

El Faro hull underwater
The National Transportation Safety Board

Wednesday on First Coast Connect we discussed the report released Tuesday regarding the sinking of the El Faro with maritime attorney Rod Sullivan and WJCT reporter Ryan Benk (01:12).    

Yulee High School Speech and Debate Teacher Jan Vandelinder told us about the American Legion’s High School Oratorical Contest (26:40).  

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Alhambra Dinner Theatre. We spoke with CEO Craig Smith (34:01).

Scott Meyer from Congaree and Penn Farm told us about this weekend’s Christmas at Congaree (46:00).  

NTSB El Faro

The NTSB released its final report Tuesday on the sinking of the El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.

It’s providing some closure to dozens of grieving families across the First Coast who lost loved ones when the ship went down at sea.

The report places a great deal of blame on Captain Michael Davidson. The report says Davidson, who also died, did not heed warnings from crew members that they needed to change course to avoid the growing weather danger and the owners on the condition of the ship as it went to sea.   

American Legion’s Oratorical Contest

TheAmerican Legion'sHigh School Oratorical Contest is coming up in February but now is the time for students who are interested to start preparing.

It’s a chance for high school students around the region to develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution.

Over $138,000 in scholarships can be awarded each year. The overall national contest winner gets an $18,000 scholarship. Each state winner receives a $1,500 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship.

It’s a very challenging event. Students need to present an eight to 10 minute memorized speech on the U.S Constitution.

Alhambra 50th anniversary

He’s the man who literally brought the Alhambra Theatre back from the dead. Craig Smith rescued the Alhambra after it closed its doors briefly in 2009.

Smith and several new investors revamped the theatre with a new menu, new decor, and fresh new productions.

Ever since, the Alhambra has been packing them in. There are several shows in the works for next year including Little Shop of Horrors, Five Guys Named Moe, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? and 1776.    

Christmas at Congaree

You and your family can celebrate the season this weekend with Christmas at Congaree.

It’s your chance to visit theCongaree and Penn Farm and Mill, check our some amazing local artisans and food vendors, see Santa and even enjoy a sleigh ride.

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.