Drive a tank, shoot a flame thrower at Texas ranch

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 2:11 PM

A Sherman tank. (Photo: Randen Pederson/Flickr/Creative Commons) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Randen Pederson
A Sherman tank. (Photo: Randen Pederson/Flickr/Creative Commons) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/(Randen Pederson)

About two hours west of San Antonio, an 18,000-acre ranch offers a vacation getaway unlike any other.

A portion of the OX Hunting Ranch has been converted into a battlefield, a military buff’s fantasy camp, giving nearly anyone the chance to operate a tank, shoot a flame thrower or fire an artillery or other large gun at DriveTanks.com

"There's an element of ‘Yeah, let's shoot 'em up and have fun’ but I think even a bigger element is coming out and getting a feel for how these things operate -- the power, the majesty of these systems," owner Todd DeGidio told KTRK

The experience isn’t cheap. All-day tank packages can cost more than $8,000.

Prices range from $40 to fire a machine gun; $125 to fire a mortar to nearly $3,000 to operate a World War II-era Sherman tank, and fire its 76 mm main gun. 

DeGidio gives participants a run-through on the equipment and guides them through the courses, according to ABC News.

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The tanks seat up to five people, but there is only one operator. It takes about 15-20 minutes to maneuver through the course. If the tank’s gun is going to be fired, the course can take up to an hour to complete. 
Tanks and other tracked vehicles available include an American Sherman tank similar to the one Brad Pitt used in the movie “Fury,” a Russian T-34 tank that saw duty on the Eastern Front in 1945 during World War II and a German Kettenkrad tracked motorcycle that was captured in Belgium in 1944.

There is no age limit. Owners leave that up to the discretion of parents. They have had children as young as 8 shoot and as young as 12 operate a tank. 

“We see everyone from single moms bringing their kids for their birthday to the top 1 percent income earners,” DeGidio told the Houston Chronicle. “This allows our demographic to open up to virtually everyone, and we are very happy to have been able to do that.”

He said one group could not get enough and spent $30,000 for the day.

“That’s everything we had and shooting everything we had,” DeGidio told ABC News. “It was even hard for us to keep up with them.”

DeGidio, a former Houston police officer and Green Beret, opened the immersive experience in 2016. 

"I think it's important for us to keep this part of our history alive," DeGidio told KTRK.

Shutdown nixes Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago; party goes on with son Eric headlining

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 10:49 PM

Despite President Donald Trump deciding not to travel to Palm Beach on Saturday, January 20, 2018 due to the government shutdown, supporters and protesters stood near Mar-a-Lago. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)
Despite President Donald Trump deciding not to travel to Palm Beach on Saturday, January 20, 2018 due to the government shutdown, supporters and protesters stood near Mar-a-Lago. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)

The federal government shutdown led President Donald Trump to cancel plans to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office at a $100,000-per-couple fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.

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As of Saturday evening, the fundraiser was still set to go on with presidential son Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel as headliners. About 100 donors were expected Saturday night, with their contributions going to the RNC and Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Eric and Lara Trump and McDaniel also spoke to about 100 local Republican activists in West Palm Beach on Saturday morning, urging them to work to preserve the GOP’s imperiled majorities in the House and Senate.

“We’re very, very lucky that we have majorities in the House and Senate. I mean, we’re very, very, very lucky. But let’s not take that for granted as a party because honestly, 2018 will be as important as ever,” Eric Trump told the Republican group at the West Palm Beach Marriott. “His great work is hugely, hugely impeded if we lose that and I’m going to fight every single day between now and those elections to make sure that those majorities are stronger than ever.”

President Trump had planned to visit Mar-a-Lago on Friday for the 12th time since taking office. But he remained in Washington as congressional Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a spending agreement to keep the government running past midnight.

After Friday’s cancellation, the White House left open the possibility of a Trump trip to Palm Beach on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory for an arrival after 2 p.m. Saturday, but rescinded it by mid-afternoon. The latest FAA notification indicated no presidential travel planned to Palm Beach County this weekend.

“No plans to go to Florida while there is a shutdown,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email Saturday morning.

Brian Ballard, the Tallahassee lobbyist who was Florida finance chairman for Trump’s 2016 campaign, came to Palm Beach for Saturday’s event and said he understood the president’s choice to remain in Washington.

“I think it was the right decision. I haven’t talked to anyone that’s down here for the event that doesn’t agree,” Ballard said. “We’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary sometime soon.”

Trump supporters, who regularly gather near Southern Boulevard and Flagler Drive to cheer the president’s motorcade as it passes, showed up in Trump’s absence, numbering about 25 at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s the one-year anniversary of President Trump and the mainstream media is ignoring all of his accomplishments. All they want to talk about is the government shutdown over DACA and illegal immigration,” said Lamarre Notargiacomo of Vero Beach, who held an “Eliminate Sanctuary Cities” sign.

Most Senate Democrats voted against a spending bill to keep the government running for four weeks because the legislation did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation about 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors by their parents.

Another group of Trump supporters gathered a few blocks away near the garishly decorated “Trumpmobile” and other vehicles adorned with pro-Trump messages. That group left for Palm Beach to drive by an anti-Trump demonstration that police said drew 600 to 700 protesters.

Staff writer Chelsea Todaro contributed to this story.

Jim Rodford, bassist for The Kinks, dead at 76

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 7:17 PM

INDIO, CA - APRIL 28:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Musician Jim Rodford of The Zombies performs on the Palomino stage during day 1 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 28, 2017 in Indio, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)
Frazer Harrison
INDIO, CA - APRIL 28: (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Musician Jim Rodford of The Zombies performs on the Palomino stage during day 1 of 2017 Stagecoach California's Country Music Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 28, 2017 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach)(Frazer Harrison)

Jim Rodford, bassist for popular rock band The Kinks from 1978 to 1996, has died at 76, according to the band.

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The Kinks, whose hits include “You Really Got Me,” “Lola,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “A Well-Respected Man,” “Victoria” and “Waterloo Sunset,” made the announcement Saturday on its official social media accounts.

“It is with deep sadness that we have learned that Jim Rodford passed away – he toured and recorded with the Kinks for many years and will be greatly missed. He was much loved by all of us #JimRodford,” the band said on Twitter.

Founding member Dave Davies also expressed his sorrow over Rodford’s “sudden loss.”

“I’m devastated Jim’s sudden loss I’m too broken up to put words together it’s such a shock I always thought Jim would live forever in true rock and roll fashion – strange – great friend great musician great man – he was an integral part of the Kinks later years RIP,” he wrote on Twitter.

Although Rodford did not play for the band when they burst onto the scene in the ’60s, he was credited by Davies as being an integral part of “The Kinks” in their later years. Rodford would later return to the band The Zombies.

Florida group raffles off rifle to benefit children's program

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 5:50 PM

An assault rifle is a prize in a raffle to raise money for programs to help disadvantaged children. (Photo: WFTV.com)
An assault rifle is a prize in a raffle to raise money for programs to help disadvantaged children. (Photo: WFTV.com)

An assault rifle is a prize in a raffle to raise money for programs to help disadvantaged children.

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Channel 9 found out that phone calls to buy tickets for the raffle go to three Central Florida county jails.

The flyer advertising the raffle was created by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency.

It advertises a chance to win an AR-15 rifle. There are phone numbers on the flyer to buy $20 tickets.

Every one of the numbers directs the caller to someone's desk at the Orange, Seminole and Osceola County jails.

Some were perplexed by the offer.

“Probably a good value, but it’s very bizarre and counterintuitive,” said Andrew Shure.

Information on the raffle to win the $1,200 gun was tweeted by the St. Cloud police.

The local Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency chapter said the $6,800 or so raised would be used for community projects, like buying gifts for underprivileged children.

“They could raffle off a car or something other than a gun. That doesn’t make sense to raffle off a gun,” said Laura Stephenson.

Officials in Orange and Seminole counties seemed surprised that calls for information about the AR-15 raffle were going to county jail offices.

There is an asterisk on the flyer that said the winner must comply with applicable laws and background checks.

A member of this organization said that they won't really be handing over a rifle to the winner, but instead a certificate they can use to pick up the gun.

Girl, 9, unknowingly hands out THC-laced candy to classmates, school says

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 8:35 PM

File photo.    (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)(David McNew/Getty Images)

A 9-year-old girl unwittingly ate, and handed out to other classmates, THC-laced candy, school officials said. 

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The girl brought the candies to school last Thursday and said she could not see; another girl ate them and started to feel dizzy, Albuquerque School of Excellence Dean of Elementary School Students Kristy Del Curto told KRQE

“We noticed the student who initially brought the edible to our school was acting strange. She started saying she couldn’t see,” Del Curto said.

Three students shared one gummy and the student who handed it out had three or four pieces, Del Curto said. 

Paramedics were called and monitored the students, who eventually recovered. 

The student who brought them to school did not know they were medicinal, THC-laced gummies, Del Curto said.

“As marijuana becomes legal in each state, it’s going to become more and more of an issue, I believe,” Del Curto said.