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Off the beat: Dec. 1, 2007


No need to flip the page: It`s an upside-down Christmas tree


The upside-down Christmas tree on display at Petitti`s Garden Center in Avon Lake.

There are real trees, artificial trees, aluminum trees and even feather trees.

Now there are also upside-down Christmas trees.

It`s the newest thing for people who think they have seen just about every form of Christmas tree out there. Check out this beauty at Petitti`s Garden Center in Avon.

"They are no way as popular as regular Christmas trees, but there are three reasons to get them," said store manager Ken Zawicki."

They show ornaments better, they conserve floor space and you can put items on top to display," he said. "It`s a different look and so modern."

The trees are available at some local garden centers, starting at about $200.

"It`s different and out of the ordinary," said Sally Carter, a sales clerk at Pandy`s Christmas Wonderland in Elyria.

- Cindy Leise

Elyria's Whitfields

Art imitates life for Whitfields

The Whitfields were in the house -- and on the screen -- Thanksgiving weekend.

One was real, the other fictional, but the similarities between them were enough to spark a lot of laughs and nods of recognition at familiar behavior and personalities.

The Whitfield family of Elyria, which numbers in the dozens, got together to check out the make-believe Whitfields in the new holiday-themed movie "This Christmas" starring Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, Mekhi Phifer and Regina King.

The fictional family`s gathering for Christmas sparks a series of humorous and poignant moments as they struggle to come to terms with marital and relationship problems.

"When we saw that the family was named Whitfield, we decided we had to go," Jean Armstrong said. "We believed they were really related to us. They were just like us, down to the fighting in the yard. It was


Along with her sister, Bonnie Santos, a longtime Chronicle-Telegram employee, Armstrong coordinated a family reunion to see the movie during their holiday gathering.

"Sometimes we have a reunion where we travel, but we usually have another one here in Elyria for the older ones who can`t make the trip," Armstrong said.

Numbering close to 60, the family showed up at the Midway Cinemas, many sporting red "Whitfield Reunion 2007" T-shirts. They practically filled the theater. "We filled in seats down to four rows from the front," Santos said.

The Elyria Whitfields once numbered 16 children of Foster and Elmira Whitfield. Of the 16, eight survive. At 85, the oldest member of the six-generation family is Hardy Whitfield, one-time owner of an Elyria grocery store at Fuller Road and Middle Avenue.

- Steve Fogarty

Skip a meal -- any meal

Members of Lorain County Community College`s Students In Free Enterprise hosted a Skip-a-Meal Day this week, urging their fellow students to skip lunch and donate the money to a nonprofit or charity as a way to promote hunger awareness.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace presented the group with an award proclamation for their efforts on Thursday, the same day students were supposed to skip lunch and donate their lunch money.

Asked if he`d be skipping lunch, Grace sheepishly admitted he had to attend a lunch meeting that day - something that had been schedule well in advance of the group`s skip-a-meal idea.

"I`ll forego dinner, though, I promise," Grace assured the group.

- Shawn Foucher

Itsy bitsy spider

Employees at Lite Gauge Metals in Westlake called Animal Control on Wednesday after a black widow spider jumped out of a spool of metal that had come from a supplier in Tennessee. A black widow`s bite can be painful, but the venom is normally not fatal to humans.

A nursery rhyme would go like this:

An itsy bitsy black widow arrived locally by mistake

Out jumped the spider from a metal shipment in Westlake

An animal control officer arrived at Lite Gauge Metals to take the arachnid away

So the itsy bitsy black widow survived another day.

- Stephen Szucs

Blair gets her digs in

County Commissioner Betty Blair seems to be holding a bit of a grudge.

Blair said Thursday she was honored to be invited to a luncheon this week when Bettcher Industries in Erie County announced it planned to add between 25 and 30 new jobs.

But it was the way she said it that showed she still hasn`t gotten over her anger at what Avon had to do to get permission from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to build a new interchange on Interstate 90.

"It was nice to be invited instead of being held hostage by Cuyahoga County," she told the audience at the commissioners meeting Thursday.

Cuyahoga County officials threatened to kill the interchange project unless Avon agreed to a revenue-sharing plan, which it ultimately did. Blair and her fellow commissioners have threatened to quit NOACA if Cuyahoga County`s power isn`t limited.

- Brad Dicken

Browns are milking the branding cow

What`s been the Browns` recipe for success this season?

Harder training? Better coaching? Bigger hits?


It`s milk.

The Browns let their secret slip this week when they introduced their own brand of touchdown milk to Giant Eagle supermarkets in Northeast Ohio.

But "Touch Down Milk" is no ordinary milk. The Browns know that they need an extra boost beyond what traditional milk can offer. That`s why Touch Down Milk comes in three flavors: Choco-Dawg (chocolate), Nilla-Dawg (vanilla) and Straw-Dawg (strawberry - not straw).

This performance-enhancing drink is only available for a limited time, so you better hurry.

And when it comes time for the playoffs you better believe that the Browns will be tilting their heads back, gulping down some Touch Down Milk and hitting the field with those tell-tale milk mustaches.

And now, you too, can be like your favorite Browns player. Just chug a 16-ounce bottle of Touch Down Milk and go tackle somebody.

- Michael Baker

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