Naples Daily News Weekend Digest Miss something this week? Catch up on a few of our big stories in this quick digest

Community honors local karaoke legend

Mostly every karaoke singer and patron at bars in Bonita Springs knew who Lynn Earl Brown was.

He was the man who poured his heart and soul into every song he sang on the karaoke stage, where he performed everything from "Takin' Care of Business" to "Dream On."

In honor of Brown's life, his friends, one by one, jumped onstage and sang some of Brown's favorites on Sunday at Sneaky Pete's, where the 71-year-old, known as the 'karaoke king', would perform every Monday and Tuesday.

Nearly every chair and bar stool was occupied inside the restaurant and bar with people who were touched by Brown some way or another.

J.R. Ussery, co-owner of Spotlight Entertainment of Southwest Florida, developed a close relationship with Brown, on and off the stage, after emceeing many of Brown's performances at Sneaky Pete's, and other area bars. He led Sunday's memorial.

Ussery shared his fondest memories with the crowd of people who all had their own stories to tell.

For Pickle Pro sales are 'rocketing' online

A local manufacturer has a hit on its hands.

Pickle Pro LLC, headquartered in East Naples, has seen a growing demand for its product (and it has nothing to do with pickles).

The company manufactures paddles for pickleball, the fun game with a strange name that has found a home in Collier County after the community hosted last spring's successful U.S. Open Pickleball Championships.

Founded a little more than three years ago, the business has expanded into a new plant to ramp up production.

In April it moved into an 11,500-square-foot building the owner purchased in the White Lake Corporate Park near Collier Boulevard, just east of Interstate 75. Although the company isn't using the entire building, it expects to need every bit of it one day.

"Our sales are rocketing online, and we are currently pursuing getting into retail with Dick's Sporting Goods," said Thomas Watson, the company's operations manager. "Our sales since May 2013 are over $1.7 million, and we will exceed $2.3 million by the end of this year."

Carter, Lucarelli take Collier School Board seats

Erick Carter and Stephanie Lucarelli won their election to the Collier School Board on Tuesday, fighting back their opponents who sought to create a more conservative board majority.

Lucarelli received 33,129 votes, or 59 percent, in her race for the District 2 board seat against Louise Penta, who received 22,693 votes, or 41 percent.

"I'm overwhelmed. It's over. We did it," Lucarelli said as she celebrated at a victory party with Carter at The Rusty Bucket, a bar in North Naples. "I'm so appreciative and so thankful for all the support I've had. I plan on being out there in the community with the parents, with the teachers. I'm so invested."

Carter, who will be representing District 4, came away with 30,926 votes, or 57 percent, compared with his opponent Lee Dixon, who received 23,092 votes, or 43 percent.

"It was a long campaign. It's a relief," Carter said. "Now we have to move forward and try to collaborate with other board members and do what's positive for the system and the county. I hope to bring people together and that's the biggest thing."

Florida Gulf Coast University had humble beginnings

Even more than a decade later, Susan Evans still remembers standing in the middle of a scrub pine and swampland wilderness in southeastern Lee County, trying to picture where the state’s newest public university would go.

“There was literally not a single thing developed between Alico Road and Corkscrew Road,” said Evans, Florida Gulf Coast University’s vice president and chief of staff. “The men would literally walk ahead of us with machetes, and they would cut paths so that we could walk on the campus site. And there were wild cows roaming, lots of palmetto bushes, probably more than a few alligators.

“Those really were pioneer days for the university.”

That was in 1993.

Four years later, on Aug. 25, 1997, Florida’s 10th state university held its first day of classes with about 2,600 students enrolled.

Hurricane Hermine roars into Big Bend

Hurricane Hermine roared into the Big Bend on Thursday night, packing the potential of 80 mph winds with higher gusts, a massive storm surge, tornadoes and torrential rainfall for some of the lowest-lying areas of the Panhandle.

Hermine blew winds of up to 80 mph as it moved over the Gulf Coast at 14 mph between Apalachicola Bay and Steinhatchee. The winds snapped tree limbs around Leon County and a storm surge of up to 9 feet that threatened to flood homes up to a half-mile inland in some areas.

Driving rains and intermittent gusts switched to howling winds in Leon County as Hermine moved onto land in the central Big Bend region. Tallahassee residents lost electricity through Thursday night but crews worked to restore it. The city-owned utility reported 10,138 people without power by 11:10 p.m., and that number was expected to grow as more of the storm moved inland.

Wakulla County was one of the areas that stood to face a direct hit, where coastal communities like St. Marks had already seen flooding and mandatory evacuations by Thursday afternoon.

“I’m worried — I’m definitely worried,” Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel said. “We’ve got high tide coming up, and we’ve got all of those people on the coast.”

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Rebecca Reis

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