Odd news briefs
Surfers dressed as Santa Claus gather in Florida
COCOA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — More than 210 surfers dressed as Santa Claus, elves and snowmen were surfing the Christmas Eve waves off central Florida’s Atlantic coast.
Florida Today reports (http://on.flatoday.com/18LiqMu ) that when Cocoa Beach Mayor Dave Netterstrom took in the view from the sand Tuesday, he declared the fourth-annual gathering “the largest surfing Santa event on the planet.”
Organizer George Trosset says he may move the holiday event to downtown Cocoa Beach next year to accommodate growing crowds. He started the tradition in 2009 with a few family members after seeing a television commercial featuring people surfing in Santa Claus attire.
More friends joined them the following year, and in 2012, nearly 160 surfers participated. Trosset says the event “has gone from being a little family party to being a community event.”
Las Vegas cab driver finds $300K in back seat
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas cab driver Gerardo Gamboa thought someone left a bag of chocolates in the back seat of his vehicle, but the stash turned out to be $300,000 in cold hard cash.
Now, Gamboa is winning honors for honesty after turning in the money he found Monday. The money was returned to an unidentified poker player. Yellow Checker Star Transportation named Gamboa its driver of the year and rewarded him with $1,000 and a dinner for two at a restaurant.
A message left Wednesday for Gamboa at the cab company wasn’t immediately returned.
Gamboa told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he had another passenger by the time he began wondering what kind of chocolates were in the brown paper bag. He peeked inside at a traffic light.
“I told my passenger, ‘You are my witness on this,’” the 13-year taxi driver told the Las Vegas Sun, “and then I immediately called my dispatcher.”
Gamboa took the six bundles of $100 bills to the company’s main office, where Las Vegas police and casino officials linked it to the poker player.
Gamboa said the man gave him a $5 tip after a trip from the Cosmopolitan resort to the Palms Place tower, and Gamboa then drove to the Bellagio resort, where a doorman helping a passenger into the car noticed the bag.
It took several hours to verify the identity of the owner and return the cash. He took Gamboa’s information, but didn’t immediately leave a reward.
“If he doesn’t give me anything, that’s OK,” Gamboa told the Sun. “I’m not waiting for any kind of return. I just wanted to do the right thing, and I appreciate what the company did for me.”
W. Pa. man charged with stealing cuffs in escape
COMMODORE, Pa. (AP) — A western Pennsylvania man is jailed on charges he stole a pair of handcuffs he was wearing when he allegedly escaped from a state police cruiser.
Troopers say 29-year-old Douglas Lydic, of Commodore, was handcuffed but not yet charged while they searched a scene in his hometown for drugs Sunday night.
Police have yet to charge him in that case but say he climbed out a cruiser window while cuffed and wound up at his girlfriend’s home miles away.
Court records don’t list an attorney for Lydic, who also faces a charge of escape at a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 2.
He’s been in the Indiana County Jail since he was re-arrested Monday morning at his girlfriend’s home. She’s being held on charges of hindering his apprehension by police.
Christmas tree hangs above Ohio pediatric hospital
AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Young patients looking for Santa in the night sky above a northeast Ohio hospital will see a different holiday symbol — a hanging Christmas tree.
A construction crew at Akron Children’s Hospital uses a crane to hoist a twinkling, 13-foot Christmas tree 150 feet above the facility each night, hoping to brighten the holidays for patients.
Fifteen-year-old Massillon resident Ben Stanoyevic tells the Akron Beacon Journal (http://bit.ly/1fWvcYi ) he initially was confused to see the tree but enjoyed watching it while he was at the hospital dealing with complications from cystic fibrosis.
The tree was provided by the man overseeing a construction project, Welty-Boldt superintendent Tom Conti. He says one of his sons was treated at the hospital years ago and that experience made him want to help other patients smile.
Polish pranksters stop tram to film Tolkien scene
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — It’s almost like in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of The Ring:” Gandalf stands in the way of Balrog and tells him to “go back to the shadow” to buy time for fleeing Frodo Baggins and his companions.
But the scene is Warsaw, not the Mines of Moria. A Polish prankster dressed as Gandalf stops a city tram, which represents Balrog, and recreates the scene with several others dressed as Middle-earth characters.
Tolkien’s Gandalf almost died in the confrontation, but the Warsaw practical joker, called SA Wardega, just irritated the tram driver.
A YouTube video of the prank posted last week has gone viral with nearly 3 million views by Saturday, just days before Poland’s premiere of the “The Hobbit” film sequel.
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