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Take a pontoon ride through the scenic Dora Canal. APR '21



AGE OF MEDICINE An innovative medical approach helps Villagers remain mentally and physically healthy.



Clermont couple helps Ukrainian orphans overcome cruelty and neglect.


Mask maker Tim Totten has volunteered his time to keep the community safe.

Self-Medicating and Mental Health Juan F. Rios, MD Psychiatry Take care of yourself. Take care of your family and your loved ones. Take care of the important things life that getof youUF through each Central day. Continue to take care because Learn from thein experts Health that’s exactly what we’re doing. At UF Health, we’re taking care of our health Aprilcare 8, 2021 Florida, right in the comfort of your own home. providers to ensure they are getting the resources and protective measures they need 1 – 2 p.m. Join us for virtual webinar through to serve you. aFrom providing routine health care toyour addressing serious conditions or computer, tablet smartphone. illnesses, taking care isor what we do.

Registration is required; visit TheVillagesHospital.org/webinar



1560 Santa Barbara Blvd 1950 Laurel Manor Dr, Ste. 142 8485 SE 165th Mulberry Ln Dr. Glick 1501 N US Hwy 441, Ste. 1102


Primary Care Cardiology Vascular Surgery URGENT CARE Nephrology 201 La Grande Blvd, Lady Lake Lab Services OPENING 2021 Brownwood ® Center for Limb Preservation LEESBURG Radiology Services 511 Medical Plaza Drive, Ste. 101 Vascular Access Center Dr. Bello 25010 US Hwy 27, Units G&H 601 E Dixie Ave, Ste. 805 Urgent Care 802 E. Dixie Ave URGENT CARE

27637 US Hwy 27 352.350.5704 fhvhealth.com



Liz had ImageLift, Laser, and filler treatments. Results are typical and do vary.

Kathy had a Laser ImageLift. Results are typical and do vary.



WATERFRONT INN SEMINAR Tuesday, April 6th @ 2pm 1105 Lake Shore Drive

BROWNWOOD HOTEL SEMINAR Thursday, April 29th @ 2pm 3003 Brownwood Blvd

Masks are required for guests and staff • Must have reservation to attend •



is a Double Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon as seen on:

*Patient and any other person responsible for payment has a right to refuse to pay, cancel payment, or be reimbursed for payment for any other service, examination, or treatment that is performed as a result of and within 72 hrs of responding to ad for the free, discounted fee, or reduced fee service, examination, or treatment.

8630 East CR 466, The Villages www.IMAGELIFT.com

Sundance Collection by Hooker Furniture

(352) 728-5600 8345 US Highway 441, Leesburg, FL 34788 Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Closed Sunday

(352) 643-6430 3691 Meggison Rd, The Villages, FL 32163


Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Closed Sunday

PERFORMANCE. IT’S WHAT WE’RE ABOUT. At Advanced Orthopedics Institute we specialize in hips, knees, shoulders, ankles, wrists...and tennis players. We’re national leaders in reverse shoulder replacements for those whose rotator cuffs are no longer functioning, performing more in a year than most surgeons perform in a lifetime. We also have a full range of non-invasive procedures to help relieve shoulder pain and improve function. Return to the activities you enjoy most. Get moving. Call 352.751.2862.


John T. Williams, Jr., MD

1400 N US Hwy 441, Suite 552 | The Villages, FL 32159 phone 352.751.2862 | fax 855.420.1047 | goaoi.com

Alfred J. Cook, Jr., MD


40646 OAK WOODS WAY, LADY LAKE, FL 32159 Expect to be Impressed with this GORGEOUS 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 2-Story GLAMOROUS Crafted Lodge Style Home with 5-1/2 ACRES backing up to Grand Oaks Resort & Carriage Museum. $469,750 | MLS#G5037483


1104 BECKER AVE, THE VILLAGES, FL 32163 BEAUTIFULLY-APPOINTED 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath “Avondale” Bungalow Courtyard Villa nestled in The Village of Pine Ridge on a CORNER homesite. Solid Block and Stucco construction with a Two-Car garage, privacy wall, completely “Turnkey furnished”! Income-producing/Tenant Occupied w/2-Year Lease $1,800/Month. $334,500 | MLS# G5027614


56 LAKE JUNE RD, LAKE PLACID, FL 33852 STUNNING VIEWS! This Charming 4 Bedroom, 3 Bath, Custom Built LAKEFRONT HOME nestled at the deepest point in the cove, of the prestigious 3,500 acre freshwater LAKE JUNE in the HEART of Highlands County in Lake Placid Florida. $569,750 | MLS#G5037333 2 G IN DIN PEN


746 VIA SAN POLO, LADY LAKE, FL 32159 Resort Style POOL Home is Nestled on 3.15 Acres

and Zoned Agriculture/Residential. LOADED with Upgrades and all of the Amenities you can Imagine! (4) Spacious Bedrooms, 4-1/2 Baths with an Office/Inlaw Suite, Billiard and Game Room, 6-Car Garage, Carport, RV Port and SOOO MUCH MORE! 4,242 Square Feet Living and 7,877 Total Square Feet under Roof. $989,998 | MLS# G5037522

14329 SE 170TH ST, WEIRSDALE, FL 32195 Private and Secluded! 10 Gorgeous Private and Secluded Acres with Trees. Let’s build your DREAM HOME! Dynamite location Close to Lake Weir, The Villages, Grand Oaks Resort and Orange Blossom Opry. There is a 20’ x 46’ slab for your pole barn. $175,000 | MLS# G5033687


9060 NW 19TH STREET, WILDWOOD, FL 34785 Build your Custom Dream Home on this Gorgeous 10.08 Acres in the Prestigious Gated PRESERVE AT OAK HILL Equestrian Community! Lot 78 in a Cul de Sac lot. The Deed Restrictions allow for your barn and horses. The Preserve at Oak Hill offers quiet country living right in the Heart of Sumter County. $89,900 | MLS# G4838375


9899 NW 26TH STREET, WILDWOOD, FLORIDA 34785 Gorgeous 13.95 Acres in the Gated PRESERVE AT OAK HILL Equestrian Community! Lot 48. The Deed Restrictions allow for your barn and horses. The Preserve at Oak Hill offers quiet country living right in the Heart of Sumter County. Conveniently located just minutes from the Downtown Brownwood Shopping Center, I-75 and the Florida Turnpike and a short ride to the Gulf Coast and Disney Parks. $149,000 | MLS#G5015190

4892 NE 123RD LN, OXFORD, FL 34484 Absolutely GORGEOUS 4 Bedroom, 3.5 Bath corner homesite “Holly” Model in the Family Friendly and Deed Restricted Community of Parkwood. The backyard is private white a white vinyl fencing, a great place for entertaining! $279,500 | MLS# G5038459

1540 CR 44A, WILDWOOD, FL 34785 HOT DOG! INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY for YOU to OWN your very own “TURN KEY” Specialty Restaurant in Wildwood Florida. Completely REZONED to Neighborhood Commercial (NC) and Completely REMODELED from top to bottom, inside to outside! 1264 Sq. Ft. Under Roof with a Brand-New ADA Accessible Bathroom accessible from the Covered Patio. This FABALOUS LOCATION offers 1.23 ACRES of Land on a ROCKSTAR Corner of CR-44A! $324,500 | MLS#G50386 RS OU 12 H N I G DIN PEN

5031 SE 115TH STREET, BELLEVIEW, FL 34420 ATTENTION INVESTORS! GREAT LOCATION with SIX Beautiful ACRES ZONED R-3 with Retention pond, TOPO and ENGINEERING reports available. Perfect for Multi-Family and close to shopping, restaurants, medical and much more! $344,900 | MLS# G5031672

8917 SE 132ND LOOP, SUMMERFIELD, FL 34491 BREATHTAKING GOLF COURSE VIEW! ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath “Kingston” POOL HOME in Del Webb Spruce Creek South. Florida’s Lovely 55+ Adult Active Community. $397,500 | MLS# G5038461

Sharon Bassett, Owner/Broker 352.307.2925 / BassettPremierRealty.com Spruce Creek Professional Plaza / 10935 SE 177th Place, Suite 201, Summerfield

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Think outside the house Fun-filled outdoor adventures are plentiful in Lake and Sumter counties. From scuba diving to off-roading, Style shares some spectacular places for people of all ages and interests. STORIES: VICTORIA SCHLABIG, ROXANNE BROWN, THERESA CAMPBELL AND JAMES COMBS


On a mission Clermont residents Shawn and Amy Sullivan have a soft spot in their hearts when it comes to helping Ukrainian orphans. Through their organization, Mission 823, they transform despair into hope. STORY: JAMES COMBS


Stressed out? Take out your frustration inside the Impact Rage Room in Lake Square Mall. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

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Easter HAPPY

from the staff at TB Financial!



We Listen. We Care. We Educate.


TBFinancialGroup.com 3261 U.S. Highway 441/27, Suite F-2, Fruitland Park, FL 34731

Liz Cornell, CAS®



April 8th | 9:30 a.m. April 20th | 9:30 a.m. BROWNWOOD HOTEL & SPA 3003 BROWNWOOD BLVD., THE VILLAGES

Seating is very limited and by RSVP only. TB Financial Group Inc. is a licensed insurance agency for life, health, and annuities. We are not securities licensed. We are not tax advisors. Our seminars are very general in nature and not meant to replace the advice of your CPA, Tax Preparer, Investment Advisor or Attorney. We will not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal professional for these matters.

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healthy living



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Lake and Sumter Style

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Village Edition

Cheers to your new friends this Spring!

SALON & SPA | FITNESS CENTER MULTIPLE RESTAURANTS Call now to schedule a tour and take home a specialty house made pizza from our own hearth oven!* H A R BORCH ASE OF


(352) 656-7971



(352) 329-6612 www.HarborChase.com

ALF# 13179 / 12467

*For a limited time.


Let fun come naturally Residents of Lake and Sumter counties can enjoy the outdoors without driving far. ithout question, April is one of the most beautiful months in Florida. Cold days are behind us. Steaming humidity, swarming mosquitoes, and daily afternoon thunderstorms aren’t yet here. Yards are bursting with colorful, blooming flowers. Homeowners can open their windows and enjoy the wonderful feeling of crisp air. Since the weather is neither too hot nor too cold, it’s the perfect time to go outdoors. For more than a year, we’ve spent countless hours inside our homes to increase our chances of avoiding the coronavirus. That is completely unnatural. Fortunately, there’s a way to begin enjoying life again that is completely natural. With picturesque lakes, lush hiking trails, crystal-clear springs and plenty of open space, our area is brimming with an abundance of outdoor opportunities. We’re excited to share some of those opportunities in this month’s issue.

Dive right in at Alexander Springs Recreation Area, a popular venue for first-time scuba divers and divers from around the country who come to enjoy an up close and personal view of bluegill, catfish, kelp-like vegetation, and rock outcroppings. Go apickin’ at one of several public farms that allow you to pick strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and more. This is a great way to spend quality time with your family. Strap in and take a thrilling ride on our waterways aboard an airboat. You’ll enjoy feeling the wind in your hair and nature at your fingertips. Visit Revolution Off Road and explore beautiful countryside on motorized machines like ATVs. Other activities on the property include clay shooting, fishing, and archery. So, what are you waiting for? Put down that remote, power off your cell phone, and unplug that laptop. An exciting world of outdoor adventures awaits. There’s no better time to enjoy them than April. Until next month,

Have a story to tell? We’re always looking for stories about people who live and work in our area. Send suggestions to editorial@akersmediagroup.com.

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Kendra Akers Doug Akers

OWNER/PUBLISHER kendra@akersmediagroup.com




PRESIDENT doug@akersmediagroup.com




Michael Gaulin James Combs

SENIOR DESIGNER michael@akersmediagroup.com

STAFF WRITER james@akersmediagroup.com

Volkan Ulgen Theresa Campbell

ART DIRECTOR volkan@akersmediagroup.com

STAFF WRITER theresa@akersmediagroup.com

Megan Mericle Victoria Schlabig

GRAPHIC DESIGNER megan@akersmediagroup.com


STAFF WRITER victoria@akersmediagroup.com


Douglas Tyler Roxanne Brown

DIGITAL ART DIRECTOR douglas@akersmediagroup.com

Anthony Rao

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/ VIDEOGRAPHER anthony@akersmediagroup.com

STAFF WRITER roxanne@akersmediagroup.com

Joe Angione Nicole Hamel Kathy Porter

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER nicole@akersmediagroup.com





Tim McRae

VICE PRESIDENT, SALES tim@akersmediagroup.com

Mike Stegall


Melanie Melvin Shaena Long

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING melanie@akersmediagroup.com




ADVERTISING COORDINATOR shaena@akersmediagroup.com



Lake County has bushels of berries and a bounty of agritourism sites.




Launch yourself into endless waterways and discover scenic wildlife areas.

Explore a fishing mecca with countless hot spots for anglers of all skill levels.

By land, sea and air, visitors can find adventure, sightseeing and recreation.

Hot off the press! The latest editions of Lake & Sumter Style, Village Edition Style, and Welcome to Lake County.

Get yours Subscriptions: Order a subscription of your favorite magazine to be delivered directly

to your home for just $84. Each subscription includes 12 consecutive issues of Lake & Sumter Style and Village Edition Style. Choose 2 or more magazines for $108 per year. To order, call 352.787.4112 or mail us at: Subscriptions at Akers Media, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749. Change of Address: If you are a seasonal resident or have moved, send your address change request to general@akersmediagroup.com or mail us at: Subscriptions at Akers Media, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749. Back Issues: Order a single issue by mail for $8. To pick up a back issue from our office, please call 24 hours in advance.

ADMI N IS TRATION Aubrey Akers Simmons OFFICE MANAGER aubrey@akersmediagroup.com


Digitize your life Visit the Apple or Android app store today and download the Lake & Sumter Style online magazine app for your mobile device.

DISTRIBUTION MANAGER scott.hegg@akersmediagroup.com

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Lake & Sumter Style. Published monthly by Akers Media, 108 South Fifth Street, Leesburg, FL 34748. All editorial contents copyright 2021 by Akers Media. All rights reserved. Lake & Sumter Style is a registered trademark of Akers Media. Nothing may be reprinted in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. For back issues or billing information, call 352.787.4112. Return postage must accompany all unsolicited manuscripts and artwork if they are to be returned. Manuscripts are welcomed, but no responsibility can be assumed for unsolicited materials. “Paid Promotional Feature” denotes a paid advertising feature. Publisher is not responsible for claims or contents of advertisements. The ideas and opinions contained in this publication do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of Akers Media.

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Eustis High student Cerina Rolle has a great track record athletically and academically.


Clara Adams and Amelia Earhart

SOME 107 YEARS AGO… Tavares is branded as America’s Seaplane City, which is fitting since the first recorded seaplane flight was 107 years ago, off Lake Eustis on Feb. 23, 1914. According to the city’s historical records, the flight was piloted by Tony Janus, noted as the first licensed airline pilot in the world, in a Benoist airboat. The second recorded seaplane flight off Lake Eustis took place 30 days later in a Thomas Flying boat piloted by Walter Johnson with 30-year-old passenger Clara Adams, who became known as “the Maiden of Maiden Voyages.” Soon after Clara’s Tavares’ flight, she made a prediction that the future of passenger transportation would be primarily accomplished by airplanes. The press scoffed at the idea, saying airplanes were for risk-taking daredevil men in leather helmets, not “society folks” going from one place to another.

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Clara, a wealthy widow from Pennsylvania, became the first woman to circle the world in an airplane as a passenger; the only woman to fly on the Pan Am Clipper; and the first woman to buy a ticket and fly across the Atlantic on a Graf Zeppelin in 1928. She also became acquainted with female aviators, including Amelia Earhart. Overall, Clara logged more than 150,000 maiden-voyage miles in airplanes. “The flame that kept her passion alive until her death in 1971 was lit in a seaplane ride Clara took off the shores of America’s Seaplane City in 1914, just four years after the seaplane was invented in France,” says Tavares City Administrator John Drury. The McDermott Library at the University of Texas holds most of Clara’s memorabilia related to aviation.

THE ART OF ISOLATION In March 2020, soon after COVID-19 and quarantines were introduced, 81-year-old Janet Fittro of Eustis began painting and telling stories, also adding scripture, and sharing them on her personal Facebook page. “The response was overwhelming… my readers were encouraged by my daily entries,” Janet says. She approached Christian Faith Company, located in Meadville, Pennsylvania, which loved the concept, and decided to publish her work in a book. “An important part of my story and purpose is the message that what I have done will glorify God and, secondly, we are never too old to unwrap more gifts from God,” Janet says. Throughout quarantine, Janet says that painting, writing, and listening to God gave her the courage, strength, and motivation to endure being housebound and isolated from her friends and family for so many weeks. “I am a busy woman in normal circumstances, so in a very short time I knew I had to be doing something. I have painted for many years. I love God’s Word, and it turns out I had a few short anecdotes to share,” Janet says. Her book “The Art of Isolation: For Such a Time as This” spans the 50-day period from the first day of lockdown, March 16, 2020, until Florida entered Phase I on May 4, 2020. Each day has a painting, a short story, and “appropriate encouraging scripture.” Janet’s book can be found online on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book signings are planned. She hopes to do signings and readings at churches, book stores, civic organizations, and for “anyone who will listen.”

Robert M. McTureous, Jr.

DID YOU KNOW? Altoona is the site of the McTureous Homestead and Museum, a 19th-century Cracker house and the childhood home of Medal of Honor recipient Robert M. McTureous, Jr., a U.S. Marine fatally wounded while fighting valiantly in Okinawa, Japan. He received the military’s highest decoration for his heroic efforts in killing six Japanese troops during a bloody battle. The museum’s military room displays Robert’s medals. His Medal of Honor is displayed at the Lake County Historical Museum in Tavares.

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OH, TO BE YOUNG AGAIN The City of Clermont launched a webpage that’s all about youth. According to Clermont’s official Facebook page, the city has many different programs and organizations available for its younger residents, including the Clermont Youth Council, Clermont Police Officer mentoring, and Clermont Arts and Recreation Center programs. For more information, visit: ClermontFL.gov/youth.

WHY SO BLUE? Groveland’s District 5 Councilman Randolph Waite (appointed in November 2019 and elected in a special election March 2020) is working alongside fellow council members, city staff and local residents to reinvent the historic Groveland neighborhood surrounding Blue Street. It is an initiative he started working on pre-COVID-19 that he is now getting back into. “I got with some of the stakeholders and residents in the area and formed a committee to see what we could do to revitalize Blue Street to best benefit them,” Councilman Randolph says. “Now it’s time to definitely take a look at our plan see what Blue Street can look like in partnership with our community and see how it fits into the big scheme of things.” In a Facebook post during Black History month, Groveland City Officials shared information shedding historical light on the street name, revealing that it was named after Alfred S. Blue, who arrived in Groveland with E.E. Edge in 1899. According to the information, Alfred was Groveland’s first notable African American figure, famous for making a 10-hour walk from Groveland to Tavares to petition the school board to build a school for Black children.

HERE THEY COME Three of Florida’s 10 fastest-growing towns are in Lake County. Fruitland Park tops the list, followed by Groveland at No. 2 and Clermont and No. 9. The list comes from HomeSnacks, a website that conducts studies and provides what it calls bitesized information to help people “understand what it’s like to live in different communities across the country.” The company’s researchers gathered information from the American Community Survey and the 2020 Census to compile the list.

Alfred S. Blue

Councilman Randolph says as things progress, he’d like to incorporate some kind of memorial or symbol near Blue Street that tells Alfred’s story so it lives on for future generations. “What he did was very influential; he helped shape the way for future leaders in our city, including me, and I would hate to see his story forgotten,” Councilman Randolph says.


JONES’ TOP BOSS HAS PASSION FOR AVIATION Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures, a popular attraction based in Tavares, was recently acquired by Peter Closi, a Florida native and entrepreneur who has helicopter and seaplane tour operations in Key West and St. Petersburg/Clearwater. “I have a passion for aviation and see a tremendous amount of growth potential for Jones Brothers with its symbiotic relationship with the City of Tavares,” says Peter. “With thousands of glassy water lakes, Lake County is a very ideal location for training seaplane pilots and I only see the demand increasing. By the end of the year, I plan to double the number of employees, triple the fleet of aircraft, and call Lake County home.”

Akers Media is pleased to announce that the 2021 edition of Welcome to Lake, a detailed guide of everything high and low to do in Lake County, will be released later this month! Readers will enjoy overviews of each of Lake County’s unique towns, a year-long calendar of events, and where to play, stay, dine, and explore! Welcome to Lake was created as a way to entice tourists to visit and experience all of the beautiful and fun things Lake County has to offer. Residents of Lake County know that one of its greatest draws is the outdoor and nature activities. Visit Lake director Rob Price says: “People want to get out into nature, and they want to spread out, and I think there’s a pent-up demand for authenticity. So, I believe we have a real opportunity to expand our marketing reach. We’re undiscovered in a lot of markets so I think Welcome to Lake will be a great tool to help tell our story to people that never heard about Lake County, Florida.” The 2021 Welcome to Lake cover will feature a seaplane flying above beautiful Lake Dora in Tavares. As far as where to find Welcome to Lake, the chambers within Lake County are given copies of the publication to distribute, and it can typically be found in hotels in the area. This year, the Visit Lake team plans to distribute our welcome guide to consumers, travel agents, tour operators, and so on. “My vision is to be able to take this piece outside the area and distribute it and help promote Lake County,” Price says.

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Ebo Entsuah Finding crumbs after hitting the ground running. INTERVIEWER: ROXANNE BROWN


• 27 years old. • Ebo means boy born on Tuesday, and he was actually born in Toronto on a Tuesday. • Graduated from East Ridge High

School and from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in international affairs and sociology and a master’s in legal studies. • Currently employed as policy principal with an advanced trade association.


What inspired you to become involved in your community? I’ve always had a heart to serve and I think I’ve gotten that from my parents. My mom is a family physician, my dad is a civil engineer, and they both actually immigrated from West Africa. Just seeing them always wanting to serve the community and fellowship with other people kind of imprinted on me.

Reason for pursuing Seat 4 in Clermont’s 2020 special election? After college, I was a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, so the political or legislative process has always been one that’s been very interesting to me. I know at a higher level, you can impact positive change to residents and to community members, so I felt the best way for me to get involved was by running for council, or at least being part of some board.

Reaction after winning: When I got the news, it was such a joyous moment. I was bewildered and just overcome by emotion because it felt like we had been doing this for so long, with it being about two and a half years since I

first ran. At the same time, I immediately began thinking about what comes next.

Thoughts on being the youngest councilman elected in decades: I ran on the premise of bringing a new perspective and I think I have been able to do that, but also, everybody on the council kind of brings their own specialty to the table. We have such a diverse board and such a variety of minds and I think it represents Clermont really well. I know I belong up there and I know that with the people sitting next to me, we can achieve great things.

Words to live by: I actually played football for Florida State University for a couple years and in that time, our head coach Jimbo Fisher had a saying, “Find a crumb.” When you’re hungry, you’re gonna find a crumb and keep going and going with trying to get to your goals until you’re full. And even when you get there, just keep going some more. It’s what I aim for and what it’s all about; continuing to stay hungry no matter what you bring in and then continuing to climb every day to get your one percent.

Know a person of interest? Tell us!

Email your recommendation to roxanne@akersmediagroup.com.

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28 YEARS Of Innovation In Cardiovascular Care J. Henry Lesmes, MD, FACC Since founding Cardiovascular Associates in 1992, Dr. Henry Lesmes has provided countless patients with superior delivery of care, safe and rapid interventions, and excellent outcomes. By introducing cuttingedge procedures to the community, his practice has grown not only in size but also in reputation. Many of his new patients are referred to the practice by existing patients. “When I started, we had to send patients to Orlando or Gainesville for procedures like open-heart surgery and cardiac ablation,” he says. “Now, we can provide all cardiovascular procedures here locally.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is how Dr. Lesmes and his team of five cardiologists and three nurse practitioners treat patients. “We’ve always strived to provide quality and compassionate care,” he says. “No matter how much the field of cardiology advances, that patient-centered care will always be our top priority.” Dr. Lesmes serves as a board member of the American College of Cardiologists Florida Chapter, ensuring that adequate cardiology services are available in Lake County.

L-R: Miguel Bryce, MD, FACC; Adina Ion, MD; Rama Krishna, MD, FACC, FSCAI; Theresa Mills, MD, FACC;

J. Henry Lesmes, MD, FACC; Samuel Goss, DO, FACC; Moises Fraifeld, MD, FACC

LEESBURG 352.323.5700 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday 705 Doctors Court — across from UF Health Leesburg

TAVARES 352.742.1171 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday 1879 Nightingale Lane, Suite A-1 & C-1 — across from AdventHealth Waterman

CVALakeCounty.com | Info@CVALakeCounty.com



Cerina Rolle Running toward a bright future of world travel and helping others. INTERVIEWER: VICTORIA SCHLABIG



• Junior at Eustis High School. • Member of basketball and track teams. • One older sister in college. • Secretary of student council her freshman year.

• Has taken five AP classes so far. • Former FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) speech participant.

What is your favorite subject in school? Math. I’m actually planning on becoming a nutritionist, which is more in the science field, but I know that science and math go together and they’re my two favorite subjects.

What are your plans for college? I want to go to Texas A&M to get a degree in sports medicine, and become a nutritionist. I also want to minor in business so in case I want to start my own business or go into the business field, I’ll have that under my belt.

An accomplishment you’re most proud of? Probably my job. I work at the Eustis Recreation Department, and I’ve volunteered there since I was in middle school. Anything I can help the kids with; emotionally, physically, or anything. I’m there for them as a role model, they look up to me, and it always makes me happy to see their smiling faces and that they always come to me for anything they need.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years? I definitely want to see myself as a nutritionist. I want to travel the world most definitely; I don’t want to settle yet

with a family or anything. I want to explore, solo if I need to, and just see the world, get to volunteer everywhere, and help whoever I can.

Favorite TV show? Definitely “Law and Order.” I love the mystery.


Hobbies outside of school? Since I was a kid, I did not like cooking until I started to learn from my mom like two years ago. She made me cook and since then I’ve been really interested in it. I follow the basics a bit, then I’ll put some spice in it that I want to add to make it different.

Favorite dessert? The molten chocolate cake from Chili’s.

Happy place? When I think back to when my whole family would come together at my great grandmother’s house, spend time with her and just laugh and have fun and share love with one another, that’s my happiest place I can go.

Know an outstanding student? Fill us in! Email your recommendations to victoria@akersmediagroup.com

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Let’s get started. Call me today.

Mike Neace: 352.589.6004 Award Winning Home Designer, Builder, Licensed Contractor CHANGE IS GOOD

At American Family Homes we believe you deserve your new home, your way. This includes custom changes that make your home personal and special to you. That’s always been part of the American Family Homes experience. Bring us your ideas. Let’s collaborate on style, color and design features to create an energy efficient custom home, within budget, just the way you want it.


“Designing and building a custom home is a long process. A thousand decisions need to be made, one just as important as the next. The first decision you need to make is to hire the right builder with the right experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of the relationship with your builder. American Family Homes is Committed to Quality and 100% Satisfaction. We invite your inquiry today.” - Mike Neace


“Committed to Quality & Satisfaction”

AmericanFamilyHomesInc.com State License Number - CBC058306



Doris Bloodsworth Inspired by growing up in South Lake, author recalls foray into publishing. INTERVIEWER: VICTORIA SCHLABIG

ince childhood I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know anyone who was; it was sort of like wanting to be a rock star. I probably would have never become an author unless circumstances had converged. One was that my sister and I co-founded the Groveland Historical Museum, and the other was that I had surgery on my rotator cuff, so I was home for a while as I was rehabbing. While I was doing the research for the museum, there was no history book on Groveland, so I just had to start from scratch. I was thinking Clermont, Leesburg, and of course bigger cities all had history books, and what a shame that Groveland didn’t.

What about your first time?

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I had heard of Arcadia’s books, and I thought if they would agree to it, I would donate the proceeds to the museum, so it would do two things: Groveland would have its own book, which was the main interest, and it would raise money for the museum as well. So, I contacted the publishers and they said they were interested. It took me about six months to write “Images of America: Groveland.” My second book was “Images of America: Clermont”, and the third book was also by Arcadia as part of a new series they were doing called Legendary Locals, so I co-wrote “Legendary Locals of Lake County” with my sister, Connie. The most rewarding moment for me was with my first book. A woman named Pearl who’d lived in Groveland all her life called me

up, and she said she’d bought my book and stayed up all night reading it cover to cover, and then turned back to the first page and read it again. She just wanted to thank me and tell me how much it meant to her that I’d written this book. There were people who were naysayers along the way, but for me I didn’t mind taking a chance and not succeeding. What I didn’t want to do was get to the end of my life and think, ‘Gee, I wonder if I could’ve been an author.’ I was 58 when I published my first book in 2009, so it’s never too late, and I think it’s true for authors and songwriters. As long as you’re keeping that story inside you and not sharing it with other people that’s kinda selfish, and I think there’s a book in everybody.

To share a story about your first time doing something significant, email victoria@akersmediagroup.com.

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Lake Sumter Landing Professional Plaza | 910 Old Camp Rd. Suite 142 | The Villages







We are committed to bringing high quality products and services to the community. With facials, body treatments and massages using 100% organic and natural products, to highdose vitamin IV therapies and salt treatments, Immunity Health Spa has put together a menu with options sure to impress.





sure there are highly qualified medical personnel who are experienced in IV therapy to discuss all your concerns including current symptoms, health history, allergies, previous reactions, etc. This will help not only make your experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, but also help the clinician recommend an appropriate drip for your individual needs.

IS ALL IV THERAPY CREATED EQUAL? Absolutely not. There are many different IV therapy drips out there that are beneficial, but as a consumer, it is important to know what exactly is in each bag and how much of each ingredient. You also want the highest quality vitamins used in your drip so the body can utilize them the absolute best. It would be ideal not to have any additives, synthetic coloring, or preservatives in an IV drip.

WHY IS HIGH DOSE VITAMIN IV THERAPY NEEDED? Giving ourselves the essential vitamins and nutrients is the least we can do. They work so hard for us every day performing millions of functions in the body. We cannot receive these nutrients solely from the foods we eat so we must utilize supplements. IV therapy bypasses the GI system and allows our body to absorb 100% of the vitamins and minerals administered. I can bet that most of the general population has some sort of micronutrient deficiency. There are just not enough nutrients in the soil used today to provide us with those essential vitamins and minerals that we all require to function at our best. Prescription and OTC medications are known to cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. So, with the US consuming over 50% of the world’s prescription medications, that is yet another indication that the majority of the population is nutrient deficient.

WHAT TO ASK WHEN INQUIRING ABOUT AN IV DRIP? There are many questions to ask when considering an IV drip. What ingredients do they contain? How much of each ingredient? How will this benefit me? Any major or minor side effects? Who is going to be starting the IV and what is their background? It is important to make

WHO IS A CANDIDATE FOR IV THERAPY Virtually anyone seeking to enhance their wellness and be proactive on living a healthy lifestyle may consider this revitalizing treatment option. Some common reasons for needing IV therapy are, dehydrated, fatigued, stressed, needing an immune system boost, sluggish metabolism. IV therapy should not be considered a replacement for a balanced diet and healthy habits. However, it can be used to supplement a generally healthy lifestyle to enhance your overall wellness!

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I RECEIVE IV THERAPY There are many things to consider when developing a treatment plan, so how often you should undergo IV therapy will vary from person to person. When you first begin treatment, you may need to schedule weekly infusion sessions. If you have a chronic health condition that affects your immune system, you may decide to maintain this schedule. However, most people will benefit from treatments spaced about two weeks apart once their nutrient levels become stabilized. This is because you should expect your nutrient levels to remain elevated for between two to three weeks after each treatment. Some patients choose to schedule infusion therapy sessions monthly once they have achieved their desired results, and others only seek treatment when they experience symptoms. Because your treatment plan will be customized for you as an individual, it is difficult to put a schedule on sessions. Call us to schedule a free consult to speak to our provider about the best options for you.


cloud of dust swirls behind Jim Marshall as the eight-wheel amphibious vehicle turns a curve. Jim smiles, then hits the gas. The engine howls as he drives straight into a water puddle. Mud splashes onto his clothes. He stomps the gas again, this time plunging right into a lake. The bumpiness of the trail quickly gives way to a smooth glide of buoyancy. The eight tires act as paddles, churning together like oars during a dragon boat race. As Jim drifts across the lake at four miles per hour, he spots a baby alligator sunning in a sea of cattails. There are not many places you can drive a motorized vehicle into a lake. That’s why Jim, who owns a landscaping company in Davenport,

Jim Marshall

Trails less traveled

Mucky ducks, swamp buggies provide thrill rides at Revolution Adventures for the entire family. STORY: JAMES COMBS

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regularly visits Revolution Adventures. He not only brings his employees there for team-building activities but also takes his friends there for social outings. The feeling of freedom, the wind in his face, and being immersed in the beautiful countryside always leads to a mudslinging, handlebar-gripping good time. “I have lots of fun riding out here, and I just kind of lose myself in the natural beauty,” he says. Revolution Adventures, located off State Road 33 in Clermont, approximately 15 minutes west of Walt Disney World, offers its own world of excitement for avid outdoor enthusiasts–--a world where visitors can ride a fleet of motorized vehicles through mud puddles and lakes, shoot flying clay pigeons out of the air, and catch largemouth bass weighing over 10 pounds. Kevin Jowett, who formerly raced on challenging off-road courses in British Trial and Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) competitions, opened Revolution Adventures in 2007 to give the public a rare opportunity to traverse through outdoor trails aboard a motorized vehicle. He later added skeet shooting, bass fishing, and archery to his repertoire of fun activities. “I always wanted to open an off-road driving experience for the general public to try it,” he says. “People like off-road driving, but many cannot afford it.” Kevin made a career about-face to fulfill his dream. Prior to opening Revolution Adventures, he was gainfully employed as commercial director for Sony PlayStation in Europe. However, he was familiar with Central Florida. He and his wife had a vacation home near Orlando and would visit at least once a year. One day, a real estate agent called and told him about a piece of property located on State Road 33 that was formerly a sand mine.

He was awed when he visited the property. “There was a lake in the middle with a variety of tracks and trails going around the outside of the lake,” he says. “There were hills and woods. I loved the land.” Opportunity knocked and Kevin answered. He has no regrets leaving his lucrative corporate job in London and moving to Florida. “The view from my office job in London was concrete,” he says. “Here, the view from my office is a beautiful lake, beautiful trees, and beautiful wildlife.” Revolution Adventures, located on 230 acres in the middle of the Green Swamp, provides several types of motorized vehicles thrill-seekers ride to leave civilization behind and navigate a variety of trails for every skill level. All-terrain vehicles, also known as “four-wheelers,” were invented in the 1960s and have accelerated in popularity. Much like on a motorcycle, riders straddle a seat in the middle. Extra tires provide more stability. A dune buggy is available for visitors who prefer riding with a friend or relative. These open-air, two-seat machines traverse the property and afford a fun-filled adventure and close-up view of nature. For families, the eight-wheel, four-passenger Argo Amphibious Utility Terrain Vehicles are ideal. Better known as “mucky ducks” by Kevin, these vehicles travel through land—and water. “The mucky ducks float because the wheels act as paddles when you take it through deep puddles and lakes,” Kevin says. “It’s quite an experience for kids when mom and dad turn and go

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into the water. These machines make for a great family experience, and I don’t know anywhere else in the world where they are used as a tourist attraction.” Prior to each ride, professional guides provide safety instructions and lessons on how to operate vehicles. “Safety is our number one priority,” Kevin says. “We want people to leave here smiling instead of going out on a stretcher. We’re not an extreme off-road, mud-bogging company. We’re a family entertainment center.” Of course, not everyone comes to Revolution Adventures to drive all-terrain vehicles. Some find that catching trophy bass can be just as exhilarating. Guides take visitors out on the property’s 65acre lake in a bass boat for a four-hour

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catch-and-release fishing experience. To Kevin’s knowledge, the largest bass caught in the stocked lake weighed 14.2 pounds. Others come to Revolution Adventures to test their marksmanship. An archery station and clay shooting station are set up on different parts of the property where rangemasters and certified coaches teach proper techniques using a shotgun and archery bow. There’s also a course for archery tag, which is like dodgeball except participants try to hit each other with foam-tipped arrows. Once you’re hit, you’re out. If you catch an opponent’s arrow, he is out. “Families love playing archery tag together,” Kevin says.

With so much to see and do, it’s little wonder why Clermont resident Brandi Ferrone frequently visits Revolution Adventures with her children, Hailey, 19, and Ty, 16. She made it a parenting priority for them to indulge in more green time and less screen time. They’ve been visiting since 2009. Hailey has seemingly mastered the art of skeet shooting. Ty spends his time there reeling in largemouth bass. As for Brandi, she simply enjoys sitting on a sandy beach while plopping her feet in the lake and feeding the fish. “It’s just gorgeous out here,” Brandi says. “I always say that if I lived here, I would


lines and everybody being in a rush. We’re a hidden gem.” How hidden is somewhat questionable. When visitors come to Revolution Adventures, they place a push pin on a map denoting the state or country where they reside. There is very little space left on the map. Guests have come from all 50 states and faraway countries like China, Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Finland. Many of them are Orlando tourists visiting the homes of

Mickey Mouse and Shamu. Kevin says his company complements theme parks rather than compete against them. “People come back to Disney year after year,” Kevin says. “But we are an impulse purchase where people find us and say, ‘Wow, I’ve always wanted to do that.’ Coming here is their day off from the hustle and bustle—their play day.”



never leave. As far as my kids, limiting their time on phones and computers and allowing them to be in the outdoors had paid off. They are more well-rounded kids.” The same goes for Caitlyn Best Jenkins, sales and marketing manager of Revolution Adventures. She formerly worked as a server at Walt Disney World. She prefers being in a natural environment versus a man-made environment. “Being at Disney, you’re surrounded by 1 million people at a time. Out here, you can enjoy the peacefulness without long

4000 State Road 33 Clermont 34714 Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week For reservations call 352.400.1322 or email reservations@revolutionoffroad.com Available for corporate events, birthday parties, Scouts programs, company retreats, team-building events.

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Cancer and the COVID-19 Vaccine:

What’s Right for You? PA ID




ost cancer patients are being advised to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but some cases require special consideration. Talk with your oncologist as soon as possible to see what’s right for you. Here’s why. Vaccines in general trick the body’s immune system into fighting infection, by presenting it with an impostor. In effect, the COVID-19 vaccine says, “I’m showing you what this virus looks like,” without being the virus itself. The body’s immune system mounts a defense and then remembers what to do if it gets exposed to the real virus. Most cancer therapies suppress the body’s immune response, and active treatment could interfere with the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness. The vaccine would still be safe, but it might not work as well if it’s trying to rev up an immune system compromised by cancer treatment. Chemo, immunotherapy, and radiation can all suppress the immune system. Oncologists are considering ways to get around these limitations. For example, spacing out chemo infusions can give the body’s immunity a chance to rebound so that it can work better

with a vaccine. Each individual case is unique, so talk with your oncologist, including your radiation oncologist if you are undergoing radiation. Everyone, including those vaccinated, should continue wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene, and social distancing. At RBOI we take every safety precaution to limit the spread of the virus in our clinic settings. For more information, including places offering the vaccine, go to floridahealthcovid19.gov.

What about Allergic Reactions? Allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare: no higher than the rate of allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. The FDA requires that people be watched for 15 minutes after they get the vaccine. In addition, whoever is giving the vaccine should have an epinephrine pen or other medicine on hand to counteract any severe allergic response.

What are Clinical Trial Phases? Phase 1: 20-100 healthy volunteers get the vaccine. Researchers ask: Is this vaccine safe? Are there any serious side effects? How does the vaccine dose relate to any side effects? Is the vaccine causing an immune response? Phase 2: Several hundred volunteers get the vaccine. Researchers ask: What are the most common short-term side effects of the vaccine? What is the body’s immune response? Are there signs that the vaccine is protective? Phase 3: 1,000 or more volunteers get the vaccine. Researchers ask: How do disease rates compare between people who get the vaccine and those who do not? How well can the vaccine protect people from disease?

4% Participants with a history of cancer in clinical trials for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

21,720 People receiving the Pfizer vaccine in its Phase 3 clinical trial

The American Cancer Society and other leading cancer organizations endorse continuing your screening and treatment during the pandemic. Hospitals and medical systems across the US are vaccinating health care providers and taking additional steps to ensure a safe environment for people receiving cancer care.


Days after injection before the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine becomes effective

Patient-centered radiation oncology close to home

The FDA approves a vaccine only if: It is safe and effective. Its benefits outweigh the risks. Phase 4: The FDA continues to track vaccine safety and effectiveness in the general public. This is also called the “post-marketing phase.”

Continue Your Cancer Care

1-866-779-6121 Florida Dept. of Health COVID-19 Call Center, available 24/7

The Villages 352.259.2200 Ocala 352.732.0277 Timber Ridge 352.861.2400 Inverness 352.726.3400 Lecanto 352.527.0106 RBOI.com

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Loretta and I have been coming to Plaza Cadillac for many years, and always receive professional and polite service. Now at the age of 86, we decided to come to Plaza again for our latest car. Our salesman Rick Jimenez was very professional in getting us a great price for our trade and our new car. —JOHN & LORETTA EDWARDS


P L AZ A John & Loretta Edwards, Customers

8893 US HWY 441 LEESBURG, FL 34788 352.787.1323


Tony Pagano, General Sales Manager (left) Rick Jimenez, Salesperson (right)


I had a wonderful experience getting my new Nautilus at Plaza Lincoln. My salesman Gaige Tracy was so polite and friendly, he reminded me of my grandson. I was happy with the deal and the service, I can’t imagine anything going any better. Highly recommend.


P L AZ A Marcella Blank, Customer (left) Tony Pagano, General Sales Manager (center) Gaige Tracy, Salesperson (right)


8925 US HWY 441 LEESBURG, FL 34788 352.787.1255


Spring break Alexander Springs is dive worth the drive where wildlife thrive. STORY: VICTORIA SCHLABIG

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ake County is well known among residents and visitors for fishing, boating, kayaking, skiing, tubing, paddle boarding, canoeing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and other aquatic activities, but the county named for more than 1,000 lakes is also popular with those who prefer to be under the water rather than on it. With crystalline waters perfect for diving, kayaking, or just floating, Alexander Springs Recreation Area, located at the entrance of Ocala National Forest in Astor, is popular with adventurers and those wishing to relax. Most visitors come for the 72-degree Fahrenheit water (year-round) at one of Florida’s 27 first-magnitude (at least 64.6 million gallons discharged per day) springs, but Alexander Springs is also an ideal spot for those who enjoy hiking trails and observing wildlife. Because there are no complicated cave systems to navigate and the maximum depth of the spring is 30 feet, Alexander Springs is popular among diving instructors with firsttime students. Part of the appeal is that Alexander Springs has both a large shallow area and a smaller deeper area for divers who aren’t comfortable exploring deep and dark waters. Tony Rock of A Rock Diving in Eustis often brings students to Alexander Springs, as it is a perfect depth and visibility for new divers. “The water at Alexander Springs is very clear water. Even if it does get silted up, the water

flow from the spring usually clears it out in about 15 minutes. Diving there gives you the ability to relax, see your surroundings and wildlife, and enjoy the location,” says Tony, who became a master training specialist while in the Navy. Later, with Orange County Fire Rescue, he worked as a paramedic preceptor, taught special operations classes, and became one of the lead dive instructors for the dive team. Most of the comments Tony has heard from first-time students who have gone to Alexander Springs are along the lines of “‘This was an awesome dive,’ and ‘Wow, this is really beautiful,’” he says. Tony has had over 300 students and has never heard a negative comment from one about the location. When Tony asked his teenage kids if they would like to start diving, too, they jumped at the chance. The family trained with Chad Patterson of CFL Scuba Divers & Repair (previously C&N Divers), and Tony and one of his sons went on to become Rescue Diver and Divemaster certified. After working for C&N, Tony opened A Rock Diving in 2013. In 2018, he became a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Tony’s oldest grandchild recently completed her first PADI Bubblemaker Certification (a program for children 8 and up) at Alexander Springs and “absolutely loved it,” Tony says. “She was a little apprehensive, but once she got underwater, she loved seeing the fish, turtles, and just looking at the various small shells on the bottom. She can’t wait until the next time she gets to go diving.” You only have to be 10 years old to be fully certified in scuba diving. Young and old alike must meet certain physical health requirements to get certified.

Bryan Hylton

Chad, who has taught people ages 10 to 70-something, recalls taking many students to Alexander Springs to complete their first dives. His oldest student, a retired Air Force colonel in his seventies, did a dive with his grandkids and did great, Chad says. Chad is proud he’s been able to teach three generations of some families. “I taught parents, I’ve taught their kids, and now their grandkids, so that’s something really unique,” he says. “I have worked full-time teaching since the late 90s. My dad was an instructor so I kind of followed in his footsteps and it’s what I know now so I guess I’m stuck, but I have no desire to do anything else.” He believes he has done over 10,000 dives in the 40 years since his first scuba dive in lakes around his childhood home in upstate New York at age 8. Chad was about 12 the first time he dove in Alexander Springs, and he has been coming back ever since. He and his family moved to Eustis in 1990 when he was in high school and opened a dive shop in Mount Dora (C&N Divers) which was around for about 20 years. They had to shut it down briefly due to the economy but are now back as CFL Scuba Divers & Repair. Dive classes exploring at Alexander Springs. Chad says that Alexander Springs is a great site. “It’s cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and it’s just a nice walking easy-entry, and the water is clear to see fish and turtles,” he adds. “I call it my happy place,” says Bryan Hylton, of Eustis, who has participated in the hobby for over 24 years. “When I’m under the water it seems like all my stress just melts away and all I hear is the bubbles, and it’s just like a serene feeling to me, so it’s just a big stress relief.” He also does underwater spearing (catching fish with a speargun) and underwater photography and videography. Bryan was a 14-year-old Fire Explorer in Mount Dora when he decided to enroll in a diving certification course the department was hosting. He’s been diving ever since. Bryan likes Alexander Springs because it’s not too deep, which makes it great for beginners. Visibility is another perk, because even if sand gets kicked up and muddies the water it clears quickly, making it easy to see the instructor and follow directions. This also allows for better visibility of fish, wildlife, rock formations, plants, and fossils. Alexander Springs is definitely a perfect location for seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. Chad has seen gar, tilapia, bass, and shellcrackers (redear sunfish) and other fish. He has even seen otters on occasion, but it is “hit or miss because they come out when they want to.” He says it’s “neat” to watch anhingas–also known as snakebirds–dive under the water, and has noticed a phenomenon while diving that took him a few years to figure out: “Sometimes when we touch down on the sand, it looks like the sand is boiling, like you’re making cream of wheat, and the fish will gather there. What it is, is worms making those bubbles, and the fish are waiting there for the worms to churn up. That took me probably five years of watching the fish and taking my time to figure it out,” Chad says. Tony agrees there is an abundance of wildlife above and below the water. “Since this is a national forest, location-divers get the opportunity to see a lot of land and aquatic species native to Florida. Multiple fish and turtles swim freely throughout; Various birds can be seen sunning along the water’s edge,” he says. He also lists bald eagles, herons, kingfishers, swallow tail kites, limpkins, owls, woodpeckers, anhingas, bass, bluegills, turtles, catfish, sunfish, mullet, racoons, otters, deer, tortoise, and snakes, as animals seen within Alexander Springs Recreation Area.

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Bryan and Eli Hylton

Both Tony and Chad have observed alligators on occasion. They are somewhat of a rare find, and are nothing to be afraid of. “They stay in the weeds and you don’t go in the weeds. If you’re lucky you get to see one, but they’re not out to get you. I remember I had students once that said, ‘Chad there’s an alligator over there what do we do?’ I said, ‘Put your mask on, we gotta get closer.’ We were still about 20 feet away, but the water is so clear that if you can see an alligator swim and how graceful they are, it’s not how you think that they’re out to get you,” Chad says. Bryan recalls seeing “just about everything you can imagine” at Alexander, even catfish and an occasional manatee. Most parks protect manatees by prohibiting diving when the sea cows come out. “So many springs get closed off to diving but it’s important to help keep them open and let the public access them but also protect them at the same time,” Chad says. If you’re considering taking up diving as a hobby, there are a few things you should know. First, getting certified is no easy feat.

Beginners’ courses consist of take-home DVDs and bookwork, followed by a review class with your instructor and a written test. Next, you have to complete a series of pool sessions before making your way to real bodies of water for “open water dives,” which will likely take place in Alexander Springs if you are training with Chad or Tony. Additionally, scuba diving can be an expensive. Gear, training, and boat charters can all be pricey, so you should really be dedicated to taking up scuba diving before jumping in.

Bryan’s advice to kids is to start early. “I see a lot of kids now getting certified because you only have to be 10 now, and it’s one thing I wish I could’ve done is get certified earlier,” he adds. When you’re not diving, or if diving isn’t for you, Alexander Springs Recreation Area still has lots to do for the whole family. Visitors can hike the 0.9-mile Timucuan Trail circling through the park, which features two observation decks where you can view the springs, as well as look for the aforementioned wildlife. The 68-site campground, large picnic area, and sandy shoreline make for a lovely weekend away from home to relax, spend time outdoors, and work on your tan.



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Pickin’ Southern Hill Farms u-pick is the berries, and much, much more. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

Alexus Scott, Lavender Scott and Raven Shank


en years ago, Southern Hill Farms owners David and Lisa Hill never dreamed they would welcome thousands of people onto their 120-acre property at 16651 Schofield Road in Clermont. That’s because that first blueberry crop was strictly commercial. Today, Southern Hills Farm is a u-pick operation, and David and Lisa wouldn’t have it any other way. “We did a couple years of commercial pick for the blueberries and my kids wanted me to start a u-pick, but I didn’t want to because I was nervous having the public on the farm with the liability and all that stuff,” David says. “But they passed an agrotourism law in 2013 that protects the farmer from people getting injured, as long as there is no negligence, so that helped me with wanting to try it.” David and his family started their first blueberry u-pick in 2014, but kept it relatively small for about three years.

Southern Hill Farms has since blossomed into a u-pick mecca with a wide variety of fruits, flowers, and vegetables people can harvest themselves. The farm added peaches in 2017, sunflowers and sweet corn in 2018, and strawberries in February 2021. “This is our first year with strawberries and so we started kind of small, just 4 ½ acres because it was all the land I had available at the moment, and because we wanted to see if the demand warranted more, and it does,” David says, explaining that by 2022, their strawberry field will be three times as large, but they will continue to plant 20-plus acres of sunflowers, zinnias, and sweet corn, 4 ½ acres of peaches, and 40 acres of blueberries. “I have customers telling me it’s great that they have different times of the year where they can come out and pick something,” David says. This year will also mark another milestone for the family, since it will cease its ornamental tree business, which will free up 80 acres for the additional crops and other fun. David says he sees the farm becoming more of an all-day agro-destination with


Grinnin’ a little something for everyone in the family. “Although landscape trees are hot right now with a lot of new construction, we’ve decided just to cut that out to make room for more crops and our agrotourism operation,” David says, before breaking out into a smile and chuckling to himself. “My kids, my family, they make so much fun of me because I was the one who at first said, ‘No, we’re not going to do any u-picking,’ but now, I’m kind of the ambassador.” David says he does a lot of farming, but he often focuses on visitors when he’s maneuvering around on his tractor. “I go around and give people rides and I talk to them, you know, they love to meet the owner and the farmer, and they like to get to know about the food, who’s growing it, how It grows and stuff. It’s nice,” he says. David enjoys interacting with u-pickers, but he says the commercial blueberry operation will remain a top priority. “You can’t u-pick 40 acres of blueberries, that’s just too many. You wouldn’t

be able to pick them fast enough as they ripen throughout the season; they’d just go bad.” In Florida, for the most part, strawberry season runs from February to March, and blueberry and peach seasons start in late March and can last through May, if lucky. Sunflowers and zinnias can be picked during the spring and fall seasons, and sweet corn from about October to June. David says he’s noticed that people love picking the most when the Florida heat is not so brutal. “I think that’s been half the allure with the strawberries, that’s it’s not too hot to be out here picking them. This is the first time we’ve had something in the winter,” David says. “I think the two biggest complaints we get about our u-pick in general, is that the (clay) road

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Natalie, Mary, Jesse, and Olivia Eisner

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getting to us is too bumpy and that it’s hot; and I can’t do too much about either one of those things.” What he could do something about is adding to the farm’s offerings. Already, there is a market where people can purchase jams, jellies, candles, honey, soaps, souvenirs, and other small gift items. There’s also a pavilion where various food trucks are parked, including one that sells baked goods–like cobblers and muffins–made using farm fresh fruit. There is also a donut shed that in February debuted fresh strawberry donuts made from scratch, and a beverage shed that sells blueberry and strawberry lemonade, plus beer, wine, and more. People can also climb the steps to a wooden deck, sit and enjoy their food and drinks and a peaceful view overlooking the farm and neighboring land, a serene sunset, sunrise, and just relax. The farm also hosts weddings, monthly movie nights, and an annual fall festival David hopes will return this year, but with possible limited capacity. There is also a stage for live music on weekends, and a children’s area with a playground, rock-climbing wall and more. By next year, that section will include a huge slide, a motorized swing ride, huge jump pads and inflatables, an obstacle course, a carousel, and more. David says one of the most welcomed additions has been a David Hill

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bathroom structure that replaced what he called portallettes. “I’ll tell you what, our regular customers would come, they’d find me and it seemed like they practically wanted to kiss me on the lips for building those bathrooms,” David says. “They are air-conditioned with chandeliers and stuff; that was my wife Lisa’s thing.” David says he hopes 2021 and the years ahead will be better than 2020, the year of the pandemic and the farm’s subsequent scramble to survive. “The u-pick operation is pretty lucrative, but last year we really took it on the chin. The pandemic hit in March (2020) and we were just getting ready to open for blueberries,” David says. “The state got shut down literally one week before we opened and so we were struck hard.” David says they could have stayed open since the farm was deemed an essential business, but with all the uncertainty surrounding social distancing, etc., the family decided to halt the u-pick and get creative. “People would order online and then come pick up their stuff. They’d never get out of their cars, but just come through and we had sunflowers picked for them, zinnias picked for them, peaches, blueberries, all our market and bakery stuff, and we did pretty good,” David says. “We didn’t do nearly what we would have normally, but we stayed afloat.” David adds: “We didn’t know what to expect the first week because it was new to people, but the second weekend we did that, we had traffic backed up for miles. We really appreciate the community for backing us.”

Blueberries: (March-April or May) ARTISAN ACRES (formerly Sand Hills Farms) 31614 Bottany Woods Dr., Eustis 407.915.4122 artisanacres.com ATWOOD FAMILY FARMS 36111 N. CR 44A, Eustis 352.630.0145 atwoodfamilyfarm.com Lorraine L. Duberstein, Savannah G. Duberstein and Keysha Vidal

This year, during the farm’s first week of strawberries and sunflowers, people were thrilled with the farm’s newest endeavor. Orlando resident Lorraine Duberstein, at the farm with her daughter Savannah, daughter-in-law Keysha Vidal and her two sons, says she intends to use some of the fruit they picked to make chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day and freeze the rest to have for smoothies and other treats throughout the year. As for the dozens of sunflowers they picked, Lorraine explains that the décor in her dining room is sunflower-themed and adds: “You can’t come to a sunflower field and not pick sunflowers.” Other people come to relish the experience or vibe, including Alexus Scott, her mom, Raven Shank, and one-year-old daughter, Lavender. They picked and just took pictures among the sunflowers. “We bought some generational jewelry, and we came out here today to take some beautiful photos of our love, friendship, relationship, affection for each other, and the sunflowers and beautiful day is a good representation of that,” Alexus says. Orlando couple Mariah Delgado and Joseph Cruz enjoyed a romantic afternoon picking sunflowers and strawberries after coming across a TikTok video shot at the farm. Mariah says, “We love strawberries, and the sunflowers are so pretty, plus this is a fun, outdoor activity that is not very expensive, and that is good for bonding and for spending some quality time together.” Plus, David says, anything picked fresh just tastes better.

BLUE BAYOU FARMS 26921 Bloomfield Ave., Yalaha 352.324.4069 bluebayoufarm.com


BLUEBERRY HILLS FARM 5000 Berry Groves Rd., Clermont 863.944.1401 blueberryhillfarm.net

Blackberries: (March-May) H&H BERRY FARMS 15217 CR 455, Montverde 800.716.4740

Strawberries: (February-March) FAR REACH RANCH 1255 S. Dora Blvd., Tavares 352.343.7389 farreachranch.com OAK HAVEN FARMS & WINERY 32418 Avington Rd., Sorrento 352.735.1996 berriesandwines.com SOUTHERN HILL FARMS 16651 Schofield Rd., Clermont 407.986.5806 southernhillfarms.com

Peaches: (March-April) GRAHAM FARMS 14803 Lake Yale Rd., Umatilla 352.636.3821 Lady Lake Peach 2917 Lake Griffin Rd., Lady Lake 352.217.8853 ladylakepeach.com PEACHY P’S 600 Crescent St., Umatilla 352.267.0149 SOUTHERN HILLS FARMS 16651 Schofield Rd., Clermont 407.986.5806 southernhillfarms.com

FAR REACH RANCH 1255 S. Dora Blvd., Tavares 352.343.7389 farreachranch.com H&H BERRY FARMS 15217 CR 455, Montverde 800.716.4740 HEATHER OAKS FARM 4240 Christmas Land, Lady Lake 352.753.1184 heatheroaksfarm.com KING GROVE ORGANIC FARM 19714 CR 44A, Eustis 352.589.2469 kinggrove.com LAKE CATHERINE BLUEBERRIES 5849 Lake Catherine Rd., Groveland 352.551.4110 lakecatherineblueberries.com SOUTHERN HILL FARMS 16651 Schofield Rd., Clermont 407.986.5806 southernhillfarms.com THE VINTAGE BERRY 2230 Sloans Ridge Rd., Groveland 352.242.7443

Olives: (August) A NATURAL FARM 23630 SR 19, Howey-in-the-Hills 352.536.3112 anaturalfarm.com

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We come to you! Stay Home. Stay Safe. Heal in Comfort. Rapha Wound Care Associates’ provides convenient, physician-led medical care services in the home for patients in need of: • Wound Care • General Adult Medicine • Covid-19 treatment • Urgent Care • Medical Marijuana certification L-R: Nikki Langston, LPN; Martin Schnell, MD; Feather Moore, Admin

“Where faith and science meet, real healing begins.”

To learn more, visit us at raphawoundcare.com

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352.409.4404 / Info@RaphaWoundCare.com





IN THE 2018 AND 2019




352.989.7757 1004 N. DONNELLY ST., MT. DORA


Catch swamp fever on an airboat; you won’t want to be cured. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

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liding 35 to 55 mph across Lake Panasoffkee and experiencing fun, sliding corner turns through marshes into the peaceful swamps and natural springs of the Withlacoochee River system are among the thrills Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures provides. “I get to be outside every day, and I get to run an airboat,” Captain Kyle Arbuckle says is a best perk of his job, along with meeting visitors from all over the world. “When a lot of people think of Florida, they think of the beaches, Miami or Disney World, but this is the real Florida,” says Kyle. “We have people come from Europe to experience a ride, and they’ve never seen an airboat before.” Guests often marvel over the natural beauty and tranquility of the swamp, and they also delight over seeing wildlife, from big to small alligators sunbathing, turtles resting on logs, and a variety of birds. “The weather plays a real big part of the wildlife that is seen,” says Kyle, adding that alligators and other critters are no different than people who prefer being outdoors on nice, cooler days to super-hot summer days. “They’re very sensitive to the changes in weather. This was a good day,” says Kyle, pleased about a recent tour in which guests saw 10 big alligators and 30 smaller ones while slowly riding in the mile-long swamp. “I enjoyed every moment,” says Barb Pelletier of Ocala, who was accompanied by her husband Ken. “This was our first time, and I really liked being in the swamp; it was so beautiful.” “I loved how calm it was,” adds Jack Peake of California. “The airboat ride was amazing! I loved how fun and fast it was and seeing the beautiful scenery was pretty neat.”

Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures was started in 2015 by Captain Ron Duboise–who has 50-plus years of air boating experience–and his wife Pamela. “We try to give everybody the real thrill of ‘Old Florida’ and it’s something you can’t see from the road,” says Pamela. “It’s something you have to experience on an airboat. It’s so beautiful, especially in the springtime when everything is starting to turn green again. It’s just gorgeous, very serene, and very quiet.” Listen quietly, she adds, and one can hear the sounds of wildlife. Guests are also treated to another thrill before or after their tour: the chance to meet Swamp Fever’s resident alligators Alli, Josephine, or Wyatt up close. If they wish, guests can hold and be photographed with one of the gators. Yes, the gator’s mouth is taped shut, and Alli, Josephine, and Wyatt are accustomed to being held and photographed with visitors. Chris Bohnsack, Swamp Fever’s wildlife handler, who has a degree in animal science from the University of Florida, relishes caring for the alligators and educating guests about them. “Animals have always been a passion of mine, and I’ve always liked dealing with any type of animal and wildlife in particular,” says Chris. “It’s nice when people come in and they initially have a lot of reservations about holding the alligator or even getting close to it, and after they see them and we talk to them for a

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little while, by the end they are holding them and have a different point of view of how to look at them.” Chris talks to each alligator in a low, calming voice. “One thing I have learned about being around animals is they adhere to the security of someone that is always around them, feeds them, and cares for them.” He says that Alli, Wyatt, and Josephine have their own personalities, just like people and pets do. “Alli loves the attention, he loves being held,” adds Jessica Himes, who books tours and takes turns giving the educational programs with Chris. “People love seeing the alligators we have,” she says, noting that Alli is 7, weighs 25 pounds and is 5-foot long. He could grow to about 13 and 15 feet in length and weigh about 1,000 pounds by the time he is 80 years old. Wyatt and Josephine are both 5. “Alli is just a big love bug and he loves the attention and always has and probably always will,” says Jessica. “He is one of my favorites, and I love Josephine, too, and she’s the smallest. I would say she has more of a teenage attitude, but she is a sweetheart, and Wyatt is right in between. He’s like ‘whatever,’ but they all get handled with loving care.” The staff makes sure the alligators’ pens are clean and that they have fresh water. There’s also a heat lamp to warm them up when they get out of the water. “They have it made,” Jessica says of their nice den, which visitors can also see.

Jessica and Chris delight in taking reservations from guests who are repeat customers. Many returnees are residents from The Villages who bring friends and family members. One guest has been to Swamp Fever 12 times. Another made five visits in the past two months. “We have people we never forget and it’s a lot of fun seeing them,” says Jessica. “For a lot of people this is on their bucket list to take an airboat ride,” adds Chris. “I have heard a lot of that recently. I just got a call from a young lady that wanted to book a trip for her father who is 88 and has never been on an airboat, and he said that it has always been on his bucket list, so I thought that was really special that she involved us with that.” The octogenarian was planning to make the trip from the Pennsylvania area. “We are an outdoor excursion that’s fun for people to do,” says Pamela, who relishes receiving positive reviews. “We still get

comments from people that they have more fun with us than they do at Disney.” She adds: “The best compliment is how different we are from everybody else, and how nice people feel when they leave, like they are friends or family to us. We do love seeing everybody and we do call them part of the Swamp Fever family.”


SWAMP FEVER AIRBOAT ADVENTURES 4110 NW 42nd Place, Lot 1 Lake Panasoffkee, FL Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily For reservations call 352.643.0708 or visit swampfeverairboatadventures.com

Jessica Himes


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New horizons in the science of aging

Located in The Villages, Aviv Clinics is the world premiere clinic, dedicated to improve brain performance and change the experience of the aging process PAID PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

here’s no denying Villagers enjoy an inspiring outlook on aging and quality of life. For example, activities abound within the community - softball, pickleball, golf, bowling, dancing, and a slew of others. But the active lifestyle residents are not the only reason Aviv Scientific chose The Villages as the site to open its 30,000 square-foot clinic. Offering the first and only clinically proven medical treatment to restore and maintain healthy brain function, Aviv Clinics creates an opportunity for longerlasting memory, energy, mobility, and independent living. Put simply, like The Villages, Aviv is designed for those who want to live an enriching and active retirement era. “Everything we do is about helping people improve their quality of life today and a healthier and more fulfilling life for years to come,” says Dave Globig, chief executive officer of the company. “That’s in full alignment with The Villages.” The Aviv Media Program focuses on optimizing their clients’ health span, or the number of years a person remains in good health and cognitively performs. “Until now, biologically preserving and restoring healthy brain function was

unavailable. Today, there’s finally an individualized brain health program that actually assesses and improves the performance of the brain,” says Mohammed Elamir, M.D., a board-certified physician at Aviv Clinics. “This will enable people to take control of the trajectory of their healthspan. Protecting your independence, mobility, vitality and personality can be by choice – not by chance.” Since opening in June 2020, The Aviv medical team has treated local Villagers as well as international visitors using its advanced proprietary protocol concentrated in hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

Using Oxygen to Heal the Brain and Body Clients enroll in a three-month program that includes several components. There’s an initial in-depth assessment where physicians, neuropsychologists, and physiologists evaluate a client’s cognitive, biological, and physical functions. During the treatment, clients undergo 60 hyperbaric oxygen treatments and are treated through individualized Medical Programs designed by a team of Aviv specialists. A final assessment at the end of the treatment empirically determines how much a patient has improved cognitively and physically. A team

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of neuropsychologists, internal medicine physicians, physiologists, physical therapists, and dieticians are all working under one roof. This comprehensive, team-oriented approach helps ensure clients receive optimal cognitive and physical performance. The human brain requires oxygen to perform at its best. However, as people age, their bodies become less efficient at channeling oxygen. During hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the body is flushed with oxygen. The unique protocol uses oxygen fluctuations which are triggering self-regenerative mechanisms. Using Aviv's patent-pending cognitive platform and while inside the chamber, Aviv clients undergo brain exercises focusing on working memory, reaction time, attention, and speed of information processing. Many of the Aviv physicians and staff were so impressed with Aviv Scientific research and the benefits it offers that they moved to Florida from out of state to join the team. One of them is Dr. Mohammed Elamir, who left his internal medicine practice in New Jersey. To him, having

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the ability to spend quality time with each patient leads to superior outcomes. “In New Jersey, I ran a traditional internal medicine practice where I saw 40 to 50 patients a day,” he says. “The problem with that is I wouldn’t see them again for another three months. At Aviv, the model is an interdisciplinary approach to the brain and the body. When I see a client here, I spend hours with him or her. I have the medical flexibility to do what I think is appropriate for the client.” Dr. Elamir also appreciates how Aviv tailor’s medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each client. “Everything is individualized based on their needs and assessments,” Dr. Elamir says. “That’s one big difference between us and other programs. Also, our medical team has meetings to discuss needs or issues our clients may be having. We’re all on the same page to provide the best service and best care. Thus, the overall experience of each client is that much better.” Joe Harris, hyperbaric program manager at Aviv, has worked in hyperbaric medicine for 18 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the clinic, benefitting everyone who pursues the treatment. He says Aviv’s hyperbaric suites, having an aesthetically pleasing design that resembles sitting in a luxurious airplane, differ considerably from standard hyperbaric chambers. LED-lit windows,

reclining chairs, face fans, and call buttons make the suite feel open and help patients remain comfortable. “Our clinical team has the autonomy, resources, and the ability to address every single aspect of a client’s health,” Dave Globig says. “This comprehensive and personalized approach is what makes Aviv different. Too often, chronic disease is treated with medication, but patients don’t really see improvement in their quality of life. Our team of dedicated physicians treat clients for three months and enjoy seeing their health improve drastically.” Many from outside The Villages have taken notice. A large percentage of clients have traveled from Canada, Colombia, and California to receive treatment at AVIV. “That’s great for The Villages,” says Glenn Colarossi, head of business development. “These individuals rent, and in some cases, bought homes while undergoing our program.”

Scientific Advancements for Time-Tested Technology The Aviv Medical Program was designed by Dr. Shai Efrati, director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel. He spent the past 10 years studying how HBOT can enhance brain function. In the past, HBOT has been used primarily to treat wounds, ulcers, and

AVIV MEDICAL PROGRAM CAN POTENTIALLY PROVIDE: burns. At Aviv, it is used to reverse age-related cognitive and physical decline. It’s a new approach based on clinical studies and one that Dr. Efrati feels will be adopted also by the new generation of doctors to improve and restore brain and body function. “The future of medicine is happening now,” Dr. Efrati says. “Functional medicine is not science fiction anymore. Hyperbaric oxygen has commonly been used to treat and heal tissue. Well, the brain is tissue. It made perfect sense to me that if we can see the brain and evaluate the tissue’s condition in the brain, and that we

do with a unique MRI protocol, then we could start also treating those brain’s tissues through hyperbaric oxygen treatments.” The Aviv medical team looks to grow and reach people worldwide. In April, a second clinic is scheduled to open in Dubai. Discussion is underway about opening clinics in Other metropolitans around the world. In time, many around the globe may discover what Aviv clients already know: Aging is no longer a barrier to maintaining physical health, mental acuity, and an active lifestyle.

BACK IN THE SADDLE AND PLAYING TO WIN Decades after sustaining injuries that come with being a longtime equestrian rider, Clarissa Rainey was experiencing physical and mental decline. At the time, falling off horses was just part of riding, but at age 58 the real estate agent from Ocala found herself suffering from perpetuating impacts and unable to remember names of friends for swing a golf club. She became determined to improve her quality of life. Last September, she enrolled in a 12-week comprehensive medical program offered at Aviv Clinics in The Villages. Aviv, which opened in June 2020, is the first specialized medical center in North

America that uses groundbreaking science to treat aging as a disease. While there, Clarissa underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to heal her brain tissue, as well as cognitive and physical training and nutritional coaching. By the time she completed the program in December, Clarissa felt like a new person. Her chronic knee pain disappeared, her cholesterol level lowered, and she slept more soundly throughout the night. Improved memory and mental focus have allowed her to be more proficient in her job. For Clarissa, the Aviv Medical Program was a blessing.


352.488.2848 / aviv-clinics.com / 2955 Brownwood Blvd. #100, The Villages

Benefits for your mind • Enhance brain performance, including: • Improved memory and attention span

• Increased focus • Increased information processing speed (how quickly we complete mental tasks)

• Sharper executive functions (a set of complex mental skills that allow us to think flexibly, make decisions, and exercise self-control)

• Improved mood

Benefits for your body • Enhance physical performance: • Fitness • Strength • Coordination • Balance • Reduce pain • Sleep better • Improve sexual performance (for men) • Boost energy, power, and stamina

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Shawn and Amy, who have been married 36 years, created a network of trained and licensed parents in Ukraine who welcome children into their homes and foster a loving environment as they help restore physical, spiritual, and emotional health. “Institutions cannot heal these children; families heal these children,” Shawn says. He has seen it firsthand. One of the most egregious cases involved sisters Yana and Lena from a singleparent home with an alcoholic mother who routinely brought home men who physically abused the girls. In fact, Yana still bears a scar from a man in a drunken rage cut who her with a metal spoon. Social services contacted Shawn and Amy, who arranged for the girls to be picked up and moved in with Vladimir and Nada Rezmer, national directors and adoptive parents for Mission 823. Living in a loving, stable home was life-changing for the sisters, both now in their 20s. Yana graduated culinary school and now studies English and German at a university. She has her own apartment and serves in her church’s leadership team. Lena studies music at a university and competed on Ukraine’s Got Talent, the country’s equivalent of America’s Got Talent. Both sisters volunteer their time to help orphaned children. “When you experience the love of a family, it changes you as a person,” Amy says. “Both of these girls were saved and given an opportunity they never would have had otherwise. To see them grow and blossom as people is amazing.” FULFILLING A NEED Shawn spent six years in the U.S. Navy and two years as children’s pastor of an Orlando church before dedicating his life to helping Ukrainian orphans. His path to missionary work started in 1995 when a church member asked Shawn to accompany him on a short mission trip to Ukraine. “I said, ‘Yes, where’s that?’”

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The answer: Eastern Europe. With a population of 44.39 million, Ukraine is the second-largest European country behind Russia. Approximately 45 percent of Ukrainians lived below the poverty level in 2020, according to a study conducted by the M.V. Ptukha Institute of Demographics and Social Research. After arriving, Shawn quickly learned another fact. Children were, as he puts it, “living in a humanitarian crisis.” He came to that conclusion after attending a “graduation ceremony” at an orphanage in the village of Komarivka for 15-year-old kids aging out of the system. He was appalled by their living conditions. The dilapidated dormitories had no running water or heat. Toilets and showers were not operational. Many children were sandwiched like sardines into one room and they often rotated clothing among themselves. Orphanages in Ukraine are severely underfunded by the government. As a result, children become malnourished and sick and receive a poor education with little preparation for adulthood. Their emotional needs are seldom met. Shawn saw something else that deeply troubled him. On graduation day, human

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traffickers descended on the orphanage to deceive vulnerable children into traveling with them by promising lucrative careers. “They offered kids opportunities that didn’t exist,” Shawn says. “They tell a young lady that she’s beautiful and she can have a modeling career in the U.S. or Europe. They tell a young man that he has strong hands and he could become an engineer. They just blow smoke to get these kids into a van. Once they’re in a van, they’re done.” Shawn, heartbroken, made it his mission to repair the shattered lives and minds of victims of Ukraine’s corrupt and inadequate orphanage system. “That sealed it for us,” Shawn says. “People were taking advantage of helpless kids and exploiting them for their own profit.” The Sullivans moved to Ukraine in July 2001 and resided there for six years. They fell in love with the people and their work. “We enjoy making a difference,” Amy says. “These children have dreams and goals, and we can help them work toward those goals. That was never an option for them before.” RAYS OF HOPE Shawn and Amy returned to the U.S. in 2007, moved to South Lake County in 2013, and served as director for another organization recruiting college-age students to serve as missionaries in

Eastern Europe. The Sullivans started Mission 823 in 2018 to focus their efforts on Ukraine. Shawn visits the country eight times a year with volunteer teams. Amy typically stays behind to manage the organization’s administrative affairs. While operating an overseas mission can be challenging, their network of camp counselors, teachers, and medical professionals makes it possible. Financially, the organization is supported by churches throughout the country, as well as private foundations, businesses, and individual donors. Finding adoptive parents and guardians is only one aspect of the program. Mission 823 conducts youth camps featuring games, team competitions, and field trips to “find reprieve from the hell they’re living in,” as Shawn puts it. Other times, doctors are brought into to treat children with various afflictions. “One woman had a growth problem with her femur being five inches short,” he says. “She had difficulty walking. We brought specialists in and now she has the same leg length. We also do lots of dental work. The dental situation among children in orphanages is horrific.” Through all these programs, forever bonds are created. The children refer to him as “Uncle Shawn” and he enthusiastically refers to them as his “sons and daughters.” “With most organizations, once you reach a certain age and have completed a program you step aside,” he says. “However, we stick with these children like family and support them until they are completely independent and stable. I have relationships with them. I know their

Photos of Mission 823: Courtesy of Shawn Sullivan



Shawn Sullivan photo by Nicole Hamel


names. I know their life stories. I know their progress. I know their dreams. I encourage them just like I encourage my own kids.” Business leaders who financially support Mission 823 have accompanied Shawn to Ukraine and are impressed by his work. One of them is Steve Landaal, vice president of portfolio management of HIS Capital Funding, a real estate investment firm in Orlando. Steve, who has been on two Ukrainian mission trips, helps Ukrainian teenagers develop job skills. “If we can teach them to work, we can put trafficking out of business because traffickers prey on the poor and desperate,” Steve says. On his first trip, Steve promised to buy the children laptops if they learned English. Some accepted the challenge. On his second trip one year later, he gave away 17 laptops. He has since hired three young Ukrainians to work at his company. Their duties range from marketing to handling home loan details. “They can do anything from their smartphone or laptop,” Steve says. “They’re smart, they’re intelligent, and they’re amazing kids. We flew these employees to Florida and took them to Disney so they could see what success looks like. We just have to give them hope. They think that because they live in Ukraine, their ceiling is low. That’s their mentality. We want to change that.” McCauley Austin, pastor of Friendswood Baptist Church in Texas, has accompanied Shawn on three mission trips to organize camps, and also financially supports Mission 823. During camps, children participated in “The Game of Life,” where they accumulate money throughout the week for completing assignments. At the end of the week, they can spend that money on school supplies, toys, candy, and other items.

One boy purchased a lollipop and gave it to McCauley. That lollipop now prominently hangs in his church office, out of reach from his own children. “The little boy did that because he was paying it forward for what we do for them,” McCauley says. “I’m amazed by these children and their character. They come from terrible home lives and have seen horrible things, yet they’re so thoughtful and caring. That’s why Mission 823 is one of my church’s primary investments.” Such heartwarming stories are gratifying, but the Sullivans know there is much work to be done. The Ukrainian government’s annual anti-human trafficking budget is a measly $23,500. Moreover, the country’s seven-year war with Russia has resulted in an economic and humanitarian crisis. More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes because their villages or towns were destroyed. Of those, 600,000 are children. “Every day, Russian troops cross the border, and young men and women are being killed by snipers, rocket fire, mortar fire, drone attacks, and land mines,” Shawn says. “Others who have been displaced are living with no food, no water, no clothing, and no heat. Trying to provide them with aid has been very difficult for us.” That war rages on. So does the Sullivans’ war against cruelty and neglect in Ukrainian orphanages. Shawn Sullivan

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Their ships have sailed Villagers apply real-life sailing skills while racing radio-controlled yachts.

Diving into fear Villager Don Sheppard helps new swimmers stay afloat.

Simply mesmerizing For Peter Nero, a piano provides the keys to his happiness.



Hail, Nero You know him, you love him, you live with him. STORY: GARY CORSAIR

Want more Peter Nero?

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VST Y L E • A PR' 21

What are you doing these days? I’m doing what I couldn’t do when I was playing–I’m sitting watching all the TV that I want.

Have you had crazed fans show up at your door? I wish. What do you consider the peak of your career? Three ex-wives.

You’ve had an incredible career, yet you seem so, normal. I grew up in Brooklyn. You traveled so much during your career … I knew every airport code and I used to play a game with people when I traveled. I’d quiz them. LAG? LaGuardia. Kennedy was JFK. My favorite? Sioux City, Iowa. SUX, and it was true to form.

What do you think of today’s music? The music has changed so much, if you want to call it music. But I’m determined not to deter people from liking what they like. That’s their business.”

Are you writing a book about your life? I keep making notes to myself and then I can’t find my notes.

Visit our website, where Peter gets serious in the rest of our exclusive interview.

Photos : Courtesy of Peter Nero

he Villages paid a pretty penny to bring two-time Grammy Award winning pianist and composer Peter Nero to The Sharon five years ago, but the booking more than paid for itself. Peter, who recorded 70 albums– including the million-selling Summer of ’42—was so impressed with The Villages that he purchased land and had a 2,086-square foot house built south of Morse Boulevard. For Peter, it was a case of right place, right time. “I did a concert here and that was the end of a three-year tour for Columbia Artists Management, Incorporated,” says the legend who moved from a threestory, 6,000-square foot palace on an acre-and-a-half. Peter hasn’t performed since playing The Sharon but plans to resume when COVID-19 calms down. For now, the virtuoso who attended Julliard in his teens, formed the Philly Pops Orchestra, and made dozens of TV appearances, is taking a well-deserved break. “I’m 86 now and I’ve been on the road since 1960,” says the maestro who rose to fame by melding classical and jazz. Peter may be the greatest living pianist. He’s also a very funny guy.

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We’re number 1 ... The Villages is miles ahead of any retirement community anywhere. STORY: JOE ANGIONE

just watched a YouTube video on the 10 bests places to retire in Florida. The Villages ranked 4th. But the three that beat The Villages – Spring Hill was one – weren’t communities, but rather areas or towns where retirees have gravitated. They had nothing as comprehensive as the lifestyle and amenities found here in The Villages. From time to time there are complaints about something The Villages management does to improve its bottom line. Some people are rather cavalier about how they go about expressing their displeasure – like the way they ignored the pleas of nearby homeowners when they leveled the Hacienda Hills restaurant and pool complex. The locals complained bitterly. But what

The Villages did here isn’t unlike what every community does to keep itself profitable. It wasn’t carrying its weight in revenues. The Villages is first a business, and profitability is what that’s all about. The YouTube video mention the 450 top-quality retail establishments and restaurants serving Villagers... the more than 250 medical practices here to keep us healthy, longer... the dozens of daily recreation and entertainment opportunities that excite and energize us... the more than 50 championship and executive golf courses that have attracted people from all over America. YouTube didn’t reveal that The Villages lifestyle has brought over 130,000 to live here, not only to escape the cold of the North, but to enjoy the most active living possible anywhere. When my wife and I moved here 23 years ago, there were only

Joe Angione loves to share stories of his adventures.

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12,000 villagers. But positive word of mouth traveled so fast that Village construction firms couldn’t build homes fast enough. In fact, most of the advertising money spent by The Villages management to sell homes was probably wasted. Most Villagers can claim that their glowing comments about life here really did the selling, not the ads. Some say The Villages is getting crowded, but so is most of the U.S. anywhere that conditions remain livable. It’s amazing that some retirement organization hasn’t duplicated The Villages’ format somewhere else in Florida. But no one has, at least not yet. A few point to Sun City Center near Ruskin, Florida, but it’s much smaller and pales in comparison to The Villages’ attractions and diverse, on-the-go living. We must admit, and proudly so, that The Villages is a “playland” for seniors unequalled across the nation.

If you want to contact him, email joeangione@aol.com.


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of swim Failure’s not an option when Don Sheppard helps seniors drown their fears. STORY: GARY CORSAIR

Don Sheppard

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fter 26 years working for the U.S. Defense Department, Don Sheppard the retiree is taking the offensive. His battleground: the swimming pool. The enemies: fear of water and trepidation about learning to swim. As a swim instructor in The Villages, Don has helped dozens of his peers win their own personal war since he began giving lessons through the retirement community’s enrichment academy. There are no casualties in his classes, just success stories. Failure is not an option. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I know I’m lost cause,’” Don says. “I tell them, ‘No you’re not; anyone can learn to swim.’” Even people held prisoner by trauma buried like a landmine. “Most of the people I’ve had in my beginners class had something traumatic happen when they were young; like someone threw them in, they fell in, they almost drowned, and so forth,” Don says. The scenario is all too common. Don would be rich if he collected a dollar from every dad who tossed their child into a body of water after telling them to ‘sink or swim.’ “That was a typical way when we were young,” says Don, who’s a millionaire in the currency of personal satisfaction minted by helping others. Don has heard too many heart-rending stories since becoming an instructor in The Villages in 2016. “I did have one fellow last year who came to my first class and he got in the pool and he started just shaking, just went into uncontrolled shaking,” Don says. “I just

Don Sheppard photo by Nicole Hamel



had him sit by the pool. I mean he was in a bad situation. I think his dad threw him in and he was panicking, and then he tried to get out and he pushed him back in again. So this guy had a panic attack.” Don says that listening is the essential first step to teaching. “Everyone is different, of course.” He limits his classes to six students at a time to ensure each student receives personal attention. And his approach isn’t the least bit complicated. “The only tool I use is the kickboard. That gets them used to being horizontal in the water, gets them kicking and that’s what I work on too. And then we start going into learning how to use arms and go into full stroke.” In some cases, Don doesn’t teach a single stroke. That was the case with the terrified little boy who was pushed back into the water. The man he became wasn’t ready to wage all-out war on his fears. “He said, ‘I don’t know if I can come back in,’ and I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do,’” Don says. “Later, I called him and he said, ‘No, I’m no coming back. But you got me to do one thing I’ve never done in my life,’ and I said, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘You got me to put my face in the water. You got me to do that.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s a good thing. That’s a big step. And if you ever feel like you’d like to work with me again, I’d be glad to.’ He said I may come back.” Don understands that some scars are almost too deep to be healed. Don uses kickboards with beginners, but encouragement has been his No. 1 teaching tool since he earned a Water Safety Instructor certification in college. “I’m always giving them good feedback,” Don says. “I take each person and tell them, ‘You’ve done this, and you’ve done this, and this is great. It shows what you can

do.’ It’s about being positive and getting them to relax and make sure they have fun with it. Once they start achieving things then they want to do more.” That certainly was the case with a woman who joined Don’s class because she was tired of her grandkids teasing her because she didn’t know how to swim. In just three lessons, Grandma achieved her goal of swimming the length of the pool. Don was with her every stroke, walking alongside the edge of the pool. “I gave her a high five and said, ‘Why don’t you go call your grandkids?’ And she said, ‘I am!’ She was so proud of herself.” Don, who grew up in the Bahamas and learned to swim when he was age 4, was nearly as proud. “When I see that look on their face after they’ve done something they’ve never done before, it’s just amazing. I tell them, ‘Now you can go home and have that second glass of wine because of what you did.’ It’s just a great look to see on their face and I enjoy that. I just enjoy

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seeing people truly achieve, and especially at this age. They’ll say, ‘You go me to do something I never did before,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, I didn’t, you did it.’” There have been just as many success stories in Don’s advanced beginners’ classes. “One lady could barely swim the length of the pool but was exhausted because she didn’t know how to breathe and her stroke was inefficient. So I worked with her. One day over at the pool, she came over and said, ‘I just swam 800 yards.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t you do 1,000?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ A little while later she came back and said, ‘I swam 1,000!’” With beginners, deep-seated fear is the biggest obstacle. Don spends less time on psychology and more time on technique with advanced beginners. “When I’m with advanced beginners I’m in the water with them suggesting what they need to do to be more efficient. Once I get them to do that, then their distance starts increasing.” And their confidence grows with each yard. “The year before last, I had a husband and wife. He was a little bit ahead of her and she was very afraid

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of the water. I got her to swim about 20 yards out and he told me, ‘She is so happy because she’s never done that in her life.’” Whether someone has a goal of 20 yards or 1,000, Don displays patience and compassion. And encouragement. “It’s never too late to learn. You’re never too young and never too old to learn,” he insists. That’s no cliché. Don has experienced the truth of that adage while teaching infants younger than a year old, and later, their great grandparents. Don says the babies are much, much easier to teach. “I’m dealing with adults here, and some have had a very bad experience and it affects them quite a bit,” Don says. “Babies have no fear of the water, because where was their first nine months spent? In water. Kids are easy for the most part because the fear comes from the parents.”

When asked what age is ideal for children to learn to swim, Don replied, “I’d say the earlier the better. I tell people if you can get your kid to swim class between 3 and 4, before 5, that’s the best thing.” And throw away those water wings. “Water wings give a false sense of security if you’re not watching them someday. What happens when your kids are playing with some other kids who can swim and they see them jump in the water and they jump in after them and don’t have their wings on?” Don asks. “Water wings are the worst things you can do for your kids. They become dependent on them, so after you teach them you have wean them away from them.” Villagers, be forewarned, Don will share his opinion if he sees your grandchildren wearing water wings. Keep in mind that he means well, he doesn’t mean to be offensive, it’s just that, well, he’s on the offensive.

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Happy Sailing Villagers apply real-life sailing skills to racing model boats in friendly competitions. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

ohn Rowley started sailing decades ago after he and wife Sue stepped onto a friend’s boat and fell in love. The duo bought their own boat, and together with their children, raced and sailed happily through many a sunset in places like New Orleans, San Francisco, and Hawaii, where they lived. John even went on to earn a captain’s license in ocean sailing. Now living in The Villages, John, 83, still races sailboats. Instead of the 27-foot and 33-foot boats he owned, John’s current boat of choice is Squirt, an orange, 21-inch-long Micro Magic radio-controlled model boat adorned with orange splashes on the sail. “Their size makes them extremely easy to transport. But they are not toys, they are high-tech yachts,” John says of Micro Magic sailboats, most which weigh about 2 pounds. When John arrived in The Villages, he came across the Model Yacht Club Squadron and got into racing EC-12s, 5-foot-long boats with 6-foot masts. In late 2008, when John caught wind of Micro Magics, his interest shifted. He visited a nearby hobby shop, and after finding out that the fleets were only sold in groups of six, John gathered five of his friends and together and they purchased the kits. Today, with John at the helm as fleet commander and Tony Alan Perkins

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL Lawrence as his second, the Micro Magic Racing Fleet is part of the squadron. Each Monday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, squad members get together for timed Micro Magic races on a buoy course around Ashland Pond on Lynnhaven Lane in the Village of Ashland. Anyone interested in racing may join the fun. John says newbies should keep an open mind about the size of the small boats. He says technique, mindset, and the thrill of navigating Micro Magics is no different than what he experienced with a big boat. In fact, the same racing rules apply to small boats, with a few modifications, like not having to wear a life jacket. “It’s a matter of seeing what the wind is doing to the boat and knowing what the boat needs, in terms of wind direction, to get to the marks, just like a big boat,” John says. “It’s all about planning and thinking ahead, about controlling the rudders, but the difference is that you are not standing on the deck, obviously, you’re standing on the shore, so you’re having to learn what’s going on out there on the water too.” Jim Kelly, who lives nearby, joined the club and began racing after coming by just to watch one morning about four years ago. Jim says a member offered to let him try his hand at the controls and that’s all it took even though he’d never sailed. He was enthralled with the science involved in adjusting the sails in relation to the wind and steering by controlling the rudders using a double-sided joystick. But it’s the fun and camaraderie that keep Jim coming back each week. “We come out here and race, but we just have a good time,” Jim says.

Alan Perkins, Jim Kelly, Dave Tierson, Tony Lawrence, John Rowley, Dan Pearce, John Goldsworthy, and Lonnie Cardinuto

Village of Amelia resident Alan Perkins also enjoys the sheer joy of sailing Micro Magics, but he’s more focused on the competition aspects of model racing. That may be because Alan has been sailing boats since 1958, starting with dinghies as a boy of about 7-yearsold growing up in England, and working his way up to big yachts. Alan began racing competitively, and even came close to representing the United Kingdom in the Olympics. Alan no longer sails big boats because he lives so far from the ocean and the considerable expense involved. He is happy sticking to the second-best thing–sailing little boats, a hobby he shares with Liz, his wife of 50 years. Today, at age 75, he competes in radio-controlled boat regattas all over the country (pre-COVID), and for the past five or six years has been named the Florida champion. In 2016, Alan sailed his way into the 2nd place spot nationally. “You’re trying to sail it as if it’s a big boat really, and you’re trying to project yourself into the boat,” says Alan of his technique. Alan’s knowledge extends beyond racing. He’s known for making boats and as the local “doctor” for models in need of repair. “I got hooked on these little boats and most of them will come as kits, so it enables you to build the boat, actually put something of yourself into the boat and get the satisfaction of when you sail it, you’re sailing something that you’ve made,” Alan says. The Villages Model Yacht Club members race most days, depending on boat sizes, from 10 a.m. to noon at Ashland Pond. The next American Model Yachting Association Micro Magic regatta is planned for late October in Punta Gorda. For more information, visit TVMYS.org.

Want to see your club in Social Club Spotlight?


Send your suggestions to roxanne@akersmediagroup.com.

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When We Believed in Mermaids By Barbara O’Neal. Can sisters separated by tragedy be reunited by fate? STORY: KATHY PORTER

it has mourned the loss of her older sister Josie for 15 years despite their love/hate relationship–Josie, who was tragically addicted to drugs, alcohol, and itinerant men; who roamed the world looking for her next toke, a couch to sleep on and the next wave to surf; Josie who was vaporized when a terrorist blew up a train in France. At least that is what Kit and her mother were told. Kit’s mother is sure that it was Josie on a television news report about a devastating nightclub fire in Auckland, New Zealand. She’s sure because of the telltale scar

over Josie’s eye–the scar Josie sustained when she was injured in an earthquake, the same earthquake that killed their father when the family restaurant slid off the cliff onto the rocks below and destroyed the already dysfunctional family. Kit is now an emergency room doctor in Santa Cruz, California and has struggled to bury deeply the trauma of her childhood. Kit’s saving grace is surfing, a fanatical love she and Josie always shared. Kit always takes to the waves to clear her mind. Is it possible that Josie is still alive? Kit’s mother insists that she go to Auckland to look for her. Kit is flooded with anger as memories come tumbling forth: sleeping on the beach as 4- and 6- year olds with Josie’s

arms wrapped around her; imagining they were mermaids dressed in their mother’s old nightgowns; learning to surf; her beloved Josie who turned into an increasingly rebellious teen as her addictions increased. Josie, who in later years showed up occasionally for a free meal, stole from Kit and then disappeared again. If Kit can find Josie, can she handle the pain that finding her will resurrect? Is there any chance they can recapture the sisterly love they once relied on as children? Delve into this poignant novel as the mystery unfolds and find the answers to these and dozens of other questions. Readers will be rewarded with a tale rich in descriptive prose and intense characters.

Want to read more about sisters caught up in a multi-layered mystery? “When We Believed in Mermaids” can be found at Target, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, or on Amazon.

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IT’S FAIR TIME! The 100th annual Lake County Fair is a fun, family-friendly event filled with free entertainment, livestock shows, carnival rides, 4-H exhibits, and, of course, tasty treats like funnel cakes, Philly cheesesteaks, corn dogs, elephant ears, and more. Lake County Fairgrounds / 2101 Hwy. 452, Eustis 352.357.9692 / lakecofair.com


Going blue



Hail the blueberry, widely touted as one of the healthiest fruits. The 6th annual Mount Dora Blueberry Festival celebrates Central Florida’s rapidly growing blueberry agriculture business. Learn about local blueberry farms and celebrate all things blueberry: shortcake, wine, liquor, beer, scones, and more. The event also features vendors, live entertainment, and activities for children. Donnelly Park / 530 N. Donnelly St. Mount Dora 407.913.4140 / mountdorablueberryfestival.com

apr.ON STAGE Enjoy quality entertainment on the many stages of Lake and Sumter counties. CASEY PERUSKI


If laughter is the best medicine, then longtime comedian Casey Peruski could call himself a doctor. During his career, he has worked alongside some of the biggest names in comedy, including Arsenio Hall, Louie Anderson, Tom Arnold, and Dave Coulier. He has also appeared on Comedy Central and was invited to audition for NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” Clermont Performing Arts Center / 3700 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.394.4800 / clermontperformingarts.com CHARLIE GRINKER





Going green It’s estimated that 1 billion people around the world celebrate Earth Day in one form or another. Mother Nature is counting on you not to be a party pooper. Earth Day Mount Dora features exhibits, raffles, and lots of fun. Learn how you can do your part to help the environment. Donnelly Park / 530 N. Donnelly St. Mount Dora 352.988.4022 / mountdoraenvironment.org

Peabody and Emmy Award winner Charlie Grinker retells the life and times of legendary composers. Learn how Mozart and Beethoven forever shaped classical music and recapture Scott Joplin’s debut at the 1903 World Fair in Chicago. Clermont Performing Arts Center / 3700 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.394.4800 / clermontperformingarts.com “GODSPELL”


The Moonlight Players Theatre presents “Godspell,” a tale of friendship, loyalty, and love based on the gospel according to St. Matthew. The play follows a small group of people who help Jesus Christ tell different parables through games, storytelling, and silliness. Clermont Performing Arts Center / 3700 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.394.4800 / clermontperformingarts.com

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apr.JAMS Move to the beat of one of your favorite performers at one of these great concerts or local venues!

4/6 @ 8:30 p.m.

4/17 @ 5 p.m.

KAREN PECK AND NEW RIVER Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center, Leesburg

BILL HARTMANN Lilly’s on the Lake, Clermont

4/9 @ 5 p.m. BILL HARTMANN Lilly’s on the Lake, Clermont

4/9 @ 5 p.m. MELISSA LEE ZENKER Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille, The Villages



4/9 @ 7 p.m. CRYSTAL VISION DUO Golden Triangle Eagles, Eustis


4/9 @ 7 p.m.


COUNTRY MUSIC ALL-STAR TRIBUTE Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

4/10 @ 5 p.m

If you care about the environment, then there’s no excuse to miss the Clermont Earth Day and Lake Cleanup. During this free event, guests will learn about the environment, and there will be a kid’s zone, live music, and non-profit food vendors.

MANFREDI ROCKS Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille, The Villages

4/11 @ 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. DAILEY AND VINCENT Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

4/11 @ 4 p.m.

Lake Hiawatha Preserve / 450 N. Lake Minneola Shores, Clermont / 352.708.5975

C.O.D. FLORIDA Hurricane Dockside Grill, Tavares

4/13 @ 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. VILLAGES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, The Sharon, The Villages

4/16 @ 6 p.m.

Let us help you get the word out!

CRYSTAL VISION DUO Lake Veterans Club, Tavares

To have an event considered for the calendar, send a short text description along with a color photo (if available) 45 days in advance of event to: calendar@akersmediagroup.com or Lake & Sumter Style Calendar, P.O. Box 490088, Leesburg, FL 34749

ONGOI NG EV ENTS Events are subject to change and cancellation.

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4/22 @ 9 p.m. SEPTEMBER DOGS Frank’s Place, Leesburg

4/23 @ 5 p.m. MANFREDI ROCKS Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille, The Villages

4/24 @ 1 p.m. JIMMY HUNTER DRUMS Lake Harris Hideaway, Tavares

4/24 @ 5 p.m. C.O.D. FLORIDA Amvets Post 2006, Leesburg

4/30 @ 7 p.m. CRYSTAL VISION DUO Golden Triangle Eagles, Eustis

4/30 @ 7 p.m. BOBBY RANDALL Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

5/1 @ 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.. THE MUSIC OF BROOKS AND DUNN Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale

5/1 @ 7:30 p.m. JOHN MUELLER—A TRIBUTE TO BUDDY HOLLY, RITCHIE VALENS, AND THE BIG BOPPER Clermont Performing Arts Center, Clermont

5/5 @ 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. VILLAGES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA The Sharon, The Villages

* Dates and times are tentative due to COVID-19 guidelines. Contact the venues for updates.





Eustis 1st Friday 6-9 p.m. Historic Downtown Eustis

Clermont First Friday Food Trucks 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Downtown Clermont

Clermont Farmer’s Market beginning at 9 a.m. Downtown Clermont

Downtown Mount Dora Village Market 9 a.m.- 2p.m. 230 N. Alexander St. Mount Dora

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Nicki Forde Designing woman rediscovers love of art. STORY: VICTORIA SCHLABIG

icki Forde has loved art since a very young age, when she first started drawing horses, her favorite animal at the time. Today, she works as an artist in her home studio in downtown Leesburg.

≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL Nicki now does commissioned portraits of pets and people and has completed several outdoor murals. One of her first murals was on the side of a barn in Dunnellon, where she painted a “quirky” scene of flying pigs, a chicken in a hot air balloon, horses, and dogs. Most of her customers find her through her Instagram and Facebook pages, where she posts her works of art. Currently, she is working on a two-feet by three-feet painting of the “Peaceable Kingdom,” originally done by Edward Hicks around 1833. “It’s a take on the Bible story of the lion and the lamb; just little critters happily getting along together in the landscape,” Nicki says. “I want the art I make to make connections for people, to put smiles on faces, to lift moods.” Her art definitely does just that; particularly with one of her most recent murals, created at the request of her yoga teacher, Michele LaFever, of Fruitland Park. Nicki painted a colorful floral mural on Michele’s garage door. “Michele said it’s her way to spread some cheer and give back to her neighborhood.” Michele recently lost a friend to COVID-19, and the garage door has become a tribute to him, and to everyone affected by the virus. It is one of Nicki’s favorite and most meaningful pieces. “I feel so blessed to be able to help spread this kind of love, because kindness is what gets us all through,” Nicki adds. Nicki’s mission is making art that spreads love and inspires kindness. “I put it on hold for so long because I had a hard time believing in myself, and when it came time to study for a career, I chose a safer path in graphic design. Now I wake up and it feels like I’m a kid and it’s Christmas morning,” Nicki says. Nicki has been a regular at the Leesburg Night Market and she looks forward to setting up this year when it is back up and running. You can also find her artwork at facebook.com/DrawingOnMyHeart, drawingonmyheart.com, etsy.com/shop/ DrawingOnMyHeart, and on Instagram @nickiforde.

Do you know of a talented person in our community? Email their story to victoria@akersmediagroup.com

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3 5 2 .7 8 7. 4 1 1 2



Picturesque ride Dora Canal pontoon boats carry passengers back in time to Old Florida. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

Captain Bob Bartlett


remier Boat Tours’ Captain Nate Jordan says “Welcome to the Dora Canal,” on a recent warm, sunny afternoon while entering the picturesque waterway that links Lake Dora to Lake Eustis. The air turned to a cooler breeze for passengers aboard the pontoon boat while Nate’s partner for the tour, Captain Bob Bartlett, steered the vessel slowly under a thick canopy of jungle-type greenery in the wetland swamp nestled between giant Cypress trees draped with Spanish moss along both sides of the canal. Nate pointed to one of the largest Cypress trees and revealed that a research study found it to be 2,250 years old; the oldest tree in Dora Canal. Passengers, on

the two-hour-tour, were also able to see a wide array of wildlife, including sunbathing alligators, a few baby alligators, water snakes, osprey, turtles, bald eagles, white egrets, anhinga, and more. “Old Florida” views and feeling the breeze is one way to enjoy a relaxing afternoon or one-hour sunset evening cruise into Lake Beauclair. The boat cruises drew Tudor BarrattScands and his wife Laura to move from England 10 years ago and buy the business. They wanted to live in Florida, and the opportunity to own Premier Boat Tours sparked their desire to fly to Lake County for a week and check out the business. After waiting six months, the couple received a residency permit that allows them to remain in the U.S. “The Dora Canal was very special and everything that is there,” Tudor recalls of his first boat tour. “The Spanish moss was new to us and it was just beautiful going through the canal. I enjoy seeing the


anhinga and I think they are just fantastic birds because they are so different; they are always my favorite.” The anhinga (black for males and brown heads for females) spear fish underwater and once they bring their catch back to the surface, Tudor says, “they have to flip it off their bill and catch it, and it is very cool to watch.” He says most passengers are eager to see alligators. Bald eagles are also a popular attraction. Spring is the busiest time of year for Premier Boat Tours, which is celebrating 30-plus years of operation. “In the spring, we may take over 100 people a day,” says Tudor, pleased that business has been picking up after being slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. “Hopefully, we will have a decent spring season.” He’s also pleased by repeat business. “It always makes us very happy when we get people coming back; they are so excited to see the same things again on the Dora Canal.” Passengers have included foreign exchange students from China and Australia, and visitors from all over the world. “You hear it in the accents,” says Tudor. “We have a lot of people here from England. At the moment, a lot of people are from Florida and most of our customers live in The Villages. They will come three or four times a year with different visitors.” He recalls that one customer booked 10 boat tours in one year. “For me, this is tour No. 206,011 (and counting),” says Captain Bob, who enjoys driving the boats and being on the water. “And when you have fun people, you have a fun tour.” Bob also has officiated several weddings on the private boat tours, where the bride and groom select a special spot on the canal to say their wedding vows. Captain Nate relishes discovering new critters on the tours and doing research to learn more about them. “My favorite are the little green herons; they are super brilliant,” he says. “It’s exciting because every day going into the canal there is always something different to see.” Captains Bob and Nate are among seven captains and three crew members with the company.


PREMIER BOAT TOURS 100 N Alexander St., Mount Dora • Premier Boat Tours depart from the dock at Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora.

wheelchairs and walkers can ride on the vessels.

• The company is open daily with two-hour narrated tours • The company has two luxury, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The all-weather pontoon boats evening, one-hour sunset and one smaller pontoon, tour departs at 7:30 p.m., which are regulated by and passengers may bring a the U.S. Coast Guard. Life beverage to enjoy at sunset. jackets are underneath passengers’ seats and the • Private tours are company is following social also available. distancing rules. • Reservations are required • The boats are easily by calling 352.434.8040 or accessible with one small visiting doracanaltour.com step. Those with push

Know of a cool event you’d like us to feature in Attractions? Contact us at least three months in advance and provide all the details to theresa@akersmediagroup.com.


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Dina Simpson, Tim Simpson, and Maria Stefanovic Rosanne Brandeburg , Jeanne Thorpe, Joanie Smalley, Sandi Moore and Susie Brewer

Beau Franklin and 2020 Mardi Gras Queen Ashton Kreidel

Dr. Wade Winker, Lynne Winker and Mandy Wettstein Talmage

M A RDI GRAS , LEESBU RG STY LE @ DOWNTOWN LEESBURG ≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL. Every year since 1998, downtown Leesburg has come to life with “N’awlins” kind of fun with a festive Mardi Gras celebration of parties, parades, and lots of beads. The coronavirus pandemic curtailed some of the Mardi Gras activities for 2021; however, the Leesburg Partnership still had a reverse draw for prizes and hosted its popular “Party on the Street” on Feb. 13 with a pet parade, kids parade, the Big Easy Parade, and street performers providing entertainment.

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See all the photos for this event at lakeandsumterstyle.com/hisociety

“Mix on Wheels”


“We can honestly say that whilst we were somewhat reluctant to sign with Wiseman owing to the long lead time from contract signing to completion, the finished product was well worth the wait. The custom design is exactly what we asked for and we maintain that the craftsmanship of the pool, spa, equipment, pavers, screen enclosure, and summer kitchen are second to none.” — TOM & LYNDA MURPHY

We know that every single customer is unique—Building Unique Pools is our company motto—and so every project we undertake is delivered to a client’s signature set of personal tastes and, where necessary, solves any challenges their property may present. 352-431-3766 | www.WisemanPools.com | 1517 W Main St., Leesburg Wiseman Pools is a family-owned-and-operated, licensed residential and commercial swimming pool builder with an extensive portfolio of projects. From the small—fountains and in-ground spas. To the large—million dollar installations with multiple pools and spas. Our customers, large and small, demand a quality swimming pool for a fair price. And we deliver.


Director Ken Montano, Producer Helena Thrasher, Les Buxton (Lead in Jerk Boss), John Cruz (Lead in Steve) and Anna Oswald (Supporting “The Wrong Choice”) Valensky Sylvain, Logan Graves, Jennifer Fink and Katrina Johnson Akers

Author Kelly Brownrigg

Writer James Holmes

JP Smith, Kim Homell and Allison Forgus

Brendon Rogers, James Holmes, Kelly Brownrigg and Lori Bajares

Executive Director Brendon Rogers

S U P P O RT I N G I N D I E F I L M S ≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL. The state-of-the-art Epic Theater in Mount Dora was the site of the Jan. 22-24 Central Florida Film Festival, an event for filmmakers to celebrate and enjoy each other’s indie film works while interacting with audience members who were seeing the works for the first time. Guests from around the world and locals were treated to a weekend of indie films, entertainment, and special appearances. @ EPIC THEATERS

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See all the photos for this event at lakeandsumterstyle.com/hisociety

Alex Fisher, Aaron Canada and Emilio Luis Roman III


healthy living MIND. BODY. SOUL.

The Impact Rage Room at Lake Square Mall is a smashing new way to relieve stress.



Mask and you shall receive Lake County Mask Creators have kept the community safe from COVID with over 30,000 masks. STORY: VICTORIA SCHLABIG

im Totten, owner of Final Embrace, found a creative solution when hospitals and health facilities were quickly running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) and n95 masks shortly after the coronavirus began in March 2020. Within the last year, as mask mandates became more commonplace, Totten has provided hospitals, schools, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and other facilities with over 30,000 masks – and counting. “When the pandemic first started people weren’t able to find store-bought masks, so I got together a group of people in the community through a Facebook group I created called Lake County Mask Creators, and I had my staff start cutting up our fabric to make kits, and we gave them to people who then finished sewing them at home,” Tim says. Mask kits came with instructions on how to wash and bag them, and where to drop them off. “It included you in the process.

Do you know someone who is a healthy inspiration?

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≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL So, you weren’t just making them at home and not knowing where they went, you actually were part of the giving cycle,” he says. After the first 50-60 masks, Tim realized that people were getting burnt out, so he created the “100+ Club and used his engraving company, Artisan Laser Guild, to make free personalized tumblers for anyone who finished at least 100 masks. Tim soon found that the incentive was more than enough to motivate creators to continue. Another important helper during this process was Winnie Olsen, who created a vertical pleat template for masks, which didn’t require a nosepiece to keep glasses fog-free. The group embraced the design and Tim produced a step-by-step video showing how to make her masks. Before he knew it, Tim’s YouTube channel blew up to over 32,000 subscribers, and that video surpassed 1.1 million views. Realizing people all over were interested in making their own masks, he added numerous other how-to videos about masks, all of which have a few thousand views. “It was valuable for us to make these masks, and it was amazing how we actually mobilized our community and sort of created this group of people who are all helping each other doing what they can at home,” Tim says. You can find Lake County Mask Creators on Facebook, and you can find Tim’s videos by searching “Timothy Totten” on YouTube.

Email your recommendations to victoria@akersmediagroup.com

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ALL THE RAGE A smashing new Leesburg business provides a venue for obliterating stuff, including stress. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN

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fter going through a bad break-up recently, Keara Likely’s emotions were all over the place. “I was feeling pretty angry; dealing with actual rage, and I was sad and depressed, all those. I was not in a good place,” says Keara, explaining that her pent-up emotions stemmed from a break-up that had her feeling stressed, anxious, and unwell, both mentally and physically. That’s when Keara heard about Impact Rage Room at Lake Square Mall, 10401 U.S. Highway 441 Unit 410 in Leesburg, a venue where people can grab a baseball bat, crowbar, or other tool, and smash virtually any kind of breakable item to smithereens – dishes, old televisions, computers, printers, vinyl records, bottles, furniture and more. Immediately, she booked an appointment, and on the day of her smash session, headed out the door with one of her ex’s old “toys” in tow. “You get to take out all of your negative energy, but it’s not hurting anyone, and you don’t have to clean it up. You can just leave it there and walk away. It really helps,” Keara says. “Also, I did bring my ex’s Xbox with me. It was broken already, and I asked, but it helped me to channel my feelings even more because it was actually his stuff I was breaking. It felt really good.” Keara says she is not completely over the break-up, but her experience in the rage room helped greatly. “I came here to tear some stuff up in a controlled environment and I gave it my all. I was a little sore afterwards, but it made me feel like a huge relief when I was done. I felt a little lighter,

plus I came out so tired, I didn’t even have the energy to be mad anymore.” Tasia May and Jameisha Smith, who own Impact Rage Room, say that’s their exact purpose for partnering to open a one-of-a-kind venue in Lake County. They are longtime owners of home healthcare related businesses. Tasia owns Compassionate Connections Homecare, and Jameisha owns Demossi’s Haven, Inc., a home-health companion service. And both have a fair share of stress in their own lives. They say they know how hard getting through everyday life can be at times, and understand how important it is for people’s mental health to deal with stress properly. In researching ways to help their staff, caregivers and themselves, Tasia and Jameisha discovered the benefits of rage rooms, which provide a safe, legal and affordable place to release stress, anger, and anxiety. When Tasia noticed that the closest venues for anything like it were in Orlando, she thought, “I have to bring this to Lake County.” “I’m really excited because of the impact I believe our place is gonna have on the community with people just needing this outlet,” Tasia says. “With the pandemic, and everything else going on in the world right now, mixed with personal issues, people are walking around so on edge all the time.” “And just think of all the people working in customer service-based businesses where you have to be professional, smile and go above and beyond, even when people are giving you crap sometimes. You feel like there’s nothing you can do and what happens? You go home and give that attitude to your husband or wife

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Tasia May and Jameisha Smith

or whoever taps you the wrong way, so something like this can really help.” Tasia says that although the rage room concept is still fairly new, she feels that soon, “It’s gonna be really big everywhere.” “Therapy is good, but it can only do so much. Sometimes you just want to hit something, and feel like, ‘Ahhh, that felt good,’” she says. The rage room concept also hits close to home for Jameisha, who personally knows how stress can take a significant toll. In 2017, Jameisha’s brother Demossi Weaver was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Mount Dora, which left her family dealing with enormous amounts of sadness, frustration, confusion, stress and anger. Jameisha says one of the only things that helped her through and relieved her frustration was screaming in rage during private therapy sessions. Jameisha

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says the rage room provides a similar type of release. “In watching my mother and father try to bear and deal with the pain of losing their youngest child, to fighting my own personal pain, I knew that opening this business could be a huge help to helping others who may have experienced not just death or a loss, but everyday stress and frustration,” Jameisha says. Dr. Sarah Riley, CHT/QHHT, a clinical hypnotherapist with Hypnopeyes, based in Sorrento, says visiting a rage room is definitely a way to help people de-stress. She says it involves cathartic release, a technique she uses when helping her patients deal with childhood incidents where their stress may have originated. Dr. Riley explains that cathartic release involves facing the emotion or incident that caused the stress, then shouting or acting out feelings, thoughts, or desired

responses to help resolve matters. She says sometimes people have those feelings bottled up inside. “Sometimes, we’re not really aware of how angry we are until it starts coming out,” she explains. “There are situations where something is going on and someone gets really angry and starts tearing a room up and throwing stuff and that’s because there’s so much emotion built up that they don’t know what to do with it, so it comes out in an explosive manner.” Additionally, she says it’s important that people relieve stress, whether through therapy, visiting a rage room, practicing yoga or meditation, getting a massage or pampering themselves in some other way. She says self-care is necessary in order to avoid medical conditions and diseases chronic stress can lead to, as well as unhealthy behaviors like overeating, smoking, alcohol abuse or self-harm.

“You cannot drink from an empty cup, you can’t be there for someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself, so self-care is of absolute and paramount importance,” says Dr. Riley. People who have used a rage room, swear by it. Just ask Joel Ratliff, a 24-year-old convenience/retail store employee from Webster, and Brooksville’s Billy Durrett, 25, who works at Burger King. In getting ready for their session at Impact Rage Room, the two explained how much stress they endure on a daily basis just dealing with the public. “Dealing with people in general, to me, adds a whole different level of stupidity to my day sometimes,” Billy says. Joel says he’d seen videos of rage room sessions on YouTube, and always found them appealing. “I’ve been wanting to do this, but the closest ones I’ve seen are in Orlando or Clearwater, then I just so happened to stumble upon this site at the Lake Square Mall and I was like, “No way,” so we had to come down here and check it out,” Joel says. Ready to rage-out, Joel and Billy donned coveralls, chest protectors, safety helmets,


face shields and cut-resistant gloves. Next, they chose their weapons and the music they wanted to hear blasting from Bluetooth speakers during their session. After their 15 minutes of smashing, the two friends, covered in sweat from head to toe, agreed that they were left with just what they needed to walk away feeling refreshed and ready for a new day. “Pretty much any anger I had built up just melted after the first couple of swings. If it weren’t that I was so tired, I’d go at it again,” Joel says.

“This is a great stress reliever. It’s a safe environment, and nobody’s getting hurt. This is the way to go.” Joel adds: “This is the kind of place I would suggest for people who have anger management issues, because you can come in here, take it out on the items you’re breaking, and walk out feeling way better.” Billy agrees and says he not only enjoyed raging out, but felt it was beneficial. “I was feeling pretty stressed to the point that if I wasn’t here doing this, I’d probably

be choking someone sooner or later,” Billy says jokingly, adding that he may have to visit regularly to keep his mind balanced and less stressed. People interested in raging out can choose from packages that include solo, group or date sessions. All participants have to be at least 18, or if accompanied by a parent or guardian, 13. For those wanting to de-stress, but interested in something less extreme, there is another room where people–kids age 4 and up included–can fling and throw glow-in-the-dark paint at strategically placed canvasses and all over the walls. Keara says, “You can’t knock it until you try it. If you have an instance where you’re upset and you feel like it’s taking over you, then you should take a step through here, try it out and see how you feel afterwards and then you can judge it for real.” Keara says she’ll be back. “I plan on returning probably monthly, until I feel like I’m, you know, raged out,” Keara says. For more information, hours, or to book a session, visit impactrageroom.com, or search Impact Rage Room on Facebook.

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Living Green Café offers the best raw deals around.



Raw deal Local restaurant owner enjoys teaching the community about a different way of eating. STORY: JAMES COMBS

Michelle Kristof


hen it comes to preparing food, restaurateur Michelle Kristof has a few surprises up her sleeve. That spaghetti Bolognese of hers—the one that looks good enough to serve in a fancy Italian restaurant—isn’t exactly traditional. The long, thin noodles are actually made of zucchini, and they’re topped with mushroom-walnut meat. That scrumptious taco salad? Instead of using a crunchy shell, She puts tomato, red pepper, celery, and avocado on a bed of Romaine lettuce. The green leaves sitting inside a container on a counter? They’re actually chips made from dehydrated kale that come in two flavors: cheesy and cayenne. In the world according to Michelle, cooked food harms the body. A raw food diet, she says, comes with numerous health benefits. She’s been preaching that message to everyone who visits her Tavares-based restaurant, Living Green Café. Actually, she started preaching


that message long before opening her eatery in 2011. “Years ago, I used to tell my kids, ‘You’re not going to get a piece of pie unless you eat your greens.’ As far as my husband, he was a meat and potato guy when we met, but eventually he became a potato and salad guy.” The raw food diet primarily consists of fresh vegetables and fruits, sprouts, grains, and nuts. Advocates of the diet contend that exposing foods to temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit kills vitamins, enzymes, and other nutrients critical to good health. Michelle adopted the diet long before raw became rad. Ninety percent of what she eats is raw, unprocessed food. Her strict eating regimen allows for two meals a day: a breakfast smoothie with 40 grams of protein and a dinner salad at 3:30 p.m. Such a spartan diet requires willpower, especially in today’s world where fast-food restaurants and microwave ovens abound. Michelle feeds her willpower with reminders of health benefits she enjoys. She seldom deviates from her raw diet. “I haven’t been really sick in 30 years,” she says. “Also, a thyroid problem I was battling went away. By eating this way, I feel like I can climb mountains. I have amazing energy. I wake up like a ninja and I’m moving, moving, moving. I work during the day and at night I

like to go out in the yard and pull weeds.” Her health was the catalyst behind opening Living Green Café. “Healthy eating has always been my passion, and now I’ve made it my purpose,” she says. “Everything I serve here is raw except the chicken, and customers can ask to leave that off.” The menu offers plant-based versions of popular items found at traditional restaurants. The most popular item, the black bean burger, is served with mushroom-walnut meat, chia seeds, cheesy slaw, tomato, avocado, and sweet mustard dressing on a gluten-free bun. A slice of pizza comes with ricotta cashew cheese, tomato marinara, black olives, red peppers, and spinach on dehydrated garlic bread. Want dessert? Consider key lime pie featuring almonds, cashews, coconut oil, lime juice, honey, and avocado. Tostadas, lasagna, raw tacos, vegetarian wraps, tuna fish tacos, and a variety of salads and desserts round out the menu. However, Living Green Café is more than a place to enjoy a meal. With food demonstrations and lectures, the restaurant has become an education center on healthy eating. “I feel like I’m a mom feeding my children,” Michelle says. “I’m there to educate and teach my patrons. I’m a motormouth who cannot shut up.”

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cups dry almonds


teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan salt

1 /


cups pitted Medjool dates


cups dry almonds


teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan salt

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cups pitted Medjool dates


apples, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced


cup raisins


tablespoon ground cinnamon


To make the crust, pulse almonds and salt in food processor until nuts are in small pieces. You want your crust to have chunks of almonds in it, so don’t over process. Use some of the finer powder to “flour” the bottom of your pie dish. Slowly add dates into the processor in small batches to mix with almond bits. The dates will bind the almonds to form a dough. Press dough into the bottom of “floured” pie pan. To make syrup, place orange into your blender first. Then add dates and blend. If needed, add small amounts of water to help everything mix well. Set aside. To make filling, place sliced apples in large bowl with raisins. Toss with cinnamon and syrup. Spoon filling into pie crust. Will keep three to five days in the fridge.

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The mouth serves up super-sized portions of wisdom many patrons have adopted to improve their eating habits. One of the converts is Christina Adinolfi, a 24-year-old singer who volunteers at Living Green Café four days a week. A raw diet helps her remain energetic for evening performances at local venues such as Pisces Rising and Mellow Mushroom. “Being a singer in the nightlife scene, I cannot be fatigued while I’m performing,” Christina says. Since volunteering at the cafe, Christina has personally witnessed patients with diabetes and high cholesterol improve their conditions through cleaner eating. She credits Michelle. “I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition,” she says. “I just learn so much from Michelle and am always asking her for advice. Being around her is an honor.” Cindy Simpson agrees. She makes the drive from Leesburg to Tavares several times a week for the Living Green smoothie, a blend of kale, spinach, banana, apple, ginger, lemon, and coconut water. “I’ve eaten almost everything

that Michelle offers,” Cindy says. “Everything is delicious. With her, you don’t have to worry about preservatives or salt in her food. However, you do get lots of fiber, and that fills me up longer.” Jamie Blunt, of Mount Dora, discovered Living Green Café one month ago. Now, she visits about four times a week. Her favorite dish is the Asian chicken lettuce wraps, served with a side of knowledge.



cup vanilla flavored almond milk


cup soaked cashews



cup + 2 tablespoons agave syrup


vanilla bean (optional)


cup vanilla extract


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tablespoon lecithin teaspoon salt


Blend all ingredients real well. Follow ice cream maker directions.

“Michelle knows so much about food, and I’ve learned so many things from her,” Jamie says. “Her enthusiasm has rubbed off on me and makes me want to eat healthier. I haven’t had anything on the menu that I don’t like.” Jamie also appreciates not having to shell out lots of money. Every item on the

Variations: This basic vanilla ice cream can be varied in many ways by adding extra flavors. Our favorite variation is mint chip ice cream. To make this flavor, simply blend into the basic recipe one bunch of fresh spearmint (leaves only). Then add three tablespoons of cacao nibs directly into the ice cream maker before cranking.

menu costs under $10, which takes a big bite out of the excuse that healthy eating is too expensive. “That’s a poor excuse,” Michelle says. “I only need two meals a day and I’m satisfied. You really don’t eat a whole lot, so you’re not going to be spending lots of money. It’s the meat that costs a lot.”

Hey, readers! Do you have favorite recipes or know a chef we should profile? Comment on this article or send story ideas to james@akersmediagroup.com.


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South for the mouth New Clermont restaurant serves scratch recipes for tasty Southern experience. STORY: ROXANNE BROWN


fter the pandemic closed the doors to Darren and Karen Johnson’s corporate events business, a window of opportunity opened wide when a newly vacated restaurant building in downtown Clermont went up for sale. Months later, in December, the duo, in partnership with good friends and fellow entrepreneurs Richard and Michelle Formato, found themselves opening the doors to the area’s newest eatery – The Southern on 8th Kitchen & Bar. “All of our events cancelled for 2020 and 2021, and then there was an opportunity to purchase this building and the perfect storm just kind of happened,” says Darren of their new 4,000-square-foot restaurant at 801 W. Montrose St., formerly 801 City Grille. Darren adds: “We were looking for something else to do to make money with and this real estate opportunity presented itself, hence the four of us decided timing was good and we pulled the trigger.” Aside from this venture, the Johnsons own the Clermont Brewing Company (CBC), located just down the street and are in the process of building a day spa and an apartment/commercial mixed-use development nearby. The Formatos, who come from a long line of restauranters, own Appletree Inc., a printing company on Montrose Street. Richard’s late brother Luis J. Formato once owned LJ Grunts and the Rusty Fox, where Richard cooked. Michelle’s father Chef (Darrel) Happ once owned The Red Wing and The Crown restaurants. “Our families have always been in the restaurant business and we wanted another opportunity to get back into that,” Michelle says. Together, the partners married fine Southern cuisine and a warm setting, and with Richard as executive chef, brought their “Eat, Drink and Be Southern” motto to life. Richard says his goal is creating new dishes you cannot find anywhere else and re-creating old favorites, like the Fish and Grits he was known for at the Rusty Fox and Happ-y Gator Tails that pay homage to Chef Happ and the very recipe he used at The Crown for 14 years. “We all talked about what exactly we wanted to serve, got feedback on some things and once we got the concept down, started trying and testing menu options,” Richard says of the Southern on 8th’s menu. “Some just jumped out right away, and others took more time to develop, but all are choices we think people will love.” And Darren says there’s more.

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“We’re very much into the total guest experience, not just ‘come for dinner.’ The decor, the food, the wine, the cocktails, the service; all of that had to blend together to make the overall experience unique and different,” he says. Recently, I visited the restaurant with Akers Media photographer Nicole and guest Julissa, and from start to finish, we definitely enjoyed an overall memorable experience. After finally deciding what to order from so much that sounded good, we enjoyed scrumptious flavors in everything we tried. We started with appetizers: Alabama Chicken Wings and the Spring Onion & Cheddar Biscuits and Southern Corn Muffins basket served with homemade pimento cheese (quite possibly my favorite condiment ever), house preserves and maple honey butter. We also tried the Warm Crab & Smoked Florida Fish Dip and of course, the Happ-y Gator Tails. We could have left pretty satisfied right there, but when the entrée I ordered arrived at the table – a Black Angus Tenderloin Filet served with shiitake mushroom risotto, peppercorn sauce, crispy shallots and brussel sprouts – I was blown away. It was plated beautifully, and the filet and risotto were cooked perfectly. I ended up with leftovers, and it all tasted just as wonderful later. Nicole, who ordered Bacon Topped Four Cheese Macaroni & Cheese, commented on how the creaminess of it was accented perfectly by the crunchy bacon topping, and Richard Formato Julissa loved the delicious kick the perfect amount of Alabama white sauce gave the wings. By the time we got to dessert, we didn’t think we could eat

anymore, but once we tasted the Bourbon Kissed Chocolate Pecan Pie, we couldn’t stop until every crumb was gone. “There are full chunks of pecans in it and it almost tastes like a brownie,” Nicole says. “It’s like no other pecan pie I’ve ever had in my life.” In the end, I found myself looking over the menu again, contemplating what to order next time. As of now, it’s a three-way tie between the Grilled Bone-In Pork Loin Chop topped with caramelized apples, the Smashed Double Bacon Cheeseburger featuring candied bacon, or the Southern Fried Catfish served with corn and chorizo fritters. We may also have to come back for their weekend brunch, complete with a plethora of appetizers and entrees to sample, plus Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and other spirits to wash it all down with. Until then, I can only dream of eating, drinking, and being Southern all over again soon. Owners Darren Johnson, Karen Johnson, Michelle Formato, and Richard Formato


THE SOUTHERN ON 8TH KITCHEN & BAR 801 W Montrose St., Clermont Open for dine-in or take-out; walk-ins and reservations welcome. Hours: Tues. – Thurs. 4 p.m. – 9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Closed Monday Visit thesouthernon8th.com or call 352.394.7777 for information and weekend brunch hours.

Let’s do lunch or dinner

Tell us about a great restaurant by emailing roxanne@akersmediagroup.com.

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Homegrown Dragon Flower Winery uses only the freshest local fruits to make tasty wine. STORY: VICTORIA SCHLABIG

pening their own winery was a long-time dream of Maggie Peacock and Dean Gunter that finally materialized April 28, 2018. Dean familiarized himself with different wines while working as a server at high-end steakhouses. “It sparked a passion in him and then he did really want to learn how to make it,” Maggie says. Dean’s uncle, who owned a winery in Ohio, offered Dean a job managing the winery while learning from his winemaker, so the two packed their bags and moved to Ohio for three years while Dean learned the trade. Having grown up in the Fort Myers area and graduated from an Orlando college, they both knew they wanted to return to Florida. It didn’t matter where exactly, because they like most areas in the state. Maggie, who says she’s “arguably ninth generation Floridian,” remembers her interest being sparked by radio commercials for The Villages. They visited the area, looked at about 30 properties, and got lucky with a short sale on property in Summerfield where they now live and work. It took the couple about five years from the time they

≈ PHOTOS: NICOLE HAMEL purchased the property until the winery was fully functional in 2018. Maggie and Dean actually constructed much of the bar and furniture with donated wood and materials left on the property prior to them buying the land. “We fought tooth-and-nail, put blood, sweat, and tears, and everything you could imagine to get this place open,” Maggie says. “It was incredible because our neighbors here were so friendly and really embraced what we were doing when it could’ve been the opposite. Everyone came together that we met here to not let this dream die for us. It’s been, in our eyes, what we call an extreme success, we’re so happy and we just keep making it as best as we can.” Today, Dragon Flower typically has seven to 12 wines on rotation, depending on what fruits are in season and what’s available at the time. Maggie and Dean are trying to grow their own muscadine grapes, but the vines are new and it usually takes about five years for vines to fully produce. The couple’s goal is to source as many products locally as they can, including orange blossom honey, Carlos muscadine grapes, muscat grapes, strawberries, and more. When Style photographer Nicole and I visited Dragon Flower for a tasting, we saw Maggie and Dean’s parents and friends on the back patio cutting thousands of strawberries that made the bar smell like a fresh field, in preparation


for the strawberry wine that will be ready in late spring/early summer. Maggie says that Dean is the mastermind behind the different wine blends and flavors. “He’s pretty in tune with what’s popular at the time or what people are favoring, and he will also find what’s the freshest too,” she says. She was skeptical when he suggested a wine made solely from hibiscus flowers but was pleased to find it quickly became their most popular wine. “My husband is like a mad scientist when it comes to wine making. He gets really nerdy about it and just likes to experiment, and he has a true skill of just bringing out the right flavors from the fruit or honey or whatever he’s making his wine from,” she adds. Nicole and I tasted every wine available at the time, which was a flight of nine. Maggie set it up for us to taste from driest to sweetest, starting with the Zinfandel and finishing with Mead (honey wine). My favorites were definitely the Hibiscus and Dry Hibiscus, the latter reminding me of chilled hibiscus tea. I imagined that the sweeter of the two would be perfect to sip by the pool or on the beach in the summer. Ditto for the Raspberry, which I also enjoyed. While I am a fan of drier wines, Nicole was the perfect tasting partner as

she prefers sweeter. She enjoyed the Petit Sirah, Raspberry, and the two Hibiscus wines. While Dean handles all the winemaking, Maggie’s specialty is party planning. “Dean really has passion for making wine, I really enjoy setting something up and then watching people have a good time. So, it’s been so great,” Maggie says. The winery has hosted everything from birthday parties to weddings, and baby showers to bridal showers. They’ve even had a couple of engagements on site. There are two outdoor areas, and Maggie and Dean are working on adding a more private area for small parties. They plan to have music in one area and keep another quieter for gatherings. Another thing visitors enjoy is petting and watching the horses on the winery’s neighboring horse rescue farm. There’s no need to call ahead for a tasting unless you have a large group. Wine tastings are build-your-own, so you can stick to what you like whether that’s on the sweeter or drier side, or you can try them all! Wine samples are 50 cents, so you can try everything for under $5. Dragon Flower also carries beer from Florida breweries.


DRAGON FLOWER WINERY 11025 SE Hwy. 42, Summerfield Hours: Mon.-Thu. Closed, Fri. and Sat. 2-9 p.m., Sunday 12-6 p.m. Call 352.446.5204 or visit dragonflowerwinery.com

Do you know a place where we can drink? Comment on this article or send story ideas to victoria@akersmediagroup.com.


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OUT From classic diners and lakeside restaurants to fine dining and everything in-between, Lake County’s culinary scene is booming. Your favorite meal is sure to be served with a side of hospitality. Denotes locations where you can find Lake & Sumter Style A S TAT U L A


Race Car Diner 25641 Monroe St. 352.253.6940

Akina Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Bistro 4300 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.243.8988

ASTOR Blackwater Inn 55716 Front St. 352.759.3802 Castaways Restaurant 23525 US SR 40 352.759.2213 Sparky’s Place Restaurant 24646 SR 40 352.759.3551 Williams Landing 55716 Front St. 352.759.2802

Cheeser’s Palace Café 707 W. Montrose St. 352.404.9431 Clermont Brewing Co. 750 W Desoto 321.430.2337 Corelli’s Italian Restaurant 1042 E. Hwy. 50 352.989.5924


Crooked Spoon Gastropub 200 Citrus Tower Blvd. 352.404.7808

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s 2586 W CR 48 352.568.7000

Devenney’s Irish Pub 16909 High Grove Blvd. 352.432.3925

Darryl’s Diner 2237 W CR 48 352.444.2318

El Cerro Restaurant 811 W. Hwy. 50 352.241.9884

Howie’s Family Restaurant 840 N. Main St. 352.793.8582 TJ’s Family Restaurant 412 W. Belt Ave 352.793.8877

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Friar Tuck 16640 Cagan Crossings Blvd. 352.404.6818 G’s NY Pizza 12346 Roper Blvd. 352.243.8900

Gators Dockside 1200 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.242.1825 Goomba’s Pizzeria 2395 S. Hwy 27 352.989.4403 Guru Restaurant 2400 S. Hwy. 27 352.241.9884 Legends Grille & Tavern 1700 Legendary Blvd. 352.243.1118 Lilly’s on the Lake 846 W. Osceola St. 352.708.6565 Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill 230 Citrus Tower Blvd. 352.394.0036 Robata Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar 1500 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.404.9688 Root and Branch Bistro and Bar 1200 Seaver Dr. 352.708.4529 Sanctuary Ridge Bar & Grille 2601 Diamond Club Road 352.243.0411

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Sarah’s Greek Cuisine & More 16640 Cagan Crossings Blvd., Ste. 305 352.404.8031 Southern on 8th Kitchen & Bar 801 W. Montrose St. 352.394.7777 Troy’s Cuban Deli 1200 Oakley Seaver Dr. 352.241.4295 Uncle Kenny’s BBQ 157 Hwy. 27 352.394.1225 EUSTIS Jeannie’s Place 209 E. Gottsche Ave. 352.359.0027 Gators Dockside 15241 US Hwy 441 352.357.1255 Kiku Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar 15211 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.483.8288 LaCabana Mexican Bar and Grill 2060 S. Bay St. 352.357.4600

Nalan Sultan Mediterranean Grill 1 N. Eustis St. 352.357.4444

Ikaho Sushi Japanese Restaurant 7965 SR 50, #900 352.557.8988

NightOwl Caribbean Restaurant 929 S. Bay St. 352.589.0256

James Barbeque 262 W. Orange St. 352.557.4050

Stavro’s & Sons of Eustis 2100 W. CR 44 352.589.9100 Taki’s Pizza House 2824 S. Bay St. 352.357.0022 Thai Sushi America 925 N. Bay St. 352.357.1949 The Crazy Gator 402 N. Bay St. 352.589.5885 The Oyster Troff 936 N. Bay St. 352.357.9939 Tillie’s Tavern & Grill 31 E. Magnolia Ave. 352.602.7929

Lil Anthony’s Pizza 7965 SR 50 352.429.7499 Red Wing Restaurant 12500 S. SR 33 352.429.2997 H OW EY- I N THE -HILLS JB Boondocks Bar & Grill 704 S. Lakeshore Blvd. 352.324.3600 La Hacienda Restaurant 10400 CR 48 352.324.3910 Nicker’s Clubhouse Restaurant 10400 CR 48 352.324.2718

Tony’s Pizza & Subs 2760 E. Orange Ave. 352.589.9001



El Ranchito 1 Lagrande Blvd. 352.750.3335

Fruitland Park Café 3180 US Hwy. 441/27 352.435.4575 ibar-be-que Express 3170 Hwy. 27 352.315.4227 Legends Cafe 2468 U.S. Hwy. 441/27 352.728.0006 NY Deli N Diner 3325 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.365.0051 Rae Rae’s Restaurant 2468 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.323.1595 Stavro’s 3223 US Hwy. 441 352.315.0028 The Rose Plantation 200 Rose Ave., Fruitland Park 352.805.4340 G R OV E L A N D Coyote Rojo 214 W. Broad St. 352.557.8999

Bamboo Bistro 700 Hwy. 441 352.750.9998

Harbor Hills Country Club 6538 Lake Griffin Rd. 352.753.7000 Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant 504 S. U.S. Hwy. 441/27 352.753.2722 OakWood Smokehouse & Grill 860 S. Hwy 27/441 352.751.5640 Takis Greek and Italian Restaurant 13761 U.S. Hwy. 441 N. 352.430.3630 LEESBURG Bloom’s 610 W. Main St. 352.787.1004 Breakfast Station 2229 Citrus Blvd. 352.315.0291 Brick & Barrel 209 W. Main St. 352.431.3069

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria 27405 US Highway 27 352.728.2020 Cedar River Seafood 8609 S. U.S. Hwy. 441 352.728.3377 Chesapeake Bay Grill 4467 Arlington Ridge Blvd. 352.315.0066 Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant 10700 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.253.2442 Frank’s Place 201 N. 1st St. 352.323.1989 Gator Bay Bar & Grill 10320 CR 44 352.365.2177 God Café 300 W. Main St. 352.801.7447 Great Chicago Fire Brewery & Tap Room 311 W. Magnolia St. 352.474.2739 HP Grill 1403 S. 14th St. 352.314.0006 Ichiban Buffet 10301 Hwy. 441 352.728.6669 Kountry Kitchen 1008 W. Dixie Ave. 352.323.0852 La Palma Mexican Grill 1690 Citrus Blvd. 352.323.1444 Lilly’s Super Subs 2339 CR 473 352.343.4663 Magnolia’s Oyster Bar 201 W. Magnolia St. 352.323.0093 Main Street Cantina 205 W. Main St. 352.435.7279 Mamma Mia Pizza 755 North 14th St. 352.326.0101 Mammoth Oak Brewing Company 1107 W. North Blvd. 352.326.0100 Mrs. T’s Place, Southern Restaurant 305 Pine St. 352.431.3217

Naples Italian Restaurant 1107 W. North Blvd. 352.323.1616 Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill 2775 U.S. 27 352.435.4633 Arigato Steak House 1401 Citrus Blvd. 352.728.0788

MINNEOLA Lil Anthony’s Pizza 205 N. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.394.1516 Minneola Grill 117 W. Washington St. 352.394.2555 Napoli’s Pizzeria 556 Hwy. 27 352.243.7500

Mount Dora Pizza & Subs 2718 W. Old U.S. Hwy. 441 352.383.5303 Olive Branch Grille 115 W. 3rd St. 352.729.6734 One Flight Up 440 N. Donnelly St., Ste. 100 352.735.1446

Pine Street Bar-B-Que 408 Pine St. 352.728.1293

The Surf Bar and Grill 650 N. Hwy. 27 202.527.0100

Plantation Oaks Restaurant 4720 Plantation Blvd. 352.530.2680

Tiki Bar & Grill 508 S. Main Ave. 352.394.2232

PizzAmore’ 722 E. 5th Ave. 352.383.0092


Shiva Indian Restaurant 140A W. 5th Ave. 352.735.4555

Ramshackle Café 1317 N. 14th St. 352.365.6565 Rodello’s Italian Restaurant 26736 US Hwy. 27 352.319.8093

1921 Mount Dora 142 E. Fourth Ave. 352.385.1921

Pisces Rising 239 W. 4th Ave. 352.385.2669

Anthony’s Pizza 17195 U.S. Hwy. 441 352.357.6668

Lake House Bar & Grill 315 N. Highland St. 352.735.7433

San Jose’s Original Mexican Restaurant 1337 S. 14th St. 352.805.4174

Barnwood Country Kitchen & Smokehouse 3725 W. Old US Hwy 441 352.630.4903

Sugarboo’s Bar-B-Que 1305 N. Grandview St. 352.735.7675

Sip Restaurant and Wine Bar 707 W. Main St. 352.435.7840

Beauclaire Restaurant at Lakeside Inn 100 N. Alexander St. 352.383.4101

Sully’s Smokehouse 10820 CR 44 352.483.7427

Café Gianni 425 N. Alexander St. 352.735.3327

Takis Pizza Restaurant 1205 N. 14th St. 352.787.2344

Cody’s on 4th Cafe 111 E. 4th Ave. 352.735.8426

The Florida Porch Café 706 W. Main St. 352.365.1717

Copacabana Cuban Cafe 320 Dora Drawdy Way 352.385.9000

The Mojo Grill & Catering Co. 9925 US-441 352.787.0494

Fiesta Grande 421 N. Baker St. 352.385.3540

The Old Time Diner 1350 W. North Blvd. 352.805.4250

Frog & Monkey English Pub 411 N. Donnelly St. 352. 383.1936

Turners 114 S. 5th St. 352.530.2274

Highland Street Café 185 S. Highland St. 352.383.1446

Wolfy’s 918 N. 14th St. 352.787.6777

Jeremiah’s 500 N. Highland St. 352.383.7444


J.K. Thai Garden 116 E. 5th Ave. 352.385.4700

Napoli’s Pizzeria 556 S. U.S. Hwy. 27 352.243.7500 Rainbow Restaurant 704 E. Myers Blvd. 352.429.2093

Let’s Do Lunch 426 N. Donnelly St. 352.735.4577 Magical Meat Boutique 322 N. Alexander St. 352.729.6911

The Bavarian Haus 433 N. Alexander St. 352.735.8387 The Country Club 1900 Country Club Blvd. 352.735.2263 The Goblin Market 331-B Donnely St. 352.735.0059 The Pizza Shop 925 E. First Ave. 352.735.3411 Vincent’s Italian Restaurant 5914 Orange Blossom Trl. 352.735.4578 Whale’s Tale Fish House 2720 W. Old U.S. Hwy 441 352.385.1500

BTW (Burgers, Tacos & Waffles) 115 E. Main St. 352.508.9287 Fish Camp Lake Eustis 901 Lake Shore Blvd. 352.742.4400 Hurricane Dockside Grill 3351 W. Burleigh Blvd. 352.508.5137 Kalua Hale Beach Bar 181 S. Joanna Ave. 352.609.5910 Lake Dora Sushi & Sake 227 E. Main St. 352.343.6313 Mary’s Kountry Kitchen 15945 CR 448 352.343.6823 O’Keefe’s Irish Pub and Restaurant 115 S Rockingham Ave. 352.343.2157 Palm Gardens Restaurant 1661 Palm Garden St. 352.431.3217 Puddle Jumpers 111 W Ruby St. 352.508.5862 Ruby Street Grille 221 E. Ruby St. 352.742.7829 Sunrise Grill 462 E. Burleigh Blvd. 352.343.7744 Tavares Ice Cream 214 E. Main 352.508.5342 The Hideaway 11912 Lane Park Rd. 352.343.3585 Tiki West Raw Bar and Grill 118 W Ruby St., Tavares 352.508.5783

SORRENTO Del Franco’s Pizza 31436 CR 437 352.383.8882 Lisa’s Kountry Cafe 23911 CR 46 352.735.3380 TAVA R E S Bella Nona Pizzeria 280 Silverado St. 352.508.9370

THE V I L L AG E S Amerikano’s Grill 998 Del Mar Dr. 352.633.8027 Belle Glade Country Club 446 Moyer Loop 352.205.8208 BlueFin Grill & Bar 2738 Brownwood Blvd. 352.571.5344 Cane Garden Country Club 1726 Bailey Trail 352.750.0627 Chengs Chinese Restaurant 4050 Wedgewood Ln. 352.391.9678 China Gourmet III 343 Colony Blvd 352.750.4965 Chop House at Lake Sumter 1045 Old Camp Rd. 352.750.6000 Evans Prairie Country Club 1825 Evans Prairie Trail 352.750.2225 Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill 297 Colony Blvd 352.751.0400 Giovanni’s 3439 Wedgewood Lane 352.751.6674

Margarita Republic 1102 Main St. 352.753.4600 Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant and Bar 320 Colony Blvd. 352.753.3824 NYPD Pizzeria 4046 Wedgwood Ln 352.750.1994 Orange Blossom Country Club 1542 Water Tower Circle 352.751.4501 Palmer Legends Country Club 1635 Palmer Way 352.750.4499

Shang Hai Restaurant 531 N. Central Ave. 352.669.2004 The Mason Jar 37534 State Rd. 19 352.589.2535 W I L DWO O D China Jade 420 W. CR 44 352.330.5913 Continental Country Club 50 Continental Blvd. 352.748.3293

Ricciardi’s Italian Table 3660 Kiessel Rd. 352.391.9939

Cotillion Southern Café 101 N. Main St. 352.748.1223

Sakura 265 Colony Blvd. 352.205.7393

Los Magueyes Mexican Restaurant 346 Shopping Center Dr. 352.461.0577

The Lighthouse Point Bar and Grille 925 Lakeshore Dr. 352.753.7800 Tierra Del Sol Country Club 806 San Marino Dr. 352.753.8005 VKI Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar 1004 Old Mill Run 352.259.9887

Habaneros Mexican Grill 3551 Wedgewood Ln. 352.633.2080

U M AT I L L A Combat Café 831 S Central Ave. 352.483.0250 Fish & Chix 100 N. Central Ave. 352.669.7145

Legacy Restaurant 17135 Buena Vista Blvd. 352.753.1475

Old Crow Real Pit Bar-B-Q 41100 SR 19 352.669.3922

RedSauce 1000 Canal St. 352.750.5272

Glenview County Club 3914 Glenview Rd. 352.753.0077

Hemingway’s at Havana Country Club 2484 Odell Circle 352.430.3200

Greg’s Haystax 526 Umatilla Blvd. 352.669.1555

Gators Dockside Grill 9 N. Central Ave. 352.669.6969

O’Shucks! Oyster Bar and Grill 1016 S Main St. 352.399.2200 Roberto’s Ristorante & Pizzeria 2468 Burnsed Blvd., 352.626.1059 Traditions Café 3107 Hwy. 44 352.748.1077 Woody’s Bar-B-Q 1220 S. Main St. 352.748.1109 YA L A H A Yalaha Bakery 8210 CR 48 352.324.3366



Sakura Sushi is a time-honored tradition in Japanese culture, comparable to the popularity of cheeseburgers in American culture. At Sakura Japanese Restaurant in The Villages, the texture, flavors and colors of sushi satisfy all your senses. The restaurant also offers hibachi grills, where cooks amuse diners with open-flame cooking and chop the meat and vegetables using special knife effects. Each dish is prepared to order. If you love Japanese food, then a visit to Sakura Japanese Restaurant is a must. 265 Colony Blvd., The Villages / 352.205.7393

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Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant 352.753.2722 | 304 US-441, LADY LAKE Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant in Lady Lake has the distinct honor of calling itself a true family-owned restaurant. In fact, five generations of family members have represented the restaurant since its humble beginnings in May 1962. As many generations of customers have dined there throughout the years thanks to the outstanding service and scrumptious dishes such as Spaghetti a la Bruzzi, Delmonico steak, and lasagna. This food savvy family prepares everything from scratch, crafting everything with love to satisfy your taste buds.

Subway SUBWAY.COM LADY LAKE | 208 W. GUAVA ST. | 352.750.4929 EUSTIS | 469 PLAZA DR. | 352.357.7827 MOUNT DORA | 18870 U.S. HWY. 441 | 352.735.4376 LEESBURG | 2013 CITRUS BLVD. | 352.787.6442 10135 U.S. HWY. 441, SUITE 4 | 352.326.3234 27405 U.S. HWY. 27, SUITE 4 | 352.314.8847

Wednesday-Sunday 4pm-9pm Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Full Gluten-Free Menu

Custommade, fresh sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads made right before your eyes. The “healthy” alternative to fast food.

THE VILLAGES | 1580 BELLA CRUZ DRIVE | 352.750.9600 8796 S.E. 165TH MULBERRY LANE | 352.750.9991 1070 LAKE SUMTER LANDING DRIVE | 352.205.8535 349 COLONY BLVD. | 352.391.1657 WILDWOOD | 480 W. GULF TO ALANTIC HWY. | 352.748.8800

Yalaha Bakery 352.324.3366 | 8210 STATE ROAD 48, YALAHA The family owned German Bakery since 1995, is an award-winning Bakery that offers to customers high-quality German products made with the highest culinary standards. Fine European pastries and breads are made with organic flours, chocolates, and spices, butter, and imported European ingredients. Take home tortes, tarts, and wonderful pretzels, but before you go home, enjoy something from our delicious deli menu. We serve breakfast from 8-11am and lunch and dinner are served 11am-7pm. Enjoy German specialties like Nurnberger breakfast, Hunterschnitzel with Spätzle, Bratwurst, Reuben, Quiche, typical German soups, and maybe Semelknoedel (bread dumplings with mushroom sauce) for lunch or dinner. We offer a fine selection of German beers and wines. Whatever time of day, you’ll find something you love at Yalaha Bakery. On the weekends you can come and enjoy various events and music concerts on Saturdays and Sundays at our Beer Garden. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter or via our website www.yalahabakery.com

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Open Daily 8am-7pm

A German Bakery Like No Other!


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Do You Know Your Banker? Dean and Teresa Simmons of Ford Press do!

“Teresa and I have worked with Jay for over 25 years. The staff at Citizens First Bank is great; if we need something, we receive an answer right away. We take pride in keeping our banking business in our community. Working with Jay, who we trust and receive advice from, is priceless to us and our family.”

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In seventh heaven Tranquil boating, swamp skimming, seaplane splashing always fun thrills. STORY: THERESA CAMPBELL

≈ PHOTO: NICOLE HAMEL Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures

hhhh. Springtime in Lake and Sumter counties is a glorious time to be outdoors, in the fresh air, or better yet to feel the gentle breeze out on the water. Maybe you’re like me in relishing a relaxing pontoon boat ride at night to see a breathtaking sunset, or savor a lazy afternoon gliding along Lake County’s Dora Canal, long billed as the “most beautiful mile of water in the world.” The thrill of a fast airboat ride into the marshes of Sumter County is another favorite of mine that never gets old, followed by the tranquility of experiencing a slower ride into the swamps to see the beauty of 2,000-plus year-old cypress trees draped with Spanish moss. It’s also a delight to spot herons, egrets, turtles, bald eagles, and of course alligators along the banks. One unforgettable sight a few years back was seeing a baby alligator sunbathing on top of his momma. My favorite water adventure—so far—is a seaplane ride over Lake and Sumter counties. The unforgettable experience begins with the thrilling adrenaline rush of the pilot skimming on top of the water for

the takeoff and flying low in certain areas for amazing bird’s-eye views of Central Florida’s wilderness and beauty. And when the pilot lands the seaplane onto the water, it’s another exhilarating moment and the finale of a very fun ride. To me, a seaplane flight is far more enjoyable than conventional flying. Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures in Tavares offers longer tours that I’m eager to try, including tours of popular tourist attractions and gator parks, to spring-fed, crystal-clear waters, and the St. Johns River, noted as Florida’s longest river and “the only other North-flowing river in the world other than the Nile,” says Jones Brothers president Peter Closi, who also savors flights over this area. “Lake County is also home to some of the most beautiful sunsets; it’s simply breathtaking to see from the air,” Peter says. That’s another picture-perfect sight that sounds simply amazing. I’m adding it to my ever-growing bucket list of things to explore in our beautiful Sunshine State. I believe the pandemic kept many of us homebound for too long. The opportunity to savor nice Florida weather is providing some much-needed normalcy in my life, and I hope it does for you, too, this month and beyond.

Hey, readers! Is there a particular subject that you would like me to write a commentary about? Tell me, via email, at theresa@akersmediagroup.com.

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Style Magazine, Village Edition, April 2021  

Style Magazine, Village Edition, April 2021