Ocala Style January '21

Page 1

JAN ‘21


Lsiuefe is

A WEC WELCOME ocalastyle.com




42-82 Acres on Hwy 27

75 +/- Acres - Hwy 27

Great location! Located just minutes to WEC! 42 acre parcel includes: barn, pond, round pen, and storage. Additional acreage includes: 3/3 home, 22-stall barn, tack room, covered round pen, 18-stall center aisle barn, office, bath and tack room. Call for options

Location! Location! Location! Prime location for a developer with Hwy 27 frontage. Close to WEC! Center aisle barn, fenced paddocks, perfect for any discipline. Zoned A-1 with land use of MR-Medium Call for options Residental.

320 +/- Acres - Hwy 27

455 +/- Acres - Hwy 326 & I-75 Area

Developer’s dream! Prime location in NW Ocala! Close to WEC! Tracts are currently zoned A-1 with land use of MR-Medium Residental which allows up to 4 units per acre. Call for options

Close to WEC! Easy access to I-75. Road frontage on Hwy 326, NW 49th Ave, NW 60th Ave, and NW 83rd Lane. Great location for your dream home or equestrian estate. Call for options

Sold in 2020 - $36,612,498 Pending sales - Closing 2020 - $13,734,900; Closing 2021 - $7,590,900 For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and more choices. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.

Hunt Club at Fox Point - .77 +/- Acres

Westbury Estate - 1.71 +/- Acres

Gorgeous 5 bedroom, 3 bath pool home with formal living and formal dining room. Gourmet kitchen with center island. Expansive suite with French doors leading to lanai. 3-car attached garage plus additional 2-car A/C garage with fireplace. $499,750

Recently updated home with open floor plan, expansive family room, formal dining room, kitchen with center island, casual dining overlooking pool. Office, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. Screen enclosed $799,500 pool with lounging areas. 4-car garage. Many extras.

Bass Country Retreat - 123.48 +/- Acres

Great N.W. Location - 69 +/- Acres

Private 2-story cedar home with large deck overlooking spring fed lake. Property adjoins the Ocala National Forest on 3 sides for plenty of privacy and seclusion. 300’ deck completes the package. Great family retreat or hunting/fishing getaway. $1,885,000

Equestrian home with 4/3.5 main residence, 2 show quality stables with A/C rooms for office, tack, feed & storage. Hay barn, dressage area, lush green pastures, and shaded riding trails. Just minutes from WEC. 2 guest cottages for staff or rental income. $3,900,000

If you’re considering buying or selling, give us a call today! List your property with Joan Pletcher... Our results speak for themselves.

For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and more choices. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.

Hunt Murty Publisher | Jennifer jennifer@magnoliamediaco.com

Magnolia Media Company, LLC (352) 732-0073

1515 NE 22nd Avenue, Ocala, FL 34470

Art Editorial

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Brooke Pace brooke@magnoliamediaco.com FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER Anibal Rodriguez IN-HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery PHOTOGRAPHERS Brittany Bishop Kristy Gladney Meagan Gumpert John Jernigan Dave Miller Rigoberto Perdomo Carlos Ramos Alan Youngblood ILLUSTRATOR David Vallejo


DIRECTOR OF SALES AND PROMOTIONS Lee Kerr lee@magnoliamediaco.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com Sarah Belyeu sarah@magnoliamediaco.com

ocalastyle.com ocalastyle ocalastylemagazine ocalastyle

EDITOR IN CHIEF Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com SENIOR EDITOR Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Lisa McGinnes lisa@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Richard Anguiano JoAnn Guidry Scott Mitchell David Moore Jill Paglia Marian Rizzo Dave Schlenker Leah Taylor


MARKETING MANAGER Kylie Swope kylie@magnoliamediaco.com MARKETING COORDINATOR Sabrina Fissell sabrina@magnoliamediaco.com CLIENT SERVICES GURU Cheryl Specht


Dave Adams Rick Shaw

checking Accounts


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deposit mobile ES1 h E it F w O ,N l App KING IMUMS E BAN Contro IN IL d M r B a O O C S DM N CAMPU INE AN ith the E ONL w E R D F R UR CA AGE YO CARDS MAN DEBIT E U S TANT-IS INS

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READY, SET, GO! Open an account at campuscu.com/star-powered Call 237-9060 and press 5 Curbside Service available at your local CAMPUS Service Center. Visit campuscu.com to find a CAMPUS Service Center in your community.

Membership is open to anyone in Alachua, Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties.3 May not be combined with any other offer. Offer subject to change without notice. One bonus per household. Offer is not available to members with an existing CAMPUS checking account. 1. Credit approval and initial $50 opening deposit required. Member must elect to receive eDocuments. 2. Within the first 60 days, member must use their debit card as a non-PIN based transaction (online purchase, contactless purchase, or swiping your debit card without using a PIN) at least 6 times within 60 days. If requirements are met and the account remains open after 60 days, the $150 reward will be made available to the member. $150 is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT. 3. Credit approval and initial $5 deposit required. Insured by the NCUA.

Publisher’s Note

iving your best life” could easily sound like a simple cliché unless you give the context of overcoming great challenges, and then it becomes a source of inspiration. We give you many tales of triumph in this issue. Many of us resented, and some of us rebelled against, the “new normal” we were presented with in 2020. That reaction is not limited to pandemics; we all face circumstances in life that force us to reassess what we thought our life was going to be like and map out our own individual new normal—the one that allows us to adjust to the circumstances and live successfully, with joy. One thread you’ll find throughout these articles of inspiration are a can’t-quit attitude with a mixture of gratitude for what you do have. Patti Moring McQueen encapsulated that spirit in her interview, on page 50, when she said, “I have definitely learned you have to not take anything for granted. Things can change on a dime and you have to learn to grow and adapt. I just kept believing.” In the article “Boys to Men” on page 62, you’ll learn about dedicated mentors sharing the can’t-quit mindset and attitude of gratitude with the next generation. And it’s not just life trajectories that are upset by challenge. There also are special moments which have to be adjusted so the event we always envisioned, such as a wedding or graduation ceremony, can still be a happy occasion. But just think of the stories we’ll have to tell! Perhaps a grandmother will reassure a granddaughter worrying about her small wedding budget with a tale that begins, “I got married during a global pandemic, with no guests, and look how it turned out for me.” I think the story of Kim and Will Smith, the bride and groom on page 36, who were married with only their parents in attendance but then circled a local town square in a horse and carriage to the cheers of strangers, might even provide a reminder of old traditions. Let’s take these opportunities to remember a time when we were all more connected and bring back those customs that allow us to celebrate as a community.

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher

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contents 44

featu re s A NEW WORLD



The new World Equestrian Center complex offers something for everyone. Chef Patti Moring McQueen has cooked up a near-fairy tale story in business and love.









Beauty and fashion blogger Chante Burkett wants to help others find success.




Dave travels down the “notes to self ” rabbit hole on his cellphone.

vo w s



Get a glimpse into the most special days of our local brides and grooms.


Naomi Shanti charts a path to creativity through grief. Two mentor groups are helping influence a new generation of Black youth. St. Pete, known as the Sunshine City, has grown into a world-class destination.

livin g

75 80


Entertaining expert Jill Paglia explores the culinary pleasures of wine and cheese.


Ocala’s Workspace Collective offers solutions for local business owners.

o n th e c o ve r Ava Moring, Patti Moring McQueen, Tully McQueen and Grace Moring pose in the gorgeous bamboo garden at their home in Ocala’s historic district. Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery.

Clockwise from left: Photo by John Jernigan, Photo by G5 Photography, Photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery



Affordable Elegance





1 9 8 8





352.694.5022 3251 SE 31st St, OCALA W W W. C E N T E R S TAT E C O N S T R U C T I O N . C O M LIC # CGC 1511237





National Artists Presented by Jenkins Auto Group

Wynonna & The Big Noise

Kenny G

Chris Botti

Kevin Nealon

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 9

Purchase tickets online or call the Reilly box office T-F, 10A-2P, at 352-351-1606. 500 NE 9th St. Ocala, FL 34470


Visit mariontheatre.org for a full list of showtimes, concerts and to purchase tickets!

Featured This Month!



Social The Art & Soul charity fundraiser and live auction to beneďŹ t Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection took place at the World Equestrian Center. Pictured: Rider from Hampton Green Farm Photo by Meagan Gumpert


Riders from Hampton Green Farm

Nina Boyer, Mike Crook, Kim VanKampen

Art & Soul

WORLD EQUESTRIAN CENTER Photography by Meagan Gumpert

T Elizabeth Fairbanks, Ying Laura Gao, Gordon Fairbanks

he charity fundraiser and live auction of children’s healing artwork, held December 10th to benefit Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, was one of the first such events held at the newly opened World Equestrian Center. A total of $165,000 was raised for the agency.

Shining Bright

Cory Caraway, Kyle Clifton, Victoria Smith



Since 1919


Victoria Sexton

Push-Ups for Pups

CROSSFIT PINNACLE Photography by Bruce Ackerman

C Eddie Leedy

anines at the Marion County Humane Society were beneďŹ ciaries of the November 14th event that saw a total of $1,026 donated and A.J. Ravay being named the event’s top fundraiser, which earned him a trip to a park with his favorite adoptable pup.

Event participants from CrossFit Pinnacle and Humane Society of Marion County



Nathan Kirkland and Einstein

Maria Larangeira

On the Scene A guide to our favorite monthly happenings and can’t-miss events

30 Memories & Inspiration


I Hate Hamlet


After Dark in the Park: A Fistful of Dollars


Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition

Ocala Civic Theatre January 4-February 7 | 7:30pm A witty play about a young actor dreaming of TV stardom and haunted by the ghost of John Barrymore. Visit ocalacivictheatre.com for tickets.

Fort King National Historic Landmark 7pm Ocala Recreation and Parks invites families to bring chairs and a blanket for a free showing of this 1964 spaghetti Western with Clint Eastwood. Visit ocalafl.org/recpark for more information.

College of Central Florida Webber Gallery 10am-4pm Artworks including ceramics, prints, fiber, photography and mixed media created by CF faculty. Open Monday-Thursday through February 12th. Visit cf.edu for more information.

13 Chief Greg Graham Legacy Walk

Zone Health and Fitness January 13-14 | 6pm-6pm A 24-hour charity event to celebrate and honor the life’s work of the late Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham. Visit grahamlegacywalk.com for more information.



“Field,” by Samella Lewis 1968, Lithograph, 26 x 20 in. Photograph by Gregory Staley, courtesy of The Appleton Museum of Art.

Appleton Museum of Art January 30-March 28 10am-5pm Thursday-Saturday, 12-5pm Sunday The Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American art exhibition celebrates the passion of a couple who amassed a collection of more than 300 works over 35 years. Visit appletonmuseum.org for more information.

16 Pups, PJs & Pupcorn

Ocala Drive-In 5pm The Secret Life of Pets and A Dog’s Purpose, with a pre-movie market to benefit the Humane Society of Marion County. For more information visit fb.com/humanemarion


15 Visions

Gallery B Art Collective 5-8pm A reception with photographer Dan McCarthy highlighting his detailed local nature images. Visit gallerybocala.com for more information.

Education & Enrichment

Ocala Civic Theatre and virtual Times vary Acting, musical theatre, production dance classes for children and adults are offered in person and online, continuing through March. Visit ocalacivictheatre.com for details.

19 Art 101

Virtual The Appleton Museum offers an instructor-led live Zoom demonstration of winter birch tree acrylic painting. Visit appletonmuseum.org for more information.

January 30-March 28, 2021

MEMORIES & INSPIRATION The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art

Appleton Museum and Store

Photo courtesy of Dan McCarthy

Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | 352-291-4455 AppletonMuseum.org

-an equal opportunity college-

Sedrick Huckaby, “She Wore Her Family’s Quilt,” 2015, Oil on canvas. Photographed by Gregory Staley.

“Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art” was organized and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Tuscawilla Art Park 6pm Enjoy live bluegrass music by Trinity River Band and Pasture Prime. Big Lee’s BBQ will be available for purchase. Visit ocalafl.org/artpark for more information.

22 Elvis: Eras of a King

Circle Square Cultural Center 6:15pm World champion Elvis tribute artist Cote Deonath will perform in a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Marion County. Visit csculturalcenter.com for more information.

23 29 16

Entertainment Calendar Date Time Event 2

5:00 pm

The Mudds

Milano Ristorante


6:00 pm

Mark Raisch

Circle Square Commons


7:00 pm

Ronnie McDowell

Orange Blossom Opry


7:30 pm

Jeff Jarrett

War Horse Harley-Davidson


6:00 pm

Jeff Jarrett

Bank Street Patio Bar


7:00 pm

The Big Bad

The Crazy Cucumber Eatery and Bar


7:00 pm

Cote Deonath / Elvis in Las Vegas

Orange Blossom Opry


2:30 pm

Cote Deonath / Elvis: the 68 Comeback

Orange Blossom Opry


6:00 pm

Walker & Walker

Circle Square Commons


6:00 pm

The Mudds

La Cuisine French Restaurant


6:30 pm

Palomino Blonde

The Crazy Cucumber Eatery and Bar


7:00 pm

J. Lilley

The Corkscrew


6:00 pm

Fast Lane

Circle Square Commons


7:00 pm

Rumours: A Fleetwood Mac Tribute

Orange Blossom Opry


3:00 pm

Houston Keen

Charlie Horse


7:00 pm

Dion Pride

Orange Blossom Opry


7:30 pm

The Rocketman Show Elton John Tribute

Reilly Arts Center


6:00 pm

Silver Creek Duo

Circle Square Commons


7:00 pm

Bellamy Brothers

Orange Blossom Opry


6:00 pm

Krossing Jordan

Circle Square Commons

Plein Air in the Gallery Garden

Gallery B Art Collective 1-4pm Join artists Bobbie Deuell and Julie Shealy for a free plein air painting session. Registration at gallerybocala.com is required.

Ocala Truck and Tractor Pull

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion 6pm Trucks, tractors, modified tractors and mini rods on the track, with merchandise and food vendors. Visit fb.com/beermoneypullingteam for more information.



Photo by Julie Mancini Photography, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity

22 Bluegrass and BBQ

Tickets On Sale Now!

Music is Life

LET'S ROCK 2021!


JAN. 22





FEB. 18





Elvis: Eras of a King

The World’s #1 Tribute to the Bee Gees




APR. 9




TRACY BYRD TracyByrd.com

JUN. 26



FLEETWOOD MAX The Definitive Fleetwood Mac Tribute




APR. 10 $24 TURN THE PAGE Tribute to Bob Seger

APR. 17

JUL. 24

AUG. 14







MAR. 11



KISS AMERICA The Ultimate Kiss Tribute






MAR. 20




COMPLETELY UNCHAINED The Ultimate Van Halen Tribute

APR. 23




ORLEANS OrleansOnline.com




A Carpenters Tribute

AUG. 28




TITANS OF ROCK Journey & Bon Jovi Tribute

MAR. 26





MAY 22





SEPT. 25






7 BRIDGES 7BridgesBand.com



OCT. 30


The Beatles Tribute

Face masks required at all times

Order tickets at CSCulturalCenter.com | 8395 SW 80th Street, Ocala, FL 34481 | (352) 854-3670 ALL SHOWS BEGIN AT 7 PM & DOORS OPEN AT 6 PM (EXCEPT AS NOTED) | GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE Schedule and prices subject to change without notice. Reduced ticket prices for residents of On Top of the World Communities and Stone Creek apply to Circle Square Cultural Center produced shows only. (Resident ID required when purchasing at box office.) Ticket prices do not include sales tax. Refreshments available for purchase at events. To arrange for handicap seats, call or visit the ticket office. **Online tickets subject to a convenience fee. ALL TICKET SALES FINAL.

#13808 - 1/21




The Astonishing Tribute to Rush




The Ultimate Eagles Experience


to co s w o h s e or


APR. 3

Jacquelyn L. Eastman, CPA; Jayme C. Zublick, CPA; Daryl L. Collier, CPA, MBA; Kathi L. Jernigan, CPA

A Firm Foundation Promotions enhance offerings from noted area accounting business. Photography by John Jernigan


hile some say change can make a company bigger and better, Daryl Collier says, “That’s true, but it’s the type of change that is most important and growth from within is the best.” Collier speaks from experience. After the recent retirement of one of their firm’s partners, Daryl Collier and his business partner, Kathi Jernigan, invited two of their longtime employees to join them in the partnership. The promotion of Jacquelyn Eastman and Jayme Zublick will expand and enhance the capability of the company’s services.

The resulting firm of Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick offers more than 120 years of combined experience in accounting and tax services. “It’s exciting that they began their careers with us and are now partners in the firm,” notes Collier. “Jayme came to us right out of college and Jackie worked for us while going to college, having started as a tax processor with the firm.” Collier knows what it’s like to move up through the ranks and what it means to gather experience along the way. After working for four years at Price

Waterhouse in Orlando, he moved to Ocala. He fell in love with north Florida with its wonderful fall and beautiful spring. Collier founded the existing firm in 1978. It was the fulfillment of a longtime dream. “Ever since high school, I wanted to be a CPA who is an advocate for his clients,” muses Collier. “I wanted to help them improve profitability and reduce taxes, and assist them with other accounting and tax needs.” Collier’s longtime business partner, Jernigan, shares her affection for Marion County. Previously a part-owner of a horse

show management company, Jernigan, who is originally from Montana, came to Florida for the horse shows. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, five years’ experience with KPMG (an international accounting firm), combined with several years as chief financial officer for a publicly held trucking company, she soon joined Collier’s firm and brought with her an extensive background in managing equine events. “We came here for the winter horse show circuit, bought a farm and stayed,” Jernigan reflects.

Photo by Bruce Ackerman

Sponsored “This is an area that is really beneficial for the horse business. I’m still involved with the horse show industry from a business perspective. I deal with veterinarians, farms and other ancillary businesses.” Eastman, who has a master’s degree in accounting and specializes in QuickBooks training for business owners and managers, is thrilled to be part of the team. “I’m excited to get the news of the new partnership out and let the community know that we are here, ready for the future, focusing on a client-centered approach,” states Eastman. “I’m excited for the next chapter in the development of the firm.” Zublick, who came onboard in 2000, has a bachelor’s degree in accounting administration and focuses on the construction and manufacturing industries. She is treasurer of the Marion County Building Industry Association. “I’m looking forward to continuing what is already here,” declares Zublick. “In starting this firm, Daryl has always had a family atmosphere and looks out for what’s best for our clients. I really want to continue that and improve upon it whenever possible.” According to Collier, that family atmosphere extends across all aspects of the firm, affecting clients and employees. “Each tax season we

have ‘Souper Tuesday’ where our staff brings in soup and we eat together,” Collier explains. “Then there is the Friday Lunch Train where the staff goes out to lunch together. We go all out with costumes on Halloween and crazy Christmas hats at our Christmas Luncheon. Also, we celebrate birthdays every month with a party, and we throw in an occasional cookout and fish fry to complete the year. We truly enjoy working together and playing together.” As the firm of Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick moves into 2021 and tax season looms on the horizon, the newly created partnership continues to provide comprehensive services in accounting, tax preparation, reviews and audits, plus full-service accounting functions and utilizing computer software training and services—particularly with QuickBooks. “We care about our clients and want the best for them,” concludes Collier. “A lot of small business owners do their accounting once a year to prepare their tax returns. We believe it is more effective to prepare financial statements on a regular basis. This way the client will have information to make management decisions on a timely basis. Ultimately, our goal is to help our clients grow healthy, successful businesses.”

352-732-5601 550 NE 25th Ave, Ocala, FL 34470 www.colliercpas.com

Services • • • • • •

Federal and state tax preparation and planning Accounting services and compilations Audits Reviews Business consulting QuickBooks training and consulting

industries served • • • • • • • • •

Health care Construction Professional service firms Restaurants Nonprofits Horse farms and other agricultural industries Mining Manufacturing Wholesale and retail sales


meet the new partners

Daryl has always had a family atmosphere and looks out for what’s best for our clients.

Jayme Zublick, CPA Born and raised in Key West. 1993: Graduated from Crystal River High School. 1995: Graduated with honors and associate of art’s degree from Central Florida Community College (now College of Central Florida). 1999: Earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting administration from Langston University in Oklahoma. Returned to Ocala and finished her fifth year at St. Leo University. 2000: Settled in

Marion County, joined the firm as a QuickBooks Advanced Certified Pro Advisor and became a member of the Intuit Speaker’s Bureau. 2003: Passed the CPA exam. 2006: Hired by Intuit to demonstrate QuickBooks software in their booth at the International Construction Conference in Orlando. Current status: Specializes in accounting, computer consulting and tax services, with an emphasis

on the construction and manufacturing industries, utilizing tools available in QuickBooks. Zublick and her husband, Stephen, have three children: son, Logan, 14; daughter, Palena, 11, and son, Dylan, 6. Her family takes regular trips to Disney World. They also get together with Jayme’s parents and her siblings as often as possible. She is involved in Victory Church in Gainesville, where she volunteered in the preschool classes prior to COVID-19.

- Jayme Zublick

Jacquelyn Eastman, CPA Grew up in South Florida. 1995: Moved to Citrus/Marion County area. 2008: Joined the firm, became a Certified Advanced QuickBooks Pro Advisor and began teaching QuickBooks seminars. 2011: Earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, graduated cum

laude from St. Leo University. 2012: Earned a master’s degree in an accelerated accounting program from Stetson University 2019 and 2020: Taught QuickBooks seminar for a statewide nonprofit organization at an annual convention. Current status: Enjoys helping small business owners develop

and understand their accounting systems, also guides them in business management toward making better decisions. She is a member of the Mid-FL Regional Manufacturers Association, is on the board of Ocala Civic Theatre and is a Girl Scouts troop leader. She and her husband, George, have one daughter, Olivia, 10.

I’m excited for the next chapter in the development of the firm. - Jacquelyn Eastman


Notes to Self By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


o here’s the thing: I had a really good idea for this column. It was funny and poignant. It had selfdeprecating anecdotes, an epiphany and a relatable, bittersweet ending. It likely had a fart joke, too. When I sat down to write this masterwork, I cracked open the laptop and…nothing. Nada. I could not remember how to open Microsoft Word, never mind my column idea. Good thing I keep notes on my phone. Anytime I need to remember something, I pull out my phone, write a note and then get distracted by cat videos for 45 minutes. Eventually, usually an hour or two later, I remember why I was looking at the phone in the first place: see reminders. Problem is my notes make no sense. They seem to be random thought-vomit, generated by a malfunctioning chip in my head. Here are actual notes on my phone. None have been altered: “Three Stooges when other teams bumble ball.” “Dead to me applegate.” “Bas. Beckett. Ivy. Hazel.” “Lol lol.” No more on the page. That’s it. “Farfan” “The beast is vaping.” At this point, I remind you that none of these are made up. All entries are verbatim notes on my phone. That said, I will continue: “One of the haram carriers was in the bathroom. Where is the other pin? In my mouth.” “This is such a deal for a freaking inverter. Storming furniture store sweaty couches until cough oup (sic) of

the nutcrackers.” “Death Tennis 2020.” “When you are in pig poop, oh man. Buzzkill.” I think I know what that last one is, and, strangely, it was from a conversation with a colleague in the utilities business. Buzz-killing pig poop is hard to top, but my favorite phone note includes the lines “Earl the squirrel” and “Squirrel recipes.” I am guessing this was a column idea, as it was not followed by a shopping list. I think most of these are column ideas, diligently documented so I would not forget. And I am sure they would be great columns if I had a random thoughtvomit interpreter. Here’s the other thing. My friends here at Ocala Style asked me to write about New Year’s resolutions. An understandable request this time of year. Thing is, I do not have any resolutions. I should have, considering the weight I gained in 2020. I reveled in quarantine snacks so much my yellow safety vest from work―the one that was big and floppy when I started the job―is literally ripping at the seams. (Future column idea: pot-bellied Hulk.) Thus, my resolution for 2021 is simple. I resolve to make more sense. I resolve to add context to my notes, to not mix shopping lists with work-related poop conversations. Now comes the bittersweet epiphany, the positive part of this column that comes full circle: May the vaping beast of 2020 wallow in a haram bathroom with pig poop and sweaty squirrels. 2020 is dead to me. Applegate. Applegate. Lol. Bumble ball. January ‘21



Unsung Hero of the Pinewoods By Scott Mitchell | Photography by Mark Emery Scott Mitchell has served as the director of the Silver River Museum since 2004. He has worked as a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and museum professional for the last 25 years.


ilver Springs State Park consists of 5,000 acres that include a variety of upland and wetland habitats, one of the largest freshwater springs in the world and the Silver River Museum. The park also is home to some incredible animals, and some are native “Floridians,” such as the manatee, while others are newer arrivals imported from faraway lands, like the Rhesus macaque monkeys. Spend any time quietly walking the park trails and you’ll likely be treated to wildlife sightings. A common critter that guests encounter is the seemingly mundane gopher tortoise. Old timers in north Florida refer to them simply as “gophers” and they are sometimes confused with turtles. Tortoises aren’t flashy by nature, but there’s much more to these unique animals than most folks realize. For starters, they are the only land tortoise found east of the Mississippi River. They likely evolved about 60 million years ago (for comparison, scientists theorize that humans evolved about 250,000 years ago) and a healthy gopher



can live some 80 years. While their longevity is impressive, it is their status as a “keystone” species that is most important. Keystone animals are those that benefit many other organisms (plants and animals) just by being around. By protecting keystone species, numerous other animals are protected by default. The gopher tortoise helps its neighbors in several ways. They dig burrows (tunnels) as homes, where they take shelter from extreme heat, the rare cold snap and even forest fires. A lot of other animals either move in with them or escape fires in the burrow. Their “roommates” include a variety of snakes, mice, lizards, insects and frogs (there are about 350 species that take advantage of the underground shelter). Gopher tortoises are vegetarians and help spread seeds as they roam the area where they live. Gopher tortoises are slow movers and are very picky about where they live; two traits that have led many of them to an early demise. Being easy to catch put them on the menu of prehistoric Native Americans

and pioneers alike, and they were referred to as “Hoover chickens” during the Great Depression (after President Herbert Hoover). More recent development/ destruction of great swaths of upland longleaf pine habitat in the Southeast also has thinned their numbers considerably. The lack of regular natural fires also has been bad for them as fire promotes pine habitats and generates new plant growth, which equals more food for gopher tortoises. These slow but important reptiles are considered threatened by the state of Florida and are protected by law. So, as more and more of Florida is developed to suit our needs, let us remember the humble gopher tortoise as an example: They look out for the other animals in their neighborhood and go about their business in a slow and steady manner, traits I think we as humans should try to acquire. For more information, visit silverrivermuseum.com or call (352) 236-5401.


Leading Realtors po With expertise in residential, commercial, and horse properties, these real estate pros have the local knowhow to meet your real estate goals.

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9 Leading Realtors Valerie Dailey Showcase Properties valerie@showcaseocala.com (352) 351-4718; (352) 816-1080/cell Valerie Dailey and her team are committed to offering real estate listings for lifestyles including luxury homes, country club living, equestrian estates, waterfront residences, farms and more. Having lived in Marion County for 35 years, Valerie has deep roots in the area. She and her team know Central Florida inside and out, setting the stage for her to name her company, “Showcase.” “Showcase evokes the standard we set for each property we list,” she explains. “Every property is showcased in a unique way that highlights its diverse elements. Our goal is for customers to love where they live.” Showcase offers clients the best in marketing, staging and listing, and provides the personal touch of its agents having hands-on knowledge of equestrian and agricultural pursuits. “I’m an owner of a thoroughbred farm and am active in equine events, charities and associations,” Valerie notes. “Our team is active in regional and local events, and many have farm operations of their own. Our diversity allows us to provide the best service for each customer and our connection to the land and community is our greatest asset.”

Featured Listings




The Laurel

Horse Park Lane

Hacienda Heinsen

An executive estate in Bellechase $775,000

10-acres adjacent to the Florida Horse Park $337,500

A pristine 55-acre equestrian paradise $1,500,000

Leading Realtors


Tasha Osbourne Premier Sotheby’s International Realty tasha.osbourne@gmail.com (352) 613-6613 “Let us expand your horizons,” Tasha Osbourne says. “Allow us to be your gateway to Sotheby’s International Realty exclusive properties and unparalleled high net worth network.” Consistently selling over $20 million in real estate each year, her results speak for themselves, but her clients describe her as: “Tasha is simply amazing and a first-class professional. She cut no corners in advertising my home, selling in 48 hours.” No matter your price point, Tasha promises to deliver a luxury unrivaled experience—and “Deals in Heels.” Why Ocala, people ask? City living—where everyone knows your name. Being a part of each other’s successes. The sense of connection throughout the community. Tasha is in the building relationship business, and, for her, making a difference is imperative. She is dedicated to delivering a signature standard of service designed to elevate you— dedicated to the extraordinary, the exceptional and the unique.

Home by Arthur Rutenberg

Featured Listings

Custom built J&J home. This estate offers luxurious landscaping with breathtaking views of agricultural greenery. A masterpiece of design. Minutes away from WEC in a great neighborhood. Minutes to I-75.

Mediterranean architecture in the beautiful gated community of El Dorado. Featuring 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, this home was built for making beautiful memories.

Beautifully designed with modern luxury elements. Built By Irvin Homes within Bellechase. A gorgeous 5 bedroom pool home. Every detail was carefully selected & quality crafted to inspire.

1885 NW 85th Loop SOLD for $510,000

2220 SW 37th Street SOLD for $487,350

3821 SE 10th Ave SOLD for $550,000

9 Leading Realtors Joan Pletcher Joan Pletcher Real Estate Network joan@joanpletcher.com (352) 804-8989 Exhibiting an unparalleled combination of professionalism, integrity and relentless commitment to her clients, Joan Pletcher has earned a distinguished reputation as the most trusted and experienced real estate expert in Marion County over the past 30 years. By developing a personal relationship with each client and focusing on their unique needs, interests and desires, Joan has built a legendary track record of success. Her reputation as a “people person” and amazing talent for matching the right person with the perfect property has helped her build a real estate network responsible for more than $521,296,000 in completed transactions since 2004 and another $21 million in pending sales. “I enjoy helping someone, no matter their budget,” Joan says. “What drives me is the smile and the happiness I see on the face of my client when they walk on the right property for them. That is my passion.” Anyone can find you a house, but Joan Pletcher can match you with the perfect property.

Featured Listings

Classic Oaks Beautiful horse farm in SE Ocala. 2 homes, 18-stall barn, office, equine swim lane, European walker, arena with lights and equipment building.

Country Club of Ocala Exquisite 5 bedroom/ 4 full/2 half bath home with over 5,500 SF living area with magnificent views of the golf course.

10320 S Magnolia Ave Call for options

1041 SE 69th Place $1,495,000

Woodfield Crossings Charming 3/2 bungalow on corner lot. Open floor plan, high ceilings, crown molding throughout. 2-car garage. Just reduced! 2825 SE 19th Ct $360,900

Leading Realtors


Stacey Rollins Hudson Phillips Properties stacey@hudsonphillipsproperties.com (515) 422-0135 When it comes to family, work and community, Stacey Rollins is the whole package. “I’m a trusted community leader and influencer with proven sales results,” she says. A transplant from Iowa, Stacey moved to Ocala in 2005 when she married Charles Scott Rollins. She has a 20-year history in sales, marketing and hospitality. “My hospitality background makes me different from other agents as I enjoy building relationships through authentic connections; I am not a transactional person,” Stacey explains. “Ninety-five percent of my buyers are from out of town. I take a lot of pride in Ocala and in introducing my clients to the community.” A true out-of-the-box thinker, she has the ability to pivot quickly, offering her clients creative solutions. “Anyone can buy a home anywhere,” Stacey concedes. “It’s more than just selling them a luxury home. It’s about selling them a community that is right for them.”

Featured Listings

Central Florida’s Finest! This luxurious private gated Estate sits on 10 acres and is located on the highly desired millionaire’s road.

This custom home is a rare find in Ocala’s SE side with a panoramic view of the iconic Besilu farm sitting from your covered lanai.

600 SE 59th Street $1,890,000

5965 SE 13th Ave $699,000

SOLD 1091 SE 59th Street $1,195,000

9 Leading Realtors Nikki Serrano Stellar Real Estate Agency serrano.nikki@gmail.com (352) 585-1562 Nikki Serrano likes to think of the real estate business as being multifaceted—“like a diamond,” she says. Whether buying or selling land, residences, luxury homes, farms, or commercial properties she enthusiastically applies these facets to her career and her clientele. Nikki draws on her personal and professional experiences and resources for her clients, and she has established a stellar reputation for going above and beyond. “I love to make dreams happen and see people happy,” she says. “That’s my goal in all of this. I treat people the way I want to be treated.” Being detail oriented and results driven has taken Nikki from starting real estate four years ago to becoming a multi-year, multi-milliondollar producer and outstanding achiever, to opening her own brokerage. Stellar Real Estate Agency was established one year ago, a business that thrives on relationships and referral business from those that are accustomed to her outstanding service and expertise.

Featured Listings

Live sustainably in this 9.72 acre fully solar farm. Minutes to The Villages and Lake Weir. Zoned ag, but commercial potential. New roof, HVAC, fence, flooring and paint. Two barns, two sheds and a garden. Utilities less than $100!

19.3 acre farm close to Ocala and Gainesville. 3/2 main home with 2/1 flex in-law apartment with pool enclosure and entertaining area. RV hookup, polebarn, sheds, fully fenced with private drive and paddocks.

Prime commercial opportunity on Nature Coast’s main artery. Key lot off Hwy 50, less than 1 mile from I-75. Two acres currently zoned residential. Plans drawn for business available and zoning for commercial available.

13122 SE HWY 42 $549,900

2627 NE 140th St $574,900

29439 Cortez Blvd $2,400,000

Leading Realtors


Melissa Townsend It’s All About You...Real Estate Melissa@YourOcalaRealEstate.com (352) 304-5687 Melissa says her “passion for architecture and the outdoors” helps her connect with clients seeking unique properties located near natural resources and recreation amenities. Having lived in multiple locations throughout the country, Melissa returned to Ocala in 2009, bringing with her a host of resources, ideas and connections. Add to the mix the five historic home renovations she’s completed and it’s like putting together a puzzle. The completed image often results from her keen eye for details. “I work hard, and I like to strategize in advance with my sellers to properly position their home in the marketplace,” she explains. “Sometimes it means identifying maintenance issues that may create challenges for a buyer to secure insurance or a loan. I love interior staging, paring down to essentials, looking for the best angles and determining the best features to highlight. The details are often what make the difference.”

Featured Listings

Unique, completely renovated 3/2/1 home. Open concept floor plan that includes an impressive Florida fieldstone fireplace and high-quality finishes throughout.

Private waterfront retreat with 3/2/2 mid-century home plus a Morton building to store all your toys. Two buildable parcels totaling 6.91 acres.

Updated 3/3 pool home in the SE Historic District. Beautiful hardwood floors. Close proximity to downtown restaurants, boutiques, art galleries and farm market.

6890 SE 52nd Pl $159,900

15450 SE 103rd Pl Rd, Ocklawaha

910 SE 2nd St $364,900


9 Leading Realtors Matt Varney Ocala Horse Properties matt@ocalahorseproperties.com (352) 615-7001 Matt Varney started in real estate at age 23, later becoming the number 1 realtor in Wellington, FL (Palm Beach County). Now living on a Marion County horse farm with his wife Dr. Courtney Varney, a veterinarian, and their 4-year-old son, Hudson, he knows firsthand what draws people to horse country. With $60,000,000 in volume in 2020, Matt is Marion County’s leading realtor. But he maintains he doesn’t work alone. “We are a team at OHP; it’s about working together so all of us succeed,” insists Matt. “There’s no better team than I have with my business partners Chris and Rob Desino and our wonderful staff around us.” “We persistently educate our clients about investments and this is why they come back to us,” says Matt. “They come to us, not just for our knowledge of horse farms, but because of how involved we are in the equestrian community. We’re really entrenched in what we do.”

Featured Listings

This expansive 29+ acre equine estate is located adjacent to the new World Equestrian Center! Enjoy private trails and custom home with exquisite finishings, 6-stall barn, and professional arena.

This 34.5+ acre estate features new fence, stunning home with timber imported from the Pacific Northwest, stone handpicked from a Texas quarry, 16” walls, Pella windows, and resort-like pool area.

Minutes to the new World Equestrian Center is this 20+ acres nestled in a secluded setting. It features New England style home with fireplace, downstairs en suite master, and chef ’s kitchen.

Hampton Lane

Windy Knoll

Dalwhinne Farm

Leading Realtors


Cindy Wojciechowski Oak & Sage Realty cjwsells@gmail.com (352) 843-2431 Cindy has created more than just a new name in the Marion County Real Estate community. As the Broker/Owner of Oak & Sage Realty, Cindy has made her intention crystal clear in the name selection. The oak tree is one of the most loved trees in the world and is a symbol of strength, morale, resistance and knowledge. Similarly, sage means wise and knowledgeable as a result of a lot of experience—and experience Cindy has! Cindy has consistently been in the top 50 Realtors out of more than 2,100 in the Ocala/ Marion County Board of Realtors. Her career sales exceed $65 million. It is clear Cindy loves her job both as a mentor for her new agents and broker for her clients. “It’s not about a business deal, it’s about the personal relationships,” Cindy says. “It’s rewarding to know you make a difference in people’s lives.”

Featured Listings

Breathtaking 5-bedroom, 4.5 bath home on 5+ acres with agriculture zoning. Sure to stun the moment you walk in the door. Vaulted ceilings, crown molding and multiple high-end upgrades throughout.

Close to the historic town of Micanopy, this property offers a gated entrance with views of the mature oaks. 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths with pine flooring, crown molding and V grooved painted wood walls throughout.

This private 3-bedroom, 3 bath pool home on over sixteen acres. Located only fifteen minutes from HITS and WEC, the property is perfect for equestrians of multiple disciplines who want to train yearround.

Whisper Crest $950,000

Micanopy Country Estate SOLD for $679,000

Private Oasis Sold for $630,000

“ Peaceful, prestigious, & private treatment for those suffering from trauma and underlying self-defeating behaviors.

352-815-3911 | TheGuestHouseOcala.com


You are cordially invited

To celebrate Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear ďŹ rsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Olivia Lopez & Rudy Perez Photographed by Brittany Bishop


OLIVIA LOPEZ & RUDY PEREZ November 14th, 2020 Photography by Brittany Bishop Venue: Trilogy at Ocala Preserve Her favorite memory: Seeing my “dog of honor” Luca, waiting for me at the altar with my future husband! His tail wagged excitedly as he nudged me with his nose as if to say, “I’m here momma.” Having my sweet boy next to me on our special day was something I will never forget! 34



GLADYS & DANIEL LUPU November 14th, 2020 Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery Venue: New Life Family Church Their favorite memory: After a great deal of time waiting for this occasion, it finally culminated with this exceedingly beautiful moment of unity in front of all of our loved ones—our first dance as husband and wife, dancing to the song we fell in love to.

January ‘21



KIM & WILL SMITH October 24th, 2020 Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery Venue: Brownwood Hotel and Spa Her favorite memory: Right after our ceremony, my mother-in-law surprised us with a horse and carriage ride. Our wedding was very small, parents only, because of the pandemic, so it was so lovely to ride through the town square and be cheered on and congratulated by so many people, mostly strangers! It just made our day that much more special and memorable.



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CARLY & KYLE PETERSON October 3rd, 2020 Photography by Kristy Gladney Venue: Enchanted Oaks Farm Her favorite memory: After having an intimate ceremony in my parents’ backyard in May, it was so special to celebrate with loved ones at Enchanted Oaks. From the wildflower bouquets to dancing to La Vie En Rose under the twinkling lights—the night won’t soon be forgotten.




eet the “Sold Sisters” who are one of Marion County’s best household secrets in the local housing market. Originally starting with a large client base of past customers and past customer referrals, the “Sold Sisters” outstanding performance and top notch reviews have made them a household name when it comes to buying or selling in this great community. Since 2018, the Sold Sisters branded Magnolia Homestead Realty on “Quality over Quantity” which can be demonstrated when working with any of their 12 agents. Don’t let our small size fool you! Our boutique brokerage has landed us in the overall top 30 real estate brokerages here in Marion County, with nearly 30 Million in sales as 2020 came to a close. We are always looking to share our success whether it be buying, selling, or taking your real estate career to the next level. Reach out to us today to discover the secrets of the Sold Sisters and the Magnolia Homestead Realty family.

2137 E Fort King St, Ocala 352.895.0072 marioncitruscountyhomes.com


A Park with a Purpose How the City of Ocala is making strides to replenish one of our most essential resources through the creation of a monument to the natural world. Photography by Dave Miller


ater is the driving force of all nature. It is vital to the survival of every single human, animal and plant on the earth. On our most elemental level, water makes up 70 percent of the human body. It covers 71 percent of our planet’s surface and is an essential element of both our natural ecosystem and our social system. It regulates our climate, allowing some ecosystems to flourish, and is a major limiting factor for others. Water is the key to our food supply and creates essential habitats for wildlife. We rely on fresh water for our most basic needs of drinking, cooking, bathing, and sanitation. We also delight in its more ethereal benefits, such as recreation, healing and relaxation. Water is a magical, moving, living part of the earth and a resource that we depend upon in ways we seldom think about. But think about it, we must. “All the water that will ever be is, right now.” National Geographic magazine proclaimed this in their 1993 “Water” themed issue. Their point in making such a stark statement is that the earth’s supply of water is limited. Our population continues to grow and, as it does, the demand for water increases, as does the quantity of waste water we produce. Therefore, at some time, we will reach a point where the demand will exceed the available fresh water supply. And this is not centuries into the future. We are closer to that point than most of us might imagine. However, the quote is also often used to express that although water is a finite resource, it is a renewable one.

The Local Picture

Florida is surrounded on three sides by water and has a multitude of surface

streams, lakes, wetlands and coastline. This creates a perception of abundant and seemingly infinite water supplies. In reality, there is a critical need for us to conserve those supplies and plan for how we will meet our future needs. According to the Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research, over the next 20 years the statewide demand for water is projected to be 7.5 billion gallons a day as the population increases to a projected 25.2 million people. The City of Ocala currently consumes on average 12 million gallons of water a day and 6 million of that is used for irrigation, which contributes to water pollution through runoff. As our local population rises, so too does the usage and pollution. Throughout the state, communities like ours have been grappling with crafting solutions to the impending issue. Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, explained that expanding supplies in the future will require a combination of approaches, including “the use of existing water supplies, water conservation and the development of additional alternative water supplies as well as projects that recharge our aquifers.” The City of Ocala has been working proactively on several projects to not only meet the future demand, but also protect our wildlife and natural resources. City leaders have demonstrated their forward-thinking strategy with a project that addresses both of those issues by creating a system that improves water quality while increasing groundwater supplies. The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park located near Lillian Bryant Park, at 2105 Northwest 21st Street, is a

60-acre refuge with 2 1/2 miles of paved walking trails, boardwalks, three ponds, wildlife overlooks, hands-on educational exhibits and educational kiosks. But this is no traditional park. It is a manmade wetland created with this purpose: recharging the underground Upper Floridan aquifer with an average of 3 million gallons of naturally filtered stormwater and treated wastewater every day.

Recharge, Replenish, Restore

By this point, you may be wondering what exactly the term “recharge” means in this instance. Simply stated, groundwater recharge is a process where water moves downward from the surface and drains through the soil to refill the groundwater. Artificial recharge (which is the process being employed at the park) is a process by which stormwater and reclaimed water is purposely directed into the ground by altering natural conditions to increase infiltration. The water has undergone a series of treatment steps during which its composition changes—including removing nitrogen and phosphorus. The goal of the process is to help replenish the aquifer below, which

also feeds the Silver Springs system. Artificial recharge is an effective way to store water underground and create a surplus to meet demand when a shortage might be imminent. The water recovered from these recharge projects can then be allocated to non-potable uses such as landscape irrigation and although not as common, to potable use. By developing and operating the park, the City of Ocala has created a way to efficiently use its water resources. “The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park allows the City of Ocala to efficiently use its water resources,” Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn commented at the groundbreaking ceremony. “By developing this park, the city will create a wetland ecosystem, improve water quality, boost regional groundwater supplies and provide numerous recreational opportunities for the community.”

A Natural Habitat

Creating a setting to attract wildlife and improve the natural resources of the area was a key aspect of the project. “One of the purposes is to have a place where the community can enjoy nature,” explains City of Ocala

Water Resources Conservation Coordinator Rachel Slocumb. “It will be a nature oasis—definitely unique to Ocala. There aren’t many wetland parks in Florida.” In fact, in the past, wetlands were largely regarded as wastelands and places to be avoided. Often, they were treated as dumping grounds or were drained and filled in. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a study in 1990 which revealed that more than half of the 221 million acres of wetlands that once existed in the lower 48 states in the late 1700s had been destroyed. These days, we understand the important role that wetlands play in our natural world and that they provide habitats for a wide variety of birds, fish and other wildlife. In fact, the park in Ocala has the potential to become a true bird watching destination with a variety of ducks, woodpeckers, waterfowl, hawks and many other species of birds on display. Among the ancient oaks and ponds as deep marshes, there is an incredible display of Florida plant life, with a plethora of distinct plant species, many of which can only survive in a wet environment.


Understanding Water Pollution


Rachel Slocumb

But the park is more than just a place to connect with nature—it’s a monument to our city’s commitment to our environment. A few other similar wetland parks can be found scattered throughout Florida, each creating an abundance of green space and enhancing the neighborhoods around them. The overall response from the people living near the park has been very positive and the wetlands park has been embraced by community members, according to city officials.

Community advocate, retired educator and former principal at four different Ocala/ Marion County schools, Scott Hackmyer, offered this praise for the project: “The City ought to be complimented for a great vision that will develop into a great asset for our community.” So, whether you crave a relaxing walk and few moments to unwind during this stressful time, want to learn more about this innovative park or are in the mood for a little bird watching, an oasis awaits you at the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park.

For more information, visit www.ocalafl.org or contact City of Ocala Water Resources Conservation Coordinator Rachel Slocumb by email at rslocumb@ocalafl.org or by calling (352) 351-6774. @OcalaWetlandRechargePark

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement C9.994515617 to the city of Ocala through an agreement/contract with the Nonpoint Source Management Program of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommended the use of commercial productions mentioned in this document.

early everything we do, from generating electricity and engaging in manufacturing to growing food, has the potential to release pollutants into our environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies two broad categories of pollution: point-source and nonpoint-source. According to the EPA, point-source pollution is any contaminant that enters the environment from an easily identified and confined place. This includes such examples as smokestacks, discharge pipes and drainage ditches, which affect both air and water. Although there are many examples of point-source pollution, the defining factor is that it comes from a single identifiable source. Nonpoint-source pollution is the opposite. This type of pollution comes from many sources, all at one time, and is carried by surface runoff to natural water sources. A prime example would be how during a thunderstorm a collection of pollutants is washed off streets, sidewalks, roofs and other surfaces into the sewer system. Common types of nonpoint-source pollution, for example, could be oil leaked from a car, rubber from a blown tire, trash and dog waste. But pollutants can also include bacteria and waste from livestock, sediment from construction sites, and excess fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from farms and residential areas, to name a few. Surface runoff is the flow of water that occurs on the ground surface when excess rain or storm water cannot rapidly infiltrate the soil. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants and deposits them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. Non-point stormwater pollution is a huge issue and the leading cause of water pollution in the United States. It has been documented to have harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife. As there is no single identifiable culprit, it is hard to regulate.



or four years the Marion County community watched and waited as we got announcements of the planned northwest Ocala complex spread between State Road 40 and the Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. We saw the billboards with grand renderings of the property’s flagship Equestrian Hotel. We watched as entrance gates were erected on State Road 40 and Northwest 80th Avenue, catching glimpses of enormous arenas and barn structures being built. We saw thousands of trees, bushes, plants and flowers going in. We heard rumors that the Roberts family’s new endeavor would be bigger and better than their existing WEC in Wilmington, Ohio. And we wondered—what will it be like, and when will I get to see it? Well, the wait is over and it was well worth it. The Horse Capital of the World’s new venue is undoubtedly the state’s premier horse show facility, but it is so much more than a haven for horses and their owners. At a

VIP preview on December 9th, Roby Roberts gifted it to all of us. “The main thing we say is that the World Equestrian Center belongs to everybody,” he declared. Roby is the son of Ralph “Larry” and Mary Roberts, whose first enterprise was R+L Carriers. They built Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, and WEC Ocala is their latest dream come true. “The goal is to get the whole community involved,” Roby Roberts continued, “and have people come here and jog at nighttime and enjoy the restaurants, enjoy all the different events, from car shows to auctions to dog shows to horse shows. So we’re much, much more than the equestrian center… Welcome to your new home, the World Equestrian Center.”

EVENTS FOR EVERYONE Spread across more than 300 acres, with plenty of room to continue development, the sprawling complex includes multiple spaces which can be rented for all types of events. The 8,000-seat Hunterland stadium, with its two covered grandstands, 30 feet by 60 feet Jumbotron and lighting for nighttime events, is not only the complex’s largest space for world championship hunter/jumper events such as a Grand Prix, it’s also a perfect space for concerts, graduations or other large spectator events. Multiple outdoor venues were designed to accommodate a variety of athletic, recreational and sporting events, which could include soccer or lacrosse. Roberts envisions drive-in movie nights, viewed via golf cart. “We have 500 golf carts that we purchased and we have these giant screens inside the arena,” he notes. “So, you can rent a golf cart and have dinner and have a date night…like a drive-in movie in a golf cart.” His wife, Jennie, adds that music will be another component to creating a welcoming atmosphere. “We’d love to have some live music,” she says. “People can eat outside and listen to the live music. We want to always have something going on so everybody feels welcome.” Five exposition centers, at 132,300 square feet each, provide indoor space big enough for all types of conventions and trade shows as well as dog or other animal shows. They can be set up for volleyball or basketball games and dance, cheerleading or martial arts events. Coming in May will be the Festival of Speed Thoroughbred Weekend, bringing exotic, classic and muscle cars for a high-end car show featuring autos by Porsche, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Aston-Martin, McLaren and others. Canine associations are planning shows, and Roberts says they’ve had inquiries from entities as diverse as a goat show organizer. 46


The main thing we say is that the World Equestrian Center belongs to everybody.


January ‘21


Set on a knoll in a central location, the chapel is meant to be a welcoming, come-as-you-are place to worship. However, it received some special touches, for good reason. “The chapel chose its own space,” explains Ric Owens, lead designer for Roberts Design and project coordinator for WEC. “Mrs. Roberts went out there one day and said, ‘This is where I’m building the church.’ And she put it there and her true inspiration says she wouldn’t have any of this if God didn’t give it to her. So, she said, ‘God’s going to get the best. So she gave the best property and land to Him and built that whole church around an antique bell…that we repurposed for this church.” Owens adds that Mary Roberts’ vision was a bit grander than that of your typical chapel, explaining that she was hands-on in designing the stained glass and even incorporated the same type of Swarovski crystals found in the chapel’s chandeliers to create a truly magical effect. “During the daytime, the crystals all do rainbows,” Owens reveals. “And in the afternoon, when the sun 48


is setting, the light goes through the crystals and the stained glass and rainbows the whole church. It’s fun when it happens…that beam of light comes right in the front door and it’s rainbow city. It’s beautiful.” The beautifully appointed chapel is sure to be a hit with brides and grooms, and several spaces across the complex can be rented for wedding receptions, from rustic barn themes to more formal celebrations. One special feature under consideration would surely create some wintertime excitement. “We’re even going to possibly put a refrigeration system in one of the floors so we can turn the floor into ice,” Roberts reveals. “We can have a winter wonderland at Christmas, hockey for the kids.” Parents would be able to bring their children to ice skate for the first time, he muses. It may be a bit of personal nostalgia for Roberts, remembering how he met his wife Jennie nearly 28 years ago at WEC Wilmington. “It was a snowy night and I met her in the party hall,” he recalls. “It’s been an amazing adventure ever since.”

The owners expect organizers from across the region to host large parties there, and Roberts knows what to expect from his own experiences at WEC Wilmington, where he grew up. “We want to be everybody’s place,” he says. “In Ohio, we had our prom there. I met my wife there. And it’s so much smaller than this, but in our little town of Wilmington, where I grew up, our equestrian center there (which used to be Roberts Arena) was the place where people went to have all their meetings, parties and weddings. “When you go to Wilmington World Equestrian Center there’s so many people that say, ‘I got my first dog here,’ ‘I rode my first pony class, my first hunter class here,’ ‘This was the first place I drove to when I got my license,’ so there’s 35 years of memories. And we get to start that all over here. Which is an amazing thing. It’s everybody’s place. It’s not our place, it’s the whole community’s place. Whoever lives in this town, they’re going to have a piece of that and it’s theirs.”

DINING ADVENTURES Four eateries are currently open across the complex, offering inside and patio dining, as well as to-go options. Each has its own vibrant theme and is named for someone in the Roberts family. For lively Mexican street tacos, burritos, quesadillas and salads, visit Filo’s. Named after the Roberts family’s 150-year-old Galapagos turtle, the cantina features colorful graffiti-style art and a larger-than-life mural of Filo the turtle. In the mood for Italian? Head to Viola & Dot’s, named for Mary Roberts’ mother, Viola, and her sister, Dot. Hearty favorites such as lasagna and pizza, by the pie or by the slice, as well as custom-crafted salads, are served in a warm family atmosphere. For traditional American cuisine, including handmade burgers, fries and a diverse array of sandwiches, from fish to pulled pork barbecue, there’s Ralph’s, named after Mr. Roberts, and located next to the stadium. Whatever you choose for your main course, save room for Miss Tilly’s Lollipops. Named for a beloved family dog who liked to play dress up, this colorful confectionery will entice you with the mouthwatering aromas of fresh baked treats and you can choose from an array of ice cream flavors, housemade candies and freshly dipped chocolate confections. With its old-fashioned ice cream shop vibe and whimsical hand-painted murals, this is a must for kids and candy lovers.

Named for a beloved family dog who liked to play dress up, Miss Tilly’s Lollipops will entice you with the mouthwatering aromas of fresh baked treats and you can choose from an array of ice cream flavors, housemade candies and freshly dipped chocolate confections.

THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT The stylish five-story, 248-room Equestrian Hotel, overlooking the Grand Stadium, is set to open in April. In addition to welcoming visitors from all over the world, the hotel will have two hotspots sure to intrigue locals: Stirrups, the fine dining restaurant, and the Yellow Pony, an authentic Irish pub featuring a 33-seat horseshoe-shaped bar, complete with custom saddle barstools—in both English and Western varieties. Guests may choose to dine al fresco on the covered terrace that overlooks the stadium. The hotel also will be home to Emma’s Patisserie and its fresh-baked French pastries, as well as a luxury day spa and boutique shopping establishments offering fine art, jewelry, antiques, equine-inspired goods and a toy store. The World Equestrian Center complex is open to the public and parking is free. Leashed dogs are welcome. For more information, including event listings and COVID protocols, visit worldequestriancenter.com January ‘21


A Recipe For Success This Ocala chef has cooked up a near-fairy tale story in navigating business and love. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery


hef Patti Moring McQueen—her new name as of December 26th, with her marriage to Tully McQueen—knows the challenges of starting and growing a business, navigating a new relationship and raising two daughters, all while dealing with the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Somehow she managed to flourish, despite many ups and downs, parlaying her success with her catering company La Casella to an opportunity running the restaurant and catering concession at the Hilton Ocala. Patti credits her ability to cope with life’s curve

balls and find success as something fundamental that drives her to never give up on her dreams. The baby of eight children, who was born in Michigan, has called Ocala home since she was 19. She has been working in a kitchen since she started at an Italian bakery at 15. Later, when she was earning a bachelor’s degree in communications and English, she cooked many dinners for her sorority sisters and others. “After I graduated, I was going to get my master’s at UF or go into the food business,” she recalls. “I was with a headhunter and she said, ‘I have the best lady and I need you to meet her.’ I asked, ‘What’s the job?’ And she said ‘It’s Waffle House.’ I said, ‘I’m not working at Waffle House.’ I was there 15 years. I had 18 restaurants and was assistant to the president at corporate for eight years. I got to work both ends of the business and learned a lot.” After the franchise was sold, she and her now ex-husband, who lived in Tampa, moved with their daughters, ages 5 and 3, to Ocala. She helped him with his business for a couple of years and became involved with groups such as Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as serving on the boards of Fine Arts for Ocala and Ocala Civic Theatre. “Then I started doing sales for the Marriott Hotel Group and learned a lot about the hotel business,” she offers. “I did a cold call to the college (College of Central Florida) one day. They asked if I knew how to cook. I said I had been in the food business my whole life, but I had two small daughters, so I didn’t want those hours. They said their job was 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. I was there eight years and managed all the food services and started a catering division― where I really learned to cook for a lot of people.” It was during her time at CF that her first marriage ended. It was at that time that she took a short break from her life in Ocala. “I went to Italy for a month,” she offers. “One of my best friends was going with family and friends. I had a bunch of vacation time with the college, so I went. The house we stayed in was called La Casella.”

On April 1, 2019, she opened La Casella Catering, followed on April 21 with her acquisition of Woodlea Gardens Catering, which she purchased from Martha Jane Davis, who was retiring. That’s when Patti met Tully and things got really interesting. “We met online. I was going on a trip with seven other couples, my daughters and I, and they all knew him, for like 25 years,” she says. “We had our first date at Bonefish on May 5th, 2019. It was pouring rain. Before I even saw his face, he called and asked what kind of car I had and said he was going to run an umbrella out to me. I hung up and I’m like, ‘Are you ready for a real boyfriend Patti, because this guy’s gonna be a real man,’ she recalls with a laugh. “That was our last first date for both of us. We’ve been together ever since.” At the time, Tully was part owner of a business. He now is a manager with Sparr Building and Farm Supply. “We had an amazing first year,” she says of the success of La Casella. “And then March 2020 came, the coronavirus, and I lost business. I was home for a couple of days crying and then I was like, ‘OK, you’ve got to figure this out,’ and I went to the shop and my clients would order casseroles or a dinner for two. Every day I had something, and it kept me sane.” Patti navigated as best she could in the pandemic, which saw restaurants struggling and people cutting back on social events and parties. On May 5th, she was working in her catering kitchen when Tully came in. “He was dressed up and his face was red, so I asked him what was going on,” she recalls. “He said he had a lot going on, which made sense because my birthday was the next day. He said I needed to finish up and come home. When I got there, he said, ‘Let’s go to lunch, to Stella’s (Modern Pantry).’ “Nothing was really open. They had just opened Stella’s,” she remembers. “We’re the only people there January ‘21


cementing our bond.” and Chef Albert’s there and Tully says, ‘I went to see The family includes her daughters Ava, 18, and your mom today and I asked permission from Ava Grace, 15, and his daughter, Ashley, 29. and Grace last night. The only thing I don’t have is Tully says his and Patti’s hopes for the future are the ring. Nothing’s been open.’ to open a bed and breakfast. “And I said, ‘Well Agapanthus is open.’ He asked “Of this, I am certain,” he states. “With our if they have rings and I said ‘yeah.’ So, we took combined knowledge, customer service and business our wine over there and Paula (King, the owner of acumen, it is sure to be a success. For our daughters, Agapanthus) says, ‘What are you guys doing?’ and he we want all three to follow their dreams. Life is short. said, ‘Well, I’m trying to ask her to marry me but I We hope they do what they love.” don’t have a ring.’” Ava and Grace are in the International Sticking out her hand, she shows the ring they got Baccalaureate program at Vanguard High School. that day. Ava Moring says her mother is an inspiration and “We went back to Albert’s and he got on his knees has taught her many life lessons, such as, “Never and Paula brought this huge bottle of champagne and judge people right off the bat because you have no that was it,” she says sweetly. idea what’s going on or what they’ve been through Flipping open her phone, she shows a photo of her behind the scenes. If you keep your mind open to “real rings,” bands of diamonds and sapphires. new ideas, you can meet so many new people and “At the end of May, a wedding planner said, ‘The learn so many new things you wouldn’t have learned Hilton is going to call you and you need to answer. with a closed mind.” She describes her mother as “a They are looking for food for their guests and don’t powerful woman who is have any kitchen staff.’ incredibly caring.” I said OK. I was doing “You can never get a tasting that day, so I anything without working brought food within the for it and earning it,” Grace hour. They said they needed Moring says, recalling a salads and soups and lesson her mother instilled dinners. I asked by when. in them. “She is a fierce yet They said tonight. We - Patti Moring McQueen loving woman. She’s very brought food and the next independent and one of the strongest people I know.” day the manager said they had catering things and Near the front door of their home, amidst dozens asked if I could do that, and I said sure. Then he says, of framed photos of family, friends and their children, ‘I need my restaurant opened. Can you do that?’” hangs a piece of artwork bearing the following “The partnership has been wonderful,” she sentiment: Have you ever had a dream you thought enthuses. “When I first came here, I didn’t have any was impossible? You abandoned your dream, but it money. I front everything, so it was hard figuring it remained in your heart. I had a dream. I tried to ignore out. One of my employees lent me money, otherwise I it, but it was wedged deep in my heart. It followed me couldn’t have done it.” wherever I went. Then one day thing something shifted. “At first, I cooked for breakfast and dinner and I honored the essence of the dream. My dream became had a room upstairs. I would take a nap because light. So every day I did one action connected to my I couldn’t afford to hire someone,” she explains. dream. Then I did two things. Then three, then four. “September is when my catering started picking up, Now I am living my dream. mostly for doctors and we do a lot of pharmaceutical “I have definitely learned you have to not take stuff and it had to be all COVID compliant, in boxes anything for granted,” Patti says. “Things can change and individually wrapped.” on a dime and you have to learn to grow and adapt. Pharmacist Paul Franck, one of Patti’s clients, I just kept believing. And I didn’t want to give up on says she makes “good, healthy food. People love it and my dream of owning my own business.” they ask who did that? It’s always good quality, home As for her advice for living your best life she offers, cooked, different, and people appreciate that.” “I say surrounding yourself with the best people— Fast forward to late November. family, loved ones, friends and the people at your “We learned a lot; my team,” she offers. “Now I work. If I didn’t have my daughters, Tully, my mother, want to spring off from where I was, not go back. my group of girlfriends and the women and men in We’re grateful.” my kitchen, I would never be able to do any of this. “When the shutdown began it was very difficult,” They save me in some way every single day.” Tully says. “Patti’s catering business went to zero. But she adapted. As a family, we spent more time To learn more, visit lacasellacatering.com together at home and that brought us all closer,

Things can change on a dime and you have to learn to grow and adapt.

January ‘21


This Ocala beauty and fashion blogger is ready to help other entrepreneurs ďŹ nd success. By Lisa McGinnes

Photos by G5 Photography, courtesy of Chante Burkett


hante Burkett has declared 2021 her year to give back. After spending the past year and a half focusing on her health and well-being, the Ocala beauty and fashion influencer has decided to take her brand, My Chic Mastermind, to the next level: mentoring other bloggers and helping local Black business owners develop their brands. “This year is about me pouring all my knowledge into others. It’s my giving-back year,” Burkett declares. “I’m gearing back up my mentorship― to really support and help others, especially around Ocala. Within the Black community, I really want to focus on helping businesses get their brand in a better place in the public eye. I have branded myself. I have branded other people. So that is my main goal―to use my experience to help my community this year.” And Burkett has a lot to share. She has a lot of success of her own to draw on. But she’s also learned a lot of life lessons through hard times and heartache. As an influencer, she lives her life in the public eye. Her job is to create content for social media and her website—to engage women in conversation, to promote brands she represents—and to look good doing it. In blog posts on her website and Instagram feed, Burkett shares her personal experiences as conversation starters for her audience of more than 212,000. They’re mostly plus-size women, like her, she says. And when she writes about her life, they write back. Over the past two years, her followers have been “virtually” by her side through heartaches and breakups, the trials and tribulations of single motherhood and a tragic accident that would have caused many others to give up.

Instagram, was just taking off and Burkett was along for the ride. “I had just had my daughter. I didn’t know about fashion,” Burkett remembers with a laugh. “I was just posting what I liked on me. And people started honing in and I started gaining followers. I didn’t even know about the blog space. All I knew was I’m just sharing what I’m finding that I love.” It didn’t take long for Burkett to find success on social media. Two years later she found herself at a career crossroads. “I had just finished up school doing social work and my blog actually took off that year,” she recalls. “I told myself, ‘If I make more money this year doing blogging versus social work then I’m going to continue blogging.’ And I’ve been blogging full-time for seven years. I can honestly say I have made six figures from blogging.”

From Beauty to Blogger

From the time she was 13 years old, Burkett had a distinct passion. After graduating from North Marion High School, she went to cosmetology school at Central Florida Community College (now College of Central Florida). “Hair was my thing,” she remembers. “I’ve always loved hair.” However, after working in a beauty shop for just a short time, Burkett had her daughter, Alayjah. That’s when her priorities changed. Working long hours and trying to find someone to watch her daughter just wasn’t worth it. “I was like, ‘No, this isn’t for me.’ My career in that field didn’t last long,” she reveals. “But I found another one.” Burkett ended up going back to college. But by the time she was finishing her degree, she had discovered blogging. A new photocentric digital platform,

Life as an Influencer

As a digital influencer, Burkett partners with beauty and fashion brands to promote their products through her online posts and photos. Being selective about partnering with companies that fit her personal brand has helped her build lucrative alliances. “People on the outside don’t understand exactly what we do. When it comes to brands, we are advertising dollars. We are marketing. So brands are willing to pour into us, if we have the audience; if we have the support. If we have the content that they like, they will pour into us to create content for them. “One of my top brands that I actually have a great relationship with—I have had a relationship with them for about the past three to four years—JCPenney,” she reveals. “I love them. My first major job with them was the Here I Am January ‘21


campaign and it was basically a campaign about me being me and being a single mother just doing my thing. It started from there and I landed about three major campaigns with them since then. But I work with them literally every other month on small jobs. I work with them through beauty, fashion, especially with their beauty, with Sephora inside JCPenney. That’s my top brand that I work with. “And this past year I was blessed to have a year partnership with Fabletics,” she continues. “I actually love Fabletics because, as a plus size woman, a lot of brands don’t like to give us nice, daring activewear. We’re used to boring activewear. Fabletics, they actually added plus (sizes) about a year and a half ago and they pulled in a bunch of us influencers and I actually love, love their items. I signed on for another year.” Although Burkett says she doesn’t “claim the title of a model,” she was featured in Target’s 2015 Target Loves Every Body digital 56


swimwear ad campaign. Chante and daughter Alayjah “I go on set as myself,” she says. “They hire me “That was the hardest part, to be me. They hire me to asking for help,” she recalls. style the items the way I want to “Thankfully I had people who know style the items. I have been blessed I’m like that. I didn’t even have to to be on major campaigns with ask; they were there already. My Target—I was the first plus size stepmother and my father are here, Black influencer and the only plus my sister’s here, and I have friends size influencer on their campaign.” who came in and helped me out.” Amid the physical pain and Can’t Keep Her Down healing, Burkett was wondering In July 2019, a simple cooking how her injuries would affect her accident could have irreparably livelihood. derailed Burkett’s career. Second“It put me in a space where and third-degree burns on her face, it was a confidence thing: am I chest, hands and arms from hot ever going to have my looks?” she grease sent her to the hospital for wondered. “Is this going to affect three weeks. everything in my life, my looks, how “It was really, really bad,” I interact with people now?” she admits. “I remember in the In true Chante fashion, she hospital, I looked at myself. I went didn’t let it get her down for long. to the mirror and I just cried. I was “I was like, no matter what I’m like, ‘How am I going to recover still going to be Chante,” she told from this?’” herself. “I’m still going to do what The answer was asking for and I’ve been doing. I pushed myself. I accepting help, something that did not let myself stay down. I was doesn’t come easily to this selflike, I have been through so much, made, independent single mom.

this cannot stop me.” Just two months after her accident, Burkett was in New York for fashion week, on a job for JCPenney. “I told myself no matter what, I’ve got to go; I’m doing it,” she recalls. “And I did it.” Not only did Burkett keep going, she stayed in the public eye, posting on social media and sharing her trauma. “This experience is teaching me a lot,” she posted just 11 days after the accident. “This experience is showing that it’s OK to ask for help and let others help me.” She wrote about learning a lesson in patience. “This experience is like no other, I literally can’t even wash my own butt alone,” she admitted online. But all her heart-wrenching admissions took a positive turn. “All I can do is stay calm

(something I don’t normally do),” her post continued, “pray, and remind myself that this is temporary.” She “had to dig deep,” she told her followers, to find “that girl who set out on a mission to show other girls that they can love themselves flaws and all.”

Sharing to Help Others

These days, many of Burkett’s social media posts start conversations with other women on subjects they know well, such as dating and motherhood. “For me it’s very important to share my experiences,” she explains. “As I heal, I love to share what I’ve learned. I share the experience, what led me to that point.” Her Instagram stories draw hundreds of comments from other women who have had similar experiences. “I try to put it all out there— from me being a single mother, from being an entrepreneur, being a single mother who’s dating,” she says. As she pens her thoughtful posts, Burkett considers the topics she tackles through the lens of her impressionable tween daughter. “I always think about, ‘my daughter is going to go through this, so how am I going to handle this so I can later on show her how to handle it, teach her,’” she says. “She

This year is about me pouring all my knowledge into others. It’s my giving-back year.

can actually see how I handled it. Because, you know kids, they learn by example.” Burkett began 2020 announcing her motto for the year: “focus,” not realizing how prophetic that would be. “COVID made me focus,” she declares. “It made me focus on my mental health, it made me focus on setting up things in my life. And going into (2021) it’s all about me being consistent. Because I have the game plan. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s about me adding on and being consistent.” Now that she is “set in her career,” Burkett says, this is her year to give back, to use her experience to help others. That includes a planned partnership with Skill Day Learning Center Academy to teach young people about blogging and vlogging. “Everybody’s saying (2020) was a big mess, but if you’re still alive you’re blessed to get that mess together. I was blessed to get my mess together,” she shares with a laugh. “I can go into the year happy, ready to conquer it and ready to really put myself at other people’s will to help them.” To learn more, visit chanteburkett.com

Held hostage by unrelenting grief, Naomi Shanti found her ransom in art—one brush stroke, one tattoo at a time. Her 12 years and counting artistic journey began in Florida, wound through two other states, then circled back to Ocala. By JoAnn Guidry

t first glance, tattoos and fine art seem to be an unlikely pairing. But two steps into Naomi Shanti’s Alchemy Tattoo and Fine Art studio, the palpable synergy of the two creative elements is a true aha! moment. With plenty of natural light streaming in from large windows, the studio’s cool gray and black color scheme is immediately inviting. Three of Shanti’s She series, bold and bright watercolor portraits of women on 17-inch by 36-inch birch panels, grace the wall above the sleek black leather couch. A coffee table and bookshelves bear art books, smaller art prints, photos and candles. Behind Shanti’s simple black wooden desk in the common area is a self-portrait, the first piece of her She series. “Some of my amazing friends inspired my She series and it has continued to be inspired by other women I have the good fortune to cross paths with,” explains Shanti, 42, a petite brunette who displays her tattooist bona fides with two arm sleeves of tattoos; others from her neck down, front and

Photos courtesy of Naomi Shanti

back, to the tops of her feet. “Each woman represents their unique stories and how I connect to those stories. It’s an ongoing series and I’m up to 10.” To the left of the common area, white wood panels mark off three stalls for apprentice tattooists Alyssa Perry and Katie Biggi, as well as for Jessie Peek, the studio’s art manager. On the outside of the stall walls is more artwork, all eye-catching different styles than Shanti’s, created by the aforementioned artists. The final studio stall is Shanti’s, occupied during this visit by an attentiongrabbing, work-in-progress nude watercolor painting of an African American woman on a 2 feet by 4 feet birch panel. “This painting is currently my obsession. I look forward to spending time with her every day,” admits Shanti, who works from photographs she takes of her subjects, displaying them on a mounted iPad next to the work. “She is such a beautiful and soulful woman. The final step will be painting on her body tattoos. I am so honored to be doing this project.” Much like her commissioned portrait paintings, Shanti’s tattoo artwork is also original, no picking out a stencil applique on the wall for her. “Just like my portrait clients, I have consultations with my tattoo clients. We get to know each other and collaborate on their tattoo,” says Shanti. “It can take days of drawing before I’m ready to sketch and then ink on the client. Skin is the most challenging canvas of all. I can typically do two large tattoos in a day, while smaller ones can take an hour or two.” Shanti notes that she has to be “intentional with my energy and the time I devote to my tattoo and

portrait work. Tuesday is painting day and Wednesday through Saturday are tattoo days.” Looking around her studio, Shanti smiles, takes a deep breath and sighs with gratitude, saying, “Twelve years ago, I could not have imagined that this is where I’d be. And if not for my brother Henry, who inspires me every day, I wouldn’t be here.”

The Unwanted Call

Before she was a tattooist and fine artist, Shanti was a hair and makeup artist living in Deltona with her husband Jason Ballard, a firefighter, and their sons Cody and Preston. She worked for Orlandobased About Face Design Team. “I specialized in doing hair and makeup for weddings and photo shoots. I really did enjoy the work since it was always different and creative,” explains Shanti. “On the morning of July 14, 2008, I

was about to head out at 4am to prepare for a wedding at Disney World. Then I got the call no one ever wants to get about a loved one. My older brother Henry had been killed in a car accident. I was devastated down to my soul.” Henry, 36, who owned Hard Core Tattoo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had ridden his motorcycle to a friend’s house. After a night of drinking, Henry wisely decided not to ride his motorcycle home. But unfortunately, his friend, who also had been drinking, decided to drive Henry home. “Henry’s friend lost control of the car and they crashed on a dark Iowa country road. The crash killed them both,” Shanti says softly. “Henry never made it home.” For the sake of accuracy, Shanti mentions that Henry was her half-brother. But her love for him was and is just as strong as her love for her younger brother Ben. Just a month before Henry’s death, the whole extended family had been together for Ben’s wedding in California. “Seven years older than me, Henry was always my idol and protector. While we didn’t live in the same house growing up, we spent many wonderful, magical weekends together,” recounts Shanti, a long-found peace in her voice. “Henry was a true free spirit and a self-taught artist. One of my favorite memories is us sitting around a coffee table and playing this drawing contest. You called out what you wanted the other person to draw. I still remember once when I called out Cyndi Lauper and he drew her with a red ballpoint pen like she was in the room.” Another memory of Henry bubbles up, this one involving his ideas about tattoos. “At 18, I got my first tattoo, a little ladybug on my right side. January ‘21


tattoo drawing and immediately felt Henry’s spirit. And every day, I just kept drawing. My husband Jason was wonderful and kept encouraging me. By the end of the year, I decided I wanted to go to art school and I wanted to become a tattoo artist.”

On The Move

Shortly after, I flew to Cedar Rapids to visit Henry. He took one look at that ladybug and had to fix it to his high standards,” says Shanti, laughing. “Then he gave me my second tattoo, purple lilies to cover up my own failed stick-and-poke attempt at giving myself a tattoo on my stomach. So drawing and tattoos were always this connection we had between us.” And it would be that artistic connection that helped pull Shanti out of her grief. “For nearly a year after Henry died, I was extremely depressed and very angry every day,” admits Shanti. “Then, one day, I grabbed a colored pencil, started doing a line 60


In 2009, Shanti began taking art classes online from the San Francisco, California-based Academy of Art University (AAU). Jason left the Orlando Fire Department in 2010 and the family moved to Tennessee. There Jason attended the University of Tennessee at Martin to pursue a degree in wildlife biology. Shanti continued taking online art classes, worked in a hair salon and raised their sons. “It was during that time that I also experimented painting in different mediums—charcoal, acrylics, watercolors,” notes Shanti. “But I never really painted on regular canvas. I painted on guitars, old windows, surfboards, skateboards, just about anything I could paint on, mostly animals and flowers. And I started doing art shows too.” Shanti also began teaching community center art classes for children while taking digital photography classes, saying, “I love teaching kids and I fell in love with

photography. It became another piece of my art.” In 2013, Shanti earned her associate of art degree in illustration from AAU. Once her husband had his wildlife biologist degree in hand and a job at the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, the family moved to Ortonville, Minnesota. And Shanti took an artistic leap of faith. “With Henry in my heart, I finally stopped working in hair salons and just focused on my art and photography,” she says. “I taught art classes to kids at a friend’s photography studio. I fell in love with watercolors and painted, painted, painted.” While still living in Ortonville, Shanti attended the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM), earning her bachelor’s in studio art in 2017. “After taking online art classes, it was a revelation to go to actual art classes,” says Shanti. “It was wonderful and so inspiring to be surrounded by a community of artists. My art really grew and evolved during that time.” It was also then that Shanti discovered what would become her signature canvas at a surprising place, a home improvement store. “One day I was looking at these birch wood panels in a home improvement store and had this epiphany of painting on them,” she recalls. “To this day, Jason and I go to home improvement stores to pick out the birch panels, which are 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. And then Jason cuts them down to whatever size I want, depending on the project.” Shanti explains that “painting on birch is a methodical process done in layers to prevent the wood from swelling. I paint all the portrait faces in watercolors. Then I like to use acrylics and other mediums like screen printing for texture and depth.” For her senior art project show at UMM, all of Shanti’s birch portrait pieces sold, including

two purchased by the university. They are on display in the UMM art building and library. “Henry was my muse throughout that project,” says Shanti, smiling.

Back To The Sunshine Having grown weary of Minnesota’s cold, Shanti and her family were ready to move back to Florida in late 2017. As fate would have it, Jason was hired as a wildlife biologist by the Florida Fish and

Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Northeast Region office in Ocala. Shanti garnered a position as an art teacher at The Cornerstone School, teaching there for a year. Then she finally decided to make her dream of becoming a tattooist come true. “Tattooist Jayson Duncan gave me a wonderful opportunity to work at his Black Lotus Tattoo and Art Gallery,” says Shanti, who also joined the Marion Cultural Alliance, participated in First Friday Art Walks and became an Appleton Museum member, teaching art classes to children. “After a year, I decided it was time to have my own business and founded Alchemy Tattoo and Fine Art in late 2019,” she offers. “Then we moved into our current location in October 2020. Henry’s creative spirit has been with me every step of the way.”

Atop a corner bookcase in Shanti’s studio stall is a watercolor portrait of Henry, 18 inches by 24 inches, on birch in a black shadowbox made by Jason. On his right hand is a sacred heart tattoo; across his knuckles is tattooed “Stay True.” Dressed in a black and gray tuxedo, he is looking down, carefully placing a boutonniere. Written in script in the upper left and bottom right corners are a Henry David Thoreau quote: “My life has been the poem I would have writ. But I could not both live and utter it.” “I painted Henry’s portrait from a picture taken at Ben’s wedding, a month before Henry died. Having it in my studio makes me feel him always looking over me,” says Shanti. “Henry gave me such an artistic gift. It is true, so very true that art does indeed heal.” For more information, visit naomishanti.com January ‘21


Boys to


From left: Chris Bennet, Gnivore Carr, Elijah Hopkins, John Collins Jr., Dezmond Wheeler

Two men’s groups are using their collective pasts as a prologue for a new generation of Black boys through male mentorship. By Leah A. Taylor | Photography by Bruce Ackerman


ut Different Inc. and Ambitious Boys Becoming Ambitious Men meet weekly in Ocala to mentor young boys. But these are not daycare centers, and the lead organizers, Jamie Gilmore Jr., and Brett Stanley, respectively, are not babysitters. They are the change. According to the 2018 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Black male population was 20 million. With regard to higher education, only 13 percent of Black men have gone on to earn bachelor’s degrees. Something troublesome happens from boyhood to manhood. Alex Haley, famed author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family—possibly the most significant historical fiction ever told by and about Black people— stated, “Tying the little folks with the older folks is a great and powerful tool to preserve and to protect the family and the individual.” Mentorship is not a novel idea. However, what the

handlers of these “tools” deliver is unique.

Ambitious Boys Becoming Ambitious Men (ABBAM) Past as Prologue

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when we speak, Brett Stanley, 31, has already prepared and served dinners to the needy and is planning to donate 15 turkeys the following week. After graduating from Vanguard High School, Stanley left for Tallahassee in 2010. With smarts and drive—15 credits shy of receiving his bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University—he utilized his temporary certificate to teach mathematics and honors geometry at Governors Charter Academy. In his first year, Stanley became Teacher of the Year. Unwilling to rest on one strength, he began coaching

Brett Stanley’s passion for mentoring stems from his childhood struggles. When he was 15, his stepdad passed away. Times were tough, but Stanley says he “never missed a meal or a Christmas.” He credits his “super” mom for stepping into his dad’s shoes to raise three children. Still, there were things he needed to learn from other men. Coaches and mentors filled the gaps. Now he pays it forward to 25 boys, or rather “young kings” as they are called. Stanley boasts about his “all-star team of mentors.” Their slogan is “Using our path as a guidance to your future.” Together they link up with mentees of like interests.

manner of being proactive, preparing our kings for soon to be real-life events so that once they are placed in the situation, they will shine and do their absolute best.” Recently the boys learned how to tie a necktie. Stanley describes it as “simple things that maybe you missed if you don’t have a father in the home.” He adds, “Boys need to learn that perception plays such a pivotal role in success.” One of the mentors, John Collins, a Resource Project Manager at Lockheed Martin with multiple master’s degrees, describes ABBAM as “a big family.” During a Black Tie Ball, he recalls tasking the young men with telling an audience of 100 about the organization. Collins says, “Articulating clearly under pressure and testing their ability to adapt is important.” - Brett Stanley Evidently, the mentees rose to the challenge because the result was resounding applause. ABBAM plans to have more events and to grant more scholarships to high school seniors accepted into college. This year they awarded two. They also hosted “Fun in the Sun,” where the mentees camped, played kickball and participated in team-building exercises.



more than 200 kids in the academy’s football and soccer programs. Stanley mentored them for six years until an emergency led him back home, in 2020, to care for his mother. He says he brought his mentorship prowess with him. And after gaining employment at an alternative school, he and his brother, Glen Stanley, created ABBAM.


Boys need to learn that perception plays such a pivotal role in success.

Photos courtesy of Ambitious Boyrs Becoming Ambitious Men

ABBAM has a mantra, too. Before each activity, the mentors recite: “Our ultimate goal is to move in a

From left: Trevion Moore, Ethan Rosado-Melendez, John Collins III, Brett Stanley

When John Collins’ son, John Robert Collins III, is asked about the group, the 12-year-old “king”

Mentors from left: Brett Stanley, Jeremy Vickers, Chris Bennet, John Collins Jr., Dezmond Wheeler and Glen Stanley teaching the boys how to tie a necktie.

January ‘21


Jamie Gilmore Jr., Eddie Rocker and Tony McCall

responds, “I love it. I get to play and help others.” He says he helps the younger boys tie their shoelaces and teaches them games. It’s not all pomp and programs, though. The students, ages five to 17, perform community restoration projects and must abide by the group’s motto—“Go M.A.D.” “It means to go Make a Difference in the community,” Mr. Collins explains. The former North Marion High School (NMHS) athlete admits he uses the same gridiron philosophy in life. “So many people need help and there are many opportunities to make a play and ‘go M.A.D.’”

Kut Different Inc. (KD) Past as Prologue

Twenty-seven-year-old NMHS graduate Jamie Gilmore Jr. says he “was looking to play sports or own a team” when life happened. Already a successful studentathlete with a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and a master’s degree in sports management from Western Illinois University, Gilmore felt confident about his trajectory until an advisory position with the Black Male Achievement Network opened his eyes. Gilmore thought the group of non-athletes would be a network of nerds. Instead, he became the student, learning a lesson in camaraderie with vulnerability. He acknowledges never witnessing this 64


inside the sports world. “Wow!” He reminisces. “You don’t have to be a tough guy to be a man.”


Little did he know an interruption in his Ph.D. pursuits would prove purposeful. After eight years away, Gilmore felt God leading him back to Ocala. So, in 2019, he returned with plans to spend some time in the area before moving to a more urban community. The assistant principal at Evergreen Elementary School, Gilmore’s mother Rometha, had another idea. She invited her son to speak to her students. He said he immediately noticed two things: the lack of Black male instructors and one habitually truant fourth grader. The student’s disinterest in school impacted Gilmore enough to tell his older brother, Eddie Rocker. They agreed, “We have to mentor these boys.” Their weekly mentoring sessions led to the formation of a 501(c)(3) organization in April 2020.


Although Gilmore loves sports, he understands that the chances of them leading to future professional success are few and far between. He says he tells kids, “You have way more superpowers than that athletic stuff, so let’s find out what your other superpowers are and hone in on those skills.” Rocker offers, “We’re here to expose them to other options” with a mission to build a schoolto-career pipeline.

Career opportunities in Ocala/Marion County are vastly unknown to his mentees, Gilmore says, adding, “You only know what you know,” so exposing kids to those unknowns produces possibilities for success. To him, success is also “allowing boys to hear the voices of Black men who represent well and are relatable.”


At their first annual Community Fun Day, 10-yearold Demarius McIntosh, a future difference-maker, is wearing his KD shirt and enjoying a snow cone. When asked what he likes most about KD, he answers, “What I like the most is that we get to go to cool places and meet new people and form relationships.” Those cool places include field trips to Team Cone, the fire department and a 400-acre horse farm. But the coolest place for him was “the mayor’s office at City Hall.” Demarius’ mother, N’Jyria Sutton, echoes her son’s enthusiasm. She likes the smaller groups and appreciates the way KD incorporates activities besides sports. She says her son “gets to interact with kids his age and men he can look up to” on and off the field. Sutton trusts the

founders because she grew up with them. “I know them and love them,” she says. “It’s nice to see my son building a relationship with them, too.” Gilmore says, “I am a big believer in small wins.” So he concentrates on a core group of six youngsters from fourth to eighth grade. KD currently has a waiting list. But no fear. They have plans to mentor 12 to 15 members in 2021.


An African Proverb reads, “Train a child the way he should go and make sure you also go the same way.” Ocala’s progenies’ maturation into manhood has led them back home to guide the next generation. The preservation and protection of our precious young kings appear to be in good hands. To learn more, contact ABBAM at meninthecommunityabbam@gmail.com or call (352) 207-4073. Facebook: @abbam2020 To reach Kut Different Inc., email info@kutdifferent.org or call (352) 559-4997. Facebook: @kutdifferent Demarius McIntosh and Jamie Gilmore Jr.

January ‘21


Driveable Destinations: St. Pete

It’s the best and safest way to travel right now, and within a short span of time, it’s easy to reach some of Florida’s most historic and vibrant communities. In this ongoing series, we’ll highlight some great destinations that will make you want to hit the road. By Nick Steele

The Kenwood Gables B&B photographed by Lisa Presnail




ubbed “Sunshine City,” due to the fact that it averages 361 days of clear skies per year, St. Petersburg is truly a “hot” destination that boasts miles of glimmering coastline, picturesque beaches, notable cultural attractions, a diverse arts community and vibrant culinary scene. There are also ample opportunities to explore nature and get up close and personal with birds and butterflies. With all this going on, it’s not hard to understand why the city, affectionately referred to as “The Burg” by locals, has received such accolades as being named to Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Top Big Cities in the U.S. in 2020, as well as “One of the Best Street Art Cities in the World” and “One of America’s Hottest Cities to Live and Visit” by The Huffington Post, and consistently shows up on the “World’s Best Beaches” rankings. St. Pete’s downtown center is rich with museums, galleries and cultural attractions. In fact, within a few short blocks, visitors can explore the world-famous Salvador Dalí Museum, Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, Museum of Fine Arts, Florida CraftArt Gallery (currently only by private appointment) and many other art spaces, bookstores and boutiques as well as some great restaurants, cafes and bars. The area also offers opportunities for great golf outings, deep sea fishing, eco adventures and a variety of watersports. St. Pete, which is located on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, is home to The Florida Orchestra, the IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix race and, after a long history of hosting major league baseball, St. Pete’s Tropicana Field recently became the home to WWE Network’s ThunderDome show. Named for St. Petersburg, Russia, the birthplace of a noble Russian aristocrat and early resident Peter Demens, who owned

the Orange Belt Railway and was the sole passenger on the very first train to arrive in the area in 1888, St. Pete has long had an international following but still retains much of the resort-town flavor cherished by local residents. The Roaring ‘20s brought a tremendous growth period to Florida, with new residents and tourists flocking to the state by car, rail and boat. In 1924, the Gandy Bridge was opened, cutting travel time to Tampa by more than half and setting up St. Pete to become Pinellas County’s largest city. It was during those boom years that much of the city’s historic architecture was created, with many following a

the surprise inside is that all of the history has been swept away to make way for the kind of standard fare, contemporary interior typical of the type you’d find at an upscale hotel in any city or destination. If you prefer accommodations with more storied charm and the kind of personal touches that are not typical of a hotel, we suggest visiting The Kenwood Gables Boutique Bed & Breakfast, St. Pete’s chicest new B&B in the heart of the Kenwood arts district. This nationally designated historical neighborhood is just minutes from downtown, the Grand Central District, the artsy EDGE District and Beach Boulevard―all of which

The Don CeSar

Mediterranean Revival motif. These influences still can be witnessed today, most notably in the castlelike exteriors of The Don CeSar hotel on St. Pete Beach and the stately The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club on the downtown waterfront. Both have been restored in recent years and while The Vinoy’s interiors reflect the grandeur of its golden age, the Don CeSar or “Pink Palace” as it is often referred to, is like a magnificent Fabergé egg with a dazzling exterior, however,

boast popular eateries, breweries, attractions and some great shopping. Like many of the homes in Historic Kenwood, the original house that is the heart of The Kenwood Gables was built in 1929 and was moved to Kenwood in 1933, when a group of prominent residents banded together to grow the neighborhood by relocating 170 homes (primarily Craftsman bungalows) to the district. The 375-acre residential area is bounded by Ninth Avenue North,

comprises the B&B grew and evolved over the decades, through additions and changes made by previous owners. The striking Great Room is distinguished by a pair of ornate carved doors and an extraordinary mantle, both salvaged from a local church that was destroyed by a fire, and added in 1945. The distinctive Tudor Revival style building has five guest rooms: two inviting master suites on the main floor and three charming “vintage rooms” (rooms that were part of the original home) on the second floor. The 68


innkeepers, Reymond and Jayson Lazaro, along with their two delightful canine ambassadors, have created the sort of sumptuous interior design that is both high on style but also wonderfully cozy— not surprising, considering the pair’s extensive experience in the worlds of hospitality and fashion, respectively, before owning the B&B. Guests rave about their high standards, the quality of their stay, knowledge about the area and stellar recommendations for local eateries and attractions. One TripAdvisor reviewer offered, “Warmth and charm emanate from every room of this beautiful bed and breakfast. Lock the door to the outside world and relax completely, knowing that your needs will be fully met. Your bed will be supremely comfortable, the room quiet, your breakfast expertly prepared. The owners have The Kenwood Gables poured their hearts into each lovingly decorated room, with different themes in each one. The outdoor space in centered by a pool open to the stars. They were attentive, kind, caring, knowledgeable about the area.” And another reviewer suggests, “Ditch the major hotel chains and stay here. You won’t experience anything like it.” One of their top suggestions is a visit to their favorite beach. “We always send our guests to Pass-A-Grille Beach. It’s such a beautiful place. It’s at the southernmost point of the

barrier islands and right on the Gulf, Reymond explains. “It’s just a few blocks with three or four restaurants and just these gorgeous white sand beaches.” Because of Historic Kenwood’s high concentration of artists, the city chose to promote the arts and artists by declaring the neighborhood as an “Artist Enclave.” This designation enables artists to teach classes and sell artwork from their homes. It also made the location of the B&B even more significant to the Lazaros. “There are over 300 artists that live in the Kenwood area. They range from painters and photographers to potters, metal sculptors and weavers. You will see little plaques throughout the neighborhood that identify each artist’s studio. We support the Historic Kenwood Artist Enclave, so we use our space to have small gallery shows,” Jayson shares, noting that during the pandemic they have not been able to host these shows but they will continue to in the future. “The percentage of the sales that we take, we donate back to the artist enclave. Once a year, they have the Artists at Work Tour. You can buy a ticket and then go and tour the open studios and watch the artists creating their work, which is a great experience.” The next Artists at Work Tour is projected for Fall 2021. Visit kenwoodartistenclave.org and fb.com/artistenclavehistorickenwood for updates. Also on their hot list is the new 26-acre St. Pete Pier which opened in July of 2020. The complex includes five restaurants, a marketplace with outdoor vendors, spectacular works of public art, the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, a playground, fishing deck, the St. Petersburg Museum of History and tree-lined walkways along the bay. Parking is available at surrounding lots for $2 an hour. Visit stpetepier.org

Kenwood Gables photo by Lisa Presnail

First Avenue North, 19th Street North (adjacent to I-275) and 34th Street North, and contains 2,203 historic buildings. There are many types of residential architectural styles represented in the district, including Craftsman bungalows (which make up about 50 percent of the structures), Tudor Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, Ranch, Prairie, American Foursquare, Dutch Colonial Revival and Mission style homes. The structure that now

Life Reimagined by Sarah Sheppard

Salvador Dalí Museum

Brick & Mortar

To Do’s for St. Pete Where to eat and drink?

Brick & Mortar photo by Eve Edelheit

There are so many wonderful eateries and lounges that it would be hard to make a bad decision, but here are a few places we found particularly noteworthy: Lolita’s Wine Market The owners describe this eclectic and fun spot as “a unique little market where coffee shop meets wine bar.” However, they have some local brews as well and the main attraction are the create-your-own charcuterie/ antipasti platters that you design from their ever-changing selections of cheeses, meats, crusty breads and yummy accoutrements like truffled goat cheese-stuffed Peppadew peppers and Moroccan spiced olives. They focus on fresh tapas and small plates with flavors from the Mediterranean and Spain. You can also ask one of the servers to prepare your board. They can even prepare it to-go and pair it with a great bottle of wine so you can take it for an outdoor

picnic. They do not take reservations. It is strictly first come, first served. Visit lolitaswinemarket.com Brick & Mortar Kitchen & Wine Bar This lovely “farm to fork” restaurant is praised by foodies and home cooks for their rustic hand-prepared dishes, interesting wine selections and craft beer. They don’t take reservations, so go early or hang out and have a drink while you wait. Visit fb.com/ brickandmortarkitchen Bodega This popular Latin street food shack (think chalkboard menu and paper carton dishes) is a perennial favorite known for its delicious pressed sandwiches and specialties like slow-roasted mojo pork with grilled onions. Visit eatatbodega.com The Mandarin Hide The décor may draw you in, but the libations will make you not want to leave. The fine folks at The Mandarin Hide describe themselves

as “stewards of the craft cocktail.” In addition to spirits, they have some great craft beers and nice wines. Visit mandarinhide.com Green Bench Brewing Co. There are a dozen or more microbreweries in town, but Green Bench was St. Pete’s first and continues to be one of the most beloved, offering unique craft beers, mead and cider created from fresh, local, and traditional ingredients. Visit greenbenchbrewing.com

What else should I do while I’m there?

The Dalí Museum is a must. The visually stunning Yann Weymouth building, with a 75-foot tall geodesic glass bubble known as “the enigma” and helical staircase, is a distinct piece of art in and of itself. But it is also home to the largest Salvador Dalí collection outside Spain. Leave time to explore the tranquil Avant-garden, which includes a labyrinth modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral January ‘21


prepared meals and decadent pastries (mazzarosmarket.com). If you are in town on the second Saturday of the month, The St. Pete Arts Alliance coordinates a great ArtWalk (stpeteartsalliance.org/ artwalk). For outdoor enthusiasts, you can catch the sun and hit the surf at Fort De Soto Park or either rent kayaks in the park or book a clear-bottom kayak tour (fortdesoto.com). You can also take a hike up the 37-mile Pinellas Trail (pinellastrail.us) or escape to the shady oasis of the Sunken Gardens botanical garden where you can visit a living collection of trees and plants, some of which are over 100 years old, and observe the native wildlife (sunkengardens.org). To learn more, log on to visitstpeteclearwater.com

How about familyfriendly/active living accommodations? Sirata St. Pete Beach

(thedali.org). The St. Pete area is famous for its murals, which have helped to transform neighborhoods and attract art enthusiasts. With over 500 and counting, it can be difficult to navigate without some help. You can access a map and lots of other great information at stpetemuraltour.com or join one of Florida CraftArt’s walking and bicycles mural tours on Saturdays (floridacraftart.org). The Saturday Morning Market is Florida’s largest farmer’s market and has been likened to a festival with its plethora of food and crafts. Neighbors and visitors, with their children and dogs in tow, mingle with vendors at this family-friendly outing (saturdaymorningmarket. com). Mazzaro’s Italian Market is a bit of a kitsch-fest, but you can find just about every type of Italian delicacy there, including house-made pastas, cured meats, hand-stretched mozzarella, loaves of fresh Italian-style breads, wines, 70


If you are looking for a more festive and all-inclusive beachside property, the Sirata St. Pete Beach offers a more casual and active experience than some other properties. “Play More!” is the resort’s slogan and guests take it seriously. At this 13-acre resort guests can walk straight from their room to the beach, one of two pools or one of their on-site restaurant/bars. The spacious apartment-style accommodations are bright and cheery and the resort can arrange fun excursions like cruises, kayaking or a personal watercraft, paddle board or parasailing adventure. There is a mandatory Resort Amenity Fee of $40 per night fee that is not included in your room rate to cover the resort’s various amenities and entertainment. Visit sirata.com

How do I get around?

The city and various neighborhoods are easy to navigate by car and there is ample parking (free and paid). There is also the St. Petersburg Trolley Downtown

Looper, a great free service to easily navigate around downtown (loopertrolley.com). You also can check out the city’s bike share service. Bikes can be unlocked from one station and returned to any station in the system (coastbikeshare.com). On St. Pete Beach, Freebee is a free, door-to-door, on-demand electric car service courtesy of the City of St. Pete Beach. Rides can be requested via the app or by calling (727) 364-9466. Rides also can be requested by flagging down any available Freebee. The service can accommodate children and pets. An online map, detailing the service area, can be accessed through stpetebeach.org

How do I get there?

If you are in a hurry to check out the sights and scenes in St. Pete, just hop on Interstate 75 and go south. The highway will merge into I-275 and, once you cross the towering bridge over the sparkling waters of Old Tampa Bay, you’ll be right in the heart of the city. Another option is to travel U.S. 301 south out of Ocala and go through Wildwood, Bushnell, Dade City and Zephyrhills before you merge onto I-75 South. We suggest a stop in Dade City if time permits. This charming little town is a great place to grab lunch and do a bit of shopping. The downtown is filled with great options for retail therapy and the café culture is strong. Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant is a no-frills down-home cooking café with absolutely delicious offerings like fried chicken, ribs, sweet potato casserole, collard greens and fried green tomatoes with very friendly service. The historic Lunch on Limoges and NOLA-inspired Green Door On 8th are both stylish eateries that consistently draw rave reviews from visitors and locals alike. And save room for dessert because you better believe that the Angel Tea Room is serving up a little slice of heaven.


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power and majesty


The AdventHealth Grandview Invitational will showcase incredible equines, and sponsoring partners, over three days of arena shows and special events.

ncountering a towering and impressive draft horse, such as a Clydesdale, Percheron or Belgian, often elicits comments such as, “They are so big,” and “They are so beautiful.” The equines are highly regarded for their strength and power, and their personalities. And if one horse can inspire swooning, imagine seeing nearly 200 of them in one place. That is what visitors to the third annual AdventHealth Grandview Invitational can expect when the event takes place February 5th-7th at the Florida Horse Park. This year, 24 hitches—or teams—have signed on to deliver a spectacular and majestic display of power and excitement. Karen and Shannon Cobbs, owners of Grandview Clydesdales in Marion County, one of the largest Clydesdales breeders in the world, are the power couple behind the invitational. “The word got out that this Ocala show is just exploding,” Karen says. “Last year we had 11 hitches.” “They are coming from Canada, California, Wyoming, Vermont…” explains Shannon. “Ours will be one of the largest shows in the world.” Visitors will be able to go into barns and talk with drivers and hitch personnel, and see the equines up close before they go thundering into the arena. The gates will open at 8am each day, with shows starting at noon. Karen says the show would not be possible without year-round sponsor relationships. “It’s a true partnership,” she affirms. “The show cannot happen without our sponsors and our

community. This is where Shannon and I live; where our family is growing. It’s something I want to build and build.” A video of last year’s invitational shows several big rigs in the show ring at the same time. Majestic music fills the air and you can see the awe on peoples’ faces. As each wagon circles the arena, sponsor insignia can be seen on the back and, quite often, someone from the business is perched alongside the driver. Sponsor banners ring the arena. “Each hitch is sponsored by someone from the community,” Karen offers. “We get them very, very involved.” That can include tickets for holiday tours of the farm, taking advantage of corporate meeting/ retreat/team building space at the venue all year long (which can include petting Clydesdales) and representation at shows around the country in which the Cobbs compete from July through October. “In our tack stalls when we travel, we have roll up banners, a station with logos. My partners come with me all across the country,” Karen enthuses. And, she adds, “Who knows how many people have bought farms locally because of our show.” “When we started this, we said it’s going to be more of a partnership,” Shannon adds. “Anything we can do to help our sponsors out, we do.” Some of those benefits are sponsor packages Karen puts together for visitors during farm tours. There also is a loyalty program through which sponsors receive gifts such as additional tickets for tours or the show, which

Sponsored they can use as rewards for their customers. And, proving to be one of the most popular benefits, is a chance for one or more of the majestic Clydesdales to make an appearance at a sponsor-organized event. Among the top sponsors of this year’s Grandview Invitational are AdventHealth Ocala, Ocala Electric Utility (OEU) and Showcase Properties. “AdventHealth Ocala is excited to continue our multi-year partnership as the exclusive title sponsor for Grandview Invitational,” offers an AdventHealth Ocala spokesperson. “This partnership provides us with an opportunity to showcase the rich and storied history of the horses and horse farms in our community.” “Ocala Electric Utility has been providing reliable and cost-effective electric energy to the Ocala

community for 122 years. One of our goals is to build strong relationships within the community and we partner with local businesses through event sponsorships,” notes Tony Clayton, OEU Supervisor, Public Education. He says the invitational is an opportunity for OEU to be a part of an event that not only brings local recognition to those involved, but also participate in Grandview’s nationwide events that “showcase our amazing Ocala community.” Broker, owner and realtor, Valerie Dailey, with Showcase Properties of Central Florida, says the firm has “been a proud sponsor of Grandview since its inception and we’re excited to see such a unique equestrian event develop and grow.” “There’s nothing quite like it in Central Florida,”

260-388-4279 10020 SW 125th Court Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432 grandviewclydesdales.tours

she adds. “We have such a wide variety of horse shows that showcase so many breeds and disciplines. The invitational and its Clydesdales is an important part of that diversity. Bringing all types of horse events to the area is what being the Horse Capital of the World is all about.” As for social distancing at this year’s invitational, Shannon and Karen both assure prospective guests that the Florida Horse Park is the perfect venue.

“There are open arenas, open barns,” Shannon explains. “It is all covered, but it is all open air. We also are setting up hand sanitizing stations and more washrooms. We are doing our part that way.” “It’s amazing the draw the show is getting,” Karen adds. “It’s exploding. People love it. It’s not just a horse show.” To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, call Karen Cobbs at (260) 388-4279.

if you go

Photos courtesy of Cobbs family

sponsors AdventHealth Ocala Electric Utility Pyranha Phillips Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram General RV Ocala Style Paddock Mall Showcase Properties Gold’s Gym

Koontz Furniture and Design Nirvana Medical Spa Miller & Sons Plumbing Inc. Seminole Feed Equine Performance Innovative Center Squeak Media TT Distributors

Chick-fil-A Paddock Mall HDG Hotels Tri-Eagle Sales Equus Inn Elite Equestrian Horse Capital Television Ocala Gazette Angie Lewis - State Farm Insurance

Melisa L. Militello P.A. Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital Kelly’s Auto Repair & Service Inc. Shipshewana Harness Kool Kurtains Big Daddy Unlimited

AdventHealth Grandview Invitational February 5-7 Florida Horse Park, 11851 SW 16th Ave., Ocala Gates open 8am; shows begin at noon Ticket options range from single day to threeday passes, with options for box and VIP seating and camping. A Casino Night fundraiser will be held February 5th, with games, entertainment and food. The Grandview Gala will take place February 6th, with a meal, special live performance and dancing. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to grandviewinvitational.com

Come discover your enviromental impact.

The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park incorporates treated wastewater and stormwater from the Old City Yard a drainage retention area (DRA), that is located near the park, and has historically flooded during heavy rain events. Stormwater can contain many contaminants like: nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants from fertilizers and pet and yard waste, oil, grease, heavy metals, vehicle coolants, bacteria, and litter. These stormwater contaminants are the leading cause of water pollution. The park captures this polluted water, therefore reducing regional flooding. By sending this water to the Ocala Wetland Recharge Park, the total nitrogen can be reduced to nearly undetectable levels, and the total phosphorus will be greatly reduced. This freshly cleaned water will improve water quality and boost regional groundwater supplies.

2105 NW 21st Street Ocala, FL | 352-351-6772

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Perfect Pairings Wine and cheese are two of life’s great culinary pleasures —with a variety of complex flavors ranging from sweet to sharp, finding the perfect match can be a fun and delicious adventure.

By Jill Paglia Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery


love cheese, so I always keep a selection of great cheeses on hand, along with some cured and sliced meats, jams, relishes and a variety of crackers. I like to keep my appetizers simple and there’s nothing like a delectable cheese board and some fine wine to delight your guests. With a mix of sweet and savory elements and a variety of textures, cheese boards offer a little something for everyone. When I was hosting some family members recently, I prepared a meat and cheese board with all the trimmings, including olives, hummus, roasted nuts and some crusty breads. To match such an offering, a hostess needs to have some great wines on hand that will enhance the culinary experience. I found one such standout wine at Agapanthus in downtown Ocala. Pecorino, by La Valentina, is considered to be one of the most exciting new white grape varieties coming out of Italy today. The 2019 has been rated as the best



year for this particularly pleasing white wine. Time and time again, I come back to five of my favorite cheeses when preparing for guests. Here are my go-to varieties: • Manchego cheese from Spain is a firm sheep’s milk cheese with tangy, nutty and slightly grassy flavors. It can be served with sweet or savory crackers, thinly sliced serrano ham, olives, marcona almonds, walnuts and sweet spreadables like honey or marmalade. It pairs well with a fruity red cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. I will typically offer up a nut brown ale for the beer drinkers. Take the manchego out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. Cut off the rind and slice into bite-size triangles. • Gouda is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that originated in the Netherlands. With a nutty, buttery taste infused with notes of caramel, Gouda is an all-around crowd pleaser. This Dutch cheese pairs well

with good bread, fresh grapes, sliced apples, pears and dried Turkish apricots. Serve young Gouda with a pinot grigio or riesling and set out a deeply flavored merlot, cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay with an aged Gouda. • Any good cheese plate should include a brie. To really enjoy the subtle, creamy flavor and soft texture of brie, serve it with a sliced baguette and plain crackers. Fruits such as sliced apples, grapes and berries are also a delicious complement. I like to serve it with a good quality honey and fig jam for an epic combo of sweet and creamy. The go-to pairing is Champagne, but there are many other options, from wines like a fruity pinot noir or a dry sauvignon blanc to a stout beer, fruity pilsner or even a small-batch bourbon. About an hour before company arrives, set out the brie. This will allow it a chance to come to room temperature

and get nice and creamy. • Originating in the English village of Cheddar, cheddar cheese has a nutty, sharp taste. In general, the longer the cheddar has aged, the sharper the flavor. Mild cheddar is aged for the shortest time and extra sharp the longest. You’ll see cheddar in both white and orange color. I like a sharp white cheddar. It is best when served with sliced apples and pears. I will often add some fresh strawberries as well. This is where you can pile on the sliced salami and pepperoni. Set out some whole wheat or sesame crackers and sliced French bread and a pile of roasted almonds. Enjoy a good sharp cheddar with a bold pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. You could also offer an English pale ale for the beer drinkers. Set out 30 minutes before serving. • Goat cheese has a wide range of flavors, from delicate and mild to pungent to grassy and sweet. Let’s start with the most widely known, the classic French chèvre. It’s a soft and spreadable cheese that’s often log-shaped and has no rind. Chèvre is sold plain or rolled in herbs, pepper or ash, and makes a great addition to cheese plates. I like to include bright and colorful berries, sliced pears, salami, olive bread or crackers, walnuts, honey, figs and dried cranberries. You can serve goat cheese with a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, zinfandel, pinot noir or malbec. Take goat cheese out of the fridge about one hour before serving. Set it out with a cheese knife for spreading. With all of these cheeses, if you should have any leftovers, just wrap them individually in wax or parchment paper and store in the refrigerator. I keep mine wrapped and sealed in a glass storage container. I hope this has inspired you to embark on your own delicious adventure. There is no right or wrong in creating your board—just let your imagination be your guide in arranging a beautiful and delicious experience for your guests.


Salted Brick

At Trilogy at Ocala Preserve

Sunday Brunch: Bottomless Mimosas & Bloody Mary’s

(352) 509-5183 › Call for hours

Wednesday: Hump Day Happy Hour all day all drinks half price

4021 NW 53rd Avenue Road Ocala

The award winning restaurant located in Trilogy at Ocala Preserve enjoys beautiful lake front dining, perfect for watching the sun set over the 18th hole on our championship golf course. The Salted Brick brings to life regional favorites alongside American classics, using locally-sourced, fresh ingredients. Featuring a centerpiece exhibition kitchen and wood-fired oven, watch as items are grilled to perfection above a natural flame. American grill, sophisticated atmosphere, and seasonal menu with fresh and healthy options are just a few of what our brand has to offer.

Thursdays: $18.00 Prime Rib

** Open Table’s 2018, 2019 and 2020 Diner’s Choice award for Gainesville, Ocala and Central Florida**

El Toreo

3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala

(352) 694-1401 › 7 days 11a-10p SR 200, Ocala › (352) 291-2121 › 7 days 11a-11p New lunch specials include Taco Salad on Mondays, $5.45; Speedy Gonzalez on Tuesdays, $5.45; Quesadillas on Wednesdays, $7.95; Chimichangas on Thursdays, $6.95; and Burrito Supreme on Fridays, $5.95. New dinner options include Fajita Mondays, $10.95; Chimichanga Tuesdays, $8.95; Alambre Wednesdays, $9.95; and Tacos de Bistec Thursdays, $9.95. Plus $1.95 margaritas on Mondays. On Sunday, kids 12 and under can enjoy $1.95 children’s meals (take-out not included). Wednesday is Special Margarita Day, 99¢ all day. Saturday is 2-for-1 margaritas all day. Happy Hour daily, 3-7pm. Everything is 2-4-1 (exceptions may apply).

Wednesday: 99¢ House Margaritas All Day Thursday: Trivia Night, 7-9pm (Blvd. location) Thursday: Mariachi band at the 200 location, 6-9pm Dine-in now available Best wishes in 2021!

Braised Onion

754 NE 25th Ave., Ocala

(352) 620-9255 › braisedonion.com Tue-Thu 11:30a-9p › Fri-Sat 11:30a-10p › Sun 11:30a-8p Braised Onion Restaurant, where you’ll experience “Comfort Food with Attitude” in a fun, warm and colorful but casual atmosphere. Open for lunch and dinner. Our team of experts will be dishing out perfectly seasoned prime rib with creamy horseradish sauce on Friday and Saturday evenings. Don’t forget the decadant dessert menu, which includes the prizewinning bread pudding, coconut cream pie, cheesecake and crème brûlée. Private meeting and banquet rooms available. Limited menu.



Happy New Year from our family to yours! Comfort Food With Attitude




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Country Chapel

Marion County’s Newest Wedding & Event Venue RV Hookups Fire Pit Full Kitchen + Bar Great Fishing New 40’x60’ Barn (Jan.) Newlywed Loft Bedroom Morriston, Florida • 352-812-6223 Golden Acres Wedding Venue

Available at Wawa, RaceTrac and Publix

Sharing Space Somewhere in between the corporate office and the home office is a new workspace option: coworking. By Lisa McGinnes | Photography by Crisandra Richardson of Never Ever Wonderland Photography


fter more than 15 years as sales consultants in the human resources sector, Adam Ramsay and Zach Cox were seeing a trend: More and more offices were downsizing, sending more people to work from home. In their line of work, they’d seen a lot of small businesses go under and they knew the reason was usually tied to startup costs. It was 2019 and the concept of coworking had taken off in Miami and large metropolitan cities around the country. Ramsay and Cox realized a coworking space in Ocala could help startups, small businesses and remote workers by offering month-to-month shared office space with meeting areas, fast internet connections, office supplies, printing and copying, and mail and receptionist services. In November 2019, with their wives, Ashleigh Ramsay and Cassandra Cox, they opened Workspace Collective in a historic house on East Fort King Street. With a charming blend of classic architecture and modern convenience, the bright, cozy space has attracted members from real estate and insurance to accounting and bookkeeping, from artists to media professionals. “It is not industry or age specific,” Cox says. “It is probably more mindset specific. The people that are attracted to this type of a work environment are typically hard workers; they typically feed off of relationships and seeing people in person and are tired of either working at Starbucks or working at home.” “The power of a coworking space is the members and the community managers,” Ramsay adds. “So, if you get like-minded people together…and they’re in a place where they feel good and they start communicating and working together, they end up passing business. They 80


end up being more successful. You can get them started for a whole lot less.” The key is flexibility, Cox says. He calls what they offer “instant legitimacy.” “If you’re a brand new business you can come in today, right now, and you can have a business phone line,” Cox explains. “We can give you a receptionist who will answer your calls; we can have your calls go to voicemails that are transcribed and sent to your email. You can have a state of the art conference room, state of the art podcast room, coffee, beer, snacks, a cleaning service, fastest Wi-Fi available—today.” Jocelyn James, owner of CenterState Bookkeeping, has used Workspace Collective’s virtual office service for more than a year, which gives her a physical address in historic downtown Ocala. “It has really helped me put my business on the map with Google My Business,” she says. “I definitely think that’s been helpful. It’s really nice to have that option to meet with clients, go over and have a cup of coffee. It’s a really nice atmosphere.” Workspace Collective is getting ready to open a second location on Southeast First Avenue in March, adding more conference and coworking space as well as private offices for one person or a whole team, all with the same collaborative spirit. “The first and foremost thing is the community and the family atmosphere here,” says Chelsea Siver, Workspace Collective’s community manager. “I make sure everybody’s happy. The most important thing for us to provide to you is the experience.” For more information, visit workspace-collective.com

Seek out the adventure in every day

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