Ocala Style | February 2024

Page 1

FEB ‘24

25 s r a e Y

Real People. Real Stories. Real Ocala.

Just Listed

Turning Hawk - For Sale or Lease 352.804.8989

2-story home features family room with soaring ceilings, brick fireplace and luxury vinyl floors. 4 Bedroom, 3.5 bath home with a detached 3-car garage is located on 5 +/- acres. Located close to the Santos Trail head for access to the Florida Greenway and Trails. $577,000

Just Listed

Lakes Golf Club in Lady Lake Amazing, renovated home with 3 bedroom, 2 baths plus bonus room overlooking the golf course. The home features: vaulted ceilings, natural light and luxury finishes. The living area offers open floor plan with family room, dining area and chef ’s kitchen. $470,000

Joan Pletcher, Realtor

Our results speak for themselves. List with Joan today!

Just Listed

Great Location Stunning 2-story home, perfectly situated on 4 +/- acres of elevated bliss. Boasting 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and a captivating screen-enclosed pool. Enjoy the breathtaking views from this home overlooking the pond. $959,000

Magnificent Estate Great opportunity to purchase a great family estate just minutes from many amenities, including hospitals, restaurants and schools. This 5.60 +/- acres of beautifully landscaped land is gated and perimeter fenced. Magnificent 5-bedroom, 6-full and 1-half bath estate encompasses more than 7,000 square feet of living area, with 4-car garage and pool. The home is designed for entertaining, with an open floor plan, billiards/game room and wet bar. Beautiful outdoor area with pool, patio, cabana and seating areas to entertain your guests while enjoying the views. Property is zoned A-1, so bring the horses! Grassy paddocks are perfect for grazing cattle or horses. $1,950,000 Private, elegant living on 8+/- acres, perfect for quiet enjoyment. The tree-lined drive draws your eyes to this magnificent 2-story, 5-bedroom, 6.5-bath brick estate with lakefront views. The main floor owner’s suite has a luxurious bath. Upstairs are three ensuite bedrooms and a large bonus room for a game or media area. Guests will enjoy private and spacious accommodations. Enjoy evenings in the screen-enclosed lanai with a pool, jacuzzi and summer kitchen while watching beautiful sunsets over the pond, with bass rolling over in the distance A tennis/pickle ball court, gazebo and beautiful granddaddy oaks add to the uniqueness of this estate. Just minutes to city conveniences. $2,290,000

Quiet Elegance

10 Acres 10.11Acres $57,500 PA $57,500 PA $575,000 $581,325


10.06 Acres 19.90 Acres



$42,000 PA $38,000 PA $835,800 $382,280


Phase II - 155+/- Acres

17.49 Acres 70,000 PA $1,224,300

11.3 Acres

$38,000 PA $42,000 PA $567,000 $429,400

Phase III Pricing Lot 1 Lot 2

6.89 AC $361,725 $52,500 PA 7.07 AC $371,175 $52,500 PA Lot 4 3.90 AC $223,300 $57,000 PA Lot 5 3.89 AC $194,500 $50,000 PA Lot 6 4.41 AC $251,370 $57,000 PA Lot 7 4.35 AC $254,475 $58,500 PA Lot 8 3.47 AC $202,995 $58,500 PA Lot 9 4.24 AC $254,400 $60,000 PA Lot 10 3.30 AC $175,998 $53,333 PA Lot 11 3.02 AC $196,300 $65,000 PA Lot 14 3.84 AC $230,400 $60,000 PA Lot 18 30.63 AC $1,148,626 $37,500 PA Lot 21 22.83 AC $912,800 $40,000 PA



$49,155.91 PA $37,463 PA $375,000 $495,000

11.80 Acres 10.20 Acres


$49,000 PA $499,800

$45,000 PA $531,000

10.01 Acres







14.50 Acres $42,000 PA $609,000

$38,500 per acre

10.07 Acres

Phase 1

13.50 Acres

S Pending

Phase III




S 10.04 Acres



$97,000 PA $973,880



12 Acres

S $97,000 PA



10.02 Acres


* Access to Florida Greenways and Trails * Across from Florida Horse Park * Equine Friendly Neighborhood

15.06 Acres





S 10 Acres



10.09 Acres

S $37,517 PA






* Deed Restricted Neighborhood * 3,000 SF Minimum * Bridle Trails inside Via Paradisus

* Prices subject to change

Via Paradisus

Via Paradisus is a gated community graced with beautiful granddaddy oaks, paved streets, street lighting and access to the Florida Greenways and Trails. It is located close to the Florida Horse Park. This is a deed-restricted and equine-friendly community. There are plenty of paved streets for walking, biking or riding. Bring your plans and build the dream home or farm of your choice. Florida’s Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is one of the most treasured resources in the state. Offering hundreds of miles for horseback riding, mountain biking, or just plain relaxing, the Florida Greenway awaits your adventure.

What should you expect working with Joan Pletcher? Expect an unparalleled combination of professionalism, integrity and relentless commitment to her client’s unique needs, interests, and desires. Joan is a residential, equine property and land development REALTOR® since 1985 and a horsewoman herself so her clients have the benefit of experience and specialized expertise. “The Ocala region is home to the most beautiful equestrian estates and horse farms in the United States and the natural beauty of the area, along with an amazing variety of equine-centered activities and venues, such as the phenomenal World Equestrian Center, makes this a place that more and more people want to call home,” says Joan.

Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com


Dear Readers,

n this issue we explore what has changed in Ocala and Marion County over the last 25 years but also what has stayed the same. When I first moved to this area 15 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, I remember being struck by the sense of pride that people I met had about their community. That pride translated into a different level of buy-in or belief that Ocalans could make a difference in the place we lived. We need to proactively feed that spirit, individually and collectively, to keep this area special—despite our growth, despite everything we see changing. We believe quality local journalism can contribute to this— and it is exactly why we love producing it for you. It has been my honor to steward this publication over the past five years. I give special thanks to the people who have worked so hard to make the stories deeper and reflect more diversity, especially the two editors-in-chief who have worked with me during this time, Nick Steele and Susan Smiley-Height. We’ve all tried our best, especially in providing more diverse content, to better match the spirit of our tagline—Real People. Real Stories. Real Ocala. In this issue, our 25th Anniversary edition, we bring you articles that take a look at what remains the same as it was a quarter century ago and what is different now. And we extend a special thank you to our advertisers, who have helped support this magazine so it can be distributed for free throughout the community. Thank you, Ocala and Marion County, for supporting Ocala Style for 25 years. Happy Anniversary to us!

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher


Home of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra and Community Music Conservatory

Publisher | Jennifer Hunt Murty


Magnolia Media Company, LLC (352) 732-0073

PO Box 188, Ocala, FL 34478

Art Editorial


DESIGN AND VISUAL DIRECTOR Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Amy Harbert amy@magnoliamediaco.com PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Eighteenth Hour Photography Hart2Hart Photography John Jernigan Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery Scott Mitchell ILLUSTRATORS Jordan Shapot David Vallejo

EDITOR IN CHIEF Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR Greg Hamilton greg@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Harriet Daniels Belea Keeney Scott Mitchell Jill Paglia Dave Schlenker Beth Whitehead


ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com

Distribution Rick Shaw

CLIENT SERVICES GURU Cheryl Specht cheryl@magnoliamediaco.com




ocalastylemagazine ocalastyle

500 NE 9th Street, Ocala, FL 34470 | ReillyArtsCenter.com

Rosalba Olayos (352) 348-4427


Realtor cooperation encouraged


Discover the effortless luxury of fiberglass pools with Cool Pool


n the sunny landscapes of Florida, backyards beckon for a touch of aquatic elegance. Homeowners dreaming of a quick, hassle-free transition to poolside leisure need look no further than the exceptional offerings of fiberglass pools installed by Cool Pool.

Swift Installation, Lasting Enjoyment

The standout feature of fiberglass pools is their remarkably quick installation. The journey from delivery to dive-in spans a mere two to three days, regardless of your chosen pool’s size or design. This rapid installation process is a stark contrast to the lengthy and often disruptive construction associated with traditional pool types, offering you a swift path to luxury and relaxation. According to Wilmar Campos of Cool Pool, “Once a contract is signed, it takes about a month to get permits and then another month and a half to complete the pool. On average, we can install a pool in approximately three months.”

The Comfort and Durability of Fiberglass Where concrete pools present challenges with their rough surfaces and propensity for cracking, fiberglass emerges as the superior choice. The smooth finish of a fiberglass pool promises a comfortable, scratch-free swimming experience—a crucial consideration for families with young swimmers.

Unparalleled Material Quality

A pool is an investment in your home and lifestyle. That’s why we use only the finest materials in our fiberglass pools—which are made in the United States by the pool manufacturer Latham with high-grade ceramic, resin, gel coat, fiberglass, and Kevlar. This commitment to quality ensures that your pool retains its flawless appearance, safeguarding your investment for years to come.

A Healthier, More Hygienic Choice

Fiberglass pools also take the lead in terms of health and hygiene. The sleek surface plays a vital role in pool hygiene, significantly reducing algae growth and making maintenance easier than a cement pool. Requiring 30% less chlorine than other pool types, they reduce exposure to harsh chemicals.

Cost-Efficiency in the Long Run

While the upfront cost of a fiberglass pool might be slightly higher, its long-term benefits make it a cost-effective choice. The durability and low maintenance requirements mean you won’t face the frequent repair and resurfacing costs that come with other pool types. Let Cool Pool help you transform your backyard into a haven of relaxation and beauty. Call for an estimate today.


Ocala - 352-897-8972

in this issue 25



Bob Wines Camellia Gardens & Nursery A Living Legacy

Koontz Furniture and Design A Century of Design

Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick, PA 45 Years and Growing

Blocker’s Furniture 100 Years of Service



Over the past 25 years, our city has changed in landscape, footprint and quality of life.



No matter the year, what is on our tables and in our glasses is a universal topic of discussion.



Harriet Daniels shares some of her favorite things.



Botanical gardens in North Central Florida offer respite and inspiration.


53 57


Pre-historic tools can tell us a lot about our ancestors.



Dr. Dominic D’Agostino will discuss therapeutic ketosis for neurological disorders in Ocala on February 29th.



Once A Tribe, Always A Tribe.



United Way of Marion County coordinates resources to help people navigate challenges.

th i s p a g e

Top and center: photos by Bruce Ackerman. At left, photo by John Jernigan, Jim Jernigan’s Studio.

Educational Demonstrators & Speakers • Nature Photography Contest • Mermaids Live Music • Games & Activities • Food • Craft and Photography Vendors

Free Event

Saturday & Sunday

March 2-3 10am-4pm


Silver Springs State Park

with $2/person Park Entry

Photo by Jon Barber




5656 E Silver Springs Blvd Silver Springs, FL 34488


Never miss an issue and save time by having Ocala Style Magazine delivered right to your mailbox for only $5.50 per month.

OCALASTYLE .COM/SUBSCRIPTION Ocala Style Magazine is still available for free at any of our distribution locations.

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

In network with most insurance providers. Conveniently located on Ft. King.

352-815-3911 | TheGuestHouseOcala.com


Social Scene Dalton Ower and Josue Rivera were among those who gathered on the Ocala downtown square on January 15th for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day March, which culminated with the Day in the Park event at the MLK Recreational Complex in West Ocala. Photo by Bruce Ackerman


MLK March and Day in the Park DOWNTOWN OCALA AND MLK RECREATIONAL COMPLEX Photos by Bruce Ackerman


n January 15th, the MLK Day March led numerous groups and individual participants from downtown Ocala to the Day in the Park event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, with guest speakers, vendors, entertainment and activities for youngsters.

The Ocala Police Department/Marion County Sheriff ’s Office Honor Guard

Laila Presley



The Shiloh Seventh-Day Adventist Drum Corps

Caylen Teal and Connik Greene


Jasmine James and Dezmond Wheeler

Rory Carter, Jamie Gilmore, Danielle Lucas and Jordan Woods

MLK Prayer Breakfast MARY SUE RICH COMMUNITY CENTER AT REED PLACE Photos by Bruce Ackerman


vents on January 13th in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. included a prayer breakfast with featured guest speakers and entertainment. Other activities leading up to events on January 15th included a food drive, wreath laying, youth activities and ecumenical services (not shown).

Nancy Thrower, Regis Boatwright, Loretta Jenkins, Edith Harper and Thomas Harper

Michelle Lamb

Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4



Te’Sha Jackson, V. “Issa” White and Vibert White III

Mary Owens

Kwanzaa On The Move MARY SUE RICH COMMUNITY CENTER AT REED PLACE Photos by Bruce Ackerman


wanzaa, or the first fruits of the harvest, is celebrated December 26th through January 1st each year. The local celebration on December 28th was a community event that included discussion of the seven principles and what each one means, children exchanging handmade gifts, displays and exhibits.

Angie Robinson, Jimmy Robinson and Chrissy Vickers

Priscilla Mfune and Ruth Kalumba



Marion Lenon and T.J. Stumon


Concert for Good OCALA CIVIC THEATRE Photos by Bruce Ackerman

T Members of the Concert for Good band

Luke Lombardo and Greg Thompson

Clare O’Brien, Father Patrick Sheedy and Lisa Lombardo

he December 29th concert raised $26,000 to benefit the Marion County Children’s Alliance and Brother’s Keeper. The event was co-founded in 2021 by brothers Caleb and Luke Lombardo and in the first two years raised an additional $28,000 for local charities.

David Ellspermann and Ron “Rondo” Fernandez

Beth McCall, Jason Halstead and Adam Lombardo

Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4


Head to El Toreo for the best Mexican food this side of the border! Enjoy all of your favorite traditional Mexican dishes in a friendly and festive atmosphere. Specials: Mondays and Wednesdays, Margaritas are $2 Saturdays, 2 for 1 Margaritas All Day

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

Dine-in or take out available

Redfish St. Charles Located in the heart of downtown Ocala, Harry’s offers traditional Louisiana favorites like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Blackened Red Fish and Louisiana Gumbo. Other favorites, like French Baked Scallops and Bourbon Street Salmon, are complemented with grilled steaks, chicken, burgers, po’ boy sandwiches and salads. Their full bar features Harry’s Signature Cocktails, such as the Harry’s Hurricane, Bayou Bloody Mary or the Cool Goose Martini. They also feature wines by the glass and a wide selection of imported, domestic and craft beer.

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille 24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com Mon-Thu 11a-9p › Fri & Sat 11a-10p › Sun 11a-8p

Available during our Mardi Gras Parade of Flavors Feb. 1 - Mar. 31 Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $4 Draft Beer $5 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $6 Super Premium & $7 Harry’s Signature Cocktails

Healthcare shouldn’t be difficult. Receive the care you deserve when you need it. Schedule an appointment at your neighborhood VIPcare clinic!

(352) 204-0099


First Night DOWNTOWN OCALA Photos by Bruce Ackerman


he festivities of the Ocala Main Street First Night event on December 31st spanned multiple city blocks, from midtown to downtown, with activities at the Tuscawilla Art Park, OTrak and Citizens’ Circle. Visitors were treated to musical entertainment, a light tunnel, fire dancers, vendors and more.

Santiago Botero, Daisy SanRoman, Nathan Botero, Katlyn Collett and Daylon Chan

Aaron, Jasmine and Alanah Banks

Will Poole and Kelsey Giangiordano

Craig, Nora and Nicole Lovely

The Hwy 40 Band

Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4



First Friday Art Walk DOWNTOWN OCALA Photos by Bruce Ackerman


n the evening of January 5th, the streets in downtown Ocala were filled with an array of artist exhibits, free family art activities, live music on the gazebo stage and buskers in the streets. The season runs from September through May each year.

Maritza Lopez and Dylan Luke

Keith and Janice Hill



Ken DeMoliner

Jim and Adele Lane

Camden, Tyler, Charlie and Emily Bonnie


Celebrate... Ocala’s brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear firsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Abigail & Cody Wiley | Photographed by Hart2Hart Photography


ABIGAIL & CODY WILEY January 14th, 2023 Venue: Baughman Center Photographer: Hart2Hart Photography (Britt) Hair and makeup: Little Bird Beauty (Caitlynn Brown) Their favorite memory: “At the last minute, we decided to forego the first look because we wanted to preserve the magic of him seeing me walk down the aisle. The moment the music reached its most dramatic moment and the double doors opened, we both had tears in our eyes as we got to see each other, and we made it to the moment we’d been planning for so long. Neither of us noticed anything or anyone around us because it was truly about each other.”


SHELBI (CLARK) & BRIAN OLIVER October 14th, 2023 Venue: Windsong Ranch Photographer: Eighteenth Hour Photography Wedding Planner: Making It Matthews Florist: Martha’s Flower & Gift Shop Hair/makeup: Southern Style Salon (Tabitha Whalen) and Dollish Beauty Co. (Sarah Lanser) Her favorite memory: “The look on my husband’s face and the tears in his eyes when he saw me walking down the aisle. After almost 18 years together, knowing our connection is still so strong is something I cherish every day.” His favorite memories: “Seeing my beautiful wife walking towards me and knowing I get to spend my life with my best friend, the emotion and excitement of friends and family, and the way our son was as excited as we were.” Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4



TARAYN (MCLEOD) & TOMMY WALTERS October 7th, 2023 Venue: CF Vintage Farm Photographer: Eighteenth Hour Photography Wedding Planner: Making It Matthews Florist: Graceful Gardener Hair/makeup: Katie Gilligan (hair) and Ayla La Pierre (makeup) Studio Chic Her favorite memories: “We decided to do a first look and are both happy we did. I went back and forth about it but, ultimately, it was a great decision as it allowed us to spend more time with our guests after the ceremony. And, we had our lab Shiloh walk down the aisle with my daughter Ella and that was a big hit as I’m not sure who really walked who.” 20


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

NEVER GIVE UP ON COUNTRY CONCERT Silver Springs State Park February 3 This benefit for the Travis Mills Foundation features country artists Johnny & Heidi, Chris McNeil and headliner Parmalee for a concert on the park’s Twin Oaks Mansion lawn. The foundation helps “recalibrated” veterans overcome physical and emotional obstacles and provides them rest and relaxation. Bring a chair or blanket for seating. Tickets are $45 for admission only or $65 for the concert and a meal from Mission BBQ, which will be onsite. Visit bit.ly/never-give-up-on-country for more information.

Grandview Invitational Draft Horse Show, photos by Bruce Ackerman

FREE FIRST SATURDAY Appleton Museum of Art February 3 On the first Saturday of each month the museum offers free access to the regular exhibits, special activities and displays. This month, artist Margaret Ross Tolbert will offer two free tours of her solo exhibition, Water’s Margins: Paintings of Florida’s Springs. Her paintings feature “kaleidoscopic blues and earth tones to express her passion” for Florida’s unique springs. The event will include a food truck onsite. For more information, see appletonmuseum.org/events

BOURBON IN THE BARN College of Central Florida Vintage Farm February 9 The annual soiree to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County will include bourbon samplings, tasty bites and live and silent auctions. To learn more, go to bit.ly/bourbon-in-the-barn or call (352) 690-7545. GRANDVIEW WORLD NIGHTS World Equestrian Center, Arena 5 February 8-10 Thundering hooves make the earth shake when this world-class draft horse show gets going. Dozens of 2,000-pound horses, such as Clydesdales, Percherons and Belgians, will compete in a variety of driving classes that include Ladies Cart, Youth Cart and four-, six- and eight-horse hitches. Tickets start at $35-$70, with VIP packages available. For more information and tickets, visit grandviewworldnights.com

BRICK CITY ANIME FESTIVAL World Equestrian Center, Expo 1 February 10-11 Invited guest artists and creators include Justin Cook, Nicolas Roye, Sarah Wiedenheft and others. The festival will have a vendor’s section, panels and opportunities for photos and autographs (Note: these typically have an additional fee.). Parking is free. Tickets start at $25 for a day pass, with youth ages 10 and under admitted at no charge. A VIP experience is $150. More information and tickets are available from brickcityanimefestival.com LEGACIES OF LOVE LUNCHEON Klein Center, College of Central Florida February 14 Interfaith Emergency Services will honor Wes Wheeler, Monica Bryant and the late Wayne McDonald. The fundraiser will benefit Marion County residents who need shelter, food and clothing. Tickets are $65 and available from bit.ly/legacies-of-love TRIBUTE BANDS: CHICAGO, PHIL COLLINS, JOHN DENVER Reilly Arts Center February 16, 17 & 23 Central Florida is definitely one place to find a huge variety of tribute bands, musical styles and genres. This month, the Reilly hosts Chi-Town Transit Authority on February 16th for fans of Chicago; In the Air Tonight for Phil Collins and Genesis fans on February 17th; and Remembering John Denver on February 23rd. Tickets range from $25-$50. See reillyartscenter.com for more information. CHARITY CAR SHOW McPherson Governmental Complex February 17 This annual event is presented by the Marion County Tax Collector’s Office. More than 25 trophies will be presented, along with a Peoples’ Choice award. There will be music, a bounce house, craft and antique vendors, an azalea sale, food trucks and swap shops


for car parts. The event is free to attend. The entry fee for contest cars is $15 by February 15th or $20 the day of show. Proceeds will benefit local charities. For more information, call Jacob Wicklein at (352) 368-8206. MARION ROTARY DUCK DERBY Tuscawilla Park February 17 The Marion Rotary Duck Derby will raise money for the Discovery Center, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, math and arts, with hands-on exhibits and educational presentations and more. Adopt a single duck for $5; a “quack pack” of six for $25; or a “flock” of 24 ducks for $100, all for a chance to win one of three $250 cash prizes. For more information and to adopt a duck, visit duckrace.com/ocala PREHISTORIC ARTS FESTIVAL Silver River Museum and Silver Springs State Park Feb. 17-18

Marion Rotary Duck Derby, photo by Bruce Ackerman

This unique festival will showcase native skills experts from all over the country as they convene to demonstrate these ancient arts. Visitors can see and talk with flint knappers, potters, hide tanners, canoe carvers and others. The event will include talks about archaeology, and crafts and food vendors. Festival admission is $8, with youth ages 5 and younger admitted at no charge. Tickets include admission to the park and the Silver River Museum. For more details, visit silverrivermuseum.com

to step further back in time, Cote Deonath is Elvis Presley Enterprises’ 2023 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. This show, which is a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, will feature Elvis’s career from his early days to his Las Vegas heyday. Tickets range from $15-$60 for either show, with a VIP package available for the Elvis show. See csculturalcenter.com for more information and tickets. 14TH ANNUAL H.U.G.S. FUNDRAISER Bank Street Patio Bar & Grill February 22 This year the honoree is Rusty Branson, president of SouthState Bank and longtime Marion County supporter of many charities. The event benefits the Heartfelt Unconditional Giving (H.U.G.S.) Foundation, which works with the Cancer Alliance of Marion County to provide temporary assistance to people in active cancer treatment and their families. Tickets are $75. For more information, visit bit.ly/14th-annual-hugs

MORE TRIBUTE BANDS: FLEETWOOD MAC & ELVIS PRESLEY Circle Square Cultural Center February 17 & 24 For more tribute artists spanning the ‘50s to the ‘90s, check out Rumours: A Fleetwood Mac Tribute, renowned as one of the best Mac attack bands out there, on February 17th. If you want

Elora Pfriender and Kendrie Smith


VOCAL FUR BALL World Equestrian Center, Expo 1 February 23 The eighth annual Fur Ball will feature entertainment by TJ Brown, a cocktail/ social hour and sit-down dinner, along with live and silent auctions. A featured art piece for auction will be She’s Retired and Free, an award-winning bronze sculpture by artist Todd Lane. VOCAL helps Marion County pet parents with a low-cost animal care clinic, adopts and fosters pets, and partners with Chewy and other pet rescue organizations to offer Project Feed. Tickets are $150 at weblink.donorperfect.com/furball2024ticket COMING UP: NIGHT AT THE FARM College of Central Florida Vintage Farm March 2

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL McPherson Governmental Complex Field March 2 Benefit event hosted by Habitat for Humanity of Marion County featuring live music, entertainment, vendors and food. Learn more at habitatocala.org/strawberry FLORIDA SPRINGSFEST Silver Springs State Park March 2 & 3 Educational exhibits, vendors, entertainment, mermaids, games and food. $2 park admission per person. Learn more at fb.com/thefriendsofsilverspringsstatepark

Night at the Farm, photo by Bruce Ackerman

The CF Foundation hosts the Strings, Wine

and Bites gala to provide scholarships for students. Tickets are $125 per person; $200 per couple. To purchase, visit nightatthefarm.org



Businesses With Staying Power As Ocala Style celebrates our 25th anniversary of serving as your voice for Real People. Real Stories. Real Ocala, we are delighted to honor four heritage companies that continue to make a real difference in the area’s business sector. Thank you all! We salute your staying power and dedication to our community.

Bob Wines Sr., Bob Wines Jr. and Laurie Williams; circa 1990

A Living Legacy T

his is a perfect time of year to visit a true hidden gem in southeast Ocala: Bob Wines Camellia Gardens and Nursery. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood is a vast, verdant oasis of lush

flora, highlighted by the original camellia gardens planted by Bob Wines Sr. in the 1950s.

A Local Treasure

The local roots run deep at this garden center that started 72 years ago with an assortment of

Sponsored camellias and thousands of plants the founder collected while traveling the country. His son, Bob Wines Jr., took over the nursery in the 1970s and expanded it into a full five acres, under a canopy of old pine trees and filled with numerous varieties of azaleas, camellias and roses and a vast array of flowers, shrubs, bulbs, trees, hanging baskets, vegetable plants and herbs.

It’s Camellia Season

October through March is a special time at Bob Wines: It’s camellia season. These landscape plants feature big, beautiful flowers in shades of red, pink and white. “It’s a special time of year for us, because Bob loved camellias. They both did,” says owner Laurie Williams, who worked alongside Bob Wines Jr. from 1986 until his passing in 2021. Visitors will find more than 350 varieties of camellias, plus one extra special variety—the Black Lace Peony, recognized by the American Camellia Society, which was created by Bob

Wines Sr., who won many awards for his flowers. February also is the start of azalea season, another local favorite. These large, flowering shrubs are known for their prolific blooms in shades of pink, red, purple, white and orange.

Unparalleled Service

The added value that Bob Wines offers over chain stores is personalized attention and the vast expertise staffers so generously share. Need help deciding what to plant in your garden? Bring some photos to get expert recommendations. Trying to diagnose a problem with your plants? Bring in a leaf and let the experts identify the issue and help you solve it. They also offer professional clean out and landscaping services. Whether or not you have a green thumb, Williams invites you to stop by. “It’s just nice to come walk and stroll through the gardens, even if you’re not buying anything,” she says. “It’s very tranquil. It kind of feels like a little piece of heaven.” Laurie Williams

Bob Wines Camellia Gardens and Nursery 2610 SE 38th St.

(352) 629-5766 • bobwinesnursery.com


ou love your home. That’s why your friendly neighbors at Koontz Furniture and Design love to help you furnish your living space in a way that improves your life. For more than 100 years, the family owned and operated company has carefully crafted a quality atmosphere and lasting product selections, while continuing to stay timeless and fresh, so you can find quality furniture you will love for a lifetime. “We’ve always approached our business like a family, taking care of each other,” says Mak Koontz, company president and the third generation Koontz running the furniture store. “That translates into taking care of our customers and selling them quality pieces that will last a long time.” Their motto, “furniture you’ll love to live with,” comes from Mak’s grandfather, Madison Koontz, he says. “We want to provide you with a great investment at valuable prices,” he adds. Just over 100 years ago, H.D. Peebles drew on the experience he gained while working for two local furniture stores and opened his own. After World War II, Peebles’ son-in-law, Madison Koontz,

joined him in running Ocala Furniture Company. Business was booming as more families purchased homes and, in 1953, the renamed Peebles-Koontz Company built a brand-new store just south of downtown Ocala on U.S. Route 441, where Koontz Furniture and Design is still located today. The company has seen U.S. 441 go from a two-lane road to a six-lane highway. They’ve seen trends in furniture sales go from selling pieces directly off a truck that drove around the county to drawing in customers with the design-forward displays that are at the heart of their current showroom. As Ocala continues to grow, the friendly sales team, designers, office personnel and delivery crew at Koontz enjoy many longstanding multigenerational customer relationships, and they also love meeting new residents who have chosen to call Marion County their home. “In this day of enormous, rapid changes in the way merchandise is sold and distributed, we hope to be of benefit to people who love their homes and want them to be special,” says Michael Koontz, owner and Mak’s father. “I imagine we will always

Sponsored work with people who love their homes because they are the reason we love what we do.”

Quality Furniture

Whether your style is antique, traditional, contemporary, or somewhere in between, you’ll find something to fit your style at Koontz. Most inventory in their exquisitely designed showroom is available for immediate delivery.

Unique and Custom Designs

The experts at Koontz are happy to work with you on special orders. If you don’t see what you want in stock, don’t worry. Their goal is to make sure all your furniture and accessory selections are unique to you. You won’t find cookie-cutter styles here! Whether you’re selecting upholstered furniture, window treatments, wall coverings or rugs, you can choose from an endless array of custom, madeto-order styles that reflect your personal style.

Visionary Design

Headed up by skilled interior designer Kay Rains, the Koontz Design Studio team knows that their creativity in helping you express yourself through

the design of your environment will evolve into a space that makes you happy. Whether you’re searching for a new piece to refresh your living space or furnishing an entire brand-new house, the Koontz team can help you in any stage of your home decorating needs.


“Be yourself—with a twist.” That’s the advice Rains gives to homeowners thinking about making some changes. She’s known for creatively visualizing a customer’s ideas and creating masterpieces of home design, and she loves to add value to any space by giving it a facelift with fine fabrics, color and textures that help you enhance your own personal style and best reflect your personality.

Custom Window Treatments

Yes, Koontz does windows, too! They offer both hard and soft window treatments, crafted to be beautiful and practical to fit any size or shape window. Stop by their showroom or browse their website to see how Koontz Furniture and Design can help you enhance your own personal style in the home you love.

Koontz Furniture and Design 3111 S. Pine Ave.

( 352) 622-3241


Karen Wolgast, Daryl L. Collier, Jackie Eastman, Kathi Jernigan and Jayme Zublick


ounding his own accounting firm in 1978 was the realization of a longtime dream for Daryl Collier. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University then working four years at Price Waterhouse in Orlando, he moved to downtown Ocala and began to assist local businesses with their accounting and tax preparation needs. Forty-five years later, the firm now called Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick still has the same goal: to help local businesses grow and prosper. “My heart was always to work with mom-andpop and small businesses and be an advocate for them,” Collier recalls. “We are very supportive of the community. As Ocala has grown, the need for accounting services has grown and the firm has expanded to meet those needs.”

What started as a one-person company in a cottage behind Collier’s house on Fort King Street is now a full-service public accounting firm with 30 employees. The five partners offer more than 125 years of combined experience in accounting and tax services. “As the firm grew, the types and number of businesses grew and the size of businesses grew,” Collier notes. “The firm has many clients we’ve worked with for 30 or 40 years and still work with on a recurring basis.” Longtime partner Kathi Jernigan earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Montana State University and spent five years working for KPMG before moving to the private sector working in various industries. She first came to Ocala as a part-owner of a horse show management company.

This page and next page, photos by Maven Photo + Film

45 Years and Growing

Sponsored In addition to tax return and financial statement “We came here for the winter horse show preparation, Eastman specializes in Florida circuit, bought a farm and stayed,” Jernigan sales tax and works with clients to maintain remembers. “This area is really beneficial for all compliance and mitigate issues in the event equine related businesses. In addition to of an audit. As a certified Advanced numerous other industries, I now get QuickBooks Pro Advisor, she to bring my unusual background teaches QuickBooks seminars to help veterinarians, farms and enjoys helping small and other equine-related As a CPA, every business owners develop and businesses with their unique day brings different understand their accounting accounting and tax needs.” system to manage their Jackie Eastman became challenges and learning and make better a partner three years ago opportunities, and I enjoy business business decisions. and has been with the firm “Helping the small since 2008. She earned helping people solve their businesses grow helps the a bachelor’s degree in problems and achieve entire Ocala community,” accounting from St. Leo Eastman observes. University and a master’s their goals. “A strong business degree in accounting — Karen Wolgast community makes a better from Stetson University.

community for everyone.” Jayme Zublick also became a partner three years ago and has been with the firm since 2000. After graduating from Central Florida Community College, she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting administration from Langston University. She is an Advanced QuickBooks Pro Advisor and a member of the Intuit Speaker’s Bureau. Zublick serves as treasurer of the Marion County Building Industry Association and specializes in the construction and manufacturing industries. “The firm has always had a family atmosphere and we look out for what’s best for our clients,” Zublick explains. The firm’s newest partner, Karen Wolgast, grew up in Lakeland, moved to Ocala in 2006 and joined the company more than 10 years ago after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Florida. She specializes in tax preparation and consulting for individuals, businesses, nonprofits, estates and trusts. “As a CPA, every day brings different challenges and learning opportunities, and I enjoy helping people solve their problems and achieve their goals,” Wolgast remarks. “We believe that we are partners with our clients as they grow their businesses and plan for their futures. It’s truly rewarding to be part of this team and to serve the community.” The team at Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick is a tight-knit group, and they enjoy

Karen Wolgast

working collaboratively and make fun, teambuilding activities a priority. “We work hard—especially during tax season—but we want to enjoy what we do. We think that’s very important,” Collier says. “We are blessed with the people we have and the firm that we have right now. We are very excited about moving forward and what the future is going to hold in Marion County.”

Collier, Jernigan, Eastman & Zublick, P.A. Certified Public Accountants 550 NE 25th Ave.

(352) 732-5601 colliercpas.com




oes your home feel like your sanctuary? The Blocker family wants to make sure you love the feeling of coming home! They know your home is where you gather with family and friends to make cherished memories. When you’re ready to update your living space, the Blocker’s Furniture team will help you select the perfect pieces to make your house the home you’ve always wanted. Whether you’re searching for a comfy living room set with enough space for everyone to watch the big game, furnishing a dining room where all your loved ones can gather to enjoy a meal, or updating your outdoor living space to get the most enjoyment out of the Sunshine State’s natural beauty, Blocker’s promises a large selection with a range of styles and prices to fit both your aesthetic and your budget. “Our sales and design team members can help you find stylish furnishings that don’t have that cookie-cutter look,” says Rusty Blocker, vice president and the fourth generation to work in the family business. “We know you want your furniture and accessories to reflect your individual style, not the style of a designer at some

impersonal, chain furniture store. That’s why we hand select our quality furnishings twice a year from North Carolina’s highest quality craftsmen.”

The Way You Live

Your living room is your space for everyday comfort and relaxation. Find sofas, sectionals and recliners along with coordinating end tables and coffee tables that fit your family. Personalize your choices with dozens upon dozens of fabric options, real leather selections, multiple cushion types, and a variety of wood stain finishes.

The Way You Work

With so many of us working from home these days, your home office could probably use an update. Add functionality and organization to your workspace with quality desks, office chairs, bookcases and cabinets that don’t sacrifice style.

Enjoy Dinnertime in Style

What’s more important than family dinners and holiday gatherings? Make sure everyone has a seat at your table and select from tables, chairs and bar

Sponsored stools, as well as storage and display options such as sideboards, china cabinets, bar carts, wine racks and kitchen islands.

Sleep in Serenity and Style

Ready to upgrade your sleep experience? Blocker’s promises a better mattress for every budget, at every price—from innerspring to foam to hybrid to pocketed coil. Each mattress, including brands such as Sealy, Serta, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic, comes with not just the manufacturer’s warranty but also Blocker’s 60-day Sleep Guarantee. When they deliver your mattress, they’ll also haul away your old mattress for free. Choose from foundations including adjustable bases, plus luxury bedding and pillows. Ready for a whole-bedroom update? Choose modern or traditional beds, dressers, nightstands, armoires and headboards.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Your outdoor living space is an extension of your home, and comfortable outdoor furniture for your patio or lanai will let you make the most of family time in the fresh air. Find your new outdoor seating, outdoor dining furniture and even an outdoor fireplace. Blocker’s offers a long list of well-known, quality brands, including Ashley, Bassett, England, Flexsteel and Tommy Bahama, just to name a few. “Good prices, excellent customer service and an understanding of our clients’ needs have contributed to our solid reputation and have helped us stay in business for so many decades,” says Russell Blocker, owner and president.

A Lasting Legacy

For 100 years, the Blocker family has helped other North Central Florida families transform their homes to create the perfect sanctuary. Family-owned and operated since the 1920s, Blocker’s Furniture has a solid reputation for top-notch service, reasonable prices and the area’s largest selection. “It is our mission to have furniture that will fit everyone’s needs, budget and lifestyle,” Rusty says. Like his father, Russell, grandfather Jimmy, and great-grandfather J.E., Rusty enjoys being part of their family’s legacy every day. It was 1924 when J.E. Blocker purchased a dry goods store on Ocala’s downtown square to establish the Blocker’s brand. In the 1940s, they moved to another downtown location on South Magnolia Avenue. As the furniture business continued to expand, they moved in the 1950s to a 42,000-square-foot building on South Pine

Avenue. Then, in 2004, Blocker’s Furniture moved to their current location, establishing Ocala’s largest furniture showroom, an 80,000-square-foot former Walmart, on Southwest College Road. Browse room after room of sturdy and comfortable furniture that will fit your life. Or shop online for more than 1,000 pieces in stock, plus an infinite number of customizable options available to order. At Blocker’s Furniture, you’ll find the most current trends at the best quality and the most affordable prices. Don’t know your design style? Click “Take the Quiz” on their website for personalized recommendations based on your family and your lifestyle. Shop modern style with old-fashioned service at Blocker’s Furniture.

Blocker’s Furniture

2402 SW College Road, Ocala

(352) 732-4296


Let’s plan some fun in Levy County


evy County, often referred to as the “Nature Coast,” is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and families seeking adventure amidst natural beauty. This picturesque region, recovering gracefully from last year's hurricane, offers a wealth of activities that cater to a variety of interests. Adventure-seekers will find a plethora of options ranging from snorkeling and fishing to hiking and horseback riding. The county's diverse landscape includes both freshwater and saltwater environments, providing easy access to a variety of aquatic and terrestrial adventures. One of the county's highlights is the bay scallop season, running from July 1 to September 24, where families and friends gather in boats to snorkel and harvest these delicious shellfish. For those interested in freshwater activities, Devils’ Den and Blue Grotto offer unique snorkeling and scuba diving

experiences in prehistoric underground springs. Cedar Lakes and Woods Gardens offer a respite from the summer heat, with its 20acre botanical garden nestled in a former lime rock quarry providing shade and tranquility. Boating enthusiasts have a range of options, from navigating the salt flats along the coast to exploring the Gulf of Mexico's deeper waters and cruising along four inland rivers. Cedar Key is not just about water activities; it also offers a delightful mix of dining and shopping experiences. History enthusiasts will appreciate the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum, Shell Mound Archaeological Site, and Seahorse Key Lighthouse, along with the historic town of Rosewood, the Levy County Quilt Museum, and the Chiefland Train Depot. For those who enjoy swimming, Manatee Springs State Park and Fanning Springs State

Sponsored Park, both situated on the Suwannee River, boast excellent facilities. Additionally, Henry Beck Park and Bronson Blue Springs Park are typically open for swimming and picnicking daily from April through September, conditions permitting. The area is also a paradise for horseback riding, with the Devil’s Hammock Wildlife Management Area and Goethe State Forest being prime spots. Tisha Whitehurst, the executive director of the Levy County Visitors Bureau, encapsulates the allure of the county: “Levy County is a place where you can relax on the beach in Cedar Key, go snorkeling and so much more. We have great freshwater and saltwater access, plus beautiful natural springs. This is a truly wonderful place to get outside and enjoy time with nature or family.” For more information, visit visitlevy.com.


Then and Now The Ocala of 25 years ago has changed considerably in terms of landscape and footprint, as well as quality of life. We’re not “Slo-Cala” anymore.

This page: Historic file photos of the City Auditorium and the Reilly Arts Center

BY Susan Smiley-Height | PHOTOGRAPHY by Bruce Ackerman


ilestones are important. They give us a timeline of growth and change. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Ocala Style Magazine. Our focus has remained on publishing articles about Real people. Real stories. Real Ocala. We have changed over the years, as have our city and county, and we like to think we have all improved with age. We know, however, there is always room for improvement. Many of the changes in the city of Ocala in the past 25 years are visible and tangible, while others are more subtle. The population has increased by more than 20,000 people, from 42,773 in 1999 to 65,498, according to 2020 Census data. The median age in 2000 was 39 and in 2020 was 34.7. In 2021, the estimated average value of a house or condo was $186,000; in 2000, that number was $71,700. Census data shows that the population of Marion County in 2021 was 385,915. In 2000, the population was 258,916. In 2021, the media age was 48.5 years of age, and the estimated median value of a house or condo was $193,300. In 2000, that value was $70,000. City-data.com statistics note that in 1999, there were 2,593 new singlefamily home construction permits; in 2021, that number was 5,641. The increase in population means we have a lot more traffic, we need new schools, 18 percent of residents live in poverty and health ranking surveys put Marion in the lower 25 percent of counties statewide. And the landscape has changed, especially around the downtown and midtown areas, and in communities such as West Ocala and in our rural areas. Downtown, for example, the Hilton Garden Inn now sits on the former site of the Ocala/Marion Chamber of Commerce, which itself morphed into the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP). The one-time home of the Brother’s Keeper thrift store is now the Mellow Mushroom multi-restaurant complex, a portion of the City Hall campus is now Citizens’ Circle and right across the street is a long-needed parking garage, with a second garage yet to come. The former city auditorium now is home to the outstanding Reilly Arts Center. After a $3.4 million renovation of the auditorium, which honored its Art Deco roots, the Reilly opened in 2015. The center is named for Robert Reilly, a patron of the arts who donated $700,000 toward the renovation in memory of his late wife, Bonnie. The venue is the home of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, which has been around for nearly five decades. Following a $4 million expansion, the Reilly in 2021 showed off its doubled footprint and prepared to roll out its Community Music Conservatory to reach a broader audience.

Midtown is in a constant flux, with new living and business spaces, such as housing units facing Tuscawilla Park and Infinite Ale Works turning the former Ocala Fire Rescue Station 1 into a distillery and eatery. In West Ocala, the new Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place, which opened in 2023, has become a focal point for community activities such as youth sports, educational classes and special events, and houses the Sankofa Public Library branch. The naming of the center and the property on which it sits are designated in honor of Rich, a longtime Ocala City Councilwoman, and Ruth Reed, a retired teacher and community activist who led a years-long campaign against pollution from the Royal Oak Charcoal plant and campaigned for citizens of the area to have the right to breathe fresh air. The new Ocala Fire Rescue headquarters complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue includes a community facility and Ocala Police Department branch, as well as a fire museum. There also is a new public safety facility on Eighth Avenue that houses both police and fire department substations. Outside the city limits, significant changes have included the opening of the Florida Aquatics Swim Training (FAST) center, which attracts world-class swimmers, and the building of a plethora of warehouse/distribution centers that need thousands of employees and new housing to accommodate that influx. Many of our iconic horse farms and cattle ranches now house subdivisions for young and old. The World Equestrian Center, a game-changer for the Horse Capital of the World, continues to expand with a new 390-studio-and-suite hotel soon to open, as well as the additions of a sixth indoor arena, seven additional outdoor arenas, an upscale shopping venue and UF Health Family Medicine. And speaking of medical facilities, one of the biggest changes locally was in 2014, when the Marion County Hospital District ceased operating Munroe Regional Medical Center and Community Health Systems took over operations. CHS later sold the lease to Adventist Health System. In 2019, the name became AdventHealth Ocala. The MCHD remains responsible for investing the lease proceeds on behalf of the citizens of Marion County and uses a portion of the earnings to fund public health projects. AdventHealth Ocala has continued to make changes to its campus and programs, as has the nearby former Ocala Regional Medical Center, which is now HCA Florida Ocala Hospital. And, as is happening in many metro communities, outlying Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4


Art and the Ocala Civic Theatre, which both have survived funding challenges over the years. Many such venues, and groups such as the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, had to figure out how to navigate the pandemic and the loss of audiences. A leader among the area’s art groups is the Marion Cultural Alliance, which was born from the Horse Fever public art project. Horse Fever was launched in 2000 and was followed by Horse Fever in Motion in 2005, Horse Fever II in 2011 and Horse Fever 20/20 in 2020. The horses have become beloved symbols for the Horse Capital of the World. There have been many other changes in the area that have helped move what once was known as “Slo-Cala” into a vibrant city that continues to grow and change, just like Ocala Style. We asked city and county officials, and two long-time residents, to speak about changes over the past 25 years and what might be ahead.

CIty Perspective facilities are sprouting up all over Ocala. UF Health is building a new neighborhood hospital at I-75 and Highway 27, we have several new AdventHealth and HCA Florida Ocala emergency branches and the Heart of Florida Health Center moved into a sprawling complex on Silver Springs Boulevard. The College of Central Florida in 2023 broke ground on a $20 million-plus, 42,500-square-foot Center for Nursing building as part of a threebuilding group that includes Allied Health Sciences for Surgical Services, Cardiovascular Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Technology and Respiratory Care, and expanded EMS programs. The new Ocala VA Clinic opened in 2022 in Southwest Ocala, offering primary care, mental health services and more. Marion County is being considered as a location for a 120-bed nursing home funded through the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In terms of beauty and nature, Silver Springs State Park, which just celebrated 10 years, is a far cry from the old attraction, with the Wild Waters attraction next door, and remains a gem among Florida’s fresh-water springs. Overall, eco-tourism has become a bigger deal here over the past 25 years, with the Santos Trailhead a mecca for mountain bikers; the Cross Florida Greenway a destination for outdoor enthusiasts on foot, bicycle or horseback; and the Ocala National Forest, Rainbow Springs State Park and other natural areas beckoning thousands of visitors. Ocala also has grown as an arts/cultural community, through the Appleton Museum of 40


Ocala’s City Projects Director Tye Chighizola, in the Growth Management Division, provided responses. Chighizola says the top projects of the past 25 years, in no certain order, included the 2035 Vision, Downtown Master, Midtown, West Ocala Community and West and East Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) plans; the Ocala 489 Commerce Park; the West Ocala Historic District; the Fort King National Landmark; continued expansion of the SunTran public transportation system, which opened in 1998; removal of the Royal Oak charcoal plant and the subsequent building of the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place; redevelopment of the former Pine Oaks of Ocala golf course into residential housing; wayfinding signage/branding; a new tower and terminal at the Ocala International Airport; the opening of West Marion Hospital in 2002; new police/fire substations on Eighth Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue; renovation of the historic Marion Theatre; renovation of the Reilly Arts Center; and the opening of the Ocala Skate Park in 2018. In terms of which of those projects had the greatest impact in changing the footprint of the city, Chighizola noted the adoption of the West and East Community Redevelopment Sub-Areas, the Affordable Housing Incentive Fund, better community involvement (Vision Plans) and the Downtown CRA, which was adopted in 1988 and “started paying off after 2005.” “The first 10 years of the Downtown CRA generated a total of only $100,000, but now the CRA is generating about $800,000 per year,” Chighizola explains. “The downtown CRA will

expire in 2038. We have one CRA, but four sub-areas; North Magnolia (adopted in 1999), Downtown, East Ocala and West Ocala. In 2015 and 2016, the City Council adopted the East and West sub-areas to help fund projects in the community. We used $8 million to fund the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place.” He outlines that the Affordable Housing Incentive Fund “helps pay for building permit fees and impact fees for projects meeting the definition of affordable. The fund helps bring down the price of the homes.” In terms of better community involvement, he states that “The 2035 Vision and the upcoming 2050 Vision Plan provides for better community involvement over various platforms. The vision plans provide a road map for the future, and act as the basis for the comprehensive plan, which is the blueprint for the community.” He says the city and county “are working on growing SunTran,” which, according to the city’s website, has initiated a 10-year transit development plan that “supports the development of an effective multimodal transportation system in the city of Ocala and Marion County and serves as the basis for defining public transit needs.” In looking forward to the next 25 years, Chighizola mentions continuing “the growth of the downtown,” noting it is “critical to have a strong downtown community” and “the city will continue to pursue mixed use developments.” He says the city is beginning the process to update the 2035 Vision Plan and that the 2050 Vision Plan “will build off and expand the 2035 plan. As part of the vision process, the city will make the necessary changes to the comprehensive plan and code.” Chighizola also expects the next quarter century to bring “more fresh food options throughout the city, more transit opportunities, more affordable housing opportunities, redevelopment of Reed Place and efforts to improve mobility and safety.”

County Perspective Marion County Public Relations Director Bobbi Perez responded on behalf of the county based on input from “multiple sources.” In the past 25 years, Marion County has transitioned from a small mostly rural county to an important economic hub in the state of Florida. The population in 1999 was just over 251,000 and is now over 400,000. Despite the population increase, the county commission has worked diligently to have balanced growth and an affordable millage rate for the taxpayers, Perez writes. During this time, our county experienced major

infrastructure improvements. This includes road projects such as the 32nd Avenue Flyover and the 92nd Loop /Belleview Beltway. The beltway project includes an approximately 5.2-mile, fourlane, divided road from State Road 35 to U.S. 441, grassed medians, sidewalks, traffic signals, drainage facilities and paved shoulders for bike lanes. The 32nd flyover features a bridge over Interstate 75 just south of exit 350. Construction of the SW 42nd Street Flyover project began in September 2011 as the fourth and final phase of the corridor improvement that began construction over a decade earlier and was identified a decade before that, Perez adds. The construction portion of the project directly employed approximately 40 workers and was completed in March 2013 about three months ahead of schedule. It resulted in the construction of 1.5 miles of four-lane roadway, a flyover bridge over I-75, drainage, sidewalks, bike lanes, signalization and a median. The project connected State Road 200 to the west, with the first three phases of the corridor improvement to the east. The result is a beautiful alternative route to get from one side of Ocala to the other, which was quickly discovered by motorists and is being used by more and more of them each day. It is a scenic, rolling roadway that is able to take traffic off of the single most congested roadway in Marion County. In addition to motorists, every evening Opening day at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place

The Chewy Distribution center

people can be seen enjoying the sidewalks and bike lanes, whether they are exercising or just out for a stroll. The SW 42nd Street Flyover project is the culmination of a vision 25 years in the making and the most significant transportation improvement in Marion County during the last quarter century. Perez notes that major road improvements, including the NW 49th Street interchange, will be completed. The new interchange was designed with a diverging diamond, which temporarily shifts both directions of traffic on an interstate crossroad to the opposite side of the road. “It’s designed to make travel safer and eliminates left turns in front of oncoming traffic, improving efficiency at the intersection while reducing traffic build ups,” Perez explains. “The interchange will improve interstate and regional mobility within Marion County, accommodate future traffic growth and provide relief to existing surrounding interchanges.” Perez states that the creation of industrial distribution centers over the past 25 years has helped the economy and unemployment rate. “In 1999 the unemployment rate was over 6 percent and is now just over 4 percent. The County Commission partnered with the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership to recruit prime businesses to Marion County in the past 25 years,” she offers. “The county now has two award-winning industrial centers: The Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park in the north and the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park in the south.” In the past few years, the county has put a focus on litter. The No Horsin’ Around with Marion anti-litter campaign was created in 2022 and features a stricter ordinance and higher fines for those caught littering in Marion County.

Resident Perspectives Longtime city of Ocala resident Cynthia Wilson Graham, a business owner, author, photographer and civic leader, and business owner Gerald Ergle, an Ocala City Councilman for 26 years and mayor for four, and also a civic leader, provided input. “Our community has experienced significant changes and challenges due to population growth,” Graham notes. “The increase in housing demand and the lack of affordable options is a concern for me. Additionally, the infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the growing population, which has led to various issues (i.e. traffic). When I moved into my community there were a few houses, but now I can sit on the porch and listen to the neighbor’s conversation.” The things Graham likes least about the 42


changes over the past 25 years are, “Families experiencing homelessness, low-wage employment and inadequate infrastructure, such as inaccessible roads that ensure safe and efficient access to emergency responders for emergency services on private property.” She notes that she likes the “accessibility to networking with council and commission members and the accessibility to public spaces.” “It’s still the place that I call home. Despite the challenges we face, I still enjoy my community; this is a great community to raise a family,” she says. “The diverse activities at the college, the Appleton Museum, the downtown activities and at WEC, and the serene environment at Silver Springs State Park are valuable assets in the community.” As for the 25 years yet to come, Graham states she envisions” the expansion of affordable and low-income housing, shelters, mental health services for youth, increased wages, expanded public transportation and diverse representation in elected offices. In addition to private road accessibility to emergency services with the support of governmental officials.” Ergle was born in Citra, in northeast Marion County. He recalls spending many Saturdays in Ocala, “as that was the business center for banking, car service, pretty much everything.” He moved to Ocala years ago and says the most distinctive change in the area in the past 25 years has been “the number of people who have chosen to make Ocala/Marion County their home.” He says one good thing about the growth is that the area now has a lot more nice restaurants and “has brought us an increased awareness of the arts.” “Twenty-five years ago, the arts were pretty scarce in Ocala,” he offers. “The growth has brought us a new realization that arts are important to the community, and we have used that to expand access to the arts, all of them—music, painting, crafts, all of it—has seen a tremendous increase. Horse Fever exposed people many people to art who normally would not have gone to a museum or an arts center to see it. One of the huge steps we took forward was with Horse Fever.” Ergle also comments about the downside of rapid growth: “It has come so fast that it has been basically impossible for local governments to keep up with infrastructure—water, sewer and streets are the main things.” Impact fees for new construction were a hot topic in 2023, especially for Marion County. In 2021, the city of Ocala adopted a

Our community has experienced significant changes and challenges due to population growth.

- Cynthia Wilson Graham World Equestrian center ocala

Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4


Jim Cannon participates in an annual Salvation Army holiday food giveaway

new water and sewer impact fee schedule after the prior one remained stagnant for a decade. Ergle recalls the implementation of water and sewer impact fees years ago and says taxpayers paid for years to build those systems. “I think as people move here, we have to accept that they need to buy into our system,” he states. “When someone new comes in, if we don’t have an impact fee then they are getting to use the system that we have bought and paid for all these years. Therefore, the impact fee buys their share of the system to give them the service. I think impact fees are the fairest way to spread the cost of all of our services out.” Ergle believes the next quarter century will continue to see growth “at a pretty fast pace, in Florida and Ocala/Marion County in particular, probably not as fast as the last 10 years, but faster than we normally have been used to and I think we are going to continue to have a difficult time keeping up with infrastructure.” Looking back at his time as a local resident, Ergle says what he still likes the most about living here is “the people.” “If there is a need, the people in Ocala and Marion County respond,” he offers, “and that is one of the better things I like about Ocala.”

OUR Perspective

attendees at the Ocala Style Women’s Expo

Whether you and your family have been in Ocala/Marion County for generations, or you just moved here not long ago, this remains a special place. Ocala, also known as the Brick City, after a fire ravaged most of downtown way back in 1883 and the subsequent rebuilding used a lot of red brick, has a rich heritage that lives on in many of its generational citizens and newcomers. The Horse Capital of the World remains just that, a vibrant region that continues to have a stellar reputation for raising and training thoroughbred racehorses, as well as a great many other breeds of equines, in operations that range from massive centers to hobby farms. The Magnolia Media Co. team, which publishes Ocala Style and the Ocala Gazette weekly newspaper, remains committed to bringing you news and features about your community, your government entities and your neighbors. It’s not only about what we “do,” it’s also about where we live. To learn more, go to ocalaf l.gov; marionf l.org Sources: U.S. Census; city-data.com


Food For Thought No matter the year, what is on our tables and in our glasses is a universal topic of discussion. By Jill Paglia | Photography by John Jernigan


et’s go back 25 years to 1999, when Ocala Style was first published. The most popular dishes were Stuffed Red Peppers, Tortilla Soup and Chinese Chicken Salad. That year also brought us Pillsbury One-Step Brownie Mix already prepared in an included plastic pan. The television show Sex and the City premiered in 1998 and by 1999 the Cosmopolitan was the most popular cocktail as many wanted to emulate Carrie Bradshaw, who sipped the pink concoction at lunch and dinner and while out clubbing. Give my Perfect Cosmopolitan Cocktail a try and see for yourself that this remains a tasty beverage option. By the ‘90s, the artisan food industry was flourishing, supplying restaurants eager for free range chicken and meats, fresh pasta, special varieties of produce and organic products. Time magazine declared low carb the “it” diet and that somewhat continues, but we now hear a lot about intermittent fasting, and keto, paleo, caveman and gluten free diets. Going forward, I see global cuisine with more fusion as well as local cuisine that uses more organic and handmade ingredients. The larger cities are already sourcing more foods from local farms, and I think supermarkets will move into more prepared and semi-prepared foods so people can get something on the table easily. I believe we will see more farmers’ markets, public markets and high-end grocers offering local foods. The population will travel more, eat more eclectically and, I predict, have healthier diets.

Jill’s Italian Stuffed Peppers, previously featured in “The Secret is in the Sauce” from the August 2020 issue, photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery.

And I think a growing demand for ecologically raised foods will make them more affordable. Get ready for culinary combinations in 2024. Food enthusiasts are experimenting with mashups of their favorite dishes, creating hybrids like burger quesadillas, and I feel we will be getting the “plant” back into plant-based, which will include popular proteins like mushrooms, veggie burgers, legumes and walnuts. I think people will have fun with spices, peppers in particular, especially those with some “heat,” served in a variety of dishes. Ramen noodles were a popular fun ‘90s food and now are being elevated to gourmet level. A new pasta shape, meaning “crest of the rooster,” absorbs sauces well, so be sure to check out my Creste Di Gallo with Creamy Mushroom Sauce recipe. Sake will be the “it” drink in 2024, as well as sparkly syrups, espresso cocktails (Carajillos) and we’ll see the return of tomato-based cocktails and mocktails. You can expect eye-grabbing packaging and little luxuries, like tiny tins of caviar at affordable prices. And charcuterie boards aren’t going anywhere—I think they will expand to more restaurants offering “grazing” meals of meats and cheese, fish boards and dessert boards. Some of the classics are back, like rich and tasty Lobster Thermidor, while new offerings will include innovative salads like my Cucumber Ribbons Caesar. Whatever the year, or your preferred menu of classic and nouveau, enjoy!

Creste Di Gallo with Creamy Mushroom Sauce 12 ounces Creste Di Gallo pasta 8 ounces gourmet mushrooms 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons garlic, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons flour 2 cups chicken broth 1 cup heavy cream 1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste ½ teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper Pecorino Romano cheese, grated Parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. > Drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and set aside. > In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the garlic and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. > Sprinkle the f lour over the garlic and mushrooms and stir briskly for 1 minute. > Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, then the heavy cream. > Bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce becomes thick and creamy. > Season with salt and pepper. > Stir in the pasta. > Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. > Garnish with Pecorino Romano and parsley, and serve. Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4


Cucumber Ribbons Caesar Salad 2 medium cucumbers 1⁄2 cup tricolor cherry tomatoes, halved 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1⁄2 medium clove garlic, grated 1⁄4 teaspoon salt 1⁄4 teaspoon ground pepper Organic croutons Lemon wedges for serving 48


Peel cucumbers to leave alternating green stripes. > Using a wide vegetable peeler, cut lengthwise into very thin “ribbons,” alternating sides as you reach the seeds. > Plate the ribbons on salad plates and garnish with tomatoes and croutons. > Combine the Parmesan, lemon juice, mayonnaise, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar with a lid. > Shake until well combined. > Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with extra Parmesan if desired. Serve with lemon wedges.

Perfect Cosmopolitan Cocktail 1/4 cup unflavored vodka (I prefer Chopin, which is very smooth) 1 tablespoon Cointreau 1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons cranberry juice (I prefer a diet variety) 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice One 2-inch lime peel/twist 1 lime wedge for garnish Ice

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice. > Shake for about 30 seconds, until well chilled. > Strain into a martini glass and garnish with lime twist and wedge.


Achieving Therapeutic Ketosis Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, senior research scientist with IHMC, will lecture in Ocala on February 29th. By Susan Smiley-Height



Photo courtesy of IHMC


Medicine. His laboratory r. Dominic develops and tests metaD’Agostino was a bolic therapies for CNS curious child who oxygen toxicity, seizure developed an interest in disorders, neurodegenerbiology at 14, with “the ative diseases, and cancer. effort of an amazing high His team is working on school teacher.” moving the pre-clinical The Cream Ridge, New animal studies to human Jersey, native says he was clinical trials. a shy introvert with a love D’Agostino will share for motorcycles, being outhis findings on February doors, hunting and farm29th in Ocala as the ing, who now also enjoys guest speaker for IHMC’s traveling, hiking, snorkelevening lecture series. ing and scuba diving. “The science and “My personal interest in application of ketogenic health and fitness drove my diets and ketone interest in biological sciencmetabolic therapy is es and nutritional sciences,” developing rapidly and he shares. “This inspired moving into human me to major in both fields The science and clinical trials for a diverse for undergraduate studies range of applications. at Rutgers University.” application of ketogenic diets My presentation will He notes that summer and ketone metabolic therapy focus on past, present neuroscience and physiolis developing rapidly and emerging research ogy research in a clinical on nutritional and department inspired his and moving into human supplemental approaches interest in basic science clinical trials for a diverse to achieve therapeutic and clinical research. range of applications. ketosis for neurological “My mentor encour— Dr. Dominic D’Agostino disorders and many aged me to transition my common diseases that are undergraduate research linked to poor metabolic health,” he explains. into a Ph.D. dissertation that focused on brainstem “I will cover cardiometabolic biomarkers that mechanisms of cardio-respiratory function,” he are not typically associated with routine exams,” he recalls. “My postdoctoral work was funded by the adds. “Tracking these biomarkers is an important Office of Naval Research and led me to developing part of personalized medicine for enhancing and testing ketogenic neuroprotective strategies longevity and metabolic health.” for safety and resilience in military personnel.” D’Agostino is a visiting senior research scientist The lecture will take place at 15 SE Osceola Ave. with the Institute for Machine and Human Cogand the evening will begin with a reception at nition and associate professor in the department 5:30 p.m. To learn more and RSVP, go to of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the ihmc.us/life/evening_lectures/ocala-lecture-series University of South Florida Morsani College of

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Family I have a large family spread across the globe and technology keeps us connected.

2 Seashells I collect them and love finding new gems on the beach.

Ice Cream World Class Chocolate from Baskin-Robbins is a special treat.

Harriet Daniels SHARES THE THINGS SHE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Harriet is a proud Army brat who moved to Ocala almost three decades ago. She formerly was a reporter for the Ocala Star-Banner and now works for a local family-owned company. She serves in many capacities as an active member of Draw All Men Ministries Church and is president of the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Portrait by Bruce Ackerman

4 3

Prayer Prayer is a must in my daily life. God is my all.

Books Local bookstores and the Marion County Public Library are my happy places. Shout out to my book club “Sistahs.”


My hairstylist Sharon Samuel, owner of Sharon’s Hair Creations, is vital in my busy life.

7 Music I have a diverse playlist, which changes depending on what’s going on.


Smothered porkchops They know my usual order at GG’s Heavenly Soul Food. Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4


On View Through June 2


Paintings of Florida’s Springs by Margaret Ross Tolbert

Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store

Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, noon-5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL | AppletonMuseum.org

-an equal opportunity college-













Beauty Nearby These botanical gardens in North Central Florida offer respite and inspiration for those with or without green thumbs. By Belea T. Keeney Illustration by Jordan Shapot


ast month, we suggested gardens to visit that are about a day’s drive from the Ocala area. This month, we focus on gardens close by that offer a world of peace, quiet and inspiration, and have the advantage of being (mostly) more in sync with our growing zone. I’m almost reluctant to publicize this first garden because it is such a hidden gem, but if visitors prompt more purchases and donations to the garden and help it thrive and grow, that’s a good thing. The Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery is in Spring Hill, about a two-hour drive via State Road 200 through Hernando and Inverness, through the Withlacoochee State Forest on U.S. 41 before turning west toward U.S. 19. There are 22 themed garden “rooms” on a mere 4.5 acres, tucked away in a residential neighborhood. The site is peaceful and soothing. Birds flit among the foliage and butterflies congregate, of course, near the Butterfly Garden. Each garden room has its own group of volunteers

who maintain it, and the variety is quite fun. The Water and Railroad Garden features a working model train that treks around a pond with a waterfall, nestled among bromeliads, ferns, azaleas and bamboo. The themed gardens include Wildflowers and Native Plants, the Rose and Poinsettia Garden, the Asian Room and the Bromeliad Garden. Artwork pieces and sculptures are set among the various plants. Artist Tom Howard created and installed more than a dozen bird sculptures set among the tree branches overhead. A scavenger hunt for kids lets them search for the artwork hidden in various garden rooms. Paved pathways meander throughout the garden. Leashed, well-behaved pets are welcome. The day I visited, a woman pushed a cat in a stroller through the paths and a group of dog lovers had just finished their monthly meeting and lunch at the covered picnic area. The gardens are 20 years old this year and are completely maintained by volunteer staff and

Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens



Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

features. Wildlife abounds in the garden—hawks hover overhead, owls glide through the tree branches and songbirds zip about. The ponds support fish and turtles, and tame-ish swans and geese. A house on the property is being refurbished as an educational center. Light snacks and drinks are available at the welcome center, and you can bring your own food and drink for the covered picnic area. Special events are held throughout the year. Please note, this attraction is not totally accessible by wheelchair or scooter; most of the paths are rocky and bumpy, and many visitors use stairs and/or ramps to get up and down the quarry’s sides. Daily admission is $12 for adults, $7 for ages 6-13, with children under 5 admitted for free. See cedarlakeswoodsandgarden.com for more information.

A native Floridian and lifelong gardener, Belea spends her time off fostering cats and collecting caladiums. You can send gardening questions or column suggestions to her at belea@magnoliamediaco.com

Top right photo courtesy of Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery website

private donations. The gardens are free to tour every day of the year. The nursery is open on Mondays and Saturdays from 9am to noon (cash or check only). Many of the plants for sale were propagated from the garden stock, so you know they’ll grow well in the area. Visit naturecoastgardens.com for more information. Just a 30-minute drive north from Ocala, off Archer Road in Gainesville, is the enchanting Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, which has 24 garden collections spread over 68 acres. A 1 ½-mile paved walkway meanders through the gardens, which include a labyrinth, an azalea and camellia collection, a butterfly garden and a sinkhole with a scenic overlook. The garden sells basic drinks and snacks, and you’re welcome to bring outside food and drink to eat at the picnic areas. Admission is $10 for adults. The gardens are open 9am to 5pm weekdays (except for Thursday) and until dusk on weekends. The gardens host numerous weddings and special events, and the big Kahuna at Kanapaha is the Spring Garden Festival, usually held in March. To me, the tone of the website is oddly unfriendly, full of rules and stern warnings, but if you’re up for a nice morning or afternoon jaunt with a stop for a meal in Gainesville, it will make for a pleasant day. Visit kanapaha.org for more details. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens is a 40-minute drive west of Ocala, on U.S. 27 to just the other side of Williston. It’s an enchanting place, created from an abandoned limestone quarry and transformed into a lush garden with multiple levels, a dramatic (for Florida) waterfall feature and steppingstones through the main quarry pond. The unique ecosystem created by the quarry allows for subtropical plants to survive in a humid, warmer environment. Ferns, bromeliads and orchids surround koi ponds and other water


The Past in Stone Stone tools can tell us a lot about our ancestors or leave us guessing about why the implements were crafted. By Scott Mitchell | Photos by Scott Mitchell


aving worked in museums full of ancient things for a good bit of my career, I’ve developed a fascination with prehistoric stone tools. They are intriguing and diverse objects and can be both mysterious and informative about the people who made them. Stone tools may be works of art or simply crude but effective implements. In the absence of metal, stone is among the hardest materials found in nature. Since the first metals (save some prehistoric Native copper acquired through trade) did not arrive in Florida until 1513, stone was used for thousands of years to make a variety of tools that were

necessary for survival. The stone most often used is referred to as flint or chert. Flint tends to be denser and is found in chalk deposits while chert is of lesser quality and occurs in limestone. Both materials are very hard and sharp when fractured and the names are basically interchangeable. If one needs a sharp tool in the wild, this is the material you need. Most everyone calls the stone points arrowheads. Very few of them, however, were actually used to tip arrows. Larger points were more likely used as knives or to tip darts launched with a spear throwing stick or atlatl. True arrowheads are small, sharp triangular blades Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4



made for hunting or warfare. These points don’t appear in the archaeological record until about 2,000 years ago (which is also a clue for when the bow and arrow arrived in the Southeast). Since we believe people have lived here for at least 14,000 years and likely much longer, one can understand why true arrow points are on the rare side. Dart and spear points were just a small part of the ancient toolkit. The majority of stone implements used by ancient Floridians were used to chop and carve wood, shred plant fibers to create cordage and basketry, cut up food for the cooking pot and process hides to create leather. These were the everyday tasks necessary to survive. While we like to imagine the hunter stalking big game, the reality is that most of these objects were used by people to feed, clothe and create shelter for themselves. Sometimes we find a stone tool and its use is a complete mystery. In these cases, we rely on comparisons to cultures who used similar tools in historic times and detective-like analyses to find clues about how they were used. Microscopic wear on the working edges can yield clues about the type of material the implement was used to work on. Animal hides, wood and other materials all leave different wear patterns on even the hardest of stone. Evidence of plant-based or hide glues is sometimes present and helps us understand how stone tools were attached to handles. In some cases, tiny amounts of blood residue can be detected and analyzed to indicate what type of animal the tool was used to hunt or butcher. The oldest points have even been found in association with the fossils of extinct Ice Age animals. Archaeologists are now able to source chert from various locations and recreate ancient

trade routes. Stone that occurs in one region may have been traded and later found miles away in another region. All these clues help us understand more about long-forgotten technologies and trade routes. Stone tool making, also known as flint knapping, is now a unique art form. Expert flint knappers recreate ancient tool forms and help us to better understand how the tools were made and used. The tools often are works of art, such as a beautifully made point made from colorful translucent chert. To me, what is most interesting is how they tell the stories of the past; the stories of people who lived thousands of years ago and never recorded their own history. The story of their past is told in stone. You can see flint knappers at work—as well as shell carvers, potters, hide tanners, bow makers, dugout canoe carvers and other specialists in native skills—during the Silver River Knap-In Prehistoric Arts Festival on February 17th and 18th at Silver Springs State Park. For details, visit silverrivermuseum.com/silver-river-knap-in Scott Mitchell is a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center at 1445 NE 58th Avenue, inside the Silver River State Park. Museum hours are 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. To learn more, go to silverrivermuseum.com.



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Once a Tribe, Always a Tribe By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


hen I left the newspaper business to work for a utility company five years ago, I had two fears: (1) I would not know the difference between a transformer and a trashcan. (2) My new co-workers would not have the same thirst for pranks as the pack of wolves in the Ocala Star-Banner newsroom. Would, for example, my new supervisor wrap my entire desk in clear packing tape? My old one did. Would I, in turn, sneak into that supervisor’s office and replace his name plate with mine and replace his family photos with mine? I did. So worth it. Birthdays were big in the Banner newsroom. Cakes were accompanied by cards signed (plagiarized) by celebrities and convicts and convicted politicians. It’s the same for all newsrooms, I’m guessing. The culture is shaped by dark humor and keen BS meters. Newsrooms run on chaos and coffee, hard shells and big hearts. So, yes, there was an eerie politeness at my new job. Positive energy replaced cynicism, and coworkers were too nice for fifth-grade antics. But soon I received a birthday card from my new co-workers. There were no well wishes from David Hasselhoff, but there was a notable greeting from a manager I had worked with briefly at that point. “Happy birthday,” he wrote. “I hate your stupid guts.” I laughed hard. May have snorted coffee. I knew I would be OK. Still, I have been thinking about those newsroom days. You see, the wife of a former colleague/always friend passed away unexpectedly, and those newsroom wolves with

the packing tape and the “Get Well Soon” cake shaped like a hemorrhoid rallied and reunited. As much as we teased each other, we loved each other more. You see a lot of things in the news business. Daily, we processed bad news, good news, disturbing news, heartwarming stories and even weird chicken stories. Since then, the newspaper industry has suffered, and most of those talented humans filtered into jobs with proper office decorum. The Star-Banner valiantly survives with a tiny staff and the respect of their former colleagues. Seeing the need for more local news and fewer people to report it, the Ocala Gazette surfaced and absorbed several of the Banner’s newsroom gems (as did this magazine). I just hope the Gazette newsroom is as delightfully dysfunctional as our old home was. At the memorial service in late September, we cried for our friend and hugged people who do not like hugs. This was a true loss—a mother, wife and friend who brought fun to any room. And we realized, she must be looking down and saying, “It’s about damn time you idiots got back together.” In December, two former Banner newsroomers—one of several marriages from the paper’s staff—held the first Star-Banner Holiday Reunion. More than 30 newsroom veterans attended, including two journalists still making the paper every day. I smiled. A lot. Then I clanked a beer bottle to honor the past and, certainly, the future. I cannot wait for the next reunion. This was my tribe. Still is, really. It took a tragedy to realize that. Fe b r u a r y ‘ 2 4



Alan Keesee, Linda Allcott, Kristy Rowland, Bob Haight, Niki Tripodi, Beth Nelson and Greg Harrell

Living United United Way of Marion County coordinates community resources to help people navigate challenges. By Beth Whitehead | Photos by Bruce Ackerman


efore seeking help from United Way of Marion County (UWMC), Raquel Fuentas laid in a hospital bed with no place to go, no car to take her and her kids to safety and no counseling for the domestic abuse that had left her hospitalized and she and her children traumatized. When Fuentas called United Way’s 211 program and learned about the Strong Families program, she put her children in a wagon and pulled them for an hour until they arrived at the UWMC office. Fuentas was assigned a success coach, who helped her secure housing, employment and counseling services. Her coach, she says, “made sure that not only were our financial needs met, but that our family was on the road to recovery.” UWMC was founded in 1961. The agency’s



mission statement reads, “Uniting Local Resources to Help Our Neighbors.” The website notes that the aim is to “change the conditions that lead to hunger and violence.” “United Way has been transforming lives in Marion County for over six decades thanks to the founder, horseman Bonnie Heath, who had the extraordinary vision to create and spearhead a United Way for Marion County and a vehicle to help those in need in our community,” says James Henningsen, a board member and president of the College of Central Florida. “We are convinced that together, we are changing the world. When we LIVE UNITED, we can accomplish anything focusing on the three core areas—education, financial stability and the health of Marion County residents. We work collaboratively with our 19 community


partners and other nonprofits to create a positive and sustainable impact in our community.” Charles McIntosh, the college’s dean of Criminal Justice and Public Service, and also a board member, notes that, “United Way is an organization that provides a vehicle for the entire community to help other community members. As a young man, I can remember receiving help from agencies such as United Way, governmental entities and directly from neighbors.” UWMC programs include: • The ReadingPals early literacy program, through which youth can achieve academic goals. • Under the Community Partnership School model, UWMC partners with Marion County Public Schools, HCA Ocala, Heart of Florida Health Center and the Public Education Foundation of Marion County to offer clothing, food, school supplies, primary healthcare, behavioral health needs, dental services and more at College Park Elementary School. • The Strong Families program provides two cycles of 15-week training courses a year, along with a personal coach to help individuals and families achieve their goals. • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program uses trained volunteers to help prepare clients’ taxes at no cost to them.

Bob Haight, Yaritza Hernandez, Caron Reid, Camila Garcia and Susana Escalona

Lizmar Marrero and Rafael Palacios

Reice Reid, Susana Escalona, Yaritza Hernandez, Rafael Palacios and Camila Garcia


The FamilyWize program offers services designed to enable individuals to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. • The 211 program is a helpline to connect individuals with health and human services. “Fundraising and marketing are critical to the success of these programs,” offers Robert Haight, UWMC president and CEO. “We strategically invest in open programs and services that solve complex issues, bettering the community for all.” UWMC achieves this, he says, through its annual giving campaign, which this year has a goal of raising $1.6 million. “We need businesses and individuals to invest in our mission so we can reach our desired outcomes through a network of partner agencies and UWMC-managed programs,” Haight explains. “United with donor support, we can drive our work forward and create a lasting impact. We measure impact in many ways, such as improved school attendance, academic achievement, stable housing, improved employment and income, reduced debt and number of tax returns completed for seniors and low-income populations.” UWMC relies on donations through workplace campaigns, sponsorships, corporate donations, grants and private donations, the latter of which account for more than 75 percent of revenues. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society of donors who give $10,000 plus currently has 13 members. Giving and volunteer opportunities abound, from donating funds to hosting a workplace donation campaign to volunteering for ReadingPals or helping prepare taxes. “It takes more than 100 volunteers to raise funds impacting Marion County,” Haight says. “While Marion 64


County has been blessed with great abundance, we also still have many folks in real need,” says board member Jared Kostanty, CEO of Signature Brands, a sponsor of the Strong Families program. “The UWMC Strong Families program is a real force for change in fundamentally and foundationally helping those who find themselves in need of help. A remarkable proportion of Strong Families graduates leave the program with full time employment, steady housing, improved credit and personal budget discipline, among many other life skill areas.” “If you follow the program it works,” Fuentas offers. “My four kids and I went from nothing to a better life. My kids do chores and UW’s ReadingPals encouraged us to read together at night. My kids reading scores have improved.” “When I went to the bank and said I was a Strong Families graduate, they were excited to help me because they believe in the program,” she adds. “I have a savings account for the first time in my life.” To learn more, go to uwmc.org

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