Ocala Style March '20

Page 1

MAR ‘20





Just Listed!

Windemere Farm - 50 Acres As you enter through the gated entrance and wind up the driveway to this home high on the hilltop you will notice the beautiful views. This 3 BR, 3.5 BA has an open floor plan, Chef ’s kitchen with counter-top seating, family room, spacious living room with fireplace and French doors. Screen enclosed pool, lanai and summer kitchen, plus a 2 BR/ 1BA apartment perfect for guest, tenant or staff. The equestrian will enjoy the 6-stall block barn with tongue and groove wood ceiling, feed/tack rooms. Irrigated arena, detached 3 bay garage and additional building for storage/ workshop. $1,750,000 - Owner Financing

Fine Details Abound in this Private, Exquisite Home Set on 22± acres boasting high elevations and mature foliage, this 5 BR, 5.5 BA home features the woodwork of The Matthew Fortin Collection. Perfectly designed with a floor plan that promotes openness infused with warmth from an abundance of windows. Fine adornments are evident from the faux-painted trey ceilings to the custom crown molding to the intricate chandeliers. Entertaining is easy with the oversized Chef ’s kitchen featuring state-of-the-art appliances and custom, hand-milled mahogany cabinets. After dinner, adjourn to the music room lined with acoustic walls to provide the ultimate listening experience throughout the home and outdoors. Expansive screen enclosed area gives way to pool, hot tub, and summer kitchen with everything you need for outdoor living and relaxing while enjoying time with family and friends. Lush landscaping borders the edges of the lanai making it your own private setting. Small barn for use of your choice. $2,599,000

Considering Ocala?

Lemonwood II - Spacious Executive Home!

Bel Lago - 1.55 Acres

Fine finishes & hand-crafted details, exemplary solitude in a great location, desirable for commuting & close to many amenities. Custom floor plan offers many upgrades: kitchen & family room open to large pool, covered lanai & private gardens. Recreation wing has many possibilities with entertaining kitchen, exercise room, & bonus room. $599,000

Newly completed 3 BR/ 3.5 BA home with beautiful views overlooking water in gated equine friendly community. Open kitchen, granite counter tops with raised counter seating overlooking family room with fireplace. Formal dining and split floor plan with spacious master suite. Large covered lanai overlooks pool. $859,000

Country Club of Ocala

Trilogy at Ocala Preserve

Stepping through the front door of this one level, 4 BR, 3BA home plus office/den, the first thing you’ll notice is the sleek, modern interior design. The kitchen offers plenty of space to indulge your creative culinary side. Screen enclosed pool. $624,999

This 2BR, 2.5 BA home plus office/den has many upgrades: custom moldings, trey ceilings, and plantation shutters. The kitchen is open to the family room and is great for entertaining. Screen enclosed pool plus wrought iron fenced backyard. $449,950

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

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

Small Town. Big Appetite.

March 25-29 Come taste what happens when local, national and international chefs, winemakers, farmers, ranchers, brewmasters and distillers converge in a small town for a celebration of all things epicurean with a dose of southern hospitality.

Visit our website for more information and RESERVE YOUR SEAT!














O Y, F L O


VFW VETERANS VILLAGE 13005 NE 135th Street Fort McCoy, FL 32134

11th Annual Golf Tournament

20th Annual Country BBQ Picnic

Friday, March 20, 2020 Stone Creek Country Club

Saturday, March 21, 2020

9676 SW 62nd Loop Ocala, FL 34481

(352) 854-1272

Registration forms available at vfwveteransvillage.org ~ Cost:$55.00

10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. BBQ Meal served from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Entertainment • Beverages Available

DONATION $10.00 ~ Covers Meal For information call 352-236-0823 or visit www.vfwveteransvillage.org

Thank you for supporting “Your Home” - The VFW Veterans Village “Scouts out”

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Art Editorial

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Simon Mendoza simon@magnoliamediaco.com Brooke Pace brooke@magnoliamediaco.com

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS & VIDEOGRAPHERS Carlos Ramos carlos@magnoliamediaco.com


MARKETING MANAGER Kylie Swope kylie@magnoliamediaco.com MARKETING COORDINATOR Sabrina Fissell sabrina@magnoliamediaco.com


ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com Sheila Gaspers sheila@magnoliamediaco.com Clif “Skip” Linderman skip@magnoliamediaco.com DISTRIBUTION MANAGER/SALES Sharon Morgan sharon@magnoliamediaco.com CLIENT SERVICES GURU Brittany Duval brittany@magnoliamediaco.com

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Dave Adams Rick Shaw

EDITOR IN CHIEF Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com MANAGING EDITOR Belea T. Keeney belea@magnoliamediaco.com PRODUCTION EDITOR Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR Lisa McGinnes lisa@magnoliamediaco.com FREELANCE FASHION STYLIST Karlie Loland CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sherri Cruz Harriet Daniels Amy Davidson Jim Gibson JoAnn Guidry Danielle Lieneman Cynthia McFarland Jill Paglia Marian Rizzo Patricia Tomlinson PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Amy Davidson Meagan Gumpert John Jernigan Lyn Larson Philip Marcel Dave Miller Rigoberto Perdomo Isabelle Ramirez Alan Youngblood ILLUSTRATOR Maggie Perez Weakley

CONTRIBUTORS MARIAN RIZZO WRITER Pulitzer Prize nominee Marian Rizzo wrote about the Ignite for Ocala Premier Luncheon, a fundraiser to benefit Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, and the Reilly Arts Center’s 250 Years of Beethoven celebration for this issue. She has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, including The New York Times Chairman’s Award and first place in the 2015 Amy Foundation Writing Awards, and has published four novels, available locally at Gabriel’s Christian Book & Supply, Barnes & Noble in Market Street at Heath Brook and online, including Amazon.com. and BN.com. She lives in Ocala and has two daughters and three grandchildren. KARLIE LOLAND FASHION STYLIST For this issue, Karlie Loland cast her creative eye on the task of selecting inspired apparel, jewelry and accessories for our fashion shoot and created looks to perfectly complement the natural beauty of Sholom Park in beautiful southwest Ocala. Karlie is a producer, casting director and entrepreneur who has worked with fashion and entertainment clients such as Home Shopping Network, Hallmark Channel, Universal Music Group and others. She founded di.verseE thread: creative lab in 2011 while living in New York City and also is a professional photographer who is pursuing a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree from Berklee Online School of Music. DIANNE GILLESPIE PHOTOGRAPHER A glorious field of blooming sunflowers caught the attention of Dianne Gillespie and led to her capturing the arresting image featured in this month’s Day in the Life feature. Born in 1967, the only child of a single parent, in the little historic town of Ipswich—located on the outskirts of the great city of Boston—Gillespie relocated to Ocala in 2005 to escape the harsh New England winter weather. Self-described as “peaceable by nature,” she is always wandering in search of something new and wonderful and enjoys sharing her “hidden Florida finds” through her wonderfully curated Instagram account @Mandolin_Wind. Her motto is “Every picture does tell a story...” March ‘20


Publisher’s Note

n this issue we let you in on a little secret about what sets Ocala Style apart from the plethora of other local magazines. We have a mermaid on staff. For real. Not joking. Our mermaid tells tales like nobody’s business. She recites them with the most charming Southern accent that both endears her to us and reminds us that she is a mermaid with a mind. She’s been covering Ocala’s stories for 15 years and goes by the name Susan Smiley-Height. This month she generously shares her story of how she became a mermaid. I expect you will feel similarly endeared reading the story on page 56. The other thing that most definitely sets Ocala Style apart from the rest is our talented pool of contributors. Who better to illustrate Susan’s mermaid life than the fabulous Maggie Weakley? Maggie has been illustrating for us over the past year and her creations breathe whimsy and originality into every issue. Our photographers, all of them, bring Ocala to life every month on these pages. They are the best, not just for their skill that delivers the images you see but the heart they put into capturing all of you living the authentic Ocala lifestyle. Dressed up, dressed down, working hard, giving back...they capture it all. I’d like to close this letter with an announcement that I admittedly write with a Cheshire cat grin. Next month we’ll add a new contributor that I’m guessing all of you have been missing as much as I have—the original Dave Schlenker. Turns out he’s good friends with our resident mermaid and game for just about any topic, so this should be fun. Real people. Real stories. Real Ocala. This issue hits it on all fronts. Enjoy!

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher

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O C A L A C U L I N A R Y F E S T I VA L . C O M



If you love Florida cuisine, you won’t want to miss this extraordinary culinary event experience - Flavors of Florida! Join Chef Randal White and mixologist Shelby Goelz, and enjoy a unique cocktail hour with live-action stations and handcrafted signature cocktails followed by a full-course, sit down dinner with beer pairings showcasing Florida’s rich culinary heritage from Ranch, Sea and Farm!


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#1326 1 -3 -20

contents 56

103 15




The new executive director of the AdventHealth Ocala Foundation shows off her playful side.

We took fashion for a stroll through the gorgeous gardens of Sholom Park.


From one-ton horses to big top circus acts, some of the most festive gatherings of the past month.









The Reilly Arts Center is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the famed musician and composer’s birth.










34 37

Our guide to some great local upcoming events. Food, fellowship and fundraising will be on the menu at Ignite’s annual luncheon.

IHMC: NATURAL SELECTION Entrepreneur Todd White recommends natural wines for good health.


93 98




THE EXPERIENCE OF FLAVOR A couple involved in handcrafting custom Argentinian grills will bring the asado style of barbecuing to the Ocala Culinary Festival.



More than just showcasing fabulous works of art, The Appleton Museum of Art also offers experiences to inspire.

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

This world-champion horseman and equine business owner brings Old World finesse into his home kitchen.


c u l tu r e






A new exhibit brings elements of history and science to the Silver River Museum.





Our experts say you might be a runner and just don’t know it yet! A field of sunflowers and honey bees inspired our photographer to capture this striking spring image.

A hidden paradise of botanical delights awaits discovery in Williston. Our very own mermaid muses on the thriving mermaid empire at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Itching to get outside? Here’s where to find the best hiking, paddleboarding, off-roading and more. From hiking to biking, the Cross Florida Greenway’s extensive trail system offers adventure. For a change of scenery, outdoor adventures and unique eateries, get away to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When a toll road threatened treasured farmlands, Ocala-area equine advocates joined forces to preserve the county’s proud heritage.

o n th e c o ver Karina Lamb photographed by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery on location at Sholom Park.

Clockwise from top left: photo by Dave Miller; photo by Alan Youngblood; photo by Meagan Gumpert

d e p a r tm e n ts

insid e r

f e a tu r e s


In 2019 We Sold

Over $112 Million

in Marion County and the surrounding areas

*(Farm sales from Ocala MLS 1/1/19-12/31/19 listing or selling office, by Companies/Offices by Number calculated by sides). **(All property type sales from Ocala MLS 1/1/19-12/31/19 listing or selling office, Companies/Offices calculated by sides).



Marion County Farm Sales by Number*



Marion County Average Sale Price for All Property Types**



Marion County Boutique Firms for Sales Volume

March ‘20


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Social Tons of fun thundered through the Florida Horse Park arena as draft horses strutted their stu pulling carts and carriages. Photo by Dave Miller

March ‘20



Rob Desino, Matt Varney, Harry Lee

AdventHealth Grandview Invitational FLORIDA HORSE PARK Photography by Dave Miller


ailing from Missouri to Vermont, New York and Wyoming, tons of Belgians, Percherons, and Clydesdales high-stepped into Ocala for this year’s draft horse show. Sunday, February 2nd was a breezy, cool day, and the crisp air made the horses alert and frisky. (Well, as frisky as draft horses get, that is.) Colorful ribbons snapped from their manes, and harnesses jingled as they paraded around the arena. Standing 18-19 hands tall, these breeds are known as gentle giants.

Joe Johnson, Shannon Cobbs, Karen Cobbs, Terry Shaw



Not just another bank. CenterState knows that actions mean everything. -Rusty Branson, President

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March ‘20



Scot Quintell

Dorothy Pernu, Kathy Beecher, Glen Moehling, Ilianette Hernandez, Ashley Lopez, Lauren Debick, Gary Pierre, Greg Harrell

Community Care Gala



Giovanna Garcia

agic, acrobats and sideshows helped raise funds for United Way of Marion County during a circus-themed gala January 30th. Retired ringmaster Brian LaPalme emceed the event, during which a Cirque-tacular Productions’ acrobatic duo worked from a white silk rope hanging from the ceiling. April Moyer served as a fortune teller, Brandon Smith performed magic tricks and stilt-walker Mike Weakley juggled and took selďŹ es with guests. The meal was provided by Decadence a la carte Catering.

Jessica Nisbett



Roz and Nick Nikkinen

Real People. Real S tories. Real O cala.

Cynthia Strickland, Regis Boatwright, Barbara Brooks

Mary Sue Rich

Retirement Celebration for Mary Sue Rich HILTON OCALA Photography by Isabelle Ramirez Rhella Murdaugh

Revered Eric Cummings, Franklin Rich Jr.

T “

here’s a song that goes, ‘The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return,’” beloved longtime Ocala City Council member Mary Sue Rich shared as she addressed a huge crowd of friends and colleagues who gathered to honor her tireless devotion, inspired leadership and enduring legacy on January 31st. “I love Ocala and I can tell by looking around this room, seeing all of you, that you love me too.” We surely do, Mary Sue.

Kathy Crile

Ruby Harry, Ruby Hart, Mary Simmons

March ‘20



Abe Lovely

Andres Loaiza and Katherine Gonzalez

Spring Art in the Park

TUSCAWILLA PARK Photography by Meagan Gumpert


n the open air of Tuscawilla Park, the 2020 Spring Art Park Series started Friday evening, January 17th. Organized by The City of Ocala Cultural Arts, live music performances in a casual outdoor setting were enjoyed by attendees who sat on lawn chairs and blankets. Series sponsors include Marion Cultural Alliance, Feel Downtown Ocala, Marion County Public Schools, the Chamber & Economic Partnership and Explore Ocala Marion County.

Patrick O’Brien and Amber Arce

Matthew Burke, Valerie Novack, James Champion, and Chase Novack



Sonya Ritchie and Kibbie Fulton


Welcome to a new era in health care.

UF Health and Central Florida Health are joining forces. We’re excited to welcome UF Health Leesburg Hospital and UF Health The Villages® Hospital to the UF Health family. With enhanced access to the latest medical breakthroughs, expanded treatment options, clinical trials and more, the future of health care is happening here. UFHealth.org March ‘20



By Caroline Francke

Say “I do” to this dearly beloved comedy!

Sponsored By: WOCA 352.236.2274 • OcalaCivicTheatre.com Tickets $27 adults • $13 students

4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, FL 34470 • In The Appleton Cultural Center

Through June 21


Museum, Artspace and Appleton Store Hours Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday: noon–5 p.m. 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd. | AppletonMuseum.org | 352-291-4455

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March ‘20



Life Timesof

The and

Beethoven A tribute to Beethoven’s 250th year! Saturday, March 21 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 22 at 3:00pm

Maestro Wardell will dive in to the life and times of Ludwig van Beethoven and celebrate the 250th year of his birth. Separating myth from reality and everything in between, the OSO will be joined by the winners of its annual Young Artist Competition for one incredible concert!

Matthew Wardell, Music Director and Conductor

Featuring the Winners of the 29th Annual Young Artist Competition obbs, cello BethanyivBision Winner Junior D

SUPPORTED BY AT THE REILLY ARTS CENTER For information or tickets visit ReillyArtsCenter.com or call 352-351-1606 | 500 NE 9th St. Ocala, FL 34470 24


y, viola Gabe Gaislleion Winner iv D r io n Se

On the Scene

Santos photo by Dave Miller. Live Oak photo courtesy of Live Oak International

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


Annual Charity Golf Tournament


Santos Fat Tire Festival


Live Oak International


7th Annual Habitat Ocala Strawberry Festival

Stone Creek Golf Club 8am The Queen of Peace Knights of Columbus group invites you to hit the links and support local Marion County charities. Come early for coffee and donuts and enjoy a buffet lunch. Registration includes golf with cart, putting, longest drive and closest to the pin challenges with prizes including an iPad, airline tickets and $10,000 cash. Email Fred Roberts at froberts7@cfl.rr.com for more details. Santos Trailhead March 5-8 Whether you ride the Epic 50 or the new Indigo Flow trail, join a group ride, tune up your bike at a free clinic or just shop 100 bicycle-related vendor booths, the Fat Tire Festival is Ocala’s cycling event of the year. Riders of all skill levels are invited for a weekend of mountain biking fun. Visit www.santosfattire.com for more information. Live Oak Stud March 5-7 The world’s top show jumping and driving competitors come to Ocala for this one-of-a-kind equine event. Saturday’s cross country event is nonstop action with horses and carriages speeding through water hazards and a maze of obstacles. Sunday’s Grand Prix show jumping event features Olympic medalists and is part of the Longines FEI World Cup. Visit www.liveoakinternational.com for tickets and more information.

McPherson Complex 9am-5pm Come for the strawberries and stay for the fun. The annual fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of Marion County offers a variety of treats made with Plant City strawberries as well as berries to purchase and take home. This free family event will include a pie-eating contest, games, rides, a BMX show and live music. To learn more, visit www.habitatocala.org/strawberry-festival March ‘20


March 25-29

Ocala Culinary Festival For the fourth year, The Ocala Culinary Festival is serving up generous helpings of innovative cuisine, extraordinary talent, great wines and spirits, live entertainment and lots of excitement. The festival’s organizers and the many esteemed industry professionals and purveyors that participate are dedicated to creating delicious opportunities for unforgettable gastronomic experiences. The events also expose attendees to some of Ocala and Marion County’s most memorable locales during the most ideal weather conditions of the year. Festivities begin on March 25th and conclude on March 29th. Check out all the events below to learn the details and locations of the individual events:

Brick City Center for the Arts 6pm Chefs Vicky Colas and Natacha Henry will create a multi-course dinner paired with a guided wine tasting by Napa Valley’s Caymus Vineyards.

Clinic with Jose Juarez 28 Grill and Rashad Jones

Trilogy Salted Brick 11am The chance to prepare lunch with these local grill superstars is sure to sell out, so get your tickets early!

26 Flavors of Florida

28 Feast at the Farm


29 Grand Tasting

Circle Square Cultural Center 6pm Enjoy Florida’s diverse culinary delights—from ranch, sea and farm, paired with Florida beers, at this dinner event featuring popular local chef Randal White.

Una Noche en Argentina

Location revealed upon ticket purchase. 6-9pm A food and wine menu created around Argentina’s Italian and Spanish influences is sure to include some choice beef. Be warned, attendees may have a desire to tango!

Carolyn Wilson’s Farm 6pm Share in this memorable multi-course dinner served under the stars at a picturesque thoroughbred farm.

Bridlewood Farm 11:30am-3pm The festival culminates in this extravaganza of chefs, winemakers, mixologists and culinary vendors, and the chance to mingle with other foodies while enjoying spectacular food, drinks and live music.

For more information, visit www.ocalaculinaryfestival.com 26


Photos by Dave Miller

25 Women Wine Wednesday

Real People. Real S tories. Real O cala.



Roaring ‘20s: Marion Go Red for Women


International Women’s Day Celebration


Circle Square Cultural Center 6pm The American Heart Association hosts this evening of dinner, dancing, entertainment and a silent auction to raise awareness of heart disease in women. www.heart.org

Appleton Museum of Art 2-4pm Women are invited to enjoy an afternoon of reflection, relationships and rewards at this annual event. Hosted by Ollin Women International, this is part of a worldwide collective celebration. For ticket information, visit www.ollinwomen.org

28 Festival Latino Downtown Ocala

Citizens’ Circle 2-9pm Experience Latin culture with native food, live music and activities for the family at this free festival. Follow Festival Latino Downtown Ocala on Facebook for more details.

28 7th Annual Super Hero Autism Fun Walk

Sholom Park 10am-12:30pm The free family fun will include sack races, games, live music, entertainment and a costume contest. Proceeds will fund autism programs and services. www.outreachautismservicesnetwork.com

28 Marion County Day

McPherson Complex 10am-2pm This annual community festival tells the story of Marion County with food, games and activities for the whole family. www.marioncountyfl.org

2nd Annual Ocala Veg Fest

Ocala Downtown Market 10am-4pm Savor a variety of delectable vegetarian dishes from food vendors, shop sustainable products and learn more about plant-based nutrition from speaker Dr. Michael Klaper. www.ocalavegfest.org


Ocala GCM Food Festival


Florida SpringsFest 2020

14 Master Gardeners’ Spring Festival

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion March 14, 8am-4pm and March 15, 9am-4pm Purchase plants, accessories and garden décor, learn about a variety of gardening topics from the experts, and bring the family to the kids gardening zone. www.marioncountyfl.org

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion April 2 | 5-9pm Celebrate the opening of Gift Certificates and More (GCM) with food from some of our community’s best eateries as well as beer, wine, music and kids’ activities. www.facebook.com/GCMocala

SpringsFest photo courtesy of Richard Rosseto

19 Ante Up Against Cancer

Oxford Downs, Summerfield 6pm Play real poker for real cash and support cancer research at the UF Health Cancer Center. Enjoy free beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes and live music. For buy-in and ticket information, call (352) 347-2273.


5th Annual Champions for Champions Celebrity Dinner

Southeastern Livestock Pavilion 6pm Meet NFL alumni, enjoy dinner and participate in a silent auction to support this charity that provides inclusive programs and services for people with special needs and their families. www.championsforchampions.org

Silver Springs State Park Mar 7-8 | 10am-4pm Celebrate the cultural richness and environmental significance of our springs. Bring the family to meet mermaids, enjoy live music, see local art and learn about the park’s history. Games, tours, exhibits and activities are included with park admission, and attendees can enjoy the famous glass bottom boat tours for half price. www.thefriendsofsilversprings.org March ‘20



EQUINE HITS Winter Circuit Ocala Winter Festival


FTBOA 75th Anniversary Emerald and Gold Gala


HITS Post Time Farm March 1-22 Shows run all month long, with the Ocala Winter Finals for hunters, Ocala Winter Celebration for hunters and jumpers, culminating with the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. www.hitsshows.com

Circle Square Cultural Center 5:30-9:30pm The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association honors champion thoroughbreds with a cocktail reception, dinner and awards ceremony. Silent and live auctions benefit Florida Thoroughbred Charities. www.ftboa.com

Special Olympics Florida State Equestrian Championships

Grand Oaks Resort, Weirsdale March 20-21 Cheer on Special Olympics athletes as they compete in dressage, barrel racing, showmanship and drill team events. Spectators are welcomed at this free competition. www.thegrandoaks.com

21 Famous Horsey Yard Sale


The Great Gatsby


First Friday Art Walk

Florida Horse Park 1-3pm Enjoy the sport of kings as a polo match spectator. Tailgating is encouraged at this family-friendly event featuring local equines and players. www.teamresolutepolo.com



Ocala Historic District 6-9pm Stroll Ocala’s historic district to view and shop local art, bring the kids to create their own artwork and enjoy live music on the square. www.ocalafl.org

12 Father of the Bride

Ocala Civic Theatre March 12 - April 5 Experience love and laughter live on stage in this heartwarming and hilarious tale of Stanley Banks’ preparations for his daughter’s wedding. www.ocalacivictheatre.com

20 Gainesville Native American Festival

Alachua County Fairgrounds March 20-22 | 10am-5pm Celebrate Native American art, culture and history with a living history village, traditional native food, primitive skills demonstrations, traditional music and dancing, and handmade arts and crafts. For details, visit www.facebook.com/GNAfest

Tack Shack of Ocala March 21, 8am-6pm and March 22, 9am-4pm The back parking lot of the “horse lovers’ candy store” becomes an equine flea market featuring used tack, stable equipment and all kinds of horsey items. www.tackshackocala.com

22 Polo at the Park

CF Dassance Fine Arts Center March 5-7, 7:30pm and March 8, 3pm The College of Central Florida Theatre presents the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic in all its glamourous, decadent, Roaring ‘20s splendor. For tickets and more information, call (352) 873-5810.


Old Florida Celebration of the Arts


10th Annual St. Paddy’s Day 5K

Downtown Cedar Key Apr 4, 10am-5pm and Apr 5, 10am-4pm For the 56th year, art takes over downtown in this quaint Gulf Coast island town. View art by more than 120 artists at this juried art festival. www.cedarkeyartsfestival.com

Citizens’ Circle, Ocala 8am The final Big Hammock Race Series Super Race invites runners to wear their lucky green leprechaun costumes and run through downtown Ocala. Hosted by United Way of Marion County, this race raises funds for Youth United Way, the organization’s program for high school juniors and seniors to volunteer and learn about fundraising and community advocacy. www.bighammockraceseries.com

St Paddy’s Day photo courtesy of United Way Marion County



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· 7 am to 7 pm drive-thru hours · Saturday hours Insured by NCUA. Offers valid as of January 19, 2020 and may be cancelled at any time without notice. Eligibility requirements apply. See associate for details regarding fees and terms. 1. To qualify for the $300 incentive, you must open a new Classic Value Checking account and borrow from a new loan account (consumer loan or line of credit) within 45 days of account opening. The incentive for a new checking account alone is $200. No dividends are paid on Classic Value Checking. Annual Percentage Yield is 0.00%. Anyone who has held a checking account with MIDFLORIDA in the past year will not qualify for the incentive. Opening a new Classic Value Checking account requires accepting and opening online banking, online bill payment, eStatement, eNotice, direct deposit ($500 cumulative which must post within 45 days of account opening) and accepting a debit card. The incentive will be deposited to new Classic Value Checking account after the qualifications have been met, and will be reported to the IRS. Minimum to open Classic Value Checking is $50. 2. To qualify for the $200 incentive, borrower must refinance an auto loan of $15,000 or more from another financial institution. Loans of $5,000 to $14,999 will receive a $100 incentive. Credit approval required. Existing MIDFLORIDA loans or CB&T loans will not qualify for this offer. The incentive will be deposited to a MIDFLORIDA checking or savings account. March ‘20 29


Big Shows!


Intimate Setting!




MAR. 14





The Horse Capital Parade

Downtown Ocala 4-6:30pm Don’t miss the “Horse Capital of the World’s” annual equine parade to welcome the Live Oak International riders and drivers. All breeds and disciplines come together for an equine showcase ending with the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. Come early or stay after the parade for the beer garden with live music, horse petting area and vendor village. For more information, visit www.ocalafl.org

24 SoZo Kids Benefit

St. Timothy Catholic Church 9am-3pm Proceeds from a Senior Opportunity Zone Conference will benefit the Sozo Kids program to help disadvantaged children living in the Ocala National Forest. The event will include info sessions, lunch, drawings and guest speaker Bobby Goldsboro, a noted singer/ songwriter and artist. $40 donation; order tickets at www.seniorzone.org













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DEC. 10







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Order tickets at CSCulturalCenter.com | 8395 SW 80th Street, Ocala, FL 34481 | (352) 854-3670 ALL SHOWS BEGIN AT 7 PM & DOORS OPEN AT 6 PM (EXCEPT AS NOTED) | GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE Schedule and prices subject to change without notice. Reduced ticket prices are for residents of On Top of the World Communities and Stone Creek. (Resident ID required when purchasing at box office.) Ticket prices do not include sales tax. Refreshments available for purchase at events. To arrange for handicap seats, call or visit the ticket office. *FREE TICKETS NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE. TICKETS MUST BE PICKED UP AT THE CIRCLE SQUARE CULTURAL CENTER BOX OFFICE DURING NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS. **Online tickets subject to a convenience fee. ALL TICKET SALES FINAL.

#13338- 3/20

Photo by Suzanne Suor

MAR. 6

Real People. Real S tories. Real O cala.


7:00 pm

String Fever

The Sharon, The Villages


6:00 pm

Cote Deonath as Elvis Presley at Retro Sounds

Ocala Downtown Square, Ocala


7:00 pm

The Ultimate ELO Experience

Circle Square Cultural Center, Ocala


3:00 pm

Ocala Symphony Chorus Celestial Reflections

Reilly Arts Center, Ocala


Natural Foods Festival photo courtesy of Crones’ Cradle Conserve Foundation. Ocala Civic Theatre photo by Carlos Ramos.


5:00 & Andy Cooney 8:00pm

Savannah Center, The Villages


7:00 pm

Four Divo

The Sharon, The Villages


7:00 pm

The Producers

Savannah Center, The Villages


7:30 pm

Jim Breuer

Reilly Arts Center, Ocala


7:00 pm

Groovin’ With Gene Cornish of The Rascals

Circle Square Cultural Center, Ocala


7:30 pm

Art Garfunkel: In Close-Up

Reilly Arts Center, Ocala


5:00& Michael Londra’s 8:00pm Celtic Fire 7:00 pm

Paul Anka

The Sharon, The Villages


7:30 pm

Paula Poundstone

Phillips Center, Gainesville

5:00& The Platters 8:00pm

Savannah Center, The Villages


7:30 pm

Ocala Symphony Orchestra The Life and Times of Beethoven

Reilly Arts Center, Ocala


Times Vary


Savannah Center, The Villages


7:30 pm

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

Reilly Arts Center, Ocala


9:30am- The Villages Jazz 7:30pm Festival

Crones’ Cradle Conserve Foundation 10am-3pm Sample natural foods prepared by area chefs, learn about organic gardening and cooking, and shop native plants and local art while enjoying live music at this pastoral organic farm, ecological preserve and retreat center. For more information, visit www.cronescradleconserve.org

Savannah Center, The Villages



28 Natural Foods & Sustainability Festival

Savannah Center, The Villages


7:00 pm

Ballet Folclorico Nacional de Mexico

The Sharon, The Villages


7:00 pm

Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience

Rock Crusher Canyon, Crystal River

29 79 for 70

Ocala Civic Theatre Mar 29-April 2 To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Ocala Civic Theatre will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous theatrical performance with a 79-hour marathon beginning at 7pm on March 29 and ending at noon on April 2. Actors will perform selections from hundreds of productions. Community groups can help fundraise by securing pledges for their time spent in the audience. For more details, visit www.ocalacivictheatre.com March ‘20



Light Up For Kids The 2020 Ignite Luncheon will focus on children, with food, fellowship and a fundraiser to benefit Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection. By Marian Rizzo | Photography by Tammy Griffin Vincent


n outdoor climbing wall, swings and slides, picnic tables, and the soothing sound of a water feature. Such is the latest plan for Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection’s future outdoor therapeutic play area. Executive Director Dawn Westgate of the local advocacy service for kids who have been victims of abuse and neglect says it will help ease the trauma the children experience while they are waiting for a foster bed or other services. But, such a project comes with a huge price tag— about $200,000—says Westgate. A donation toward this goal will come from the 2020 Ignite Luncheon on March 12th. In previous years, the event raised funds for the Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center. Ignite members recently decided to open up the fundraiser to other agencies that deal with domestic situations, starting with Kimberly’s Center. “Unfortunately, child abuse is something that is very real. It happens across the country and also here in Marion County,” Westgate explains, acknowledging that what happens once children enter the system can be isolating and confusing. “Kids go to school and they think it’s going to be a normal day, and then they decide to disclose that something is happening in their home.” Children who are brought to Kimberly’s Center generally begin their first session within hours of telling someone what has happened. They meet with law enforcement and have a medical exam. For them, it’s like getting caught up in a whirlwind.

“The play area is about restoring normalcy to their childhood, to be outside and to be able to play like kids who haven’t suffered a trauma,” Westgate shares. “There are so many organizations in Marion County that do tremendous work, to be chosen by them is fantastic. It’s an honor that Ignite chose us for the benefit this year.” Ignite was founded in 2016 by Jeanne Henningsen, who rallied local professional women in response to the growing need for services for women and children in abusive situations. Henningsen had a personal reason for creating the fundraiser. “My first marriage was abusive, but I had resources,” Henningsen says. “Not only did I have a full-time job and could support myself, but I also had family that I could go to. What got my attention was when I heard the domestic violence center was turning women and children away, because they didn’t have enough beds, and I thought, ‘That could have been me looking for a bed and a shelter.’” During the first three fundraisers, Ignite raised enough funds to purchase 38 beds. According to Henningsen, the budget also helps to meet some critical care needs for women who need to leave an abusive situation in a hurry. “A lot of times they don’t even pack a suitcase,” she shares. “They are fleeing for their lives and they end up with very little.” After touring Kimberly’s Center and being impressed by the strong leadership of Westgate and

Attendees of the 2019 luncheon

Jeanne Henningsen

Development Director Niki Tripodi, Henningsen notes, the Ignite team was committed to their decision to help these children who are either being abused physically or sexually, or have witnessed someone else being abused. “Dawn and Niki were amazing and really made us feel good about our choice,” Henningsen adds. Henningsen chaired the first two fundraisers and then handed the baton to other members. “I am still very involved with the planning but believe having new leadership is healthy for the growth and development of our team,” she explains. This year’s chair is Manal Fakhoury. The program will include a silent auction, jewelry raffle, testimonials, and a history of both Ignite and Kimberly’s Center. Fakhoury says the target is to raise $50,000. “We found we were getting a lot of requests to help children, and the right path was to refer them to Kimberly’s Center,” Fakhoury notes. “It became evident this was a group we needed to help. I think it’ll be a nice, meaningful event, where people can connect with each other and see the value of making a difference in the community. We can learn to resolve conflict and not have violence. We can have a more peaceful community and a more peaceful world.” Future fundraisers for Kimberly’s Center include the 5K Race Against Child Abuse on April 25th. Check the center’s Facebook page for more ways to help or make a donation. Tours of the facility are available by making a reservation with Tripodi. Event: 2020 Ignite Luncheon Date: Thursday, March 12 Time: 11:30am-1pm Place: College of Central Florida Ewers Century Center, 3001 SW College Road To attend: Advance registration is required. For more information, email info@igniteforocala.com

At right: rendering of new playground area set to open at Kimberly’s Center.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Play Structure Rubberized Surface Shade Sails/Canopy Rock Climbing Structure Nature Themed Steppers Table And Seating Bench Water Feature


Natural Selection We caught up with entrepreneur and world traveler Todd White, who will be speaking at the Evening Lecture Series sponsored for the community by the Institute of Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC). By Susan Smiley-Height



Photo courtesy of IHMC


ly fishing in mountain streams and saltwater fishing on East Coast shorelines called to Todd White as a youngster in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was born, and Charlotte, North Carolina, where he grew up. Now, natural wine farms around the world beckon White, who says it was his dedication to a “biohacking lifestyle” that led him to accidentally discover a new business opportunity. White has been self-employed since age 17, in financial services, employee benefits, hotel development, senior health care and real estate development. His most recent business endeavor was launching all-natural and health-quantified wine marketplace Dry Farm Wines, developed through biohacking. White defines biohacking as “the art and science of how our behavior influences our biological and/or neurological outcome. Sometimes we depend on the art rather than the science. There is science behind, for example, a ketogenic diet. There is science around cold thermogenesis, the exposure to extreme cold, like ice baths. There is science around many biohacks, but not all of them, so we have to depend on the proverb ‘to feel is to understand.’ So, I know If I’m practicing something that makes me feel better, or stronger, then I know that’s working.” White’s top three biohacks are meditation, fasting and a ketogenic diet. “I have a very dedicated meditation practice; in fact, my company spends the first hour of every morning meditating together,” he states. “I only eat once per day, at night, and I do regular water-only fasts every month or two. I’m usually on a modified, or low-carb, ketogenic diet.” He says he started biohacking about 20 years ago and five years ago became more committed. “I couldn’t drink commercial wines anymore and didn’t know why. I stumbled on a

natural wine revolution, which was getting underway in France. When I started drinking these wines, I felt better and didn’t have any of the negative impacts I had been experiencing from commercial wines,” he explains. “I started doing lab testing on them and started quantifying it and ‘biohacking’ wine if you will. I discovered there are 76 additives approved by the EPA in winemaking. Some of them are natural and some of them are quite toxic. When I started drinking wines lower in alcohol and naturally made and grown, I had a wildly revolutionary experience in terms of how I felt.” White says as he was sharing his insight with friends and people loved it and felt better, they wanted to know where to get those wines. “So, I accidentally started a business that today has become the largest importer and reseller of natural wines in the world,” he explains. Natural wines are organically or biodynamically farmed, fermented with native yeast and have no additives. The wines he curates are dry farmed, are free of sugar, sulfites and other additives, and do not contain more than 12 1/2 percent alcohol. White says he has a mission to educate people because “the wine industry had kept dark secrets for years by lobbying to keep contents labeling off of wine. I think

wine labels should contain contents and nutritional information. Until then, you should have a trusted source to get wines that agree with your body and your way of living.” That will be the topic of his lecture in Ocala. White notes that he has been with friends with IHMC founder Ken Ford and his wife Nancy for years and they share interests such as diet and international travel. “And they are both wine aficionados as well,” he says. White’s frequent traveling companion in the U.S., Pineau, a French bulldog named for White’s favorite French grape, Pineau d’Aunis, will likely accompany him during his visit to Ocala. “She travels a lot,” White notes. White also travels extensively abroad, where he says he gets to return to his love of being in nature and spend time on organic farms. “Most of our growers are spread across Europe. I spent 240 days in the air last year,” he explains. “It is a life of freedom that is kind of nice.” The IHMC Lecture Series is a free community event. RSVP for the March 24th lecture at www.ihmc.us or call (352) 387-3050.

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March ‘20



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You are cordially invited

to celebrate Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear ďŹ rsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Mary & Aaron Licciardello Photographed by Rachel Laxton Photography


MARY & AARON LICCIARDELLO November 2, 2019 Photography by Rachel Laxton Venue: Weirsdale Presbyterian Church, Weirsdale Her favorite memory: “My favorite memory from our special day was when Aaron dipped me for our kiss as husband and wife. When I came back up from the dip, I looked out to see our little church filled with our dearest family and friends clapping and cheering for the celebration of our love. Our wedding was by far the best day of our lives!”

ERIN & MASON SHUFORD September 22, 2019 Photography by Rachel Laxton Venue: Ever After Farms Blueberry Barn Their favorite memory: “It’s hard to put into words how much love we felt that day. Committing our lives to each other was one of the most incredible feelings, and we were blessed to share that with all of the people that love us.” 38


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Wedding Registry

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March ‘20




By Nick Steele Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery



We were immediately taken by the dynamic Tracye Williams when we spotted her at a recent event hosted by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP). Williams relocated to the area last year to assume the role of Executive Director of the AdventHealth Ocala Foundation and is enjoying the adventure of getting to know our community. When she and her husband first visited, she was so taken with the romantic feel of Fort King Street with its historic buildings and oak trees covered with Spanish moss, that she chose it for the setting of her shoot. Three words that describe you? Joyful, optimistic, and hard-working. How do you describe your personal style? I wear a lot of color. I keep a blazer on call for everything. I love pairing them with jeans, a skirt or even shorts. Dresses are my second go-to when I want to bring out the romantic side of my personality. I love picking things that flow and are playful, and pairing it with a really high pump. Where do you get your beauty shop on? You’ll find me in the Walgreens aisle a lot. However, MAC Cosmetics is my indulgence. 40


What is your favorite day trip to take? St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. The cultural scenery and Lido Beach is my go-to when I need a quick trip. Favorite local clothing store? Dillard’s. What’s your sweet fix? Ice cream with sprinkles. Motto you live by? “Success is not mine alone.” What’s the one thing you never have enough of ? Watching the movies Love Jones or Lady Sings the Blues. Shoes? DSW and Dillard’s.

Local store you turn to for retail therapy? HomeGoods calms me, even if I’m not in need of home furnishings. I find that I get a lot of inspiration and satisfaction walking around the store. Jewelry? I love finding vintage earrings at thrift shops in the local area. Favorite restaurants? Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille and Ipanema Brazilian Steakhouse. Best book you read recently? Questions Are the Answer by Hal Gregersen. This book will evoke deep thought and challenge you at the same time.

change of

season photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery shot on location at Sholom Park fashion styling by Karlie Loland | fashion assistant Kayla Ringer hair, makeup and grooming by Nicole “Nicci” Orio of Pretty n Pinned models Karina Lamb and Daniel Rockwell shirt and hooded bomber jacket by INC for Macy’s

Karina wears a floral-print top by INC and Polly & Esther ruffle-hem skirt, both from Macy’s. Daniel wears a “Darrow” shirt and jeans by Levi’s from Macy’s.

Bow neck Jumpsuit by Vince Camuto from Dillard’s; Dean Davidson labradorite “Plaza” ring, from Agapanthus.

As before, floral-print top by INC and Polly & Esther ruffle-hem skirt, both from Macy’s; mixed metallic bracelet from Agapanthus.

“Darrow” shirt by Levi’s and two-tone “Jones” jacket by INC from Macy’s; AX Armani Exchange Active Chronograph watch from Dillard’s.

Michael Kors top from Macy’s; Dean Davidson labradorite “Ipanema” earrings from Agapanthus.

Alex Marie “Barbara” jumpsuit from Dillard’s; Kozakh “Baque Lar” necklace from Agapanthus.

As before, floral-print top by INC and Polly & Esther ruffle-hem skirt, both from Macy’s, mixed metallic bracelet from Agapanthus.

Polo Ralph Lauren crewneck tee from Dillard’s, Polo Ralph Lauren textured quarter-zip sweater and suede Army boots; jeans by Levi’s, all from Macy’s.

behind the

SCENES Sholom Park was designed as a tranquil place for reflection. The 44-acre park offers an abundance of trails, a pond filled with brightly colored koi and gardens of conifers, azaleas, gingers and camellias, along with an olive tree promenade and labyrinth. There is no charge for admission. Pets are not allowed. The park is located at 7110 SW 80th Avenue. For more information, visit www.sholompark. org. And go to the interactive map on our website that shows the locations of each shot, recreate the looks, and share your photos on social media using the hashtag #OcalaStyle

Main photo courtesy of Sholom Park

Hair and makeup artist Nicci Orio does onset touchups while editor-in-chief Nick Steele wields a reflector. Below: Photographer Lyn Larson takes aim at model Daniel Rockwell, who editors discovered at a local restaurant.



A hidden masterpiece of botanical delights awaits discovery in Williston with lakes, lush gardens and wildlife. If your doctor could write a prescription for “soul refreshment, relaxation and de-stressing,” he would scribble an address and send you to Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens for a morning or afternoon. Nothing less than an enchanted hideaway, this unexpected gem of nature is tucked along a quiet road barely a half-mile off U.S. Highway 27, just west of the town of Williston. A labor of love created over decades by local endodontist Ray Webber, Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens offers a remarkable invitation to explore a slice of heaven on earth. And to think, it all started because Webber loved to fish.

By Cynthia McFarland Photos by John Jernigan

farther up the sides of the surrounding hills and cliffs to keep dirt and tree debris from making its way into the ponds. It made sense to add plants along the walls and the gardening project expanded from there. The gently winding pathways are lined with Florida fieldstone set in concrete to hold the sloping banks and planted areas in place. These stones didn’t come from the quarry, but were initially collected from the surrounding woods and then from neighboring landowners. Brought in one wheelbarrow at a time, each stone was carefully placed by hand.

First Intentions

Early in the last century, Florida road construction companies began using limestone to build the state’s highways. This sedimentary rock abounds in a swath that stretches from the Panhandle down through the north-central part of Florida—including much of Marion County—and parts of the west coast. Nearly a dozen limestone mines were operating by the 1930s. Although some mines are still in existence across the state, there are a number of abandoned quarries, such as the one Webber purchased in 1991. The 100-year-old limestone mine was responsible for some of the materials used in paving nearby Highway 27. But the 110-acre property he bought nearly 30 years ago in no way resembled the botanical paradise of today. “The pond then was really a swamp; we had to use machinery to dig it out,” relates Webber, whose original goal was simply to make a place where he and friends could fish. No one kept a tally, so there’s no way of knowing exactly how many loads of dirt and limestone were excavated. Gradually the swamp disappeared and in its place the garden’s ponds were created. Webber had the crews leave “islands” of limestone, which were reinforced with concrete. Narrow bridges were built between these islands and the “mainland,” connecting them with paths at different levels that meandered around the water. Webber’s initial plan was to build low cement walls March ‘20


At the same time the ponds and gardens were created, Webber’s own house was built so one side of his home and the entire porch are literally perched on the edge of a cliff. When Webber eventually made the decision to open the property to the public, he was essentially inviting people into his backyard. Work on the project began in 1993 and the largest portion of construction was completed in 2010, although it remains ongoing. The gardens and ponds cover about 20 acres, all of which are open to guests to explore. Walking paths total about one mile. Webber maintains the property with three full-time staff, and five part-time workers including manager Lori Wallace.

Overseas Inspiration

Originally from Oklahoma, Webber came to Florida in 1977 right after he got out of the U.S. Army. He taught den-

tistry at the University of Florida for five years before opening his own endodontistry practice in Ocala and Williston. Starting with his time in the Army and continuing through the present, Webber’s passport has gotten a workout. From Europe, Russia and Scandinavia to South and Central America, he has traveled extensively. Asia, in particular, made a lasting impression. From the hand-carved wooden torii gate, similar to those found on Japanese temple grounds, to gracefully arched bridges and pagoda-like structures, Japanese influence is evident in the architecture and design throughout his gardens, thanks to Joel Schwiebert’s carpentry talent over more than two decades. This influence even extends to the ponds, where magnificent Japanese koi swim, sunlight glinting off their bright bodies. They are joined by bass, brim and blue catfish, including one gargantuan catfish known as Big Ben, who weighs more than 100 pounds. Guests often spot Guinevere the swan and Olyvia the duck paddling 54


about; the two widowed fowl have bonded since the passing of their respective mates. The sheer variety of plants in this magical setting is staggering. Along with the more traditional azaleas, camellias, roses, bougainvilleas, palms, and cypress, there are a host of unusual flora, including the Parlor Maple with its impressive dangling orange blossoms, various orchids, ferns, water lilies and a number of different ginger plants. Tiny markers announce the names of plants along the paths, but you don’t have to remember the official names to be mesmerized by their beauty. Webber has chosen most of the plants himself, and says much of his planting has been “trial and error.” There’s a 144-year-old bonsai boxwood whose size far eclipses that of the typical bonsai tree. If you happen to wander into the Orchard Garden when the trees are blooming, you’ll be captivated by the aroma. Here, an inviting array of trees, including Satsuma tangerine, lemon, pear and even banana, are strategically planted, plus many “David Austin” roses. Don’t ask Webber to pick one favorite plant. That’s impossible. There are too many to choose just one, but a few he’s quite fond of include the Hong Kong orchid trees, the lightbulb clerodendrum and lipstick plants, with their bright red flowers that bloom in fall, as well as the stunning red tree-sized bottlebrushes. He even imported some ginger plants from Hawaii that have flourished in the Florida environment. Butterflies are drawn to many of the flowering plants; depending on when you visit, you are bound to see a number of these delicate winged residents. Birdsong is a continual soundtrack in the gardens, thanks to the presence of a great variety of songbirds and doves. Majestic birds of prey such as various hawks, swallow-tailed kites and owls also make their home in the area.

Botanical Wonderland

Word of mouth is how many guests fi rst discover Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens. “I just love seeing all the Florida plants and the waterfalls,” says Gainesville resident Kathy Post. A repeat guest, Post first heard about the haven from a friend. Now it’s Post who’s bringing friends to explore this piece of paradise. When guests stop by the office to pay admission, they’re handed a laminated map for their self-guided tour. Young visitors are encouraged to take a few minutes exploring the winding paths of the Kids’ Garden. The trail wanders over a tiny bridge and meanders around a charming fairy village. Children love the fact that there’s something to discover around each corner: a hidden animal statue here, a little gnome there.

Kids and adults alike appreciate the four-legged residents at the tortoise enclosure. “Spurticus,” an African spurred tortoise, also known as a sulcata tortoise, weighs more than 50 pounds. Native to the Sahara desert, this is the largest species of mainland tortoise. In the neighboring enclosure, four African leopard tortoises roam about and happily munch on fresh veggies. Webber had tortoise houses built, complete with weather flaps that keep warm air in, to protect these hot-climate reptiles during cold spells. Throughout the gardens, benches and picnic tables offer an invitation to sit for a moment—or as long as you care to linger. Guests often pack a lunch to enjoy at one of these tucked-away tables, some with a waterfall in the immediate background. At the aptly named Lookout Point, the highest elevation of all the gardens, you’ll fi nd stunning panoramic views. On breezy days, a resonant chorus echoes from the large wind chimes hanging here. If the giant wooden birdhouse at Birdhouse Field reminds you of the English countryside, you’re on target as to its origins. Webber saw a similar birdhouse on one of his trips to England and, upon his return, recruited his carpenter to build a facsimile for his own gardens. With its many openings, the giant house welcomes avian inhabitants of differing sizes. Some visiting guests realize this is the perfect place for a special event. Webber routinely rents the gardens for weddings, corporate retreats, birthday parties and reunions. After all, what better place to say “I do” than on one of the picturesque bridges with the gentle murmur of waterfalls in the background? Adjacent to the gardens is a 64-acre conservation easement maintained by Conservation Florida. Populated with a variety of mature trees, including oaks (some of the live oaks are around 500 years old), pines, cedars, pecans, hickories and dogwoods, these woods are open for guests to walk through as part of their visit. Last year, more than 22,500 people visited Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, a huge increase from the 785 people who came in 2014, the first year it opened to the public. In 2015, the garden launched its inaugural Garden Show and Spring Festival, a two-day event that takes

place on the fi rst weekend each May. This annual festival features an array of vendors—everything from plants to arts and craft s, plus a variety of food trucks. And of course, admission includes touring the gardens.

Ongoing Labor of Love

“We’re always working on it; we add to it every month. There’s still a long ways to go before we’re ‘done,’” says Webber with a smile. “The hope is that it’s here for generations to come; that’s the whole reason I made it a nonprofit.” Beyond new plants, which are constantly being added, Webber wants to build an aviary near the tortoise enclosure. He also envisions having a welcome center. Unlike many Florida attractions, there is nothing commercial or “touristy” about Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens. Sure, you can buy a T-shirt to commemorate your visit, and the restrooms are immaculate, but you won’t find a large gift shop or bustling food court. You can’t rent a scooter or hop on an elevated train. Nature itself is the star here and Webber sees no reason to compete with that. There’s a reassuring sense of uncomplicatedness to this pristine corner of natural Florida. Your visit to this enchanted garden is all about exploring at your own pace and reveling in the sights, sounds and scents that envelope your journey of discovery.

THINGS TO KNOW Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens is open 9:30am to 5pm every day except Wednesdays. Groups of 10 or more are invited to call and arrange for guided tours. Sneakers or similar footwear with non-slip soles are recommended. Leashed pets are welcome. Admission: $12 adults, $7 for children (ages 6-13), and kids under 6 are free. Active duty military $6. 4990 NE 180th Avenue, Williston. (352) 529-0055 www.cedarlakeswoodsandgarden.com

March ‘20


A new show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park honors the iconic attraction where the annual adult mermaid camps have become one of the hottest tickets around. By Susan Smiley-Height | Illustration by Maggie Perez Weakley


became a mermaid in May of 2012. I thought I was going on assignment to write a mermaid camp story for a daily newspaper, but I came away with a truly life-changing experience in terms of increased self-confidence, becoming part of an ever-widening circle of “mersisters” and finding nirvana. The two-day Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is led by women who were performing mermaids at the iconic attraction on Florida’s West Coast. They are known as the Legendary Sirens and volunteer for each camp and to perform shows for visitors one weekend a month. It is their commitment that continues to fuel what is surely one of the planet’s most unique learning opportunities for women over age 30. The lore of the mythical creatures known as mermaids goes back centuries and is found in cultures around the globe. Mysterious. Beautiful. Treacherous. Playful. Alluring. Those are just a few of the terms often ascribed to beings with the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish. There also are purported mermen, but that’s a tale for another time. As Florida began to blossom in its heyday of attracting tourists to roadside attractions, many based on the abundant natural resources, one of the most popular was Weeki Wachee Springs, south of Homosassa Springs and north of Tarpon Springs. The crystal waters bubbling up out of the first magnitude springs—which issues about 64.6 million gallons of water per day—attracted the attention of Ocalan Newton “Newt” Perry. He had gained national acclaim for his swimming prowess and helped bring a slew of Hollywood films to Silver Springs—working with such stars as Johnny Weissmuller, W.C. Fields, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Jayne Mansfield, Ann Blyth and Lloyd Bridges. He was also determined to save Weeki Wachee



Springs from serving as a dump site for abandoned vehicles. He even helped the U.S. Navy develop its Frogmen program, now known as the Navy Seals, and invented an underwater air chamber and air hose system that became the backbone on which a mermaid empire was built. Perry’s Weeki Wachee Springs attraction opened on October 13th, 1947. It wasn’t long before a variety of underwater stunts began to pull in visitors by the thousands and the mermaids started to steal the show. One of the longtime performing mermaids, Barbara Wynns, had an idea in the early 2000s that perhaps other women might want to learn to become mermaids. That seed germinated into the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp program. The camps now come under the auspices of the Friends of Weeki Wachee State Park. All proceeds from the camps benefit the nonprofit group. On January 18th this year, within minutes of the 2020 series of camps opening for registration online, all 10 camps, with eight students per session, at a cost of $450 each, were completely sold out. And I’m pretty sure I know why.

Clockwise from top center, Elaine Martin, Rebecca Suerdick, Susan Smiley-Height, Mikki Schulze, Guesna Dohrman and Ami Jo Schmid

Photo by Julie Komenda

The Making of a Mermaid

Day one of my mermaid camp included myself and five other women showing up on a Saturday with our hair nicely done and makeup applied. Once we were fitted with our “tail,” we posed for portraits before we went into the cool, clear water. Paired one-on-one with a siren, we learned some basic ballet moves underwater and how to undulate, which is like swimming with your legs tied together. We were in the water between each of the performing mermaid’s shows. By the end of the day, I was so tired I could barely walk. But the camp leader, Wynns, told us the next day would be “magic.” On Sunday, slipping into the tail and gliding through the crystal water felt completely natural. No fear. No anxiety. Just joy. I felt beautiful, almost ethereal. We frolicked together, posed for a group photo underwater and made kissy-faces at visiting loved ones through the thick glass of the underwater theater. At the end of the day, Wynns told us to swim across the magical spring and enjoy the rare opportunity of being able to do so. I did the “mermaid crawl” (a modified breast stroke) swim to the far side. I began to float, with the warm sun on my face, the cold springs on my back, and only the sound of my heartbeat coming through my water-filled ears. I was, for the first time in my entire 60 years of living, at complete peace. This, I thought, is what “zen” is. I never wanted to leave that moment.

A Mermaid Legacy

Becky Young, a native of Iowa, saw a television special about Weeki Wachee when she was in middle school. “I thought, Boy, if I ever get to Florida, I’ve got to see

that place,” she recalls. “In my senior of high school, my parents moved here and I was looking through the want ads and saw ‘Wanted: Mermaids’ in the St. Petersburg Times. I sent a resume and letter and heard back from them right away. They asked me to come for a water test and interview. I thought, Oh gosh, they are never going to hire me. I’m not glamourous like those girls, but I’ll get to see the place I have dreamed of for so long and talk to mermaids and get a behind-the-scenes view and that would be most amazing day of my life.” She says after her water test, the mermaid supervisor said, “‘So, when do you think you could start working?’ I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” Young performed as a Weeki Wachee mermaid from 1973-76 and 1981-85. She has been part of the Legendary Sirens since its inception in 1997. She said the camps were very small at first and that organizers have learned a lot along the way. “As the camps have grown, we have found out what works, what we can do better,” Young offers. “A lot of people want to do it and we understand that and we’ve looked at different models. People tell us what makes it special is that former mermaids run the camp and they are learning from people who are more like them, because it is a camp for adults, for people of all sizes, shapes and genders. And the fact that we are not young with perfect bodies can be a comforting factor for many.” As for any expansion plans to accommodate more campers, “There is a limited number of us who can make that kind of commitment,” Young explains. “We have eight Legendary Sirens who do shows and camps. And we have three more who only help with camps. To do things differently, we’d have to take on more campers per counselor/mermaid and I think that kind of dilutes March ‘20


what we’re trying to offer. As a rule, it’s one or two campers per mermaid. And that’s really what it takes to be fun and meaningful and, quite honestly, safe in some cases. Some people need a little more and they get oneon-one.” Young says there are myriad reasons why people want to attend mermaid camp, including sad and inspirational stories. “We have one co-ed camp every year and last year a couple that came, the woman had just beaten cancer,”

Adagio statue at Weeki Wachi Springs State Park

my life. I cherish the memories I made and treasure the mersisters I became friends with.” “The spring is a being in and of itself,” Young offers with reverence in her voice. “It’s almost like she is the siren that calls all of us. She’s amazing.”

The Ocala Connection

she notes. “This was kind of their celebration together.” Jamie Anderson Wyatt is a Palm Bay mom of two daughters and a freelance journalist. She is a two-time camp alum and her oldest daughter will attend Junior Mermaid Camp this summer for the second time. “My grandmother used to take my mom to visit Weeki Wachee. Then my mom took me when I was little. Now, I take both my daughters. It’s a sweet family tradition that I hope they can pass along to their children,” Wyatt says. “The Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp allows women to fulfill their dream of transforming into a beautiful mermaid. It was one of the best adventures of 58


Weeki Wachee springs was filled with junk cars and far away from any decent road when Ross Allen, the noted herpetologist who gained fame at the Silver Springs Attraction, introduced those waters to his friend and fellow Ocalan Newt Perry. “This was in the early 1930s,” notes Delee Perry, Newt’s daughter, who lives in Ocala and has operated Perry’s Swim School for many years. “Daddy graduated from UF and got married and was a teacher but always had in the back of his mind that something had to be done with this spring. My dad was an ecologist way before anybody heard of taking care of the springs. During WWII, Ed Ball, who owned Wakulla, up near Tallahassee, needed somebody to run his lodge, so he got Daddy.” She explains that General Omar Bradley contacted her dad and said they wanted him to be part of a secretive organization for the Navy, called the Frogmen, and that was how he got very involved in scuba diving and invented the air station and air hose system. “In 1946, he finally had enough money, contacts and six investors. They started building Weeki Wachee,” she

Historical photo courtesy of the State of Florida Library and Archives: Statue photo courtesy of Weeki Wachi Springs State Park; Opposite: photo by Julie Komenda

Newton “Newt” Perry and Nancy Tribble

recalls. “Once he got the underwater theater built, some young girls came by and he was impressed with their swimming and started teaching them underwater ballet. They were the original mermaids. A couple of them are still alive and love to tell me about how Dad would pay them in hamburgers. “My dad was Johnny Weissmuller’s double in the Tarzan movies and he did about 120 Grantland Rice short films,” Perry adds. “Daddy said that anything that could be done on land could be done underwater.”

Weeki Wonders

Development Representative for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park John Athanason, who is also from Ocala, says the park underwent a recent major renovation that included improvements to the underwater theater, widening sidewalks and more. To showcase the improvements, the park debuted a new show that honors New Perry’s legacy. “The Wonders of Weeki show is a bit different from The Little Mermaid performance we do,” he explains. “It still has numbers where the mermaids perform routines to choreographed music, but there is a story the show tells, and it talks about the history of the park and there is an environmental aspect. Of course, when we talk about the history of Weeki Wachee, it has to mention Newt Perry.” Delee Perry has seen the new mermaid show and loves it. “That he created the mermaid show that is still running today just thrills me to death,” she offers. “And it

thrills me to no end that he can be honored in that way.” Athanason says he believes the staying power of the park and the mermaid programs is because they are so unique. “Nowhere else are you going to be able to view a live mermaid show in the setting of a natural spring, seated 16 feet below the surface of the water,” he explains. “No one can ever duplicate what we have here.” But, I have found, camp sirens can take what happens there back into their own world. After my camp, I bought a beautiful aqua mermaid tail and I have a lot of fun donning it and swimming into pods of people at area springs, beaches and pools. And that is the poignant personal lesson I learned at Weeki Wachee: Once a mermaid, always a mermaid. To learn more about Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which, in addition to the mermaid shows, offers a river boat cruise, wildlife pavilion, water park, kayaking and more, visit www.weekiwachee. com. Admission is $13 for adults; $8 for ages 6-12; and free for ages 5 and under and those who have a Florida State Parks annual pass. See more mermaids during the Florida Springs Fest at Silver Springs State Park on March 7th and 8th, with members of Florida Merfolk on hand. The Florida Springs Mermaids will host a Spring Splash from May 1st through May 3rd at Ginnie Springs near High Springs. Find details about both events on Facebook.

The author and her fellow Sirens of the Deep mermaid campers

March ‘20


From paddling the scenic spring-fed rivers to riding an ATV through the Ocala National Forest, there are numerous outdoor adventures available within an hour’s drive. By Sherri Cruz

ickey Pierce retired from the Navy in 2005 after 28 years of service. His retirement gift was a 19-foot custom-made prone paddleboard. He started racing prone in the ocean—belly down and paddling with his arms. Eventually, neck issues from his time in the Navy led him try stand-up paddling, where you stand on the board and use a long oar to propel yourself through the water. “It still provides the thrill but we don’t have to get up and down so much,” he explains. “I just fell in love with it.” Now, with a home on the clear waters of the Rainbow River in Dunnellon, he spends two to five days a week paddling the river, depending on the season. He has trained his Australian shepherd, Kai, to ride with him. He paddles with his wife of 42 years, Dawn Pierce, his neighbors and friends. “It’s just a fun little neighborhood,” he says. “Everybody will start up the river, and as you pass people’s houses, people just join in.” Other times, it’s a party on the river, such as when they set up a game of Frisbee football in the water. “When we get the right people, it is a tremendous workout,” he offers. “The next day, you’re going to be sore— in your gut —from laughing so hard. It’s just wild.” Then there are days when he heads out solo. “Sometimes I make it a point to go by myself, headphones on, pull my hat down low, and take off and get a good workout in.” The Ocala/Marion County area has several rivers that can be paddled throughout the year because the springfed temperature is a constant 72 degrees. 60


“You can’t beat the Rainbow River,” Pierce asserts, “but any of the rivers are fun.” The best thing for beginners to do is rent a board for your height and weight and take a lesson or go paddling with someone who knows what they’re doing, Pierce recommends. If you prefer to canoe or kayak, you can rent a kayak at a concession on any of the area’s rivers or bring your own. KP Hole Park in Dunnellon is a popular launching site into the Rainbow River for tubers and paddlers. The wide and scenic Silver River is a favorite among kayakers, says Chris Spontak, president of the Marion County Aquaholics Paddlers Group. The Silver River is also one of the best places to spot an enormous amount of wildlife, including alligators, Spontak states. “If you leave the gators alone they’ll leave you alone,” Spontak asserts. “They don’t want anything to do with you. More people eat gators than gators eat people.” Sometimes, the Aquaholics will paddle into wilder and more remote areas, such as the Withlacoochee River Gum Slough near Inverness or the isolated Waccasassa River in Levy County. Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest is also on the wild side. “It’s wilder,” Spontak affirms, “but still gets plenty of traffic.” Beginner or experienced, anyone is welcome to join the Aquaholics, Spontak reports. Paddlers group: www.mcaquaholics.com For places to paddle in the area: www.paddleflorida.net

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti

Photography by Bruce Ackerman, Dave Miller and Alan Youngblood

In addition to tubing and paddling the rivers, you can zipline through a canyon, spy alligator eggs in the tall sawgrass from an airboat, go on a bird walk, scuba and snorkel in a sinkhole, ride more than 80 miles of mountain bike trails, ride an ATV through the Ocala National Forest and visit one of the many parks in greater Ocala and Marion County. Here’s a guide for a fun day outdoors.

Opportunities to be atop or in area waters range from swimming to snorkeling to scuba diving to boating and more. This is a sampling of the many vendors who can help you dive into an adventure on and in local waters. KP Hole, Marion County Park 9435 SW 190th Avenue Road, Dunnellon (352) 489-3055 Kayak, canoe and tube rentals. Tubing starts here and ends at Blue Run, a total of 3.3 miles (four hours). The park also offers swimming, picnicking, snorkeling and a boat ramp. www.marioncountyfl.org Rainbow Springs State Park 19158 SW 81st Place Road, Dunnellon (352) 465-8555 Tube, canoe, kayak, dive, swim and camp. Etiquette guide: www. rainbowriverconservation.com www.floridastateparks.org

with them. Paddling rentals available. www.silversprings.com Eaton’s Beach Adventure Sports 15790 SE 134th Avenue Lake Weir, Weirsdale (352) 812-5007 Paddleboard, pedal boat, kayak, lake cruises and pontoon boat rentals. Make a day of it and eat lakeside at Eaton’s Beach Florisiana Cuisine Restaurant. www.eatonsbeach. com

Paddles Outdoor Rentals 469 NE 1st Street, Crystal River (352) 586-5259 Paddleboard and kayak rentals. They also offer swimming with manatees and a kayak or paddleboard ecotour on Crystal River. www.paddlesoutdoorrentals.com

Juniper Springs Recreation Area 26701 E State Road 40, Silver Springs (352) 625-3147 Canoe and kayak on Juniper Run, a narrow and winding 7-mile waterway. Named one of the top 25 canoe runs in America by ReserveAmerica. www.fs.usda.gov/ recarea/ocala

Silver Springs State Park 5656 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Silver Springs (352) 261-5840 Nearly 5,000 acres of critter habitats can be seen by hiking or paddling. Wild Rhesus Macaque monkeys also live here but folks are cautioned not to feed or interact

Devil’s Den Spring 5390 NE 180th Avenue, Williston (352) 528-3344 Snorkeling and certified diving happens at this prehistoric,120-foot diameter sinkhole that may be as old as 10 million years. Mid-June to March ‘20


mid-August is the busy season—250 snorkelers a day. Bring your own snorkel gear or rent for two hours at a time. “It’s blue, blue water. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” says Rowena Thomas, manager. The owners added fish for snorkelers to view. It’s a great place to spend a morning or afternoon or stay in a cabin or park your RV. www.devilsden.com

Blue Grotto 3852 NE 172nd Court, Williston (352) 528-5770 Two miles from Devil’s Den is the Blue Grotto, which has deeper dives for those with open water diving certification. Dive down to a depth of 100 feet in this clear-water cavern. Also offers caving at The Cave at Blue Grotto. www.divebluegrotto.com www.bluegrottocave.com

Fun 2 Dive 135 NE 3rd Street, Crystal River (352) 922-3483 Specializes in manatee snorkeling tours at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Paddle and scalloping tours are also available. www.fun2dive.com

Airboat tours offer another way to enjoy regional waterways. They are boats propelled by a giant fan that glide on the water and don’t rock, so you don’t get seasick. They offer a great way to view alligators, birds, turtles, boar, deer and other wildlife. Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours 12430 E Gulf to Lake Highway, Inverness (352) 726-6060 Tours runs through the placid Withlacoochee River. In the first hour, the captain will point out all the wildlife. The second hour, he does some slides and turns to “give you that adventure,” says employee Olivia Schlum. Bubba, a 13-foot, 1,000-pound gator, is a big draw. He’s more than 60 years old. “We also have baby gators here that the customers can hold and take pictures with,” Schlum notes. “It’s a great time. Great for families.” www.wildbillsairboattour.com Airboat Rides Unlimited 9400 SE Highway 42, Umatilla (352) 636-4060 Captain “Justin” takes guests on a 40-mile ride into the gator nesting and breeding areas in the backwater canals in the marshes of the Ocklawaha River. He points out critters along the way, such as wild hogs, birds, water snakes, bobcats and bears. “He captains like a chameleon,” says Yvonne Rose, who books the rides. “Whatever group he’s with, he just gets right into their little niche. I wish everybody in the world could do this. It’s just so fun. It’s so out in nature.” www.justins-jungle.com 62


Captain Bob’s Airboat Tours 12189 S Williams Street, Dunnellon (352) 489-2397 Tours on Rainbow River for up to six people, four minimum. www.captbobsairboattours.com Tom and Jerry’s Airboat Rides 68 N Main Terrace, Lake Panasoffkee (321) 689-8918 Offers one-hour and a 90-minute tours of the swamps of Lake Panasoffkee. www.airboattoursorlando.com

Gliding over sparkling waters, over the tops of towering trees and with a birds-eye view of birds is a thrill-seekers’ way to explore the area. Those with the derring-do can zipline over deep and beautiful former limerock pits in Ocala or foster teamwork at a retreat in Crystal River.

Zipline photo courtesy of Marion County Tourist Development

The Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park 8045 NW Gainesville Road, (352) 351-9477 Zip through the sky, day or night, soaring along steep cliffs and over four lakes. The Canyons offers night zipping with glow sticks and even has a special full-moon zip. “Because of how dark it is, it looks like you disappear into nothing,” says receptionist Angela Middleton. The Canyons also offers kayaking on its 12-acre

Mountain biking can be a leisurely cruise through the woods. It can also be an extreme sport where you’re launching off ramps and jumping obstacles— like those found on the red trails at the Santos Vortex. Throughout more than 80 miles of trails in the Marion County section of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, there also are yellow beginner trails and blue intermediate trails—all built and maintained by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association. The Vortex is about two miles from Greenway Bicycles, where Justin Worth works. “I wouldn’t say, by any means, I’m near the expert level,” Worth admits. “Do I go on everything at the Vortex? Of course I do because I’m crazy.” He also rides the 46-mile paved Withlacoochee State Trail which stretches from Dunnellon to just north of Dade City. The trail he rides the most is the Greenway’s paved, multi-use, 16-mile trail from Santos to State Road 200. “I do 200 miles a week on the Greenway trail,” he says. “It has nice rollers where the Withlacoochee is super flat.” Angela DeSimone says there aren’t as many women who ride, but some of those who do ride with the Florida Chapter of the Muddbunnies Riding Club. The Ocala resident says her favorite spots to access the trails are the main Santos trailhead and the 49th Avenue trailhead, which are starting points for riders of both singletrack and the paved trail.

Greenway Bicycles 7874 US Highway 441, Ste. 2 (352) 351-3475 www.greenwaybikeshop.com Santos Bike Shop 8924 S Highway 441 (352) 307-2453 Santos offers group rides and bicycle rentals. www.santosbikeshop.com Muddbunnies Riding Club Florida Chapter www.muddbunnies.com/ florida-chapter.html

quarry—great for beginners because there is no current, as well as horseback riding. www.zipthecanyons.com Faith Haven Tree Top Adventures 10830 W Bentbow Path, Crystal River (352) 601-4687 It’s zip lining with 24 different elements, such as ropes and wall climbing, to challenge individuals and groups in this retreat setting. www.faithhavencrc.org

Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail This is a 22-mile loop through the southeastern corner of the Ocala National Forest— the forest’s only mountain bike trail. It is described as a “roller-coaster ride” on rolling sandhills, with trailheads at Alexander Springs and Clearwater Lake. www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ ocala/recarea/?recid=32311 For extensive trail maps, visit the Ocala Mountain Biking Association at www.omba.org. March ‘20


If you have a need for speed, you’re in luck. Whether its on a super-quick go-kart or an ATV, here’s how you can rev up an adrenalin rush on wheels. Ocala Gran Prix 4121 NW 44th Avenue (352) 291-0600 Ocala Gran Prix rents karts that go up to 55 mph. You must be at least 16 with a valid driver’s license. www.ocalagranprix.com

ATV Off-Road Adventure Tours 15991 NE 243rd Place Road, Fort McCoy (352) 299-5650 Five-hour to eight-hour tours on an ATV through the Ocala National Forest where you can spot wild turkey, deer, eagles and more. GoPro camera rentals available. www.atvoffroadadventuretours.com

World Adventures by Optucorp (786) 429-1508 Three-hour tours through the Ocala National Forest on your choice of ATV. Before touring, clients take an hourlong course to learn hand signaling, safety and how to treat the wildlife. “Do not touch an animal. Respect them. This is their home,” says Priscilla Gonzalez, business manager. “We encourage responsible use of the forest.” www.world-adventures.us

For those who like to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there are abundant opportunities to see the region’s diverse wildlife, including birds, manatees, reptiles, otters and more. The Marion Audubon Society counts the striking sky-blue and gray scrub jays who live at the Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve in Dunnellon as part of its Christmas Bird Count. Scrub jays are found only in Florida and nowhere else, explains Helen Ogren, director/Breeding Bird Atlas for the local chapter. There are three kinds of birds in Florida—permanent residents, winter residents and those that migrate through to faraway places, she offers. Marion County Audubon offers regular bird walks. www.marioncountyaudubon.com Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve Seventeen miles of multi-use trails will reveal myriad forms of wildlife. 15430 SW County Road 484, Dunnellon www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/ halpata-tastanaki-preserve The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail A trail that includes Rainbow Springs State Park and Rainbow River, where 64


there are more than 60 species of birds, including egrets and herons. www.floridabirdingtrail.com/trail/ trail-sections/east-section Blue Run (Marion County park) 19680 E Pennsylvania Avenue, Dunnellon (352) 671-8560 Hike or walk and spot hawks, eagles, river otter and other critters. www.marioncountyfl.org Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area Wildlife viewing, nature study, primitive camping and recreation are a few of the offerings. www.sjrwmd.com/lands/ recreation/ocklawaha-prairie/ Florida Trail (877) 445-3352 Established as Florida’s first backpacking trail, it hosts over 1,300 miles of potential walks and became a National Scenic Trail in 1983. www.floridatrail.org

Three Sisters Springs 123 NW US Highway 19, Crystal River (352) 586-1170 Surrounded by a 57-acre refuge wetland habitat, visitors can explore hiking trails and view mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. In the winter, hundreds of manatees visit the warm waters. The refuge was established to protect the West Indian manatee. Trolley and guided walking tours available. www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org

The Ocala area has national, state, county and city parks for locals and visitors to enjoy. Here are a few highlights of park activities. Ocala National Forest The forest has more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs, for year-round swimming, snorkeling and diving, canoeing, kayaking and camping. www.fs.usda.gov/main/ocala/home

City of Ocala Parks The city has a number of parks, including a skateboarding park at 517 NE 9th Street. www.ocalafl.org

Florida State Parks Treasure hunt in state parks by using your GPS to find geocaches. 850-245-2157 www.floridastateparks.org/learn/ geocaching Marion County Parks Marion County has more than 40 parks. Brick City Adventure Park offers archery classes and underground caving, the kind where you need to crawl on your belly. It also offers tours through nature trails where local wildlife resides. Its tram can accommodate people with disabilities. www.marioncountyfl.org

Hipcamp photos courtesy of Hipcamp.com

Tents. RVs. Cabins. Ways to go camping in the region are as varied as the personalities who want to get away from it all. While there are far too many tent and RV options to list, here are three outlets for cabin and glamour camping. Hipcamp Like Airbnb for campers and glampers (campers who want more amenities), Hipcamp’s mission is to get people outdoors so they can connect with nature. The more people get outside, the more likely they are to care about nature and be inclined to protect it, offers Ariana Anthony, communications manager. The site offers unique camping in the Ocala National Forest, such as Grateful Hammock, a campus on eight acres that welcomes tenters, RVs and vans. www.hipcamp.com Ocala National Forest Large families and small groups can enjoy two rental cabins, both of vintage Civilian Conservation Corps craftsmanship. The Lake Dorr Cabin is nestled on the south end of Lake Dorr and can accommodate 10 people. Sweetwater Cabin, accommodating 12, overlooks Sweetwater Spring, a freshwater spring that

flows into Juniper Run. www.fs.usda.gov/ activity/ocala/ recreation/campingcabins Silver Springs State Park Located beneath shady oaks and pines, cabins accommodate up to six people. Each cabin has a dining area, two bedrooms, one bath, stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, screened porch, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, linen, towels, picnic tables and rockers. Outside there is a campfire ring with seating as well as a grill. www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/silversprings-state-park March ‘20


On The Trail The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is a recreation and conservation gift from Mother Nature with an unexpected origin story. Open 365 days of the year, the Greenway offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, as well as plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings. By JoAnn Guidry | Photography by Bruce Ackerman he Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway was born from the well-intentioned but ill-conceived Cross Florida Ship Canal. Part of a federal relief program to create jobs during the Great Depression, the plan was to construct a deep-water ship canal cutting east-west across Florida. Construction actually began in 1935 and evolved into the Cross Florida Barge Canal before coming to a stop a year later. It resumed in 1964, was halted again in 1969 and was permanently decommissioned in 1971. Thanks to environmentalist efforts led by Micanopy biologist Marjorie Harris Carr, the barge canal construction never resumed again. The most visible remnants of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project are the four towering concrete bridge stanchions on the U.S. Highway 441 median in Santos, just south of Ocala. Built in 1936, the bridge stanchions are now the centerpiece of The Island, a Florida Park Service interpretive historical park. Located directly behind the Marion County Sheriff ’s Office substation on U.S. 441, the park is a median island featuring two hiking trails. Six kiosks and seven interpretive boards along a four-tenths of a mile trail provide historical information about the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. In 1991, the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation 66


and Conservation Area was declared where the barge canal work had begun. The Greenway was officially renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway in 1998, honoring Carr, who had died at 82 the previous year. Today, the Greenway is operated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways & Trails, and became a state park in 2012. This unique 110mile nature corridor stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River. The 30-mile plus Greenway section that runs through southern Marion County, from Ocala to Dunnellon, offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Open free to the public, the trails are accessible dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. “Combining the hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, there are more than 300 miles of trails in the Greenway,” says Bre Ximenes, the Cross Florida Greenway Trails & Volunteer Coordinator. “The forests of longleaf/sandhill pines and oaks provide plenty of shaded trails. And for the more adventurous, there are the canal diggings hills. The Greenway is home to a wide variety of wildlife. You might see deer, bobcats, coyotes, fox squirrels, gopher turtles, wild turkeys, owls, hawks, scrub jays and pileated woodpeckers. And there are black bears too.”

The Greenway also is a great place to observe the changing seasons, albeit the Florida version. The most significant change is spring, when the Greenway is resplendent in new neon green foliage and colorful wildflowers. Yellow jessamine, common green-eyes and yellow buttons attract butterflies, including the elusive tiger and zebra swallowtails. By summer, there’s a cloak of cooling forest green, accessorized by yellow showy rattlebox, lavender climbing butterfly pea and yellow partridge pea. By late fall, the trails are carpeted in golden leaves as the brown season of winter descends. But the short Florida winter soon gives way to the glorious spring, starting the cycle anew.

Enjoying the Greenway Trails

The Greenway hiking, biking and horseback riding trails system runs east to west and includes Santos, Land Bridge, 49th Avenue, Shangri-La, Ross Prairie and Pruitt trailheads. Campsites are available at Santos, Shangri-La and Ross Prairie trailheads. Underpasses on County Roads 475 and 475A, 49th Avenue, County Road 484 and the Land Bridge over I-75 ensure safe passage for humans and wildlife. Pets are allowed on leashes. No hunting or motorized vehicles are allowed in the Greenway. “We are very fortunate to have the Greenway and we encourage everyone to come out and enjoy this wonderful gift of nature,” says Ximenes. “And we are always looking for volunteers to help us maintain the trails system. It’s a great way to give back and enjoy being out in nature.” For hiking enthusiasts, approximately 30 miles of the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail cuts through the Greenway. Known simply as the Florida Trail (FT), it begins at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, south of Pensacola, and ends at the Big Cypress National Preserve, east of Naples. This trail is marked by orange blazes on the trees. There are also blue connector trails, marked by blue blazes on the trees, that go from/to Greenway trailheads and connect with the FT. A highly recommended hike is from the Land Bridge Trailhead to the Land Bridge over I-75, which was built in 2000 at a cost of $3.2 million. The Land Bridge, the first of its kind over a Florida interstate highway, connected the east and west corridors of the Greenway trails system. The 1.1 mile hike to the Land Bridge, or 2.2 miles round trip, is an easy stroll through the pine and oaks woods, which is a favorite habitat for owls, hawks and pileated woodpeckers. The Land Bridge Trailhead is an excellent spot for lunch, featuring picnic tables under grand oak trees. If biking is your interest, there are more than 85 miles of mountain biking trails for all ages and skill levels. There are flat and smooth trails, as well as the more challenging ones up hills and through lime rock quarries. Every March, the Ocala Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) hosts the Santos Fat Tire Festival (March 5th-8th this year), attracting trail biking enthusiasts from all over the country to ride the Greenway trails. In coordination with the Cross Florida Greenway (CFG) office, OMBA builds

and maintains the mountain biking trails system. In 2017, a 16-mile, multi-use recreational paved trail opened in the Greenway, stretching east to west from the Santos Trailhead to east of State Road 200 in the Ross Prairie section. The paved trail is open to bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, hikers and dog walkers, but not motorized vehicles. To access the paved trail, go to the Santos, Land Bridge or 49th Avenue trailheads. Equestrians can enjoy more than 85 miles of horseback riding trails winding through the Greenway. There is horse trailer parking and access to the trails at all the Greenway trailheads with the Land Bridge and Shangri-La being two favorites. In 2019, the 25th Avenue Trailhead was opened and is exclusively for horseback riders. The Greenway Equestrians, an all-volunteer riding group, works with the CFG to maintain the equestrian trails. If you don’t have a horse and want to see the Greenway via a guided horseback ride, check out Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides, which is the Greenway’s designated horseback riding tour provider.

Greenway Trailheads

Santos Trailhead (3080 SE 80th Street) Land Bridge Trailhead (11100 SW 16th Ave/CR 475A) 49th Avenue Trailhead (12555 SW 49th Ave) Shangri-La Trailhead (12788 SW 69th Court) Ross Prairie Trailhead (10660 SW State Road 200) Pruitt Trailhead (15430 SW County Hwy 484) For more information, contact Bre Ximenes, Cross Florida Greenway Trails & Volunteer Coordinator (352) 236-7143 / Bre.Ximenes@dep.state.fl.us www.floridastateparks.org Ocala Mountain Bike Association at www.omba.org Greenway Bicycles at www.greenwaybikeshop.com Greenway Equestrians at Greenway Equestrians-CFGE on Facebook. Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides at www.cactusjackstrailrides.com

March ‘20


The Mountains Are Calling Whether you’re looking for a change of scenery, an escape from the heat, or challenging outdoor adventures, Jackson County, North Carolina is an easy getaway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. By Lisa McGinnes

he four quaint communities of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva in Jackson County, North Carolina welcome you with small-town hospitality in the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Just 2 ½ hours northeast of Atlanta, the area is a hidden gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ natural paradise. Options for active exploring, tranquil relaxation or extreme sports allow you to choose your own adventure.

All photos courtesy of Jackson County Tourism Development Authority

Take a Hike

With summits of 6,000+ feet, hiking in Jackson County offers incredible views, challenging elevation gains and cooler air. You’ll enjoy blooms for days depending on when you go—delicate ephemerals such as trillium and lady slipper orchids this time of year, redbud and dogwood later in the spring, then the mountain laurel and rhododendron fill the forests in May and June. Do stop and smell the flowers. Trails are everywhere, and you can choose from several moderate to strenuous hikes that lead to breathtaking summits. At Pinnacle Park in Sylva, an elevation gain of around 3,000 feet over a 7-mile loop trail provides the ultimate reward—360-degree, panoramic views of the valley and mountain peaks rising beyond. The mountain streams offer more than two dozen waterfalls in and around Jackson County. It’s a short walk to the lovely Silver Run Falls just outside Cashiers. The 25foot waterfall cascades into a cool, clear swimming hole. For the ultimate immersive nature experience, slow down and take a guided forest therapy walk. Mark Ellison of Pinnacle Forest Therapy is trained in the Japanese practice of forest bathing, which is a calm, mindful stroll through Pinnacle Park, staying at lower elevations and experiencing the restorative power of nature. March ‘20


If you enjoy testing your limits with extreme trail running, sign up for the 10th annual Assault on BlackRock, a 7-mile trail race to the summit and back. The March 21st uphill-downhill run on rocky dirt trails benefits the Humane Society of Jackson County.

Ride it Out

If you’d rather see the sights on two wheels, Western North Carolina is known for some of the best mountain biking in this part of the country. Cherokee’s Fire Mountain Trails, which opened in 2017, have a multiuse trail system with more than 10 miles described as “fast, flowy” singletrack with “quick hits of elevation” and 20+ switchbacks. If your speed is more leisurely or family-friendly, the Tuckasegee River Greenway near Sylva is a mostly shady, paved one-mile trail with a scenic bridge crossing. Bicycle rentals are available from Motion Makers Bicycle Shops in Cherokee and Sylva. “It’s a little more climbing than Santos, but still really fun,” asserts owner Kent Cranford. Many mountain bikers from North Carolina come to Ocala for the Santos Fat Tire Festival, he explains, and points out that the Tsali trails, known as the “granddaddy singletrack system of the Southeast” are just down the river in nearby Whittier. For extreme endurance racing, the Fire Mountain Inferno held in early May is a weekend of mountain bike cross-country racing with levels from the beginner 8.7-mile route to the expert 16-mile strenuous route. 70


Mount Up

Equestrians know that the only thing better than seeing the sights on two wheels is viewing the scenery from between two ears. In Cherokee, Smokemont Riding Stables offers one-to-four-hour waterfall and trail rides at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as an all-ages wagon ride along the river. Down the road from Cashiers, in nearby Sapphire, Whitewater Equestrian Center offers scenic rides along Native American trails and historic logging roads with mounts that include striking Gypsy Vanner horses.

Tuck In

The Tuckasegee River, known as the “Tuck,” flows through nearly the entire length of Jackson County. This mountain river is the hub of eco-tourism, a favorite for fishing, paddling, kayaking and rafting. Even first-time rafters and families can enjoy a float downriver here, and Dillsboro River Company promises “mom-approved whitewater” with Class I and II rapids. Several people can hop in an inflatable blue “duck” raft for a fun, exhilarating guided trip or you can rent a twoperson kayak for a self-guided paddle. The company even rents the two-bedroom guest suite above the shop for a cozy, convenient lodging option to stay right on the river. To kick it up a couple of notches, plan your trip when the Lake Glenville Dam releases whitewater into the Tuck, creating class IV rapids. There are six releases planned for this spring and summer.

Cast a Line

The 50-mile-long Tuck is the heart of the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, which boasts 15 prime spots to catch trout, and Jackson County claims the title North Carolina Trout Capital. Both Dillsboro and Sylva participate in the Mountain Heritage Trout Water program, which allows visitors to purchase a super-affordable three-day fishing license and borrow a rod, reel and mini-tackle box for the day. Or, for the ultimate fly fishing experience, let an outfitter such as Brookings Anglers in Cashiers take care of everything. The expert guides consistently get rave reviews for their friendly assistance and patience with first-time fishermen and women. They also offer a historic, five-bedroom hilltop rental cabin for a peaceful mountain escape.

Eat, Drink and be Merry

No matter which adventure you choose, you’ll come back hungry, and all four towns offer an array of eateries with plenty of fresh, farm-to-table options. If you want to fuel up for a big day of adventure, the landmark Sylva Coffee Shop serves hearty, cooked-toorder breakfasts the same way they have since 1926.

With all menu items under $10, you can afford to come back later for a burger and a delectable slice of pie. There are numerous options for lunch and dinner, including craft breweries, which are popular throughout the region. Guadalupe in downtown Sylva offers a funky, farm-to-table, tropical fusion menu in a restored 1920s drugstore and soda fountain. Their signature dishes are as diverse as curry goat, buffalo burgers and mango pork tacos with blackened plantains. Just down the street, Innovation Brewing has an impressive 32 handcrafted ales on tap, including local mainstay brews like Bear Lake Brown and Black Balsam Porter as well as “funky” sour ales and seasonal rotations including Apple Butter Brown and Peach Jalapeno Ale. There’s even an alcohol-free homemade ginger ale that’s a favorite with all ages. After a river trip in Dillsboro, head to the historic downtown train depot that’s now home to Foragers Canteen, where almost everything on the menu “traveled less than 200 miles.” Unique entrees include chicken and waffle tacos and the Chili Mac Burger topped off with a macaroni and cheese medallion. Don’t skip the appetizers—they offer a charcuterie board with extras like pickled vegetables and local honey. For a unique

March ‘20


salty-savory indulgence, order A Toast to Bacon! to share. It’s a rustic wood platter with a mountain of candied and smoked bacon served with fresh pesto and pimento cheese for dipping. In Cashiers, Whiteside Brewery is a fun place to enjoy a casual brew inside, with views of the brewing operation, or under a rustic, dogfriendly outdoor pavilion. The unusual and delicious concoctions they call “mountain life in a glass” may include Choco-Lime Porter or Two-Layer Cream Ale, which is brewed with real birthday cake. Their beer cheese makes its way onto small plate pairings such as warm pretzel bites with beer cheese and barbecue pulled pork and beer cheese nachos, and they offer a full menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Friendly owners Bob and Lise Dews also operate the Laurelwood Inn next door, with traditional rooms, log cabin suites and a private log cabin that sleeps up to four. For an unforgettable date night dinner, head to Cashiers’ Lonesome Valley, where Food and Wine’s Most Romantic Restaurant in North Carolina offers Executive Chef Ken Naron’s award-winning nouveau Southern cuisine. Start your dining experience with “nature’s aperitif ”—a signature cocktail created with local spirits such as Sutler’s Small Batch Gin enjoyed while strolling the rolling meadow or taking in the sweeping mountain views from an Adirondack chair on the expansive lawn. You can glimpse the picturesque kitchen gardens where they grow much of their own produce. The fourcourse prix fixe menu changes daily with the freshest flavors artfully garnished with just-picked herbs.

Wind Down

After dinner on a summer Friday evening, both Sylva and Cashiers host free, open-air concerts. Concerts on the Creek in Sylva feature live country, rock and 72


bluegrass to be enjoyed from your lawn chairs or blanket, and Groovin’ On The Green in Cashiers offers a variety of musical programs to enjoy on the dogfriendly Village Green.

Stay the Night

Halfway between Sylva and Cashiers is a perfect lodging option for families and groups—the secluded Bear Lake Reserve, a vacation home community general manager Craig Smith calls “downto-earth excellence.” The houses are dispersed through the woods along a road that climbs to a Nicklausdesigned golf course at the top. That’s where residents and guests gather to view striking sunsets and panoramic views. Be warned, however, you may not want to leave this sprawling resort, with its scenic lake, swimming beach and Lake Club for dining and poolside drinks like their signature Jackson County Redhead. Just two hours down the road from where Dirty Dancing was filmed, Bear Lake continues a full schedule of the kind of activities Baby enjoyed at the fictional Kellerman’s Resort—from guided hikes and paddleboard lessons to wine tastings and family movie nights. Do you hear that? It sounds like rushing water—way off in the distance. It’s the mountains calling, and adventure awaits.

March ‘20






The threat of an asphalt ribbon bisecting the “Horse Capital of the World” united equine enthusiasts in a campaign to defeat a proposal aimed at running a toll road through their pastures and paddocks. By Belea T. Keeney Opening photo by Meagan Gumpert Portraits by Bruce Ackerman, Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery, and Alan Youngblood


magine the area north from State Road 200 and 110th Avenue, west of Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, up to State Road 326 and on through York, Fellowship and Zuber. If you’ve driven these roads, you’ve seen the beauty of old Florida: rolling hills, green pastures, live oaks draped with Spanish moss and some of the horse farms that make Marion County the “Horse Capital of the World.” Now imagine those very roads paved over with a Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) extension of the Coastal Connector extending from Brooksville. Think of the sprawl of such development: the convenience stores, the gas stations, the fast-food restaurants. Think of the noise and pollution from the vehicular traffic. Think of the damage to the aquifer. Think of all that rich Marion County grass and soil paved over, never to be seen again. When the FDOT announced possible construction of just such a road in 2018, the Horse Farms Forever (HFF) organizers imagined just such a scenario and it scared them enough to take action. After the 2018 announcement from the FDOT about the proposed route of the toll road, folks like Chester Weber, president of Live Oak International, and Bernard Little, president of HFF and co-owner of Horsefeathers retirement farm, knew they had to put up a fight against this toll road. They formed Horse Farms Forever, a grassroots organization that fought to preserve the Farmland Preservation Area in northwest Marion County. This area is county-designated as a protected area with significant restrictions on development; it’s designed to

preserve the agriculture and horse-based economy here. “The notion that the Florida Turnpike Authority was proposing an eight-lane turnpike through Ocala showed that we all needed to do a better job of explaining the importance of this industry, and especially within Ocala and Marion County,” explains Weber. “Horse Farms Forever has helped spread that message far and wide, and I’m thrilled to be part of the initiative.” As a result of grassroots efforts, HFF lobbying, public outcry, other community leaders’ work, and a letter from the Marion County Board of Commissioners to then-Governor Rick Scott, the FDOT abandoned its plans to extend the Coastal Connector through Marion County. That’s not to say that another route won’t be proposed again in the future, but the immediate danger to Ocala’s horse farms has been curtailed. The rolling hills filled with paddocks and moss-laden trees is an iconic part of Marion County. It’s not just the landscape and aesthetics, of course. Sara Fennessy, director of community affairs for HFF says, “The equine industry accounts for over 18 percent of our economy and produces approximately 21,000 jobs here in Marion County. As Marion County continues to grow, it is crucial that this area remain protected, that this sense of place remains.” Protecting the farmland also means protecting the county’s economy. Thanks in part of the efforts of HFF and Marion County horse lovers, the alarming scenario of the toll road through our farmlands has been quieted. We caught up with some of the HFF board of directors and members for a chat.

Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?


Fennessy Horse Farms Forever, Director of Community Affairs

The Farmland Preservation Area is home to some of the most iconic and storied horse farms in the world. On these farms many Kentucky Derby winners, Triple Crown Winners and National Champions begin their careers. This land in the northwest region is priceless and irreplaceable, therefore, it must be protected. The Farmland Preservation Area is the vein to the heart of our ever-thriving equine industry, which contributes billions of dollars to our economy. What facet of the equine industry are you involved in?

What makes you passionate about horses?

I was practically born on the back of a horse, and was in my first horse show before I could even walk. I’m a fifth-generation horse person, my grandfather was a jockey, my other grandfather trained racehorses and my father has been an equine industry business executive my whole life. I competed hunter/jumpers throughout my youth and now have a newfound appreciation for the peace that pleasure riding my horse brings me. Horses have taught me everything— love, respect, how to work hard, patience and, most importantly, to always get back up again after you fall.

The equine business world, show world, and pleasure world as well. I also have the great pleasure of working for Live Oak International, serving as their Office & Community Outreach Manager. I will always be addicted to the rush that competing gave me but I find the truest peace within myself when I am riding through the beautiful pasture lands and trails here in Marion County.

Why did you choose Ocala/Marion County as your place of residence?

One reason—the horses and the horse industry. I spent most of my childhood in Lexington, Kentucky, and fell in love with the beauty and similarities Ocala and Lexington share. Horses are a way of life here in Marion County. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms, and the horse industry important to you?

Protecting this way of life means everything to me. Like so many others here in Marion County, the horse industry is vital to my family’s livelihood. To lose the very thing that makes our county so unique and special would be absolutely devastating.

Joining Horse Farms Forever was a no-brainer for me. I am truly and deeply passionate to my core about Horse Farms Forever’s mission and purpose. If our horse farms disappear, so do the horses, and so does the industry. It is crucial that my generation becomes involved in protecting and preserving this way of life. 76


Photo by Bruce Ackerman

Why did you join Horse Farms Forever?

equestrians cherish their relationships with their four-legged teammates regardless of the discipline. As a child, I remember going to the racetrack with my parents and being amazed by the power and speed that one animal could produce. As both an athlete and co-president of the Live Oak International Horse Show, you could say that horses are in my blood. Why did you choose Ocala/Marion County as your place of residence?

I was born and raised in Ocala. When I graduated from Cornell University, I had a vision of creating my own equestrian business and Ocala was the logical home for me. Between perfect temperatures, expansive fields and soil rich and full of calcium, Marion County is a heaven for horses. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms and the horse industry important to you?

The mission of Horse Farms Forever is so badly needed. Ocala provides the ideal environment for a horse to be happy and healthy. Protecting the land that horses thrive on is important to me. The large number of farms here is a special thing and provides jobs and economic activity. Horses are a daily source of relief and form of therapy for me personally. Why did you join Horse Farms Forever?


Weber Photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

Co-President, Live Oak International

Our family joined Horse Farms Forever as soon as it started to help with its mission of preserving farmland for horses, for the environment and for my children. I want my two boys to grow up with the same ability to explore the outdoors and enjoy the serenity that comes with the vast outdoors in Ocala. Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?

Farmland and green spaces are what make Ocala and Marion County unique. The beauty and impeccable conditions for horses are what make this area so attractive for visitors and equestrians. What facet of the equine industry are you involved in?

What makes you passionate about horses?

The immediate connection and rapport with a horse is an extremely special thing. Whether a racehorse surges to finish first, a show jumper goes clear or a team of four driving horses work together flawlessly,

I am the 16-time United States Equestrian Federation National Four-In-Hand Champion. Additionally, I am the co-president of the Live Oak International Horse Show, the largest spectator event in Ocala. I travel the world competing with my team of horses and representing Team USA, but my horses and I love to come home and enjoy beautiful Ocala. March ‘20


Nick and Jaqui

de Meric

Owners, de Meric Thoroughbred Sales and Eclipse Training Facility What makes you passionate about horses?

My passion for horses has been lifelong, starting as young as I can remember, says Nick. I can’t really explain my love of the animal in rational terms of logic or reason; it was always something innate in me. On the occasions I’ve worked in other fields I never felt as fulfilled as I do in their company and always drifted back to one horse-related activity or other. Why did you choose Ocala/Marion County as your place of residence?

Thirty-eight years ago, Jaqui and I fell in love with the area, with its rolling hills, majestic oaks and wildlife rich waterways. Ocala was really the ultimate winter training ground for thoroughbreds in the northern hemisphere, with the space, facilities, infrastructure, back up services and climate that could not be bettered anywhere else. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms and the horse industry important to you?

Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?

Marion County is horse country and Ocala rightly claims to be the “Horse Capital of the World.” To make this claim we need a healthy industry and the farms to support it. Though by no means covering all Marion County horse farms, the Farmland Preservation Area nonetheless includes a significant swath of land that has been dedicated to raising and training horses for decades.

Why did you join Horse Farms Forever?

The health of our local environment, as well as the wider one, are subjects near to my heart. I believe HFF provides an opportunity to contribute to the environmental legacy we bequeath coming generations in some small way. 78


What facet of the equine industry are you involved in?

Our business is centered on training young thoroughbreds and preparing them for the racetrack and for 2-year-old sales. We also accommodate layups from the track, some needing R&R and some post-op care and rehabilitation. We buy yearlings and weanlings at auction and resell some of them, while others will race for their owners.

Photo by Alan Youngblood

We have all seen too many ill-planned subdivisions and shopping complexes ingesting fine farmland when other locations stand empty and unused. Our horse farms are a state treasure. It is important we form strong relationships with local bodies and have a voice in the decisions made that directly affect them, such as the proposed coastal connector route that ran through the heart of the Farmland Preservation Area.

Why did you choose Ocala/Marion County as your place of residence?

After traveling the world for both careers and leisure, we imagined living in the country with a couple of horses. In Marion County, we discovered lush, rolling countryside and majestic live oaks covered in Spanish moss. It was the perfect setting for the best part of all—it was horse country. Now, every window of the house overlooks beautiful countryside with horses wandering freely. It’s nourishment for my soul. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms and the horse industry important to you?

We came to Marion County because of the beauty and character of the countryside and the ability to carve out a wonderful life. With the enormous growth expected in the area by the World Equestrian Center opening in 2021, it’s important that development planning is handled sensibly to continue preserving and protecting the green space in Marion County for the horses and our future generations. I would like to think that anyone roaming our equine farmlands a century from now will find it as pristine, expansive and beautiful as we enjoy now. Why did you join Horse Farms Forever?

As farm owners, naturally we appreciated Horse Farms Forever’s mission to preserve the magnificent horse country and natural pastureland of Marion County. However, it surprised me when I met people in town who have never visited a horse farm in the area and learned some haven’t even been on a horse. Horse Farms Forever strives to protect the economic stability of horse farms while still supporting levelheaded growth for all of us.

Gary & Pauline


Freedom Oaks Farm

Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?

With 90 people relocating to Florida each day it’s important to approach growth in a sensitive manner. There are so many examples of poorly developed areas in Florida. It would be sad for Marion County to go the same way and lose the unique farmlands and natural beauty of the area.

Photo Bruce Ackerman

What facet of the equine industry are you involved in? What makes you passionate about horses?

My love affair with horses began the minute I started riding as a little girl, says Pauline. Even after I retired from show jumping, Gary and I continued to have a connection to horses.

Our current Ocala farm was already home to 25 senior horses who had spent a lifetime competing in various disciplines and, in their retirement, were enjoying the beautiful pastures that drew us to the area. We created Freedom Oaks Farm, a premier horse retirement sanctuary serving the hunter/jumper and show jumping world. We are happy to offer our beautiful farm to benevolent horse owners for their retired champions. It’s our way of giving back. March ‘20



Isaacs Bridlewood Farm

What makes you passionate about horses?

I’m originally from Lexington, Kentucky and grew up seeing the large thoroughbred farms there and going to Keeneland [racetrack] with my family. I started working on a thoroughbred farm when I was 17 and knew right away I had found my calling. Why did you choose Ocala/Marion County as your place of residence?

I moved to Ocala in 1989 to help manage Bridlewood Farm…which has raised and cultivated many thoroughbred champions. When I first drove onto Bridlewood for my interview in 1989, I sensed I had found my home. I love working outside around good horses, so the stewardship of the Appleton family [the original founders], and now John and Leslie Malone, allows us to raise quality equine athletes. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms and the horse industry important to you?

issue seems to be resolved, I believe the biggest issue going forward is how we control the population growth and development in this community without destroying the wide-open spaces. Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?

We have to treat the Farmland Preservation Area like protected territory that cannot be developed or encroached on. Our thoroughbred business is dependent on our land holdings so it’s literally the “lifeblood” of our operation. What facet of the equine industry are you involved in?

Why did you join Horse Farms Forever?

I joined Horse Farms Forever initially to help original founder Bernie Little champion the fight against the proposed Coastal Connector toll road. Since this 80


I’ve been involved in managing valuable thoroughbred athletes since Noah and the ark. There is nothing more gratifying to me than to see a horse that we have bred, foaled, raised, broken and trained here go on and reach the winner’s circle. That is what gets all of us who work with these regal animals out of bed early each morning.

Photo by Bruce Ackerman

I think anyone who lives in Marion County or visitors traveling through, quickly realize it’s the horse farms and wide-open rural areas that make Ocala the special place that it is. The equine industry has a $2.7 billion economic benefit to Ocala annually. One in four horses here is a thoroughbred. There are 23,000 jobs created in the thoroughbred industry here, most of them locally. No farms, no horses—no horses, no industry! It’s vital that we protect our farms to protect our industry and also protect the beauty and character that makes Ocala the community it is.


Ventura Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company

Ventura joined Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company (OBS) in 1999 and has been president since 2012, working his way up from director of sales and general manager. OBS is a cooperative that is made up of a sales division, feed division and pari-mutuel facility. Over the past 10 years, the sales division has sold more than 25,000 horses for more than $1.2 billion. In 2019, the OBS board of directors voted to become a founding corporate member of Horse Farms Forever. What makes OBS members passionate about horses?

OBS was founded in 1974 by a group of local horsemen who needed a sales venue that could showcase the thoroughbreds that were bred, raised or trained in Florida. The company is a cooperative, with 82 individual shareholders who have a passion for horses. For many shareholders, they began in the business because of their love of the horse and the equestrian lifestyle. Why would members choose Ocala/Marion County as their place of residence?

Photo by Bruce Ackerman

In the 1950s and 1960s, horse breeders were attracted to the area because of the weather and mineral-rich land. Even though the local Florida-bred horses had more modest pedigrees, they were outrunning the horses raised elsewhere that had more prestigious pedigrees. Those early founders of OBS had a vision for a sales facility that could let local horseman conduct business close to home, to sell their horses in Ocala. Why is protecting the character and culture of horses, horse farms, and the horse industry important to OBS members?

Many of the OBS shareholders live and work on their own horse farms in Marion County. Horses are their livelihood and lifeblood. Protecting the character and culture

that horses and horse farms bring to the area is a natural instinct for the group. Without farms and farmland, there is no horse business. Why did OBS join Horse Farms Forever?

The OBS board recognized the need in the community for a lead organization that would educate the community about the importance of horses and horse farms. They realized the need for a group that would be watchful of government and the protection of rural lands. Why is the Farmland Preservation Area so vital to Ocala and Marion County?

The Farmland Preservation Area covers almost one-fourth of Marion County. To keep the pastures that are synonymous with horse farms, we must be vigilant that development does not infringe on this precious rural land. OBS attracts an international group of buyers to its sales. The rolling pastures filled with mares and foals is an image that resonates with visitors. Many are surprised that there is a part of Florida like Marion County, with open spaces and beautiful places. March ‘20



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In The Kitchen With Chester Weber With an expected 10,000 of Chester Weber’s many friends, fellow competititors, Olympic athletes and spectators visiting his family’s 5,000-acre thoroughbred farm for Ocala’s largest spectator event, Live Oak International, beginning March 4th, Weber finds refuge after a long, action-packed day of equestrian sports in the tranquility of his kitchen. By Lisa McGinnes Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

March ‘20



classically elegant carriage pulled by a beautifully collaborative team of four horses evokes a sense of Old World nobility, especially with Weber, America’s most celebrated combined driving athlete, in a formal top hat, classic riding jacket and tie, at the reins. The Ocala native, who travels the globe competing at the world’s top levels of four-in-hand driving, honed his cooking skills as a Cornell University student spending a semester abroad at Switzerland’s famed École hôtelière de Lausanne hospitality management school. So, it’s only natural that his 84


favorite dessert to prepare is a variation of classic meringue—historically a favorite among French royalty. Pillowy-soft Pavlova is so light it was named after renowned Victorian-era prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. However, his motive to first make meringue was actually quite practical. “The reason I got into making Pavlova is because I like to make artichokes with hollandaise sauce,” he explains. “But hollandaise calls for three egg yolks and not the white, so what do you do with the white?” The answer, of course: Whip the egg whites into meringue. This time of year, the dessert is made even more special when topped with fresh local strawberries. “It’s strawberry time of year in Florida, so it’s a very pretty dish,” Weber says. In May, he switches to fresh blueberries he grows on his farm. In addition to blueberry bushes, he has grapefruit and orange trees, as well as a lemon tree a friend gave him, that produces the “great big, huge, massive lemons bigger than a grapefruit,” discovered on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In Weber’s garden you also can find herbs, including mint, which Weber says is easy to grow in the local climate. He considers himself lucky to live in our area, with its ready access to fresh seafood and produce, and he’s a big believer in eating fresh, seasonal foods. “With all the markets, we have no real seasonality anymore to our food. We used to eat root vegetables in the fall and winter and things like cabbage and Brussels sprouts and asparagus at different times of the year. Now it seems like you can find those items all year round. But if you have a little knowledge about when things are in season, they’re definitely better at that

time of year.” And, he adds, vegetables from the average grocery store are “not the same as if it were grown in somebody’s garden and grown with TLC.” TLC in the kitchen is something that is in his blood. Weber is a member of the family behind the beloved Campbell’s Soup Company brand. Their popular varieties have been enjoyed by generations and recognized around the globe by their iconic cherubic Campbell kids and “M’m! M’m! Good!” slogan. That same tender loving care might just be the secret ingredient in the fresh, healthy meals this athlete prepares, not just to enjoy with sons Douglas, age 5, and Hugo, who’s 2 ½, but for the other award-winning athletes living at his farm—the world-class horses. “Their diet is really not unlike how many people are eating now,” he offers. “It’s much less processed. We buy basic ingredients—oats, barley, beet pulp and flaxseed—and we cook it up fresh for them.”

He moves confidently and purposefully around his bright, open kitchen with its large center island. It’s the perfect place to socialize and hang out with friends and family as Weber whips up his favorite dishes and experiments with new recipes, evidenced by several shelves filled with well-loved cookbooks. “I actually cook a little bit with my boys,” Weber says with a smile. “My 5-year-old likes to get involved and cook a bit with Dad. He gets on his little stool. I give him assignments that he’s going to be successful with. That’s a lot of fun.” After a day of racing a team of powerful horses, this equestrian savors the opportunity to slow down and unwind—donning an apron and sneakers—and retreating to the kitchen. “I think it’s a little bit like therapy; the day is done and I’m working on something else,” he explains. “It’s truly enjoyable to cook at the end of the day.”

Pavlova with Fresh Berry Compote

For the Pavlova 3 large eggs, divided (use whites only, reserve yolks for another purpose) 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar Pinch of fine sea salt For the compote 1 1/2 cups strawberries, quartered 1 1/2 cups blueberries 1 cup blackberries, quartered 1 cup raspberries, quartered For the cream topping 1/2 cup whipping cream 1/2 cup sour cream For the finishing touch 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped Sprinkling of crushed pistachios Preheat oven to 250° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. › In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of fine sea salt until foamy. While beating, slowly add in sugar and continue beating until the meringue begins to thicken. Beat in cream of tartar and cornstarch until the mixture adheres firmly to a spoon. › Place six mounds of the mixture on the baking sheet. › Bake for one hour, rotating the pan after half an hour. If browning too quickly, lower temperature. Let the Pavlovas cool down inside the oven after heat is turned off. › Meanwhile, put all the berries into a saucepan and slowly simmer until the juice begins to thicken (using additional cornstarch if needed). › Beat the whipping cream until stiff and fold in sour cream. * Optional: At any stage, add sugar and/or vanilla extract to personal taste. To serve (best done same day), place one Pavlova on a dessert plate. › Place a couple of dollops of cream mixture on top. › Drizzle berry compote over the plate. › Finish with fresh mint. › Top with crumbled pistachios. March ‘20



The Experience of Flavor Christie and Nick Carrera, the co-founders of Urban Asado, which makes handcrafted grills, will be bringing a unique grilling experience to the Ocala Culinary Festival as they participate in the Una Noche en Argentina feast on March 27th. The outdoor event, which will focus on the cuisine and wines of Argentina, will include four chefs from St. Augustine. By Nick Steele

Chef Michael Lugo



Food photo courtesy of Nick Carrera. Chef photos courtesy of Chef Michael Lugo


ntil the mid-19th century, huge herds of wild cattle roamed much of the Pampas region of Argentina, with its especially fertile soil. In turn, an appetite for beef, especially asado—which is roasted beef, lamb or goat—grew among the inhabitants of the Río de la Plata, particularly the equestrian gaucho (traveling horsemen, similar to what we call cowboys). But asado is more than simple grilling or barbecue, it is a beloved traditional form of roasting. Skewered on a metal frame called an asador, the meat, which often takes the form of a side of ribs, is roasted by placing it next to a slow-burning fire. Historically, metal “crosses” (asadores) were also employed to hold meats and vegetables vertically and still receive the heat from the fire, while grilling al asador. The original grills were portable and ideal for those who wanted to transport their BBQ wherever they pleased. In addition to the grilled meats, an asado meal typically includes wine, a simple mixed salad, bread and grilled vegetables seasoned with olive oil and salt. Grilled or fresh fruit is commonly served for dessert. More than a heritage technique, the term asado also is used interchangeably to refer to the actual social event as well. Working in concert with the Carreras to present this sociable feast for both meat-loving and vegetarian festival attendees, on their handcrafted grills, are chefs Michael Lugo, executive chef and owner of Michael’s and his Sous Chef Natasha Olivera; Marcel Vizcarra, executive chef and owner of Llama; and Norberto Jamarillo, executive chef and owner of La Cocina International Restaurant. We caught up with the Carreras to learn more about the evolution of their brand and what they have in store for the festival.

How did Urban Asado come to be?

Christie: Nick’s dad is from Argentina, so he has memories of growing up with asados as a kid, at the house and with family and friends. We knew that was the life we wanted for our kids. We both had, what I would call, “grown-up” jobs. I was operations manager in the medical field and Nick was the director of operations in the building materials industry. Nick had always dreamed of owning our own business, but the opportunity had never presented itself. When we had our kids, we realized really fast where our priorities were and what we wanted to create for our kids. Nick: We really wanted to do something that was inspiring, for ourselves but also our kids. We talked about creating something more than a product, like…‘What does the product inspire?’ That helped us. It adds more layers to it, so it just doesn’t feel like work. You know the expression, ‘If you do something that you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life.’ It sounds wonderful and it’s kind of true, but it’s still a lot of hard work. This is something that we are very passionate about, seeing people’s reactions…grilling with customers, things like that. It’s always breathing fresh air into it. Once we decided to go for it, we saw that people would share in our passion. Our first year, in our current fabrication studio, we went through two hurricanes. St. Augustine got pummeled. But, in a weird way, that helped solidify everything, because we ended up doing fundraisers, supporting other small businesses that were affected and so it spearheaded the communal side of building our business. It’s had its challenging moments, but we’ve been able to create what we wanted. It was more like creating a family, which is something that inspires people beyond just the idea of making a grill. ‘Experience Grilling’ is our big thing. I try to get people’s attention with that phrase, like, What does it mean? When they usually see the grills in action, they’re like, ‘Oh, OK, I get it.’

What’s the experience attendees can expect based on this style of grilling?

Nick: The signature component of our grills is the V-grate grilling surface. The Argentinian design is to capture the juices that would otherwise be coming out of the meat, hit the coals, and cause a flare-up or just get wasted. The design of our grill is to channel those juices to a drip pan, to eliminate the flare-ups that can negatively impact the flavor of the meat, but also to channel the juices into a pan so that you can baste the meat in its own juices. The wood fire is the secondary aspect of it. With the fire basket, you’re able to burn the wood, and basically to create your embers and your coals to grill with for a prolonged period of time. You have this separate area for the wood to be able to burn through the bottom of the basket and you’re able to rake the coals into place and grill over freshly produced embers. So you get that really great flavor, that unmistakable wood-fire grilling flavor. But if you grill on a gas grill or any regulated-temperature type of appliance, you set that dial and you know that the temperature is consistent. When you do live wood-fire grilling, there’s a lot of personality that gets injected into it because there’s these little variations in temperature. As the coals are burning, you get this kind of variations. With vegetables and fruits, the sugars release at intervals, not consistently. And with meats, it’s the same thing. That’s where you can taste that difference. Ultimately, we wanted to create a modern, stylish take on something that was very rustic and have it still feel at home, whether it’s on a rooftop deck in Brooklyn, a polo ranch in California, a beachside restaurant in Miami or a cul-de-sac neighborhood anywhere. This style of grilling also really does bring people together. It creates a very communal kind of atmosphere. We made it approachable because we like how it brings family and friends together. For tickets, visit www.ocalaculinaryfestival.com

Tell us how you decided to create the Chefs Collaboration Series and what it entails.

Christie: We wanted to allow the community to experience these types of grills, so we wanted to work with local chefs. We wanted this social and collaborative thing. We met Chef Michael Lugo and explained our vision and he jumped on board. What’s really cool is that we’ll be bringing four chefs, including Chef Lugo, that represent three different restaurants in our city to the festival for our event. They all have their own restaurants and brands, but come together and create these big fun asados. They also represent various heritages and lifestyles. Michael is from Puerto Rico. Marcel is from Peru. Norberto is Columbian. And Natasha is South African and she’s vegan. March ‘20


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Book your party at Tony’s today.

Tony’s Sushi & Steakhouse 3405 SW College Road, Ocala

(352) 237-3151 › tonysushi.com Mon-Thu 11a-10p › Fri & Sat 11a-11p › Sun Noon-10p With abundant menu choices and over 100 off-menu rolls, you certainly won’t run out of options at Tony’s Sushi. If you can’t decide, the waitstaff is excellent at suggesting items you’re sure to enjoy. Every roll and sushi dish is made to order from the freshest ingredients. In the steakhouse area, highly trained chefs prepare a memorable meal as they cook on the tableside grills, preparing chicken, steak or seafood just the way you like it. Entrées include soup or salad and rice. Tony’s Sushi has a family-friendly, casual atmosphere, along with a full bar, including imported Japanese sake and beer selections.

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $3 Draft Beer $4 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $5 Super Premium & $6 Harry’s Signature Cocktails $7 off bottles of wine Mardi Gras Parade of Flavors – February 1st - March 31st

Wednesday: 99¢ House Margaritas All Day Thursday: Trivia Night, 7-9pm (Blvd. location) Thursday: Mariachi band at the 200 location, 6-9pm


24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com Mon-Thu 11a-10p › Fri & Sat 11a-11p › Sun 11a-9p 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, Mahi Hoppin’ John (pictured). 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.

El Toreo

3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala

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

March ‘20



Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whiskey Bar 10 S Magnolia Ave., Ocala

(352) 512-9458 › brickcitybbq.com Sun-Wed 11a-10p › Thurs 11a-11p › Fri-Sat 11a-12a Located in downtown Ocala’s historic town square, Brick City Southern Kitchen’s aroma is recognized for several blocks around. Once inside, you are met with a wall of over 400 whiskeys from


around the world and a collection of custom folk art from Nicklos Richards. To the rear of the restaurant is their scratch kitchen where all the sides, barbecue sauces, dressings and seasonings are prepared. But the heart of this kitchen is the custom-built smoker, where the low, slow heat of burning hickory smokes beef brisket, ribs, pork shoulders, whole chickens and turkey breast.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 2707 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala (352) 622-2110 › brusters.com Sun-Thur 12p-10p, Fri-Sat 12p-11p You scream ice cream, we scream Bruster’s. More than just any ol’ ice cream parlor, Bruster’s knows how to satisfy the needs of any ice cream lover. Their large variety of premium flavors and desserts is made right in the store where they are served, including crunchy handmade waffle cones, customized sundaes, candyfilled blasts, thick milkshakes, frozen yogurts and no-sugar-added

Don’t forget their free doggie sundaes and baby cones, with purchase, for children under 40 inches. Banana Thursdays: Bring your own banana and get 1/2 price on a banana split! Catering available

flavors. If you really want to crank up a party, Bruster’s will bring their scrumptious sweets to you. Sweeten your next big day with Bruster’s, and choose from endless flavors such as Creamsicle, Butter Pecan and Sea Salt Caramel.

Formaggio Pizza & Italian Restaurant 1053 NE 14th Street, Ocala

(352) 509-3661 › Mon-Fri 11a-9p › Saturday 4p-9p › closed Sunday › Dine-In or Take-Out

Happy Hour Specials Monday - Thursday 4-6p

Formaggio’s is bigger and always better, now in a new larger location in the 14th Street Plaza minutes from the Reilly Arts Center and Historic Downtown Ocala. Formaggio’s, a family-friendly casual restaurant, serves authentic dishes made with only the freshest ingredients, from pizzas and calzones to pastas and subs. You can taste the difference in our food. Voted the Best Pizza in Ocala for the last 4 years. And, voted the Best Italian Restaurant in Ocala in 2019.

Celebrating our 6th year in business

We invite you to try Formaggio’s and see what the rest of Ocala is raving about! Formaggio’s “Delicious As Always”



Always striving to provide the BEST dining experience in Ocala Follow us on Facebook for Specials @ocalaformaggiopizza


Braised Onion

754 NE 25th Ave., Ocala

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

Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill 15790 SE 134th Avenue, Weirsdale Eaton’s Beach is of 2019 Best of the Best in 7 categories as well as the Winner of 2019, 2018, 2017 Taste of Ocala, Taste of the Class and Taste of Leesburg in a variety of categories

(352) 259-2444 › eatonsbeach.com Sunday – Thursday 11-9p › Friday and Saturday 11-10p Eaton’s Beach is all about casual dining, a beachside atmosphere and fresh, delicious food. Sure, we make tasty sandwiches and appetizers, but the main focus is on our amazing “Florisiana” inspired shrimp and seafood dishes, crab legs, choice cut ribeye, certified angus burgers, wings and other chef driven entrees. After spending a hot day on the beach or in the water at Lake Weir, guests can feel comfortable ordering delicious drinks and food @ our downstairs sandbar, or head upstairs to Eaton’s Beach for an evening of full-service dining with friends and family.

Suleiman Family Establishment NEW Italian Restaurant Express Takeout, Delivery & Catering Lunch Combo: 2 slices of cheese and side salad. $6.99. Sundays: 2-for-1 Chicken Parmsean (with purchase of 2 drinks) Mondays: Free bottle of wine (with purchase of 2 entrees) Tuesdays: $5 calamari Available for a limited time

Milano Ristorante Italiano

5400 SW College Road Unit 106 Ocala, FL 34474 (352) 304-8549 › milanofamilyrestaurant.com Open daily 11-9p

NOW OPEN! Featuring authentic cuisine. Dishes enjoyed for generations in villages throughout Italy inspire our menu. We strive to use the finest ingredients to create dishes in line with our family tradition. All of our food, including our pizza dough, will be made fresh daily. We offer 7 distinct seating areas that will take you to different cities in Italy. Passion for good food and wine runs deep in our family, and we are thrilled to bring our authentic Italian recipes to the Ocala area!

March ‘20


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Celebrating Beethoven

The Ocala Symphony Orchestra is joining a worldwide celebration of concerts, festivals and other special events honoring Ludwig van Beethoven on the 250th anniversary of his birth. By Marian Rizzo Portraits courtesy of Wien Museum

March ‘20



our notes. That’s all it took for Ludwig van Beethoven to create a musical treasure that would remain in the hearts and minds of music lovers for centuries. Even people who don’t listen to classical music recognize the familiar four-tone motif…Da-da-da-dum. “Oh, yeah,” they think. “That’s Beethoven’s fifth symphony.” Somehow, the short man with disheveled hair and a personality to match was able to create some of the most complex, perfectly arranged masterpieces of music that remain popular with audiences to this day. Ultimately, Beethoven left a vast treasury of nine symphonies, five piano concertos, an opera, and 32 sonatas, including his famed “Moonlight Sonata,” which, it has been said, he wrote completely at night. It’s no wonder that Beethoven’s life and work are being recognized worldwide this year in honor of the 250th anniversary of his birth. Locally, the Ocala Symphony Orchestra (OSO) will host a special concert titled The Life and Times of Beethoven, on March 21st and 22nd at the Reilly Arts Center. During the concert, Maestro Matthew Wardell, music director and conductor of the OSO since 2009, will take the audience on one of his signature journeys beyond the music and into the heart of the famed composer. The program will open with Beethoven’s “Overture to Egmont,” followed by all four movements of his Symphony No. 5. Beethoven based “Overture to Egmont” on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s dramatic play, which was inspired by the real Count of Egmont’s execution by the Duke of Alba. The composition’s dynamics mimic the play’s feel of romance, heroism and the prevailing conflict of good versus evil. Wardell describes the piece as structured with a slow introduction that leads into quick music, “a very typical musical form for Beethoven’s time,” he explains. “The overture is arresting right from the beginning,



with mind-dominating chords, as if Beethoven is asking the audience to quiet down and listen up,” Wardell asserts. “I think, in a way, this is the persecution and pain of the subject. One of my favorite moments is actually toward the beginning, after the slow introduction, when we sort of fall right into the overture’s first fast theme.” As for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, it was written in the early 1800s at a time when the composer had already begun to go deaf and was contemplating suicide. Thankfully for us, he fought the impulse and the symphony premiered in Vienna in 1808. “It’s his most famous work, along with the ninth symphony’s ‘Ode to Joy,’” Wardell offers. “The fifth is a unified work from start to finish. The third movement’s contrasting quick tempo and alternating boisterous and sneaky themes bleeding into the fourth movement proclaim a great liberating victory full of life. I don’t care if you think you’re not an ‘orchestra person.’ If someone hears the fifth—truly gives it a listen—and doesn’t feel a stirring in their chest, doesn’t want to go make their world better, doesn’t want to hug someone they love, or at least go eat ice cream, something is wrong.” While the Ocala performance will bring local Beethoven aficionados together for a weekend of reflection, across the rest of the world thousands of programs started last September and will continue throughout 2020. Although no one knows the exact date of Beethoven’s birth, his baptismal certificate was dated December 17th, 1770, so December 16th has been assumed as his birth date. A child prodigy, he was born in Bonn, Germany, but he spent much of his adult life and nurtured his career in Vienna, Austria, where he died on March 26th, 1827. So, it stands to reason that multiple venues in Germany and Austria are hosting thousands of concerts, festivals, and exhibitions highlighting Beethoven’s works. In Germany, the yearlong project


hands of the aristocracy and gave it to the people,” he says. is called BTHVN2020. Among numerous other “I know that sometimes today classical music can be put events, it also will include a German-French televised into a box as elitism, but the reality is that it couldn’t have marathon of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. The been further from the truth with Beethoven.” Austrian government is issuing a special postage stamp As he usually does, the maestro will do a little teaching in Beethoven’s honor, and there will be concerts and along with leading the orchestra. It’s a special part of the museum exhibits throughout the nation. concert that helps the audience Special concerts by understand the works and the world-famous orchestras, people who wrote them, explains led by notable conductors, Calero. have been scheduled “Matt makes a point of in Paris, London, and connecting with the audience several locations in Italy. during the performance,” she At least three venues will offers. “Beethoven is a lofty figure be hosting concerts in to many people. Having the Istanbul. In the United - Matthew Wardell chance to learn about who he was, States, multiple programs both as a composer and as a man, are popping up from brings the music to life and gives context to the pieces he Bangor, Maine, to Dallas, Texas, from New York City’s wrote.” Carnegie Hall to San Diego’s Bayside Park. Wardell typically prepares people for upcoming Then, there’s the performance in Ocala. performances with one of his “Coffee With the “It’s really fun that we’re able to take part in a Conductor” preconcert mixers. For the Beethoven worldwide celebration,” enthuses Pamela Calero, celebration, the advance gathering is set for March 11th executive director of the Reilly Arts Center. “At our at 10am at the Reilly Arts Center. orchestra concerts the atmosphere is less intimidating. “It’s free and open to the public,” Calero says. “Matt You don’t have to wear a bow tie or anything formal,” will take a deeper dive and talk to guests about how the she continues. music was written and what they’re going to be hearing if Maestro Wardell agrees that Beethoven’s works should be presented the way the composer had originally they come to the concert. It’s a lot of fun.” One more element will make the Ocala concert truly intended, less highbrow and more family friendly. special, says Calero. “For me, Beethoven took orchestral music out of the

Beethoven took orchestral music out of the hands of the aristocracy and gave it to the people.

March ‘20


“For us, I think one of our unique spins on this Beethoven performance is that the winners of our Young Artist Competition get to play with the full orchestra,” she explains. “This year, we actually themed our competition around Beethoven. Each piece had to be either written by Beethoven or one of his contemporaries or someone that was influenced by Beethoven.” The national competition is open to music students ages 12 to 25, with a cash prize of $1,000. The Senior Division winner, Gabe Galley, 18, of Connecticut, will perform a viola piece by Johann Hummel, who was a close friend of Beethoven. The Junior Division winner, Bethany Bobbs, 16, of New Jersey, will perform a cello concerto by Robert Schumann, a contemporary of Beethoven. “I love working with our Young Artist Competition winners,” Wardell declares. “At this point, I’ve now worked with over 25 of them. They are all unique, but even the youngest have something to ‘say’ through their playing. I often learn from them and I know the orchestra truly enjoys the experience of them being with us. It is also a great experience for the winners. It’s a true ‘in the cockpit’ situation that is very rare to find.” Wardell has never stopped learning and is currently working on his doctorate while also juggling work with school, serving as a councilman with the City of Ocala, and making time for “my beautiful wife,” he offers, referring to Calero. As far as classical music goes, his ultimate goal is to keep the genre alive by simply keeping on doing it. “People have been saying orchestral music has been dying for 300 years,” says Wardell. “Well...we’re still here. I’m still here, working every day. I’m not planning on going anywhere. Our audiences have never been larger, more diverse, more interested or more engaged than they are today. Of course, things are always shifting and changing, but I would put my money on this 500-year-old institution of classical music any day. And, yes, there will be much to learn about Beethoven during the concert. In fact, I even heard he might make an appearance.” 96


Gabe Galley

Senior Division winner Photo by Lisa Martin

Bethany Bobbs

Junior Division winner Photo by Benjamin Szeligowski

Performances: Saturday, March 21st at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 22nd at 3pm Location: Reilly Arts Center, 500 NE Ninth Street Prices: Students, $10; Adults, $15 to $35 Tickets available at the box office, open Tuesday through Friday, 10am to 2pm or visit www.reillyartscenter.com

Coffee With the Conductor, on Wednesday, March 11th, 10am. Open to the public. Free admission and complimentary coffee and donuts. RSVP at the Reilly Arts Center website or call (352) 351-1606.

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March ‘20


The Importance of Experience Appleton Museum of Art Curator of Exhibitions Patricia Tomlinson talks about going beyond just seeing art and moving toward experiencing art. Tomlinson, a former professional archaeologist, joined the Appleton in 2016 after serving as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. By Patricia Tomlinson



bring people together is music and if there’s one thing I’ve learned living here it’s that Ocalans love their live music. That’s why the Appleton hosts concerts in the intimate setting of our auditorium. For our exhibition on the history of Flamenco dance and music, we are honored to have the renowned Maharajah Flamenco Trio visit on March 26th to perform traditional and nouveau flamenco music. The trio, which was the brainchild of master guitarist Silviu Ciulei, was the featured artist at the Southern Guitar Festival in Columbia, South Carolina and has performed on National Public Radio and television. We invite you to experience all that the Appleton has to offer and look forward to hosting you at one of our engaging experiences soon. Visit www.appletonmuseum.org for more information. Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala (352) 291-4455

Photos courtesy of the Appleton Museum


ong ago it was common for wealthy, well-traveled individuals to create a “cabinet of curiosities” in their homes to both learn more about far-off plant, insect and animal species and to support research by exposing these collections to invited scholars. It is thought that these collections gave rise to museums, in order to offer that experience to all, not just a select few. Early museums, however, left a lot to be desired in terms of spreading knowledge. For example, the first museums had no labels to identify any of the things on display, and a person could certainly look and be amazed at what they saw, but go no further in terms of actual education. Since those early days, museums have come a long way in both educating and delighting visitors. We have seen the rise of basic object labels, which tell the viewer the “who, what, when” of the artwork, in addition to what we call “extended labels” that give more in-depth information about not only the artwork, but the artist, too. Nowadays, most museums, including the Appleton, create additional programming to further enhance visitor experiences and allow them to learn more about a given subject. The concerts, gallery talks, culinary and other events that we produce at the Appleton help create a multisensory experience that adds to overall experience. Additionally, different events and programs can appeal to a person’s specific interests; if someone is interested in cuisine and fine wine, a culinary event may draw them into a museum when they might not ordinarily visit. Art classes are also a terrific way to appeal to both adults and children and it is common for museums to offer classes themed to temporary exhibitions, permanent collections, time of year and different holidays. Unsurprisingly, one of the most beloved ways to

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March ‘20



Live Your Best Life at Paddock Ridge Ocala’s newest assisted living and memory care community offers residents the joy of active independence with the camaraderie of neighborhood living and the security of always-available assistance. By Lisa McGinnes | Photography by Bruce Ackerman


magine how you want to spend your golden years: Sharing good meals and conversation with friends. Visiting new places. Taking up hobbies that relax and fulfill you. Enjoying picnics by the lake. All while sharing the place you call home with folks who feel like family. That’s how seniors are living their best lives every day at Paddock Ridge.

Having Adventures

One of Don McKinney’s favorite activities since he moved to the newly opened Paddock Ridge in April 2019 was a guys’ trip to Cullison-Wright Construction, where residents got a peek at the company’s new headquarters currently under construction, followed by refreshments and reminiscing about hunting trips and fishing stories. “It got them into good memories,” recalls Cody Mansfield, who helped design the community and is training to become its assistant director. “They were all having a nice time.” Mansfield knows all the residents by name, and although he’s closer in age to their grandchildren, he enjoys spending time with them in

Irene Reynolds, Margaret Murray

ways that “keep it fresh and interesting.” “They were young once,” he says with a smile, of the residents he considers family. “They know how to have fun. We’re just trying to help them tap into their youth.” Mansfield sometimes stops by McKinney’s room to personally invite him to go along on an outing he might enjoy and they always have a good time together. McKinney likes retreating to his own private suite and also being able to enjoy adventures with his neighbors. “It’s a mighty good group,” he shares. Ruth Korteum appreciates the opportunity to suggest restaurants when the Lunch Club takes their monthly outing. Their foodie adventures have taken them to a diverse array of local eateries where they enjoy a leisurely lunch with their neighbors—including plenty of lively conversation. The day before an outing, you might find her in Freestyle Hair, Paddock Ridge’s onsite beauty salon, for a manicure and a new hairdo. Both residents and staff look forward to outings, Mansfield says, explaining that residents in all three of Paddock Ridge’s assisted living neighborhoods are encouraged to sign up for planned trips like lunch and

Carroll Dingee and caregiver Lily Richardson

Ruth Korteum, Don McKinney

Patricia Kuhel, Father Zbigniew Stradomski, Teresa Avenall

shopping, as well as mystery rides, which might end up at destinations as diverse as a picnic at a lake house or a tour of one of the “Horse Capital of the World’s” scenic horse farms.

Taking Up Hobbies

On his neighborhood’s covered porch, Bob Quakenbush puts the final touches on the new birdhouse he just built. A woodworker, he has fun assembling birdhouse kits that artsy neighbors can enjoy painting, which can then be hung in Paddock Ridge’s memory care courtyard so residents living with dementia can enjoy a peaceful afternoon of birdwatching. Out on the lawn, several residents are building a raised garden bed. It will be their second; the first bed is overflowing with herbs and red, ripe tomatoes. Over in the memory care neighborhood’s secure courtyard, a group of residents is planting tiny seedlings in pots to start the new garden. “Gardening is a great activity, especially for memory care residents,” Mansfield explains. “It allows them to decompress and gives them a sense of purpose to beautify something, to have their own little creation.”

“It reflects the diverse population of Paddock Ridge,” Mansfield says. “We have a relatively large Catholic community.”

Feeling the Music

When the player piano in Paddock Ridge’s community lounge starts playing a Glen Miller tune, some toetapping folks will get up and dance. Others sing along when a Beach Boys hit comes on. For some residents, it’s choral music that brings comfort and joy. “The Blessed Trinity choir performs pretty much every month,” Mansfield notes, adding that even for people living with dementia, the familiar refrains they recognize from church bring peace. “The music speaks to them,” he explains. “To see a resident who’s in memory care, who’s normally not expressive, sing—it’s amazing to watch.”

They know how to have fun. We’re just trying to help them tap into their youth.

Keeping the Faith

From participating in Bible studies to celebrating Catholic Mass, residents are welcomed at weekly and monthly religious services. Many find comfort in the sacrament offered by the community’s beloved “Father Mike” O’Keeffe of Ocala’s Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, who recently called Paddock Ridge home during rehabilitation.

Thinking Outside the Box

When they designed Paddock Ridge, the owners’ mission was to create a new option for senior living, one good enough for even their own family members. The caring staff encourage a vibrant lifestyle that promotes physical, social and spiritual wellness. “Our residents are engaged,” Mansfield relays. “To keep your mind and your body, they both need to be taken care of.” When you or your loved one are ready to experience innovative, personalized senior living, you’re invited to come home to Paddock Ridge. Paddock Ridge › 4001 SW 33rd Court, Ocala FL 34474 › (352) 512-9191 › www.paddockridge.com

March ‘20


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Carved from History A new wing and dugout canoe exhibit expands the cultural and historical offerings at the Silver River Museum.

By Susan Smiley-Height Photography by Meagan Gumpert

March ‘20 103


ome 6,000 years ago, when Native Americans lived along the shores of Newnans Lake east of Gainesville, they used canoes for transportation, fishing and recreation. As the vessels became worn, or developed holes in them, they were often beached on the bottom of the lake. In 2000, students from Eastside High School were studying the lake bed during a drought and discovered the remains of 101 complete and partial canoes. That story is displayed in a stunning diorama as part of the new Dugout Canoes: Paddling Through the Americas exhibit that opened recently at the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center inside Silver Springs State Park in Ocala. The exhibit was produced by the Florida Museum, with support from the AEC Trust, Lastinger Family Foundation, State of Florida and Visit Gainesville. The exhibit space, a new 3,400-square-foot wing at the local museum, was made possible by a $350,000 grant from the Ocala-based Felburn Foundation. According to Scott Mitchell, executive director of the Silver River Museum since 2004, the collection, which toured as a traveling exhibit and was rented at the price of $55,000 for a three-month period, has been exhibited at museums in Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma and other locations for about six years. When it came off the road, a former colleague of his from the state museum at the University of Florida asked if the Ocala museum might want some of the kiosks, as they

Scott Mitchell



were prepared to dismantle the exhibit and put the artifacts back into their permanent collections. “I said if I can get an exhibit space built, can I have the whole thing?” Mitchell recalls. “They loved the idea. They really didn’t want to take it apart because it is a beautiful exhibit. So fast forward…we got a grant from the Felburn Foundation for $350,000 and were able to get this designed and get the work done. The exhibit is here on a 10-year loan, basically free.” Mitchell says the exhibit is valued at $1 million. It was designed with bilingual exhibit text and kiosks and includes information about dugout canoes from North, Central and South America. There are numerous handson activity stations to engage young minds and hands. “There’s a lot of interviews with Native Americans who are still making canoes and using canoes, like on the Northwest coast, British Columbia,” Mitchell points out. “There’s video of a canoe carver working.” One kiosk features paddles displayed in a fannedout pattern. “I dragged the bottom one back from the Mosquito Coast of Honduras,” Mitchell notes. “I was down there on a fishing expedition in the jungle and we were camping with Indians who traveled by canoe, so I bought a couple of paddles from them. These are from the Amazon, Peru, Brazil… This could have been from a child’s canoe, or a ceremonial canoe,” he says, pointing to elaborately painted and designed pieces. He says the overall theme of the exhibit is that

people in the Americas have been using dugout canoes for many years. “The earliest dates from Newnans Lake were 6,000 years ago and they probably were using them before that,” he offers. “That’s how you could travel. You could bring your family, a bunch of stuff, didn’t have to carry everything and tromp through the woods. You could fish.” The displays include a very large brown canoe from Little Orange Lake near Hawthorne that is 1,000 years old, a “touchable station” prow fragment from a dugout from the Suwannee River, which Mitchell says is great for kids and those who are sight impaired, and a canoe from Central America that was covered in resin so kids can sit in it and have a photo taken with a vibrant backdrop of a lake on the wall behind. The museum is operated in partnership with Marion County Public Schools. During each school year, Mondays through Fridays, fourth and fifth grade students are transported to the complex to learn about history as they view artifacts such as a mammoth skeleton, primitive tools and items of daily use. The museum is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10am to 4pm. Mitchell says of the new wing and exhibit, “We’re excited because it expands the museum but it also brings in local history and science and there’s a lot of really beautiful pieces. Because we see so many kids, this is a great way to introduce them to aspects of our history and some science as well.” He says there will be an option to renew the agreement to house the collection in 10 years and that if the exhibit does move, the wing was designed to either house different exhibits or serve a multitude of uses, including as a banquet or seminar room. Guy Marwick, executive director of the Felburn Foundation, conceived the idea of creating the museum when he was a teacher in local schools. In 1987, he was one of two teachers nationwide to receive a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. “That got me started,” he explains, “then I had to raise the money to build it!” The museum, funded by grants, appropriations and donations, opened in 1991, with Marwick as director. He retired in 2004. While with the museum, Marwick notes, he received grants from the Felburn Foundation to build a library and history wing at the venue. Marwick is quick to praise Mitchell for his ongoing efforts at the sprawling educational complex. “It’s been something so successful. We want to keep it growing better and better, and continue to see it succeed,” he offers. “There is something there for everyone.” The new wing was built by Bowden Construction Services. The general contractor, Mark Bowden, also has

built log cabins at the complex, along with a unique woodfired kiln. He says his family has deep roots in Ocala and that as a young Boy Scout he actually helped clear the property when the museum was first set for construction. “This has been a neat personal experience for me,” Bowden states with a grin as he surveys the new exhibit inside the space he created for it. “This has been fun!” To learn more, visit www.floridastateparks.org/parksand-trails/silver-springs-state-park/silver-river-museum, and www.marionschools.net/Page/50764

March ‘20 105

From None to Run Running clubs are one of the best ways to start running and meet new friends. By Sherri Cruz Photography by Natalie Desiree Mottet and Isabelle Ramirez


t age 49, Angela DeSimone shares she’s no “spring chicken.” But running makes her feel like one. “It just makes everything better. You feel better, so you react better. I can’t say enough about running,” she offers. She began running in 2011 after a friend invited her to run in a church charity fundraiser. Her first time out, she barely did two miles. “I thought I was going to die,” she recalls. A year later, she ran her first marathon. Two years ago, she got serious and hired a coach to help her run the Boston Marathon. So how does one go from zero to one mile, 5K (3.1 miles) or even a marathon (26.2 miles)? You start running by walking. Then gradually increasing your run time. Don’t expect to go out on the first day and run a full mile or even a quarter mile without stopping. In the beginning, DeSimone used a device that would beep when it was time to walk and time to run. There are dozens of running training apps and devices available, including Apple and Garmin GPS running watches, to help runners train, log miles and track times. Most runners log their personal records

(PRs) and try to beat them. While devices and apps are handy, you don’t need them. All you need to do is put on a pair of running shoes and get out there, says coach Darrin DeTorres, who oversees the Ocala Distance Project, a running program for kids. Anyone of any age or level can be a runner. “I’ve been running since third grade and I’ve never run a marathon,” he notes. “You can run a one-mile race and be a runner.” Many runners will cite running clubs as one of the best ways to get going. “The hardest part is getting out the door, so a gentle reminder via text or a push from a friend keeps us accountable,” DeSimone says. She runs with the Ocala Reliables. Many new runners are members of the Ocala Turtle Running Club, which meets three days a week at 5am. The Ocala Runners Club has a different vibe. Members meet after work on Wednesdays at Infinite Ale Works. They run three to five miles and then socialize at the brewery. Everybody runs for a different reason, such as stress release, friendship or weight loss, DeTorres says.

“If your goal is weight loss,” he advises, “running is the most effective way to burn calories.” A good idea for new runners is to set a goal. “You need to put a race on the calendar, a fundraiser or a goal,” DeSimone offers. Neelie Harmon’s goal was to get through the Big Hammock Race Series, a series of 10 competitive races in Marion County designed for runners of all levels. She started running last year after breaking records in competitive powerlifting. “I had gotten pretty muscular, bulky, from doing that, and I had decided I wanted to be in better cardiovascular health,” Harmon notes. She’s a nurse in the cardiac catherization lab at AdventHealth, so she says she’s aware of the importance of cardio health. She also has lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes overactive and causes inflammation in healthy tissue. Exercise eases inflammation for people with autoimmune diseases. “If I don’t exercise, I have more problems than if I do,” she explains. Her lupus has now been in remission for two years. She has done all the races in the series so far, but may have to skip the last one because she plans to give birth five days after the final race in May. “I had gotten up to 10 miles without stopping and having a little over a 30-minute 5K, and then, boom, I got pregnant,” she recalls. She intends to run the next two races in the series—at a slower pace. Tina Banner, co-founder of the Big Hammock Race Series, wasn’t a runner before 2012. “I used to think to myself: Who are those crazy people that get up on Thanksgiving morning to run the Turkey Trot? Like who does that?” Now, she’s one of those crazy people. “When I was running half marathons I didn’t think I’d ever run a full one,” she offers. Last November, she ran the New York City Marathon after being chosen in the lottery, an incredible feat of luck. She trained with coach Stephanie “Pezz” Pezzullo and finished with a time of 4 hours 30 minutes. “That was a personal record,” she says. “I was thrilled.” Banner says she gets through races by talking to herself, with phrases such as, “Hey, you’re fine. Your legs are fine. You’re breathing fine. You’ve got this.” Running is about 90 percent mental, she says. It’s definitely more mental than physical, especially when you’re running a marathon. So, go ahead, put your mind to it and hit the road. You may just find that you’re one of the crazy ones too.

To learn more, visit www.bighammockraceseries.com

March ‘20 107

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Day in the Life By Dianne Gillespie

In observing the beauty that exists in the here and now, we can find the extraordinary revealed within the ordinary. We invite you to see our community with fresh eyes through the lens of our photographers.

Traveling County Road 484 to Dunnellon, I passed a beautiful, endless field of sunflowers and couldn’t help but wonder if there were honey bees out and about. More than just a sunflower field, Cannon Farms is a fifthgeneration, family-owned farm (which opens in May for the season) made into a series of mazes. For a small fee you can pick your own sunflowers and, when finished, you’re given a slice of the farm fresh watermelon.

March ‘20 109



March ‘20


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