Ocala Style | March 2022

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MAR ‘22

Outdoor+ Adventure JEEP TREKS

WILD AT HEART

A LEAP OF FAITH


29 Acre Equestrian Farm – Across from HITS

Oak Creek Caverns

Beautiful equestrian farm with scattered Live Oaks, lush green pastures, 4 bedroom/3 bath home, 22-stall barn, storage equipment, plus 2 bedroom/2 bath living quarters. Located across from HITS. Just minutes to WEC. $1,897,000

3 Bedroom/2 bath home on 1 +/-acres in gated community close to town. Spacious kitchen opens to family room with brick fireplace. Formal living room with wood floors and large picture windows. $465,500

Country Club of Ocala

Golden Ocala

Incomparable stone & brick construction – overlooking the 15th fairway. Incredible mill work and construction details throughout. Oversized 3-car garage plus RV garage. This home offers plenty of room for entertaining with golf course living at its finest. Furnished. $1,750,000

Presiding over the challenging 15th green of the Golden Ocala Golf Course with incredible views of the course, bridge, and pond. This stately residence provides 5,912 +/- total square feet of living area with your choice of 5 or 6 bedrooms, 5 full baths and 1 half bath. Home features 2 - 2 car garage. $2,150,000

Our results speak for themselves. List with Joan today! For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and photos. 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.


Leeward Air Ranch Estates - 2.62 +/- Acres

NW Ocala Equestrian Farm 50 +/- Acres

Timeless architecture and a pilot’s dream define this 4-bedroom, 5.5 bath home with direct access to a 6200’ x 165’ grass runway. 3-car detached garage, private 60 x 78 aircraft hangar. Located in a 500-acre private sport aviation community. $2,295,000

Beautiful equestrian farm located in the prestigious NW Ocala area with scattered live oaks and lush green pastures. Main barn features 2,400 SF, including 4 offices, conference room and 14 oversized stalls. 2 additional barns for a total of 42 stalls. $2,495,000

Just Reduced

Pending

White Oak Villages

10+ Acres - Gentleman’s Farm

Located close to shopping, hospitals, and restaurants. Chef ’s kitchen with center island & granite countertops opens to family room. Sliding glass doors lead to screen enclosed lanai. 3 bedroom/2 bath home. $369,500

This 5-bedroom, 3-bath home is located just minutes to premier shopping, dining, hospitals and a short distance to the World Equestrian Center. Lit arena, 4-stall barn, 4 paddocks plus 3-car covered open carport. $785,000

If you’re considering buying or selling, give us a call at 352.266.9100 today!


Publisher’s Note

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t was a wild ride putting together our Outdoor + Adventure issue, with our writers and photographers getting out to cover everything from kayaking to ax throwing. And those adventures feature a great cast of characters. We follow local veterinarian and equine adventurer Tiffany Atteberry as she trains right here at the Florida Horse Park for the world’s most challenging horse race, the Mongol Derby, taking place this summer. Our team visited a local dog ranch to learn about the daring sport of dog diving and meet some proud pet parents. Meagan Gumpert and Dave Miller (otherwise known as MAVEN Photo + Film) hit the trails for an exciting off-road outing to the Ocala National Forest in a custom Jeep. We enjoyed some freshly caught fish, deliciously prepared by our resident foodie and lady angler Jill Paglia. One of our editors even jumped out of a plane as a personal adventure and shared her experience with us for the issue. To be clear, if I could have stopped her, I would have, out of an abundance of caution and some nagging fears I had, but I can’t stop someone from my team from doing anything on their own time. Though I did try! Something that is also clear is that “adventure” means different things to each of us, whether it be experimenting with a new recipe, getting married or visiting a farm animal rescue where you can get up close and personal with some hilarious pigs, cows, goats, chickens and horses. What is also an adventure is putting together this magazine each month. One of my favorite things is to listen to Nick Steele, who has been our editor in chief for the last few years, as he recounts the behind the scenes antics and mishaps that inevitably arise at our photo shoots. The stories, and Nick’s distinctive form of storytelling, often has the entire office erupting in laughter. Nick has not only kept us laughing but has also been a trusted partner in helping me realize my vision for Ocala Style by overseeing the magazine’s tone and visual identity. So, it is with a bit of a heavy heart that I share that Nick will be stepping down as editor in chief after this issue. I’m happy to say, however, that he will continue to contribute to the magazine and help out with special projects. As Nick departs, our beloved Susan Smiley-Height will be stepping up to lead the magazine. Her talent is immense, her kindness legendary and her sense of humor is a delight. I am excited to have someone like Susan, who knows our community so well, in such an important role. I have no doubt she will continue the team’s culture of friendship, respect and support of one another above all else. Whatever adventure means to you, I hope you have lots of fun this season and surround yourself with some great friends—which, let’s face it…makes everything better!

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher


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“CAMPUS is part of my winning game plan. Make it part of yours, too!” Steve Spurrier Head Ball Coach, CAMPUS Member

READY, SET, GO! Open an account at campuscu.com/star-powered Call 352-237-9060 and press 5 Curbside Service available at your local CAMPUS Service Center. Visit campuscu.com to find a CAMPUS Service Center in your community.

Membership is open to anyone in Alachua, Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties.2 1. Credit approval and initial $50 opening deposit required. Member must elect to receive eDocuments. 2. Credit approval and initial $5 deposit required. Insured by the NCUA.


in this issue

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ins ide r

f e a tu r e s

IF THE SPIRIT MOVES YOU

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DOING GOOD

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FAR-FLUNG FUN

Learn how several Hospice of Marion County programs touch lives in myriad ways.

Urban ax throwing is a thing—really!

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HIT THE TRAILS

MERMAIDS WITH A MESSAGE

The Florida SpringsFest will offer educational information about our water supply, shared by mermaids and experts.

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SCHLENKERISMS

Dave says hurricanes have nothing on the Great Wi-Fi Outage of 2022.

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NATURAL EXCURSIONS

Kayak & Koffee tours provide scenic adventures on area waterways.

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Some fun and challenging off-road adventures await you.

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MAKING A SPLASH

Dog diving can put your canine in front of cheering crowds.

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HIGH DIVE

Central Florida Skydiving has a new drop zone in Marion County.

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A WILD RIDE

TiffanyAtteberry is training for an epic equine challenge.

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Meet the team that provides compassionate care at a local farm animal sanctuary where the community has an opportunity to connect with the residents and discover the unique, and often humorous, personalities of these special creatures.

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A GREAT CATCH

Reel in Jill Paglia’s grilled swordfish and mahi mahi recipes for a healthy and delicious meal.

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MAKING HER MARK

Kelsey Mahoney’s unique view of the world is being recognized by leaders in the local art community.

ON THE COVER: Ocala Style’s own Senior Editor Susan Smiley-Height with Donnie Hickey Photo by Whitey Meade This page: left photo courtesy of Jill Paglia, center by Alan Youngblood and right by MAVEN Photo + Film


Whether your outdoor passions favor riding waves, swimming with dolphins, riding horseback or biking trails, treat your eyes to the beauty and your heart to the excitement of Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches.


Sin ce

ON INSTAGRAM @KOONTZ.COM

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Social Scene Jalay Howard performs with other members of the Gap Productions/Immerse Church of Ocala dance ministry during the annual MLK Day in the Park event. Photo by Bruce Ackerman


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Natyri Oliver and Gabryel Oliver

Azaria Roberts and other members of the NAACP.

MLK Ceremony & March MLK RECREATION COMPLEX AND MEMORIAL PARK Photos by Bruce Ackerman

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Camille Weathers

he MLK March from downtown Ocala to the MLK Jr. Recreation Complex on January 17th ended with the Day in the Park celebration. Other events hosted by the Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Commemorative Commission included a prayer breakfast, wreath ceremony, youth day and ecumenical service.

William Harris and his daughters, Nia and Nora with Joanne Cornell-Ohlman

DeNaya Wilkerson, Marcus Wright and Keith Bracey

Sgt. Richard Tuck, Dr. James Henningsen and Officer Malaya Woods.


For over two decades, our REALTORS® have helped thousands of customers find their home right here in Central Florida. Our 2021 was a year of tremendous growth and success for our agents– we added another location, multiple new agents, and were the #1 Independent Brokerage for Listings in Marion County!

*(Courtesy of the Stellar MLS, 1/1/2021 - 12/31/2021, Search Status - Sold, Property Type - Residential, Property Style - Farm, State - Florida)


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Greg Graham Legacy Walk ZONE HEALTH & FITNESS Photos by Bruce Ackerman

T Tyler, Amy, Mark and Kalin Graham

he life of late Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham was honored January 20th by family members and friends during a 12-hour fitness event. Proceeds will benefit the Amnesty Program at Beacon Point, Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County and the Chief Greg Graham Legacy Foundation.

Fire Rescue cadets pose with Rescue Station 5’s Tim Carver.

Capt. Greg Martin of the Ocala Police Department and Ben Marciano

Kalin Graham holds a portrait of her father by artist E.J. Nieves.

“Big Daddy” Birthday Bash HILTON OCALA Photos by Bruce Ackerman

F Don Garlits with daughter Donna Garlits

“Big Daddy” celebrates with family members

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amily members and friends gathered January 15th to celebrate the 90th birthday of famed drag racer and local museum owner “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. It included a cocktail reception, dinner and special surprise video presentation that offered best wishes from people around the nation.

Top, from left: Benjamin Capitano, Kirsten Watley, Anna Capitano, and Ben Watley. Bottom, from left: Sarah Smith, Don Garlits and Braden Garlits

Top, from left: Garlits, Jerry Gwynn and Bruce Larson. Bottom: Darrell Gwynn.



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Curtis and Alice Vollmer Smith

TJ and Zoey Stewart

Ties and Tiaras MARION THEATRE Photos by Cynthia Wilson-Graham

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ovely little ladies and their fathers/father figures were the stars of the show on January 21st at the Marion County Children’s Alliance SKIP (Supporting Kids, Involving Parents) event, which included a movie, swag bags and other treats.

Homberto and Kaylina Gonzalez

Ben, Morgan and Carlee Dodge

Jamal Udechukwa and Adiyah Ude

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Matt and Anna Like

Brett and Aaliah Stanley

Tim and Raina Wands

Mabry and Ewart David


SPONSORED

60 years of service

Photo by John Jernigan

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n 1962, roughly 100 miles north of Ocala, a group of businessmen led by John S. Flood founded the First Federal Savings Bank and Loan of Live Oak to help their friends and neighbors and support their growing community. Flood was named president. In 1974, Flood’s daughter Quinn and her husband Keith Leibfried moved to Live Oak and Keith began his banking career at First Federal. That also was the year that operations moved into a new two-story building and a second branch opened in Jasper. This community-based mutual bank—which is owned by its customers rather than stockholders—now has 25 branches in the Southeast and Midwest, including three in Ocala. First Federal has increased its business lines to include mortgage processing, wholesale lending, specialty commercial financing, warehouse lending, consumer direct lending and manufactured housing lending. Giving back to the communities it serves is a hallmark of First Federal, which has been proven through building playgrounds at elementary schools, funding computer labs, supporting youth and school sports teams, and donating time and money to build affordable housing. First Federal’s mission of support is extended through a foundation, employee payroll deduction program in which donations are matched and a community rewards program in which customers can participate.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, First Federal launched a 60 Days of Giving program in February and will be giving $1,000 each to 60 local nonprofit organizations. To continue honoring its 60 years of service, in April, First Federal in Ocala will be hosting an event where customers and guests can talk with bank personnel and learn more about its history of excellence. Since 2000, First Federal has been awarded a “5Star, Superior” distinction from BauerFinancial, Inc. for being a financially stable institution. The bank was named “Best Small Bank in Florida” for 2021 and 2022 by Newsweek magazine and has earned numerous “Best Bank” awards and “Best Places to Work” distinctions. In its six decades of service, First Federal has only had three presidents, John S. Flood from 1962-1980, Keith C. Leibfried from 1980-2019 and John A. Medina, President CEO from 2019 to the present. “Providing a stable bank, whose name and charter do not change, is important to the long-term success of our communities,” says Mr. Medina. “Local citizens work at the bank, customers know our employees and our culture ensures funds stay local and support the non-profits that help our communities flourish.” First Federal Bank is a Member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and an Equal Housing Lender. To learn more about this outstanding financial institution, go to www.ffbf.com

Photo by John Jernigan

Since 1962, First Federal Bank has built a stellar reputation based on exceptional value and service.


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

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Live Oak International Live Oak Plantation

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One of the most exciting equine showjumping and combined driving tournaments in the world is returning to Ocala. The March 3rd - 5th event includes the AdventHealth Ocala Kid Zone, Audi Gainesville Biergarten, vendors and food trucks. For tickets, visit www.liveoakinternational.com

Habitat Ocala Strawberry Festival McPherson Complex The eighth annual Habitat for Humanity of Marion County’s Ocala Strawberry Festival returns from 9am to 5pm for what is sure to be a berry good time. The festival will include live music and entertainment, a kids’ zone with activities, more than 200 vendors and several booths selling fresh strawberries. Cruise on over to the Burnyzz car show to see some unique vehicles on display, such as antique tractors and a replica of the Ghostbusters car. Enjoy tasty food and beverages at the food court. The festival would not be complete without a pie eating contest. Proceeds will be used to build a new Habitat home. Visit habitatocala. org/strawberryfestival

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The Florida Steeplechase Florida Horse Park For the first time in more than a decade, the Sunshine State will host a steeplechase—right here in the Horse Capital of the World. Spectators and competitors alike can enjoy a day of exhilarating thoroughbred racing action contested over fences. In addition to the races, the steeplechase is a unique social outing with a timeless atmosphere and invites ladies to dress in their race day best for the Odette Fashions on the Field competition. Florida’s oldest fox hunting club, the South Creek Foxhounds, will present a parade of hounds led by their mounted team. From a children’s pony race to exclusive hospitality marquees, the steeplechase has something for everyone. Visit thefloridasteeplechase.com

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Appleton Free First Saturday Tour of Susan Martin’s “Garden Party” Appleton Museum of Art Free First Saturday returns to the Appleton Museum of Art on March 5 from 10am to 5pm. Visitors can enjoy free admission to the museum while admiring the permanent and special exhibitions on display. Explore the gallery, create art in the Artspace and purchase lunch from Big Lee’s barbeque food truck. Artist Susan Martin will present free tours at 11am and 2pm of her solo exhibition, “Garden Party,” featuring large-scale photorealist paintings of plant life. Visit appletonmuseum.org

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Ocala Veg Fest Ocala Downtown Market The fourth annual Ocala Veg Fest returns to Ocala on March 6th from 10am to 3pm. Dr. Will Tuttle, world-renowned presenter and author of the Amazon Best Seller The World Peace Diet, will join the festivities as the keynote speaker. Expert doctors, researchers and activists will discuss timely topics such as health, diet, animal welfare and the environment. Enjoy a showcase on the benefits of an eco-friendly, plant-based lifestyle, including animal rescues and nonprofits, live music and scrumptious vegan food. Visit ocalavegfest.com


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Ocala Ignite Luncheon Klein Center, College of Central Florida

TOWER HILL NURSERY & MIMS LANDSCAPING

A group of Marion County professionals who have “a passion and deep desire to create a safe and loving community here in Ocala,” present the annual Ignite Premier Luncheon. Attendees can enjoy a delicious meal and silent auction to assist local beneficiary Project Hope. The luncheon begins at 11:30am. For tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3Jrr85l

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Truck Off Deem-It! Food Truck Competition Tuscawilla Park The family-friendly food truck competition will take over Tuscawilla Park to create Food Truck Alley. Enjoy local foods and beverages during the battle for Grand Champ Signature Dish. The Hayfire Group will take the stage with their “modern, southern-tinged sound.” A car show, kid-friendly activities and various vendors all help benefit Kids Central, Inc. Visit eventsdeemit.com

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Marion County Master Gardeners’ Spring Festival Southeastern Livestock Pavilion During the second weekend of March, the area’s largest all-in-one plant sale and garden expo returns. Shop Florida-friendly tropical trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs as well as vegetable plants and seeds. In addition to hourly gardening education sessions, Master Gardeners will answer plant questions at the mobile plant clinic. The festival will feature a wide variety of food trucks. Gates open at 8am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday. Visit fb.com/ MarionCountyMasterGardeners

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Southeastern Pro Rodeo Southeastern Livestock Pavilion Catch top rodeo action on March 18th and 19th during two jam-packed performances filled with exciting competition in saddle and bareback bronc riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, and the most dangerous eight seconds in any sport, bull riding. Gates open at 5:30pm, performances begin at 7:30pm. Visit ocalarodeo.com

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Four Chaplains Ceremony and Quarterly Memorial Program Ocala-MarionCounty Veterns Memorial Park The annual Four Chaplains Ceremony, to honor the selfless acts of four Army chaplains who died in the sinking of the United States Army Transport Dorchester, and the quarterly program to honor local veterans, will begin at 10am. Call (352) 671-8422.

Tower Hill Nursery and Mims Landscaping is a family-owned business that promises a personal touch in all of the services it provides. Interested in making your property a showplace? Check out the Tower Hill Nursery and/or Mims Landscaping LLC page on Facebook, then stop by and visit us!

Ocala’s Hometown Nursery 1712 N.E. 36th Avenue in Ocala To make an appointment, call (352) 216-4263 Licensed and insured

EAT. SHOP. PLAY. PADDOCKMALL .COM

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(352) 237-1223

3100 SW COLLEGE RD., OCAL A , FLORIDA


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The Unfinished Concert Reilly Arts Center The Ocala Symphony Orchestra welcomes the winners of the Young Artist Competition as they take the stage along with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade and Schubert’s B minor symphony, The Unfinished. Performances begin at 7:30pm on March 19th and 3pm on March 20th. Visit reillyartscenter.com

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Down for Donuts 7 CrossFit Iron Legion There will be fun for the whole family at this functional fitness competition to help raise awareness and funds for GiGi’s Playhouse in Gainesville, Fl—A Down Syndrome Achievement Center. There will be a silent auction, as well as coffee and donuts for everyone. Visit crossfitironlegion.com

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Photos with the Easter Bunny Paddock Mall The Easter Bunny is hopping back to Paddock Mall from March 25th to April 16th. Visit the Easter Bunny for a magical photo experience in his Enchanted Garden. Visit PaddockMall.com

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Marion County Day is back for its third year. Celebrate historic Marion County from 10am to 2pm while learning about local nonprofit organizations and county agencies such as Marion County Fire Rescue and Public Works. Games, bounce houses and other family-oriented activities. Several local food vendors will be on-site and area entertainers and storytellers will perform throughout the day. Visit marionfl.org

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29 @ocalastylemagazine @ocalastyle @ocalastyle

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest news, events and more! #RealPeople #RealStories #RealOcala

Marion County Day McPherson Governmental Campus

Ira Holmes International Film Series: To Kill a Mockingbird Appleton Museum of Art & CF Ocala Campus The College of Central Florida’s Ira Holmes International Film Series continues with screenings of To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, on March 29th at 2pm at the Appleton Museum of Art and at 7pm at the CF Ocala Campus. The film presents its story through the eyes of children, as their father, a Depression-era, widowed lawyer, confronts racial injustice in the segregated South. Following the screenings, Dr. Gilbert B. Rodman, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, will host a session via Zoom on March 30th at 12:30pm. Visit cf.edu/filmseries


DOING GOOD

Comfort and Care

Hospice of Marion County programs touch lives in myriad ways. By Susan Smiley-Height

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any people know about the compassionate end-of-life care that hospice organizations can provide for loved ones and friends. But, Hospice of Marion County (HMC) provides many lesser-known services as well. In addition to treating the terminally ill, HMC also offers palliative care, in-home programs for those with a life-limiting illness and grief counseling. “We want to provide not only a peaceful environment, comfort from pain and state-of-theart medical care, but also give our patients and their families as much time together as possible without pain and with lucidity,” shares HMC Charitable Gifts Officer Cindy Moody, CFRE. “We do help patients who are facing end of life, but they can benefit from what we do other than just the last hours. A favorite expression of mine since working for Hospice of Marion County for the past six years is, ‘When days can’t be added, we want to add life to your days.’” Palliative care, offered through the Carewell Supportive Care program, can begin before a patient enters hospice and offers “relief from the symptoms of serious illness” to “enhance your care and well-being” for those who have a serious illness that in time will likely lead to a terminal diagnosis.

Through this program, hospice provides “diagnosis-specific symptom management” in a “team approach” in collaboration with you, your family and your doctor. Under this program, the patient may still seek curative care through their physician. This service is designed to help provide some increase in the patient’s quality of life when they have an illness in which pain or symptoms keep them from participating in their daily routine and to provide an extra layer of support to the patient. “Palliative care is there to alleviate some of those symptoms,” Moody offers. “Another program is Transitions,” she continues. “Trained volunteers go to the patient’s house and provide companionship, make lunch, play cards, sit and chat. That is a benefit to the patient and provides respite for the primary caregiver.” Transitions is a “professionally managed pre-hospice” program that assists those challenged by an advancing illness with a prognosis of one year or less, available to Marion County residents at no charge. The organization also offers free counseling through The Monarch Center for Hope & Healing to anyone who has lost a loved one. Located in a separate free-standing building, it is a place for people of all ages to process their loss and programs offer support to anyone who is seeking healing and stability after the death of a loved one, whether they were a patient of hospice or not. Both individual and group grief counseling are available. “Our bereavement teams also go to schools to help young people deal with grief because they may have lost a loved one or a fellow student,” Moody notes. “We have a quarterly children’s camp and a group for teens.” Volunteers are critical in many HMC programs and Moody says there are opportunities to fit “every passion.” HMC has three hospice houses and soon will break ground on a fourth. Proceeds from four thrift stores help support the organization, as do proceeds from community events such as benefit golf tournaments and 5Ks. For Carewell Supportive Care services call (352) 291-5881 and for grief counseling call (352) 873-7400 or visit hospiceofmarion.com March ‘22

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Mermaids With a Message By Scott Mitchell

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The second threat to the aquifer is over-pumping. Taking out more than nature puts in is the issue. Consider that only between 7% to 15% of rainwater actually makes it down into the aquifer and it is easy to grasp the problem (most precipitation evaporates, runs off or is absorbed by plants). The Florida SpringsFest is as unique to Marion County as our wonderful springs are to North Florida. The collective goal of the festival is to help people understand how vulnerable our freshwater supply is and what we can do to preserve and protect it. Simple actions taken by us all, individually and collectively, can make a big difference. Conserving water and being aware of how pollutants get into our water supply are tops on the list. Generally speaking, people tend to protect what is important to them. There is nothing more important than a reliable supply of clean drinking water. The next time you see a mermaid, just ask; they’ll tell you. Scott Mitchell is a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center.

Photo courtesy of Florida Springs Fest

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here are only a handful of places one can see mermaids in Florida. Weeki Wachee State Park is well-known for these sirens of the deep, as are several kitschy “undersea” bars in South Florida and the Keys. For one weekend in March, Ocala is also on the list, with the Florida SpringsFest. The festival, now in its 22nd year, is Marion County’s mermaid hub and a lot more. What do mermaids and springs have in common, you may ask? Well, both mermaids and humans need fresh clean water to live and thrive. The mermaids (sometimes joined by mermen) appear each spring to promote the springs. It may seem touristy and a little silly but, in all seriousness, it is a critically important mission. Florida is a wonderful place to live. So many of us call it home that we have become a burden on its limited natural resources—fresh water being the most important. The goal of the festival, set for March 5th and 6th at Silver Springs State Park, is to help people understand the fragile nature of our drinking water supply. Springs are what we can all see and touch, thus they are the centerpiece of the event. However, the real prize is the Floridan Aquifer, that vast underground reservoir that supplies fresh water to virtually all Floridians. Pretty much all drinking water, whether you depend on city water, own a private well or drink bottled water, comes from the same source. The catch is that the water was not always underground. We are blessed with porous sand and limestone, which allows rainwater (or at least some of it) to seep down and replenish the water we draw out from the aquifer. This introduces the very real problem of pollutants (such as chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers) also percolating into the water supply. In simple terms, we drink what we put on the ground.


Marion Mobile Bar & Bubbles

We can handle all of your bartending needs from our mobile bar, a pop up cocktail station, or just the bartenders. We offer signature cocktails that are all made with homemade simple syrups, and homemade dehydrated fruit garnishes. Our bartenders are all certified and insured. We can also do events with specialty Mocktails, including weddings, parties, and work events. Please visit our website, Facebook, and Instagram for references and ideas!

352-286-8420

www.barandbubbles.com Marionbarandbubbles@gmail.com

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Garden Party Botanical Paintings by Susan Martin On View Through April 24, 2022 Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store

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

COLLEGE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

-an equal opportunity college-


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Wi-Fi-less Life By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo

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n the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, I remember the silence. We waded through downed tree limbs, counting our blessings and wondering when the power would return. The silence was eerie and glorious. No air conditioning units humming. No TVs yammering. No…well, I do not know what else was missing but the absence was palatable. The power was out. As was the hot water. As was the clatter of 21st century humans dependent on yammering TVs, humming climate units and clean armpits. I thought back to that silence recently when our neighborhood suffered the Great Wi-Fi Outage of 2022. A cable company provides our Wi-Fi, the mystical internet thingy that connects us to, as it turns out, everything. The Wi-Fi went out on a Sunday and we groused about it the way we grouse about running out of milk. Monday? Still nothing. This was a problem since we are working from home. Amy is a speech therapist who works remotely and sees students from as far away as Idaho. No internet connection, no students, no work. I work for a company that depends on many online meetings per day. Because of the pandemic, I work from home, too. When I called the cable company, I played up the desperation. “This is bad. This outage will result in our

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immediate dismissal and, subsequently, a life of crime. If you do not fix the Wi-Fi, we will rob banks and smash ATMs with sledgehammers.” “I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Shecktor,” the customer service person answered. “We are working to resolve the issue. Is there anything else I can help you with?” I love that question. Is there anything else I can help you with? We are out of internet. Our livelihoods are at a standstill. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Much like the hurricane of 2017, our neighborhood mobilized. But this time we were not sympathetic to life’s natural rhythms. We texted each other with petty whining: “Sick of this. We will be out for days. Another deep-state conspiracy.” On day two, I gave up and turned on the TV for solace. Nothing. Our programming was dependent on internet streaming—a format dependent on Wi-Fi. “What else can I help you with?” How about enough Wi-Fi to see Michael Scott step on his George Foreman grill to eat bedside bacon on The Office reruns? I realized the weight of our Wi-Fi outage when I—useless to my employer—plopped down on our couch. Life is too dependent on invisible internet particles. We not only depend on Wi-Fi for productivity, we depend on it for sitcoms and rabbit holes


TT DISTRIBUTORS and respites from online culture powered by online culture. We depend too much on 21st century tech particles. We accepted it when Hurricane Irma forced us back to basics with smelly armpits. But when technology itself cannot gets its $&*# together, we curse the same silence. Wi-Fi returned to our neighborhood on day four. By then we—humans in our 50s—had figured out workarounds, such as Wi-Fi hotspots. We were back in business and vowed to call the cable company to give them the same “what for” our parents gave TV repairmen without pliers. In the end, the epiphany was simple: We are too dependent on things that we never imagined. Meetings with supervisors five states away? Sitcoms on demand? Hitting “like” when a high school sweetheart posts photos of grandchildren? Perhaps we expect too much. “What else can I help you with, Mr. Shecktor?” How about perspective?

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VOWS

Celebrate... You are cordially invited to celebrate Ocala’s newest brides and grooms, get a glimpse into their most special of days and hear firsthand about the memories that will always hold a place in their hearts. Pictured: Leshonda Petersen | Photographed by G5 Photography


VOWS

LESHONDA & WILBURN PETERSEN July 1st, 2021 Venue: Crystal Ballroom of Daytona Photographer: G5 Photography Hair: Celeste Jenkins Makeup:: Natalie Council Her favorite memory: “The look on Wilburn’s face as I walked down the aisle!” His favorite memory: “Watching my beautiful wife walk down the aisle. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful!”


CAITLIN & KYLE PEAVY December 11th, 2021 Venue: Pine Haven Photographer: Maudie Lucas Photography Hair & Makeup: Kelsey Archer Their favorite memory: “Our favorite memory from the day was the time between taking pictures and the reception. It gave us some time to talk about our vows and how meaningful they were, as well as taking in the moment before the ‘big’ celebration.”


Natural Excursions Kayak & Koffee tours provide scenic adventures on local waterways.

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he stillness of an early morning provides some of the best opportunities to see and hear our area’s natural world in all its splendor. And when you do that from a kayak, you add visual elements below the water that are simply spectacular. One of the easiest ways to do this—and get a great cup of java too—is through the Kayak & Koffee program offered by Marion County Parks & Recreation (MCPR). The kayak tours, for ages 15 and older of all skill levels, are offered the second Saturday of each month from late summer through the spring. The program provides the equipment, or you can bring your own. “We do provide all the gear one might need. The vessel, life vests, etc.,” offers Sara Johnson, a community engagement coordinator with MCPR, “and we offer discounted pricing for those who provide their own kayak gear.” The kayak tour in January took paddlers from KP Hole Park to Blue Run Park on the Rainbow River. February’s outing was at King’s Landing in nearby Orange County. In March, the tour will follow the gorgeous Silver River from Silver Springs to Ray Wayside Park, where the Silver River meets the Ocklawaha River. “This time of year, manatees are abundant in our spring-fed rivers, especially the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers,” Johnson notes. “Our corner of the state is home to a number of native Florida species that call rivers and their banks home, including fish, otters, birds and alligators.” The tours on the Silver and Rainbow rivers reveal a wide variety of birds in the air and trees, fish flashing through the water as sunlight glints off their scales,

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turtles gently paddling through grass beds and, in the case of the Silver River, occasional glimpses at the feral rhesus monkeys that roam the banks. This a great way to learn more about our region’s natural beauty. The tours typically run between two to four hours—and there’s coffee at the end “as a little treat for all that paddling,” shares Johnson. The cost for each Kayak & Koffee outing is $50 per participant with all gear provided, or $25 each for those who bring their own equipment. For more information or to register, go to parks.marionfl.org or call (352) 671-8560.

Photos courtesy of Marion County Parks & Recreation

By Susan Smiley-Height


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Far-Flung Fun

Hurling axes, knives and throwing stars is usually associated with ancient times or adventure movies, but the thrilling recreational activity has caught on among everyday people. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by Becky Collazo

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hawhoomp! The sound is loud and reverberating when someone hurls an ax that “sticks” into the large wooden target at The Firehouse Urban Axe Throwing venue in Ocala. Achieving that audible echo is just one of the challenges in the sport that has gained a lot of traction in the U.S. in the past few years. A variety of themes employed on the 10 targets

allow participants to fling axes, hatchets, knives and metal throwing stars at traditionally painted bullseye circles or a tic-tac-toe grid, or digitally projected games such as Zombie Hunter or Connect Four. For individual participants, duos or groups, the sport is akin to darts or bowling in terms of keeping score and even offers leagues and tournaments.


Stepping up to the red safety line to release your instrument of choice (none of which are razor sharp) might be a way to de-stress, work on your hand/eye coordination, be part of a family outing like a birthday party or a staff bonding activity. It also might feel a little bit like being an action star or a naughty child. “People know that as a kid you’re not supposed to mess around with any of this. It’s still a weapon and can be dangerous,” explains Percy Brunner, a coach at the facility. “But to actually be allowed to do it, it’s like bringing out that inner child curiosity.” Morgan Blackburn is the general manager of the venue, or the “axpert,” which is just one of the many puns to be found there. Go ahead, you can “ax” him anything! His father, Lonnie Blackburn, a firefighter with Marion County Fire Rescue, is the owner of the business, thus the name. Morgan said his dad got the idea to open the facility while on a trip to Missouri for a wedding. “The group was looking for something to do prior to the wedding and that ended up being ax throwing,” Morgan offers. “At the time, ax throwing was somewhat unheard of as a recreational activity in Florida, or at least as an indoor or ‘urban’ activity. He fell in love with the sport and, realizing this was a fun and addictive activity we were missing out on in our area, ended up thinking about how he could bring it home to Ocala.” The business, which is affiliated with the World Axe Throwing League (WATL), opened at a location on Southeast 14th Street in March of 2019. Morgan notes, however, that they hope to be open at a new location, in the Paddock Mall, early this month. That venue will start off with eight target lanes and later add another four in a “party” room that can be reserved for a more private experience. With the move to the mall, The Firehouse will be able to sell alcohol. Morgan says that since keeping everyone safe is their top priority, there will be a policy for on-site consumption. Guests also can purchase non-alcoholic beverages and are free to bring in their own food. Walk-ins are welcome but those who register online can receive a discount. “Our guests are always changing and evolving, and at Paddock Mall we want to be able to offer them today’s top trends and destination uses,” states Jamie Zimbleman, general manager. “We are very excited to welcome Firehouse Urban Axe Throwing to our unique and diverse portfolio.” No experience is needed to try your hand at ax throwing and Morgan says he feels it is akin to learning to ride a bicycle. “When you begin, there is a learning curve,”

he explains. “You have to consider your distance, your form, and that’s why our coaches are here to help you. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes to figure out the details and once you get one thing figured out, like the axes, then here come the throwing stars.” He thinks the sport is “filling a gap in fun activities to do with friends.” “The same thing gets old after a while, so something new and exciting will always be appealing to people,” he offers. “Customers love that it’s a challenging, yet easy to get the hang of, thrill. It’s just a great experience for a fun night out.” To learn more, go to www.axethrowingocala.com

Percy Brunner

Morgan Blackburn March ‘22

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Hit theTrail With the right vehicle and some expert guidance, a challenging off-road adventure awaits just off the beaten path. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photos by MAVEN Photo + Film

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ravel a few miles east out of Ocala and you’ll leave behind the crowded shopping areas and suburban traffic. Drive off the main highway into the Ocala National Forest and you’ll enter a realm where nature rules. But even here, there are rules of engagement for taking advantage of the miles and miles of forest roads and 32

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trails that lead to, well, nowhere in particular but somewhere quite special. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service manages three national forests in Florida—the Apalachicola, Osceola and Ocala. Combined, they cover nearly 1.2 million acres in north and central Florida, with more than 1,400


miles of trails. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the Ocala National Forest (ONF) in 1908. Covering about 387,000 acres, or more than 600 square miles, it has the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest, which is one reason that getting off-road there can be so much fun. Jay Perry, the ONF’s recreation manager, says that of their more than 2 million visitors on an annual basis, roughly a quarter of those are four-wheel drive enthusiasts. The Tread Lightly! Four Wheel Drive Way features 81 miles of roads geared especially to visitors with true four-wheel drive vehicles that have the proper amount of ground clearance and provide maximum traction in an off-road environment. Taking two-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles on these trails is not recommended and may lead to damage to your vehicle or could find you stuck in the middle of all that nowhere. The code of Tread Lightly! is: Travel responsibly, Respect the rights of others, Educate yourself, Avoid sensitive areas and Do your part. Perry says the best way to access these roads is to install the Avenza app, which allows you to download maps for offline use on a smartphone or tablet. The device’s built-in GPS will track your location even when you don’t have cell service, which happens a lot in the forest. If you have never visited the Tread Lightly! Four Wheel Drive Way before, you will want to navigate your way there using the app or you may miss the entrance at Forest Road #9 (a two lane dirt road with access on the south side of East State Road 40), just down the road from the Lake George Ranger District Office. There is no significant roadside signage and the Tread Lightly! kiosk is

on the west side about 100 yards down the trail from the main road. To test drive the ONF trails, two of Ocala Style’s own thrill-seeking photographers, Meagan Gumpert and Dave Miller, hit the road in a fully-loaded 2020 Jeep Gladiator belonging to their friend, Ladden Herrmann, an Ocala resident and off-road enthusiast. “The Tread Lightly! trail is well documented as far as the maps go and you can learn more in some forums online and on the National Forest website,” shares Miller. “They have maps you can print off and with Avenza it’s marked really well as far as which roads you can go on. There are areas of different experience levels, such as where the sand is not too thick or it’s not too hard to get around, but then there are areas that are more advanced, where you have to have a very capable vehicle, like a Jeep.” Perry and Miller both stress that staying on numbered forest roads is a must in order to avoid being given a citation. The miles of trails include some that are permitted only for off-highway vehicles such as ATVs or motorcycles. Some areas of the forest are protected, such as wetlands, and you can’t drive there. Paying close attention that your vehicle—denoted as a small blue dot on Avenza as you travel—stays on the black trail line will keep you from having a conversation with a law enforcement officer or forest ranger. “I cannot emphasize it enough to have this app downloaded when you come out to the forest,” stresses Perry. “It will save you a lot of time and money and issues because you won’t get caught where you’re not supposed to be.” It was back in 2009, he says, that some four-

Meagan Gumpert



wheel enthusiasts provided a grant of $10,000 to help designate the 81 miles of trails. “We didn’t add anything, but made a defined route for Jeeps,” Perry outlines. “These are all on existing routes and with their assistance and money we put up three kiosks and created some maps. It’s kind of a Jeep destination. More recently, Tread Lightly! got involved. They are a nonprofit and their thing is responsible use of trails. Any time we can get a partnership, we are happy.” Perry says that the condition of the roads in the forest can contain hazards such as downed trees, deep sugar sand and wildlife. He recommends maintaining a moderate speed and paying Dave Miller attention to what might pop up around the next sharp curve. “Honestly, it’s all nature. You don’t see power “Our forest is here for enjoyment; it’s not a lines, other vehicles really, you don’t see buildracetrack,” he explains. “Responsible use is what ings,” he explains. “It’s really one of the last pure we’re looking for out here. We want you to enjoy nature places around here. It’s beautiful and it’s nature. We don’t allow mudding and tearing up huge, very expansive, with lakes and ponds. It’s the roads is not acceptable. You can put yourself nice to escape city life and get out there.” in position for a federal misdemeanor punish“And no cellphone reception is actually nice able up to six months in prison and a $5,000 to kind of disconnect, be off the grid for a little fine. Most fines are less, but if you get caught in while,” shares Gumpert. “On our recent outing, a wetland or off of a numbered road, it’s fees plus I also enjoyed how much the terrain would court costs.” change, like some areas would be more wooded Before you begin your journey into the forest, and then one section looked like there had been it is a good idea to put some food and water in a controlled burn in that spot and it was desoyour vehicle and bring some extra fuel. late but still really beautiful in a different way. “And, you want to go in with someone in It is neat how you can explore different trails case you get stuck so they can tow you out,” just to see what you can find.” notes Gumpert, “because there is no cell recepPerry notes that visitors can drive back tion out there.” out to access maintained campgrounds or you Perry says there are a couple of towing compacan pull your Jeep off the side of the trail and nies that can come to your aid but that can get pricengage in primitive camping in the woods. ey as well, in the neighborhood of $300, and that the Check the website for specific rules pertaining tow truck drivers are required to report back to the to dispersed camping. He also wants people to Forest Service if they tow out people who were in an enjoy the wildlife, including bear sightings, but area they were not supposed to be in. cautions that you must never feed wild animals “You’re way out there and you might not see in the forest. anybody,” Miller notes. “You’re talking about “Enjoy it. Take pictures,” he states, “but don’t miles and miles of trails. If you go on the weekget too close.” ends, there are people who come from all over If you do decide to visit the Ocala National with their families and go out with multiple Jeeps Forest, you can find lots of useful information and have a great day out there, but if you go out online and by visiting either the Lake George on a weekday, you might not see anybody.” Ranger District Office or Seminole Ranger DisMiller, who is a veteran trail rider, says he trict Office. loves being able to see the abundant wildlife in the forest, including bears, deer and “all kinds of To learn more, call (352) 625-2520 or go to www. snakes. The wildlife is a nice side of things.” fs.usda.gov/florida or for information about He also says being on the ONF is “family Tread Lightly!, visit treadlightly.org friendly fun if you are properly prepared.” March ‘22

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Making a Splash D

Dog dock diving is a fun and exciting outing you can share with your canine and also a sporting competition that can put them in front of cheering crowds. By Julie Garisto | Photography by Alan Youngblood

oes your dog love the water? Always the first one into the pool? Can’t wait for a watery game of fetch? If so, they might just make a big splash as a champion dock diving dog. For those with less lofty ambitions, this fun activity provides a great bonding opportunity for you and your pooch.

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The American Kennel Club (AKC), reports that dock diving is currently one of the most popular canine sports, crediting the fun it provides for both the dogs and their owners alike as the reason and explaining that the “rules” are simple. “You throw your dog’s favorite toy into a pool


while he waits on a dock,” AKC’s website explains. “On your command, he runs along the dock, flings himself off the end of it, lands in the water and grabs his toy. The goal? To have the longest jump possible, which could be as short as two feet for beginners, but could be as much as 30 feet for those more experienced.” As you might imagine, dock diving training and competition only takes place in pools in North Central Florida. Alligators present too great a risk in most Florida freshwater. If you drive north, out of state, other regions provide dock diving in rivers and lakes in natural settings. Typically, the “docks” that are constructed around the pool are 35 to 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and about 2 feet above the water. They are usually covered in artificial turf, outdoor carpet or a rubber matting.

Just For Fun

If this sounds like a fun activity you want to try, the opportunity may be closer than you think. There are several facilities in our area offering training and access to a regulation pool. We visited the Ocala Dog Ranch on Southwest 110th Avenue in Ocala for a recent gathering of dock diving dogs. Mel Lucas explains that even before she turns onto the road leading to the ranch, the eyes of her 4-year-old golden retriever Godric brighten and widen. His tail whips back and forth. “It’s almost like he memorizes the drive,” she offers. That day the above-ground pool at the ranch

Pictured opposite page: Lynch. Clockwise from upper right: Finn, Vader, Sally Saxton and Neil Hennessey, Drax. March ‘22

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Godric

overf lowed with splashes, barks and laughter. Owners Neil Hennessey and his wife Sally Saxton had put out the call for dogs to come demonstrate the fun for us and a group of pups and “their people” turned out and anxiously awaited their turn in the pool. Dog parent Valerie Torres could barely contain the enthusiasm of her 6-year-old Staffordshire Bull 38

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Terrier. A fan favorite at competitions because of his unbridled enthusiasm, Finn did not disappoint, squealing with delight until he was able to launch himself into the pool with reckless abandon. The dog owners, along with Hennessy and Saxton, laugh and enthusiastically cheer each pup while catching up and sharing stories. Many owners have no interest in the compe-


titions, but simply bring their dogs to play in the pool, Saxton shares. Allana Marl, who was at the gathering with her 21-month-old Doberman Lynch, first got involved with the ranch out of a desire to ensure her dogs could swim because she has a pool at home and didn’t want them to fall in and drown. Lynch was the only dog interested in diving that day. Marl rented the pool for a private outing with him before the others arrived, lovingly encouraging each of his leaps into the pool—seemingly enjoying every moment as much as Lynch himself. “He loves it!” she declares, explaining that it also reminds her of her childhood in the north. “This is just how we used to play with our dogs when I was growing up. It wasn’t a sport. It was just good fun.” Typically, Marl will fasten life jackets on her pups for her own assurance, so she can grab on to her dogs if she needs to separate them during horseplay. And, yes, doggy parents can get right in the pool with their fur children. “It’s like, they’re my kids,” shares Williston resident Todd Miller, who was in attendance with his adorable 2-year-old mixed breed Vader, of his relationship with his 12 dogs. “And just like people would take their sons or daughters to softball or baseball or anything like that, it’s basically what we do for fun and enjoyment.”

Let the Games Begin

Dock diving, as a competitive dog sport, started in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge, an event that was sponsored and produced by Purina. Perhaps you have seen videos of the many current iterations of the sport. Dogs start the process by fetching a toy at the end of the dock so they can recognize where the platform ends and the water begins. A giant ruler is painted along the side of the pool. During competitions, the jump distance is measured from the lateral midpoint of the end of the dock to the point at which the base of the dog’s tail (where the tail meets the body) breaks the water’s surface. North America Diving Dogs (NADD) is an association that works with dock diving facilities to hold competitions across North America. NAAD competitions are open to all breeds and mixes. Events are split into several categories: “Distance Jumping” for the farthest jump (based on the dog’s size), “Air Retrieve,” a high jump using a suspended toy and “HydroDash” speed swimming. Dogs are eligible to compete once they reach 6-months old and a special Veterans Class is offered for dogs over the age of 8. The Open Class allows all dogs to compete regardless of breed, sex or age.

Ocala Dog Ranch is registered with the American Kennel Club and hosts NADD competitions on the premises starting in April. The next one will take place from April 1st through the 3rd. In addition to diving and swimming instruction, the ranch also offers doggy day care, boarding, obedience and therapy dog training, flyball classes and lure coursing events against the scenic backdrop of southwest Ocala’s rolling hills and sprawling horse farms. If you attend one of the events or visit for one of their various offerings, don’t expect the sort of atmosphere seen at competitions broadcast on TV or lampooned in the satirical film Best in Show. Ocala Dog Ranch, on the contrary, is a no-diva zone. “We try to keep this place as happy as we can,” Saxton said. “We don’t want drama here.” Through their down-to-earth attitude, they have fostered a welcoming culture and a sense of community. “Sally and Neil are very nice, welcoming and honest, and they always have really good ideas,” asserts Lucas, who drives two hours from Valrico to exercise and train Godric at the ranch and has been doing so since the dog was just 6-months old. “They offer suggestions that other facility owners don’t generally think of and share their overall experience.” Saxton and Hennessey have been in the dog business for around 20 years and own Australian Shepherds, Miniature American Shepherds, a Border Collie/Whippet mix and a mixed-breed. They opened the ranch four and a half years ago. Saxton, originally from Pittsburgh, moved to South Florida in her youth. She is amiably direct with a quick wit. Hennessey, originally from Plymouth, England, reveals his heritage with a beanie bearing the colors of the Union Jack and an accent tempered by 40 years of Yankee immersion. “During our dock events, we’ll have a food truck onsite and vendors selling dog specialty items, doggy massages,” he reports. “I love it when people come out and watch. If we don’t invite people to watch, we can’t get people involved in the sport. We love seeing people come and hearing people say, ‘I really want to try that.’ You can get as competitive or as laid back as you want with dock diving. When we have competitions, people set up their tents. Everybody kind of knows everybody; everybody’s willing to help everybody.” Read to dive in? For more information about the sport, visit akc.org/sports/title-recognition-program/ dock-diving and for further information about the Ocala Dog Ranch and upcoming tournaments at the ranch, call (352) 575-1069 or visit ocaladogranch.com March ‘22

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High Dive

Skydiving is not for the faint of heart! By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by Alan Youngblood and Whitey Meade

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anuary 1st was a beautiful day, with wispy clouds and bright sun rays welcoming in the new year and, for many, a fresh start full of resolutions and hopes for better times. I took a few minutes to sit quietly on my back porch, alone with my thoughts. And then I drove to the Marion County Airport near Dunnellon and bailed out of a perfectly good airplane. Donnie Hickey, the drop zone owner for Central Florida Skydiving, is an experienced dive master with more than 9,000 jumps under his parachute. I was harnessed to Hickey for my tandem skydive.

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It. Was. Awesome! But before more details, a bit of background. Hickey has been involved in aviation for years, both as a sport and as a commercial pilot of small aircraft. “I was a pilot. I didn’t even know skydiving was an option,” he recalls of his early career. “But I’ll never forget the first jump. It was everything I wanted it to be; 50 times more. And the feeling to this day is so fresh, the overwhelming feeling of being so successful through what I would consider the maximum—by that I mean there is nothing more you could possibly do to someone that would


scare them any more than that.” His first skydive was a tandem and he remembers watching the video and sharing the excitement with his wife. “She flew with me in planes, she flew with her parents her whole life, but she said she’d never do it. After she saw the video, she wanted to try,” he shares. “And I said why don’t you do a tandem and I’ll do another tandem. I was secretly wanting to do my second one so I could see if I could ‘get it.’ And I realized instantly that I was seeing more, smelling more, tuning in more. It was beautiful. I realized not only could I do it, I could be really good at it. I told her I wanted to go to school and be a skydiver and she said you’re not doing it without me and we signed up for the advance free fall (AFF) program.” Hickey says every jump after that was different and there was always something he could do to improve. “Not only do you get better, you learn how to control your body, right down to precision movements. And then you start to realize that when you see someone struggling, you say maybe I can help this person. That’s where it strikes you in your heart—not only can I teach them, I can understand where they are coming from because that was me, I was scared too. I was a commercial pilot climbing on the outside of a plane. I was supposed to be flying it, not jumping out of it.” He says skydivers develop a special bond. “Being in such close relation to another person on a skydive is amazing and the tandem is extremely special,” he shares. “That is usually their first jump and they remember it for the rest of their lives.” Hickey says part of his motivation for opening the Central Florida Skydiving (CFS) drop zone was to provide a more personal experience between instructors, coaches and students, from first-timers to those working toward a Class A license, which requires a minimum of 25 skydives, and more seasoned participants. He says they often do six to 10 tandem jumps on a weekday and more on weekends, and that one of his secrets to success with first-timers is

being able to read their body language. “I can see when people are licking their lips, blinking a lot, a lot of little indications,” he notes. “It’s funny because if this 21-year-old man comes in here going, ‘Dude, let’s go…’ he’s gonna pass out or puke on me because he’s not breathing right, he’s not relaxed, he’s stiff as a board.” “Students like you,” he tells me, “are going out there paying attention and tuned in. I do a mini profile of a

March ‘22

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person and read them and see what they need. In this situation, people are terrified and I cater to it because I was that person. And then you step off the plane and land and it’s the best jump yet and then the next one is the best yet. It just gets better and better.” The FAA regulates skydiving; the United States Parachute Association (USPA) disseminates industry safety standards. “We are a USPA drop zone,” Hickey says. “These are the safest people you’ll ever meet. They are constantly checking.” According to the USPA, approximately one in 600 jumps results in a main parachute malfunction. Over the past five years the number of annual civilian skydiving deaths has decreased, with 10 in the U.S. in 2021, the fewest since recordkeeping began in 1961. The USPA believes the fatality index per 100,000 jumps is at an all-time low due to “the efforts of drop zones and their

staff, the parachute manufacturing industry and skydivers across the country.” Nicole Sanchez, administrative manager for the CFS drop zone, says she got into the sport when she met her boyfriend, Thomas “Doc” Crump, a former Army flight medic with experience in rigging and aerial delivery. Crump is the CFS safety training advisor and master rigger. “I had a really big problem with social anxiety. I couldn’t go places and engage in conversation with a lot of people without slurring my words;

Don’t let the fear hold you back from experiencing what might be the most beautiful experience in your life. - Nicole Sanchez

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that’s how much anxiety I had,” Sanchez shares. “After my own 14 years in the Army, I kept looking for that sense of purpose again. ‘Doc’ started introducing me into the skydiving community. Slowly, I started coming around, blossoming like a flower. I did my second tandem and I knew I wanted to get my A license. It’s like I had a spiritual awakening.” She made her first solo jump hand in hand out of the plane with Crump. “Don’t let the fear hold you back from experiencing what might be the most beautiful experience in your life,” Sanchez offers. “I did that for a long time and skydiving— you’re either going to have a wonderful experience or the opposite—but you can’t let fear stop you.” So, I swallowed my fear, kissed my husband Alan Height and walked out to “Nemo,” CFS’s bright orange plane, with Hickey. Everyone says “jumped out” of a plane, but we did in fact roll out the side door of “Nemo” head over heels. I have to admit that when the pilot, Tim McLain, and videographer Whitey Meade opened the door and I heard the roar of the engine and felt the blast of wind at 10,000 feet, I nearly panicked. But I did a couple of deep yoga breaths and followed the instructions Hickey had given me on the ground. Boom! We were accelerating in free fall, at a speed between 120mph and 130mph. You don’t feel that, though, not the speed, just the impact of the wind contorting your face. And they want you to smile at the videographer! Right! I was screaming like a banshee, which is what was captured on my video. But then, suddenly, the parachute popped open and we were softly swaying. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I could see the horizon, glinting bodies of water below, including the winding Rainbow River, fields and fences and buildings. I was floating, wafting like a bird! All too soon, we were gently circling the airport, coming in for our landing. I snatched up the material on the front of my jumpsuit, raising my legs straight out in front of me, and Hickey touched down and slid to a seated stop, with me in his lap, in front of my husband, Alan Youngblood, Meade and Sanchez. “I did it, I did it, I did it,” I screamed happily, flailing and wiggling with adrenalin. “Happy New Year!” To learn more, visit centralfloridaskydiving.com To see Susan’s video, go to https://youtu.be/ ugANVMTaYzg

Writer’s Note: Choosing to skydive is a serious personal decision. My friend Alan Youngblood told me about the Central Florida Skydiving center that opened in Marion County last September. I thought it over for months before I decided to make a tandem skydive on New Year’s Day. Alan was there to capture the adventure. We were not on assignment for Ocala Style, but later offered this article and photos for inclusion in this issue.

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Wild Ride

A lifelong rider and accomplished horsewoman, Tiffany Atteberry is preparing to take on an epic equine adventure in the formidable Mongol Derby.

T

By JoAnn Guidry | Photography by Dawson Bland Shot on location at the Florida Horse Park

he Mongol Derby is part adventure, part challenge and maybe just a little bit crazy. Imagine riding several native horses, none of which you’ve ever ridden before, over more than 600 miles across the Mongolian Steppe for 10 days, camping out when not sleeping in yurts and eating exotic local cuisine. All of that is exactly why Ocalabased equine veterinarian Dr. Tiffany Atteberry is competing in the Mongol Derby this summer. “I’ve always been an adventurous and competitive person in everything that I do. And especially when it comes to riding horses,” says Atteberry, 46, who is petite enough to have been a jockey if she hadn’t become an equine vet. “I rode with my mother, Lynda, sitting behind her on the saddle, until I was 4. And then, at 5, I got my own horse, not a pony. I’ve never been without a horse ever in my life. You could say I have gone through life on horseback.” Backing up that declaration, Atteberry competed in Western and English riding disciplines from elementary through high school while growing up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Having decided at age 8 that she wanted to be an equine vet, upon graduating high school she was off to the University of Findlay in Ohio. And, of course, her horse went with her. “Findlay has a unique Pre-Veterinary Sciences program that allows you to complete all the core requirements for veterinary school in three years,” explains Atteberry, who seems to possess an endless supply of energy, mentally and physically. “And if you get accepted into a vet college when you apply after those three years, they allow the first year of veterinary school to complete your B.S. degree. That means you have one less year of college to pay for.” Atteberry was accepted into several colleges of veterinary medicine and chose the University of Florida (UF). By that time, she had met her husband to be, Scott Brown. A mechanic by profession, Brown was not a horseman. “I decided I needed to go to Gainesville alone at first to get organized and find a place to live. As a test, I left my horse in Scott’s care,” admits Atteberry. “I knew horses were always going to be part of my life. I had to know if the man I might marry was up to sharing that life with me. Scott

passed the test with flying colors.” Shortly after Atteberry graduated from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000, the couple married and moved to Jacksonville. There, she worked as an associate veterinarian at the Mandarin Equine Practice for two years. “I always wanted to have my own veterinarian practice, but I wanted a mobile practice. I didn’t want to be cooped up in a clinic most of the time,” explains Atteberry. “While I was going to UF, I had checked out Ocala and really liked it. We moved to Ocala in 2003 and I established Atteberry Mobile Veterinary Services.” In 2009, the couple bought their 10-acre farm in southwest Marion County, where they raise thoroughbred racehorses. By then, Atteberry had added drag fox hunting to her equine adventures resume, a sport in which the hounds follow a scent dragged on the ground instead of an actual fox. She’s also taken many horseback-riding vacations, including in Botswana, South Africa and Ireland. “We have three broodmares and we really enjoy raising thoroughbreds. In addition to his mechanic business, Scott is the farm manager and does a great job,” shares Atteberry, who is also an avid runner. “While I deal with all breeds and provide all veterinary services in my practice, I really enjoy working with mares and foals the most.”

Lightning Strikes

In the wee hours of April 6, 2017, a lightning-capitalof-the world thunderstorm raged through Ocala. “Scott and I woke up to the smell of smoke and then the smoke detectors went off,” recalls Atteberry. “We got up, but we couldn’t find any fire, just lots of smoke. We quickly got out of the house and called the fire department. Thank goodness, the firefighters got there as fast as they did, or we would have lost the house.” Lightning had struck the house and traveled along the propane gas line, igniting a fire inside a downstairs wall. “Although we were safe and the house could be repaired, it was a life-changing experience. We moved into an RV on the farm while the house was being March ‘22

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renovated,” says Atteberry. “It was the middle of breeding and foaling season, a very busy time for my practice. To de-stress in any downtime that I had, I’d watch equine-related YouTube videos. And that’s how I found out about the Mongol Derby.” Intrigued by the Mongol Derby videos, Atteberry did more research into this extremely challenging horse race. As her interest grew, she had an epiphany. “Not that I didn’t like our lives, but the fire had made me realize that I had gotten into a bit of rut. I realized I needed a new adventure,” she reveals. “I began to think that competing in the Mongol Derby was just what I needed, so I applied in 2018.” The application process includes answering several essay questions about a person’s equine background and why he or she wants to compete in the derby. If the race organizers like a person’s essay answers, then the applicant is interviewed by phone. A good first interview then leads to a second interview. “They liked my essays and I had my first phone interview. After that, I was notified that I would move on to a second interview,” says Atteberry. “It was then that I realized competing in the Mongol Derby might actually happen.” She pauses then adds with a laugh, “I hadn’t told Scott anything about this, so I decided maybe I should before the second interview.” Her husband’s response was the same as most people’s when learning about the derby. “Not surprisingly, Scott thought I was crazy to want to do it,” says Atteberry, smiling. “But he was also very supportive and has continued to be.” Atteberry aced the second interview and then paid her $12,500 entry fee, which doesn’t include travel and other personal expenses, to compete in the 2020 Mongol Derby. Also of note is that there is no prize money awarded to the winner. For the riders who compete, it’s all about the experience. Then came another epiphany for Atteberry: She needed to take up the sport of endurance riding if she had any chance of completing the grueling 600-plus mile race. And since none of her current horses were endurance horses, Atteberry reached out to the Ocala area’s endurance riding community. “So many people were happy to help me out and let me train on their horses with them,” says Atteberry. “All was going along well and then COVID-19 hit, shutting down everything in April 2020. The Mongol Derby, which would’ve run in August, was canceled. It was all very disappointing.” There would also not be a 2021 Mongol Derby and Atteberry wondered if she’d ever get to do it. When word came that the organizers were planning to have not one but two derbies in the summer of 2022, Atteberry was elated. She will compete in the derby scheduled for July 23rd-August 1st. 46

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Mongolian Pony Express

The inaugural Mongol Derby was in 2009 and, although the course changes from year to year, it is based on Genghis Kahn’s horse messenger system that began in 1224. There are generally 40 or so riders, usually evenly split between men and women. They ride through varied terrain, including forests, verdant open valleys, dunes, wetlands, rolling hills and open grasslands. They must navigate weather that can change in a moment from hot to cold, or from dry to pouring rain. And they do it on Mongolian horses they’ve never ridden before, changing horses every 25 miles. Small in stature at but 13.2 to 15 hands, the Mongolian horses are hardy animals well suited to their country. But they are often described as semi-wild and with one buck they can bring a quick end to a rider’s adventure. At each horse station, a rider’s mount must pass a vet check before the rider can continue on a fresh horse. Riders generally cover 75 to 100 miles a day and are only allowed to ride during daylight hours. They receive penalty points if their horse doesn’t pass a vet check and/or they ride after 8pm. Riders can opt to camp out or stay overnight with locals in yurts. Competitors have 10 days to finish the ride, but winning riders come in under that mark. In 2019, Bob Long, 70, from Boise, Idaho, became the oldest person to win the Mongol Derby, doing so in seven and a half days. “The organizers provide each rider with a saddle customized to fit a Mongolian horse since they are very short backed. We can bring our own stirrup straps and stirrups,” says Atteberry. “I actually bought a Mongolian saddle and have been using it on my endurance rides. I’ve also been riding with my Camelbak hydration backpack and other gear that I’ll carry. We are only allowed to carry about 11 pounds on our body. We’re given a Garmin GPS, so I bought one and have been using it.” Atteberry has competed in several 25- and 50mile endurance rides and has plans to do at least one 100-mile ride. She has been using horses owned by experienced endurance riders, including Caren Risley and Deb Walker. Atteberry has been regularly riding H Lunar H, Walker’s 8-year-old Arabian gelding. “I’ve been happy to help Tiffany out. She’s an excellent rider,” says Walker. “It’s very exciting that she’s doing the Mongol Derby and she’ll do well.” Atteberry will fly to Mongolia on July 16th and then will have three training days from July 20th through the 22nd, prior to the start of the race. The plan is for Scott to fly in toward the end of the event to be there at the finish. “I am so excited to be doing this horseback adventure,” says Atteberry, beaming. “I know it’ll be a challenge, but I do love challenges.”


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IF THE SPIRIT MOVES YOU Meet the team members who provide compassionate care at a local farm animal sanctuary and offer the community a place to connect with these special creatures and discover the unique, and often humorous, personalities of their residents.

BY NICK STEELE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAWSON BLAND

M

ilo, an adorable baby goat born on Christmas Day 2021, ambles around on the ground, his wobbly legs causing him to stumble and occasionally plop down and then jump back up, as a group of enthusiastic humans gather around him like excited parents watching their child take its first steps. And just like an actual child, Milo is unabashedly gleeful about his ability to propel himself forward on those little legs. He clumsily lurches forward and rocks back and forth, eager to run and jump and see what else is possible. Eyes bright with excitement, he dashes between the outstretched arms of four people he recognizes as friends, who show their love by cheering him on and offering him a safe spot to land. He pauses for cuddles and kisses and then is off again with a no particular destination in mind, but a spirit for adventure. “He came to us when he was 19 days old,” explains Logan Vindett, executive director of Kindred Spirits Sanctuary (KSS) in Citra. “He was born on a goat farm and a family had gone to buy some other goats and they saw him there on the ground and decided to take him.” The family soon found that they were in over their heads and didn’t know how to care for Milo and that’s when they reached out to KSS. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is a home for abused, neglected,

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From left top: Michelle Lovegrove, Tony & Logan Vindett and Emily Armagost. Above: Milo. Opposite: Fiona.



Emily with Charlie and Cricket


abandoned and special needs farm animals from all over the country, where they can live out the remainder of their lives without pain, hunger or fear of exploitation. “They said, ‘Oh my gosh, we don't know what we're doing,’ and he was getting worse at that point because he needed treatment. So, we agreed to take him,” recalls Logan. “That's what we do. We take the quote/unquote broken ones. So, they brought him to us.” “He was unable to stand or right himself,” Operations Manager and Logan’s husband Tony Vindett adds. “He was lying completely on his side, legs out and he couldn't move.” After they completed his intake blood work, it showed that Milo was septic. The decision was made to take him to the University of Florida Large Animal Hospital for further testing, which revealed that his C7 vertebrae was damaged due to an infection that likely happened because of a problem with his umbilical cord. After an MRI, they were told that the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize him. “We were like, Um, we're not ready for that yet,” Logan explains. “We decided to bring him home and when we got him here, he looked pretty comfortable and happy. So, we decided to put him on hospice care. Hospice care for him meant that we were going to give him all the things he loves and also give him time. So, as long as he was happy and comfortable, we were going to let him be.” Then one morning Logan awoke to find the baby goat, who they were told would never be able to walk, sit up or “move with intention,” standing up in his play pen staring at her. “Within a few days he started walking,” she shares. “Now he’s running. He loves to be outside. He’s walking, jumping, hopping…all the normal baby goat kid things.” She says his C7 vertebrae is “pretty disintegrated” from the infection and that he will need a follow-up MRI at some point to monitor the damage to his neck. While he’s too young to be a candidate for surgery, it may be an option in a few years. In the meantime, he wears a neck brace for extra support. “He’s doing great and surprising us all the time,” she says. “I don’t think we will ever introduce him to other goats because of his vertebrae damage. He will probably meet other goats through a fence, so he can be protected and not get head-butted. We don't really know what his future will be, but he's very happy right now.” “The truth of it is, we don’t know how long he will make it,” Tony offers. “He could make it to adulthood and live out his life or he may not. That’s one of the negatives that we have to deal with here.” “But that’s what we do here,” Logan counters. “We

take in the special animals who need extensive veterinary care. We have a lot of experience with the special ones and it’s what we like to do.” Lead Veterinarian Tech Emily Armagost, who has cared for four other special cases like Milo during her four and a half years at KSS, explains that both the Shelby

successful outcomes and the losses contribute to her desire to take on a challenge like his case. “Cindy came in kind of like Milo.,” Emily explains of another goat that was unable to walk due to a neurological condition, which the sanctuary took on in 2021. “She ended up having an issue with her brain and her liver, but we gave her two really good months,” she says of the little lady they affectionately described as sassy, sweet and opinionated in one March ‘22

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Logan and Michelle with Euree

Boris

Facebook post. “It was very rewarding. It's the reason why I'm now willing to turn around and do the same for Milo, even knowing that he might not live that long. If I made Cindy happy while she was here, we can make Milo happy for however long he is here.” The quality of life and emotional well-being of the animals in their care is their paramount concern. The team at KSS want to provide the highest quality of care to their animal residents and aid them in each step of their journey for the remainder of their lives. Even though the animals may not have a great start to their lives, these caring folks are dedicated to seeing that they get their happy ending. They also provide an environment where the public can have firsthand experiences with horses, burros, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, turkeys and chickens while learning about ways to help reduce the suffering of animals through their guided tours. The sanctuary is located on a sprawling 73 acres, but the tour is confined to an area of the property where the animals can be found peacefully grazing in green pastures and where many of the animals are housed in well-maintained outbuildings. Tours last about two hours and are offered free of charge, but the sanctuary suggests a donation and they have lots of great items in the gift shop to help you remember your visit and also support their cause. The tour area is almost fully accessible for guests with disabilities and those who have difficulty walking can drive their car to the various stops.


Victor

Shelby

KSS promotes a vegan lifestyle and while you don’t have to be a vegan to visit (or enjoy a visit), they do ask that you not bring any dairy, meat or animal-byproduct food items to the sanctuary out of respect for the animals, staff and fellow visitors. Dogs are not allowed on the grounds. “The first thing I tell people is we appreciate you coming out. We love you. But you guys aren't our clients, they are,” explains Tony, who generally leads the tours. “So, whatever they say is what goes. If someone doesn't come over to the fence, you won't get to say hi to them that day. That's just how it works because this is their house.” There are two regularly scheduled tours on the first and third Saturday of each month, but they also offer private tours from just one person to large groups. Of the close to 200 residents, you will find that each animal has a unique personality and guests can get to know them during the tour. Logan explains that it is exciting introducing visitors who have not had previous experiences with farm animals to their residents. “Even when I started here as a volunteer, I didn't really think that farm animals were like cool animals. I didn't realize how much personality they have,” she offers. “So that was really eye opening in the beginning, being around them and realizing they are similar to a dog in that they like us and they have a bond with you and you can bond with them. I’d say I’m more of an animal person than a people person by nature. Being here has made me more of a people person, because we get to share what we do with March ‘22

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That's what we do. We take the quote/unquote broken ones. - Logan Vindett

Calvin

other people. All of us love what we do, so it turns you into more of a people person because you want to share what you love with someone else. I really love that aspect of the job, watching other people come and interact with them.” She describes watching a visitor encounter a cow for the first time while on a tour last year. “It was one of my favorite tours we did,” she shares. “The guy had the biggest grin on his face and it's like, ‘I'm petting a cow!’ Those moments are special and it's cool to see other people get to have those experiences too.” Visitors also learn about each animal’s backsto54

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ry, such as how they were exploited or how they sustained an injury, and how they recovered under the care of KSS. “We always say that we are family friendly, so we aren't big on scare tactics or talking about scary things,” Logan explains. “We talk about individual animals and their story. I think that really helps no matter which side of the line you're on, you know? Obviously, we're vegans, and we live in the middle of farming community. My parents moved to Florida as cattle farmers. They cared about their cows. They took good care of them but they there were to serve a purpose, so it's a totally different mindset.”


She stresses that they want to connect with everyone who visits through the individual stories about the animals and find a common ground no matter their beliefs. “I think most people think, ‘What that animal has been through is terrible.’ Most people are like, ‘That's awful,’ and they wouldn't wish that on anyone,” she asserts. “So, I think by doing it that way and not kind of speaking in more broad generalizations and saying everyone who does this is cruel…not everyone who does this is evil. We're talking about a particular animal and the things that have happened to them. That's what we find reaches people. We also talk about this a lot here, we're a compassion-based organization, so we want to treat everyone with compassion, whether they agree with us or not, because we can't reach you about animals if we don't treat you kindly.” For those who live a vegan lifestyle, KSS hosts special happenings like the Thanksgiving Day Potluck and Thank-A-Turkey event, where everyone brings a dish and enjoys a picnic after preparing a feast for the resident turkeys. It is an offshoot of some similar events Michelle Lovegrove started as a volunteer five years ago when she asked to use the sanctuary to host vegan potlucks. “Sixty people showed up to the

first one that I did,” she recalls. Michelle went on to become an employee, initially working on events and in marketing and caregiving before becoming the sanctuary manager. “I do a little bit of everything now,” she offers. “But the best part is hanging out with cute babies like Milo.”

Michelle and Nora

Ways to Help

Donate: Make a secure monetary donation through the KSS website or access the sanctuary’s Amazon Wish List on their Support page to gift items to the residents. Volunteer: KSS has “work party days” where individuals or groups of up to 15 people help with projects such as barn cleaning, painting, grounds maintenance and fence repairs. Another big project they are planning is to transplant a group of young oak trees and they would be interested in anyone who has experience with that. The day ends with a tour and an opportunity to meet the residents. To sign up or for additional information, email michelle@kssfl.org

Ty

Host a Facebook fundraiser: Every dollar you raise goes directly to the sanctuary. For more information, visit kssfl.org March ‘22

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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

Head to El Toreo for the best Mexican food this side of the border! Enjoy all of your favorite traditional Mexican dishes in a friendly and festive atmosphere.

Dine-in or take out available

Specials: Mondays and Wednesdays, Margaritas are $2 Saturdays, 2 for 1 Margaritas All Day

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

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

Louisiana Shrimp and Crawfish Pot Pie available 2/1 - 3/31 as a part of our Mardi Gras Parade of Flavors.

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, Louisiana Gumbo and Garden District Grouper. 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.

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 We are open for dine in, carryout and delivery through Doordash and BiteSquad


LIVING

A Great Catch Try these easy grilled swordfish and mahi mahi recipes for a healthy and delicious meal. By Jill Paglia | Photography by John Jernigan


LIVING

I

have loved to go fishing ever since I was a little girl. When my family moved to Ocala, I was 4 years old and fondly recall my parents taking my brother and me to Cedar Key, where we would fish from the banks. We caught and ate such local delicacies as blue crabs and shellcrackers. My husband also enjoys fishing, so much so that we formed a professional sport fishing team based in the Florida Keys. It was in a restaurant in the Keys that I first had a fish taco with the delicious slaw featured in this article. One reason I’m such a big fan of saltwater fishing is the amazing variety you can bring home to your kitchen—such as yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, mahi mahi, swordfish and blackfin tuna. I believe that fish is a great component of a healthy diet. Keeping the recipe and presentation simple, such as fish fried or grilled with a little seasoning, butter, lemon and garlic, can be an easy way to introduce seafood to young ones and those hesitant to try such dishes. The Amazing Mahi Mahi Tacos recipe I

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developed features that tasty avocado and lime slaw, but you also could dress the tacos with a tomato salsa, salsa verde or chipotle-based sauce or change them up by using shrimp or lobster and toppings such as mango or pineapple. Another favorite is my Grilled Mediterranean Swordfish with Artichokes, Tomatoes and Olives, which is so healthy and full of flavor. There are many side dishes that pair perfectly with either recipe, from a simple salad or sweet pea risotto to hush puppies or conch fritters. As for drinks and dessert? Margaritas and Key Lime Pie of course! Creating these dishes can be a fun family and friends event, with guests helping as you cook on the grill and working their way through an “assembly line” of slaw, cheese, grilled lime wedges, salsas and other toppings to create their own masterpiece. Whether you catch your own fish, buy it from a fresh fish vendor or source flash frozen seafood, don’t be afraid to “reel in” these delicious delicacies.


LIVING

Amazing Mahi Mahi Tacos 1 1/4 pounds mahi mahi fillets, skin removed 12 small corn tortillas 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons lime juice 4 teaspoons chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish Hot sauce, such as Tabasco, for garnish Avacado and lime slaw (See recipe on next page) Mix the chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion and garlic powder, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. > Add the mahi mahi and turn each piece to coat, then let the fillets rest for 15 minutes. > Meanwhile, bring grill to high heat. Remove the fillets and discard the marinade. > Place the fish on the grill and cook until each fillet is opaque, turning only once, for about 8 minutes total. Heat the tortillas on the grill rack or wrap them in aluminum foil and heat the packet on the grill. > To serve, put some slaw in the bottom of the tortilla and layer with fish, cilantro, a bit more of the avocado/lime mixture and add hot sauce to taste.


LIVING

Avocado and Lime Slaw 12 ounces of coleslaw mix from the market 1 avocado 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup cilantro roughly chopped 2 garlic cloves 3 tablespoons lime juice 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Put the mayonnaise, avocado, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until completely blended. > Fold some of the mixture into the slaw and keep some aside; let rest while you prepare the fish.

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Grilled Mediterranean Swordfish with Artichokes, Tomatoes and Olives 2 pounds swordfish steaks, 1/2-inch thick 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, cut into quarters 1 10-ounce can Fire Roasted Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes 5 garlic cloves, chopped 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced 1/2 cup basil, chopped 1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, olive oil Juice of 1 lemon Everglades Seasoning to taste

Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil and garlic in a saucepan and sauté over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes, or until the garlic is translucent. > Add the artichoke hearts and sauté another 3-4 minutes. > Add the tomatoes and olives and cook for about 10 more minutes. > Add the basil and Everglades Seasoning and cook for an additional 2 minutes, then set aside. > Combine the remaining olive oil and lemon juice with more Everglades Seasoning to taste and marinate the swordfish steaks for 10 minutes. > Sear the fish on a grill for approximately 5 minutes per side. > Place the swordfish steaks on a warm platter and serve with the artichoke-tomato mixture on top. (Note: You also can marinate the fish with olive oil, garlic and Everglades Seasoning before grilling and then top with lemon butter and a bit more Everglades seasoning to serve.)


M�k�n� H�r M�r� This emerging artist’s unique view of the world is being recognized by leaders in the local art community. By Nick Steele | Photography by Meagan Gumpert


K

elsey Mahoney creates intricate works of art made up of thousands of small geometric shapes rendered in various colors and tones. The compositions are often filled with defined patterns and shapes but within those larger shapes there is a distinct asymmetry and randomness that reveals a thoroughly original vision. While her work may be best described as Abstract Expressionism, which is regarded as one of the most important and influential art movements of the 20th century, it would be equally fair to say that her work defies strict classification. The compositions are vibrant, meticulously detailed and possess a mosaic-like quality but without the order or realism of traditional mosaics. True abstract art has the ability to evoke an emotional response through color, shape and form rendered with a vibrant energy and dynamic tension—expressing its meaning without presenting an identifiable scene. Mahoney’s chaotic and emotional use of pattern with no discernable narrative or order allows a chance for contemplation and an opportunity for the viewer to see something unique and personal in each piece. Mahoney, who has Down syndrome (DS), has been creating art since she was 6 years old. Each person with DS has a unique way of looking at life. Their artistic expressions are distinctive because they reflect their individuality. Over the past 20 or so years, many such artists have had their work recognized by the artistic community and have flourished in the field, allowing them to showcase their art - Seth Benzel around the world—some have even had their work included in exhibitions and the permanent collections of such world-class museums as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But Mahoney and her family, which includes sisters Madison and Brianna, want the world to focus on her talent as an artist, not as an artist with DS, above all else.

I w�s i�s�a�t�y m�s�e�i�e� b� t�e i�t�i�a�y a�d c�l�r p�t�e�n� i�v�l�e� i� e�c� w�r�. T� m� t�e� w�r� p�r� e�e�g�, b�t h�r�e�s�d i� a w�y t�a� w�s d�l�c�t� a�d h�r�o�i�e�.

O� V�e�

At 25, Mahoney is beginning to be recognized by leaders in the local art scene and has had the opportunity to exhibit and sell her work at local galleries including NOMA Gallery and 8th Ave. Gallery in Ocala. Lisa Midgett, owner of the NOMA Gallery, first met Mahoney and her mother Amy Agricola at one of NOMA’s exhibitions in 2020 and introduced her art to the community. “I was very intrigued by her technique,” Midgett recalls. “I was so impressed with her work that I asked to display Kelsey‘s work in February of 2021 alongside David D’Alessandris’ show Paradise. For an emerging artist like Kelsey to be shown alongside David D’Alessandris, with his many years of experience and success, was definitely a feather in her cap. I believe we sold three of Kelsey’s pieces during that show.” Mahoney was then invited to participate in WUFT TV’s Artistry in Motion exhibition, a group show at the Cofrin Gallery at Oak Hall School in Gainesville and most recently opened her first solo exhibition, Pixel Adventures, at the 8th Ave. Gallery. “I was instantly mesmerized by the intricacy and color patterns involved in each work,” explains Seth Benzel, the gallery’s owner. “To me they were pure energy…but harnessed in a way that was delicate and harmonized. Kelsey’s works vibrate off the canvas.” He points to her curiosity, inspiration and dedication as owing to her success. “I call Lisa our angel because she’s been beyond incredible, as have her staff,” Agricola shares. “And Seth has been amazing too. Without them, we would be going absolutely nowhere. As a non-artist parent, I wouldn’t have pursued Kelsey’s March ‘22

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art because I was that clueless. They have opened up a world of possibilities to Kelsey and have been so supportive, kind and encouraging.” “It’s a dream come true,” Mahoney says of her recent successes.

S�r�n� S�a�t While Agricola describes her daughter as quiet and super shy, with a dry sense of humor, she explains that an early opportunity to step into the spotlight gave her some of her star quality, which can be witnessed in a recent video segment she filmed for WUFT to promote Artistry in Motion. “When we lived in New York state there was a call for children with special abilities to model for Toys ‘R’ Us. We went to New York City and she was so good on her first photo shoot, they asked for her to do another one,” remembers Agricola. “Although dreadfully shy, she lights up in front of the camera.” Agricola, who Mahoney calls her “co-pilot,” as well as her father, John Mahoney, of Tampa, contributed to her growing confidence and artistic leanings by exposing her to many new experiences through their travels and their time living in Italy during her formative years. Because of that exposure, Mahoney’s passion for art and food developed at a young age. “We lived in Naples for six years and Kelsey went to school there until she was 10,” Agricola offers. “They still teach cursive writing there and they actually teach the kids how to draw. Art is definitely encouraged there. And we loved the food. So now Kelsey loves to make lasagna….Well, Kelsagna we call it, right?” “Yes!” Mahoney replies with a joyfully unrestrained laugh. “It weighs like 40 pounds,” Agricola jokes. “It’s great! It’s just a go for it and have some fun thing. No rules. Her lasagna has turned into an edible art form.” Mahoney approaches her work with the same sense of fun and spontaneity. “You know it comes into my mind and I just do it. I use markers… Sharpies,” she clarifies. “It makes me feel normal and it’s relaxing. I usually dance when I’m doing my art. It helps me focus.” She says her go to tunes are mostly rap songs, but she also is a big fan of The Weeknd and likes to listen to Maroon 5’s Sugar when working. Exactly how much dancing she gets in is unclear, as her compositions are so detailed and time consuming. “It takes a while to process my art,” she says. “Usually two weeks.” She’s also focused on the future and has her sights firmly set on an opportunity to fulfill her ultimate goal. “I want to go to a museum and put my artwork there,” she offers with a confidence that makes us certain it is only a matter of time before she realizes that ambition. For more information, visit fb.com/kelseymahoneyartist 64

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