Ocala Style July '20

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JUL ‘20


HAS NO COLOR ocalastyle.com ocalastyle.com




Rare Opportunity to own 6.68 Acres with developmental potential Development potential for a family estate with multiple homes in the Historic District of Ocala. This imposing property is securely gated and has a beautiful wrought iron perimeter fence. The 4 bedroom/ 4.5 bath main residence displays elegance from the living areas to the solarium and library. Expansive kitchen is perfect for the family that likes to cook together. Elegant dining room and living room. Office with built-in bookcases. Lovely 2 bedroom guest home overlooking courtyard. 4-Car garage, salt water pool, generator and elevator. $2,250,000 Call for options

Bass Country Retreat - Own Your Own Private Lake Unique private residence overlooking spring fed lake on 123 +/- acres. This 2-story cedar home with deck overlooks the lake. Beautiful Arizona stone fireplace in great room, family room with amazing views of the lake. On the other hand the detached studio and double garage provides plenty of space for your hobbies. In addition, the stunning landscape, open BBQ, patio and 300’ dock complete this package. The property adjoins the Ocala National Forest on three sides for plenty of additional privacy. This would be the perfect private home, weekend getaway or hunting retreat property. $1,899,000

Just Reduced

69+/- Acres - Lake Bessiola

1.55 +/- Acres - Bel Lago Estate

Beautiful views and peaceful settings, 1,500’ of lake frontage which is perfect for recreational opportunities. There are trail roads which are perfect for ATV’s or horse trails. 2/2.5 Main residence plus 1/1 guest residence. Enjoys sunsets, wildlife and peaceful setting. $750,000

Newly completed home with beautiful views overlooking lake in gated equine friendly community. Formal dining room, family room with fireplace, plus sliding doors. Open floor plan. Lanai for relaxing in the evenings overlooking heated pool and lake. $849,000

16 +/- Acres - Turning Hawk

Spacious Executive Home

Ready for the equine enthusiast. 11-Stall center aisle barn with feed/ tack room plus day quarters including kitchen and bath. Property is graced with beautiful mature Oaks and great building sites for your home. Close to Florida Greenways & Trails. $799,000

Fine finishes & hand-crafted details, exemplary solitudes in a great location. Custom floor plan offers many upgrades: kitchen, family room open to large pool, covered lanai and private gardens. Recreation wing with entertaining kitchen, exercise room, & bath. $659,000

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

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

Affordable Elegance





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





Announces Announces

NEW PASTRY PASTRYCHEF CHEF NEW TheWorld WorldEquestrian Equestrian Center Ocala pleased announce their newest hire, The Center Ocala is is pleased toto announce their newest hire, Yohann Le Bescond as the Executive Pastry Chef at the World Equestrian Yohann Le Bescond as the Executive Pastry Chef at the World Equestrian CenterininOcala. Ocala.InInthis thisrole, role, Bescond will contributing the design Center LeLe Bescond will bebe contributing to to the design of of thenew newhotel hotelpastry pastrykitchen, kitchen, overseeing the creation dessert menus the overseeing the creation ofof dessert menus at at allall fourrestaurants restaurantsononthe theproperty property and the specialty pastry boutique, Emma’s four and the specialty pastry boutique, Emma’s Patisserie,within withinthe thehotel. hotel. Along with creative execution, Bescond will Patisserie, Along with creative execution, LeLe Bescond will behiring, hiring,training trainingand andmanaging managing bakers and pastry chefs within the five be allall bakers and pastry chefs within the five locationsononthe theWorld WorldEquestrian Equestrian Center Ocala property. locations Center Ocala property. LeBescond, Bescond,originally originallyfrom fromTreffiagat, Treffiagat,France, France,started startedbaking bakingatatthe the age mother’s kitchen and soon after Le age ofof 1313 inin hishis mother’s kitchen and soon after started the Baker & Pastry Chef Baccalaureate Apprenticeship at the CFA Cuzon in Quimper, France at the age started the Baker & Pastry Chef Baccalaureate Apprenticeship at the CFA Cuzon in Quimper, France at the age of of 15,15, graduatingSumma SummaCum CumLaude. Laude.AtAt1818years yearsold, old,LeLeBescond Bescondmoved moved Rennes, France start the Brevet Technique des graduating toto Rennes, France toto start the Brevet Technique des MétiersPâtissier Pâtissier(BTM) (BTM)program programatatthe theFaculté FacultéDes DesMétiers, Métiers,also alsograduating graduating Summa Cum Laude. Due the success Métiers Summa Cum Laude. Due to to the success of of hisschooling, schooling,Le LeBescond Bescondwas wasoffered offereda ainternship internshipwith withthe theWorld’s World’s Best Sugar Master, Stephane Klein, learn how his Best Sugar Master, Stephane Klein, to to learn how to to createartistic artisticshow showpieces. pieces.He Hethen thenproceeded proceededtotocomplete completeananinternship internship Vienna, Austria working local bakeries and create inin Vienna, Austria working in in local bakeries and pastryshops shopswhile whilefinishing finishingtwo twoadditional additionalcertifications certificationsinincandy candy and ice cream. pastry and ice cream. “I’vealways alwaysbeen beenlucky luckytotohave haveaalot lotofofinspiration inspirationwhen whenit itcomes comes desserts,” stated Bescond. “I like the details “I’ve toto desserts,” stated LeLe Bescond. “I like the details and textures and combination ofof flavors are endless and andthe theprecision precisionneeded neededininorder ordertotocreate createdesserts. desserts.The Theshapes, shapes, textures and combination flavors are endless and that’s that’swhat whatI Ilove loveabout aboutbaking.” baking.” Although Bescond has perfected many treats that have been AlthoughFrench Frenchmacarons macaronsare areamongst amongsthis hisfavorites favoritestotomake, make,LeLe Bescond has perfected many treats that have been lauded end ofof a meal that will make you want to to order laudedby byaamultitude multitudeofoffans. fans.“My “Mygoal goalisistotoserve servea alight lighttreat treatatatthe the end a meal that will make you want order another anotherbecause becauseititwill willnever neverbe beenough.” enough.” Le atat LeLe Macaron, Florida’s leading French LeBescond Bescondmoved movedtotoMiami, Miami,Florida Floridainin2016 2016totolead leadthe thepastry pastrydepartment department Macaron, Florida’s leading French macaron promotion toto the executive chef and manager macaronand andpastry pastryshop shopasassous-chef sous-chefand andmoved movedhis hisway wayupupthrough through promotion the executive chef and manager roles. inin Miami Beach, the JW Marriott Marquis in in Miami, roles.He Heled ledand anddesigned designeddessert dessertexperiences experiencesfor forthe theSLS SLSHotel Hotel Miami Beach, the JW Marriott Marquis Miami, The Signature Grand Venue and the American Airlines Arena, to name a few, all while leading the team at Le Macaron. The Signature Grand Venue and the American Airlines Arena, to name a few, all while leading the team at Le Macaron. Through and LeLe Bescond were introduced and soon after onon Throughaafew fewcommon commonconnections connectionson onLinkedIn, LinkedIn,the thestaff staffatatWEC WEC and Bescond were introduced and soon after their and accomplishments. theirway waythrough throughthe theinterview interviewprocess processdue duetotohis hisimpressive impressivecareer career and accomplishments. nd forfor puff pastry creation, and brings with him high Chef placeininPierre PierreCaron’s Caron’snational nationalcontest contest puff pastry creation, and brings with him high ChefLe LeBescond Bescondhas hasearned earned2 2ndplace recommendations from well-known pastry chefs from around the world. Additionally, he was awarded an Extraordinary recommendations from well-known pastry chefs from around the world. Additionally, he was awarded an Extraordinary Ability through extensive documentation that states hishis AbilityGreen GreenCard, Card,for forsustained sustainedinternational internationalacclaim acclaimevidenced evidenced through extensive documentation that states abilities will benefit the United States through employment in the industry upon granted entry. Le Bescond joins the abilities will benefit the United States through employment in the industry upon granted entry. Le Bescond joins the World Equestrian Center at the perfect time to celebrate his 10-year anniversary in the pastry industry. World Equestrian Center at the perfect time to celebrate his 10-year anniversary in the pastry industry.

For Formore moreinformation, information,visit visitonline onlineatatwww.wec.net. www.wec.net.


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July ‘20


Publisher’s Note hen the pain of our black countrymen and women was recently echoed across the nation, the Ocala Style team started having some hard conversations. We are predominantly white. We wanted to understand. We didn’t only want to give lip service to the issue. We wanted to effect change that would bring relief to the pain that portions of our community felt. We talked to and asked questions of our black friends and colleagues, watched movies, read black history, all looking for context and a way to acknowledge and contribute to the improvement of race relations and the equality we all sought. We understood that the pain didn’t only stem from police brutality, but so many more systematic inequalities. Sure, our words were going to matter, but our actions were going to matter more. We had been working purposefully at trying to be inclusive covering our community—not just when it came to race, but also socioeconomic status, gender and sexual orientation. That said, we acknowledge we can do more. It is our hope that some of the content in this issue can be used as evidence of our long-term commitment to address racial inequality that exists in our town in the best way we know how—by telling Ocala’s stories. Even the ones that might make us uncomfortable, but especially those that get us talking about important subjects. The article on page 46 about local school desegregation was an idea I had after listening to filmmaker Mark Emery lecture over a year ago. He talked about how grateful he was as a teenager following the death of his father to have black Silver Springs boat captains take an interest in him. Mark admitted he was initially clueless as to why his black friends would pick him up on the outskirts of his neighborhood rather than coming to his home, until desegregation efforts brought to light racial tensions that were boiling up from under the surface. We’ve worked on this article for months, and although I am not one of those people who believes things happen for a reason, I’m acknowledging that the delay caused by us trying to handle the story “just so” helped us release this story at a time when it might do the most good. There are lessons in this history that we can reflect on today. Lessons that are still relevant. I close this letter asking my fellow Ocalans: can we work together to make our town a picture of what a truly integrated community, that values equality, looks like? Even if one doesn’t understand the anger and pain of our black residents who are business owners, doctors, attorneys, cashiers, servers, students, pastors and neighbors that we interact with on a daily basis—can we ask questions until we do? I know collectively we can do better than what we have been doing, but we are going to have to walk across the road and have a more authentic dialogue. Can we? Will we? What say you, Ocala?

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher



Since 1919





d ep a r tm e n ts

insid e r





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

feature s

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Ocala mom, educator and civil rights advocate Sylvia Jones credits her success to a higher power.

Our guide to make the most out of the season.

Meet Vincent Vaughns, the star athlete and scholar who is about to take on Wall Street.


ta b l e


Stylish looks for the steamy days ahead.







The ugly truth about home redecoration.

As restrictions ease, couples are putting wedding plans back in motion.

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A look back on the legacy of school integration in Marion County.


Leading by example comes naturally to William James, who has spent his lifetime making our community a better place to live.





Ocala Fire Rescue’s Public Information Officer Ashley Lopez whips up a decadent vegan dessert.


This horse’s luck went from bad to good when some kind souls stepped in to help.

Ocala/Marion County nonprofits need our help now more than ever.






The key to easy entertaining this season is keeping it simple and flavorful.

A lifetime of loving plants led Laura Perdomo to grow a thriving business.

c u l tu r e





In just a year, artist E.J. Nieves has made a significant impact on the Ocala arts scene. The sometimes complicated identity of art.

o n th e c o ver Mr. William James, photographed by Meagan Gumpert.

Clockwise from left: Photo by Shauna & Jordon Photography; photo by Meagan Gumpert; photo courtesy Vincent Vaughns; photo by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery




behind the scenes We shot our sultry summer fashion story on location at Trilogy at Ocala Preserve, a 55-and-better active lifestyle community on the outskirts of horse country, just west of Ocala. We chose this location for its rich natural beauty, lush manicured grounds and majestic moss-laden oak trees, situated throughout the preserve. Our own Marketing Coordinator Sabrina Fissell, who was one of our models, is seen here, at our oďŹƒce, trying on beautiful fashions and accessories provided by Karishma Boutique located at 1925 SW 18th Court in Ocala. Above: The Monaco model home at Trilogy

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July ‘20





Social Adrian Mendez and Ava Conley were among the guests at the festive grand opening of Gold’s Gym in Ocala, which included several fitness experts and personalities. Photo by Simon Mendoza

July ‘20



Owner Pete Garcia

Grand Opening GOLD’S GYM OCALA Photography by Simon Mendoza


Erin Stern

Kevin Levrone, right, speaks with guests



nternational Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness Hall of Fame professional bodybuilders Shawn Ray and Kevin Levrone and ďŹ tness professional, author and coach Erin Stern made appearances during a festive all-day party on February 22nd. The event included refreshments and a ribbon cutting by the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership, with owner Pete Garcia, architect Rolando Sosa and contractor Paul Stentiford.

Kevin Levrone, Erin Stern, and Shawn Ray

Shamar Lindsey

Real People. Real S tories. Real O cala.

Ambleside High School Opens AMBLESIDE HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS Photography by Simon Mendoza


large crowd gathered for a ribbon cutting celebration for Ambleside School of Ocala’s new high school campus at 420 SE Watula Avenue on February 21st. The main campus is located at 507 E. Broadway. Ambleside is a private, faith-based school, which presently serves grades K-10 and will expand to K-12 in 2022.

Shane Owens and daughter Grace

Kevin Sheilley speaks with Stephen Zedler, Shari Ausley, Mayor Kent Guinn and others.

Rhella Murdaugh, Ken Ausley and Ken Smith



Photos courtesy Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership

Terry Angeloti sits for a caricature

ur bank is a locally owned community bank,” Angie Clifton, marketing president and senior vice president, proudly proclaimed at the grand opening and ribbon cutting for Mainstreet’s new branch office at 112 N. Magnolia Avenue on February 14th. “We have personal bankers ready to help customers in every aspect of their banking needs, consumer and commercial.”

The Johny Carlsson Musical Duo

July ‘20



Grand Opening THE FIERY CHEF


Chef Felix with family at the celebration

CEP Ambassador Brian Hogan



Photos courtesy The Fiery Chef

hef Loring Felix and his team, along with ambassadors from the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership, hosted a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration on February 28th at his new location at 2637 E. Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala. Chef Loring has long been a noted presence on the culinary scene in Marion County. At the new venue, he oers nutritious and healthy meals to eat in or take out.

The Ugly Truth By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


n 1988, I had an epiphany: I have no taste. I had just moved into my first apartment with two college buddies, and my mother graciously donated her couch to the cause. She also gave us an old painting, an abstract in electric orange and black. They were now mine, and their renewed life boldly proclaimed, “Here is a couch. You can sit on it. Next to a painting of, well...something.” No more thought needed. Time for beer and pizza. I came home to find my roommates looking over the new additions with pained expressions. “Dave,” one said, “we were wondering. Was the painting created for the couch or was the couch created to match the painting?” They collapsed into snorty chortles. And that’s when it hit me: That couch was electric orange. It was simply the ugliest thing ever created. And the painting was an accessory to the crime. I grew up with this couch—watched cartoons on it, spilled soda on it, wooed girls on it. I never considered its aesthetic. It just existed, like those decorative metal chickens in the living room. I have been thinking about that couch a lot lately, as my family is redecorating our house and all the women in my life want to evict my furniture. While my wife, Amy, has wonderful taste, she has a hard time deciding what looks good where and with what color. My vision falls into three design theories: (1) We’re doing what? (2) Why? and (3) OK Dear, do whatever your sweet heart desires. We needed help. We figured paint color was a good

place to start, so we called a dear friend with a flair for decorating to come over and offer color suggestions. Here’s what she suggested: Firstly, country-chic armoires are so 1990s. And they do not belong in dining rooms, especially when their sole purpose is to house stereo parts. Second, not all inherited furniture pieces are antiques...or attractive...or worthy of existing. Three, CDs on living room bookshelves? Again, Dave, please join us in the 21st century. And finally, my leather chair–my Archie Bunker nest. I purchased it at a thrift store and considered it the deal of the 20th century... Well, there are special places in hell for things like that. “But I paid $99 for that chair,” I declared. “I’m afraid they overcharged you by $90,” our friend said gently, as if telling me my dog had been kidnapped. To be clear, she has amazing suggestions and did, indeed, offer painting advice that parted the clouds for us. She even presented us with a notebook—organized with tabs—called “The Schlenker Design Project.” She’s good. We are actually pretty amped, and I am now excavating years of fallen snacks from the depths of my leather chair. We’ve all been here, finding that delicate balance of common sense, taste, renewed spirit, HAZMAT regulations and, most importantly, making the ones you love happy. And maybe that explains the orange couch. I loved my mother, and I’m sure she loved banishing Satan’s love seat from her home. After all...it never really matched the metal chickens. July ‘20


BRIDAL SHOW Saturday, July 18, 2020 2:00 - 6:00 PM Paddock Mall Admission: Free | VIP Access: $20 VIPs receive access to a special VIP area complete with a champagne bar, an Ocala Style bag, and giveaways!

Sponsored by:

RSVP and become a VIP at ocalastyle.com/bridal




Ocala Style magazine and Making it Matthews, along with the amazing vendors below, are teaming up to give one deserving Marion County couple a dream wedding. VIP brides attending the Ocala Style Bridal Show will have an opportunity to explain why they and their fiancĂŠ should receive the dream wedding!


Shaw Sound Entertainment Olivia Ortiz and Left on Broadway 16


Learn more and view the official rules at ocalastyle.com/bridal


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: Stephanie & Jeff Kershner Photographed by Shauna & Jordon Photography

July ‘20



STEPHANIE & JEFF KERSHNER March 14th, 2020 Photography by Shauna & Jordon Photography Venue: The Herlong Mansion, Micanopy Her favorite memory: “I did a first look with my Mamaw, Dad and Jeff. I will forever cherish each one of those special moments. Having that intimate time with each of them, before the ceremony, really helped calm my nerves before the big celebration began.”

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MARY ELLEN & CARMINE SALADINO February 14th, 2020 Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery Venue: Trinity Lutheran Church Their favorite memory: “What makes us feel like our marriage is special is that we were both widowed. We loved, we were caregivers, and then we each grieved for our spouses. At first, neither of us wanted to remarry. Then, as time passed, we never thought we’d ever find love again until we met. Now it seems like a miracle to us that we are so happy together and grateful for this blessing in our lives.”

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July ‘20


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Photo courtesy Martin Zangerl




Photo by Alan Youngblood

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Since spring was basically cancelled this year, we’re sure that, like us, you’re ready to get out and have some fun! Here’s our guide to help you enjoy Marion County and make the most of this long-awaited summer. By Lisa McGinnes


HAPPENINGS The Rodeo Returns

The heart-stopping, hoof-pounding excitement of the Southeastern Pro Rodeo storms into the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion July 24th-25th with racing, riding, roping and wrestling—and the most dangerous eight seconds in sports: bull riding. Advance discount tickets can be purchased online at www.ocalarodeo.com

Equine Elegance in Action

The Ocala Paso Fino Horse Association brings the smoothest riding horses in the world to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion for their Comeback Show July 11th-12th. Enjoy these graceful beauties performing in an open, covered arena. www.pasofinoocala.com

Fireworks on the Lake

Yes—there will be Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Weir this year! Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill is hosting an Independence Day celebration, with live music by Conrad Marcum starting at 4pm. Table seating is limited and you are welcome to bring chairs to sit on the beach per current CDC social distancing guidelines.

Run around, experience some social exercise and meet other adults who still love this playground favorite. The City of Ocala’s Coed Kickball league begins July 14th and continues Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-10pm at the Ocala Regional Sportsplex. Visit https://apm.activecommunities.com/ocalamarioncounty for information and registration.

Wild Caving Adventures

Underneath Brick City Adventure Park, an unimproved wild cave offers unparalleled underground fun inside the city of Ocala. Marion County Parks and Recreation offers tours for adults and children ages 8 and up. This strenuous physical activity combines climbing and crawling in tight spaces and rocky places and caving gear is provided. To register for upcoming 9am tours on July 11th or August 22nd, call (352) 671-8560. 24


Sparklers photo by Meagan Gumpert; Horse photo by Stunning Steeds

Kickball For Grownups

Photo by Dave Miller

Summer evenings are for strolling, sipping and shopping in historic downtown Ocala.

July ‘20



about Fresh From the Farm

Seasonal produce is abundant this time of year, and farmer’s markets showcase vibrant displays of farm-fresh selections. Longtime local favorite Ocala Downtown Market brings together farmers, artisans, food trucks and shoppers every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9am-2pm under the pavilion at SE 3rd Street and SE 3rd Avenue. A variety of vendors offer local fruits and vegetables, meats and seafood, fresh pasta, honey, arts and crafts. www.ocaladowntownmarket.com Over at the McPherson Government Complex on SE 25th Avenue, the Marion County Friday Market brings together a collection of produce, seafood, baked goods, olive oils, freeze dried candies, fruit snacks and jerky. The market is located at 601 SE 25th Avenue and it’s open on Fridays from 9am-2pm.

At On Top of the World, the Circle Square Farmer’s Market opened back up last month with new safety measures including physical distancing and crowd size limitations, and they are asking shoppers to wear a face mask and bring their own hand sanitizer. The open-air market is open to the public on Thursdays from 9am-1pm. www.circlesquarecommonsfarmersmarket.com And, if you want to experience not just the farm market but the farm itself, Crones’ Cradle Conserve Foundation in Citra invites the public to their 80-acre 26


natural farm and country store, open from 9am-3pm every day, to shop artfully displayed, chemical-free fresh produce, herbs, farm-baked bread, local honey, jams and jellies and handcrafted artisan items. www.cronescradleconserve.org

Cool Off

Just in time to beat the summer heat, splash pads and aquatic fun centers are open for families to enjoy. Splash pads at Citizens’ Circle and Lillian Bryant Park in Ocala, and the Wilma Loar Splash Pad in Belleview, offer free sprays, squeals and smiles for little ones daily from sunrise to sunset. The City of Ocala’s two aquatic fun centers at Jervey Gantt and Hampton are open for morning and afternoon swim sessions Monday through Saturday. New safety measures are in place, including temperature checks, reduced capacity, social distancing and additional sanitization. Visit www.ocalafl.org/recpark and www.belleviewfl.org/facilities for more information.

Photo by Barbara Dawson

The new Brick City Farmer’s Market opened on June 4th. Every Thursday from 4-8pm under the tents at Beautiful Moments on SW 60th Avenue, local farmers and artisan vendors offer fresh produce, herbs, pasta, eggs and baked goods as well as locally crafted soaps and jewelry. Organizers say the "healthy, fresh environment" makes the market an ideal summer outing for families. www.brickcityfarmersmarket.com

Skaters and Shredding

Ocala Skate Park, at 517 NE Ninth Street, is open Monday through Saturday with new session times for social distancing/limited capacity requirements. Two-hour sessions, from 10am-8pm, are open first come, first served; limited to 10 skaters and social distancing is required.

Court Sports

City of Ocala pickleball, racquetball and tennis courts are open with no restrictions on type of play. Basketball courts are open but are limited to no more than three players per half court.

Photo by Meagan Gumpert

Water Recreation

Ready to soak up some sun on the water? Marion County parks and recreation areas are open, although visitors to fishing platforms, swim beaches and boat ramps must adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines. Our in-town nature hideaway, Silver Springs State Park, is open for strolling the shady walking trails and family picnics. For a close-up glimpse of the first

magnitude head spring and wildlife including fish, turtles, alligators, and sometimes even manatees, take a glass bottom boat tour or rent a clear-bottom kayak to explore the five-mile Silver River on your own. In Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs State Park is open with plenty of naturally beautiful, wide open space for socially distanced outdoor fun. Bring the family and a picnic to enjoy a day of swimming in the crystal-clear head spring. It’s the perfect time of year to kick back and enjoy a refreshing, leisurely four-hour float down the Rainbow River, and tubing is available from both Rainbow Springs and KP Hole parks with limited capacity. Feeling a little more adventurous? Rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard to explore and see the wildlife of the river, including fish, turtles, river otters and wading birds.

Family Picnics

Picnic pavilions at City of Ocala parks are open and available by reservation but may have requirements for group size and social distancing. Call (352) 368-5517 for the latest information and reservations. July ‘20


Photo by Barbara Dawson


drinks Downtown Cuisine and Culture

Adjacent from the downtown square, Brick City Southern Kitchen & Whisky Bar is known for smoky barbecued meats, Southern specialties and the most extensive list of whisky in town. www.mojobbq.com Across the square, Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille has sidewalk seating with a Big Easy vibe for enjoying Cajun, Creole and Southern flavors with a modern twist, alongside signature low country cocktails. www.hookedonharrys.com Just down the street, Pi on Broadway features its perpetually popular rooftop patio, perfect for dinner and drinks, enjoying live music and Sunday brunch. www.pionbroadway.com Just down the hill is Courtyard on Broadway, which offers indoor and outdoor seating, with live music on Wednesdays and weekends. A popular offering is “popup dinners,” in which guest chefs prepare a delicious repast that is paired with just-right beverages. The most current details are on Courtyard’s Facebook page.

Photo by John Jernigan

Big Hammock Brewery & Bites, on the corner of First Avenue and East Fort King Street, is a brewpub that also offers an eclectic menu, such as ramen bowls, bao buns and hot pretzels with beer cheese. Indoor dining, with a few seats outside. Find them on Facebook. Thirty-four taps of craft brews, made by an award-winning team, are on tap at Infinite Ale Works, housed in a historic venue on South Magnolia, just off the downtown square. The weekly schedule includes happy hours, live entertainment and food trucks. www.infinitealeworks.com

Other Intriguing Eateries

Hiatus Brewing Company, west of Ocala on the State Road 200 corridor, offers on-site crafted beers and a menu to complement the brews. Guests can enjoy their suds and meal indoors, as well as outdoors on Fridays and Saturdays when there is live music. Test out your trivia skills on Thursdays. www.hiatusbrewing.com If you’re heading west out of Ocala on US 27, check out the new outdoor seating at Big Rascal BBQ & Grille. Chef Charlie is always cooking up something new, in addition to his longtime “low and slow” favorites. www.bigrascalbbq.com South of Ocala, right on the main drag (US 441) in Belleview, Pasta Faire continues its long tradition of authentic Italian excellence, with new additions of BOGO and family packs for takeout. www.pastafaire.com July ‘20


al fresco

The long, sun-drenched days of summer, with afternoon breezes and starry nights, are perfect for open-air dining. We’ve made a list of some of our favorites for lingering over cocktails enjoying live local music, savoring farmfresh favorites with a view, dinner and drinks in the heart of downtown or the ultimate in casual family feasts.

Date Night

For a special evening, you can’t go wrong with The Keep Downtown. In their romantically lit courtyard, you and your sweetheart can sip on curated mead, wine and craft beer selections and nibble from artfully prepared grazing boards, cheese plates, gourmet pizzas and decadent desserts, and enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. www.thekeepdowntown.com

Fun Family Dining

All three Mojo’s restaurants in Marion County offer social distancing patio dining aimed at getting “your taste buds singing.” “Mojo’s is known for food, music and soul; we are still trying to do that,” says Catering Director Jamie Green, adding that the eateries, known for wings, Cajun and Cuban flavors, are focusing on providing good food in a safe environment. www.ilovemojos.com

Drinks With Friends

For many southern families, nothing says summer like smoky barbecue enjoyed around a picnic table—the kind served up by local Food TV star Rashad Jones at his Big Lee’s—Serious About Barbecue. Take out is what they do, offering diner favorites including ribs, brisket, burnt ends and barbecue chicken, as well as homemade desserts such as peach cobbler and banana pudding. www.mybigleesbbq.com

Happy hours at Latinos y Mas, just south of downtown, feature their special sangria. Don’t be in a hurry to leave—the enticing aromas of Latin American fusion flavors invite you to linger in the tranquil courtyard over dinner followed by café con leche and a decadent dessert. www.latinosymas.com

Tacos and Margaritas

Pre-pandemic, Bank Street Patio Bar was already established as the buzziest place to relax with a cocktail in comfortable courtyard seating. These days, it feels even more spacious with the same upscale vibe spread among socially distanced seating arrangements. Light bites, salads and entrées feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients. www.bankstreetpatio.com


On the shores of Lake Weir, just a half hour from downtown Ocala, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill is as close to the coast as Marion County gets. “Florisiana” low country cuisine, including their popular shrimp and grits, is served with sunset views. The downstairs Sandbar heats up on weekends with live music and tropical drinks. Dine on the covered deck and stay to play in the sand and on the lake. Jet skis, pontoon boats, paddleboards and kayaks are available to rent and boaters are welcome. www.facebook.com/eatonsbeach


Sayulita Taqueria, a new restaurant in a historic building on First Street, also is a bar and social destination. There's a spacious outdoor patio, indoor seating and live entertainment on Saturdays. Find them on Facebook.

Photo provided by Bank Street Patio Bar


Food With a View


treats When you need a break from soaring temperatures, the whole family can enjoy uniquely indulgent frozen treats at shops throughout Marion County. The sweetest little gem hidden just a block off the downtown square is Ocala’s Chocolate & Confections. The air is fragranced with the aroma of European-style chocolates, but they also offer more than 30 flavors of ice cream. You can enjoy a cone while strolling the sidewalks or take home a pint or quart for your freezer. Grown-up tastes may be drawn to specialties like Mackinac Turtle Fudge and Mexican Hot Chocolate, but kids say their Garbage Can flavor is much yummier than it sounds, with several types of candy bars, cookie crumbles and brownie bites blended into a milkshake. www.ocalaschocolate.com On East Silver Springs Boulevard, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream is a family favorite. Savor ice cream made the old-fashioned way, offered with great specials like free baby cones for little ones under 40 inches tall—and even a free doggie sundae for your furry friend. Banana Thursday invites you to BYOB—bring your own banana—for half-off banana splits. www.brusters.com

Photo by Meagan Gumpert

In Southeast Ocala, a new option is Old School Ice Cream on Baseline Road. They serve high quality Blue Bell ice cream in their waffle cones, hand-spun milkshakes, malts and sundaes, and offer two flavors of Disney fan favorite Dole Whip. The ice cream parlor has a vintage schoolhouse theme with desks, school bells, lunch pails, and books, all purchased in Marion County. Find them on Facebook. In Southern Marion County, Ms. Steve’s is a bright pink Belleview landmark. This family-owned ice cream shop serves cones, shakes and sundaes, at drive-through and walk-up windows, making it a sweet addition to a family outing. They rotate seasonal and specialty flavors like bright blue fan favorite Cookie Monster and spectacular purple and white Magical Unicorn, with its sweet-sour fruity rainbows and star-shaped lemon candy flakes. Check them out on Facebook.

Two iconic, giant cone-shaped Twistee Treat locations on Southwest College Road and State Road 200 serve soft-serve ice cream cones, sundaes and shakes with extra touches like dips and sprinkles. Ask about a dog cup for your pup to enjoy at a family- and furry-friendly outdoor table. www.twisteetreat.com July ‘20


Spring is for Cleaning; Summer is for Art

Did you spend your spring organizing your closets and rearranging the furniture? Find some art pieces you’d like to rehome? Did you figure out you need some new art? Marion Cultural Alliance’s Art in the Attic is their annual artsy yard sale fundraiser. Donate your pre-loved art to MCA, then shop the tag sale to find new paintings, prints, drawings and photographs—at yard sale prices. If you want first pick of the art treasures, purchase a ticket to the VIP Sip and Shop reception on Friday, July 24th. The Art in the Attic sale will be open Saturday, July 25th through Saturday, August 1st at the Brick City Center for the Arts. Visit www.mcaocala.org for more information or call (352) 369-1500.

Patriotic Celebration

The Ocala Symphony Brass Ensemble presents Red, White and OSO Blue: A Salute to Independence on July 4th at 3pm at the Reilly Arts Center. This 32


Fab Four Tribute

Let It Be is an extraordinary recreation of a live show with the lads from Liverpool. This Beatles tribute at 7:30pm on July 11th at the Reilly Arts Center will feature authentically costumed musicians playing Beatles hits on instruments actually played by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Limited in-person seating is available according to social distancing guidelines, and patrons are encouraged to wear masks. www.reillyartscenter.com

Symphony for Students

Music students and their families are invited to join professional Ocala Symphony Orchestra musicians on July 15th at 10am at the Reilly Arts Center for this free event. Learn how an orchestra operates and be inspired by symphonic music. www.reillyartscenter.com

Photos courtesy of Tyrus Clutter

art entertainment

stunning salute to the USA, led by guest conductor Chip Birkner, will include patriotic favorites and a special tribute to our armed forces. Limited in-person seating is available according to social distancing guidelines, and patrons are encouraged to wear masks. Also streaming online for free. www.reillyartscenter.com

Live and Local

Many local musicians adapted to stay-at-home measures by taking their performances online, but now, live, local music is back! Guitar rocker/singer Jeff Jarrett: July 2nd, 6-8pm, Ocala Downtown Square July 5th, 7:30-10:30am, War Horse Harley-Davidson July 9th, 6-10pm, Charlie Horse July 11th, 5-9pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill July 18th, 9pm-12am, The Lodge July 19th, 1-4pm, Swampy’s Bar & Grille, Dunnellon July 23rd, 7:30-10:30pm, Pi on Broadway July 30th, 6-10pm, Bank Street Patio Bar

Conrad Marcum playing modern rock favorites: July 4th, 4-10pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill July 5th, 3-7pm, Gator Joe’s Beach Bar & Grill July 12th, 2-6pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill July 19th, 3-7pm, Gator Joe’s Beach Bar & Grill July 25th, 2-6pm, Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill Follow Conrad on Facebook @conrad.marcum The velvety voice of Becky Sinn: July 24th, 6-8pm, Ocala Downtown Square July 25th, 10:30am-1:30pm, Ocala Downtown Market Follow Becky on Facebook @BeckySinn

Vintage songstress Miranda Madison: July 3rd, 7-10pm, The Corkscrew, Ocala

The bluesy, soulful sound of the Delta Rose Band: July 11th, 6-9pm, grand opening celebration at The Wardrobe Exchange, 500 SW 10th Street July 18th, 7-10pm, Circle Square Commons, On Top of the World

Follow Miranda on Facebook @MirandaMADisonMusic

Follow the band on Facebook at @DeltaRoseBand

Follow Jeff on Facebook @jeff.jarrett.94

country at

Photo courtesy of Reilly Arts Center

the drive-in

The Independence Day weekend kicks off with an innovative country concert at a unique local venue: Wynonna Judd & the Big Noise at the Ocala DriveIn on Friday, July 3rd. “As with most things in the arts, this event came about through teamwork,” explains Pamela Calero Wardell, executive director of the Reilly Arts Center. “Wynonna was scheduled to perform at the Reilly Arts Center, but with the COVID-19 rules in place there wasn't a path to bringing her to perform at our venue. We knew the Ocala Drive-In Theater was a possible option, so we approached them and moved forward with a plan.” It was a win-win since most of the band’s Florida tour had been cancelled. “I think everyone involved is really excited to be able to have a performance like this,” Wardell says, “especially at such an iconic space as the Ocala Drive-In Theater.” Tickets are sold as a car pass of up to six people, who can enjoy the concert inside their vehicle or bring folding chairs and blankets. Expect a high-energy evening to kick off your holiday weekend. “Our hope is that this performance will lift spirits and bring joy to people,” Wardell says. “Live music has a way of lifting spirits, providing a collective experience, and giving us all hope.” Visit www.reillyartscenter.com for tickets and information. July ‘20


For the love of Summer photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery shot on location at Trilogy at Ocala Preserve fashion styling by Nick Steele hair, makeup and grooming by Nicole “Nicci” Orio of Pretty n Pinned models Sabrina Fissell and Emmanuel Vazquez

Southern Living Huntington Plaid Throw and Southern Living Outdoor Living Collection Fringe Indoor/Outdoor Pillow, both from Dillard’s. RLX polo and Murano pants and her Robert Lee Morris ring, from Dillard’s, Gilli striped dress, Julie Vos pendant, PH crow’s nest basket, all from Shannon Roth; Waterford stemware, wood tray, whitewash teak plate and bowl, from Agapanthus.

Murano slimfit blue polka dot shirt and ROWM stretch fabric shorts, available at Dillard’s; FAVLUX dress, available at Shannon Roth Collection.

ROWM large stripe sportshirt, POLO Prepster chino shorts, available at Dillard’s.

Vince Camuto sleeveless belted wide leg crop jumpsuit, available at Dillard’s; Julie Vos necklace, available at Shannon Roth Collection.

Floral georgette dress by Lauren Ralph Lauren, Murano Slimfit jacket and pants, Cole Haan Morris Wing Oxford shoes, all available at Dillard’s. Antique bicycle available at Two Sisters Vintage.

As restrictions ease, couples are putting their wedding plans back in motion. We spoke with local experts about what new trends are emerging. By Lisa McGinnes



Photo courtesy of Brittany Bishop Photography

Here Comes the Bride


Photo courtesy of Maven Photo + FIlm

othing stops love. That’s the heartwarming message local wedding vendors are offering as quarantine restrictions have relaxed and couples are moving forward with wedding plans—which may look a little different but which, they promise, will be just as special. “I smiled every time, during our quarantine, as I scrolled through Instagram or Facebook as there were couples getting engaged right in the middle of a global pandemic,” offers Camilla Matthews, co-owner of Making It Matthews, a full-scale wedding planning company in Belleview. “It reminded me that life renews and nothing can stop love.” Brides and grooms who had weddings scheduled this spring had to be flexible, and local vendors quickly adapted. No one had a playbook for what to do during a pandemic. “We call it the COVID shuffle,” Jamie Green says with a laugh. As the director of Mojo’s Catering, she encouraged her team to look at the “pause” as “an opportunity to think outside the box,” and says knowing “everything happens for a reason” and looking at the situation lightheartedly helped them get through the shutdown. “We came out stronger and more radiant and ready to protect the community,” she affirms. “We came up with a couple of solutions and they seem to be working. We’ve got to make them understand the magic is still there.” The beautiful, elaborate tablescapes Mojo’s Catering is known for were slightly scaled back in size—though just as lovely—for small family weddings, and Green says that with several socially distanced stations rather than one long buffet line, they were able to do “exactly what the bride envisioned and had worked on for a year, in her planning, Pinterest stories and storyboard.” Since large gatherings were not possible, many involved with Spring 2020 weddings had to get creative and, now, local wedding planners, caterers, florists and photographers say they enjoyed the chance to help couples celebrate their special day in meaningful ways.

July ‘20


Photo courtesy of Making it Matthews

“We have added so many personal touches,” Matthews reveals. “Special toasts, dances, first looks with dad, and the list goes on.” Photographer Meagan Gumpert of Maven Photo + Film says she and co-owner Dave Miller photographed some intimate and beautiful quarantine weddings that might not have looked exactly like the bride’s Pinterest board but were undoubtedly even more meaningful. They saw destination weddings become backyard weddings and big church weddings become small family ceremonies. Gumpert and Miller, a newlywed himself, pour their hearts into their work, because photos are “what you get to keep and share with people who aren’t there,” Gumpert says, explaining that they reworked their wedding packages to accommodate the smaller gatherings—no one needed six hours of photography, for instance. “It’s been fun,” she enthuses. “We had more time to take portraits.” And, she adds, many couples expanded to videography, which wasn’t part of their original plan, so they could share their special day with family and friends who were no longer able to attend the wedding. Many plan to show the video of their ceremony at a rescheduled, post-pandemic reception, which some couples are planning for this fall. And, Matthews predicts, weddings which have been postponed from spring to fall are on track to come back bigger than ever. “It gave them more planning time to think about what was truly important about the day. I feel this down time made them eager to have social interaction, therefore the receptions seem to have grown in size, but they are also adding fun interactive items like photo booths, games during cocktail hour, fire pits and s’mores stations.” Mary Beth Weaver, owner of Floral Architecture and Design, is also seeing a trend toward bigger and better “we-survivedCOVID” wedding celebrations. “I have several brides that had to reschedule because of coronavirus,” she acknowledges. “I am finding they are going big with their florals.” Couples currently planning their celebration also have a new venue choice for consideration, Protea Wedding & Events, on a picturesque horse farm on scenic County Road 475, with its one-of-a-kind, hand-hewn beam barn.



“There is just not another venue like it,” says owner Courtney Roberts, explaining that the barn is modern yet historic, offering the style of rustic elegance many brides envision for their special day. This unique structure was originally built in Canada in the 1800s and was relocated to Ocala in 2019 and then painstakingly rebuilt. As construction finished this spring, the venue was scheduled to host its first wedding on April 25th—the nuptials of owners Courtney Roberts and Joe Pickerell. Since far-away family members wouldn’t be able to travel, they decided to cancel their wedding. They intended to reschedule, Roberts says, but haven’t had a chance because they are helping so many other couples plan their special day. “We have been too busy focusing on everyone else’s weddings,” Roberts admits, adding that bookings are nearly full for this fall and early 2021. Such is the labor of love for those in the business of making brides’ dreams come true.

The Vows section in Ocala Style highlights local couples on their most special of days. Photographers and couples are invited to submit images and text by email to editorial@ocalastyle.com for consideration.

Ocala Style Bridal Show 2020


rides-to-be looking to create their fantasy wedding can find plenty of tips and engage with vendors at the Ocala Style Bridal Show, set for 2-6pm Saturday, July 18th, at Paddock Mall, 3100 SW College Road, Ocala. The event will offer opportunities to visit with a wide variety of local businesses, a fashion show, DJ and dancing, dance demonstrations, food tastings and a photo booth. A VIP section will feature a champagne bar, Ocala Style gift bag for each VIP and exclusive giveaways. Sponsors include Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club and Nirvana Medical Spa. The event is free to attend. The cost for the VIP section is $20 and tickets may be purchased at www.ocalastyle.com/bridal/ Prospective vendors can learn more by calling (352) 732-0073 or by emailing info@magnoliamediaco.com. July ‘20







generosity of so many amazing partners.” “We loved this idea, so we put our heads and expertise together to create a dream ‘Barn Wedding’ for one special couple,” explains Ocala Style Publisher Jennifer Murty. “We are so heartened to have so many incredible vendors that so willingly joined on and are as excited as we are to make this a reality for one lucky couple.”

The package includes the following: • Ceremony and reception in the historic barn venue and on the picturesque grounds of the beautiful new Protea Weddings & Events. • Catering supplied by Mojo’s Catering. • A photography and videography package by Dave Miller and Meagan Gumpert of Maven Photo + Film. • Event floral design and bridal party flowers by Mary Beth Weaver of Floral Architecture. • Live music by Olivia Ortiz and Left on Broadway • DJ services by Brandon and Breanna Shaw of Shaw Sound Entertainment.

Protea venue photo courtesy of Protea Wedding & Events. Photo courtesy of Making It Matthews.



cala Style Magazine has signed on as the exclusive media sponsor of a special wedding giveaway conceived by Making It Matthews Wedding Planning Services in partnership with many top local wedding vendors. As a celebration of love and the resilience of the many local couples who got engaged during the pandemic or were planning a wedding that was impacted by the shutdown, the group has committed to providing a dream wedding for one Marion County couple by working together in the spirit of collaboration. “The most amazing part of this giveaway is that every single one of these vendors has been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis as well, but did not hesitate to enthusiastically join on to the project,” explains Camilla Matthews of Making It Matthews. “When I first thought about doing this, the idea was how could we create a custom wedding for this bride and groom using everything Making It Matthews has to offer? And now it has blossomed into something even bigger through the

The wedding will be chronicled in a feature article in an upcoming issue of Ocala Style, on our website and through our social media channels. After VIP ticket holders comple an entry at the bridal show, finalists will be narrowed down by Ocala Style staff and posted on our website so the public may vote for the winning couple.

A Message from Making It Matthews

Photo courtesy of Mojo’s Catering

We bring your vision to life! Making It Matthews will handle the legwork so your wedding day, as well as the days leading up to it, are stress free. We will manage the complete event design, timeline and execution. We will coordinate with the vendors and attend all meetings to ensure no detail goes overlooked. On your wedding day, our team will be present to assist you. From beginning to end, we will be working to ensure everything runs smoothly for you and your guests so you can relax and enjoy your special day. We want you to cherish this special moment and the wonderful journey as you begin a new chapter in your lives! VIP ticket holders attending the Ocala Style Bridal Show on July 18th, who are Marion County residents, must visit the Making It Matthews booth to share their stories and enter to win.

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




Visit www.ocalastyle.com/bridal for rules and details. July ‘20


During these incredibly challenging times, as we grapple with America’s current and unfolding national race crisis, we look back on the legacy of school integration here in Marion County as told by those who experienced it firsthand.

By Andy Fillmore and Nick Steele Historical photos courtesy of Marion County Public Schools



qual and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” reads the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was drafted by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds, from all regions of the world, and issued by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10th, 1948. “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,” it goes on to say. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The declaration is a milestone document in the history of human rights that has been translated into


more than 500 languages. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt played a pivotal role in drafting the declaration and lobbied governments around the world in order to unite them to adopt this common standard. It was the first time that a global expression of fundamental human rights, to which all individuals should inherently be entitled, had been set forth. “Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination,” it states. And it goes on to say, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Following the abolition of slavery in the United States, blacks were separated from whites by law and

the widespread process of desegregation would move forward with the backing and enforcement of the Justice Department and compel communities to integrate public schools. Such was the case in Marion County, which chose to maintain a segregated school system until the county found itself under the threat of losing its federal financial assistance. For three years, Marion County “desegregated” schools through the “Freedom of Choice” or “Option Out” plan, which was an approach adopted by southern states that allowed a student to request to go to an integrated school, but was ultimately a way for school districts to continue to operate a racially dual (segregated) school system and placed the burden of desegregation on black students. This plan had a fairly negligible effect on segregation, as most students chose to attend their former schools.

A Brave Few

In September 1965, as they entered the 10th grade, 34 students left Howard High School, which had an all-black student body, and transferred to Ocala High School (OHS), a previously segregated school, under the “Freedom of Choice” plan. These early pioneers of integration were among the black students who completed their sophomore, junior and senior years at the school and graduated from OHS in 1968—becoming a part of the school’s first integrated graduating class. One of those students, Sylvia Jones, recalls the racial climate that existed in the community when she decided to move to OHS. “When you would go downtown, there were two water fountains...‘White’ and ‘Colored.’ The bathrooms were ‘Men’, ‘Women’ and ‘Colored.’ If you were black,

Photo by Bruce Ackerman

through private action in all modes of transportation, public accommodations, the armed forces, recreational facilities, prisons and schools, in both northern and southern states. Though the constitutionality of racial segregation was challenged by those brave enough to confront the system, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, handed down in 1896, ruled that states could allow racial segregation, as long as the facilities were “separate but equal.” However, facilities and opportunities for black children in segregated schools were not at all equal and typically were vastly inferior. In most southern states, schools were almost exclusively segregated. In the 1930s, it was the lawyers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who strategized to bring local lawsuits to court, arguing that separate was not equal and that every child, regardless of race, deserved a first-class education. One of the key goals of the Civil Rights Movement was the effort to desegregate public schools throughout the United States. The lawsuits begun by the NAACP were combined into the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, thereby outlawing segregation in schools in 1954. The verdict did not specify how schools should be integrated, however, so it was not universally enforced until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act was aimed at removing racial roadblocks, ending Jim Crow laws and eliminating school segregation. It was intended to provide equal access to restaurants, transportation and other public facilities as well as break down barriers in the workplace for blacks, women and other minorities. It was only then that

Former local school administrators and students, Brenda Vereen, Edmond Fordham, Joe Voge, William James, Sylvia Jones, Paul Conley and Barbara Brooks, gathered recently to reminisce.

William James

you were not allowed to sit at the counter at the corner drugstore. We always had to go to the back door at JCPenney, Sears...the Marion Hotel. We were tired of using the back door,” she declares. “We were ready. We were part of a movement and we were not afraid. Our parents were more afraid than we were.” Jones explains that it was her grandparents who raised her and that because they were older than most of her fellow students’ parents, they had deep reservations about integration. “My grandmother, Mary Vereen Jones, was a teacher with Marion County schools for 43 years. She was born in 1908 and daddy was born in 1898. That’s who I call Momma and Daddy,” she explains. “They were very concerned for us.” She remembers that her grandfather even rode around the school parking lot with a shotgun during her the first few days, just in case of trouble. “I did ninth grade at Howard,” Jones explains. “At the biology lab at Howard, we had one microscope. Every book we had was used and had an Ocala High sticker on it. They were all marked up inside. We had 30 algebra books and over 50 students. So when the bell rang, everyone would rush to try and check one out overnight. It was impossible, but that was what we had.” Those educational disparities motivated her to elect to integrate and attend 10th through 12th grade at OHS. “I was tired and I felt, I’m not getting what I need, what I deserve to have,” she recalls. “It was my own choice. It was something I had to do.” Another of the students, Ron Coleman, whose family was also involved in the educational vocation, feels desegregation was not only an important part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but that his desire for equality and a better education went into his making 48


Vanguard High School marching band performs at a football game

this decision. “Growing up in a family of educators, it was emphasized that we would definitely go to college,” he offers. “It was also known in our family and the community as well that the quality of education on the ‘other side’ was far better than what we were receiving in our community. So, it was instilled in us at an early age that, despite the inequality, you will go ahead and achieve all you can achieve, given the resources available to you. I knew that when the opportunity came, I would be among the first to seize it and ‘cross the tracks’ to engage in a higher quality education.” Coleman recounts that his mother, a teacher at Madison Street Elementary School in Ocala, saw a clear opportunity for a better education at OHS. Unfortunately, when he was just 15, she passed away, during the summer before he would integrate. “My dad still had some reservations about it, but he knew it was the right thing to do,” Coleman asserts. “It made all the difference in the quality of the education we received.” But he had something just as important as his education in mind when he made the choice. “I had been a part of the Civil Rights Movement in Ocala as a teenager and I saw the integration of schools as a way to take it a step further,” he reveals. “I had been a part of the picketing, the boycotting and the sit-ins.” Those same protests were fuel for Cheryl Lonon Walker, now a retired educator living in Tallahassee, to join the other students in OHS’ first integrated class. “When I started out with the freedom marches, it gave me a kind of fearlessness that became a part of my attitude,” she remembers. “I didn’t fear being where I

Both pages; portraits by Meagan Gumpert

Sylvia Jones

was or where we were going to school.” Walker attributes that newfound fearlessness as the key to how she was able to forge relationships with white students early on. “It wasn’t a conscious effort. The only agenda I had was that I wanted people to know me. I wanted to reach out to others and allow them to reach out to me. I felt that if I opened myself up, then other people would relax,” she admits. “That helped to break down walls and I was able to accept a closeness with people who were not just like me. It also helped break down walls for the white students. Those friendships allowed us to be ourselves and embrace the differences, as well as realize that we had a lot of similarities in our lives. We didn’t live in the same place, we had different churches that we attended, but we all had to eat and we all enjoyed the things that most young people enjoy,” she continues. “We found out that we were very alike with regard to some of the things we were going through with our parents. When you find out the ways in which somebody is like you, you can become a friend to that person. But you can’t find out those things if you don’t communicate.” Walker credits her parents with helping her develop both openness and a sense of humility. “My mom told me that if you want a friend, you have to be friendly. You have to show your friendliness. And if you meet someone who doesn’t have a smile, then give them yours,” she recalls. “My father gave me some words of wisdom about going to a predominantly all-white school. He said, ‘No one is better than you and you’re not better than anyone else.’ So, with those things in my heart and mind, I went into that situation

believing that I was as good as anybody else. I never thought that I was less than anybody else.” Walker says that many of her relationships formed during high school, with both her white and black friends, are still thriving today. “We have been there, through the years, sharing experiences, supporting one another,” she shares. “Our faith has been a foundational element of our relationships. It has kept us together. If we are different in a lot of different ways, we sure can say that we are alike in that one fundamental way. We have faith in God and God is love. So, if he is love, then we have to love one another. That is what has kept us going, our faith, our fearlessness, learning about our differences and embracing our similarities. It broke down those barriers and created relationships that are long lasting.” For Jones, who points out that there were no black teachers or administrators at OHS when the black students first arrived, it was her relationships with a caring guidance counselor named Ms. Full, who she explains had a way of understanding her, as well as a special teacher, Mrs. Ruth Marcos, that nurtured her during that vulnerable time of transition. Jones praised Marcos for her “understanding and encouragement” in creative writing, and for demonstrating her belief in her by making her the editor of Satori, her senior year creative writing class book. “It was a very, very nice experience, putting this together,” Jones offers with a laugh, flipping through the pages. “This takes me way back.” Jacquelyn McKnight Rhone also benefited from close relationships with several teachers during her time at OHS. “My ninth grade English teacher was true to who she was,” Rhone recalls. “It didn’t matter if you were July ‘20


black or white. She treated you kindly and didn’t put anyone down.” She says she often remembers things that English teacher and her 12th grade humanities teacher imparted to the students in their classes. She felt lucky to be a part of the integration experience. “I’m glad that I was in the position to be a part of it,” she proclaims. “It was something that was needed, because we were always told that the black schools got the same as the white schools. But we knew that wasn’t true. So, from a personal standpoint, it was great to have the opportunity to be able to have access to better everything,” she continues. “I was glad to be able to see the strides that were made from the time I was in junior high and we were protesting, to then see that it did have an effect and the results were positive. I knew that my child and grandchildren would have the opportunity to go to better schools. Because we did integrate and there were white students that had to go to predominantly black schools, then the standards came up for all schools. That was the positive impact of integration.”

Cultural Shift

But the road to integration was not a smooth one. Coleman recalls that some of the white students accepted the incoming black students and some objectively did not. He also remembers there were rare cases of physical conflict. Lena Hopkins-Smith, a native of Ocala and 1972 Vanguard High School graduate, was also part of the “Freedom of Choice” program in 1966 while in the sixth grade. She transferred to Fort King Junior High, beginning with the seventh grade. Hopkins-Smith says black students “were culturally different and outnumbered.” They were not represented in student government or team activities, she shares. Black students tried to create solutions to these issues, she explains, but eventually they resorted to such protests as sit-ins and walkouts. Gail Smallwood Capshaw, a fourth-generation Floridian, who now lives in Las Vegas, was among the white students who were caught in the culture clash of Old South attitudes and the whole new world of integration. “I had great compassion for those students, because I knew how hard it would be for me if they put me on a bus and took me over to Howard High School. I couldn’t have imagined what that would have been like,” she reveals. “It was a time of a lot of confusion. It was so hard and disruptive, but I realized it had to be...it needed to be.” In trying to navigate the cultural shift, Capshaw found herself pushed to her limits. “I can tell you a story...” she begins, before breaking into tears. “I’m sorry...I get choked up still to this day,” she continues. “We had chemistry class right after 50


lunch and some of the [white] boys would go into the classroom and turn the desks of these three black girls upside down. And these girls would have to come in and turn their desks right side up. It was humiliating,” she says with a tremble in her voice. “I don’t remember thinking about it, and it was not really my personality looking back on it, but I remember one day I said to the girls, ‘No, I am going to turn the desks back up,’ and I did. Then I went to the guys and I said, ‘Don’t you ever do that again!’ and to my knowledge they never did.” Capshaw admits that her upbringing hadn’t really prepared her for the changes brought about by the Civil Rights Movement. “I just watched The Help last night with my 13-year old granddaughter,” she shares. “I wanted to give her some idea of how things were, because I lived it.” She also wanted to give her granddaughter a historic perspective of how that period in our history relates to what is going on in our country today. She explains that her mother had a black maid, while she was growing up, who helped prepare meals, especially around the holidays. She recounts a painful lesson she learned pre-integration. “It was Thanksgiving Day and the table is all set and the family is gathered around and I saw Bessie Mae in the kitchen, on a stool,” she recalls of their maid. “So, I asked my mom, ‘Why isn’t Bessie Mae sitting with us?’ You know they would laugh and joke, they were like best buddies...until we sat down to eat the meal. And she said, ‘Gail, keep quiet. Do not say that!’ and I nearly got a spanking for asking. So, I learned not to say a word and that was what was ingrained—keep quiet. We have the benefit of hindsight now, but it was confusing as a child. They were hard times, but we just tried to do the best we could.”

The Next Phase

On February 1st of 1968, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) notified Marion County of the probable noncompliance of the school system with regard to the requirements under the Civil Rights Act and threatened the termination of federal educational funds if Marion County did not comply with HEW’s guidelines for integrating school districts. The Marion County School Board found itself at the center of one of the most controversial issues in its history and dealing with an explosive tension that had enveloped the community. After nearly eight months of planning, public meetings, protests and boycotts, as well as teacher and student walkouts, an integration plan for the county was presented to HEW and given approval. HEW sent a letter stating that Marion County was operating “a unitary, nonracial school system” and thus met the requirements for the 1969-70 school year. The letter further commended the district for the leadership it demonstrated in meeting the provisions of Title VI of

Yearbook photos from Forest and Vanguard High Schools

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the Civil Rights Act. Then, in 1978, a federal order required the district to “establish and maintain specific demographic balances and procedures.” It would take 29 years of “battling Department of Justice supervision” for the Marion County Public Schools to finally earn “unitary status” in a Jacksonville federal court in 2007.

Early Years

Those first years at the newly integrated high schools presented a long, difficult road for students, teachers, administrators and parents. When Howard High School was closed in 1969, students were sent to the former OHS—which was renamed Forest High School—and the new desegregated school, Vanguard High, opened in 1970. “It was the best of times and the worst of times,” David Ellspermann, Clerk of the Marion County Circuit Court, says, invoking a famous line from Charles Dickens, when asked about his experience at Vanguard. “A new school, new administration, new sports and academic teams, and new traditions, to some were seen as providing opportunities,” he continues. “However, to others, it was a loss of established community, tradition,

The Para-med Club of Vanguard High School circa 1974

culture and achievement, and that was not acceptable.” Emmy award-winning nature videographer Mark Emery graduated from Vanguard in 1972. He recalled an atmosphere at the school in 1971 as unfriendly to former Howard High students, which included incidents of students waving a Confederate flag in front of the school. Resentments on both sides fueled acts of cruelty and added to unrest, but at the same time black and white students were forging friendships that have lasted through the years. “I had a black friend and I told him since I have red hair and other kids picked on me, we could band together and get through this,” Emery recalls. But there was more than friction and friendship between races to consider. There was also the loss of identity and community that was inevitable given this imposed melding of cultures. “Integration was forced,” offers former Vanguard student Gladys Krigger Washington. “We felt like black outcasts.” TiAnna Greene, community advocate and current president of the Marion County Branch of the NAACP, says desegregation was aimed at “bridging the gap” in

education, however, the system failed to provide cultural enrichment. “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going,” Greene asserts. She explains that while black students were able to attend previously predominately white schools and benefit from better conditions, the lack of cultural diversity and loss of connection to their communities represented a negative impact during the early years of school integration. “We had a neighborhood environment and a sense of community” tied to black educators, says Barbara Roberts Brooks, who was set to go to OHS in 1966 under the “Freedom of Choice” option, but ultimately decided to stay at Howard High School. Lorenzo Edwards, a former city councilman, former president of the Marion County Branch of the NAACP and pastor of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala from 1968 until his retirement in 2018, addressed the school board during the early years of school desegregation and called for more black educators and more representation.

A Human Bridge

An important and somewhat hidden figure in creating a

connection for black students to their former school and culture came in the form of William James. Now 99, he has been credited as an unlikely hero during Marion County’s school integration. James was working as a custodian at Fessenden School and was asked to transfer to North Marion High School to act as a calming influence and to mentor black students coming there for the first time under the integration plans. “The students knew me,” James explains. “I was at North Marion High School when the county schools were integrated. It was something I had prayed for, and I thanked God that I was privileged to see it. It was just like Dr. King had dreamed…white children and black children were going to school together and playing together. It was wonderful to see.” He recalls counseling the incoming black students to adopt a “turn the other cheek” outlook and ignore any cruel remarks or racial slurs, because some students would be friendly and some not. Some key life advice he says he was able to impart to black students was to be “adjustable.” “Are you familiar with an adjustable wrench?” he asks. “It adjusts to different sizes. And that’s how life

Freshman students at Forest High School in 1972

It was just like Dr. King had dreamed…white children and black children were going to school together and playing together. It was wonderful to see. - William James

Faculty at Vanguard High School

After the UF signing was announced, Coleman did is. I lived my life that way...adjustable. I had to adjust indeed receive death threats, including one in a letter to different situations, no matter what it was. I taught that read, “Dear N-----, Prepare to die. You will never people that. I would say, ‘You have that little bead on an make it to Gainesville,” Coleman recalls. “But I was 18 adjustable wrench that will open it up or close it down... and invincible.” you can make it whatever size you need. That’s how life Coleman became the first black athlete to receive a is. You have to adjust to the situation.’ When integration scholarship to UF. However, he was “not greeted with started, people were doing this or saying things, I could open arms” and, for more than a month, he ate lunch adjust to it.” alone in the athletic hall. Coleman says the “turning He recalls that when someone used the N-word to point” at UF was when he stood up after eating lunch address him, even when they were asking how he was doing, he would simply respond, “How are you, white man?” The senior class of Vanguard High School circa 1971 “That didn’t bother me. It didn’t take nothing from me. I just adjusted to the situation. The Bible says, ‘the Lord will make a way out of no way.’ I used that idea of the adjustable wrench so I could adjust to these situations and make my way.”

Athletics as a Bridge

George Tomyn is an Ocala native and 1972 graduate of Forest High School. His mother and father were teachers. He has served here as a teacher, principal, district school official and Marion County Public Schools superintendent. Now executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, Tomyn feels that while the mixture of cultures during integration was pushed on all the students, sports programs were a kind of safety valve. “The school year from 1969 through 1970 was a stressful year for many,” he recalls. “But athletics was a great bridge builder between the white and African American students. When our teams were playing and winning, we experienced very few problems.” Coleman also found athletics to be a bridge to connecting with his white peers. “Having experienced the athletic arena probably endeared me far more to my fellow white students than my peers,” he admits. “But beyond my fellow athletes, I remain friends, to this day, with many white students who were in our class. Prior to integration, I dare say, I had zero white friends.”

Further Hurdles

Coleman’s challenges for racial equality continued after OHS graduation. His exceptional performance in track at OHS earned him numerous scholarship offers from NCAA colleges. In May of 1968, he was set to sign with the University of Florida (UF), but Coleman recalls his father said, “No, they are going to kill you!” 54


one day and a white player, Jack Youngblood, likely the biggest man on the UF football team, appeared in front of him. My daddy told me I was going to die and now it’s going to happen, he recalls thinking. But rather than confronting him, Youngblood asked, “Can I sit with you?” Coleman says the gesture by Youngblood “made a significant difference among his fellow athletes” and the two remain friends today. Coleman feels hailing from a large family and learning the “God given gift of agape love” and love of family and humanity was key to his success as a student and athlete. “I knew at an early age that I was ultimately in charge of whatever was going to happen to me, so I took control of that and ran with it. Another key component was growing up in Ocala during the Civil Rights Era in America. The deep south was a hotbed of racism, and Ocala had its share of racists to contend with. That was certainly no vicarious learning situation,” Coleman asserts. “It was all firsthand experience.” He feels his family members and friends lived through the fearful times during the civil unrest in the 1960s and 1970s by supporting, encouraging and loving each other. “What being among the first African American students to attend an integrated school in Ocala taught me was many valuable lessons about the art of survival, and the never-ending need for prayer,” Coleman shares.

County public schools and my own children, likewise, received a great education. I am very proud to have been a part of our district’s history. A lot has changed since the ‘60s and ‘70s and I still am very proud to call Ocala and Marion County my home.” Former MCPS board member Bobby James, a 1966 graduate of Howard High School, thinks we still have a way to go in ensuring equality for minorities in our schools. “I’d like to see more encouragement of and participation by minority students in high performance programs like the International Baccalaureate and Honors programs,” he explains.

On the Other Side

While school integration broke down the official barriers for black Americans to gain access to an equal education, achieving this ideal has never been easy or simple. Today, the debate continues in communities across the nation, among policy makers, educators, parents and students, on how to close the achievement gap between minority and white children. When asked to consider the impact of desegregation and the current race crisis in America, our pioneers - Ron Coleman of integration are united in their thoughts. Of the black students who participated in “Freedom of Choice,” Capshaw says, “I admired them and appreciated what they did for our little town and our country.” Regarding the future, she urges, “So much more work needs to be done. We’re in the middle of it. A lot more needs to be done for race relations in this country.” Rhone echoes the sentiment. “We came away from that time, but then we got stuck,” she declares. “There’s so much more that we know has to be done. And we won’t just settle for, ‘Well, some of it was done. That’s okay.’ More has to be done.” Walker believes we need to dig deeper and summon up that same courage and generosity of spirit that brought us through other tumultuous periods in our history. “We are all ‘of the human race’ before we are any other race. By being part of the human race, we should be compelled to embrace everyone,” she asserts. “As I said before, there are indeed more similarities than differences between us. And once we see ourselves in other people, we can share in one another’s plight and seek to help one another.”

I knew at an early age that I was ultimately in charge of whatever was going to happen to me, so I took control of that and ran with it.

The Road Ahead

Tomyn believes that desegregation truly led to better opportunities for students and a richer educational environment here in Marion County, because of the diversity that resulted from the integration of schools and how that has been further cultivated over the years. “In my 40-year career as a teacher, coach, school administrator and district administrator, our district changed for the better in many ways,” he asserts. “When children of all ethnicities and races had the opportunity to attend school from kindergarten through 12th grade, a more ‘integrated’ atmosphere evolved. Teachers and administrators of all races working side by side delivered a better educational experience for all students because there was better understanding and appreciation of our differences. I believe that our educational system will continue to improve over time. I received a great education as a student in Marion

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Leading by example comes naturally to this beloved humanitarian, who has spent his lifetime making our community a better place to live. By Lisa McGinnes Photography by Meagan Gumpert fter 99 years on this earth, William James is still living by the Golden Rule, just like his mother taught him as a boy. In fact, this lifelong Ocalan may be the living embodiment of that biblical tenet: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And living true to the morals imparted to him as a child has served him well and allowed him to serve others so purely. Clearly, this has been key to his success. “Momma’s dead and gone, but that’s what she taught me,” he offers. “It’s still in me.” Always polite, always gracious, James has a natural warmth that draws one in and a rolling laugh that does a heart good. He is proud to share that he has never smoked, drank, cursed, been in a fight or been arrested. He has the respect of the community because he has earned it. “Anything I’ve accomplished, it has been because of the blessings of the Lord,” he says. “My faith in God has kept me strong my entire life.” James was just a young boy when his father died, leaving his mother to raise him and three younger siblings—no small feat during the Great Depression, living in rural northern Marion County without electricity or running water. After attending the segregated three-room school in the small community of Kendrick through the eighth grade, James went to work on a nearby farm, plowing fields with mules and oxen for “50 cents a day and a meal.” Although he was blessed with a keen mind, leaving school to help support his family felt like the right thing to do. “The life I led and the things I accomplished...” he says reflectively. “Well, people didn’t think I only went to the eighth grade in school.” And, although he did not attend a Marion County high school himself, he would later become a valued school employee, friend and mentor to countless students and— perhaps inadvertently—an important figure in the county’s school integration in the 1960s. When he started work as a custodian at Howard High School in 1954, James remembers going to work early on 56


James in front of the house where he was born in 1921

July ‘20


Clockwise from top left: James holds up a photo of his mother Mary James; James tending his cows: James with a portrait of his father Grant James.



winter mornings to build fires in the wood stoves that heated each classroom. His can-do attitude and pleasant demeanor made him a standout employee and, by the mid-1960s, he was the head custodian at Fessenden Academy, which was one of the first local schools for African American students. A few years later, when Marion County Public Schools integrated, his supervisors recognized that James’ easy rapport with students would be a valuable asset to help the first black students to attend North Marion High School. The transfer was fine with him—he was just a loyal employee, doing his job, not realizing how much the example he set for young people, and the wise counsel he provided them, would help minority students adjust and thrive during an often hostile transition. “He said I was personable, I was friendly with all the students,” James remembers his boss saying. “I’m going to transfer you to North Marion High, because the students from here aren’t going to know nobody over there. I would like to send you over there so if they have a problem, have trouble there, to see somebody they can talk to.” Yes, there was trouble, there was racial discord but, for James, the blessing of seeing black and white students under one roof was one he had prayed for. Always a respected member of the community, James has received enough plaques and awards to fill one wall in his home. He’s an honorary deputy of the Marion County Sheriff ’s Office, where he has served on advisory boards and volunteered to minister to inmates at the county jail. The Marion County NAACP presented him with the Frank Pinkston Humanitarian

Award in 2003. In 2007, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission conferred upon him the Legacy Pioneer Award. In 2017, the City of Ocala dedicated the “William James Start!” walking trail on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to him in honor of his decades of contributions to the community. That same year, local photographer and author Cynthia Wilson-Graham authored a book called Walking By Faith about his life. Two years ago, he was honored as an inaugural inductee of the Legacy Park Community Service Recognition Program. And those are just a few of the countless ways his selfless service has been recognized over the years. James retired in 1986 after 27 years of service to Marion County Public Schools, with the distinction of being the first black custodial supervisor, overseeing 17 different schools. But that’s not the accomplishment he’s most proud of, nor is it any of the plaques that hang on his wall. Or the fact that he’s never had a traffic ticket. The achievement that pleases this Christian man the most is his attendance record at Mount Tabor AME Church, where he was appointed secretary as a teenager, served as a steward, taught Sunday school and has been in the congregation for nearly every service for more than 70 years. “I put my trust in the Lord,” James affirms. “I’ve been in the church all my life. The Lord didn’t call me to preach, and the Bible tells me, ‘Speak according to your ability to speak.’ I speak what I’m capable of speaking.” And, if actions speak louder than words, the example William James has demonstrated will resonate throughout our community for generations to come.

Attitude of Gratitude

An Ocala mom, educator and civil rights advocate credits her success to a higher power and a lot of tenacity. By Susan Smiley-Height Photography by Meagan Gumpert


ylvia Jones likes to greet every new day with thanks to God for her many blessings. As a cancer survivor, she’s grateful for her current good health. As a mother, she’s proud of her extended family. As a longtime civic activist, she’s glad to have seen some changes in civil rights and is happy she has the energy to campaign for more reform. Jones was born in a small cottage that still stands on West Fort King Street in Ocala. She remembers the vibrancy around the areas of West Fort King and Broadway Streets in the 1950s and ‘60s, and the lush beauty of Paradise Park, the segregated attraction near Silver Springs that was operated by her uncle Eddie Vereen. Jones was christened at St. Paul AME Church, which she still attends. It was at the church, in 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, that, Jones remembers, mass meetings were held “with the intent to make an impact.” That commitment was strengthened with the April 1964 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a young girl, Jones was among the members of the community who “sang songs like ‘We Shall Overcome’ and called for a boycott of the segregated stores downtown,” she offers. “Ocala had a strong civil rights movement, and it was youth fueled with lots of energy.” People attending the mass meetings wanted to eliminate school segregation and discrimination in public places. For Jones and her family, that meant making a life-altering choice. “Our parents met to decide if they wanted us to go to (the then all-white) Ocala High School or stay at Howard,” Jones said. “At Howard, we had used books in poor condition and one microscope in the lab for 30 students. We did what we had to do to integrate.” Jones was an honors student at OHS, was listed among the “Who’s Who Among American High School Students,” was a member of the Quill and Scroll Society, and was the editor of the school creative writing magazine, Satori. In that magazine, her fellow students wrote about her: “Sylvia Jones is like smoldering coals; hot and almost ready to burst into flames.” After high school, Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethune-Cookman College and a master’s degree in social work at Florida State University (FSU). While at FSU, she was president of Graduate Students in Social Work and was presented the 1974 Graduate of the Year



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award from the FSU Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers. She was a professor at Florida A&M University and adjunct professor at FSU. Jones developed areas of expertise in social work, mental health, community action and gerontology. She is affiliated with the Families for Cancer Prevention United Foundation and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. In 1980, she was named the Urban League Outstanding Community Citizen. In 1982, she led a campaign to establish Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Ocala. Even today, she remains a voluntary neighborhood social worker. “It’s my mission.” Jones says some members of her OHS class remain close and still host reunions together, and that she and others also remain close to the classmates they befriended at Howard. In 2018, a combined group of 16 alums traveled together to Washington, D.C., where they visited such sites as Arlington National Cemetery and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Jones says her legacy will be her children and grandchildren, who are working professionals and entrepreneurs. She says she has long told them “education is an important factor in becoming the best you can be.” Her daughter, Trellis N. Williams, earned her bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University and her master’s from BethuneCookman University. “She is a higher education administrator and is at the University of Florida in enrollment management,” Jones notes. “She also serves on the board of directors of Families For Cancer Prevention United, a nonprofit founded by my nieces and daughter in honor of the many family members who have been impacted by cancer.” Jones’ son, Jerel Seamon, obtained his bachelor’s degree from Coppin State University. “He lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is a basketball skills trainer and player development coach,” Jones shares. She proudly says she has seven grandchildren (Jessica, Nealyn, Chori Michael, Keyziah, Joshua, Andrew and Sirr Christian) and that “four are college graduates, two are in college and one is in high school,” and seven great-grandchildren (Rhyan, Malik, Sede, Noa, Maxwell, Tre and Noah), who “will be sixthgeneration college students.” “My greatest successes are my children and grandchildren,” Jones states. “My oldest granddaughter, for example, is a registered nurse and accredited family nurse practitioner who works with a neighborhood health clinic in 62


Jones with fellow members of the Quill and Scroll Society

Jones says she is hopeful that her daughter and son Tallahassee, which initially began as a part of the Bond will encourage their children to be “active participants Community back in the 1970s, for which I wrote the in social reform and take a stand against the social grant. Who knew that almost 50 years later she would injustices that continue to plague the black community.” be working to serve the same community?” As for her own future, “Well, I’m nearly 70 years Williams says that, thanks to her mother, “I’ve grown old,” Jones reveals, “but I still have hopes, dreams, goals up around legends in the African American community and ambitions. I still have some that others only read about. things to do. We all have a book I’ve been at the table with within us and I want to tell my them. I’ve marched with them. story, which would include stories I’ve learned from them. from Paradise Park to being a “She instilled faith, hope breast cancer survivor.” and charity into everything And as for how she got to I am. Even now, she pushes where she is today, “Through me to accomplish and do absolute humility, Jesus more every day,” Williams - Trellis N. Williams demonstrated true greatness, declares. “We’ve had our ebbs turning the world upside and flows, but those are the down,” she says. “I am humbled to think that every growing pains of becoming a woman. She has taught march, every graduation, every speech, every me that learning to say ‘I apologize’ is very important in accomplishment was not done alone. My family, maintaining not just healthy relationships, but learning friends, classmates, colleagues and neighbors have to apologize to yourself and others is good for your soul. been there every step of the way. And through it all, I am ever so grateful that God gave her the assignment my faith has sustained me.” of me. I am honored to call her my mother.”

She instilled faith, hope and charity into everything I am.

Jones with grandchildren Sirr Christian and Chori Michael

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Meet the young Marion County man who won entry to some of the country’s most elite and Ivy League institutions and will soon take on Wall Street. By Susan Smiley-Height Photography by Dave Miller


n August, Vincent B. Vaughns will trade his quiet, tree-shaded family home in Sparr for an apartment in the midst of the dizzying atmosphere of New York City, where he will begin working for Morgan Stanley. The path that led him to this point includes earning full-ride scholarships to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Yale University in Connecticut, navigating the culture shock of being thrust into environments where his contemporaries were the children of billionaires and having to double down on his already strong work ethic. Along his journey, he recalls watching a fellow student arrive for school in a bright yellow Lamborghini, rather than a yellow school bus, at his elite prep school, where he endured bitter cold northern winters and ached for southern soul food. His extraordinary story of chasing and realizing his dreams is one for the books.

A Head Start

Vaughns, 22, was born in Jacksonville. At 10 weeks, he was adopted by Vincent W. Vaughns and his wife Mae, who were already blessed with a biological daughter of their own, 8-year-old Keturah. He got an early academic head start when complications from a neuromuscular disorder caused his mother to leave her job as a media specialist at North Marion High School (NMHS) and she began to stay home and care for her young son. “Being home, I really began to see this was a smart little child,” Mae Vaughns recalls. “I knew he had great abilities. Before he started kindergarten, he could read, write and do math. The teachers told me there was really not much they could teach him. He was way advanced.” Vincent attended Sparr Elementary School before moving to North Marion Middle, where he discovered a love of science. “In seventh grade, science fair was a big turning point,” he offers. “I got to see kids from different schools who had done great research projects and I realized that being smart wasn’t bad, because sometimes the kids

pick on you in school for being nerdy, but I saw kids do really cool projects and win money and it got me excited about learning.” Following a week-long summer robotics camp at the then-named Central Florida Community College, he applied his new knowledge on a computer science project for the eighth-grade science fair. “I ended up winning second in the regional science fair, but I was upset because I wanted to go to state,” he recalls, his voice rising with intensity. “The next year, as a freshman at North Marion High School, I improved upon it and won top 10 in the state. My sophomore year, I won third in the state and, both years, I won Intel’s Best Use of Computer Award.”

A Good Sport

It was in seventh grade that Vincent discovered sports. “I played a few weeks of basketball and the agreement my parents made was that I could play sports if I made straight A’s,” he explains. “My eighthgrade year, I was a pretty good basketball player, but I was more athletic than skilled. In my ninth-grade year, my track coach, Tony McCall, invited me to try out for the track team and in my first season I won district in the 400-meter dash and 200. I made it to regionals but got disqualified for missing a check-in. I got upset about putting in all this work and missing this opportunity, so I ran summer track, where I ended up in the top 20 kids in the country for my age group.” In his sophomore year, he got a recruiting questionnaire from UCLA. “I started to think about being able to run track in college as well as the fact that I had straight A’s, so I thought I could run at Duke or an Ivy League school,” he recalls. “But I didn’t have a lot of guidance as to how to get there. And the valedictorian that year got rejected from all the Ivy League schools he applied to, so I knew it was going to take more than just having good grades or doing some clubs.” Family member Patricia “Patsy” Conlon, the librarian at NMHS, who later taught at the University of Florida, connected Vincent with NMHS alumni July ‘20


Dr. Emery Brown, who is, among other accomplishments, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. “Dr. Brown was coming to speak at the UF Brain Institute and me, my dad, my aunt Patsy and Uncle Jorge went to see him,” Vincent remembers. “It was in this large room and I was pretty sure I was the only high schooler there. I was able to ask him a question, which he said was a good question, and he gave me a shout-out in front of all these scientists and said, ‘I’m going to try to get this kid to come up north with me, so y’all might try to grab him if you can.’” Brown told the youngster that going to Phillips Exeter was one of the best decisions he had ever made because of the rigor, the people and the opportunities. “He also went there for the last two years of his high school career, so that’s when I decided to apply to Phillips Exeter,” Vincent recalls. “It is the number one boarding school in America. It’s also one of the richest schools in the world. It was founded in 1781, as a feeder school to Harvard, but now it’s just a very good preparatory school for all of the top colleges.” “I grew up in the community of Martin and attended public schools in Ocala/Marion County. My parents, Benjamin and Alberta Brown, were math teachers,” Brown offers. “I met Vince in January 2014. Patricia Conlon and I had not been in touch for nearly 40 years when she wrote to tell me about him. A few weeks later we met in Gainesville. During his time at Exeter, and to a lesser extent at Yale, I have been an informal advisor. I have watched with tremendous admiration his success during the last several years. I strongly encourage young people to pursue education as far as possible, ideally, at least through college. Not only does education make it possible to have a better life, but it also makes it possible to find more creative and productive ways to help others.” To apply to Exeter, Vincent had to hustle to take the ACTs, write two essays and get recommendations from teachers. He interviewed with an Exeter alum at a meeting in Gainesville. “It’s a very competitive school to get into. Some of the kids have done cancer research, others are on the math Olympics team. Some were names like Rockefeller, DuPont—you start to realize who is getting into this school,” he remarks. “Shortly after I was accepted, they sent my financial aid package and it was a full financial aid scholarship to attend.” “Looking back, I was kind of nervous about getting it, but I had a 4.8 GPA because I took all college ACE classes, which are weighted 5.0s. I took driver’s ed and got an A and it dropped my GPA because it wasn’t a college class. I was starting to get looked at by top Division 1 colleges for track and field. I was a very, very good candidate,” he asserts. “But, when you kind of look at yourself small...you don’t come from the 66


greatest place or you don’t see a lot of people doing it, you very much doubt. I was blessed to have people that saw greatness in me and encouraged me to apply for those types of things. I really think that was a huge determinant that allowed me to capitalize on the hard work that I was already doing.”

Lifted by Others

Although he had the scholarships, Vincent needed things like a computer and printer, winter clothing and airline tickets. One of his basketball coaches, Jermaine Stokes, a financial planner in Ocala, hosted a fundraiser for him. “When he received the scholarships, I formed the Pay It Forward Committee, which included educators, lawyers and businesspeople,” Stokes explains. “We met weekly and planned a big benefit dinner at North Marion High School.” “The fundraiser helped cover extraneous things, even just being able to go out with the guys and get pizza or go out on the weekend, allowing me to have a very similar experience as some of my peers,” Vincent notes. “I definitely have received a lot of support from Marion County over the years and I always like to say I made it because I’m from Marion County, not in spite of it.” Before Vincent was ensconced at Exeter for his junior year of high school, his father worked to prepare him for the reality of this new experience and encourage him. “Because nobody in our family ever graduated from Yale, or a prestigious school like that, and having him go away when he was still in high school, I had concerns how he would fit in,” Mr. Vaughns states. “And there were people who tried to explain to him what it would be like to be around kids that were more privileged or might feel as if they are better than you. I would tell him, ‘You have a right to be there.’” Stokes maintained contact with Vincent and attended his graduation from Exeter and also had tickets to his graduation from Yale, which ultimately had to be held online due to the coronavirus. “He has not wasted any of the help he received,” Stokes says. “Vincent’s story, from childhood to now, is a great story. I’ve suggested that he write a book or do a documentary. Young people could learn from and be motivated by this rare, outstanding young man. He has always been very respectful of others and has maintained a strong level of focus. And he is the type of person who has the heart to give back. He will pay it forward.”

Driven to Succeed

Vincent says Exeter “was brutal. That first year was terrible. I went from making straight A’s to, my first trimester, I didn’t even make the honor roll. I was out of my comfort zone. I also ended up tearing my posterior cruciate ligament in the early part of my indoor track

Vincent B. Vaughns with his parents Vincent W. and Mae, and family pet José

Young people could learn from and be motivated by this rare, outstanding young man.

Graduation and track photos courtesy of Vincent Vaughns

- Jermaine Stokes

season because I had never run indoors and was out for the season. I went home. And I really started to think, ‘Was this a good idea?’” Barely suppressing a chuckle, he goes on to say, “My second semester, I was able to refocus and I had to up my work ethic. And I never learned how to work harder in my life. I took rehab like I was training for the Olympics. I was still very involved with the team. I kind of came in as this big-time track guy and wasn’t able to put anything down on the track, so I had to be a leader, whether it was hyping the team up before a meet or doing managerial things. And, by spring semester, I achieved high honors. It all was a big testament to the work, prayer and dedication. It was super rewarding. I remember thinking, ‘Now I’m doing it on the big level, with the top kids in the country.’” That summer, he devoted himself to studying for the ACT. “Every Saturday, I would get up and take a practice test. I knew I had to get top 10 percentile to get into an Ivy League school. They look at your grades, clubs, everything else you’re doing besides being an athlete. If those standards are not there, you don’t get in. You could be Tim Tebow, but if the grades and

extracurriculars are not there, you’re not getting in.” His persistence and drive paid off. “I did end up scoring top 10 percentile and I ended up breaking five school track records.”

From Yale to Wall Street

Vincent intended to study biomedical engineering at Yale and go on to medical school. He took typical science classes, along with chemistry and math. But an opportunity to shadow an engineer made him realize he didn’t really like being in a lab and working for an extended period of time on a project that might not even produce results. “I ended up taking my first economics class and it blew my mind,” he says excitedly. “Admittedly, I did not do very well in that class, but I really enjoyed it. I learned about consumer choice, the way businesses make decisions and started thinking about the stock market.” On summer break, back home in Marion County, he worked at Office Depot during the back-to-school season, which, he says, taught him “people skills,” as people can be very aggressive. He then became a finance intern at Community Bank & Trust and got to work closely with CEO Hugh July ‘20


Dailey and CFO David Denyer. He learned about such things as wealth management, trading, being a teller and commercial lender. He also went to Atlanta that summer, with the Yale Higher Education Initiative, and got to learn about the child welfare system and observe juvenile custody court hearings. “We gave presentations to at-risk children on educational opportunities that were there for them because they were foster children,” he recalls. “Being adopted, it was interesting to see how things could have turned out very differently for me.” While in Atlanta, he saw the SunTrust, Robinson and Humphrey building and remembered overhearing Denyer making a deal with someone named Jeremy Smith at the firm. He requested an introduction and ended up spending two or three hours with the executive. “He showed me Mercedes-Benz Stadium and talked about how they had to go to capital markets and raise billions of dollars to fund this thing and how he acts as a bond salesman connecting the capital with the investors and helping the deals go through,” Vincent recalls. “He also had a Bible on his desk, which was interesting how things kind of aligned. The one bond sales guy with a Bible on his desk…” In his sophomore year, Vincent applied to every sales and trading division internship he could find—and got rejected from all but one. “It’s a very difficult process because you have

Find out what your dream is and then go after it with absolutely everything you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. - Vincent Vaughns



thousands (of applicants) trying to get to Wall Street. I got my first Super Day at Goldman Sachs. I was super excited. Very few people ever get to go inside an investment bank, nevertheless work at one. I thought I did a very good job preparing and I thought the interview went well, but I didn’t get the job. Something clicked in me and I went to a church service and I just let it all go. I was like, ‘You know what, maybe it wasn’t for me. Let me rethink this plan.’” He says he spent late nights on calls with Smith, went to Yale’s law school and checked out books such as Investment Banking Brain Teasers, and read the Wall Street Journal every day. “I started doing my own trade pitches, trying to figure out where the market was going,” he notes. “At one point, I skipped my own birthday party because I was studying. I was all in.” Then Morgan Stanley gave him a first-round interview. “I was like let’s go,” he says, his voice again rising with enthusiasm. “This was a Wall Street leading firm. I did everything I could...due diligence. I was supposed to hear back in two weeks. Didn’t hear. Emailed back, emailed back. Four weeks went by and I hadn’t heard anything and so I kept emailing. Then I receive this email: ‘Wow, Vincent, you are so persistent. I have one more Super Day, which is the final round of interviews, and I’m going to give it to you,’ it read. ‘Good luck and I hope you make the best of it.’ He wasn’t giving me a job.

there, but congratulations.” “I cried on that train,” Vincent murmurs. “All the effort, all the… I had been rejected without an interview from like 23 places...” And, about this time, he got a second offer from Goldman Sachs, but chose to stick with Morgan Stanley.

Forward Momentum

I wasn’t the top applicant. I said I’m going to have to come in and blow these people away.” Vincent recalled that a track teammate had said a friend’s dad worked at Morgan Stanley. All he had was the name. When a few searches revealed no contact information, he realized he could search for people in the Bloomberg database with an account he had through Yale. He launched an email, not knowing what position the man held at Morgan Stanley. Then came the phone call, followed by a meeting. “In sales and trading, you don’t have an office, you have your desk with your monitors until you are a senior managing director,” Vincent offers. “This guy walks me past these desks into his office. And that’s when I realized I had stumbled upon one of the top people in the division. He goes, ‘You go to Yale and you worked hard to get here and I didn’t go to Yale, couldn’t get in, so you go on that interview and you act like you deserve to be here.’” Vincent nailed his interview. “I remember walking out in Times Square. I saw it all lit up, that New York story time, the Coca-Cola, hustle, bustle,” he recalls. “I said this is so beautiful, I need to take a picture. But something in my mind said no. Don’t take a picture. You’re going to be here next summer.” He said it typically takes a few days to hear back from such a venture, but on the train back to Yale he got an email from the man who did his first-round interview: “Wow. Great win! They decided to give you the offer for next summer. I don’t know what you did in

Vincent graduated from Yale on May 18th with a bachelor’s degree in political science with concentration in economics. He was honored as a commencement speaker, with his “Ode to the Fight” broadcast via YouTube. He completed his thesis, “The Cost of Incarceration,” which, he says, is essentially a bill to reform Florida’s criminal justice system, under Dr. Jacob Hacker, a professor of political science and director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. “Throughout this last six years, and experiences I’ve had growing up in rural Ocala, to working with the big players on Wall Street, I say we can’t forget about those who don’t have privileges or aren’t represented or don’t have enough representation,” Vincent states. “Regardless of which side of the aisle you are on, if you forget about those who have been left behind, that is when America or the state is going to have a problem, and whether you want to talk about COVID-19 or the racial atrocities we’ve seen in the news, and I would say the poor leadership responding to these, we’re going to continue to see issues like this until the people who have been overlooked are truly heard.” George Evans, a Yale assistant track and field coach, has known Vincent since his junior year at Exeter. “I will always remember his maturity and his ability to learn from his experiences, good and bad. He is always analyzing things, looking for better methods to accomplish his tasks. And when he goes at it the next time, more often than not, the results are better,” Evans offers. “Vincent was one of the most respected teammates in our track and field program. He has an uncanny ability to relate to everyone. He talked about how he prioritizes his life, his family values and how his connections to his home are the most important things to him. It’s easy to see why once you meet his parents,” Evans continues. “Vincent was the top guy at Yale, and such a huge part of our program. Not just because of his incredible athletic ability, but because he was a consummate teammate, never took himself too seriously, and was a joy to be around. His energy is contagious, work ethic second to none and he always produced in the biggest moments.” As for what advice he might offer to his young neighbors in rural Sparr, Vincent is quick to say, “Find out what your dream is and then go after it with absolutely everything you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.” July ‘20



WE’VE MISSED YOU For the most up-to-date information regarding our hours of operation, please visit www.PaddockMall.com @PaddockMall |




In The Kitchen With Ashley Lopez Those lucky enough to be her loved one, coworker or friend are often delighted with the decadent sweet treats she loves to bake and share. By Lisa McGinnes Photography by Meagan Gumpert

July ‘20




t was while she was a student at West Port High School that Ashley Lopez first started watching the Food Network, began to bake, and discovered that peanut butter wasn’t so bad—especially when paired with chocolate. So it’s no surprise that when we caught up with this busy communications professional, she was baking a chocolate torte topped with peanut butter cream and strawberry jam and a batch of cupcakes made from the same recipe. Her confectionary concoction is as delicious as it looks, which is exactly what she was going for. It’s just as good in its own right as the original inspiration—a “Barefoot Contessa” chocolate cake recipe that always gets five-star reviews. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Lopez says peanut butter and jelly was “not a thing.” She was 15 when her family moved to Ocala, and she was curious about the sandwiches so many of us equate with childhood. “Peanut butter is delicious,” she admits, “and, of course, Reese’s cups—everyone adores. The whole peanut butter and chocolate combination, you can’t go wrong with it.” Not even if the cake is vegan. That’s right; she made this moist, fudgy cake with the sweet, fluffy peanut butter cream icing without eggs, milk or butter so her vegan grandmother could enjoy it. But there’s no doubt the firefighters she works with would devour these cupcakes—and probably would never detect her clever, health-conscious substitutions. “My grandma loves the treats, and so do the firefighters,” she says with a smile. After six years working as the



public information officer for Ocala Fire Rescue, Lopez is known at the fire stations for the cupcakes she likes to share. Baking for her colleagues is one way she can show her appreciation for these first responders, and it gives her a chance to experiment with new flavors, such as the chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing and bacon she brought in for Father’s Day. “They had the sweet and salty thing going on,” she offers. She still gets requests for the chocolate mint cupcakes she brought at Christmastime, and is currently trying to figure out how to fulfill a new request she got last month. “Due to the pandemic, we’re discouraged from visiting the station unless we have to,” she explains. “I saw some of the firefighters I hadn’t seen in a while.” “When are we getting ‘We survived COVID’ cupcakes?” one firefighter asked. “What flavor are they going to be? We need cupcakes!” Lopez remembers that person likes lemon meringue. “I’ll probably make some kind of a citrus cupcake,” she muses. “It will probably be a vanilla cupcake with lemon curd inside. I can make either meringue icing or citrus frosting. I have made a citrus mascarpone icing that was pretty good.” But, unless someone requests it, Lopez isn’t likely to repeat a recipe very often. “I like that I can get creative,” she reveals, adding that she likes to “change things up.” Some of her best recipes have resulted from experimenting with a special ingredient such as the chai tea she substitutes for a family member who doesn’t drink coffee or the coconut jam and Medjool dates that can cut down the amount of refined sugar needed. “I feel very blessed because, with the changing times and people trying to eat healthier or whole foods, I have had some exposure to ingredients I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she notes, but adds that while “aesthetics are important, it has to taste delicious.” Finally, while she values the process of baking as a creative outlet, Lopez believes there is one ingredient that is “inevitably reflected on the plate” and that is love. “I do believe that in order for this or any recipe to be successful, you need to put your heart into it.”


Chocolate Torte with Peanut Butter “Butter” Cream and Strawberry Jam Wet Ingredients: 1 cup soy milk 1 cup hot chai tea (or coffee) 1/4 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips (plus additional for decoration) 1/2 cup applesauce 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 cup white sugar 1 cup brown sugar 1 1/3 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

This two-layer cake can also be prepared as cupcakes—see variation at the end of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. › Line two 9-inch pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. › Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. › Add sugars to the dry ingredient bowl and whisk until combined. › Pour vinegar into a measuring cup. › Fill the measuring cup with the vinegar with soy milk until the liquids reach the one cup mark. › Set aside. › Brew a cup of tea (or coffee). › Add the chocolate chips to the hot tea, allowing them to melt. › Set aside. › Combine all wet ingredients in a large bowl. › Add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing as you pour. › Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 2025 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. › Cool cakes in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Peanut Butter “Butter” Cream

2 sticks vegan margarine 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter Pinch of salt 12 ounces strawberry jam In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream room temperature margarine until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). › Add the peanut butter. › Mix for 30 seconds. › Pour the sifted powdered sugar in batches, mixing in between each addition to prevent splatter. › Finish with a pinch of salt.


Level the cake layers, and place the base layer on the serving platter/ cake stand. › Fill a piping bag fitted with a rosette tip with the peanut butter “butter” cream. Pipe a ring of rosettes around the top edge of the cake, creating a dam for the jam. › Fill the ring of rosettes with a generous amount of strawberry jam. › Place the second layer of cake on top. › Repeat the piping and filling process. › Finish with a sprinkle of chocolate chips along peanut butter rosettes, if desired.

For Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350. › Line cupcake pan. › Fill liners 2/3 with batter. › Bake for 15-18 minutes. › Cool for 20 minutes. › Core cupcakes and fill with strawberry jam. › Frost with peanut butter “butter” cream and top with vegan chocolate chips. Recipe yields 24 cupcakes. July ‘20



A Savory Summer The key to effortless entertaining this season is keeping it easy and flavorful. By Jill Paglia Photography by Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery


his time of year gives us a variety of fresh, colorful and delicious foods that can be relished alone, such as a juicy slice of cold watermelon, or be combined to provide what I like to call a “f lavor party,” which is what my watermelon, tomato and feta salad tastes like to me. It also has a vibrant visual beauty. This is when so many of us love to be outside during our hot days and sultry evenings to just hang out and enjoy food and friendship. It’s also a time of year when entertaining should be casual and I like to have some easy-to-put-together and make-ahead options on hand for poolside snacking or impromptu beach trips and picnics in the park. Here are some recipes that bring into play some of that seasonal freshness with the brightness of lemon and lime, the sweetness of watermelon and peaches, and the unadulterated yumminess of lobster. There’s also a refreshing adult beverage that is a goto of mine and can be served in individual glass bottles, mason jars or pretty glasses. Lake Martin Lemonade, which is also called Beer Margarita by some, originated in Lake Martin, Alabama. It quickly became popular with area residents and visiting students from nearby Auburn University. You can make it by the pitcher or 2-gallon decanter. Just modify the ingredients and don’t add ice to the decanter, just to the glasses as you serve it. Add a fresh slice of lime to add zing. Warning—this spiked lemonade can really sneak up on you after just two glasses, so be careful with consumption and be sure that children don’t confuse it with non-alcoholic lemonade by keeping it out of their reach. Another summer staple is the classic New England Lobster Roll, which also can be made with our succulent Florida lobster. These are fairly simple to make. The key is to not overcook the lobster. So how do you get the perfect tender lobster? For every pound of lobster, steam for 7 minutes with 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. If you are doing just tails, steam them in the shell. When they are done, run them under cold water to stop cooking. If using live lobsters, boil them two to




four at a time, depending on how large your pot is, and add 1 minute of cooking time per pound. Locally, Publix offers fresh and precooked frozen lobster or you can order for overnight delivery from mainelobsternow.com. To save time, prepare the lobster salad the day before and quickly assemble the sandwiches as your guests arrive. As an alternative to serving with the usual salty chips or French fries, substitute Anjou pear slices on the side, dressed with fresh lemon juice to prevent browning. For the perfect seasonal dessert, I will go for something like a warm peach cobbler, just bursting with flavor, served in individual ramekins. Kick things up a notch by topping them with either organic vanilla ice cream or fat-free vanilla yogurt. During this season of abundance, I hope you enjoy all the flavors the summer has to offer and take some time to kick back and relax. Interact with Jill and follow her lifestyle posts on Instagram @festivelysouthern and under Festively Southern Recipes on Facebook.

Lake Martin Lemonade

Serves 6 1 (12-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate 12 ounces Jose Cuervo or another brand of tequila 12 ounces diet Sprite (or tonic water) 12 ounces Corona Light beer 2 cups cold water 1 lime, cut into wedges Ice Mix limeade and tequila in a blender. › Place in a large pitcher and add water, diet Sprite and beer and stir until well-blended. › Taste and adjust with additional water if needed. › When ready to enjoy, either serve in glass bottles placed in a tub of ice or use margarita glasses. › Garnish with lime wedges.

Classic New England Lobster Roll

Serves 4 1 pound cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-size chunks 4 tablespoons melted butter 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup celery, finely chopped 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 2 teaspoons green tops from a scallion, finely minced 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped 1 dash hot sauce Pinch of salt Few grinds freshly ground black pepper Split-top hot dog buns or other favorite roll Fresh chives Bibb lettuce July ‘20



Place the cooked lobster meat in a large bowl. › In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, parsley and scallions, hot sauce and salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning. Once you have that to your liking, add the lobster and mix. › Brush both sides of rolls with butter and toast both sides in a skillet over medium heat until nicely browned. › Place Bibb lettuce on each bun and top with lobster salad. › Finish by topping with fresh chives.

the tomatoes and watermelon, then pour in dressing. › Add basil and toss gently to combine.

Easy Individual Peach Cobbler

Tomato Watermelon Salad

2 cups fresh peaches, sliced 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup milk 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon baking powder Optional – ice cream or fat-free yogurt

Combine tomatoes and watermelon in a large, nonreactive bowl and add salt and toss gently to combine. › Let stand 5 to 10 minutes while you prepare the dressing. › Whisk together the oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. › Add the cheese to

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. › Melt the butter and pour into four 7-ounce ramekins, divided evenly. › Sprinkle the cinnamon over the butter. › Mix flour, sugar, milk and baking powder until combined. › Pour the batter over the melted butter, but do not stir it in. › Place the peach slices on top of the batter, divided evenly. › Place the four ramekins onto a baking sheet to catch any spillover. › Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown. › Allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving. › If desired, top with vanilla ice cream or fatfree vanilla yogurt.

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved 1 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes 1 cup feta cheese, broken into large crumbles 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup fresh basil 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $3 Draft Beer $4 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $5 Super Premium & $6 Harry’s Signature Cocktails $7 off bottles of wine Buy $100 in Harry’s gift cards and get $30 in gift cards free!

24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com Mon-Thu 11a-10p › Fri & Sat 11a-11p › Sun 11a-9p Located in the heart of downtown Ocala, Harry’s offers traditional Louisiana favorites like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Blackened Red Fish, Louisiana Gumbo and Garden District Grouper (pictured). Other favorites, like French Baked Scallops and Bourbon Street Salmon, are complemented with grilled steaks, chicken, burgers, po’ boy sandwiches and salads. Their full bar features Harry’s Signature Cocktails, such as the Harry’s Hurricane, Bayou Bloody Mary or the Cool Goose Martini. They also feature wines by the glass and a wide selection of imported, domestic and craft beer.

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

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

El Toreo

3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala

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

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 2707 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala (352) 622-2110 › brusters.com Sun-Thur 12p-10p, Fri-Sat 12p-11p You scream ice cream, we scream Bruster’s. More than just any ol’ ice cream parlor, Bruster’s knows how to satisfy the needs of any ice cream lover. Their large variety of premium flavors and desserts is made right in the store where they are served, including crunchy handmade waffle cones, customized sundaes, candy-filled blasts, thick milkshakes, frozen yogurts and no-sugar-added flavors. If you really want to crank up a party, Bruster’s will bring their scrumptious sweets to you. Sweeten your next big day with Bruster’s, and choose from endless flavors such as Creamsicle, Butter Pecan and Sea Salt Caramel.

July ‘20



Louie’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant 422 South Pine Avenue, Ocala (352) 304-5199 Opens at 11am daily

Follow us on Facebook Dining room open Delivery and takeout available

Have you had a good piece of pizza lately? If not, it’s time to try Louie’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant. This family owned and operated restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients and everything on the menu is made to order. If you crave it, chances are they make it. You have to try the hand-tossed pizza. Pile it high with your favorite toppings or try the Sicilian with its one-of-akind meat sauce. No matter what you order, you’ll be satisfied and ready to call Louie’s a new family favorite.

Pasta Faire Italian Ristorante 10401 US Hwy 441, Belleview (352) 347-3100 › pastafaire.com Mon-Sat 11a-10p › Sun 11a-9p

Full-service catering & drop-offs. Call for catering (352) 347-3100.

Your health is important to us! We are still taking all the steps to keep our guests and staff healthy. While Pasta Faire has always gone above and beyond for our clients’ health, we are implementing additional precautions and sanitation steps to continue to promote the health of everyone that comes through our doors. We will maintain regular operations while monitoring information released by the CDC and other public health agencies. Please join us for dine-in or take out. We are also continuing our take-out specials and BOGO pizza and pasta via curbside pick-up until further notice. Delivery is available via DoorDash & BiteSquad. Please join us and say welcome back to our lovely dining room staff.

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

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 2707 E Silver Springs Blvd, Ocala (352) 622-2110 › brusters.com Sun-Thur 12p-10p, Fri-Sat 12p-11p You scream ice cream, we scream Bruster’s. More than just any ol’ ice cream parlor, Bruster’s knows how to satisfy the needs of any ice cream lover. Their large variety of premium flavors and desserts is made right in the store where they are served, including crunchy handmade waffle cones, customized sundaes, candy-filled blasts, thick milkshakes, frozen yogurts and no-sugar-added flavors. If you really want to crank up a party, Bruster’s will bring their scrumptious sweets to you. Sweeten your next big day with Bruster’s, and choose from endless flavors such as Creamsicle, Butter Pecan and Sea Salt Caramel.



REAL PEOPLE. REAL STORIES. REAL OCALA. Subscribe to our digital issue of Ocala Style Magazine to have it delivered monthly to your inbox.



Saving Izzi

A horse’s luck went from bad to good when a village of caring people came together to give her a second chance at a healthy, happy life.

From left, Laurine Fuller-Vargas, Dr. Alberto Rullan and Dr. Brent Barrett, with Izzi. By JoAnn Guidry | Photography by Meagan Gumpert

July ‘20






Izzi didn’t seem ready to quit, so we decided not to give up on her. - Dr. Alberto Rullan

Photos courtesy of Run for the Ribbons

o one knows how Izzi ended up abandoned or how long she wandered around a rural Tampa area neighborhood. But by the time the Hillsborough County Sheriff ’s Office (HCSO) took custody of her, the gray filly was literally a bag of bones, clinging to life. “The HCSO provided Izzi with basic veterinarian care while they looked for an equine rescue group. A contact led them to Run for the Ribbons in late September 2019,” explains Laurine Fuller-Vargas, founder and president of the Morriston-based 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on rescuing, rehabbing, retraining and rehoming horses. “When we saw the heartbreaking pictures of Izzi, we knew we had to do something. We only take in five rescue horses a year, on a case-by-case basis. Some horses need more care and rehab than others. Izzi was an extreme case.” The HCSO delivered Izzi on October 2nd, 2019, to Fuller-Vargas’s Cedar Lock Farm, where Run for the Ribbons Inc. is based. “Izzi couldn’t walk; she had to be carried by eight people off the trailer. That’s when we realized her condition was even worse than we thought,” recalls Fuller-Vargas. “When we actually saw her in person, I wondered if we could actually save her.” Fuller-Vargas called in four equine veterinarians she had worked with on other rescues over the years to give their honest evaluation of Izzi’s condition. She wanted their professional advice to find out if there was a viable, humane way forward for Izzi. “The consensus was that she was a high-risk, intensivecare rescue case. But all the vets were impressed with her sweet, easygoing demeanor despite all she had been through and they suspected she would be a good patient,” recounts Fuller-Vargas. “Dr. Alberto Rullan, who operates Equine Performance Innovative Center (EPIC), told us he would provide Izzi’s initial treatment. We were delighted since Dr. Rullan is an excellent vet with a soft spot for rescue cases. And his clinic is only four miles from our farm. So, with great care and patience, we carried Izzi into the trailer and took her to EPIC on October 3rd.” While he had agreed to take on Izzi’s case, Dr. Rullan also knew there was a good chance there might not be a happy ending. “Izzi was emaciated, severely dehydrated, had extreme muscle wasting, as well as systemic inflammation. Her front feet were so severely infected that she couldn’t even stand, never mind walk,” describes Rullan. “But Izzi didn’t seem ready to quit, so we decided not to give up on her. As soon as she was at EPIC, we began a very specific protocol that I had used on other serious cases to give Izzi every chance.” Immediately, Izzi went into ICU treatment. She was given intravenous antibiotics, nutrition and fluids. Then she began a course of hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments; at first once a day, then later twice a day, an hour at a time. Rullan points out that this is a frontline treatment because “it increases the oxygen levels in the blood to rejuvenate the system and speeds healing throughout the body.” By the

July ‘20




10th treatment, Rullan began to see an improvement in Izzi and she was able to walk a short distance. In her three months at EPIC, Izzi made more than 40 trips to the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. “At the same time, Izzi was getting cold saltwater leg spa treatments to reduce inflammation in her lower legs and accelerate tissue healing,” Rullan offers. “She also spent time on a vibration plate to increase her bone density, circulation and muscle mass. We also gave her ozone therapy to attack bacterial infections and boost her immune system.” Slowly, very slowly, Izzi began to regain her health, but it wasn’t without setbacks. “We didn’t take it one day at a time; we took it halfa-day at a time with Izzi,” Rullan recalls. “Every day we had to make a decision to move forward or not. We didn’t want to cause her any more suffering. We let Izzi tell us every day, hour to hour, if she wanted to go on.” According to Rullan, Izzi made a major step forward thanks to Dr. Brent Barrett, an Ocala-based veterinarian who focuses on equine podiatry and regularly works on the feet of horses being treated at EPIC. “I was aware of Izzi, but hadn’t gotten involved in her care,” Barrett explains. “Then one day I happened to be there when she was brought out of her stall. In that moment, I just knew I had to do what I could to help her.” Radiographs showed a keratoma in Izzi’s left front foot. A keratoma is a benign tumor in the inner hoof wall, which, as it expands, causes extreme pain and lameness. Barrett first applied horseshoes designed to help stabilize her foot; nine days later, on November 29th, came surgery to remove the keratoma. “After the surgery, Izzi began to steadily improve,” says Barrett. “I was very happy to see that because we all felt that Izzi being more mobile was key to her recovery.” Rullan concurs, adding, “Now that Izzi could be on her feet more, we could ramp up her physical therapy to increase her range of motion, strength and muscle mass.” As Izzi continued to improve, the discussion began about when she could leave EPIC and continue her recovery at Run for the Ribbons. Rullan admits, “It was nerve wracking because here at the clinic we had

all these advanced treatments. But she couldn’t stay forever and she wouldn’t have them at the farm.” Slowly, Izzi was weaned from her treatment regimen one modality at a time. Over the next month, some days it was the proverbial one step forward and two steps back. But Rullan, his team and Izzi persisted. On December 31st, Izzi walked for the first time on her own power onto a horse trailer and took the short ride to her new home. For Fuller-Vargas, it was a day she had been hoping and waiting for over the past three months. “I thought it was very appropriate that Izzi came home on New Year’s Eve, ready to start her new life,” Fuller-Vargas enthuses. “Izzi never would’ve made it without the compassionate care of Dr. Rullan and Dr. Barrett. They both donated so much of their services and time. Dr. Barrett continues to do his special shoeing on Izzi every five to six weeks. He recently had to take care of an abscess in her right foot, but it wasn’t a major setback. And Dr. Rullan visits her whenever he can.” Fuller-Vargas acknowledges that Izzi’s intensive care was expensive and that there are, even with the generosity of Rullan and Barrett, bills to be paid. “They are graciously allowing us to pay them as we raise funds,” she shares. Now, almost a year after her rescue, Izzi is a healthy, happy horse. She spends her days grazing in a shady paddock with Princess Rose, a retired racehorse. When offered apple slices from a visitor, Izzi first sniffs each slice before gently taking some, chewing slowly, savoring the sweet treat. “Izzi and Princess have become great buddies,” explains Fuller-Vargas. “Izzi is still a sweetie, but she’s definitely the boss of the two. She outruns Princess to the feed tub and makes sure she gets her share of carrots. One day she may be adopted out, but she’s become our mascot. Izzi is our little miracle horse.” Want to get involved? Contact Laurine Fuller-Vargas at runfortheribbons@gmail.com or (774) 328-1760. For more information, visit www.runfortheribbons.org

July ‘20



Rooted in Ocala A lifetime of loving plants has led this enterprising entrepreneur to grow a dedicated following. By Belea T. Keeney | Photography by Meagan Gumpert


It wasn’t long before Laura started thinking about aura Perdomo’s love of plants first was nurtured opening a store. as she was growing up in an extended family Today, African violets are a centerpiece in the shop, (one of her grandmothers had 14 brothers and along with the Dandy Pots, which allow water to be sisters) in the Ocala National Forest, which is well wicked up into the soil and are especially good for known for its biodiversity. plants that prefer not to get their leaves wet, like the Although she adopted the family profession of beautiful violets. teaching for a while, Perdomo eventually gave in to her “The plant shows absolutely created the foundation gift for growing plants and now has a thriving business, for the shop. Without them, I wouldn’t have had the the Peacock Cottage, on East Silver Springs Boulevard. market and know-how to do this,” she offers. “I’d She says she owes a lot of her current success to originally thought I’d do an online business, maybe being deprived of plants when she left her home in wholesale the Dandy Marion County and started Pots, and then I thought it college at Florida State could work to have a shop University in Tallahassee. instead of me doing all the “My family had a lot work at the house.” of plants growing up,” she In 2015, the couple explains. “When I went rented a corner space at to college at FSU, I was Chelsea Square, on East in a fifth-story dorm and Silver Springs Boulevard. I was like, ‘Where are all They painted the walls the plants in my life?’ So, – Laura Perdomo a vivid purple, installed I went to Winn-Dixie and display spaces, rigged up grow lights and installed got a little African violet that I put on my windowsill. plants, along with accessories and items to create their And I loved it. popular whimsical fairy gardens. “Then, I noticed there were two African violets She says she made the decision based on hard data inside that pot,” she continues with enthusiasm. “So I and her gut. went online to see if I could divide it. That’s when I saw “I’m very much a ‘let’s not get too big too fast’ there are thousands of named varieties and that people mindset,” she notes. “In 2015, most people wouldn’t will pay hundreds of dollars for certain named varieties. necessarily think having a brick and mortar store was So, I was like, ‘Well, well, well!’” a solid decision, but I felt secure with my suppliers and After college, Perdomo returned to Marion County, knew the market enough to make it real. You’re never happy to be back among her large and close family. going to be completely ready for it, but make it happen.” Her mother, father, grandmother, sister and husband In catering to clients, the niche business offers a vast Frank are all teachers so, with an education degree, array of houseplants for home, office or porch as well as it was natural that she also would go into the “family terrariums and fairy gardens. business.” She taught American history at Marion Perdomo says research shows there are many Technical Institute for 10 years and “loved it.” benefits to adding indoor plants to your home or While she was still teaching full time, she and Frank workspace, including happier moods, better job spent many of their weekends selling plants at shows satisfaction and stronger relationships. around the state. Indoor plants can not only make our homes more “We started with the Master Gardener’s spring show visually pleasing, but are actually good for your health. here in town and each year we’d add on a couple of They release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, which shows—Leu Gardens, Kanapaha, Fort Myers… After 10 not only cleans the air but also eliminates harmful years teaching and 10 years of doing shows, the business toxins. NASA has done extensive research that shows was getting big. Also, we’d purchased the company that that houseplants can remove as much as 87 percent created Dandy Pots, a product we’d been selling for of airborne toxins in 24 hours. Further studies have years. The company founder, based in Tampa, retired in proven that indoor plants can improve concentration 2013, and we purchased the business from her.”

I love African violets. They are so symmetrical. It’s almost like they have a Fibonacci sequence of beauty.




July ‘20



and productivity, reduce stress and also boost your mood—which makes them a great addition to either your home or business. When it comes to business, Perdomo says her favorite part of running hers is “being able to wear all of the different hats. Being able to plan, do the budget, do the finances. I’ve always loved money and budgeting. “And I love the therapeutic aspects of working in the greenhouse and with plants,” she adds. She also likes purchasing and stocking inventory, selecting products she hopes will delight customers.

“I can look at a wholesale catalog and think 99 percent of it doesn’t match what my market wants, but that 1 percent that does, it’s like, ‘Oh yes!’ I really love matching up the stuff with customers. Sometimes a customer comes in and I can just see the joy on their face as they see the shop. That’s what makes it really fun.” She says she has noticed that a lot of millennials and Generation Z’ers are getting excited about houseplants. “They like that 1970s sort of look, making your house look like a jungle inside with the macramé,” she notes. “That’s really coming back.”

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Where Can We Effect the Most Change? Many fundraising events are cancelled, postponed or limited in attendance, meaning local nonprofit organizations need our help more than ever. By Allison B. Campbell, Director of Strategic Communications, Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County


ir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The vivid image of living through giving resonates throughout our community, one known for its philanthropy. For generations, families have handed down legacies of giving, and that spirit is alive and well, even today. The economic challenges experienced around the world this spring hit our community hard. But giving may not change right away as much as some might expect. While local businesses and donors, surveyed by



the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County, said they had been impacted by the downturn, more than 65 percent said they did not expect a decrease in their giving to meet local needs. “I always ask myself, where do I want to effect the most change,” offers LuAnne Warren, partner with Brick City Digital Marketing and vice president at USA4Sale Networks. “We, like many others, are reevaluating everything right now.” More than 85 percent of individuals said they choose the causes they support because of personal passions or


specific needs they encounter. “Our office is on the way to Interfaith (Emergency Services),” Warren explains, “so we see homeless people all the time knocking on our door. We obviously have a desire to help them.” Thousands of dollars and millions of volunteer hours from individuals and corporate businesses filter to local nonprofits each year. “Writing company checks is one thing, but we want our team more involved in giving back to our community,” affirms Rusty Branson, CenterState Bank’s community president in Marion County. “It’s the right thing to do.” While needs and desires to give haven’t changed, what may change is how gifts are given. Roughly 20 percent of individuals surveyed said they probably won’t buy fundraising event tickets, at least for the next few months. “The future of event-based fundraising is unknown right now,” offers Jaye Baillie, executive director of the Marion Cultural Alliance. “We had to cancel four events this spring that help fund our activities all year long. We are learning new ways to make up those dollars.” The autumn months in Marion County historically are packed with events and activities, especially on the University of Florida football’s “bye weekend” in October. Now, with nonprofits rescheduling their spring events and the already planned fall calendar, it is possible people are going to make budgeting and scheduling choices they’ve never had to consider before. And events that are scheduled may have attendance limitations due to social distancing requirements. As nonprofits plan fundraisers, individual ticket purchasers aren’t the only ones to think about. Businesses that sponsor events may be shifting their giving budgets. Branson says they don’t expect to decrease the amount they give this year, but they do plan to reallocate dollars to nonprofits specifically addressing COVID-19 related needs. Like Branson, most business leaders agreed nonprofit giving in 2020 will hold steady, but nearly 35 percent of businesses surveyed said they expect to decrease their gifts, totaling more than $100,000 not going to nonprofits this year. Even for those who aren’t decreasing their giving this year, next year could be a very different picture. As companies enter their 2021 budget planning and look to where they can give, they just aren’t on the same pace financially as when they budgeted last year. We could be in for some very challenging years in 2021-2022, but the Community Foundation and the nonprofits it supports are holding out hope that won’t be the case. From specific connections with causes near and dear to one’s heart to relationships with friends and family sharing passions for needs, one thing resonated clearly throughout the surveys—relationships. “While our college-aged kids have been home at this time, we have seen them giving back,” Warren asserts. “We always encouraged them to be generous, and we can see the fruits of those conversations.” Those links in relationships are the most valuable considerations. As we get through to the other side of this challenging time, some needs may look different, and some services may be delivered in a new way. It’s important to stay connected to those impacted the most and optimistic that this community and our nonprofits can rebound. We will get through this as a stronger community. The NonProfit Business Council proudly announces that planning for the 2021 Guide to Charitable Giving is underway, offering free directory listings for all nonprofits. To learn more visit www.ocalafoundation.org. The Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County is building a stronger community…one passion at a time. Programs include the NonProfit Business Council, the Estate Planning Council, and the Nonprofit Resource Center in partnership with Marion County, the City of Ocala, the Marion County Hospital District and AdventHealth. July ‘20


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Creative Chaos

In just a year, artist E.J. Nieves has made a signiďŹ cant impact on the Ocala arts scene. His newest contribution will be his forthcoming art gallery in a Neighborhood Storage facility. Yes, you read that right. By JoAnn Guidry Photography by Dave Miller

July ‘20




rtist E.J. Nieves slides open the door to his Magnolia Art Xchange (MAX) studio and an episode of Hoarders comes to mind. Seeing his visitor’s wide-eyed, slightly judgmental look, Nieves says unapologetically, “I create out of chaos.” From the studio, one by one, Nieves extracts half-adozen 3 feet by 4 feet expressionistic paintings borne of the COVID-19 pandemic, a chaos of our times, and lines them up against the wall of the common area outside his studio. The topic of one is the question of wearing or not wearing a mask, a death skull providing the answer. Going back into the studio, Nieves brings out a bold red, black and white abstract painting and props it up alone on a wall across from the others. The impromptu gallery of expressionistic and abstract paintings perfectly represents two of the many sides to Nieves’ artistry. But it is another piece, not on display this day, that was the wellspring of his art career. “As a child, I read comic books and my favorite was Spawn, created by Todd McFarlane,” explains Nieves, who grew up in Orlando. “I loved the aesthetics of the bold drawings and the good versus evil narrative told panel by panel. Those comic books sparked my desire to create something, to become involved in the pop and comic culture.” Nieves began doing pen and ink drawings early on, becoming the cartoonist for his high school newspaper. But after graduating in 2007 from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design, Nieves still viewed his art as a hobby, not a way to make a living. He worked in various retail management positions for five years until his mother, a longtime Spanish language teacher, encouraged him to go into teaching. Nieves took her advice, first substitute teaching then becoming a full-time art teacher in the Orange County Public Schools district. “Being an art teacher put me back in touch with my artistic side and I started really doing my comic book art again,” Nieves recalls. “I also started doing the comic convention circuit with my art and I started selling it. It was a revelation. That’s when I thought I could make a living as an artist. It changed my life.” Nieves stopped teaching in 2017 to pursue his art full time and the high Orlando cost of living sent him looking for a new home. “I have family in Ocala and had come several times for its comic con,” says Nieves. “I came for a visit, went right to the Marion Cultural Alliance’s The Brick and met Ashley Justiniano, the gallery’s director. She was very encouraging. I joined MCA that day, before I even moved to Ocala. I just got such a great vibe from the Ocala art culture and knew this was where I needed to be.” In July 2019, Nieves relocated to Ocala, saying he “couched it for a while at a friend’s house” while he explored his new town. His next major art 92


connections were Xochitl Jacques-Smith, a board member of the MAX, and Jesse James, the co-founder of The Culture Curators. “Xochitl and Jesse introduced me to so many more people,” Nieves shares. “I moved into the MAX and have been going forward from there. I am so happy doing my art and connecting with the art community. I believe we artists are all in this together.” To that end, Nieves participated in First Friday Art Walk events, as well as the Neon Dreams art show and #socialdistancing and #COVID19 projects, displaying paintings in the windows of the Brick City Center for the Arts alongside other artists. Nieves also serves on the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission (OMAC). And Laura Walker, who heads the City of Ocala’s Cultural Arts and Sciences Division, is pleased to have Nieves’ input. “We are happy to have emerging artists like E.J. serving on the OMAC,” explains Walker. “Artists like him on this commission provide additional perspective to the development of policies as initiated by the Community Cultural Arts Plan. All arts and cultural additions are encouraged.”

Evolving His Art

As far as Nieves is concerned, bigger is better when it comes to his art, whether expressionistic or abstract. “I love doing large-scale pieces. Right now, most

In my 20s, I painted a self-portrait and named it The Calm Before The Storm. This new one is called The Storm. - E.J. Nieves

July ‘20



of my pieces are 3x4, but I plan to double that size,” he says. “My expressionistic art is conceptual, usually based on a current affairs topic, maybe an event or even just a pop culture phrase. They usually include wording to push the idea. These pieces tell a narrative canvas-bycanvas, like the panel-by-panel storyline of comics.” Nieves switches creative gears when it comes to his abstract work, which he describes as “all about energy; energy meeting energy.” Having picked out his palette of colors, he lays down his canvas on the floor and throws cups of paint across it “in bowling motions, letting the energy of the piece guide the movement of the colors.” He then stands over the piece and adds drops of paint, again going with the energy flow. His abstract approach is similar to his connectivity to the community, especially through social media, where he has become a popular local influencer. That idea of “energy meeting energy” is present not only in

his own posts and videos, but also in the time he takes to comment, repost and offer praise and celebratory messages. He is a master at becoming an essential part of the dialogue and networking with the community. Popular singer, entrepreneur and curator of such arts projects as Couch Sessions and Hidden Spaces, Olivia Ortiz praises Nieves for his ability to connect. “He’s really good at networking,” she asserts. “Social media is such an important aspect of being an artist these days. I am always trying to encourage the artists I work with to be more active on social media.” And lest you think this superhero of social media has abandoned his comic book art, think again. “Oh, I will always do comic book art. It is my heart,” he says unabashedly. “I’m working on pieces now for the Collective Comic Con in Jacksonville on July 17th through the 19th.” Nieves is also taking another big step in his progression as an artist by opening his own art gallery in a self-storage workspace. “I talked to Seth Benzel who has 8th Street Gallery and he encouraged me to open my own gallery,” Nieves recalls. “The actual storage unit facility is right behind the workspace buildings, where 8th Street Gallery and my space are located. I think there is a real opportunity to build an art community there. I don’t see each artist as being in competition with other artists. I believe the tide rises all ships and together and we can thrive as artists.” Nieves’s gallery, which will open in August, is called N.E.H.S. Gallery, with the initials standing for “No Eye Has Seen.” A Christian, Nieves based his gallery name on a Bible scripture: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” For the opening of his gallery, Nieves painted his second ever self-portrait, a striking, unadorned 40 inch by 60 inch painting, featuring him staring dead on at perhaps life’s camera. “In my 20s, I painted a self-portrait and named it The Calm Before The Storm because I was still struggling with wanting to do my art and make a living,” says Nieves, now 36. “This new one is called The Storm. In my eyes, you see the calm focus at the center of a storm. I want it to represent where I am in my art career now. While I’m glad to finally be at a good place with my art, I am not complacent and will continue to move forward with focus. I still have lots of work to do, plenty of creativity still to come.” No doubt amid a little chaos. For more information and gallery announcements, visit The Art of E.J. Nieves on Facebook. Gallery visits by appointment only. Send requests to theartofejnieves@gmail.com

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All American Art? Patricia Tomlinson, the Appleton Museum of Art Curator of Exhibitions, explores the complicated identity of some works of art. Tomlinson, a former professional archaeologist, joined the museum in 2016 after serving as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum. By Patricia Tomlinson



Photo courtesy of the Appleton Museum of Art


in her art due to lack of art was once told by someone schools that would accept that they only liked women, Gardner traveled “American Art.” But what, to France to begin serious exactly, does that mean? study and was eventually Art that was made by an accepted at the Académie American? Art that was only Julian in Paris. She never made in North America? Art returned to the United States that exemplifies patriotic and went on to become an themes of the United States accomplished and soughtof America? “American Art” after artist. Although Gardner is hard to define and, well, was technically American, she complicated. left at a young age, became an For many years American accomplished artist abroad, Art was defined by art and and is buried in France. objects that were largely Should she be considered an created in the 1700 and 1800s American artist? by individuals of European Another example is a heritage who lived in the second clock with the figure United States of America. In of George Washington. In short, colonizers. And the vast addition to his likeness, majority of the colonial-era the gilded clock exhibits art that was written about an American eagle and the and exhibited was produced motto “e pluribus unum,” or by men. Artworks that were “out of many, one,” seen on often traditionally created George Washington Clock by Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, 1810 United States currency. This by colonial women, such as clock, however, was made in quilts, samplers and other France by French artist Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, known needle arts, were completely ignored. Sure, you might as “Dubuc the Younger” because he was named after see some of these pieces in history museums, but rarely his father, who also was an artist. Should this very were they considered “art.” In addition, paintings, patriotic clock, exhibiting one of the United States’ ceramics and other wonderful art created by enslaved founding fathers, be considered American Art because Africans was overlooked, as were the centuries-long of its subject matter? artistic traditions of indigenous peoples—even though I don’t claim to have all the answers to this all of that art was made in “America.” conundrum, but many of my curator colleagues across See what I mean by “complicated?” the country are asking the same questions about To further muddy the waters, let’s look at an artist inclusion and how to tell the tales of what it means to and an artwork from the Appleton’s own collection— be American. the artist Elizabeth Jane Gardner and a decorative clock featuring a diminutive sculpture of George Washington (1732-1799). Visit www.appletonmuseum.org for more Elizabeth Jane Gardner was born in Exeter, New information and online offerings. Hampshire, in 1837. As a girl, she received the typical Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 education of a young lady at the time, which included E. Silver Springs Blvd., (352) 291-4455. basic drawing and watercolor painting. At the age of 27, frustrated that she was unable to progress further

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