Ocala Style | July 2023

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DOG DAYS OF SUMMER Celebrating Downtown Local Polo Rides Again JULY ‘23


Our results speak for themselves.

List with Joan today!

Equestrian enthusiasts! Consider this prestigious and unique 20+/- acre property in NW Ocala. The farm is located just 8.5 miles from WEC. Meticulously maintained 3-bedroom, 2-bath home plus office. Open concept floor plan with spacious kitchen, breakfast nook, formal dining room, family room, and screen-enclosed lanai overlooking the lush green pastures. The equestrian will enjoy the two barns with a total of 22 stalls. The first barn is a center aisle 16-stall barn, and the second is an 8-stall back-to-back that would work perfectly for turning into foaling stalls. Two sheds, one at each barn, would work for tack and feed. Beautiful vistas from every view, lush green pastures, gently rolling land, 10 paddocks of various sizes, a round pen, and an area to set up for a jump field.

The Laurels of Bellechase

Exquisite gated modern farmhouse, located on 10+/- acres. Inside this beautiful 2-story home are 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, and office/or sitting room. Enjoy the chef’s kitchen’s custom wood cabinetry, stone countertops, an island with extra seating, and spacious dining area. The family room offers a grand center fireplace, coffered ceilings, and built-ins. The pool, spa, firepit and outdoor living space matches perfectly with the pristine interior and allows for entertainment or private enjoyment. Location is incredibly convenient. Between Ocala and The Villages, and with close proximity to the Florida Horse Park or the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenways and Trails.

Just Listed
Just Listed $1,299,000 $1,694,375

A rare find—close to WEC. Charming main residence, delightful cottage and two 5,100-sf outbuildings, together with your own airstrip! The main residence is bright and airy, with several fireplaces and updated kitchen. The guest cottage features 2 bedrooms and modern kitchen, which provides the ideal spot for your guests. Enjoy the convenience of your own grass runway FAA approved airstrip FL19 Private 3,900’ +/- strip, and the privacy of 50 + acres. Property can be income producing with the rental of the guest home or the RV spaces.

Call for options

Outstanding views and excellent privacy! This is the peaceful country setting you have been looking for. Beautiful 160+/acres of gently rolling and hilly pastureland. Several great spots for homesites, including overlooking the pond. The property is currently being utilized for cattle. The property is perimeter fenced and cross fenced with a stocked pond. A grove of pines adds to the privacy. The property is surrounded by other large tracts of land and offers endless possibilities. It has unlimited potential as it could be used for a family estate, grazing cattle, hay production, or a buy/hold for future investment. Currently ag-exempt. The property has previously been used to grow watermelon and peanuts. Located just 20 miles from WEC and 17 miles to HITS.


This Ocala horse farm is very private and desirable! Drive into the scenic NW Ocala area and you will find beautiful country living-perfect for equine or cattle enthusiasts. Consider this unique 38+/- acre property on Hwy. 326. Just minutes to WEC and HITS. Beautiful vistas from every view, lush pastures with impressive granddaddy oaks, and mature landscaping. Main residence encompasses 4-bedrooms, 3.5-baths, open kitchen, spacious living room with impressive stone fireplace and built-in bookcases. The family room offers access to screen enclosed lanai and pool area while overlooking lush green pastures. Enjoy the grand owner’s bedroom with luxurious bath and expansive closet, plus 3 more bedrooms, and private office. The equine facilities include a 12-stall stable with tack room, feed room, wash bay and 1/1 apartment. The second story allows for hay storage. Covered parking on each side of barn for horse trailer and other items of your choice. Large 3-bay equipment building with workshop plus RV hook-up. Genuinely nice 4-bedroom 2-bath residence for your farm manager and family. The lush fields are perfect for grazing your horses or cattle with just the right number of scattered oaks for shade and a tranquil setting.

What should you expect working with Joan Pletcher?

Expect an unparalleled combination of professionalism, integrity and relentless commitment to her client’s unique needs, interests, and desires.

Joan is a residential, equine property and land development REALTOR® since 1985 and a horsewoman herself so her clients have the benefit of experience and specialized expertise.

“The Ocala region is home to the most beautiful equestrian estates and horse farms in the United States and the natural beauty of the area, along with an amazing variety of equine-centered activities and venues, such as the phenomenal new World Equestrian Center, makes this a place that more and more people want to call home,” says Joan.

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

h, the Dog Days of Summer! Greek mythology refers to this as the time when extreme heat drove humans and dogs a little crazy. Humans are always looking for a good defense against bad behavior, aren’t we? With so many ways to cool off in modern times, we don’t think you should expect to use this one without meeting significant skepticism and offer in support a few summer options to keep you sane in the heat.

Our Best of Summer feature spread offers info on several swimming spots where you can play, lounge and kick back. Many of our local parks, including Silver Springs State Park and the city of Ocala’s Wetland Recharge Park, offer respite beneath shade trees as well as the added attraction of abundant wildlife. You can even step into the cool (in more ways than one) environs of our own worldclass Appleton Museum of Art and escape the heat for an hour or a day.

When the sun goes down, head to downtown Ocala. That’s where you’ll find a great variety of eateries, places to get a chilled cocktail and live entertainment. In this issue, we take a look back and forward at Ocala’s downtown and share some interesting history, exciting changes, and new projects planned for the future.

On Saturday evenings, pack a picnic and head to the Florida Horse Park, where the Ocala Polo Club is putting a new spin on an ages-old sport. Tailgating there is fun and puts you right up close to the action.

Yes, it’s hot. But there are tons of ways to cool off, chill out and enjoy our beautiful region and state.

Publisher’s Note
a youth production JOIN US FOR SEASON check out more! 73 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470 (352) 236-2274 ocalacivictheatre.com July 2023 - May 2024 !

Publisher | Jennifer Hunt Murty jennifer@magnoliamediaco.com

Magnolia Media Company, LLC (352) 732-0073

PO Box 188, Ocala, FL 34478



Amy Harbert amy@magnoliamediaco.com


Bruce Ackerman

Pat Bonish Photography

Grace Colley Photography

Jenny E. Photography

Meagan Gumpert

Barbara Hooper

Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

Dave Miller

John Jernigan

Conan Segrest

Wildalys Photography

Alan Youngblood


Jordan Shapot

David Vallejo


Cheryl Specht cheryl@magnoliamediaco.com






Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com


Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com


Greg Hamilton greg@magnoliamediaco.com


Devon Chestnut

Michael Compton

Thomas Fieldhouse

Belea Keeney

Scott Mitchell

Pria Persaud

Courtney Pickerell

Dave Schlenker

Beth Whitehead



Evelyn Anderson evelyn@magnoliamediaco.com

D istribution

Rick Shaw

Now locally-owned and operated: Roberts Funeral Home 2739 SE Maricamp Rd Roberts Funeral Home 6241 SW State Rd 200 are now part of the Roberts of Ocala Funerals & Cremations Downtown family! We are here when you need us 352.537.8111 www.RobertsFunerals.com




The Ocala Polo Club is paving the way for a new era.


Historic Ocala is brimming with history and full of new promise.


Three local home chefs cook up some tasty recipes.

59 CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Devon Chestnut shares some of her favorite things.


in this issue


The rescued animals at the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary sometimes help the humans.


Celebrating the most special day of local brides and grooms.


Our tips and intel from locals to help you make the most of the dog days of summer.




Just west of Marion County is Cedar Key, where a visit can take you back to Old Florida.


Meet Thor Schlenker, Dave’s new MINI Cooper.


Take a break from the heat and get inspired with these great reads.

This page: Top, by Dave miller, middle, by Bruce Ackerman and Bottom, by Meagan Gumpert

Family Living, Well Planned.

Founded in St. Petersburg in 1947 by the late Sidney Colen, Colen Built Development is an award winning, family-owned building and development company that has built thousands of homes in Florida for people of all ages. In 1975, Colen expanded his dreams to Ocala. In what some saw as a 13,000-acre working cattle ranch, Colen saw something more significant. Today, that is the ever-growing On Top of the World Communities, the premier active-adult community in Florida. On Top of the World leads the industry in recreational activities and amenities, energy-efficient construction, and environmental stewardship.

Today, son Kenneth Colen is carrying on the family legacy by providing customers with the same creativity and passion for creating exceptional homes and communities, just like his father. Colen’s latest endeavor is Calesa Township, a new master-planned community for families of all ages. This state-of-the-art community includes an extensive trail system, resort-style amenities, an onsite aquatic center, and an onsite charter school. While this new development appeals to families of all ages, the commitment of quality, value, moral obligation, and sustainability remains the same.

Calesa Township is the first community of its kind in Ocala. The master-planned community offers a mix of home styles perfect for families of all ages, including one- and two-story single-family detached homes and, in future development, multifamily attached homes. Offering a wide array of designs from 1,500 a/c sq ft to over 3,800 a/c sq ft, Calesa has a home to suit everyone’s lifestyle and


budget. With three collections of homes that feature open floorplans, flex spaces and 2- or 3-car garages, you are sure to find a plan that is a perfect fit for your family.

Planned for growth with future top-notch amenities you enjoy at premier resorts, living at Calesa Township feels like being on vacation. From community pools, picnic & BBQ areas to playgrounds, basketball courts, and soccer fields, you’ll appreciate the myriad of recreation activities that are afforded to you. The extensive trail system at Calesa Township leads to Ina A. Colen Academy, Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training (FAST), and a wide array of amenities. Miles of trails, paved and unpaved, throughout the neighborhoods of Calesa Township provide for safe passage of kids roaming from place to place, people exercising, or families out for a relaxing stroll. These trails define life within Calesa.

The Ina A. Colen Academy is a tuition-free K-8 public charter school that children in the community have an opportunity to attend.

Adjacent to Calesa Township is Florida Aquatics Swimming & Training (FAST). FAST is the premier swimming, training and competitive venue in the Southeastern United States, and is home to the FAST Falcons Swim Club. While FAST is open to the public, membership is offered to residents of

Calesa Township as part of their homeowner association dues. All amenities, electronically gated neighborhood entries and common area maintenance in Calesa are included in a low monthly HOA fee of just $100.

Located in the Horse Capital of the World, Calesa Township is close to Ocala’s best equestrian venues including The World Equestrian Center, HITS, and the Florida Horse Park. Whether you are an equestrian or not, Calesa Township offers the perfect community, amenities, and home for your family’s lifestyle.

New Single-Family Homes from the mid $300s to the $500s Call us at (855) 963-1378 or visit our website at MyCalesa.com Get Social with us: @CalesaTownship 7947 SW 80th Street, Ocala, FL 34476
Family Living, Well Planned.


Social Scene

Photo by Bruce Ackerman Lilly Baron, the longtime human companion of Molly, the ambassador of the Marion County Animal Abuser Registry, is shown with the marble statue of the dog that was unveiled on June 7. Behind her, from left, are attorney and animal advocate Peggy Hoyt, County Commissioner Kathy Bryant (obscured from view, State Rep. Stan McLain), Sheriff Billy Woods and sculptor Nilda Comas, who created the statue of Molly at her studio in Italy.

Statue Unveiling


Photos by Bruce Ackerman

Hundreds of people joined Lilly Baron, the longtime human companion of Molly, the ambassador of the Marion County Animal Abuser Registry, for the June 7th ceremony to unveil the gorgeous white marble statue of the late beloved canine, which was crafted by sculptor Nilda Comas.

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Nilda Comas and Lilly Baron Kari Harms and Sutton Schuch Ernesto Fichtner, Helena Fichtner, Alberto Fichtner, Nilda Comas and Camila Fichtner Tommy and Renee Thompson Kent Guinn and Betsy Gamberino with Princess Lily

Festival of Tables


Photos by Bruce Ackerman

The Pan Hellenic Society of Greater Ocala’s luncheon and auction fundraiser on May 20th, to benefit the Food 4 Kids backpack program, featured lavishly decorated tables with themes such as the holidays, fall, patriotism, the 1950s, Mardi Gras and others.

July ‘23 11 INSIDER
Vicki Collins, Kathy Strategos, the Jester, Sonia Constantinides and Anastasia Giannakouros Philanthy Nichols, Sylvia Cardone and Stella Sheng Gabriel Gadah, Ray Shermo, Jim Dean, Ron Nichols, Rich Messner, Bill Veglas and Solon Paul Kathy Pangas, Kristiana Luce and Monica Rodis

Ocala Tiki Fest


It was all about the loud Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts and refreshing beverages during the inaugural event on May 27th in downtown Ocala, hosted by Ocala Main Street and The Tipsy Skipper. The event included entertainment, vendors and, of course, samplings of rum.

12 ocalastyle.com INSIDER
Photos by Bruce Ackerman Anthony Price, Cody McCord, Tatum Morey and Jennifer McCord Stella Burkhartsmeier and Josephine Figueroa Alexis Mejia and Mariah Palmer Rachel Wright and Livia Chestnut Marie and Mark Noble Vinny Perez
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Laying of Wreaths

The Friends of Marion County Veterans Park Foundation hosted the tribute on May 29th to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, including several from Marion County. The event included the laying of a wreath, playing of taps, speeches and a flyover.

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Photos by Bruce Ackerman Carl Vollmer Craig Ham Morrey Deen Jose Castro, Shakeli Sims, Tyreke Bagley and Jared Colvin The Marion County Memorial Honor Guard
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Juneteenth Celebration Dinner Dance


This annual fundraiser is presented by Reach, Aim, Motivate and Lead (R.A.M.A.L.) Educational & Social Services. The event on June 3rd included entertainment, vendors, a silent auction and raffles. The nonprofit offers several programs, including tutoring and educational workshops.

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Photos by Bruce Ackerman Nancy Lowery and Brenda Dukes Leroy and Emma Chandler Jennifer Foster and Gregory Rahming Allie Gore and Barbara Brooks Delores Galloway, Francine Julius Edwards, Verndita Julius, Ruthie Archie and Ivonne Fuentes Simone Campbell, Gabrielle Briggs, Tiffany Cox and Iris Prince-Johnson
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On the Scene

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


Appleton Museum

July 1

Admission is free, and you’re invited to peruse the regular and special collections, enjoy the grounds and make your own art in the Artspace. This month, see free screenings at 11am and 2pm of Creature from the Black Lagoon, partly filmed in Silver Springs. New this month will be Billy’s Cheesesteaks and the Donut Express food trucks. Ongoing exhibits include Eternal Summer and Equine Art. Check out appletonmuseum.org for more info.


Florida Horse Park

July 1 (also 8, 15, 22 and 29)

The Ocala Polo Club continues its tradition of Summer Sunset matches. When the sun goes down, the breeze kicks in and you’ll be up close to the Sport of Kings. Tailgating on the sidelines is free. This month’s match themes are the Independence Cup, Hat Day, Life’s a Beach Day, Holidays in July and the Horsepower Cup. Matches often have a charity component. Dogs on leashes are welcome. For more info, ocalapolo.com

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Appleton Museum, photo by Bruce Ackerman


Scott Springs Park

July 5 (also 12, 19 and 26)

Park staffers lead these free educational presentations and hikes. Talks are focused on native species. For more info, ocalafl.org


World Equestrian Center

July 7-9

The Citrus County Kennel Club’s annual AKC All-Breed Show will feature classes including owner handler, junior handler and Best Puppy in Show. The event is free for spectators. WEC has onsite food and beverage options. See worldequestriancenter.com for more info.


World Equestrian Center

Through July 8

Ranch horses will showcase their skills and versatility in this championship show with quarter-horse types from all over the United States competing. Classes focus on Western disciplines and include trail, versatility and cattle wrangling, with youth and senior classes, roping, ranchmanship and working cow horse. No charge for spectators. WEC has

food and drink options onsite. For more info, worldequestriancenter.com


Reilly Arts Center

July 8

This Tampa-based band covers iconic Mac hits like Rhiannon , Go Your Own Way , and Don’t Stop and includes some of Stevie Nicks’ solo hits. Get out your top hats, chiff on scarves and tall boots, and get ready to rock on. Tickets are $25-$40. See reillyartscenter.com for more info.


Reilly Arts Center

July 12-14, July 17-21

The three-day music camp is an introduction to band and orchestra instruments. Suitable for grades 3-6, students will have a chance to play each instrument. The five-day camp is for students in grades 6-12 and a studio musician will teach guitar techniques and standard chords. Snacks are included in the $100 tuition. The Community Music Conservatory sponsors these events. Scholarships are available. See reillyartscenter.com for more info and to register.

July ‘23 19

ART IN THE ATTIC Brick City Center for the Arts

July 15-22, reception July 14

The Marion Cultural Alliance has collected a variety of art items for this annual sale, which will take place July 15-22. A VIP reception on July 14 lets buyers get in early for a first look and will include bubbly and snacks, live music and some of the artists who created the works. Paintings, prints, drawings, photographs and more will be sold to raise funds for the alliance’s cultural programs. Entry for the sale is free. Online tickets for the reception are $20 for MCA members and $25 for non-members, with admission at the door $25 for all. See mcaocala.org/art-in-the-attic


Morgan’s Music Junction, Summerfield

July 15

Covering a range of genres, from Southern rock to classic and new country, Morgan and Roman will off er a night of tunes to get your toes tapping. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For more info, see morgansmusicjunction.com


Circle Square Cultural Center

July 20

With an homage to Devo and other ‘80s neoelectronic bands, this dance party is the place to wear your leg warmers and tease up your hair. The band is high-energy and will take you back to a yesteryear of MTV and Miami Vice fashions. Tickets from $25 are available from csculturalcenter.com


Belleview and Sankofa libraries

July 27

The Gentle Carousel miniature therapy horses travel the world bringing joy and inspiration to first responders, victims of trauma and others. Meet a world-famous hero horse during appearances at 10:30am at the Belleview Public Library and 3pm at the Sankofa Public Library inside the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place. See gentlecarouseltherapyhorses.com for more info.

Gentle Carousel Miniature Horses, photo by Bruce Ackerman


There are hundreds of reasons Levy County is nicknamed the “Nature Coast.” The opportunities for family-friendly fun include freshwater and saltwater recreation, beautiful parks, historic venues and fabulous seafood.

Whether you want to go snorkeling, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, walking or riding on horseback, there is a body of water or nature trail within easy access.

During Levy County’s bay scallop season, July 1 through September 24, you will see flotillas of pontoon boats and other vessels filled with family members and friends enjoying a day on the water as they snorkel for the tasty bivalves.

Freshwater snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts can explore the prehistoric underground spring known as Devils’ Den and the nearby Blue Grotto welcomes scuba divers of all experience levels.

When the summer sun is in full force, visitors to Cedar Lakes and Woods Gardens can find shade and solace in the 20-acre botanical garden that was created in an old lime rock quarry.

Boaters can navigate the salt flats along the coastline, venture into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or cruise along four inland rivers. Whether you are on board a kayak or a yacht, there is something to enjoy in these waters.

You can spend an entire day or two eating and shopping in Cedar Key. And, for history buffs, there is the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum, Shell Mound Archaeological Site and Seahorse Key Lighthouse, as well as the neighboring historic town of Rosewood, the Levy County Quilt Museum and

the Chiefland Train Depot.

Manatee Springs State Park and Fanning Springs State Park, both on the Suwannee River, offer excellent facilities for swimming. There are several county parks, such as Henry Beck and Bronson Blue Spring, which also offer amenities for picnicking and swimming.

Equine enthusiasts boast about the trail riding opportunities at the Devil’s Hammock Wildlife Management Area and Goethe State Forest.

“Levy County is a place where you can relax on the beach in Cedar Key, go snorkeling and so much more. We have great freshwater and saltwater access, plus beautiful natural springs. This is a truly wonderful place to get outside and enjoy time with nature or family,” says Tisha Whitehurst, executive director of the Levy County Visitors Bureau.

To learn more, go to visitlevy.com

Marion’s neighboring county to the west is rich in recreational opPortunities that are perfect for sumMer.

Animals Helping Others

Hobie is the oldest resident of the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as OWLS. The great horned owl once was considered a “tiger of the skies,” given her ability to exert more than 500 pounds of pressure per inch, which meant she held more power in her talons than an eagle. That was until she was caught in a trap and someone chopped off her left wing with a machete.

Hobie, who is approximately 28 years old, was rescued 20 years ago by OWLS founder and president Keith Belisle. OWLS gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2005 but taking care of animals has been part of Belisle’s heritage for centuries. He is a Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Native American and says taking care of animals is in his blood.

“When you take something, you give something,” he says. “Part of my outlook on the

animals is that humans are the cause of a lot of the injuries to wildlife, unfortunately, so if we’re taking their freedom from them, it’s only right to give them a permanent life.”

Kenneth Lane has been helping Belisle rehabilitate animals for more than 18 years. The two have rescued and provided a home for numerous animals that otherwise would have been euthanized or left to die in the wild.

“We’re set up as a citizen rescue education center, so we get calls from the local law enforcement, animal controls all over the state of Florida and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service,” Belisle notes.

The sanctuary is currently home to around 75 animals, 80 percent of which are birds.

Because of Belisle’s ancestry and the Sault Ste.

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The rescued animals at the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary sometimes are the ones helping the humans.
Kenneth Lane and Keith Belisle with Buttercup

Marie Chippewa’s status as a bloodline tribe, he is allowed to house more than two species of birds of prey since they are considered religious icons. This exception permits OWLS to offer homes to disabled birds that would otherwise have to be sent to another sanctuary or be put down due to federal restrictions.

The sanctuary features three houses on one acre, with large, spacious cages surrounding the buildings. The size of the cages varies per species and number of occupants, and they are outrigged to maximize freedom as Belisle’s top priority is the animals’ comfort and health.

“Our goal is always to provide top-notch care for the animals,” he offers. “They deserve the best home, and that’s what they’re getting here.”

The animals range from owls, parrots and macaws to box turtles, feral cats and a deer named Buttercup, who plays a unique role at the sanctuary.

“A lot of our animals are disabled for one reason or another, so it does help the calmness effect of some kids who’ve been through trauma,” Belisle shares, adding that while many of the animal encounters are therapeutic for the kids, Buttercup actually identifies kids who have been abused.

“When we have groups of kids here that are less fortunate, she can identify a kid that’s been through severe trauma—whether its emotional or physical,” he explains. “It’s nothing we’ve trained her to do. She goes back to the person.”

He recalls a poignant time when a 7-year-old girl visited the sanctuary and it was her first time experiencing any animal encounters.

“Halfway through, we learned that this girl was 100 percent blind,” Belisle continues. “When we ended up back at the front of the tour … because their senses are greater, she could tell in what direction Buttercup was, and she was in a little stroller and started walking towards Buttercup.”

Buttercup is USDA certified for emotional support, so OWLS was able to make an exception and allow the little girl to touch the deer and experience what that felt like.

Hobie also is a therapeutic presence for many abused kids. Due to federal restrictions, no one can touch birds of prey, but Belisle will let children stroke a feather shed by Hobie while they are close to her cage.

“There are some kids who are disabled and they’ve kind of related to Hobie in what happened to her and the way they are,” he says. “It kind of helps them heal.”

The Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary offers free educational programs for groups such as 4-H clubs, schools and homeschool groups, and others.

OWLS exists solely through donations. As the

number of volunteers dwindled during the pandemic, enlisting new ones—and obtaining financial support—are the sanctuary’s greatest needs.

To learn more, go to ocalawildlifesanctuary.org.

July ‘23 23 DOING GOOD
Keith Belisle with Pierre A gopher tortoise Keith Belisle with Hobie


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: Angela J. Grace & Frank J. DeLuca | Photographed by Grace Colley Photography


June 3rd, 2023

Venue: World Equestrian Center (WEC) Chapel

Photographer: Grace Colley Photography

Videography: Kaplan Media

Wedding Planner: Lizbeth Gennaro, WEC

Florist: Taylor Grace, The Graceful Gardener

Hair/makeup: Katie Gilligan, Studio Chic

Their favorite memories: “It was a very special day for us both to be surrounded by our family with much love. The entire day was beautiful but, for the groom, it was the vows and exchanging of rings. For the bride, it was the first look and walking down the aisle together.”



December 17th, 2022

Venue: College of Central Florida Vintage Farm Campus

Photographer: Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery

Florist: JBlooming Events (Jill)

Hair and makeup: Pretty ‘N Pinned (Nicci Orio)

Their favorite memory: “It would have to be seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle. We never did a first look, which gave us so much more excitement for the day.” And, Shelby adds, “If I could relive one moment, it would be to see Britt’s face when he saw me for the first time.”

July ‘23 27 VOWS


January 21st, 2023

Venue: First Baptist Church of Ocala

Photographer: Wildalys Photography

Florist: The Graceful Gardener

Hair: Brittani Tilley

Her favorite memory: “With the help of one of Zach’s groomsmen, Chris, I was able to write, record and produce an original song for our first dance and surprise Zach. It was a very emotional and intimate moment for us and created the sweetest memory. There was not a dry eye in the room!”


Ready , set Summer

the best of the season, from people in the know.

Photo by Conan Segrest of Full Line Photography

fun find the







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Photo by Dave Miller of MAVEN Photo + Film

“For the 4th of July, we take our boat out to King’s Bay to watch the fireworks. We spend as many weEkends as we can in Crystal River. they actualLy calL it ‘mini Ocala’ because on the weEkend, 90% of the people out there are from Ocala.

my favorite day or weEkend trip is going to North Beach in St. Augustine. The beach is much quieter and lesS crowded. I also love horseback riding at the canyons in Ocala.

July ‘23 31
Ben Marciano is the owner of Zone Health and Fitness. Barbara Hooper is the host of Horse Capital Television and a professional photographer.

get wet

From snorkeling or scuba diving at an ancient and enchanting underground spring and cave system to splashing with the kids at a quaint local watering hole, now is the perfect time to take advantage of one of our area’s natural wonders and we say, Go deep!

Juniper Springs Recreation Area, Silver Springs, adventureocala.com/recreation-areas

This popular site hosts a number of springs, hiking trails, a campground, picnic area and a circular swimming area surrounded by a rock retaining wall. The springs form the head of Juniper Creek, a 7-mile run that is a favorite for experienced canoers, but the narrow run is perfect for first-timers.

Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, Salt Springs, ocalamarion.com

Silver Glen is a first-magnitude spring that discharges around 65 million gallons of water a day from two vents. A swimming area with a

sandy bottom makes it popular for snorkelers. It hosts a large school of striped bass. Amenities include trails with a boardwalk, changing area, concession stand and canoe/kayak launch. Parking reservations must be made in advance on weekends and holidays; go to reserveocala.com

Lake Weir, Carney Island Park, Ocklawaha, marionfl.org

Lake Weir and Carney Island Park offer several swimming areas, a sandy beach, hiking, boat ramps, a playground, restrooms and picnic tables. Open 7am-8pm April-October, 7am-5pm NovemberMarch. The daily user fee is $7 per vehicle. No pets.

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Above: Azin Lynn Cooksey explores Devil’s Den, photographed by Alan Youngblood

Bronson Blue Springs Park, levycounty.org

This jewel of a spring offers a large swimming area with shallow and deep access as well as a platform for jumping, picnic pavilions, playground and concessions. Open daily, 10am-7pm, through August 25th. $2 per person; free ages 5 and younger.

Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon floridastateparks.org

Nearly six miles of cool, clear water make this a great spot for swimming, boating, diving and tubing. Amenities include hiking trails, pavilions and swimming area. Park hours are 8am to sunset, 365 days a year. Park entry is $2; free ages 6 and younger. Additional fees apply for tube rental and campground. The park closes when it reaches capacity, sometimes as early as 10am.

Devil’s Den, Williston, devilsden.com

This underground spring and cave system features an opening at the top, through which you can watch scuba divers and snorkelers in the crystal-clear waters below. The water temperature is a constant 72 degrees. The surface diameter is 120 feet and the maximum depth is 54 feet. All divers must be accompanied by a dive buddy and snorkelers must be good swimmers. There is a reservation system for snorkeling and a 90-minute time limit. Certified scuba divers do not need a reservation for day access.

Mill Dam Recreation Area, Silver Springs ocalamarion.com

Swimming, boating/boat ramp and picnicking (March 16-September 30); 10am to 6pm. Swim area and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. $5 per vehicle per day.

Salt Springs Recreation Area, Fort McCoy recreation.gov

A serene and shallow spring with great snorkeling and submerged algae-coated boulders reminiscent of ancient ruins. Some say the minerals in the waters preserve youth and vitality. Amenities include picnic tables, boat ramp, canoe rentals, camping by reservation, bathhouse and restrooms. Daily use fees apply.

KP Hole Park, Dunnellon, marionfl.org

This park on the Rainbow River hosts swimmers, canoeists, kayakers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Amenities include swimming, picnicking, a boat ramp, concessions and rentals of canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and inner tubes. There is a daily fee of $7 for swimming and picnicking; free for ages 5 and younger. Additional fees of $20 per diver and $20 per motorized vessel. Tube rental of $30 per person includes entry and return shuttle service from the take-out downriver. No dogs, no alcohol, no personal tubes. Open 8am to 8pm through September.

July ‘23 33
Susan Smiley-Height is the Editor In Chief of Ocala Style and a graduate of the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
As a Florida native and A mermaid, I love coOl, clear spring water. My favorite swimMing hole is Bronson Blue Springs, just west of Marion County. It’s the perfect oasis on a steamy sumMer day.





Springs State PARK.

Yvonna Baker is a counselor in the Marion County school system.


forward to getTing out on the water with family and friends in Crystal River for some scalLoping. Season opens in July and thousands of boaters go out daily on the hunt. After a long day on the water there is nothing betTer than some fresh scalLops.

Scalloping season in Citrus County runs from July 1st through September 24th. You can bring a boat of your own and purchase a saltwater fishing license or hire an experienced captain to guide you to the perfect spots. Bag limits: 2 gallons per person, 10 gallons per vessel (in-shell). Many local restaurants will cook your catch for you. For full details and participting restaurants, visit discovercrystalriverfl.com.

July ‘23 35 Photos
courtesy of Visit Florida and Visit Citrus Bryan Caracciolo of BWC Construction and Brick City Hospitality Group, which operates The Lodge, Cantina and Fat Boys BBQ in Ocala.

From the cavernous beauty at ScotT Springs to the breathtaking wildlife encounters at the Wetland Recharge Park and Silver Springs State Park, the Ocala area never ceases to amaze. When the heat becomes toO much, I head to the beach. Whether it’s a quick trip to Ormond or St. Petersburg, these coastal getaways truly make living in Florida worthwhile.


Not all beaches allow pets, but quaint Flagler Beach, just 35 miles south of historic St. Augustine and 20 miles north of Daytona Beach, welcomes our doggos with dog-friendly beaches, oceanfront dining, lodging, parks and trails. You can take your pups virtually everywhere you go—Luckily for us, it’s just a scenic 90-minute drive from downtown Ocala to Flagler.

For more info on dog friendly Florida, log on to visitfl orida.com/things-todo/pet-friendly/dog-friendly-places

Top photo by Dave Miller of MAVEN Photo + Film. At left , courtesy of Visit Flagler


culture trip



The Unscene South: Charles Eady Revisits

History, The Appleton Museum of Art

July 1–January 28, 2024

Celebrated local artist, author and educator Charles Eady uses words and images to take a deeper look into a little-known population of Blacks who lived free in the United States, long before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in this exhibition. He will be hosting gallery tours on August 5th at 11am and 2pm where visitors can learn more about the work directly from the artist. Tours will meet in the second-floor Modern & Contemporary galleries and are free as part of Free First Saturday. appletonmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-unscene-south


July 7th, 6-8pm, musician Shelby Lauren and artist Amanda Lyon collaborate at the Courtyard on Broadway.

August 4th, 6-8pm, musician Glizzy Gillespie and artist Aug Element. pair up at Juniper General Store.


Photo by Jenny E. Photography

in the Back


The Ocala Polo Club is paving the way for a new era in the local polo scene.

Photography by Bruce Ackerman Eldredge and Sissy Sugarman

While preserving polo’s traditions, the Ocala Polo Club is implementing innovative strategies to captivate a wider audience and inspire a new generation of polo enthusiasts in Marion County. The club’s fresh approach is changing perceptions, inspiring new players and captivating local audiences with a modern take on the age-old sport.

Resurrected by Dr. Lauren Proctor-Brown and her business partner David Eldredge, the Ocala Polo Club is redefining polo’s image by fostering a supportive community and curating an inclusive atmosphere that is making the sport accessible to people from all walks of life. Beyond the exciting contests on the field, the club hosts themed match days and family-friendly activities that have woven the fabric of polo into the cultural tapestry of the community.

Proctor-Brown, who operates Resolute Equine Sports Medicine, and Eldredge, a former Cornell University polo coach, are both Ocala residents.

Dormant for about 15 years, the Ocala Polo Club traces its formative roots back some 30 years. Proctor-Brown and Eldredge combined their respective passions for the sport in 2020 to revive the club just as the COVID-19 pandemic brought many sporting events to a halt. Now a member of the United States Polo Association (USPA), the governing body of the sport in the U.S., the Ocala Polo Club has a winter season that runs from December to March and a summer season from June to September. The matches are played at the Florida Horse Park in southwest Marion County.

“We’re really trying to build a community here,” says Proctor-Brown. “Even in the short time we’ve been here, the number of spectators continues to grow and they are building a community around the sport and the players are forming a community on the field. It’s a very welcoming environment. We call it horseman’s polo, it’s very Ocala, very welcoming and laid back. These are your local community members out there playing and competing on weekends, along with some professionals, which is cool.

“The summer seasons consist of mostly locals, just like the rest of the horse industry here,” she adds. “We have some transplants that are here yearround and we also have snowbirds who are here and compete only in the winter. The club is pretty young still, yet we have grown a ton since we started. There is still plenty of room if anyone is interested in getting involved and trying out the sport.”


The Ocala Polo Club has a long history in the area, although it didn’t have much of a presence locally until Proctor-Brown and Eldredge sparked its resurgence.

“There was a lot more polo here in the early 2000s,” explains Proctor-Brown, who is originally from Wisconsin and was introduced to polo while attending vet school at Cornell University, where she met Eldredge. “There were a couple of other clubs around and then this one eventually fell dormant. Ocala is horse paradise. I grew up with horses doing hunter-jumpers and eventing, and then got into polo.

“We got the club started back up in 2020,” she continues. “Not quite the perfect time to start a polo club and bring people together. Honestly, it has worked out pretty well, though. Because of the pandemic, we ended up staying in Ocala yearround that first year. Polo up north was canceled; the northern states canceled everything, including all sports events. So, we had normally gone back to New England for polo in the summer, but since it looked like there wouldn’t be anything, we stayed in Florida. We played around and dabbled with a close group of people. We played later in the day over the summer, just trying to be smart about it. We realized playing in Florida year-round isn’t that bad. It kind of blossomed from there.”

Proctor-Brown and Eldredge both play, coach and offer polo lessons. Proctor-Brown, a Division I athlete at the University of Louisville, where she attended school on a rowing scholarship, obtained a BA in Biology and a BSBA in Equine Business. From there, she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Cornell University, where she discovered polo in earnest. Her love of the game has continued to grow and today she is enjoying life in the Horse Capital of the World, where she recently bought a 15-acre farm, competes with Team Resolute on the polo field and offers veterinary services to horses of all disciplines through her business.

“When I was an undergrad at Louisville, I was rowing and they found out I could ride,” recalls Proctor-Brown. “My coach understandably told me no. When you’re on a full ride, they don’t want you getting hurt playing a different sport. So, of course, when someone tells you no, it’s like ‘Now, I want to do it.’ I went to Cornell for vet school and I ended up having my horse at the equestrian center where the polo team practiced.

“The winters are long there and, at one point, I picked up a mallet and was just messing around with my jumper and someone saw me and said, ‘I can teach you how to do that correctly.’ That someone might have been David. Once you get into it, it is a really cool horse discipline. I was a rower and that is a team sport, but in most other horse disciplines you don’t have a team. It’s just you and your horse. So, for polo, you have you and your horse, and you’re working as a team and have teammates to compete with. It’s one of the only horse disciplines where you

July ‘23 41

compete as a team. Polo marries all of it for me.”

Eldredge, who started playing polo at the age of 9 and was competing in his first game by age 10, boasts 50 years of experience playing and coaching both in arena and outdoor polo. He is recognized as an honorary certified polo instructor by the USPA and competed in intercollegiate polo for Cornell University, starting all four years and as captain of the team for three. He was the assistant coach at Cornell from 1981-85 and then served 33 years as the head coach, winning a Cornell University record 988 matches. During his tenure, Eldredge led the men’s and women’s polo to a combined 14 national titles and 37 national championship appearances. He also held his own during his professional career and gives back to the polo community by serving the USPA on arena and outdoor rules committees.

“With Ocala Polo Club, we have gotten back to what club polo really was,” Eldredge offers. “In some venues, club polo is not viewed as a positive term. I

have a different view. I grew up and learned to play in club polo. I was fortunate enough and talented enough to go on and have a professional career and become a long-time coach, but I never forgot where I came from. The essence of which is if you have one horse you are just as important as someone with 10 horses. We’re all out here for the enjoyment of the game and we’re all out here to have fun. This is a fun sport that is very addictive, and you can play it for a lifetime. I’ve known players playing well into their 70s. You can play this game from 10 years old and younger all the way up to the 70s, so it’s a lifetime sport. We have embraced that and we are trying to bring new interest and new participants to the sport.

“I was taught the game by my father who learned the game at Cornell University,” he shares. “He brought it back to the dairy farm I was raised on and he taught my brother and I to play. That’s where my passion came from. My father played at a local club and that’s where it all started for me.”

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Eldredge poses with Buffalo

Proctor-Brown adds, “When David was growing up, there were a lot of little polo clubs in small communities and they would compete against each other in the area and it was friendly low goal community polo. Then you had the high goal (polo is divided into three levels—low, medium and high goal), high level polo where all the multi-millionaires competed and that’s a different kind of game. That is major leagues versus your minor league baseball team and that’s just not inviting to bring more people in. It has also alienated a lot of people.”


According to Proctor-Brown, polo is no longer just a game for the posh and, due in part to outfits like the Ocala Polo Club, the sport is more welcoming with people of all ages and backgrounds getting involved.

“We have players from all sorts of different backgrounds,” notes Proctor-Brown. “We have people who have been casual riders their whole life, as well as people who have never ridden, and even people who have competed at a high level in various other disciplines and find polo later at a different point in their life. It’s a fun sport.

“Polo has been undergoing changes,” she continues. “The number of players has decreased, and the number of clubs has also decreased. So, we thought, let’s bring people back together and let’s build a community to compete together and have people be successful. If they are successful and move up in the ranks and go play at a high goal level, we love that, and we can all grow together. There are also a lot more women in the USPA playing polo now, so building a safe place for women where they feel they can get out there and compete and take some risks and learn a new sport and play on co-ed teams was important.”

As far as growth and expansion are concerned, the club is making great strides within the local community.

“In the summer, we do matches at 6pm after the sun begins to go down and after the storms have come through and cooled everything off,” ProctorBrown says. “In the winter, we do Sundays at 1pm, which is a typical time for Sunday afternoon polo and tailgating. It’s great.

“I think the fans love it,” she adds. “Our spectatorship has grown. When we first started, it

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Proctor-Brown hugs Dianna

was me and a couple of friends. That’s how it felt. Now, in the winter, we can fill the sideline (300 yards). We’ve really grown a lot and it’s exciting for us and we love our spectators. It makes for a fun day for people. It’s family-friendly, it’s still reasonably affordable and it’s easy to just drive up and tailgate and spend a couple of hours in the fresh air with friends. We have retired people come out who’ve never seen a horse sport in person. We see families with kids and even college students from the University of Florida.”

The Ocala Polo Club’s relationship with the Florida Horse Park is proving to be an ideal union in bringing together equestrian enthusiasts.

“The Florida Horse Park is just great,” ProctorBrown enthuses. “We love that it is multi-disciplined. We love it when we get opportunities to work with them and we like being involved in a horse community. A lot of people who play polo have done other (equestrian) disciplines in the past or currently. Some people are really involved in the racing community or involved with jumpers. Polo brings a lot of people together, and that’s what we like.

“At the Horse Park, we see different disciplines every week and we get to talk to everybody,” she adds. “You can see polo, cutters, dressage, evening and even dog shows. Ocala is amazing. You can do so many different disciplines here that you just can’t do in many other places, and you can do them at a high level here. You just can’t find that everywhere, and that’s what makes it cool.”

Eldredge adds, “When we got involved with the people at the Florida Horse Park, we struck up a very good relationship. They had one field when we got here and now we have two fields,. We are a spectator sport and we bring people in, while a lot of other disciplines are not necessarily spectator sports.”

The natural amenities found in the soil, as well as the location, make Ocala an ideal base for the club and its participants. The composition of equestrian-friendly soil can play a crucial role in providing a supportive and safe surface for horses and riders, as well as providing good drainage, adequate moisture retention, and proper footing.

“Ocala is a great location as far as polo is concerned,” Proctor-Brown says. “We can easily travel to other locations such as Aiken, South Caroline, or Wellington and Sarasota down south. Plus, we’re able to compete outside 12 months a year. In Ocala, you do have to deal with the heat but never the cold. You don’t ever have to deal with snow or mud and the fields drain very well here. We could play polo 12 months out of the year, realistically. Hopefully, in a few more years, we’ll have even more polo fields and we will be playing continuously.”

For those interested in attending a match or possibly giving polo a whirl, Proctor-Brown

suggests attending a match and sticking around after the contest to speak with the participants.

“Come out and check out a game,” she says. “We usually have a wooden horse at the field so you can check out how to swing a stroke. You can hold a mallet and see what the balls are like and meet and talk to the people involved.

“There is a little more pomp to the winter season and it’s a faster game,” she adds. “In the summer, it’s all about the locals. We get newer players on the field and train younger horses in the summer. It’s more focused on giving people opportunities and it’s a slower game. If people want to get involved, we can get you going in any direction, whether you want season passes or to get involved in lessons. We welcome everyone with open arms and that’s a beautiful thing because it’s not like that with all polo clubs.”

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Visit ocalapolo.com for tickets and more information. OCALA POLO SUMMER SCHEDULE JULY 1 Independence Cup 8 Hat Day 15 Life’s a Beach Day 22 Holidays in July 29 Horsepower Cup AUGUST 5 Throwback Day 12 Sportsmanship Cup 19 Citrus Cup 26 Super Hero Day SEPTEMBER 2 Andy Moran Memorial 9 Luck of the Irish Cup 16 Women’s Finals 23 Horseman’s Cup 30 Season Finale


Down towN

Historic downtown Ocala is brimming with history and full of new promisE.

W“hen I moved here in 1978, downtown was a ghost town,” recalls Brian Stoothoff, retired assistant chief of Ocala Fire Rescue, researcher and organizer behind the Ocala Fire Museum and a board member with Historic Ocala Preservation Society (HOPS). “Today it looks better than I’ve ever seen it.”

It’s an interesting starting point for our discussion about our city, the historical trajectory of America’s downtowns over time and the current trend in downtown revitalization that has been growing in momentum over the past two decades. Ocala is a prime example of a downtown that has weathered significant periods of decline but is growing in encouraging ways.

The American downtown has long been a symbol of idealized unity, a public place we can all share in, a place of interaction and connection, a place for community gatherings and where we can assemble to be seen and heard during the times of division and disconnection in our community and the world. At its very core, it is a place that represents our collective history and civic pride.

In her book Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It, Alison Isenberg says, “Downtown America was once the vibrant urban center

July ‘23 47

romanticized in a Petula Clark song. But in the second half of the 20th century, “downtown” became a shadow of its former self, succumbing to economic competition and commercial decline. And the death of Main Streets across the country came to be seen as sadly inexorable, like the passing of an aged loved one.”

Which brings up an interesting question. Why doesn’t Ocala have a Main Street? The answer is that during the 1960s, old Main Street was renamed 1st Avenue during the conversion to the new quadrant system of giving streets numbers in place of street names.

While we no longer have a Main Street, we do have Ocala Main Street (OMS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supporting downtown and midtown Ocala businesses. The program is an accredited member of the Florida Main Street and Main Street America programs, which exist all over the country and follow the same four-point approach: organization, promotion, design and economic vitality of the main street’s district.

“Our geographic footprint spans from the

S-Curve to the Reilly, and 301 to Watula Avenue, so OMS focuses our initiatives and programs within that area. We provide contract services with the city of Ocala since our district is the same as the city’s community redevelopment area,” explains Executive Director Jessica Fieldhouse. “Our focus over the next few years is to create connectivity within the district by activating the OTrak and underutilized public spaces, connecting key destinations of the district, as well as create a place-based district by creating a livable downtown that celebrates art, historic preservation and Ocala’s unique assets.”

OMS is working to rebrand the three distinct zones of the OMS district, “which are downtown, midtown and Tuscawilla Park,” Fieldhouse shares. “When someone is in one of those zones, we want them to know exactly where they are from the branded pole banners to the colors on the crosswalks, benches and even the trashcans. We believe that creating gateways into the different areas will not only add to the sense of place, but also create visual distinction from downtown to midtown to Tuscawilla. We hope to have the downtown zone rolled out by July, as Ocala Main Street is hosting this year’s Preservation on Main Street state conference, an annual event co-organized by the Florida Main Street and Florida Trust for Historic Preservation that brings together preservationists to illustrate that historic preservation and economic revitalization are interconnected.”

According to the 2021 documentary, Downtown: A New American Dream, a significant number of people are moving back into America’s downtowns looking for a new way of living. The film’s director, Andrew R. Cline, Ph.D., describes it as “New Urbanism and the re-imagining of urban centers across the US.”

This cultural trend has certainly also been on the rise in Ocala, where, over several decades, forces combined to make the downtown district less desirable and less populated, as Stoothoff first observed. This was not unique to Ocala. The Great Depression hit America’s metropolitan areas with a brute force. Most historians link the downfall of America’s downtowns to subsidized government economic recovery programs introduced in the late 1940s to encourage home ownership through suburban developments of mass-produced houses, on affordable land, acquired through low-cost loans that lured middle- and working-class families away from cities. Also at play was the rise of the automobile industry, which relentlessly promoted the use of private automobiles and the massive highway projects that tore through downtown areas, so all those newly minted suburbanites had a place to drive those automobiles. As this huge

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We want to highlight and celebrate all the uniqueness that our city has to offer.
- Jessica Fieldhouse
“ ”
This page: photo by Dave Miller of MAVEN Photo + Film. Previous spread: photo by Bruce Ackerman

exodus was occurring, residents and businesses who remained in urban areas saw their communities crumble. Many downtowns continued to decline for decades and never recovered.

In his film, Cline highlights the trend of many Americans, and specifically Millennials and Boomers, who are trading their cars and lawns for “a vibrant urban place where they can walk to the important destinations of life.” This growing trend of those seeking a downsized and sustainable way of life, which downtowns can provide, are moving back to revitalized small and mid-sized cities, which in turn is feeding their revitalization.

This kind of growth does not come without its challenges as cities struggle to scale and accommodate these growing urban populations and visitors descending on these districts to join in the vibrant scene downtown. And with a series of new downtown condo projects being discussed, the notion of Ocala becoming an urban oasis could soon be a reality. If we can only find a place for all those people to park—an issue that has been a stumbling point for the district for decades.

Stoothoff moved to Ocala from New York to attend college and enjoy the Florida weather. Over his time living in the community, he has become a devoted steward of its history. Perhaps it was his connection to fire that made him a match for Ocala, considering its history is inextricably linked to a devastating blaze—but we’re not quite at that part of our story yet.

Stories of local happenings, past and present, are a bit of an obsession for many Ocalans. There is an abundance of people from various birthplaces, vocations and backgrounds who now relish in uncovering and celebrating every little detail they can about Ocala’s rich history. From publishers and business owners to artists and musicians, each carry a bit of that history and have become passionate storytellers and amateur historians. I include myself among those ranks. After several years of ferreting out details about historic whiskey men and trailblazing women, I am still excited to chase down obscure details and ghosts of the past.

But the most prominent steward of Marion County’s history is the late, great journalist and historian David Cook. His research actually began when he was a student at Ocala High School. Cook not only knew all the stories, but he shared them with great aplomb. He is as important to the history of our community as any landmark building or artifact and his dispatches under the title “The Way It Was” for the Ocala Star-Banner (over 2,000 articles during a 35-year period) and the books that represent his dedication to the subject will ensure the stories remain alive for future generations.

Big Picture

The first residents of what is now Marion County were the Native American Timucua (tee-MOOqua) tribe. Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto observed that their territory stretched throughout Central Florida and one of their largest villages and chiefdoms was situated between the East and West coasts, in the vicinity of present-day Ocala. The original name was a source of some confusion and various versions, including Ocali, Ocale, Ocaly and even Cale were reported by visitors. This may have been an early signal of a mild identity crisis, as even after settling on Ocala as the name for the modernday city, it has had as many as five monikers over the years. Whatever the original spelling, the name is believed to mean “Big Hammock” in the Timucua language. It is still used today and there is both a local brewery and race series that bear the name.

In the 1820s, during the Second Seminole War, the land became the site of a military outpost called Fort King that was used to repel incursions by Seminoles. It became a bustling hub for new settlers, as six military roads from all over Florida converged there. The fort was abandoned after the Seminole threat died down in the early 1840s and the settlers scrapped it for building materials. The creation of Marion County was recorded on March 14, 1844, and, in 1846, Ocala was appointed the county seat. One section was designated as a “public square” and was earmarked as the site of the first courthouse. Other plots were auctioned off and the first buildings included a store, a boardinghouse and the city’s first private

Photo by Barbara Hooper

residence. By 1847, a post office had been built and the city’s streets were being formally laid out. The settlement was described as having “the look of a rough-and-tumble frontier outpost, with dusty, unpaved streets.”

Ocala was officially incorporated in 1869, but the Civil War would bankrupt and nearly decimate the city—the population dropping from about 600 to 200 residents. But the city fought its way back and eventually became one of the most prosperous in Central Florida. By the early 1880s, “Ocala had become the largest commercial and trading point in the interior of the state,” according to the book Ocali Country – Kingdom of the Sun. Of course, it wasn’t called that yet. This particular moniker was the invention of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, first coined as the county’s slogan in a chamber publication in 1925. You can still find historic postcards and brochures bearing the

slogan for sale online. The idea was a phrase to promote Ocala’s “beautiful, year-round weather, warm mild winters, abundance of sunshine and agricultural development.”

The area quickly became the hub of a rapidly growing state, with sugarcane, tobacco, turpentine, cotton, rice, citrus, cattle and timber becoming important sources of revenue. The city consisted of a sprawling 80 blocks around a public square, with mostly wooden structures ranging from homes and businesses to hotels. The arrival of the railroad guaranteed that all of the area’s crops would reach larger markets and helped establish Ocala as a destination for travelers drawn here by advertisements professing the “health benefits” of the climate.

But on Thanksgiving Day in 1883, tragedy struck and Ocala was devastated by a fire that began in the city’s center and quickly spread. The inferno consumed buildings over an area of about five blocks and claimed the courthouse, five hotels and the principal businesses on the east side of the city. After nearly two decades of growth, the community was facing a hard road to recovery. But in a literal “rising from the ashes” scenario, Ocala’s downtown district was quickly rebuilt using materials like iron, stone and brick, instead of lumber. Which brings us to the third and most enduring moniker: Brick City.

The swift rebuilding of the city, fueled by investors, taking advantage of actual “fire sale” prices, was heralded as a rebirth and the reconstruction was completed by 1888. The population had risen to 2,904 at the end of the decade.

This Thanksgiving Day marks the 135th anniversary of the fire. Each year, the city holds an annual celebration that blankets downtown with a blazing canopy of lights that one local journalist reported looks to be “lit as if by flames” and has the “ironic title” Light Up Ocala. The event was first held on Friday, November 30th, 1984—exactly 101 years and one day after the fire of 1883. This year, the kickoff will be on Saturday, November 18th.

Making Moves

By the 1880s and 1890s, Black Ocala residents rose to prominence as successful merchants in the city, owning and operating a number of downtown businesses. Blacks also held key roles like Treasurer, Tax Collector and member of the Board of Aldermen. Black residents also led the way in such fields as medicine, banking and technology. By 1914, Black residents of Ocala and the surrounding areas were said to be the most prosperous Blacks in the South. They owned most of the businesses on West Broadway, from Magnolia Avenue to

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16th Avenue, as well as the majority of businesses on Magnolia Avenue from Broadway south to 10th Street and on South Main Street. Locals referred to the area as Black Wall Street.

That’s Entertainment

The 1920s brought a mixed bag of developments. Movies began to be filmed in the city, including The New Klondike in 1925, which was about the great Florida land boom that had inspired optimism in Ocalans and progress in terms of public works projects and private development. The boom itself failed to have a significant impact on Ocala, but the film industry was putting the city in the right frame. Newspapers as far away as Washington, D.C., ran articles on productions and two legendary talents, W.C. Fields and Louise Brooks, were soon in residence making the silent movie The Old Army Game. The film was the sixth to be made in Marion County by that point and it gave locals hope that Ocala might become the Hollywood of the East. In one of his columns, Cook reported, “The Marion County Chamber of Commerce was fired with new ambition to turn Ocala into ‘The Keystone City.’”

And while that particular nickname didn’t take off, and the building of a film production hub here did not happen, hundreds of movies and TV shows have been made in Marion County. Even Elvis drove locals to previously unseen heights of distraction when he filmed part of Follow That Dream in downtown Ocala in 1961.

Changes Afoot

Following the stock market crash of 1929, the city experienced financial troubles. Independent merchants struggled to stay in business and faced competition from chain stores.

And while recovery from the economic hardships of the Depression was slow, by 1940, more buildings were being built in Ocala’s business district than at any time in nearly half a century, including downtown’s iconic movie palace The Marion Theatre, which may be Ocala’s most photographed downtown building and is an enduring symbol of the optimism of that period.

Unfortunately, the time also marked a phase when grand historic buildings had what was deemed “meaningless ornamentation” removed to make them feel more modern. Many of the brick facades that had defined the city were altered with stucco or cement in favor of mid-century styling. Some of the older, landmark buildings were even torn down to make way for more contemporary architecture. “Brick City” references began to fade during this time.

A few years earlier, in 1936, Carl Rose established Rosemere Farm, the first thoroughbred operation in Marion County, beginning Ocala/Marion County’s thoroughbred industry. When Florida-bred Needles

July ‘23 51

won the Kentucky Derby in 1956, it put Ocala on the map as a major player in the horse breeding game.

The fifth moniker, “Horse Capital of the World,” grew out of that success and was established in 2001 when The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association trademarked “Ocala/Marion County: Horse Capital of the World.”

A “Walk of Champions” that highlights some of the most famous equine champions from the area is coming to downtown in late summer/early fall. The Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership has been working with the FTBOA and the Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau on placing 24 bronze plaques on the sidewalks both in front of Mark’s Prime Steakhouse and the Hilton Garden Inn on the square.

A Turning Point

In 1965, “Courthouse Square” became just another square when a wrecking ball leveled Ocala’s beloved 1906 courthouse—the final of three that had once occupied the space, based on the city’s original plan. Its massive clock and bell were removed and are now on display in the lobby of the current courthouse. It was just the latest in the losses, but it signaled entry into a period that would be marked by a lack of vision and a series of well-intentioned missteps.

Downtown Ocala had suffered more than just

a loss of history—it was losing its purpose. Cook chronicled that, by 1967, Ocalans were proposing drastic action to save the downtown commercial area from what he called “accelerating decline as more businesses moved into outlying shopping centers.” One of the possibilities was building a mall downtown, another proposal was for an underground parking garage to serve existing businesses and perhaps stimulate new commercial activity. But these projects were deemed wrong for the district and too costly. And still, even the remaining merchants felt they could not continue to do business downtown without a solution to the parking problem.

But things would need to get worse before they got better. And it would take until the 1980s for the district to get back on track. In 1980, HOPS was established and has since saved dozens of historic properties from demolition and helped pave the way for revitalization. One of their first steps was to work on the creation of a replica of the original 1880s bandstand, often called “the gazebo,” that now serves as the centerpiece of the downtown square, as well as a symbol of Ocala’s history.

Over the course of several decades, the community, the city and some visionary business leaders worked together to chart a steady climb toward reestablishing downtown as a place that was full of promise. There was renewed interest in the restoration of treasured buildings and strategies to attract businesses and patrons back downtown, with places like Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille bringing new energy to a familiar old haunt when it took over the space in 1987.

52 ocalastyle.com

In recent years, a lot of that progress was made by getting back in touch with Ocala’s storied past and leaning into a distinctive vintage-modern, sophisticated yet rustic aesthetic that ties venues like Ivy on the Square, Harry’s, Brick City Southern Kitchen and the Anti Monopoly Drug Store speakeasy into a story that is bigger than any one business but speaks to Ocala’s rich history. On the other side of the coin, there are places that have a distinct vibe of their own, from Bank Street Patio Bar and Sayulita Taqueria to The Tipsy Skipper and The Courtyard on Broadway.

Today, downtown is a charming, walkable area that is home to an eclectic blend of shops, restaurants, coffee houses and lounges, hotels, professional offices, salons and antique stores. It also has an impressive number of public art projects and murals, as well as being a venue for regular street festivals and public events. The square serves as a popular gathering place and the gazebo often hosts live music performances.

On The Rise

The city has lots of exciting changes on the way. There are several new hotel projects that have been creating buzz, most notably the renovation of the historic Marion Sovereign Building (once home to the Marion Hotel), which local philanthropists and developers David and Lisa Midgett are transforming into a boutique hotel with high-end amenities and a rooftop bar.

Like many historic downtown buildings, the 1927 Mediterranean Revival hotel fell into disrepair in the 1970s and ’80s. The facade will be “restored and repaired” to bring back its original grandeur. The hotel is projected to open by Christmas of 2024.

There also will be a second public parking garage constructed at the current site of the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church on Southwest 3rd Avenue.

And there will be even more great eats on offer with a new spate of eagerly awaited restaurants including District Bar & Kitchen and Mellow Mushroom opening.

The evolution of downtown is not the full story of Ocala’s origin or growth, but it is an integral part of the tale and the city’s historic square is at its heart. You can’t walk the streets of downtown and not marvel at the history, observe the progress the community has made in establishing a vibrant destination for visitors, be inspired by the current efforts at revitalization and feel the excitement for what is on the horizon.

So, if you haven’t lately, just like that old song says, you should “go downtown—everything’s waiting for you.”

July ‘23 53

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


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

El Toreo

3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala (352) 694-1401 › 7 days 11a-10p

SR 200, Ocala (352) 291-2121 › 7 days 11a-11p

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

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

24 SE 1st Avenue, Ocala

(352) 840-0900 › hookedonharrys.com

Mon-Thu 11a-9p › Fri & Sat 11a-10p › Sun 11a-8p

Through September 24, 2023


Paintings, photographs, prints and more from the permanent collection that celebrate summer in Florida.

Appleton Museum, Artspace and Store

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

Available June 1 – July 31 Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every
$4 Draft Beer $5 House
Premium Cocktails $6 Super
Wine &
Premium &
Harry’s Signature Cocktails
Cajun Redfish & Crawfish Risotto
Dine-in or take out available
COLLEGE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA -an equal opportunity college-


Ocala Cooks

a traditional meal of goat curry at home

Pria Nanda Persaud prepares with her daughter Ava, who is a Cambridge AICE student, avid golfer and soccer player and will be a junior in the fall at Belleview High School. Photo by Bruce Ackerman

Pria Nanda Persaud has lived in Ocala since 2002 with her husband, three daughters and their dog. She works in finance and supports several charitable causes. She and her husband spend their weekends cooking with their girls. “We’re food enthusiasts. We like to travel and explore new foods. We recreate some of those foods, adding our own flair,” she says. “We enjoy inviting friends and family over to enjoy our various creations. Cooking together has become a family tradition, which I’m sure our daughters will continue.”

Goat Curry

3 pounds bone-in goat

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of ground clove

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 cup of curry powder

1/4 cup of garam masala

1/4 cup of ground geerah (cumin)

Roughly chopped scallions (set aside)

Green Seasoning

5 to 6 cloves of fresh garlic

1 medium yellow onion, cut in 4 pieces

1 whole hot wiri wiri or habanero pepper

Top of 1 head of scallions, cut in half

Soak the meat in the milk for 5 minutes, drain off excess liquid and wash thoroughly. After the goat has been washed and drained again, place in a bowl and cover.

Blend all ingredients for the Greeen Seasoning together with a little bit of water. Then add the dried

ingredients and blend well to create the curry paste.

Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add in the curry paste and fry, occasionally stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes. Then add goat to pot, mix well and fry for about an additional 10 minutes.

Add enough water to cover the goat, bring a boil and then lower the stove to simmer and let cook for 25 to 35 minutes.

Remove from stove and garnish with fresh chopped scallions.

Prepare 2 cups of cooked white rice and place in a bowl, so guests can help themselves.

Serve with a vegetable (as shown) or a side salad. I also like to offer my homemade wiri wiri or habanero pepper sauce on the side.

To be featured in Ocala Cooks, send us an email at editorial@magnoliamediaco.com


Thomas Fieldhouse is a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder who loves to encourage others to become the best versions of themselves. Being a father to two beautiful girls, he strives to set an example of being active and healthy for his family. “As a busy dad, I like to make meals that are delicious, adaptable and healthy. Cooking for myself as a body builder can be challenging because my wife and two little girls don’t want to eat plain brown rice and chicken every night. This taco bowl is my go-to for something the whole family will love while keeping true to my goals. It doesn’t hurt that it is also super easy to meal prep, keeps well in the fridge and tastes great for days after you first prepare it.”

Taco Bowl

3 cups rice, cooked

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey

Packet of taco seasoning or 4 tablespoons of Flavor

God “Taco Tuesday” seasoning.

1/3 cup cilantro, reserve a pinch or two for garnish

1 lime, reserve half for garnish

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can whole corn, drained and rinsed

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Cook the rice as instructed. If you’re tight on time or wanting to prep the recipe ahead of time, you can purchase steam-in-bag brown rice in the frozen foods section of your grocery store.

Heat the oil in a pan while you peel and then slice the onion into thin pieces.

Cook down the onions until they are translucent. Add in minced garlic until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.

Brown the ground beef or turkey in a large skillet.

Add the taco seasonings, mix and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and drain off excess oils and fat.

Mix chopped cilantro and juice from half a lime to the cooked and fluffed rice.

Serve the ground beef/turkey mixture over the cilantro, lime rice in individual bowls.

Top with black beans, corn and grated cheese.

Garnish with excess cilantro and limes.

July ‘23 57
be featured in Ocala
send us an email at editorial@magnoliamediaco.com LIVING

Courtney Roberts Pickerrell is a lifelong equestrian and entrepreneur, who, along with her husband Joe, owns and operates Protea Weddings & Events, a stunning special events venue on the site of the old Cashel Stud Farm (one of the very first thoroughbred race horse farms in Ocala) and also Pick View Farm, where they break, train, and sell racehorses in the 2-year-olds in training sales. She shares that one of her favorite recipes is “a really yummy chicken casserole dish I like to cook.”

Chicken Crescent Almondine Casserole

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can sliced water chestnuts (drained), sliced in halves or quarters

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 can mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup celery, diced

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup sweet onion, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Casserole Topping

1 package of crescent rolls

1/2 stick butter

2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup sliced almonds

Mix casserole ingredients together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until it is bubbly, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Once bubbly, remove casserole from oven and open the package of crescent rolls. Lay pieces of the rolls on top and then cover the dough with cheddar cheese and sprinkle almonds on top. Melt butter and pour over toppings.

Place dish back in oven until the top is browned and crispy.

To be featured in Ocala Cooks, send us an email at editorial@magnoliamediaco.com



My husband, son and daughter have been so supportive of my dreams, goals and career (and the long hours I work). I appreciate them more than they know. And as of a few months ago, I now have a beautiful granddaughter to spoil!


Florida Public Relations Association

Devon Chestnut



Devon is a native Ocalan and the Corporate Communications Manager at Cox Communications. She is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association and serves on the board of Pace Center for Girls - Marion.

As a remote employee, I spend much of my time on video calls. It’s important to show up as my best version, even online. I use a ring light as my primary light source in my home office. It ensures that my appearance on camera is clear, crisp and professional.


It’s essential to surround yourself with others working in your chosen field. It’s a surefire way to enhance your knowledge, share insights and develop valuable relationships. 3 5

This is my go-to fragrance and the only perfume I wear. It’s a warm floral with key notes of orange, patchouli and Turkish rose.

Tumi Backpack

I travel a lot for work and could not live without my Tumi backpack. It’s stylish and has a place for everything. Whether zipping through the airport or walking around the corporate office in Atlanta, I always get compliments on it.


I’m an advocate for having a good skincare regimen. Morning and night, I follow a 10-Step skincare process. This Vitamin C serum is one of my favorites. Full of potent antioxidants, it helps fight the damage caused by our beautiful, sunny state.

Let’s Eat Fresh Their spanakopita is to die for and I can’t get enough of their spinach dip.

Yes, I’m part of the Peloton cult and it has been one of the best investments I’ve made. Whether I’m completing a 30-minute Pop Ride with Ally Love or a 5-minute stretch with Sam Yo, I feel energized and have a sense of accomplishment.

July ‘23 59

Our Historic Neighbor

The charming village of Cedar Key sits on the Gulf of Mexico a little more than an hour’s drive from Ocala. This is a small working fi shing village with beautiful scenery, a slow pace, great food, and museums and archaeological sites that share the area’s rich history.

The islands that now make up Cedar Key were originally settled by Native Americans thousands of years ago. Prehistoric village sites show a heavy reliance on seafood and include mounds of shellfish remains from ancient meals. There are interesting exhibits and artifacts at both the Cedar Key Museum State Park on the northern tip of the island and the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum, which is located downtown.

To visit an ancient site, stop by the Shell Mound archaeological site just north of town. It includes picnic areas, a small pier, a boat ramp that is ideal for small skiffs and kayaks, and a walking trail with excellent interpretive panels that allow visitors to see the shell mounds up close.

“Modern” settlement arrived here in 1842 in the form of a U.S. Army fort and depot on what is now Atsena Otie Key (which is the island that sits closest to today’s commercial waterfront). Cedar Key was incorporated in 1869 and, at that time, the town existed on both Atsena Otie Key and the present location. Industries included fishing, harvesting oysters, turpentine production, palmetto fiber brush manufacturing and boat building.

60 ocalastyle.com
Photos by Pat Bonish at Bonish Photography The historic lighthouse on Seahorse Key off Cedar Key
Just west of Marion County is Cedar Key, where a visit can take you back to Old Florida.

The railroad arrived in 1861, connecting the Gulf to the Atlantic at Fernandina. Cedar Key grew into a major 19th century port and rail terminus. After the Civil War, business boomed with ships and trains opening the island up to the world. Travelers and cargo could arrive by rail, then board a ship with regular routes to Pensacola, Galveston, New Orleans, several ports in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba and Venezuela.

In 1884, however, Henry Plant completed a rail line to Tampa that soon eclipsed Cedar Key as a port. Then, in 1896, the “No. 4 Hurricane” devastated the town and resulted in the abandonment of Atsena Otie Key. The two events limited future growth but helped create the quiet village we know today.

Modern industries in Cedar Key include commercial clamming, tourism and recreational fi shing. Visitors fi nd beautiful scenery, endless boating and fi shing options, world class birding, eco-tourism, seafood restaurants and a handful of unique shops and galleries. The Cedar Keyhole Artist’s Co-op Gallery features works by local artists, such as fi ne paintings, sculpture, pottery, turned wood and more.

Nature hikes nearby include the Cemetery

Point Boardwalk and Trestle Trail. Two major annual events, the seafood festival in October and the art festival in April, are well attended and worth a visit (but expect a crowd).

An online search lists plenty of options for private rental properties, from modest to expansive homes with waterfront views. Unique accommodations can be found at the historic Island Hotel, established in 1859, which includes a restaurant and the quaint Neptune Bar. The waterfront restaurants along Dock Street include plenty of dining options (the author’s favorite being 83 West & 29 North) with some of the freshest seafood in town.

Whether you visit for one day or several, Cedar Key is part of Old Florida that should not be missed. Learn more at cedarkey.org or stop into the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce on 2nd Street in the heart of town.

Scott Mitchell is a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center, located at 1445 NE 58th Ave., Ocala, inside the Silver River State Park. Museum hours are 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the park is $2 per person; free ages 6 and younger. To learn more, go to silverrivermuseum.com.

July ‘23 61 LIVING
Paddling in the Gulf

The Schlenkermobile

Fact is, Thor—despite his beep-beep vibe and Matchbox styling—is a complete badass.

Thor Schlenker is a 13-year-old MINI Cooper, the latest and most interesting vehicle in the family fleet. While Thor is faster than any car I have ever owned, including a ’92 Camaro, he is not a testosterone-soaked midlife crisis. He is a tiny shoebox of energy, a six-speed chunk of joy with a dashboard that looks like London’s Big Ben and a fuel-efficient engine that enjoys a hefty gulp of gas with every push of the clutch.

He is fun. And he is mine.

Long story short: I needed a used car after our youngest daughter took my beloved VW Beetle to college. I bought that Beetle literally two hours after I accepted my current job at Duke Energy. It replaced a gasping Toyota with a colony of ants living in the engine. I adore VW Beetles—this was my third—but when Caroline left for college, I knew this one had an important new purpose.

“Lennon” the Beetle (pride swells when your daughter names her car after John Lennon) now sports cutesy retro floor mats and stuffed animals. There was talk of throw pillows in the backseat. I can’t bring myself to look.

The girly trappings accent what many already know: The VW Beetle is widely considered a chick car, as in a small, cute car that, at one time, came equipped with a flower vase next to the steering wheel.

But I love the look and lore of VW Beetles (old

and new) and have long argued that its feminine trappings do not outweigh its cultural significance. Lennon never had a flower vase, and I bristled every time someone said, “Hey, cute car.”

Cute. I have been fighting that word for years, particularly with the Beetles (two of which did have flower vases). Our first Beetle was pastel green and seemed to smile with perky adorableness.

The heart wants what the heart wants, so I drove those Beetles with guttural pride. With the last Beetle off to college, though, I did crave something with a little more hair on its chassis—a truck or Jeep or tractor or anything not subject to wedgies.

I needed something to carry the firewood I’ll never cut, haul the boat I’ll never buy, tow the camper I’ll never use because, well, God invented air-conditioning.

I love cars. I covet them shamelessly at stop lights. I know nothing about their innards, but I know what I like.

And, apparently, I like cute cars.

I fell for Thor the MINI Cooper as soon as I saw him on the side of the road with a For Sale sign. It wasn’t a Jeep or Monster Truck. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie, all European and cocky.

It felt right.

Cute car? Fine, yeah. Whatever.

Just know Thor is fast, dark green (no pastels) and likes Tom Petty tunes in his CD player. He was built before Bluetooth stereos. Like I said: Badass.

62 ocalastyle.com LIVING

Gardening by the Book(s)

Now is a good time to take a break from the heat and get inspired with these great reads.

When you’ve done some of your big and small gardening projects this summer, take a load off and put your feet up for a bit with a gardening book in hand. You’ll get inspired and energized with The Zen of Florida Gardening by Lucy Tobias and Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida by Ginny Stibolt and Melissa Markham. All three are Floridabased authors, and the advice they offer is specific to the peninsula, which has an array of gardening zones.

If you’re looking for mellow, quiet and zen in your garden, former Ocalan Lucy Tobias, now based in Sarasota, has written a book filled with stories of people, places and projects for the garden. First, she showcases cool plant people including Marc C. Minno, who wrote one of the bibles of butterfly gardening, Florida Butterfly Gardening: A Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying and Enjoying Butterflies. Minno started his fascination with butterfl ies in childhood. Another local plant person she profi les is former Florida Gov. Buddy MacKay. When he retired and the family moved from “town” here in Ocala down to their lake house in Ocklawaha in 1989, MacKay carefully dug up all the azaleas and camellias in his garden and took them along. (The Ocala Camellia Society, of which I am a member, was allowed to tour that property in February of 2021. The 2+ acres were abloom with dozens of camellias planted and tended under the oak trees that lined the driveway. It was gorgeous!)

July ‘23 63 LIVING

Tobias also highlights gardening places, with more than 30 listings, and her reviews of Florida botanical gardens, butterfly gardens, specialty nurseries and more. One of my own hidden gem favorites is included in the book— the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens and Nursery in Spring Hill. Few folks know about this little jewel just off U.S. 19. It’s set on 3.5 acres and boasts a variety of gardens, like the Asian garden, a butterfly garden, a secret garden and a charming pond and waterfall with a running train track around it.

The projects section of the book offers inspiring ideas as well, including a profile of a renowned homeowner in The Villages who planted his entire yard with Floridafriendly plants and inspired neighbors to do the same. Tobias is also enthused about rain barrels, helping birds and bees with housing, and loves labyrinths. The book ends with a great resource list of apps, websites and online sites about gardening.

Another inspiring read is the recently released, Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida. Authors Stibolt and Markham have really granular advice for Florida gardeners. They point out that the state has seven hardiness zones, and that “Most vegetable gardening books (organic or not) are of little use in Florida because the rules are different here, and furthermore, the rules in Pensacola are different from those in Miami.” Amen!

A 110+ page chapter is devoted

to Florida’s vegetables and they offer alphabetical listings with great details about regions where the plant does best and ratings of easy, moderate, difficult or not recommended. For example, garlic is rated as easy in north Florida, but moderately difficult in central and south Florida. Celery is rated as difficult throughout the state because of the shortness of our winters.

The book has terrific full-color photos. The authors also emphasize having a holistic attitude about your ecosystem and the role all types of gardening play in supporting insects, butterflies, crawlies and birds. They advise, “It’s best to work with the natural checks and balances of predatory and prey organisms, especially if you’re using organic methods.” They loathe the idea of monoculture lawns filled with pesticides and bug zappers that kill necessary insects. A helpful appendix offers a month-bymonth calendar to help you plan your tasks, plantings and harvests for the year. Consider taking a break this month and hit the pages instead of the dirt. The Zen of Florida Gardening is available from Sea Aster Press, seaasterpress.gumroad.com, $19.95. Her website is lucytobias.com. Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida is available from University Press of Florida, bookstores and online sources, $29.95. The website is upf.com.

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

64 ocalastyle.com
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