W - Jhalon breakaway

ALEX HART/Alachua County Today

Jhalon Walker in front of a race to the end zone during the championship game. His team, the Newberry Panthers, defeated Alachua.

NEWBERRY – The bright lights were on and shining down on a chilly field for the championship round of the four-to-seven year old flag football league in Newberry Tuesday night, Nov. 19.

The tournament began last Thursday, with 10 teams from around Alachua County. Teams from Waldo, Newberry, Alachua, Gainesville and Bronson participated, said Damon Messina, assistant recreation director for the City of Alachua.

The second final of the doubleheader on Tuesday matched the Alachua Ninjas up with the Newberry Panthers, who would prove to be victorious, in Division One.

The atmosphere was electric as the athletes left it all out on the field, hoping to bring their team and fans the glory they came for.

Coming into the game, the star player for the Panthers was Jhalon Walker, and Newberry was counting on him to have a big game to deliver a championship. He and his fellow runners out of the Newberry backfield had to outrush a stable of playmakers on the Ninjas’ side to prevail in this one. And they were up to the task.

Newberry jumped out to a one-touchdown lead, after a close game in the beginning. Then Walker broke a run to the outside and scampered down the sideline on his way to a touchdown to extend his team’s lead even more just before the break.

Coming out in the second half, the Ninjas moved the ball with ease against the Newberry defense, relying on a running attack. However, the team was unable to punch it in for a score from just outside the goal line, and in turn, missed an opportunity to cut into the Panther’s lead.

When Newberry received the ball back, there was little more than five minutes left to play. They ran two plays and then were called for an offside penalty, giving the ball back to the Ninjas, who once again had life.

Alachua continued to mix their running attack and drive down the field to draw the game back to one score. Then, just as he had done earlier in the game, safety Jhalon Walker made a play that could have easily broken the heart of every Ninja at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex.

As the Alachua quarterback looked to hook-up with one of his receivers for a late touchdown, Walker stepped in front of the pass and made the game-sealing interception. But not only did he get the takeaway, he ran it straight up the middle all the way back to the house, and all but assured his team’s victory.

“He’s been doing that for us all year long,” Panthers coach Mike Gilliam said. “It did not surprise me one bit that he came up with a big play there in the end as well.”

With Newberry up 26-8 and the game in hand, Alachua handed the ball off to the youngest of the competitors, just 2-years-old, to finish the game. This got the crowd going right before the final whistle blew, signaling the end of the season, and the beginning of the Panthers celebration.

The teams lines up at midfield and shook hands, congratulating each other on a great season, and then Newberry prepared to receive their championship trophy and medals.

The parents and fans from Newberry cheered loudly for their champions, and the side from Alachua joined in as well, showing their support. The kids joined their coach for a team picture, and with wide smiles in victory, held their hands up to show they were number one.

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ALACHUA – Three multipurpose fields are coming to the city of Alachua, intended to provide recreation for locals as well as draw in tourism to the town. Now, the city is looking at what to call the new complex, and the name could mean money for Alachua.

The fields, totaling around 25 acres, will be located near the Hal Brady Recreation Complex. The City of Alachua is looking for a partner to help sell the naming rights for the three fields to help cut down on construction costs.

So far, the city has received two proposals.

Team Services, LLC and Premier Partnerships Inc. are the two companies interested in the naming battle. Team Services, LLC offered $10,000, while Premier Partnerships Inc. has proposed $15,000.

The city is looking to choose Premier Partnerships Inc. because of their expertise in naming rights and revenue and sales strategy.

The firm would help the city find a corporate sponsor to buy the rights to name the complex.

At the Monday, Nov. 18 Alachua City Commission meeting, the commission voted unanimously to pursue the idea of selling the naming rights.

“Project Legacy,” as it’s called, began three years ago when the city bought 100 acres of land after receiving a $500,000 grant.

In 2010, the city commission authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement for the purchase of land near the Hal Brady Recreation Complex, so long as none of the money came from the city’s general fund.

The grant for the project came from the Alachua County Tourist Development Council, and was paid for by the tax on motel and hotel rooms.

The deal came with some conditions, though.

As part of the agreement, after a three-year “ramping up” period, the city will be required to host at least six events each year, lasting at least two consecutive days, featuring at least 20 teams competing.

A major draw of the fields could be lacrosse tournaments, with lacrosse being the fastest-growing sport in the country and in Florida, said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari. However, the area would be used for several sports and events, including soccer, football and cheerleading competitions, he said.

The city hopes that the impact of the project will boost local businesses economically as well as provide a place for young athletes to engage in their sport of choice.

Construction for the complex should be finished by Jan. 1, 2015.

Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., was happy with the idea that the city may have a new recreation epicenter, without costing the taxpayer’s money.

“I’m excited,” he said.

City Commissioner Robert Wilford said the multipurpose fields were important to the citizens of Alachua because it improves the quality of living that should be expected in “The Good Life Community.”

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LOUISVILLE - Three prize-winning High Springs Community School students traveled to Louisville during the week of Oct. 28 and represented the school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter at the National Agriscience Fair.

The journey for Cody Emerson, Moss Caballero and Tim Myers started over the summer at the Florida State FFA Convention in Orlando. They each placed first in their respected categories. Cody Emerson was chosen as the overall winner in his division. Winning first place at the state level allowed their projects to be forwarded to the National FFA for the opportunity to represent Florida at the National Agriscience Fair. Only fifteen students from each category were chosen to compete at the national level from a pool of winners representing all 50 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for FFA members from grades seven to 12 who are interested in the science and technology of agriculture. To qualify, students must conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries and present their finding to a panel of judges.

Cody Emerson won first place in the food products and processing category with his project that tested consumer’s preferences for red meat used in jerky. Moss Caballero won third place in the power, technical and structural category with his project on energy efficiency. Tim Myers placed ninth in the animal systems category with his project on bee repellents. Emerson was the only first-place winner from Florida and the youngest to ever take first place at the national level.  

As far as futures plans for these students. They each plan on competing in FFA activities throughout high school. After high school, Cody Emerson would like to become a State FFA officer, then attend the University of Florida and obtain a degree in agriculture communication and education and become an agriculture educator. Moss Caballero plans on attending the University of Florida and majoring in journalism with a minor in biotechnology. Tim Myers plans on getting a degree in agriculture and moving to Illinois to take over his family farm.  

Getting to Louisville was a very expensive trip. There was an overwhelming support from the community to help assist with the expenses. The trip to Louisville will be something these boys will never forget. It was an honor and privilege to represent High Springs and the State of Florida at the convention.  

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HAWTHORNE – One of two school buses stolen from Alachua County Public Schools bus compound has made its way home, and the other one will soon join it.

Two school buses were stolen from a compound in Hawthorne in early September. One bus remains in custody of law enforcement in Flagler County, while the other is safe and sound at the school, according to reports.

Earlier this month a Flagler County Sheriff arrested a man that was connected to a theft ring that targeted school buses. The thefts have taken place in several districts throughout Florida and Georgia.

“We’re so grateful for the work of law enforcement agencies throughout Florida and Georgia, including the local agencies that worked together to solve this case,” said Alachua County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Hershel Lyons.

The city had been given an insurance check for the buses, but hadn’t cashed it because of reports that other buses had been recovered in other counties.

The stolen buses were leased out to a company called 95 Tours and Transportation. They were then used to shuttle people to and from the Florida-Georgia football game and to transport students of private schools. The owner of 95 Tours and Transportation was arrested.

The buses were found in Gainesville two weeks ago and were still in good shape, with the exception of the VIN numbers being altered and the district name being removed from the side of the buses.

To add to security, Alachua County public schools have installed cameras in all five of the bus compounds in the county.

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W - Harvest Festival

Crowds line the street in Alachua's downtown area. The festival has been held in Alachua for a number of years, featuring food, arts and crafts and souvenirs.

 ALACHUA – It was a beautiful stroll down Main Street for Brighton Taylor and her dog, Tyson, on Sunday, Nov. 10. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze and the sweet smell of kettle corn filled the air. They did not have the street to themselves, however. They shared this picturesque day with hundreds.

There were booths and tents lining the street as far as the eye could see for the annual Alachua Main Street Harvest Festival. People from all over Alachua County walked the main street in downtown Alachua, taking in all the festival had to offer.

“There is really a little bit of everything,” Taylor said. “I like to look at the art and different crafts that people bring.”

This was not Brighton’s first time visiting the annual festival, but it was Tyson the dog’s first time experiencing the day. He seemed really excited to be around that many people and kids, Brighton said.

With all of the booths available for people to browse, there was no shortage of options. Several offered fried food, featuring fish, scallops, clams and crab cakes. Others had cotton candy and kettle corn, along with drinks and other snacks.

But food was not the only thing bringing in the crowds. There were some attractions for kids, with bungee jumping trampolines set up, as well as a small track where kids could drive motorized animal carts.

Local businesses brought out displays to attract possible future customers. A roller derby team was out looking to recruit future members.

The Alachua Police Department was in attendance, with a squad car they let kids climb into.

Bill Blake, a Newberry resident who made the trip with his sons to visit the festival, was more pleased with the weather than anything else.

“It is such a nice day out, really,” he said. “It could not have been picked any better,” Blake said.

He brought his sons, Dillon and Colby, and they loved that there was a shaved ice truck with so many options for flavors, Blake said.

More than anything else, vendors had food and crafts for visitors to peruse. Woodworking, clothing and trinkets of all sorts were heavily featured along the walk.

“This isn’t my first festival,” Blake said. “I’ve probably been to four or five. And after today, I don’t think it will be hard to get the boys to come back next year, either.”

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ALACHUA – Over the past year, the City of Alachua has been seeing restorations and improvements to the community as a part of the city's Amended Community Redevelopment Plan.

The plan, according to official public documents, is meant to “eliminate or prevent blight and rehabilitate or conserve areas of community” within the city of Alachua.

The Community Redevelopment Plan is set to develop the area between Northwest 142nd Place, past U.S. 441, up to Northwest 154th Place. In addition, it includes the area around Northwest 137th Terrace up to Northwest 147th Drive.

The intersection of Northwest 142 Terrace and U.S. Highway 441will get straightened out to a 90-degree angle, and the road is being moved slightly closer to City Hall.

Rainwater flooding has affected several parts of town, especially around the intersection of Northwest 150 Avenue and Main Street. The city put in a concrete retention reservoir under the ball field near City Hall. Other underground improvements include pipes to direct water flow.

The majority of underground facilities have been constructed, curbing installed, and lime rock asphalt has been laid down, according to city officials.

The entire $2 million redevelopment plan is being funded by the Downtown Redevelopment Trust Board. The redevelopment board has taken on this job to help stop flooding, provide parking, create safer roadways and have roads more perpendicular to U.S. 441. Through the redevelopment plan, the baseball field has been restored.

“The project is moving along very well, we’re pleased with current activities and look forward to the conclusion of this project in 2014,” said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager. “It will be a great enhancement to the community.”

City officials hope to have the majority of construction done by mid-December and the project completed by early February.

“It's all part of a grand plan that we had started four or five years ago," said Mayor Gib Coerper in an earlier interview.

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W - Camp K 1

The Aldridge family gives a special presentation with Delilah, a 400 pound Burmese phthon. Camp Kulaqua sees around 50,000 guests each year.

HIGH SPRINGS – Children laughed, roasted marshmallows and shared stories around the campfire.

This all happened as Camp Kulaqua celebrated its 60th anniversary. Camp Kulaqua is a youth camp and retreat center that hosts over 50,000 guests year-round.

In the early 1950s, many young people from the Seventh-day Adventist Church had a passion for camping and the experience that can be found in the outdoors. Up until that year, the only available option was O’Leno State Park, which they had used for several years.

In 1953, the decision was made to purchase a property near the state park named Hornsby Springs, and what it is now known as Camp Kulaqua was born. Wayne Foster, founding camp director, first started developing the land, and since then, Camp Kulaqua has experienced much growth and expansion from several innovative leaders in the last 60 years.

For several years though, this place did not have a name. In 1959, a naming competition took place. The name chosen was submitted by the Coral Gables Pathfinder Club. It was named Camp Kulaqua, meaning cool water, because of the beautiful clear cool spring that stayed the same temperature year-round.

This year, Camp Kulaqua is celebrating 60 years and hosted an event to commemorate the occasion.

On Sept. 19 through Sept. 21, the camp welcomed more than 400 “alumni” and founding members to celebrate.

Many had not visited the camp in over 50 years and were overjoyed to see the growth.

“It was such an incredible moment to see people of all ages, from two to 92, take such joy in the wonderful experience that is camp,” said Gabriel Saldana, alumni and development coordinator.

Many previous directors and leaders were present and shared what camp was like during their eras.

As part of the event, a special dedication was made for the founding director Wayne Foster and his wife Reba Foster. The designs for a new welcome center were unveiled that Saturday afternoon and dedicated to Foster’s legacy.

The current camp director, Phil Younts, said he was excited about celebrating the camp 60th year anniversary.

“Prior to my arriving here in 1983, there had been a group who was trying to sell Camp Kulaqua and move the camp operation closer to the central part of the state,” he said. “But overwhelmingly, the constituents of Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to keep Camp Kulaqua within High Springs because they love the area and love the people.”

Today, Camp Kulaqua serves the constituents of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as well as local community churches, civic groups, and schools.

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