W - Southern Showcase DSCF8238ALACHUA – With the scent of popcorn and funnel cake lingering in the air, Santa Fe High School had a show to put on.

Crowds of mothers, fathers, distant relatives and even bus drivers for the bands cheered on the 17 marching bands competing for the top spot from 10 a.m. Saturday morning until 10 p.m. that night on Oct. 12 for the 18th Annual Southern Showcase.

Some parents volunteered to run ticket booths, shirt stands and the concessions office, but others preferred to support their band from the stands.

Antoinette Hunt and her husband, Randy Hunt, have sold hotdogs, hamburgers and barbecue at the showcase for the last two years.

“Each year it’s better and better,” Antoinette Hunt said.

The couple has supported Santa Fe High School since 1988 when their own children started school, Randy Hunt said.

Sitting in concrete seats sporting shirts that matched school colors, parents screamed and clapped as the event went on.

Between sets, the crowd would rush quickly to the nearest concession stands to get a drink or popcorn, and then dart back to their seats so they wouldn’t miss the next performance.

While most of the band students’ parents are volunteers, the showcase was so large it needed more people to help.

Two hundred Alachua residents helped in the showcase.

Local volunteers joined to keep the event running smoothly by packing and driving equipment to the field. Even some of the alumni come back to help set up equipment.

The showcase pulls in about 3,500 people every year, and this year it even had band members from the 1960s that live across the country come back to see their band compete, said Michelle Kays, a parent and volunteer at the event.

Parent Tracy Short, who was volunteering at a ticket stand, said the event was something that many locals look forward to every year. With five high school marching bands participating in the competition every year, the turnout continues to keep Santa Fe High School’s showcase as one of the top in the region, Short said.

Even the bus drivers for the bands look forward to seeing the bands every year.

Cindy Hall, a bus driver for Clay County, watched the band she delivered to the event. She has been driving Fleming Island High’s band to Santa Fe High School’s marching showcase for 15 years. The show always proved to be fun, she said.

The showcase hit its last note around 10 p.m. While some of the crowd dwindled, the rest of parents and volunteers helped clean up and pack the remainder of this year’s showcase.

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W - Newberry Fall Fest DSC 0652NEWBERRY – As the sun gleamed through the sky and a breeze swept through, residents descended on downtown Newberry for food, shopping, arts and games.

Saturday, Oct. 12 marked the 7th Annual Fall Market Festival and Bar-B-Q- Cook-off, which hosted a variety of activities, from vendors selling crafted wares, to homemade snacks for sale to the namesake barbecue competition.  

This year’s barbecue cook-off was originally meant for five teams, but two teams dropped out at the last minute. Lucy’s BBQ, Dirty Mother Truckers and Fat Mac’s Café were left to engage in culinary battle.

Conney Scott, owner of Lucy’s BBQ, said she was excited to be at the festival for the fifth year. Scott, who last year won the Best Amateur Award, recruited her sons, Samuel Whitehead and Terrance Dexter, to help bring in this year’s award. Scott used her family’s secret recipe, given to her by her grandmother. Winning the cook-off was another way for her to keep her grandmother’s recipe and legacy alive, she said.

As judges were handing out the barbecue awards, some guests at the festival were enjoying other parts of the event.

Paul Buzbee said he was glad his family chose to come. Buzbee, who was on a military tour last year, said he enjoyed seeing his daughter have fun and liked being able to spend time with her. Living just down the street from the festival, he thought it would be small, but fun. It was worth the short walk over, he said.

While Buzbee only had to walk down the street, some people travelled a little farther.

Shannon Lowder, a University of Florida finance major, came out to support some of the small-town vendors.

“It is nice to help local hometown businesses instead of big companies,” Lowder said. “It is your local people you have got to support.”

Meanwhile, Demi Hunt, a UF freshman, came to buy gifts for his mother.

Fifty-four vendors participated in the event, most of them selling arts and crafts.   Some of them were returning from previous years, but a few were new.

Nada Meeks, who ran a face-painting booth, said this was her first time at the festival, but she wants to return.

The Fall Market Festival and Bar-B-Q Cook-off is organized by the Newberry Main Street Organization, whose goal is to promote economic development in downtown Newberry, while preserving the history and culture of the area.

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ALACHUA – A Gainesville man was arrested Monday night, Oct. 14 after police said he and another person beat a man in Turkey Creek and stole his phone.

Alachua Police Officers were called to Turkey Creek for a robbery at around 11 p.m., said Jesse Sandusky, public information officer for the Alachua Police Department (APD).

Hector Rivera told officers he had been out for a run. After making a couple of loops around Turkey Creek, two men appeared.

Shawn Robertson, 21, held Rivera down while a juvenile boy punched him, according to the APD.

The two attackers grabbed Rivera’s iPhone 5, which was strapped to his wrist, and fled.

Police found the pair by tracking the last known location of the phone.

They were found at 6509 NW 105th Terrace in a side yard. When police approached them, they ran into the woods behind the house. After a short chase, they were caught, Sandusky said, at about 11:30 p.m.

The two were both charged with robbery and resisting an officer without violence. Robertson is currently in the Alachua County Jail with a $12,000 bond. The boy was taken to the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

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NEWBERRY - Some members of the audience had to hold back tears at a Newberry city commission meeting.

Richard Blalock, recreation director for the City of Newberry, resigned at the Monday, Oct. 14 meeting, prompting members of the community to give speeches about his impact in the town.

“We can never replace you,” said Joy Glanzer to Blalock. “Your legacy goes generations.”

Blalock chose to leave his position with the city to take a job with GoodSports Global Enterprises, a development, construction and management company specializing in hotels, water parks and sports recreation facilities, according to its website.

“This company has put an opportunity in front of me that I just can’t turn down,” Blalock said.

Commissioner Alena Lawson said she wasn’t surprised that he had options.

“I knew you were in great demand,” she said, though she was disappointed to see him go.

“You are the reason why a city of 5,000 is on the map nationally,” she said. If the recreation department helps children be constructive, grow as individuals and keeps them away from crime, it’s worth all the funding it gets, she added.

Debbie Boyd, a former Newberry city commissioner and a former state representative, said the city has two options. It can either build sports and recreation complexes, or it can build prisons, she said. If it doesn’t build the first, the children will end up in the second, she added.  

When Blalock took his job as the recreation director a little over 10 years ago, there were only two parks in Newberry, he said.

Since he’s been there, the city has developed the Easton Newberry Sports Complex, Nations Park, Triangle Park and the MLK Community Center.

The Easton Newberry Sports Complex is what Blalock is most proud of, he said.

“It reaches so many different people, from adults and seniors, all the way down to the kids.”

Commissioner Joe Hoffman had to wipe tears from his face when addressing Blalock.

Some people have negative views about the recreation program in Newberry, Hoffman said, mentioning Mayor Bill Conrad. However, the recreation department has been an important part of developing the city’s economy, he added.

“It’s not about money for Richard,” he said. “It’s about doing what’s right for the city.”

The recreation programs have vitalized the economy of the city, Hoffman said in a trembling voice.

When the City of Newberry first developed its vision to be a destination for sports tourism, Blalock helped to make it a reality, said City Manager Keith Ashby. Under Blalock, the Easton Newberry Sports Complex was selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee as a Community Olympic Development Program, one of only 10 cities in the entire country to have the designation, due to its archery program.

During Blalock’s time as the recreation director, the City of Newberry received $13.8 million in grants for its sports programs.

Ashby said he will look into options on how to find a new director, and will present a plan to the city in the future.

“We locked into this vision,” Ashby said. “It’s going to be tough for us to go forward, but we’ll go forward.”

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WALDO – The upcoming elections in Waldo will feature some prominent names, including three council members who have held their seat since 2008.

The qualifying period for the election opened on Monday, Oct. 7, and closed on Thursday, Oct. 17. The slots up for grabs are council seats one, two, three and four, said Kim Worley, Waldo city manager.

Seat one has been held by Chuck Hall since 2002, the current the chair of the council. He has been active with the city dating back to the early 1980s, Worley said. The seat is a two-year term.

The vice-chair, Carolyn Wade, is turning her eyes to seat three. She hopes to win another two-year term, and continue her consecutive years of service; which date back to 2006, Worley said.

Council seat four will pit Rick Pisano against a possible challenger for the third and final two-year term available. Pisano first took over the seat to replace Gail Roberts in 2007, and he has held the seat every year since then.

The final council member position that will be open is seat two, which will only be a one-year term. Rodney Estes held the seat, until he retired from his 29-year career on the Waldo City Council over the summer. Glen Johnson was appointed in July to fill the seat until the December elections, Worley said. The winner of the seat will be finishing out Estes’ term.

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GAINESVILLE – The Alachua County Commission came to a decision on how to deal with complaints about noise and pollution from the biomass plant.

Residents of Turkey Creek in Alachua have been vocal about their problems with the volume level and dust coming from the plant since it went online in August. The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GERC) is within Gainesville’s city limits, but after conducting noise tests in Turkey Creek, the Gainesville Police Department said the volume is within the legal level.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the commission unanimously voted for a plan to address the issue.

First, it will send a letter to GREC and the Gainesville City Commission asking to be allowed to take part in dialogues regarding how to solve issues with the plant.

Second, it will send notice to GREC, the City of Gainesville and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that Alachua County intends to intervene in the permitting proceedings, with the intent to oppose operational permits if satisfactory progress isn’t made to control noise and fugitive dust.

Third, it will send a letter to GREC saying the county, as an affected party, will bring forward public nuisance litigation if progress in addressing the complaints is still lacking.

Finally, it will request that the county attorney and city manager bring back to the commissioners any recommended amendments to the county’s noise ordinances, including the decibel standards.

It will also look into municipalities that request county ordinances be applied in city limits.

While the county, City of Gainesville, City of Alachua and GREC discuss the issue, complaints from citizens of Turkey Creek have still been coming in.

“I don't understand how any of the folks in power can sit back and allow this abusive and invasive noise pollution to continue to affect so many people,” wrote Turkey Creek resident Greg Williamson in an email to the county commission.

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Officer Kwandra Zeigler talks to detective Jessie Sandusky in front of the city's breast cancer awareness cruiser. Sandusky unveiled the vehicle this week at a city commission meeting.APD pink cancer car

ALACHUA – Detective Jesse Sandusky of the Alachua Police Department (APD) had a surprise for the people at the city commission meeting on Monday night.

Sandusky went to the city commission on Monday, Oct. 7 to give a presentation on Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He asked everybody gathered in the commission chamber to go outside to the front of City Hall to unveil the APD’s newest sign of support for breast cancer awareness.

Outside the building, a police car rolled off a truck, sporting a black and pink color scheme. On the back, there was the slogan ‘breast cancer awareness.”

Onlookers walked around and took photos, while Commissioner Shirley Brown sat inside the car.

There is a three percent chance that breast cancer will be the cause of a woman’s death, Sandusky said.

“It’s not about driving a cool car around,” Sandusky said, “the main focus is to raise awareness in our community about breast cancer.

The disease affects everybody in the community, he said. People in the APD itself have been affected, either directly or indirectly through friends or family, he added.

Police agencies all over the country, including the Gainesville Police Department, have painted cars pink to raise awareness, which is where he said he got the idea.

“It’s nice to join with other agencies in our county that are promoting the cause,” Sandusky said. “It’s such an important issue. It needs to be brought to everyone’s attention.”

Sandusky hopes the message will be received clearly by the public, and will encourage women to get exams and promote early detection.

He created some designs and had a general idea of what the car would look like, but he was still impressed when he saw it in person.

“When I actually first saw it in person, there was kind of a ‘wow factor,’” he said.

The other employees at the Alachua Police Department were proud when they first saw the car, Sandusky said.

“They’re excited about the message,” he said.

The cost of decorating the car was under $500, Sandusky said. It was done by Showcase Advertising in Starke.

The decals are removable, Sandusky said, so the car could go back to normal whenever the department wants. It will probably remain until the end of the year.

The car isn’t just going to be around for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sandusky said. It will be with the APD for an extended period of time.

Mayor Gib Coerper was at City Hall when the car was unveiled.

Going into the meeting, he only knew that he would have to walk outside to see ‘something cool,’ he said.

“’Wow’ was all I could say when I saw it,” he said.

“I really appreciate the effort the city has put in to progress cancer awareness,” he added. “I think it shows tremendous support for the women and the families that have to go through this.”

Breast cancer isn’t just something that affects Alachua or Gainesville, Mayor Coerper said. It’s a global problem.

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