ColorOcala!

ColorOcala Contest

Grab your crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers and cray pas, and join the hot new coloring craze!

Floridians, are you ready to COLOROCALA? Create beautiful art and compete for valuable prizes in Ocala Magazine’s latest big giveaway contest. You could win tickets for four to the Walt Disney World® theme park in Orlando, a family Christmas for four at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, and more. Color us excited!

Our latest contest is specially designed with family fun in mind. With a contest for both children and adults, you and your kids will have plenty to do this summer. And best of all, you can be creative together!

You can always count on Ocala Magazine for the best in news and entertainment, family fun, and fabulous prizes, so let’s get coloring! Show off your artistic side, and you might have a summer you’ll never forget.

Feeling Social?

Visit Ocala Magazine’s Facebook and Instagram pages and Colorala’s Facebook and Instagram pages – and while you’re at it, we hope you’ll Like our pages!

Here’s How You Enter:

You must complete Steps 1 through 4 to qualify for prizes!

  1. Download, print, and color your favorite specially drawn Ocala-themed coloring page from contest sponsor Colorala. (You can download pages as many times as you like.)
  2. Fill out the entry form (below) on the Ocala Magazine website before 6 p.m. Eastern time, July 22, 2016.
  3. Upload a photo of your completed coloring page using the File Upload feature provided on the form.
  4. Post your photo on Facebook OR Instagram before midnight, July 22, 2016. Use the hashtag #ocalamagazinecontest on Facebook OR Instagram in your post. Don’t forget to tag your friends and show off your creative genius!

That’s it. You’ve entered!

Click Each Image to Download a Coloring Page! (PDF Format)

Adult Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page - Thoroughbred
Adult Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Adult Coloring Page - Silver Springs

Children’s Coloring Page – Thoroughbred
Children's Coloring Page - Thoroughbred

Children’s Coloring Page – Silver Springs
Children's Coloring Page - Silver Springs

 

Entries Are Now Being Judged, Stay Tuned!

Click for Contest Rules

Official Rules

  1. By entering, you agree to abide by The COLOROCALA Official Rules.
  2. All contestants must reside in the state of Florida.
  3. The contest will be administered by contest sponsor 7Hills Communications of Tallahassee, Florida.
  4. Entries must be submitted through the online form located at www.ocalamagazine.com/colorocala and all entry requirements must be met before midnight, Friday, July 22, 2016 in order to qualify.
  5. Entries submitted will be screened by 7Hills Communications and/or contest sponsor Colorala of Newport Beach, California, to ensure all entries meet contest requirements.
  6. Ocala Magazine, 7Hills Communications, and Colorala cannot be held responsible for email that is misdirected or undeliverable.
  7. Entries that do not meet all the “Here’s How to Enter” criteria will be disqualified.
  8. 7Hills Communications may, at its sole discretion and depending upon volume of entries, notify contestants whose entries are incorrect and must be resubmitted.
  9. 7Hills Communications will send only properly completed entries to Ocala Magazine.
  10. Completed coloring pages, along with the artist’s name, will be posted on the Ocala Magazine Facebook page and Instagram profile, and the Colorala Instagram profile. If the artist is 12 years of age or younger, the artist’s age also will be published.
  11. Following the conclusion of the contest, a team of fine artists from Colorala will judge the entries and select the winners.
  12. A list of winners will be published on the COLOROCALA Contest official web page, located at www.ocalamagazine.com/colorocala; the Ocala Magazine Facebook page; the Ocala Magazine Instagram profile; and the Colorala Color Instagram profile.
  13. Winners must claim their prizes by 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, August 22, 2016. Any prize not claimed by Monday, August 22, 2016 will be awarded to an alternate winner.
  14. Ocala Magazine and/or 7Hills Communications will make every effort to notify winners via email, telephone, or postal mail within the 31-day prize redemption period. Ocala Magazine and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for winners who cannot be located for notification within the prize redemption period.
  15. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications will hold all contestants’ personal information except name, age, and city of residence confidential, and will not reveal said information to any third party unless required by law.
  16. By entering, contestants agree to allow Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications to post their names, ages if applicable, and photographs of their coloring pages to social media.
  17. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish their coloring pages in Ocala Magazine without remuneration. Published entries will be credited.
  18. By entering, contestants grant Ocala Magazine permission to publish photos of the winners, if applicable, without remuneration.
  19. Anyone employed as a professional artist, or who holds a college or university degree in studio art or graphic design, is not eligible to participate.
  20. Employees of Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications and their families are not eligible to participate.
  21. Each participant may enter the contest only once.
  22. All children 12 years of age or younger in a single family may submit one entry each for the children’s contest.
  23. Only one contestant 13 years of age or older from a single family may submit an entry to the adults’ contest.
  24. Only one prize per family will be awarded.
  25. While we encourage parents and legal guardians to experience the joy of coloring together with their children, contestants 12 years of age or younger must color their own coloring pages without physical assistance from any third party.
  26. All contestants 13 years of age or older must color their own coloring pages without assistance from any third party.
  27. Because children must be 13 years of age or older to have a Facebook or Instagram account, entries from children 12 years of age or younger must be submitted by a parent or legal guardian.
  28. Entries submitted by children 12 years of age or younger without parental supervision and consent will be disqualified.
  29. Contestants must abide by all Facebook and Instagram rules. Ocala Magazine, Colorala, and 7Hills Communications cannot be held responsible for any adverse decisions made by Facebook or Instagram as a result of a contestant’s violations of their Terms of Service.
  30. Contestants may use crayons, colored pencils, watercolor markers, or oil pastels (cray pas) to complete their coloring pages.
  31. Contestants may not use online or electronic coloring apps to complete their pictures. All entries colored with electronic coloring applications will be disqualified.
  32. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the children’s coloring contest.
  33. One grand prize and two honorable mention prizes will be awarded in the adults’ coloring contest.
  34. Contestants, or the parent or legal guardian of contestants 12 years of age or younger, must pick up prizes by appointment at the offices of Ocala Magazine, located at 743 E. Fort King Street, Ocala, Florida 34471. Ocala Magazine, at its sole discretion, may waive this requirement for winners who are not area residents.
  35. Winners must present a picture ID to receive their prizes.
  36. Ocala Magazine may, at its sole discretion, require a scanned or faxed copy of a picture ID before shipping prizes to winners who are not area residents.
  37. The Children’s Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of the Walt Disney World® theme park.
  38. The Adults’ Grand Prize Package is subject to the terms and conditions of Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.
  39. While we invite contestants to be fans, liking or following any Facebook page or Instagram profile is not required to win a prize.
  40. No purchase is necessary to win a prize.
  41. All judging/winner decisions made by Colorala Color are final.
  42. All contest decisions made by 7Hills Communications are final.
  43. Questions about The COLOROCALA Coloring Contest must be submitted via email to contest@ocalamagazine.com. No telephone calls, please.

Diverse musical talent to the T

Conversation with country music singer, T Graham Brown

By: John Sotomayor

Few have had the diverse musical career of T Graham Brown. His range has been described from “R&B version of George Jones” to “Country Otis Redding.” Regardless of how his music touches one’s ear, everyone who hears his music agrees – they are listening to someone with a special gift.

With 15 studio albums throughout his career, Brown chartered over 35 singles on the Billboard, Cash Box, and Gospel charts since 1986. His hits include “Darlene,” Don’t Go To Strangers,” Hell and High Water,” I Tell It Like It Used To Be,” and “Wine Into Water.”

In 2014, Brown’s album “Forever Changed” was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Roots Gospel. His song “Wine Into Water” was recorded by Loretta Lynn on her critically acclaimed album “Full Circle,” released in 2016.

Brown appeared on Country Music’s biggest stage – the Grand Ole Opry – nearly 300 times since his debut there in 1986. On April 5, Brown will perform some of his greatest hits at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale, Marion County. In this exclusive interview, Brown gives us his reflections on his career, an inside look at his 2019 tour, and insights on what his fans can expect from attending his concert.

Q: You began your musical career in 1973 while attending the University of Georgia in your hometown of Athens. What was your early career like?

Well, it was a learning experience – I had no idea what I was doing. My buddy and I were trying to figure out the music business. We were singing together … we just kind of learned as we went. It was really fun. We would sing at night – every night – five days a week then get up in the morning and go to class at the University of Georgia. Just college kids having a great time.

Q: Almost 10 years later, you moved to Nashville in 1982 and signed with EMI publishing company where you honed your skills as a songwriter that led to a stellar award-winning career that includes a Grammy nomination, Country Music Award, ASCAP Award, multiple Christian Music Awards, Diamond Addy Award for excellence in advertising, and back-to-back Prism awards. How did that happen?

Just staying busy, man! Doing everything I can do. Taking advantage of all the fun things. It’s been a great career. I’ve had a lot of fun. [The variety] was all mixed together from the beginning. [When] I started singing in Athens, GA, I was doing soul music. Then I put together like a country-rock kind of wild band, and then I moved to Nashville. I did a little bit of everything. I sang in the church growing up. Then it kind of got all mixed together, man! I never was just one thing. I don’t like doing just one thing – I get bored … To me it just keeps things more interesting.

Q: Your variety does make an interesting career. Early on, you established a recording relationship with Sony Red and a retail partnership with Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, simultaneously starting a long and successful career singing advertising jingles, becoming the “face and voice” of Taco Bell’s wildly successful “run for the border” TV campaign for four years. How was that experience?

Yeah, I think those advertising things I started doing in 1983, something like that. I continued to do those but I got sidetracked in the ‘90s. I had an alcohol problem and, through the grace of God, and the love of my life – Sheila, I am sober now but I went through a really dark period in the ‘90s. Thank God I am still alive, because I could just as easily be dead. … God was not finished with me yet.

Q: You recorded for Warner Brothers and Sony. What happened to those songs?

You know man, I did an album for Warner Brothers that never got released. This would have been in the ‘90s. Then I got signed to Sony, and I cut some stuff for them that never got released. I kind of went through a couple of major label deals there but never had anything come out. So a lot of the ‘90s I didn’t have any product out there. It was kind of like I dropped off the edge of the earth. As far as the public was concerned, they didn’t know what happened to me. …I finally in 1998 signed with an independent label and we put out an album called, “Wine Into Water” … I don’t know how many of those we sold, but we sold a pretty good bit of them – I mean, hundreds of thousands of them. …It was a pretty decent comeback.

Q: It was quite a comeback actually, because, “Wine Into Water” is a multiple award winner, and recorded more than 100 times by artists world-wide, most recently by country super star, Loretta Lynn, on her critically acclaimed album, “Full Circle.” How did that song come to be?

Well, I was writing with a couple of friends of mine, and when we wrote that song, I don’t think we were planning on it being what it turned out to be. It really turned out to be about me. I was talking with one of the writers the other day, and he said, “you know, I don’t even remember writing that song, it’s just like I looked down, and there it was on the paper.” It was kind of a weird deal like that. As strange as some people will think this sounds, I think that song is anointed by God because its been used by so many people to get straightened out. It’s just amazing. We are working on a book right now with a lot of ‘Wine Into Water’ stories. We’d get emails all the time, or people would come up to us after shows and tell us how the song has changed their lives…. A couple of days ago I got a message from a guy, it said two years ago his mother had died, and he was really low. He said, “I came up to a red light, and I was going to take a left and go to the bar… But I turned on the radio and ‘Wine Into Water’ came on right that second.” He had never heard it before, so he said ‘instead of turning left to go to the bar, I turned right and went home to my kids. It’s been two years and I haven’t had a drop since.’ That’s the way “Wine Into Water” has been working. Stories like that – it is just amazing… We have script writers …and we are hoping to make a Broadway musical out of it, is what we really want to do… We are kind of letting it do its thing. God is doing some [miraculous] things with that song. It’s amazing.

Q: Your career “forever changed” by hitting the Billboard, Cash Box, and Christian music charts 35 times with hits like “I Tell It Like It Used To Be,” the self-penned “Hell and High Water,” and “Darlene.” What was your personal greatest moment?

That is a good question. I don’t know – I had so many good moments. When I first went out on the road, when “I Tell It Like It Used To Be” came out, I was out with Kenny Rogers when he was really hitting big – I mean, you know, he was like the biggest star in the world, at that time. I did probably, close to 300 shows with him. I got to tour everywhere. We played every major arena in North America. It was really, you know, just a heady time. We were playing the big crowds every day. You know, like 20 – 25,000 seat arenas. It was really cool. And I got to work with a lot of people. One of the things that have been the best for me, and the most fun for me, is I’ve gotten to work with all my heroes … like George, Kenny, Conway, Willie, Waylon, Meryl, Loretta, and all those people [the pubic] knew by their first name. It’s been a wonderful trip, man. A wonderful trip.

Q: You have had duets with some of the greatest artists of all time, including Grammy winners The Beach Boys, Tanya Tucker, Vince Gill, George Jones, Delbert McClinton, Jason Crabb, Brad Davis, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members Michael McDonald, Steve Cropper, and Leon Russell. What is your fondest memory of these duets?

Gosh, they were all just awesome. Working with those people is just a mind-blowing thing. I am really, really glad that I was able to get some stuff on MY records with Leon Russell. I have sung on some of Leon’s albums in the past, but I have never gotten Leon to sing on anything of mine until we got him on that “Forever Changed” album. That was the last thing he did before he passed away. That is really special. Leon, in many ways, was my best friend. His wife told me one time, that Leon considered me his best friend… Leon was a very sweet, gentle man, and so talented. You could not have asked to know a nicer guy.

Q: Your first Gospel album, “Forever Changed” received the 2014 Grammy nomination. How has that forever changed your life?

Well, I mean, gosh – I had never had gotten a Grammy nomination [before that one]. A friend of mine, Max Harris, was in the same category and he won. (laughs) He had a great record. (laughs again) And I told him he was going to win. We were out in L.A. [when the nominations were announced], that was not even on our radar, but when that came down, it was like, totally out of left field. We weren’t expecting anything like that. And it was really cool, man. I got a lot of compliments from it. It is pretty cool getting a Grammy nomination because, we were in a category with five other albums … and when you narrow it all down, it is pretty cool to be in the top five. …I mean – it’s the Grammys – so that’s really cool!

Q: You have performed on the iconic stage of the Grand Ole Opry hundreds of times, and maintain a busy tour schedule all over the U.S. and Europe. What is your 2019 tour like and how does it differ from others in the past?

Well, we had a meeting yesterday about the tour starting this fall, and they told me not to say anything. But its going to be really cool. Its going to be one of the coolest things I have ever been on. It’s probably going to be a pretty big deal, in a lot of different ways. I’ll be a minor player in the big thing, but I’ll be getting my two cents in. [Also,] I think we are going to do another gospel album this year, and we are working on putting together a solo record. I’ve got this thing we’ve been working on called, “From Memphis to Muscle Shoals,” which will be some songs, stacks, cut in Memphis, and some songs that they cut in Muscle Shoals that were hits… I’m looking forward to that.

Q: What can your fans expect from attending your concert at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale on April 5th?

Well, we’ve got a great band. I am really proud to be working with these guys. They are all wonderful musicians. I’ve always been lucky. I’ve always had a great band. We will come down there rompin’ and stompin’ and do most of the hits people expect, throw in a couple of surprises, … and we make it fun for everyone.

Q: After this tour is over, what’s next?

Probably take a break for Christmas and then a couple of nights in the winter, then hit the road again. One thing I have to do in January next year is go on this cruise called the Country Music Cruise. I’ve done it a few times. This year, I think Randy Owen from Alabama is on it… Delridge Boys, Larry Gatlin, Pam Tillis, Tracy Lawrence, Moe Bandy, Johnny Lee, David Frizzell, Larry the Cable Guy, Linda Davis … its always a good cruise because there is so much music going on. As soon as you wake up in the morning until 3 AM, there is always solid music going on the ship somewhere. That is a lot of fun. I never know what is coming up. I did a couple of movies in 2018 that will be coming out this year.

Q: What are those movies?

One is called “A Ticket to Nashville” and the other is called “Second Samuel.” They are both pretty cool little movies. And I got to be in the play “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I get to play the bad guy. There is a musical we did called “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered – a Waffle House musical,” believe it or not. It is about these people that get stranded in a Waffle House on Christmas Eve. It is really a fun thing, and I get to sing “Wine Into Water” in it. So, I am doing all kinds of stuff. There is a TV series that I’m going to do like next month, I think … a few weeks into the future. I’m doing all kinds of fun stuff, man.

Q: What do want your fans to take away most from experiencing your concert?

Oh, just a positive vibe, man. We just try to do what we think God wants us to do. We leave people in a positive place. I’ve had more fun now than I ever had… Everything is beautiful in my world. I’ve got the best job in the world – I get to make people happy for a living.

 

The Buzz Around the World Equestrian Center

Busy as worker bees, construction teams have begun building the World Equestrian Center at Golden Ocala. The masterpiece of mastermind Larry Roberts, which will become the signature attraction of Ocala — beckoning splendor and spectacle to our community.

Compiled by John Sotomayor

There are few who contributed more to Ocala’s landscape than Larry Roberts. The trucking magnate from Ohio envisioned a magnificent, luxurious community in Ocala to house and entertain equine enthusiasts, who also happen to own businesses that employ many Ocalans, and created Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club decades ago. The influx of wealth that followed has helped pave the way for the construction of highways, hotels, and other infrastructure that has transformed a sleepy little town into a robust small city. “When [Larry] Roberts came in and [built] Golden Ocala, he raised the bar for everything that was made around here,” says City of Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn.

Roberts will open his latest project, Ocala’s World Equestrian Center, in 2021. It is his second World Equestrian Center, the first of which is located in Robert’s native state of Ohio. Like the original, the center will be a world-class equestrian venue for not only the world’s best riders and horse, but also for spectators, exhibitors, vendors and sponsors. The addition of the World Equestrian Center to Ocala will help take our city to the next level and elevate our standing on the world stage. The busy worker bees at the construction site, have created lots of buzz.

“It is the biggest game changer this community has had in a long time,” asserts Mayor Guinn.

CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP), Kevin Sheilley echoes that remark. “It is a game changer for our community. It is a game changer, quite frankly, for the equine industry,” Sheilley offers enthusiastically. “2021 just cannot get here soon enough.”

According to World Equestrian Center website, the original World Equestrian Center located in Wilmington, Ohio, “contains more than 200,000 square feet of climate-controlled riding space, affirming that it as one of the largest indoor/outdoor equestrian sport venues in the world. The state-of-the-art facility offers premium footing, permanent stabling and on-site facilities, as well as more than 28 weeks of AA-rated Hunter/Jumper competition.”

The website continues, “Dedicated to offering great sport and good fun in a family-friendly environment, the WEC promises their exhibitors an experience built on three core values: quality, class, and distinction.”

When the WEC debuts the new center in Ocala, it will provide the same, if not even greater, world-class equestrian competition and equestrian-inspired country club living, all alongside the deluxe Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.

“When this was first announced, I thought, this puts the exclamation point on Horse Capital of the World to me,” said Mayor Guinn.

Here’s the buzz from the World Equestrian Center, as provided to Ocala Magazine:

 

A CONVERSATION WITH ROBBY ROBERTS

Mr. Roberts, I know it is your vision that drives the WEC, but how and why did that begin? Have you always been involved with the horse industry?

I grew up in Wilmington, Ohio.  My Mom was passionate about horses and we grew up riding Quarter Horses  —  Western performance horses. We rode in 4H all the way up to Quarter Horse Congress. Our daughter Sofia, age 15, started riding ponies and then she decided she wanted to jump. So, we switched to Hunter / Jumpers. My family also owned and operated Roberts Arena for 35 years. We ran it for decades as “The Showplace of the Midwest” and it was a destination for AQHA shows and other breed shows. When my parents decided to stop showing, the facility was leased out. A few years ago, we decided to run it privately again. We rebranded Roberts Arena to World Equestrian Center in early 2016. We already owned the facility as it was on our family’s property (and where I grew up) so it made sense to keep it there.  We have done extensive renovations and made many improvements to the infrastructure of the facility. It is on about 100 acres and we have purchased more land around the facility now as it is growing still. We have been running our own horse shows since 2016 — 4 distinct USEF rated AA Hunter Jumper circuits —  Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, with 28 horse shows total. So far, our horse shows have been very popular, many of our horse shows have been sold-out.

What sets your facility in Ohio apart from other equestrian centers?

Our staff is 100 percent focused on customer service.  It is our first priority to make sure that all of our exhibitors, their horses, our spectators are all comfortable, safe and accommodated while they are at WEC. Our facility is clean, bright and comfortable. We have invested heavily in the infrastructure. We have three main climate controlled indoor arenas, The Sanctuary, Roberts Arena and the R+L Arena. Each one features stadium-type seating for spectator comfort.  All of these are connected by indoor, heated walkways so you never have to go outside.

Our horse show environment is rich with amenities. We offer great sport, terrific shopping and excellent dining options. We have a full schedule of fun, family-friendly after-hours events and competitions that we run each week – dog races, volleyball, drive in movies, horseless horse shows, ninja-warrior courses, bull riding, and seasonal fun like pumpkin carving, gingerbread house decorating — the list is endless. Last year we put on a 5K at the facility called the ‘Hoofless Derby’ and more than 100 people competed. At any of our horse shows there are 20-25 vendors on site. Our own Sudden Impulse Boutique provides a unique shopping experience, featuring an eclectic selection of elegant gifts, jewelry, whimsical home goods, fun stuff for kids and dogs and a whole lot of WEC-branded clothing and merchandise. We also offer free WiFi.

But most of all, the most important thing that sets us apart is that we are nice.  People are smiling, helpful  —  everyone from the horse sow office staff, to the jump crew, to the concessions people  —  is nice. So, the experience at WEC is pleasant and that has made a big difference for the people who compete there.

What is your main goal for WEC in Ohio?

We want people to enjoy their passion for horses at a safe, clean, comfortable and beautiful venue. Obviously, our amenities are wonderful. We have made a big investment in that so that helps to make a great experience.  But more than that, WEC has a great “feel” to it.  We have a large sign over the entrance that says “Welcome Home Equestrians” and we mean that. People say to me, “You have a nice facility.” My response is,  “It is not mine, it is ours. It belongs to you too.” I think when people realize that I mean that, it affects them in a positive way. We’re driven by a set of values, Christian values, and that comes across in the experience at WEC.

You are breaking ground on another center in Florida. Why two centers and why Ocala?

Our family owns Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club in Ocala.  It is a beautiful club with amazing amenities like golf, tennis and spa. With the success of the Ohio WEC facility, it made sense for us to purchase the land adjacent to the club and build an equestrian facility in Ocala.

What will some of the similarities and differences be between the two, besides the obvious location?

The main difference is size and scope. The Ohio facility was built by taking an existing footprint of a venue and adding on to it. The facility in Ocala has been built from scratch and covers a much larger area. For example, our Ohio facility has six outdoor rings and the one in Ocala has seventeen! Both facilities have indoors that are climate controlled. In Ohio the barns are heated while in Ocala they are air-conditioned. One thing that will be the same is the level of customer service that visitors receive at our facilities. We treat our exhibitors like family and we want them to feel like they are being taken care of and that we care about them and their horses. The facility in Ocala will be very resort-like. So just as you would at Disney, you will get a wristband and that will be your pass and contain your ability to pay for food, amenities and even your horse show bill!

When people speak of your equestrian center, what is the best thing they could tell you?

That they feel at home when they are at the World Equestrian Center.

Is there anything else that you might like to say about either centers? Anything people should know?

We are committed to changing the sport for the better and we are in it for the long term.

 

THE BUZZ BEHIND THE BUILDING

Q&A Provided by World Equestrian Center

Will you plan to have USEF sanctioned / recognized events at WEC Ocala? What about USEF mileage rules?  

Ultimately our plan is to host sanctioned events. We have begun the application process with the US Equestrian Federation to acquire dates in Ocala. In the event that we are not granted the ability to run USEF rated horse shows, we plan to run our own WEC Hunter / Jumper horse shows. Since 2016, we have hosted 28 weeks of USEF rated horse shows at our facility in Wilmington, Ohio. Our exhibitors are encouraged to sign up online for WEC Points to qualify for year-end awards and prizes. We will expand our WEC Points system to include events at WEC Ocala, hosting a year-end awards banquet to celebrate our circuit champions.

Will you host FEI events?

Yes, we have built our facility in Ocala to international standards and we will be applying to host FEI sanctioned events. We have already begun discussions with organizations that manage these events and presented WEC Ocala for consideration as a future event venue.

When will you host your first horse show?

Our Grand Opening is slated for January 2021. We will host our first horse show then and the facility will be open to the public at that time.

Why the two-year timeline?

We want to be absolutely certain that our facility is completely finished and in ready condition to safely host horses and exhibitors. It is a matter of ensuring that we have the infrastructure and amenities to provide a world-class experience to all who visit WEC Ocala.

Can you give us an update on the current status of the build?

As construction advances, the World Equestrian Center continues to shift the paradigm in equestrian sports with development of a truly state of the art, resort-style equestrian sports venue. The facility’s sophisticated technology network is currently being built with systems that will make World Equestrian Center Ocala the most advanced horse show facility in the country. When it comes online in January 2021, the World Equestrian Center’s technology infrastructure will accommodate key card technology, digital video live streaming and a 24/7 security network.

What type of Equestrian sports will be featured at WEC Ocala?

Our facility is equipped to host many different equestrian disciplines such as Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Para equestrian, Vaulting and Reining. We will welcome breed events as well, such as Quarter Horse, Paso Fino, Arabians, etc. In addition to equestrian sports, the facility will host weddings, corporate events, athletic events, dog shows, car shows, antique shows and more.

On the Equestrian Estates

How many lots will be available and at what sizes?

The Equestrian Estate property will be offered in 3 acre lots or multiple 3 acre lots, depending upon a purchaser’s requirements.

When will lot pricing be available?

Lot pricing will be available in Q1 of 2019

Does home ownership at WEC Ocala include Golden Ocala club membership?

Those who purchase lots within World Equestrian Center Ocala will be required to join Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.

On Economic Impact

What is the WEC going to bring in the equestrian community in Ocala and to the larger equestrian world?

Ocala is beautiful and it is truly the Horse Capital of the World. So, it is fitting that WEC have a presence in Ocala.  To have World Equestrian Center in Ocala, adjacent to Golden Ocala, is incredible for exhibitors and their families. Golden Ocala offers the equestrian the experience of amazing amenities like golf, swimming, tennis, fine dining and of course real estate, so it is truly unique in our world. We look to the past to incorporate things that we loved about showing horses as kids – and then we tie in more modern aspects to the facility like better footing, equipment and technology. These things make managing horse shows easier and more efficient and that translates to making showing horses easier and more enjoyable for everyone. The new facility will create jobs in the area and provide people with a friendly, safe and fun destination for their whole family.

On the Employment Impact

Can you estimate the jobs impact the facility will have on the area?

Our current estimate is that we will hire approximately 300 full-time and 200 part-time associates, before our opening. This does not include horse show staff.

When will you begin hiring for the facility?

Our approach will be a phased one. This means that we will begin hiring facilities and landscaping staff in the Spring of 2019. We will begin hiring sales staff in the Summer of 2019 and we will begin hiring culinary and service staff (hotel/restaurant) in the Spring of 2020.

For information on how to learn about employment opportunities at WEC Ocala, visit the expanded version of this article online at ocalamagazine.com and for more information about the World Equestrian Center, visit wec.net.

Enacting the Vision

Almost 10 years after the initiation of The Ocala 2035 Vision, an ambitious plan to build up Ocala’s infrastructure to support growth, it is time for a checklist to see how we’ve done. The City of Ocala and Marion County receive high marks on execution.

By John Sotomayor

It was a turning point for our city. Those appointed to the redevelopment of Ocala got out of the sand — literally — back in gear toward prosperity. Like a colony of worker ants, the people of Ocala unified to build upon its colony. City and county officials, as well as community activists, united together on a common cause — to establish a long-term plan for urban development to best serve the growth of our community on the city and county levels. They established a Citizen Leadership Group that led months of public meetings and design workshops, focus group discussions, and outreach committees to research other communities’ successfully applied ideas. On October 19, 2010, the City of Ocala City Council adopted the community-completed plan known as The Ocala 2035 Vision.

According to the city of Ocala website, The Ocala 2035 Vision “served as the basis for identifying community design values and issues for the community’s required Comprehensive Plan Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR), urban form and design policies in the community’s Comprehensive plan, and new standards for design in the community’s development codes and design guidelines.”

“Ocala has come a long way over the past decade,” said City of Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. “It has followed the plan to the letter, remaining on schedule.”

“If you want to see how well we’ve done, just look at The Ocala 2035 Vision,” added City Manager John Zobler. “You can see what was planned for each year and actually check them off the list as done.”

That says a great deal, given previous missteps. Does anyone remember The Sandbox? It was supposed to be the City Shops & Walk, to be built downtown where the luxe condo apartments known as 302 Broadway and parking garage now stand, however South Florida developer Jorge Gutman ran into several problems that stalled the development for years. In 2009, the City of Ocala purchased the land back in a foreclosure sale for $100. Since then, development was enacted and maintained efficiently.

Following what Zobler suggested, a check list of The Ocala Vision 2035 reveals what has been accomplished to date, and what is on the horizon.

Downtown Makeover

The Ocala Vision 2035 had some very specific items for downtown redevelopment to make it a more family and user-friendly area to interact. Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) grant dollars were used by the downtown businesses for interior and exterior improvements. For quality of place, they added cultural arts and murals.

For operational excellence, public art displays and the Magnolia Art X-change, located at the former train station, were added in the Tuscawilla Park area by 2015, and the adjacent Tuscawilla Art Park in 2018.

For fiscal sustainability and quality of living, the former Sprint Building was converted to the 302 Broadway contemporary luxury lofts. As an economic hub, the Ocala Downtown Market was created in 2016, and the Osceola Rail was repaired, converted to a linear park. Magnolia Avenue added Lofts on the Square, Olive Market, and Brick City Southern Kitchen.

The long-awaited Downtown Parking Garage also opened in 2016. The South Magnolia Mobility Improvement, which included repaving the road from Broadway to Fort King with cobblestone, accentuating the streets with artisan lamp posts was done the following year in 2017. The Historic Fort King Reconstruction was also unveiled in 2017.

Citywide

As part of the economic hub plan, Fed Ex began construction on the FedEx Ground Package System Inc in 2015 at the Ocala 489 Commerce Park. Soon after, AutoZone Distribution Center built its own distribution center in 2017, and Chewy.com followed in 2018.

The Ocala Business Park was built at the Ocala International Airport around that time. The Florida Crossroads Commerce Park on County Road 484 west of Interstate 75 near Marion Oaks began in 2018.

The Septic Tank Abandonment Program began June 2015. It was supposed to be completed by June 2017, but was extended to June 2018. The total cost came to $10 million, split $2.5 million by St, Johns River water Management District (SJRWMD), $2.5 million by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and $5 million by the city of Ocala.

Midtown Makeover

There were several challenges to recreate midtown, the area just north of SR 40 up to southern part of Tuscawilla Park. The area had several dominant uses that lacked synergy, as well as deterioration of the existing neighborhoods. There were waves of disinvestment, plus connectivity and mobility issues, lack of social gathering spaces, and absence of residential and commercial living.

To counter the problems and reinvigorate midtown, the city made its most significant investments. The game changer was the grand opening of the Reilley Arts Center in the renovated almost-80-year-old City Auditorium at Tuscawilla Park.  The venue attracted A-list performers from across the nation and world, as well as provided a central location for local talent to perform. The Reilley was only the beginning of the area’s remarkable transformation.

On Feb 5, 2019 the city opened the new First Responder Campus on 8th Avenue, with adjacent fire and police stations on the site. There are plans on the horizon to convert the Fire Station One off Tuscawilla Park into a brewery and concessions, where patrons of the park concert series and other attractions can find refreshments.

The parking lot north of SR 40 between 1st Ave and Magnolia Ave is planned to become the Concord Lot, a plaza with tables and seating so that people can congregate as they do in larger cities, a popular concept in Europe.

Coming Soon in 2019

There are redevelopments happening this year countywide. A new terminal at Ocala International Airport is expected to be completed in the summer 2019. In the midtown area, an Open-Air Pavilion and Engagement Center is planned to provide services for transients.  Construction is under way on the Osceola Multimodal Connection that will stretch from Ocala Downtown Market to Tuscawilla Park, providing a pedestrian pathway.

2019 will prove transformational for West Ocala. Three critical areas have been targeted for investment: the MLK First Responders Campus, between 7th and 5th Streets off Martin Luther King Ave (budgeted at $6.5 million), Croskey Commons, located on Martin Luther King Blvd between SR 40 and NW 7th Street (budget is $9.6 million), and a community center at Royal Oak (budgeted at $6.5 million).

Blight Removal

In order to fully benefit from improvements made to a city, it is vital to also remove the urban decay known as blight. Potential businesses and residents will hesitate to relocate if the city is covered in eye-sores. Blight is not good for business.

The City of Ocala has demolished the former Quality Inn Site on SR 40 and I-75. It has also removed blight that formerly dotted North Magnolia, known as “the Miracle Mile.” New retail centers have rooted or are planned throughout the county, such as Paradise Park Retail Center.

On the Horizon

The central focus downtown is on the Hilton Garden Inn, a downtown mixed-use development project by developer Danny Gaekwad for an alluring hotel with residential units, boutique shops, and five-star restaurants within.

By January 2020, the Hilton Garden Inn will open its doors, forever changing the look and feel of downtown Ocala. Commerce will be robust, and the community will be full of life. With all that has been accomplished in the first 10 years of the 25-year plan, the next 15 years should be remarkable.

For starters, the World Equestrian Center currently under way on the grounds of Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. The behemoth, five-star world class resort is slated to open in Jan 2021. The inclusion will solidify Ocala as the ultimate destination for world travelers attracted by everything equestrian. The possibilities are limitless. The path already laid.

 

Arts & Economic Prosperity Study

In July 2017, the City of Ocala was selected by Americans for the Arts to take part in the 5th Arts and Economic Prosperity Study (AEP5). The purpose was to define the economic impact of arts and culture on Ocala, and all of Marion County.

The study revealed the following:

  • Total industry expenditures were $56 million
  • Total collective economic impact is 1422 FTEs
  • Revenue to our local government was $2.4 million
  • Revenue to our state government was $3.7 million

Going For The Gold

By Nick Steele

Chester Weber is a self-confessed perfectionist with the life motto, “Winners train, losers complain” When he is not traveling for competitions, he rises early every day and hits the gym at Golden Ocala by 6 a.m. and is training his horses by 8 a.m. He shifts to working on Live Oak International business by midday. His life is one of precision and discipline, which has led him to become a 15-time U.S. Equestrian Federation four-in-hand national champion, the most decorated driver in the United States and recognized as one of the world’s leading equestrian athletes. “I finished off last year, at number two in the world rankings,” he offers. “And, for the first time ever, we won the team gold medal for driving at the World Equestrian Games.”

It was the United States first team gold and represented a proud moment for Weber, who also won the individual silver medal for driving. It is the fourth silver medal awarded to him by the World Equestrian Games. “What makes four-in-hand combined driving truly special and unique from other equestrian disciplines, such as dressage or showjumping, is that while those disciplines may have a barn full of horses which they have to create bonds and work together with, [four-in-hand] drivers have to work with four horses at once, just to step inside the arena,” Weber asserted as he accepted his fourth Becky Grand Hart Trophy at the United States Equestrian Federation’s annual Pegasus Awards gala. “Sixteen legs, eight ears, eight sets of reins, and four hearts, which all require the absolute best care and attention to be the best athletes they can be.”

Born and bred in Ocala, Weber was raised on his family’s horse farm and has been involved in the sport of combined driving since he was 13-years old. One of his sisters rode hunter/jumpers and his brother played polo. “My family had Clydesdales and driving is what you do with them,” he offers. “I followed the sport up through the ranks to the four-in-hand. I think that when four horses are working together harmoniously, we witness something like moving poetry. As a driver, I feel like the conductor to a special orchestra.”

At 6’2” and 190 pounds, he cuts a striking figure, not unlike an conductor, atop the carriage. He represents Ocala with absolute pride at tournaments around the world. In 2015, he had a particularly regal encounter, receiving personal congratulations from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, following his second consecutive win at Royal Windsor. “It was very, very special. And well earned,” Weber commented on the honor. “Not just for me, but for the entire team behind these horses,”

He credits his understated demeanor to the spirited, majestic creatures that he spends so much time around. ‘Horses teach people of all ages humility, discipline, life skills,” he shares. “They have a wonderful way to keep you humble. Humility is also really a principle that I guide my life and the organization on. I try to have an expectation of excellence from everybody. But it is really important to me that, no matter how good we’re doing, everybody is humble.”

He also has a unique perspective about his success as a competitor, that only comes with age and years of firsthand experience. “One of the things that is so unique and nice about working with horse everyday is that with youth comes enthusiasm and speed — with age comes wisdom, knowledge and patience,” he says reflectively. “To stay at the top level, you need a mix of those things. Right now I am at the heart of my career, where I still have the speed and desire, but I also have a lot of experience and patience.”

To borrow one of his signature phrases, it is clear that it will be “onward and upward” from here for the this inspiring and trailblazing gentleman. “It’s my career, it’s my life, it’s my passion,” Weber has stated about his career as a competitor. When asked about his ambitions for the future, he answers without a moment’s hesitation. “Individually, I have won a series of silver medals, but I have never won an individual gold medal,” he explains. “So I would really like to be the individual world champion for once in my life. Those titles are only ever available every other year, so my next opportunity will be in Holland in September of 2020.”

Weber’s deep commitment and ambition, seems to signal that his quest for gold is an inevitable outcome for one of Ocala’s most celebrated native sons. Onward and upward Mr. Weber  — we will be rooting for you.

 

To learn more and follow his journey, visit ChesterWeber.com or follow his Instagram account @ChesterWeber

Horsing Around

 

By Louisa Barton  Photography by Edward Laiz 

This year, the Parade of Nations Horse Celebration will take place on March 7th and has been renamed The Live Oak International Parade of Nations for 2019. The parade coincides with the Live Oak combined driving and show jumping competition, which runs March 7th through the 10th at Live Oak Stud Farm. Equestrian athletes from more than 20 nations come to Ocala to compete at Live Oak International. As the only U.S. combined driving and show jumping tournament, Live Oaks’ sponsorship of the parade gives it an international flair.

Last Fall, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) made a decision to relocate the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ from Ocala to Wellington. In past years, the Parade of Nation Horse Celebration was held in conjunction with that competition.  

The new Live Oak International Parade of Nations promises to be an equally enjoyable event for the entire community, equestrian or not. A parade such as this will likely attract around 10,000 spectators to downtown Ocala. This adds to the excitement around the Live Oak International Combined Driving and Show Jumping event (LOI), a four-day competition that attracts many spectators. The equestrian event is now in its 28th year and is considered a true Ocala tradition.    

Chester Weber, co-president of LOI, will assume the role of the Grand Marshal of the parade. He will open the parade with one his teams of horses, followed by some more hitches and horse drawn carriages, entered in the parade this year. This exciting opening will be followed by an international group of equestrian athletes, carrying the flags of their Nations. Over 35 horses, many in costume representing their heritage, will then be led or ridden by their owners or trainers around the square to showcase many of the equine breeds who call Marion County home.

The parade will be hosted by Ocala Main Street in conjunction with the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership’s (CEP) Equine Engagement Committee, presented by New Millennium Realty. The parade will fill the downtown square with horses and riders, clad in attire befitting their breeds. There will also be an opportunity to meet and get a ‘selfie’ with a few of the beautiful horse breeds, from the tallest to the shortest horses in Marion County. Visitors will also be able to peruse the vendor village, where they can enjoy snacks and refreshments.

In the evening, what better way to continue the celebration of our community, and kick off a fun weekend of ‘horsing around’, then at Live Oak. It really does not matter whether you are sitting under a gorgeous Spanish moss-laden Oak tree, enjoying a glass of champagne and some gourmet delicacies, tailgating or watching the exciting marathonyou are sure to have a enjoyable outing.

 

Louisa Barton is the Director of Equine Engagement at Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce, as well the host and executive producer of The Horse Talk Show.

MAKING A MARK ON OUR COMMUNITY

There is one thing we can agree on, we all want what’s best for our children. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, a proverb which means that it takes an entire community of different people, interacting with children, for the child to experience and grow in a safe environment. Our “village” here in Ocala is the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County.

By Elka Peterson  Photography by Philip Marcel 

Last year, its three locations in Ocala, Dunnellon and Silver Springs Shores served approximately 1,200 kids, with an average daily after-school attendance of 200 and 329 during the Summer.

Executive Director April Savarese has been on board since May 2018.  She’s lived in Ocala since the ‘80s and has actively been involved in the community.  Coming from a long career in banking, as a former Gateway Bank vice president, she admits that it’s a big change going from profit to nonprofit.

“I’m doing things I never did before and learning from that,” she shares. “But there are also some similarities like marketing the brand positively, building relationships with donors and making a positive image in the community.”

There seems to be a common misconception that the Boys & Girls Club is just a daycare. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although initially it started as an effort to keep kids off the streets, it has grown and become so much more. “We put much thought into what is done here,” Savarese offers.

According to statistics, the highest rate of crime is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., when kids get out of school and are unsupervised. 82 percent of kids come from low to moderate income families and don’t have a place to go after school. They would either be home alone or waiting outside somebody’s job. 92 percent of the kids they help live with only one or no biological parent.

The club aims to keep the kids out of trouble, provide a fun, safe and structured environment for them. This has the strong potential to impact their life and their future in a positive way.

The Boys & Girls Club of Marion County focuses on health and wellness, character and leadership and academic success. Each day the children are helped with homework, taught about sharing and caring, and encouraged to explore healthy eating and physical activity.

Each location has a computer room, gym, playground, arts and crafts opportunities and many other projects designed to engage the children. These varied activities, based on age groups, encourage a positive lifestyle. “It makes a big difference in their lives,” asserts Savarese.

The Ocala location has a vegetable garden that the children tend, which is part of the health and wellness effort. “The children have fun and don’t even realize that they’re learning.”

There is a minimal annual membership fee that goes directly to the Boys & Girls Club of America. There is also a weekly fee and an additional fee if bus transportation is required. Currently there are children from 18 Marion County schools, ages six to eighteen, that attend either the youth program or teen program at one of the three locations. The programs run Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 5pm and include breakfast and lunch.

Nobody is ever turned away for their inability to pay. The club is able to offer scholarships to local children, thanks to the Department of Juvenile Justice, the United Way and the Marion County Hospital District, along with Signature Brands, Deluca Toyota and many other corporate contributions.

The local clubs also hold fun events throughout the year to raise funds. Each club has events for their community like pancake breakfasts, nacho Fridays, basketball tournaments and golf tournaments. These events bring the community together for a good cause.

This month, Sisters on the Move is holding a fashion show, Fashion Flare 2019 on Saturday, March 2nd starting at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County’s at 800 SW 12th Avenue. All proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County. Tickets start at $10 and are available at allevents.in/ocala

The following Saturday, the club hosts one of the biggest events of the year. The Spring gala, titled A Night on Bourbon Street takes place March 9th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Klein Center at The College of Central Florida. It promises to be an entertaining evening of dinner, dancing, raffles and a live auction with a Mardi Gras twist. Prizes will be given for the best costume. Visit bgcofmarion.com/calendar, for more information.

The Annual Corporate Basketball Tournament will be held on March 30th at 8:30 a.m. CO-Ed Corporate teams will battle it out for the championship title. $500 Team entry includes Team Shirts. Deadline to Register is March 15th. This is a fun event for the whole family. Come on out and cheer for your favorite team. Call 352-690-7440 or email admin@bgcofmarion.com for additional information.

All events are open to the public. The community is encouraged to attend and participate. We can all make a difference in a child’s life and help with the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County.  Become part of “the village” and help a child reach their full potential. Their future depends on it. Learn more at bgcofmarion.com

365 Days at the Ocala Police Department

A year in the life of a member of the Ocala Police Department (OPD) is as eventful as you can imagine, and much of the activity goes unseen by the public. Each of us living and working in Ocala have a quality of life that is directly impacted by the actions of OPD’s integrated team of professionals. However, rarely are we aware of the results being produced by our local law enforcement officials on our behalf. In 2018, their impact was profound. The following accomplishments and highlights provide a brief look into what takes place over 365 days at OPD.

Provided by the City of Ocala

 

 

 

 

 

The Community Policing Bureau

  • Saved 46 lives by administering Narcan to individuals who were overdosing.
  • Had two cases highlighted on A&E’s national television show PD Cam. The officers were interviewed about these two cases.

 

■ Executed a five-hour standoff with an armed and dangerous suspect, resulting in an arrest with no injuries. OPD safely removed five children and their mother, a domestic violence victim, from the residence.

 

■ Negotiated with a suicidal man hanging from the I-75 overpass, convincing him to climb back over the fence and enter the safety of a patrol vehicle, to be transported for mental health treatment.

 

  • Deployed 43 employees to Blountstown in the Florida Panhandle for nearly four weeks, to provide hurricane relief following Hurricane Michael.
  • Confiscated 313 firearms from convicted felons and those engaged in criminal activity.

 

Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team

 

  • Disrupted/dismantled nine Drug Trafficking Organizations.
  • Seized $6,822,573 worth of drugs from our community.
  • Made 424 arrests.
  • Seized 70 firearms.
  • Eight drug dealers referred  for homicide prosecution.
  • Seized the following substances: 16.4 kg of heroin, 11.9 kg of cocaine, .12 kg of crack cocaine, 508.4 kg of marijuana, 29.4 kg of methamphetamine (including MDMA and Ice), and 1,726 prescription pills.

 

Investigations Bureau

  • Obtained the first murder indictment (in the history of Florida) on a drug dealer for the overdose death of a 28-year-old female.
  • Closed two homicide cases, by arrest, the same day they occurred.
  • Dismantled a statewide theft ring responsible for $500,00 in losses, recovering more than $100,000 in tools stolen from Ocala.
  • Detective Sean Young received the Vance Ferguson Award for his exceptional performance as a property crimes detective. His overall clearance rate was 82%, which is three times the national average.

 

Victim/Witness Advocacy

  • Assisted 923 victims.
  • Handled 293 emergency call-outs, 863 domestic violence cases and 71 dating violence cases.
  • Crystal Blanton named Advocate of the Year by the Family Violence Prevention Workgroup of the Marion County Children’s Alliance.
  • Conducted a human trafficking awareness presentation for Marion County School Administrators
  • Seniors vs. Crime recovered $218,180 for victims, from 77 total cases.

 

Youth Development

  • Added 12 School Resource Officers (SRO), bringing the total amount of SRO’s protecting Ocala schools to 20.
  • Combined SRO Unit with Marion County Sheriff’s Office to form unified Juvenile Division.
  • Hosted the Red Ribbon Week kick-off event at OPD, in partnership with the Community Council Against Substance Abuse.
  • Provided Police and Children Connecting (PACC) summer camp for more than 200 children ages 6 to 12.

 

Training

  • Conducted four training orientations for 30 new police officers.
  • Sponsored 14 police officer recruits through the College of Central Florida Criminal Justice Institute Police Academy.
  • Conducted eight Narcan training classes.
  • Introduced the DART virtual shooting range and added less-lethal impact munitions to equipment.

 

Traffic/Motors Unit

  • Completed nine traffic fatality investigations, including two involving impaired drivers. Those investigations resulted in plea deals with the SAO totaling 41 and 12 year sentences.
  • Wrote 61% of 4,597 citations. Reduced traffic crashes by 13.5%.
  • Brought home the first-place prize in statewide motorcycle competition.
  • Trained in Presidential and Dignitary Protection Escorts and served as protection escorts for the President and Vice President of the United States during their recent trips to the area.

 

K-9 Unit

  • Assisted in locating 189 illegal drugs, which is a 54% increase from 2017.
  • Increased total arrests, by the K-9 unit, by 56%.
  • Located 12 firearms that were used in felony drug cases and violent crimes.
  • Located more than 20 articles used in various crimes, tracked more than 50 suspects and located subjects wanted in burglaries, robberies, and homicides.

 

  • Welcomed new K-9 Handler, Alex Roos, and two new dogs named Jaeger and Cheney.
  • Officer Gerard King and his K-9 partner, Zorba, became certified in Human Remains Detection. In March, Officer King and Zorba assisted the Lake County Sheriff’s Office with an investigation. Zorba alerted King to a specific area in a backyard. A search of the area yielded two charred bones.

 

Community Services Division

  • Handled 1,588 traffic crashes.
  • Provided and installed 114 car seats.
  • Sponsored and participated in five CarFit events for aging drivers.
  • Sponsored four community events for Occupant Protection/Car Safety.

 

SWAT

  • Provided security for large community events, including Light Up Ocala.
  • Conducted multiple callouts for armed/barricaded subjects, bringing all cases to a peaceful resolution.
  • Executed 15 search warrants for the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team.
  • Responded to the Forest High School shooting, aiding in building clearance and evacuation of students.

 

Communication Center/911 Dispatch

  • Improved 10-second answer rate from 66% to 75%, with an August to December rate of 80% or better.
  • Implemented Quality Assurance Program and completed more than 3,000 proactive quality call evaluations in six months.
  • Added a Communication Center Training Supervisor responsible for initial eight-week training for new dispatchers, and ongoing re-certifications and education.

 

Thank you to all of the men and women who serve the City of Ocala with courage, integrity, and character on a daily basis. Our community is a great place to live, in large part, because of your dedication.

To learn more about OPD, visit ocalapd.com or connect with us on social media.

  • Facebook – Ocala Police Department
  • Twitter – @ocalapd
  • Instagram – @ocala_police_department

SAY TACO!

 

By: R. Jill Fink      Photos by Kevin Bischof

Remotely tucked away on sunny Mexico’s West Coast is a small village called Sayulita, where quiet beaches shimmer as surfers ride the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean. It is a scene of spontaneous excitement and powerful serenity. About 3,300 miles away, Sayulita Taqueria mirrors this interesting dichotomy by serving up some intensely tasty tacos and other gourmet eats in a fun, laid back atmosphere.

I could instantly tell that the creative menu is a source of pride for Bill Harmening, the owner and one of the brains behind the profusion of unique items Sayulita offers. Under beige canopies and strings of market lights, Bill and I sat outside in the peaceful courtyard to discuss how one of Ocala’s newest eateries came to fruition. His entire face lights up when he tells the story of how some of their options were created. Just as much passion was put into the rest of the concept, which doesn’t make a claim as an “authentic” Taqueria. He stated that their focus was “for every item on the menu to be special and really good.” I can wholeheartedly attest that the dishes are ridiculously good and truly special.

Harmening has been in the restaurant business for over 35 years. He visited upwards of 40 different taco places before opening Sayulita and developed an acutely discerning palate when it came to flavor combinations and what he thought would become favorites on his upcoming menu. The choice is up to the customer as to whether they want one or more tacos, as everything is offered a la carte. This makes it cost-effective for customers and is also a great way to “eat your way through the menu,” choosing different things to try each time you visit.

We started with a huge tray of steak nachos, which came piled high, starting with a base of thin, delicious yellow corn tortilla chips, which were made on the premises. They were topped  with generous portions of hot queso, black beans, crema, homemade salsa, pickled jalapenos and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Next up was an enticing appetizer called the Tres Amigos; which included Sayulita’s homemade salsa, freshly-made guacamole and hot queso dip, served with chips.

But the taco is the thing: A humble tortilla of either corn or wheat flour that can be filled with ingredients only limited by one’s imagination. On the menu, The 101 is a great choice,  if this is your first visit to Sayulita. It is pretty much a “beginner” taco with your choice of either seasoned ground beef or chicken, lettuce, cheese, crema and salsa. The meat is seasoned to perfection and the house-made salsa really amps up the flavor. They prepare five gallons a day from scratch.

We tried the Al Pastor next, which had big chunks of tangy, yet sweet and savory, chicken and pink pickled cabbage. Not only was it visually stunning, it was really delicious.

The Malibu Taco was a surprise and a delight. I almost don’t want to write about it so you can have the same experience without any preconceived notion about this tasty concoction. It’s a vegetarian taco complete with zucchini, squash, mushrooms, red onion, cheese, and cilantro crema. The not-so-secret ingredient that will blow your mind? Plantain. The veggies are seasoned and grilled to perfection and they add in pieces of plantain, that really brings the whole dish together. We also tried the Shrimp Taco, topped with “boom boom” sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and cilantro. The sweet shrimp had a crunchy coating and was perfectly cooked.

Most fun menu items? The Dirty Dog Taco, which has a Nathan’s hotdog, sliced, grilled, and topped with meat, lettuce, crema, salsa and queso. We also tried The Mexican Ashtray (don’t let the name deter you from ordering this Mexican beer in a can, topped with hot sauce, salt & pepper, and lime.

Their sides, including rice and beans, grilled veggies, or sweet plantains, are a welcome addition to those epic tacos or any dish on the menu. There are lots of other choices for those who don’t want to go the taco route, including quesadillas, salads, and burrito bowls. Save room for their sweet and crunchy churros, which come with one of the most delicious dipping sauces I’ve ever had. This Burnt Vanilla Crema, as they called it, is unlike the heavy  caramel that usually accompanies churros. Instead it is silky-smooth and quite light.

Sayulita offers a full bar and a very comfortable atmosphere for dining.  It’s the perfect place for a romantic night out, a fun lunch or dinner or even a business meeting. All you really need to have a great time is a curiosity about innovative food.

Sayulita Taqueria is located at 10 Northeast 1st Street or check them out online at saytaco.com.

Siri…You Make My Heart Aflutter

 

By: Rick Savage

Every year electronics aficionados await Apple’s special events where they introduce new products. During last year’s September 12th event, held in the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple announced three new complications (snippets of data that appear on the face of an Apple smartwatch, including medical monitoring information) for the Apple Watch 4 that is furthering the company’s foray into the medical device world. Those complications are: fall detection, an atrial fibrillation (AFib) detection app, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) app. Of particular interest are the AFib and ECG apps, since they required FDA clearance to classify the watch as a class II medical device. This evolves the watch’s fitness monitoring capability to healthcare monitoring. Since then there has been discussion of the usefulness of the product. The technology comes standard in every Apple Watch 4, but who will need it and is it accurate?

First let’s focus on is the marketing behind the Apple Watch 4. During the September 12 keynote Apple COO Jeff Williams took the stage and touted the watch’s new features and benefits.

Guardian of the Galaxy

The Apple Watch 4 was described as both “an intelligent guardian for your health” and “the ultimate guardian for your health”.

The optical sensor in the back, which traditionally computed calories burned and resting heart rate, has been repurposed for its guardian role. Two new features were added. Low heart rate notification is sent and the heart rhythm is screened in the background with notification sent if atrial fibrillation (AFib) is detected.

An ECG heart feature was added by integrating two electrodes, one on the watch back and one on the digital crown. This was touted as the first ECG product offered over-the-counter, directly to consumers. It can detect a normal rhythm (sinus rhythm) or irregular rhythm (AFib). The ECG app analyzes the data and creates a PDF that can be shared with a physician. During the presentation, the president of the American Heart Association Dr. Ivor J. Benjamin was brought on stage. “The ability to access health data on an on-demand electrocardiogram, or ECG, is game changing.” he stated.

Both the ECG app and the irregular heart rhythm alert received FDA De Novo clearance, which was explained as the “first of its kind.”

What the watch isn’t

Before you spend some hard-earned cash, let’s examine some of the claims. The endorsement by the president of the American Heart Association and the FDA clearance may sound like a deal-maker, but what exactly is FDA De Novo clearance and what does the letter from the FDA actually say?

A De Novo novel device can be described as a new device that has no equivalents in the FDA database. Apple called the Watch 4 “the first ECG product offered over-the-counter directly to consumers” and referred to the FDA clearance as “first of its kind.” There is actually a competitor – AliveCor – that was FDA cleared in 2014 for heart rate monitoring and is available OTC to consumers. A key difference is the AliveCor product is offered as an accessory to an Apple or Android device with external electrodes while the Watch 4 has the sensors built-in.

Dr. Ivor Benjamin, called an on-demand ECG wearable device “game changing”. The reality is that there has been criticism that the single lead data obtained by the Series 4 watch may lead to false positives and unnecessary trips to the doctor. Being a class II medical device, means that special controls are required to lower risk to consumers, including labeling.

According to the FDA clearance letter for the AFib app, the product is not intended to be used with people previously diagnosed with AFib and is not intended to replace traditional methods of diagnosis or treatment.

According to the FDA clearance letter for the ECG app, the data displayed from the product is intended for informational use only and is not intended to replace traditional methods of diagnosis or treatment.

If a person is seriously concerned about their heart health, they should absolutely see their local cardiologist. A proper electrocardiogram uses 10 electrodes to obtain 12 leads of data. The data obtained is more extensive than Apple’s one lead, two electrode test and a qualified physician will make better decisions than a layman. With that said the Apple Watch is still the highest selling watch in the world. The new features are making breakthroughs in functional wearable technology.

 

What is an atrial fibrillation (AFib)?

The heart beats irregularly. The upper chambers of the heart are out of sync with the lower chambers.

 

What is an ECG?

An ECG is an electrocardiogram. It is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. A standard ECG uses ten electrodes to measure twelve leads. A lead is the graphical representation of the measurements. The simplest test, a one lead test, is derived by taking the measurements between two electrodes.

 

How does the Apple Watch 4 heart monitoring work?

Optical Sensors (PPG): Ever since the first-generation Apple Watch was released in 2014, the products have had optical heart rate sensors in the watch back. This technology is known as a photoplethysmogram (PPG). It’s simple, low cost, and non-invasive. The way it works is it illuminates the skin with a light emitting diode and then measures either the amount of light reflected or absorbed with a photodiode. The photodiode converts light into an electric current which can be measured. Paired with the AFib app the optical heart sensor can detect an irregular heartbeat.

Electrodes (ECG): The Apple Watch 4 has two sensors added. There is a back electrode and a crown electrode. By touching the crown electrode with the finger of your non-watch wearing hand, a closed circuit is created that includes your heart and both arms. The electrical impulses that pass across your chest are measured and data is analyzed by the ECG app. This is a one lead, two electrode ECG test.

THE LEGACY OF LIVE OAK

 

Live Oak International is recognized as one of the largest and most prestigious equestrian events held in the United States, by competitors and spectators from around the globe. Now in its 28th year, this annual event is a showcase for some of the best combined driving and show-jumping events in the world, drawing top drivers, top riders, trainers, coaches and owners from across the United States, Canada, Asia, South America and Europe.

When March rolls around, the 4,500-acre family farm, becomes a hub of activity and excitement. In 2018, top equestrian athletes, including Olympians and World Cup Champions, descended on this world-class venue to compete at Live Oak and this year promises to be even bigger than any previous year. The show-jumping events includes the $10,000 Waldron Private Wealth Power & Speed competition, two $35,700 Longines World Ranking Classes, and culminates with the thrilling $100,000 CSI-W3* Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Qualifier Grand Prix on Sunday, March 10. It is the last chance for U.S. riders to qualify for the 2019 Longines FEI World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“We usually have around 20 nations here to compete,” explains Chester Weber, who along with his sister Juliet Reid, serve as co-presidents for the event “It’s really become a family affair. My sister and my niece are both involved. This is a real passion for our family”

The seeds of the event were sowed by another Ocala resident, Susan Gilliland, who was part of a local driving club “She was looking for a venue to have the combined cross-country event,” Weber recalls. “She approached my folks about having event and my parents said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. We basically have a cow field and you can use. So in 1991, they had their first event. The cross-country part of the event was here for the first four years and then we built the stabling area and a place for dressage, and the rest is history. At the time, I was away at school, but but when I moved back in 1997 Susan and I developed a really close friendship.”

Their friendship led to a collaboration that Weber credits with the formation and growth of that local event into what is now an important international stop on the equestrian calendar. Weber explains that it is an important part of their legacy. “Initially, one of the big draws for people was for them to come out to watch the cross-country driving on Saturday morning,” he says. “It became a place to go and be seen.”

But the potential for it to become something greater was not lost on this enterprising family. And as the concept expanded, so did the audience. “It’s been really nice because we have seen a really organic growth in the spectator base,” Weber asserts. “People love coming out. Our customer, unlike a lot of horse competitions, is really the sponsor and the spectator. Whereas a lot of events are competitor or exhibitor driven. We like to refer to it as a tournament of sport…not as a show. We feel that we that we bring a top equestrian sport, in the area of driving and show-jumping, to Ocala once a year.”

“We have large aspirations in this family.” Juliet Reid stated during one of Live Oak’s press conferences.

Some of those aspirations have been inherited by Reid’s own daughter Chloe, who is a regular competitor at Live Oak. “I am a show jumper and I have competed for the U.S. multiple times,” Chloe explains. “That’s my ultimate goal — to represent my country. I’m looking forward to competing at Live Oak in the Freestyle Jumping World Cup competition.”

Lucky for Chloe that the family had the foresight to expand the event from just driving to include show-jumping, a few years back. But while she has inherited her uncles love of competition, she admits that she is somewhat of an anomaly in that way. “While my family is very horsey, my parents are not,” Chloe reveals with a chuckle. “My mom manages the horse shows with my uncle, but I don’t think I could pay her to get on a horse. I joke that it skipped a generation, because my grandmother and uncle have a real passion for horses,” she continues. “My mom is one of four children and she is the only one that has no interest. She is also the only one of her siblings who has a child that wants to ride. I have a lot of cousins and I’m the only one.”

Chloe, who will graduate from the University of Miami in May, is already an accomplished competitor in her own right. She is also exploring the ways in which she can help grow the family business. “She has started a social media company and has been working on some of our social media already,” says Weber. “It’s a lot of fun to have new blood involved…younger people with different ideas. We try to continue to evolve as an event and an organization. You can imagine, if you still had the same concepts and principles that you had 27 years ago, and you never changed your business, then I think you likely wouldn’t be successful,” he continues. “Much of the success of Live Oak International has come from adapting to what’s going on and making sure we deliver a wonderful tournament for our spectators.”

From its inception, this family-run business has been a passion project that continues to grow and exceed expectations each year, thanks to the forward-thinking nature of the family. But it has also given them an indelible link to the Ocala community and brought countless visitors and opportunities to our region. Perhaps what is most special about the event is the amount of togetherness and joy it brings to the family

“My favorite part of Live Oak is that it is something that my entire family does together,” Chloe shares. “Obviously, my mom has a large part in managing everything with my uncle. My dad does farm tours for the major sponsors on the weekends and my brother is running around taking photos and helping with the media. I am involved in encouraging riders to come. I was on the phone yesterday with someone from Japan, then someone from the Netherlands and then someone from Germany. We have riders come from a lot of South American countries as well, Mexico, Columbia and Paraguay.”

“It’s really a lot of fun for us.” Weber says echoing his niece’s sentiment. “I really like the cross-country driving on Saturday. That’s really where the roots of the event started. It still gets a huge crowd. Thousands of people come out to watch. I see people who have very little interest in horses come out every year just to have a tailgate,” he continues. “Somebody will have wonderful fried chicken and the next one will have something equally delicious. There are a bunch of food trucks. I really look forward to that one.”

“It’s a beautiful farm and we welcome the community in once a year,” Chloe offers. “This past year, there was a lot of mayhem around the idea of maybe having a highway put through Ocala. That was an eye opener for me, to see the community come together to protect the horse farms and the land. So I think that for us to be able to, in turn, open our gates and welcome them, shows them just what they are protecting — it’s something that we take so much pride in and it is a great experience, even if you’re not even remotely interested in horses. It’s a real community event with some many elements from a car show and a beer tent, to a lot of fun family activities.”

Live Oak International runs from March 7th through the 10th. For more information, a full schedule and to buy tickets, visit liveoakinternational.com

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