Big Lee’s Big Break

Food Network host and celebrity chef Guy Fieri got his claim to fame in 2006 when he was crowned the Next Food Network Star. Adored by people all over the world for his personality, tastebuds and bleach blonde hair, Fieri has been inspiring foodies with his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” finds since the show debuted in 2006.

Guy Fieri understands what it is like to have a passion for something and want to share it. So, in 2017, he and Food Network decided it was time to pay it forward by hosting a show that would find the next big star. The winner of “Guy’s Big Project” would get their own show on the Food Network. The challenge was finding someone who embodied the same drive and charisma for cuisine as Fieri.

When Ocala’s Rashad Jones, owner of Big Lee’s Serious About Barbecue, heard about the new show, his ears perked up. He had watched Fieri over the years and had always rooted for him and his success. This was his chance to make it happen for himself. Something told him to go for it. All too often in life when people learn of rare opportunities, they dismiss them thinking, “What are the chances?” But not Rashad Jones. The Ocala-proud barbecue slayer and food truck entrepreneur believes if you are the “most authentic version of yourself and you work hard, good things will happen.” So he decided to give it his best shot and audition for the show. It was the best decision he could have made because his personality and flair for barbecue knocked their socks off! Not only was he chosen to participate in the competition, but his concept for a travelling food show actually went on to win “Guy’s Big Project”!

After the big announcement of Jones’ win, patrons flooded his Ocala food truck making the line even longer than usual. People waited for a half-hour just to congratulate Jones. Some brought balloons and gifts; others came with well wishes for success. They all left with food from the Food Network star’s food truck, Big Lee’s.

Jones will be the first to tell you there ain’t no shame in his barbecue game! He is a self-proclaimed barbecue nerd and his life revolves around all things barbecue. His dreams came true when his concept for “Eat, Sleep, BBQ” won “Guy’s Big Project.” This allowed him to go on a mission searching for the nation’s best barbecue joints, and rapping about them along the way. Throughout his travels on the show, he discovered some insanely creative recipes and techniques, as well as traditional styles of barbecue with authentic homestyle flavors that will have your mouth watering for smoky goodness. Jones feels passionately about barbecue and believes it should be an experience that evokes all your senses — from the smell of the burning wood to the sizzle and quiet crackle you hear coming from the smoker. The true tell of a good sandwich is when you can feel the sauce seeping out onto your fingers and the meat falls apart in your mouth.

“Eat, Sleep, BBQ” will have you craving ‘cue in no time. And don’t be surprised if watching the show inspires a road trip to one of the spots he features, because they all look amazing!
Season One of “Eat, Sleep, BBQ” was a huge success. Fans are anxiously awaiting more episodes to air and we’re curious to see what Food Network has in store for Ocala’s own barbecue mastermind, Rashad Jones!

Ocala native Amber Tompkins has always had a passion for good food and classic southern hospitality and believes that food is a universal language.

Elle, since we’re light on copy with this story, maybe you can use this quote as a design feature.

“My passion for smoking meats developed years ago when I first witnessed my wife’s uncle, Leon (aka “Big Lee”), and his incredible skills on the smoker.” — Rashad Jones

2018 Marion County Master Gardeners’ Spring Festival

Ocala Magazine Outdoor Gardening

Six Facts You Need to Know
And a few seeds of advice…
Provided by: Marion County
On the second weekend of March, get ready for the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion to burst forth in blooms, flowers, fresh veggies and greenery. That can only mean one thing – the Marion County Master Gardeners’ Spring Festival is back! Join us for the area’s largest all-in-one plant sale and gardening expo offering two days of fun, learning opportunities and a bigger-than-you-can-imagine gardening sale.
1. When and where
Saturday, March 10, 2018 | 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 11, 2018 | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Southeastern Livestock Pavilion, 2232 NE Jacksonville Road, Ocala
Admission: $2, children 12 and younger are free.
2. Who should go
Whether you’re cultivating a food forest or struggling to keep a houseplant alive, the Spring Festival has the tools and teaching to help make your flowering landscape, veggie garden, lawn or potted plants successful.
3. What you’ll find at the plant sale
Pretty much everything that grows: flowers, herbs, shrubs, and trees, and even things that don’t: clay pottery, lawn ornaments, tools, and other gardening supplies.
Peruse these and more as you browse more than 60 vendors selling a large array of plants, garden décor and plant-related accessories in one convenient location. You’ll be buying directly from the producers, so you’ll find only the freshest plants here.
4. It’s more than a plant sale – grow your gardening know-how!
Get inspired, refresh your memory and learn something new with in-garden talks and seminars from Marion County and University of Florida experts, as well as Master Gardeners and other professionals. These free educational opportunities include topics such as small gardens, equipment and fertilizers, organic gardening, micro-irrigation systems, must-have plants for Marion, pest control options and raised bed gardening. Get specific with tips on raising berries, grapes, tropical crops, African violets, bamboo, ginger, tomatoes and more. Plan your visit to make sure you can catch the classes that interest you most; check the full schedule at
5. Bring the kids!
Kids get in free and will love being entertained and educated at the Kids Gardening Zone. Your little green thumbs will be able to plant their own seedlings, see a worm farm, build a birdfeeder, see a live bee hive, have their faces painted and more.
6. Something scrumptious is rolling into the festival.
Food trucks will be serving up soul food, Greek cuisine, traditional fair food, and more fresh culinary selections. For dessert, the kids (and you) can enjoy ice cream and snow cones.

*sidebar 1*
What’s growing in February? A few seeds of advice from a Marion County Master Gardener
We might be living in the Sunshine State, but Florida’s not immune to cold snaps. You should be safe growing lettuces, spinaches and collard greens, as those veggies can withstand cold temperatures well. Hollies and cedars, as well as some bare root trees (e.g., firs, maples, and ashes) also do well in the winter, but their leaves won’t flush out until the days warm up.
– Master Gardener Audrey Edwards
*sidebar 2*
Who are the Master Gardeners?
The Marion County Master Gardeners is a group of more than 100 volunteer horticulture experts housed within Marion County UF/IFAS Extension Service, a partnership between Marion County government and the University of Florida. The group offers residents year-round assistance through their plant clinic (located in the Extension Service offices next to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion) and educational opportunities held throughout the county. For more information, visit or call 352-671-8400. Like them on Facebook for news and gardening tips:

Ocala Dreamin’

Since the beginning of our country, generation after generation has pursued the American Dream – the opportunity to work hard and better one’s economic situation no matter how humble the start. Our nation wasn’t just built on the backs of immigrants, it was formed by immigrants, including the founding fathers.

In 2001, Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin introduced the first DREAM Act, designed to create a path to permanent residency for illegal immigrants ages 12 to 35 to allow children of immigrants to pursue higher education or join the U.S. military. Recipients, who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 would have to live in this country demonstrating “good moral character” for at least four years, obtain a high school diploma or GED, and (males) register for Selective Service.

The long path to legal citizenship would begin with six years of conditional residency, requiring the applicant to complete two years of college or military service while demonstrating “good moral character”, which would earn them the permanent resident (“green card”) status required to eventually apply for citizenship.

Although the opportunity the bill would grant evoked the longstanding “American Dream” concept, it was actually an acronym for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.”

Over the years, the DREAM act has been reintroduced with bipartisan support several times but was never passed by the Congress. In 2012, President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which protected immigrants meeting the criteria of the DREAM act from deportation, and DACA recipients became known as “Dreamers.” In September 2017, President Trump ended DACA, but has expressed his support for immigrants who “do a great job” and “work hard” to “have the incentive of, after a period of years, being able to become a citizen.”

In Northwest Marion County, out past the stop lights and street lights, are the expansive pastures whose venerable live oaks drip with Spanish moss and whose magnificent mares give birth to future Triple Crown contenders. On the Horse Capital of the World’s farms, working hard and doing a great job is the everyday routine which begins before the sun comes up. Grooms are cleaning stalls and feeding and attending to horses as early as 5 a.m. and exercise riders mount up to begin training at 6:00. When thousands of spectators enjoy watching these marvelous animals and the athletes who ride them compete at a Nations Cup or Grand Prix event, they don’t see the hardworking men and women who go to work in the dark to care for the horses every day, rain or shine, in the months and years leading up to the competition. Ocala Thoroughbred farm owner Jacqui de Meric has made it her mission to bring their stories into the light.

“I would trust any of them with my life,” de Meric says of the 47 full time employees, mostly Mexican immigrants, who work on her 320-acre farm. “They’re good people, they take pride in their work, and they love the horses,” she says. “We could not function without them.”

Marco, a DACA recipient, is one of those vital workers on her farm. He was brought to Ocala from Mexico by his parents when he was 15 years old, a year after his father found work as a groom on a horse farm in the area. Marco found part time work mucking stalls at the de Merics’ Manuden Farm while studying for the GED, which he passed with a record high score. Thirteen years later, he is an even more integral part of the farm’s operations.

“I love riding so they gave me the opportunity to ride,” he says of his current position as exercise rider. “People think it’s easy sitting on the back of a horse but it’s hard. It’s dangerous but I like it.”

When Marco broke his leg while riding a horse eight years ago, de Meric took him to the hospital and paid him for the time he couldn’t work. She says that’s just the way an employer should take care of good workers. Marco says Jacqui and husband Nick are his “heroes”, who taught him the business of buying and selling horses. “I am loyal to them because they are loyal with me,” he says.

After he finishes the 10-hour workday at Manuden Farm, Marco goes to a nearby stable he rents to work a few more hours caring for the horses he and his father purchased after years of diligent saving. Four years ago they sold a horse for “good money” that gave Marco enough to buy his own house, an accomplishment for any Millennial. Like many, he dreams of marrying his girlfriend and starting a family. He also worries what will happen when his DACA status expires in two years. And wonders if there will ever be a legal path to citizenship for his girlfriend, who came from Mexico as a nanny on a time-limited work visa.

“If they send me back there [Mexico] it will destroy all I built here,” he says. “What am I going to do – leave everything to go live somewhere I don’t know?”

His coworker Miguel also came to the U.S. as a teenager, knows a lot of undocumented immigrants in the community, but is no longer one of them after getting his green card last year.

“It took me 12 years to get it,” says the 35-year-old, who is married to an American citizen, born in California to Mexican parents. Miguel says his main motivation to fill out form after form, answer a seemingly neverending list of questions, and pay thousands of dollars to become a legal citizen was his children, ages 17, nine, and four. Like many, he works two jobs to support his family and says he came to the U.S. at age 19 because he “needed progress” and “heard people could come here and work hard and make money.” Miguel explains that one of the hardest challenges for undocumented immigrants is not having a driver’s license.

“I give them a ride when I can,” he says of neighbors that need help getting to work or to the grocery store, but says Chaplain Bob Miller of Ocala Farm Ministry is the man who “helps a lot of poor people,” and Miguel cuts trees and mows grass at the ministry’s community center any time he can.

Chaplain Bob, as he’s known to everyone, has been with Ocala Farm Ministry since its inception 14 years ago. As an ordained minister who could speak Spanish, he felt the need to minister to “a lot of under-represented people, socially, culturally and financially.” He describes what he does as “marry, bury, and everything a minister of a church does,” plus the dozens of extra things he does for area residents every day at the Robert Scanlon Community Center on 110th Street, just north of State Road 40, from counseling to document translation and writing character reference letters to assisting with basic household needs, but says his role of advocate may be the most important.

“We advocate with county commissioners, with the police, with the sherriff’s office,” he says. “I’m for law and order. I was born in this country, I served in Vietnam, but let’s be fair. If you can you give somebody a break.”

As a clergyman, Miller certainly has a big heart, but he views the issue of immigrant farm workers pragmatically, as an economic issue.

“The reason we need these people here is no one else is going to do their job, plain and simple,” he says. “You’ve got no option if you’re going to have horse farms – working with crazy horses and shoveling manure. No American is going to do that. You can look for employees all day that are legal but they will not come and they will not last.”

Both Governor Rick Scott and President Donald Trump have urged lawmakers to act to end illegal immigration, and Florida Congressman Ted Yoho supported the President’s decision to rescind DACA.

“The president’s decision to suspend the DACA program after a period of six months is the right thing to do,” Rep. Yoho said in a statement in September.

“I believe that legal immigration makes our country stronger, and illegal immigration makes us weaker,” Gov. Scott wrote in a statement last month. “I’ve long been an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and I remain so. I believe that immigration policy becomes much simpler once we secure our borders and we put an end to illegal immigration.”

However, Gov. Scott did express support for some provisions to aid Dreamers.

“I refuse to watch these children be punished for the actions of their parents. The United States has become the home for these children — and this should absolutely not be a partisan issue, or even a political issue. While I understand that they did not arrive here in accordance with our country’s immigration laws, it is simply not right to hold these children accountable for that.”

President Trump spoke to lawmakers about immigration at the White House in January.

“Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace and a lot of people are coming in that we can’t have,” he said. “So, in order to secure it, we need a wall.”

The President explained further in statements on Twitter.

“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world.”

However, like Governor Scott, President Trump has expressed concern for Dreamers.

“I have a love for these people,” he said last September. “Hopefully now Congress will be able to help them.”

Congressman Yoho has said he supports a legal way for Dreamers to request legal residency.

“For those who came to the United States as children and to no fault of their own, I support a window of time for them to come forward and identify themselves without fear of deportation. I support providing a way for Dreamers who have registered under DACA with DHS to obtain legal status. Such legislation should go hand-in-hand with measures that reduce illegal immigration.”

Miller and de Meric say a meeting with Congressman Yoho helped them develop the immigration reform petition they are working on with Louisa Barton, Director of Equine Engagement for the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP). The petition asks lawmakers to “bring congressional attention to farm labor shortages and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Barton acknowledges concerns about gang members or criminals seeking asylum here, but says their plan is designed to provide an option for “honest, decent people,” and she believes “the others are going to eventually leave because they can’t get legal.”

Barton says the proposal “would be a step in the right direction,” as it asks for the creation of a five-year visa designed to allow current immigrant workers who would pass background checks, obtain a driver’s license, and pay a fine to stay here legally.

“We’re talking about the people who get up at 4:00 in the morning to go to work,” she says, “who are reliable and love their job and love the horses. If we lose a big part of the equine workforce we are going to have a problem. There are a huge amount of them [immigrant workers] out at HITS, which is a $94 million a year in economic impact to Marion County. Those people who come here and spend money rely on having grooms, stall muckers and assistants, and without those people they can’t come here. If you don’t have staff you’ve got to cut back on how many horses you bring and train and compete with. So that affects us all financially – it’s an industry that’s 18 percent of our economy. We really need to try to keep the workers that we have.

“We’re talking about the families – good people with kids in school, families who’ve been here for years and years. The kind of people that will get involved in this petition are not the kind of people that need to be sent home.”

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, who has spent time visiting local horse farms and talking to equine workers, has expressed his support for the petition.

“The equine industry is a $2.6 billion industry in Ocala,” Guinn said. “These people make the wheels go round, so it would be a huge economic impact on our community if these folks went away… like you can’t even imagine. These people are hard working, nice people, that are paying taxes and having a positive effect on our community. If they weren’t here these farms would cease to exist; [the farm owners] can only muck so many stalls, so I don’t have a problem with them being here. This petition that we just signed addresses some of the issues about bringing them forward and paying some of the money. I just really don’t have a problem.”

Barton and de Meric have collected around 500 signatures for the petition, which they are working to make available online. They plan to take it to Rep. Yoho in the near future “to have him try to get this into the works.”

De Meric asks local residents, as they attend the HITS spring events and the downtown Parade of Nations events this month, to consider the equine workers behind the scenes. She and husband Nick came to Ocala in 1980 and lived paycheck to paycheck, sleeping in an 18-foot camper and showering in the barn while they saved money to buy a farm. Nick, an immigrant from England, went through a four-year process to get his green card.

“We’re not saying give them a free ride; we’re not saying go to the front of the line, we’re not saying amnesty,” she says. “They’re real people and they work hard. I’m proud to call them my friends.”

BLINGO…A WoW Game Night!

The smiles were as bright as the “bling” at the United Way Women of Worth (WoW)’s first-ever Blingo event on January 11. More than 160 women and men gathered for food, drinks, fun and games, raising nearly $4,000 for WOW’s Reading Pals program.

The third event in WoW’s Design Decorate Discover series sponsored by Ocala Health, the game night was a takeoff on traditional Bingo, featuring donated jewelry prizes for each round. The grand prize was a white gold and diamond necklace from Ocala’s Lady Jeweler, Nancy Porter.

Guests enjoyed a buffet prepared by Rosemary & Thyme Catering, including bourbon meatballs, tortelli skewers, lemon chicken kabobs, caprese, and fruit. Over at the bar, husbands and significant others of WoW members had donned pink bow ties and volunteered to serve wine and other libations. The ladies of WoW were blinged-out in sparkly tiaras and Blingo aprons, and caller Linda Arvanitis kept the games fun and lighthearted with her quick wit and great sense of humor.

WOW Chair Christie Casey explained that WoW is the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, and has been in Marion County more than 10 years.

“Our worth is what you give back to Marion County,” she told the crowd. “We celebrate the opportunity to meet the needs of Marion County families and children,” she said, adding that Reading Pals is the current focus of their commitment to early childhood literacy. Some 235 volunteer reading pals meet once a week with kindergarteners who are struggling with reading, and donations from the community allow the program to provide students with at least 25 books a year to take home and build a family library.

Speaker Rose Watroba, Ocala Health’s VP of Neuroscience, explained that game nights are a great way to promote good brain health.

“Playing games improves your brain function,” she said, adding that being social and talking with friends also help to stimulate the brain and keep it healthy.

Women of Worth is accepting new members and Reading Pals volunteers; more info at or on Facebook @womenofworth.

First Impressions

Although the First Friday Art Walk was cancelled due to cold weather, more than 100 people crowded into the Brick City Center for the Arts on January 5 for the opening of Jordan Shapot’s First Impressions exhibit.

“I hope this work inspires other local artists to do great things locally,” Shapot said of the collection of oil paintings based on the early 1900s photographs of Native Americans taken by Edward S. Curtis.

The event also featured Native American flute music by Frank Sunshadow Curtis, the great-great grand nephew of the photographer, and the Sioux-style teepee he constructed in the courtyard.

Smocala Smoke & Vape

A fine tobacco & vape store where the scents are pleasant, the atmosphere is clean and bright, and the staff provides service with a smile.

If you’ve traveled College Road after dark, chances are you’ve seen the Smocala sign — a bright, color-changing neon sign in College Park Plaza, across from Paddock Mall.

This clean, welcoming, high-quality smoke and vape shop recently celebrated its first anniversary. They pride themselves on offering customers an all-in-one-shop for e-cigarettes, e-juice, hookahs, and a wide variety of tobacco products — sold by friendly and knowledgeable staff.

“We get great satisfaction out of spending time with customers and finding out their needs,” says the owner, a native Ocalan who opened the hometown business in November 2016.

Manager Tyler Ming has been at the store since before the doors were opened. He and his staff of six make it a point to greet everyone who comes in the door.

“We have a great group of employees who are always willing to help anybody who comes in the store,” he says. “Our employees know our products and are friendly and willing to help customers — it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re looking for.”

The clean, bright shop features a wide variety of products in well-organized displays.

Vaping devices, or e-cigarettes, and liquid, or e-juice, are the most popular products Smocala sells.

“Vaping is an awesome alternative to cut traditional tobacco out of your life,” Ming says. He explains that in contrast to traditional cigarettes, many of which contain more than 8,000 chemicals, vape has only four ingredients. The popular Naked 100 line, one of their best sellers, features all natural and organic flavoring.

Ming himself quit cigarettes in favor of vape.

“I quit smoking five years ago,” he says. “I’ve stuck with vaping the whole time and I’ve never been happier — I can run, I can breathe, I can smell.”

Ming explains that vaping liquids come in a variety of pleasant scents, with the most popular being fruit or dessert scents, like Hawaiian passionfruit/orange/guava, key lime butter cookie, and rainbow sherbet, but there is no burning or “ashy” smell.

One of the first things you notice walking into Smocala is that is smells good. They carry the full line of Wildberry incense and their clean-burning, natural soy wax candles.

For more traditional tobacco consumers, Smocala offers the most popular brands of cigarettes, as well as more natural, additive- and chemical-free brands like Native Spirit.

Smocala has one of the biggest selections of cigarillos around, including all the popular brands like Swisher, and a variety of limited edition and hard-to-find flavors at competitive prices.

While they carry various gauge cigars, their offerings are limited to two high-quality brands: award-winning Archetype and customer favorite ACID.

Pipe smokers can find a full line of pipe tobacco and a beautiful selection of clean-burning, American-made artisan glass pipes. Smocala carries the highly-sought-after Rooster Apparatus line from artist David Goldstein, who pioneered the crushed-glass percolator technique.

Hookahs in all sizes, shapes and colors are available, along with flavored wet tobacco and all the accessories.

Although it’s a smoke shop, Ming says they have actually helped people quit smoking with the aid of other products.

“We have a customer who’s quit smoking for six months using our nicotine toothpicks,” he says. “If anyone’s looking to move away from tobacco, our staff is very knowledgeable about alternatives.”

Even if you don’t smoke, vape, or use nicotine products, Smocala’s gift and novelty items are among the best. Their large assortment of Zippo lighters includes many hard-to-find Harley Davidson and military designs. Their novelty section includes a fun array of party games, toys, t-shirts and posters.

“It’s a place where everybody can be happy for a little bit,” Ming says.

College Park Plaza
3131 SW College Road, Suite 403

Monday – Saturday 9 am – 10 pm, Sunday 11 am – 10 pm

Follow Smocala Smoke & Vape on Facebook and on Instagram @smocala_smoke_and_vape

Click here to learn more

Molly Maguire’s of Ocala

Fresh food selections with a wee bit o’ Irish flair

Written by Lisa McGinnes, Coordinating Editor
Photography by Chris Redd, Chief Photographer

Just a block from the Downtown Square, tucked into a cozy spot on SW 1st Avenue, is Molly Maguire’s Eatery. Don’t let the unassuming storefront fool you – this place is hoppin’ with fresh food, beer and Irish fun!

The neon Guinness sign in the window announces what you’ll find behind the wooden bar – a case of cold, frosty mugs waiting for a perfectly-poured dark Irish stout. The tap features five other brews, including a locally-brewed Infinite ale selection. Their bottled beers range from other Irish and imported favorites, to more than 20 craft beers to Irish and domestic hard ciders – with more than 50 choices on the menu. They also offer a full selection of wines.

Come in for a pint and relax in a comfortable chair in one of the corner conversation nooks or claim a stool at the bar, but stay for the food. Lunch specials always include the homemade soups, which are so popular they are also sold by the pint and by the quart. Follow Molly-Maguires-of-Ocala on Facebook for soup-of-the-day announcements that will have your tastebuds twitching well before lunchtime.

Homemade salad dressings including Greek, lemon vinaigrette and ranch are delectable atop their diverse lineup of fresh salads like the beautifully-presented Ahi Tuna Salad, with its cracked-pepper-rubbed, gently-seared tuna filet atop mixed greens. It’s an explosion of flavor and textures – grape tomatoes, fresh cucumber, tangy Feta cheese, salty sunflower seeds and sweet dried cranberries. Salads and the soup of the day are always gluten free.

Their menu claims it’s “where the filthy birds roost” and, indeed, the Molly’s Dirty Bird is one of the most popular items on the menu, with its hand-carved applewood smoked chicken breast, carmelized onions and gooey melted cheese all pressed on hot Cuban bread.

Meats are smoked on the outdoor smoker every morning by the lovely Miss Patti, and on a fair day you can enjoy your meal at a sidewalk table, which offers a peek at the western sky come sunset.

Molly Maguire’s is open for breakfast and lunch every day except Sunday, and now offers later hours and live music Thursday through Saturday. Be warned, however, if you want a serving of the homemade banana pudding, come early – it’s so delicious that it often sells out before evening!

Owner Geroge Carrasco and his crew are already planning for St. Patrick’s Day, which is their biggest celebration of the year, and this year will mark their first anniversary at this location. You can expect savory shepherd’s pie and hearty portions of corned beef and cabbage. Watch their Facebook page for updates, and plan to get there early. With the holiday falling on Saturday this year, you can spend the whole day reveling in good times galore!

Molly Maguire’s of Ocala
17 SW 1st Avenue Ocala FL

Keeping the Dream Alive

On one of the coldest mornings of the year, thousands of men and women, young and old, braved a cold north wind and temperatures barely above freezing. They bundled up their children and grandchildren, pushing the little ones in strollers. For many, Monday, January 15 was a day off work or school, but that didn’t stop them from gathering as early as 7:00 a.m. to join in Ocala’s annual MLK March. As marchers lined up on Broadway Street, the beat of the drums and cymbals from Vanguard High School gave the gathering a parade-like feeling.

“You might have a day off, but take it as a day on,” said Ire Bethea, Chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission, the group of volunteers that organizes the event. He called the annual march “a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King.”

According to the commission, around 3,000 people, including nearly 50 church and school groups, carried banners with sayings like “Keep the Dream Alive” and marched the mile from the Downtown Square to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Complex on West State Road 40, where they were met with the mouthwatering aromas of barbecue and carnival food vendors’ fried fare.

Bethea estimated that a total of around 6,000 people participated throughout the Day in the Park event, which featured six hours of entertainment by a lineup of locals including musicians Selwyn Birchwood Band, Samp Da Champ, and D-Nice, jazz bands from Lake Weir and West Port High Schools, and performers like the Marching Majorettes. The events on MLK Day are the culmination of a week of activities sponsored by the commission, including a youth day, prayer breakfast, ecumenical church service and wreath ceremony.

“I’ve done the march every year since I was hired,” said Sherriff Billy Woods. “An event like this is what makes our community so great. Everybody is here, it doesn’t make a difference what race or ethnicity. This community is the greatest.”

Dr. Jim Henningsen, President of the College of Central Florida, marched with the school’s men’s basketball team. “We value diversity and inclusiveness, and are trying to help educate the world about reducing discrimination and making sure we have equality for everyone,” he said. “The vision of Dr. King is amazing and we’ve got to keep that message going forward.”

Marion County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Heidi Mayer was proud to see so many young people participating. “This event shows what proactive, positive leadership does,” she said. “By remaining calm, civil, yet passionate and informed, look what you can do — you can change the course of history. Today is so important. You had a man who would not respond to hatefulness but would continue loving people and trying to show them his point of view and it worked. This is a message that we have to carry on every day.”

Esther Johnson, who comes from Fort McCoy every year with her group from Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, said the importance of the event for her is also tied to love.

“It gives us an opportunity to show love to all mankind,” she said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination and the 55th anniversary of his March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Why am I so tired?” Part 2: Vitamin Deficiencies

Fatigue can be an early indicator of many serious illnesses, but in many cases, the solution is simple. If you are in good health and still feel constantly tired, a few easy lifestyle changes may be all it takes to feel your best. In this three-part series, we explore how dehydration, vitamin deficiencies and constipation contribute to fatigue.

By: Whitney Willett / Medical Editor

Thinking back on our childhood, many of us remember doing things with the promise that they would help us grow up big and strong. If you were a kid in the 1970s or 80s, I bet you remember the beloved Flintstone chewable vitamins. They smelled like candy, were shaped like your favorite characters and didn’t taste like any of the other horrible things in the medicine cabinet. Taking vitamins gave us the confidence to protest eating our vegetables. And even though most of the vitamin was caked up in our molars and never digested, it was a staple that mom insisted on.
All these years later, we know that those vitamins were really a novelty. While vitamins are very important to our health, the source is also important. Vitamin deficiency anemias are a very real thing and can play a huge role in contributing to fatigue. If you are in generally good health and still find yourself dragging and never feeling fully rested, a vitamin deficiency may be the culprit.
Vitamins and minerals play a key role in our blood health, bone health, immune strength, nervous system function, muscle strength, vitality of our hair/skin/nails and our body’s ability to repair itself. Our body cannot work efficiently if we have a deficiency in certain vital nutrients, which can be a big contributor to your energy level and stamina. The most common symptoms of vitamin deficiency are fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness and metal confusion.
The causes of most vitamin deficiencies are our lifestyles. Some deficiencies are congenital and exist from birth, but fortunately, most of us have deficiencies we can correct with lifestyle modifications. The most common causes of vitamin deficiencies are: lack of a balanced diet, drinking soda, smoking, and taking certain medications. Eating a diet that is lacking certain food groups (especially dairy, red meat, fish, and leafy green vegetables) is almost certain to leave you with a vitamin deficiency. Soda contributes to vitamin deficiency in two ways: it depletes vitamins and minerals from places like your bones, and creates an environment in your digestive system where vitamins are unable to be absorbed efficiently. Smoking impairs the absorption and synthesis of vitamin C. Finally, NSAID pain relievers and most prescription acid reflex medications also inhibit the body’s ability to absorb vitamins because of how they affect the environment in the digestive track. (Side note: Vitamin deficiencies also result after having gall bladder removal surgery or gastric bypass surgery.)
Common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that lead to chronic, long-lasting fatigue are also the ones that have the most impact on how our bodies function, and thus are the most crucial. They include folate (B-9), B-12, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, potassium and magnesium.
A deficiency in folate causes fatigue and reduces the number of red blood cells in your blood stream, and may lead to poor growth and unhealthy hair, skin and nails. Foods that are high in folate include beans, lentils, leafy greens and fruits.
B-12 deficiency can be either congenital (known as pernicious anemia) or acquired through lack of intake or absorption. If you are born with pernicious anemia, your body lacks intrinsic factor proteins that help the small intestine absorb B-12 and you need to be monitored by a medical professional. For the rest, it is usually caused by a diet lacking in fish, chicken, milk and yogurt. B-12 plays a vital role in the production of DNA, which is needed to replace damaged DNA as we age or heal from inflammatory conditions. B-12 is also key in the production of neurotransmitters, which our nervous system uses to tell our bodies how to operate properly. Signs of B-12 deficiency include fatigue, lack of balance, muscle weakness and memory loss.
Vitamin C is often referred to as an antioxidant and our bodies need it for numerous functions – most notably for its role in boosting our immune system. Vitamin C also helps defend the body against free radicals, aids in healing, and makes many other important contributions to overall well-being. A mild to moderate vitamin C deficiency causes fatigue, depression and mild connective tissue disorders. A severe deficiency can lead to serious conditions such as scurvy. Foods rich in vitamin C include strawberries, pineapple, oranges, broccoli, cauliflower and kale.
Vitamin D is essential for our bone health as well as other important functions. Prolonged periods of vitamin D deficiency have been proven to lead to osteoporosis, especially in women. Consuming milk and yogurt, as well as a safe amount of sunlight will help avoid this deficiency.
Iron anemia is the most commonly known deficiency. Iron helps keep our blood rich in oxygen. Low iron levels cause fatigue, pale skin and thinning hair. Eating beets, oysters, beans, lentils and spinach regularly help keep your iron at optimal levels.
Potassium plays a key role in making sure our heart, nerves and muscles are strong and work properly. Low potassium causes muscles weakness, constipation, numbness and tingling sensations and abnormal heart rhythms. Bananas, whole grains, milk, beans and peas are all high in potassium.
Another important contributor to bone health is magnesium, which plays a role in energy production and aids in efficient elimination. Deficiency in magnesium is marked by fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting. Magnesium-rich foods include almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black beans and soy beans.
If you suspect a vitamin deficiency may be to blame for your fatigue, your doctor can perform simple blood tests to check your vitamin levels. If you know you are missing certain food groups from your diet, you can try increasing those foods and noting their affect on your energy level. Eating our vitamins is always the best way to ensure we are getting the nutrients our body needs.

Dr. Jessica Perhealth, a chiropractor at Strive Physical Medicine in Ocala, believes nutrition is a key to good health and says she counsels patients to get their vitamins from food whenever possible.
“Eating a diet of colorful vegetables and fruits is an important way of getting vital nutrients so that our bodies can function they way they’re intended to,” she says.

If consuming certain food groups isn’t an option or is something you are unwilling to do, you can use supplements. BUYER BEWARE: Not all supplements are beneficial. Just like those novelty Flintstone vitamins, many vitamins you find in your local drugstores and big-box retailers are made from synthetic chemicals that our body cannot use, which is the biggest reason over-the-counter vitamins are not FDA approved. Look for whole food vitamins, which you can usually find in health food stores. They are a bit more expensive, but in the case of vitamin supplements, you get what you pay for. The body can better absorb and use vitamins that come from food.

Special Events to Attend During the 2018 Ocala Winter Circuit

$300,000 Longines Grand Prix | Friday, February 16, 2018 | 2pm

Come watch some of the most competitive show jumping riders in the world, compete for the win in this prestigious Grand Prix, before taking on the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ on Sunday.

International Village | Friday-Sunday, February 16-18, 2018 | 10am-3pm

Join HITS in attending our International Village during the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Week of the Ocala Winter Circuit, February 14-18. This family friendly event will feature different food selections from around the world, activities for adults and children, and a meet and greet with some of the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ riders. This event will be fun for equestrians and non-equestrians alike. Activities will include face painting, pony rides, music, and more! We will also be hosting the Budweiser Clydesdales throughout the week. The hitch will make several appearances, including at the International Village. The International Village will take place Friday-Sunday, February 16-18.

Jump Downtown | Saturday, February 17, 2018 | 4:30pm

The second annual “Jump Downtown” event will be held in Ocala’s Downtown Square on Saturday, February 17, 2018. Presented by Ocala Main Street, IHMC (The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition), and the CEP (Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership), Jump Downtown will feature a Parade of Nations honoring the countries and the riders participating in the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ event, followed by a Celebration of the Horse presentation of the 30-plus horse breeds showcasing the diversity of the “Horse Capital of the World”. The Budweiser Clydesdales will also be making an appearance during the event. Additional festivities on the Square will include snacks, music, horse drawn carriage rides, s’mores, and more!

Nations Cup-Children/Juniors | Saturday, February 17, 2018

This event will follow a similar format to the Longines FEI Nations Cup™, but is catered toward young upand-coming riders. Come cheer on these young riders as they put their skills to the test in this challenging competition!

Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 | Sunday, February 18, 2018 | 1pm

An event you won’t want to miss; the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA 2018 is back for the fourth year in a row at HITS Post Time Farm. Watch some of the most talented show jumping riders in the world take on this unique team competition.

Great American $1 Million Grand Prix | Sunday, March 25, 2018 | 2pm Join us for the 5th Annual Great American $1 Million Grand Prix. This is the second Grand Prix in the HITS Triple Crown of Show Jumping, which includes the AIG $1 Million Grand Pix in Thermal, California (Match 18), and the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York (September 9).
Check for more details and more events in the near future.


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