Live Oak International: 2020

It’s a competition that has continued to evolve, emerging from its nascent stages as a combined driving event to its present state as it enters its 30th year. Live Oak International has cemented its place, taking on global status and attracting many of the world’s best horsemen. The competition now features more than one equestrian sport discipline, featuring not only the sport of combined driving but also many of the world’s best show jumpers. The objective of the competition is to improve annually. It provides a world-class environment that caters to riders from around the globe. The worldwide scope of the competition has been the fuel that has ignited the Live Oak International team and the Weber family, expanding the event’s significance in the Ocala/Marion County community.

The brother and sister team of Chester Weber and Juliet W. Reid are co-presidents of Live Oak International. The Weber’s commitment to excellence and love of equestrian sport has made the Live Oak International one of the most highly anticipated competitions on the Ocala area calendar. The event itself resonates deeply with those who make the competition a success: the organizers, exhibitors, sponsors, and spectators, making for a fun-filled weekend in a safe and family-friendly environment.

Juliet W. Reid isn’t an exhibitor, but that hasn’t stopped her from being deeply involved in the show world, serving in several capacities as a horse show organizer and manager as well as being a horse show mom. Juliet gained her knowledge of show management by serving as president of the Washington International Horse Show, earning the distinctive title of “ringleader” of Washington, the renowned horse show in the nation’s capital, for eight years. With Juliet’s attention to detail and event expertise, each and every year, Live Oak International is more exciting than the last. Juliet brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Live Oak International and drives the team forward with a positive outlook and a can-do attitude.

Chester continues to represent the U.S. in many European competitions and shares his love for combined driving, generating exposure for the sport nationwide and locally. He’s set the standard in the sport of combined driving, reaching elite status in the upper levels, having won the USEF Combined Driving National Championship for the Advanced Four-in-Hand division 16 times. Chester is poised for success in 2020 and has his sights set on another title. A veteran horseman, Chester is well-seasoned and looking toward competing at home, in a familiar and welcoming environment.

If you haven’t seen Chester competing in the marathon phase of the combined driving event at Live Oak International, you need to! It’s worth the price of admission. Spectators will have an opportunity to watch Chester compete in all three phases of the CDE, dressage, marathon, and cones, March 5-8 and in the marathon phase on Saturday, March 7.

Other notable drivers this year include crowd-favorite Mary Phelps, the talented Jennifer Keeler and her Zeppo, as well as the internationally renowned driver Suzy Stafford.

Chloe Reid’s passion for horses and the Live Oak International is as deep as that of her family’s. The 23-year-old has distinguished herself in the show ring, ascending to the top tier of the sport as a leading international show jumping professional. The daughter of Juliet W. Reid and Sam Reid, Chloe has been involved with horses from the age of four and has become increasingly involved in the event and tournament each year. Chloe has accepted additional responsibilities over time, helping with marketing and show initiatives to make Live Oak International a must-see event. Chloe’s practical experience and astute understanding has helped to transform the event into a world-class competition. She is a grand prix rider herself with many top results. She won the four-star Grand Prix in Wiesbaden, Germany, this past June. Chloe has enjoyed success on the international stage and was part of the U.S. team that went to Falsterbo, Sweden, in July, and represented the U.S. in the FEI Nations Cup Final this past September in Barcelona, Spain. Chloe, like her uncle, brings global experience to the Live Oak International team.

The Live Oak International transformed its status by hosting a show jumping World Cup qualifier. The change came about when Chloe mentioned to her mom, Juliet, that it would be fun to compete at home. The competition starting with a two-star grand prix continues to evolve, and the venue with its idyllic setting is poised to host the world’s greatest show jumpers, with show rings featuring top-notch footing, elevating the level of competition to rival any place in the world.

The venue hosts only one competition annually, so the footing is considered second to none.

Chloe will compete in this year’s $100,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Ocala on Sunday, March 8, as this is the final competition in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League, and it’s the last chance for riders striving for points to earn a sport at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final this April 15-19, 2020, which will be held in Las Vegas.

The lineup of competitors this year includes a list of top riders including Adrienne Sternlicht, who has entered her World Equestrian Games Gold medal–winning mount Cristalline; young rider superstar Katie Dinan; and the previous winner of the World Cup Final, Beat Mändli.

In addition to some of the world’s best riders and drivers, this year Live Oak International will feature special presentations by the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Young Living Essential Oil Percherons, and the Paso Fino Association. With an AdventHealth KidsZone, Audi Beirgarten, and the Stella Artois Airstream Trailer, this year’s event is set to be four days full of live action with something for all to enjoy.

Come out to the show March 5-8. For the Live Oak International 2020 schedule, please visit 

Music Scene: Shine & The Shakers

By Joshua Jacobs

When you ask around town about Shema Shine and her band, Shine and the Shakers, two words come up more often than not: vibe and groove. And let me tell you, she does not disappoint. Her vibe shines brighter than any known star and her band’s groove is sure to shake the deepest of foundations.


My mother bought me a mini piano when I was three. It was modeled after an upright piano with real hammers and tines. According to her, I was always musical but the piano upped the ante in my fledgling journey.

How long have you been in the Ocala Music Scene?

I have been playing in Ocala for 13 years. There was always word of jams around town. One day, I made it over to one. Then from there, word caught that I was around and I’ve been gigging here ever since.

What got you interested in music?

Music started taking a hold of me when I performed for my church. I would see the way the music moved people. It caused a healing. I’ve wanted to be a part of that healing ever since.

Who are some of your Greatest  influences within your music?

It’s quintessential for a budding musician to pass through the doors of certain players. On guitar my biggest influence would have to be Jimi Hendrix, John Scofield, and Peter Green. On piano, the players that inspired me were Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Bill Evans, and Bach. Vocally I would say I’m most inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, Chaka Khan, and Nina Simone.

What is music to you?

Music is so deeply ingrained in my world; it’s comparable to the air I breathe. I can’t imagine a day without music or access to instruments.  It heals the wounds no one can see. It revitalizes and rejuvenates me. When I’m stomping on some gnarly pedal, the guitar is wailing, and people are screaming and cheering, my soul comes alive. Music is the greatest gift I could’ve ever received.

How hard is it to be a career musician?

Music is incredibly difficult. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. It requires sacrifice, constant adaptation, a large dose of humility, and unyielding persistence. It is also incredibly rewarding. When you have the opportunity to bring people together, when you’re watching people smile and feel what you feel for a moment, you forget about those steps you just lugged that 50-pound speaker up.

Take us through the songwriting process when in comes to the band. What approach do you use?

Songs happen to me. I don’t write them. They just come. I’ll be driving home at night when the world is quiet, dark, and beautiful. Then out of nowhere, a rhythm will start in my head. Next thing you know, words are following it. I’m scrambling at this point to get to my voice recorder to catch it. When I’m trying to make a song happen, it usually doesn’t come out. But when I live life and experience things, the heart becomes full and spills out in the form of music. I think songs are born from that.

Being in the music scene here in Ocala, what would you say is the best thing about it?

I think the best thing about the Ocala music scene is it’s always growing and changing in an unexpected way. The scene isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago. Before, there were only a handful of people playing, with only a few places to play. Now, there are more venues. There are more musicians forming alliances. It’s a cool thing to see.

What has been your most standout performance to date?

This question is hard because I have a bunch of wonderful memories. But, the one that comes to mind as a monument in my career was the second year we played the Rocking Robinson Festival in Orlando. When we got on stage and started playing, from the stage perspective, people were literally pouring into the venue. First just a handful, then what looked like a giant mob filling up the room. Soon it was shoulder to shoulder, with people stretching back all the way to the entrance. The energy in the room was so thick it felt like you could slice it with a knife. I only had the stage perspective but post playing the show we kept hearing about how there was, as Jason Earle put it, “a mass exodus” from the main stage. It confirmed to me how powerful music can be. It showed me that people want to hear what I have to say. It was crazy, overriding my nerves, overriding fear, and taking charge of the moment. That’s my favorite memory.

What message do you wish to convey with your music?

I hope people see me as an example that you don’t have to let anything stop you from being who you desire to be. Challenges arise and it’s easy to get swept up in them. It’s easy to feel like giving up. I hope my music inspires people to keep going no matter what they face.

Where would you like to see yourself and the band five years from now?

I would like to see more expansion in the next five years. We haven’t released an album yet. I would love to give the people something that encapsulates where we were and where we are. Shine & The Shakers has been in operation for three years. It started out of necessity and now it’s become a thing, a little fire that I’ve watched slowly grow. I know big things are on the horizon for us. I can’t wait to see them!

To listen to Shine and the Shakers, be sure to follow them on social media

Isn’t it Romantic?

Story + Photos by Robin Fannon of RSVP Robin

What is romance to you? To spark ideas, we offer loving recipes and a few of Ocala’s happily-partnered folks share their views on this eternal question

It should come as no surprise that when I think of romance, my thoughts immediately turn to food. Food and beverages (especially champagne!) are sexy and romantic. Oysters on the half shell, lobster, slowly braised meats, tons of chocolate and fresh whipped cream are just a few items that would be on my romantic dinner list. Cook these delicacies together, enjoy the meal next to a roaring fire, while listening to anything by Mendelssohn, and that’s my idea of romantic nirvana.

I posed this romance question to several friends in the community and there was a common theme present in most people’s idea of romance. It has nothing to do with revealing lingerie or sexy time in le boudoir. Their responses told a story of relationships and how love weaves a way into our daily routines.

So while snuggling together on the sofa and watching Casablanca on a rainy afternoon can evoke a romantic vibe, it would appear that romance actually starts in the brain and then travels to the heart where it lives. So raise your bubbles and toast to romance this Valentine’s Day!

“For me, something romantic doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or a long planned event. It’s the small unexpected things that really hit home: coffee in bed, a hidden Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a note in the car. Sometimes just sitting on the couch together, listening and talking about music and artists—in those moments there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than with my wife.” 

—Matthew Wardell


“I love the little things most—the intangible gifts, the sweet favors. Mike has always been my helper and my protector. His handmade birthday cards are my favorite along with his creative gift wraps for his well-thought-out packages. The best was when I came home from a long day at the store the week after Thanksgiving, this past holiday, and found he had set up the Christmas tree and decorated it for me. Fabulous! He really does it all and without being asked. I love unexpected little outings that are not planned, coffee and breakfast in bed every morning, random sweet or funny texts, and just knowing he’s always there. That’s romance to me.”

—Shannon Roth


“To me, romance is found in the everyday gestures of love. The fresh white hydrangeas Mike brings home to me every week. Cocktail hour on our front-porch rocking chairs. Dancing in the kitchen to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Getting lost together for a few hours in the bookstore. Long walks in our neighborhood. There’s really nothing better.”

—Amy Mangan


“When I think of romance, I think about what the word originally meant in the Middle Ages when it was used to describe the vernacular—common, everyday speech. To me, that’s still what it means—the common, everyday ways that we say ‘You’re special to me.’ It’s a shared snort over an inside joke, a pitcher with two cold mugs after a long day at work, a call in the middle of the day for no reason. It’s a way of living everyday life that takes seriously the idea that someone else matters to you.”

—R.J. Jenkins

A Match Made In Stella’s

By Ben Baugh | Photography by Ralph Demilio

They say that love is sweeter the second time around. And for Larry and Carmen Shroads, that’s definitely the case. For both, it’s their second marriage. However, it’s the value they place on their relationship, on the importance of communication and listening, and on a tradition started on their first date that holds their marriage together as strongly as their vows.

The couple had agreed to meet at a place that would become an integral part of their lives, so much so, it has been part of their monthly routine. Carmen had been divorced for three years and Larry for much longer, prior to the initial encounter. “We met online,” said Carmen. “It was a blind date. We had seen pictures. I had gone to Stella’s [Modern Pantry] before with my daughter, and I knew some people at Stella’s. We used to go in the afternoon, every once in a while, and have some dessert or a glass of wine.”

The two agreed to meet on the afternoon of January 14, 2012, beginning a sojourn that evolved from its nascent stages, flourished into love and understanding and an even deeper commitment, all from that very first meeting where the stars aligned.

“Jeremy, one of the people who worked there, he said, ‘I haven’t seen you in a while, how are you?’” said Carmen. “I said, ‘I’m doing well.’ He complimented me; I was all dressed up. And I said, ‘I have a date.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, great.’ He said, ‘Well, if it doesn’t turn out to be what you think, we’ll have the back door open for you.’”

The Shroads first face-to-face meeting became the start of a journey and a bonding process that has become stronger with each step taken. The two would eventually exchange wedding vows on June 29, 2015. But that first time at Stella’s continues to resonate in the very fiber of the Shroads’ marriage, interwoven into a relationship that is as beautiful as the most elegant of tapestries. They became lost in the moment during that first meeting.

“We were certainly happy to see each other,” said Larry, regarding the couple’s first date. “We were talking and were there for quite a while. I guess we met about 5:30 p.m. or somewhere roughly around there. So, we were looking around, we had been in there a long time, and we noticed we were the only people there. We noticed even a few chairs had been put up on the table.”

“Jeremy was mopping the floor a little bit, and I looked down at my watch, and it was almost 10 o’clock, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! Carmen, I think they’ve closed the place. We’re the only people here.’ So, I went back and paid for dinner, and I sheepishly asked Jeremy, ‘My gosh, when did you guys close? I think we’re the only ones here.’ He said, ‘Well, we closed at 7.’ It was 10 o’clock. ‘We weren’t going to break you guys up and make you guys leave.’”

The Shroads have been embraced by the staff at Stella’s, who have shared their stories with the Shroads, and it’s the staff’s warmth and consideration that keeps the Shroads coming back month after month to celebrate something far greater than themselves as individuals.

“It was incredibly special; they didn’t want to interrupt us,” said Larry. “We were talking and enjoying, getting to know one another. We’ve been to Stella’s every month since then, since 2012. In January, it will be 96 months in a row.”

It’s Stella’s ambiance and its staff’s personal touch that creates a cozy atmosphere, where you feel you’re among a close-knit group, and there’s a real connection, said Carmen.

“Stella’s was meant to be a pantry, they added a few tables, and it became what it is now,” said Carmen. “They have great dessert and great food. It’s just the fact that it’s a small venue. The people that go to Stella’s aren’t in a hurry. No one is there demanding something this way or that way. The customers are known by the people who work there. We have seen so many servers come and go. They all have wonderful personalities. It’s a special place for us because we’ve met so many people.”

But there’s one person’s presence who has made a significant difference during their monthly return engagements. Albert, who co-owns Stella’s Modern Pantry and is also the chef, is family, said Larry.

“He comes to our house, and I’m flattered because the chef loves our food,” said Carmen, who is a school teacher. “I’m Puerto Rican, so I know a lot of Puerto Rican recipes. I grew up with the best people that taught me so much. He loves the food.”

The couple has thousands of photos from having had nearly 100 dates at the restaurant, progressively capturing the memories and romance that have played a critical role in their connection. Carmen and Larry get dressed up for each date at Stella’s in matching colors, wearing their very best, with Carmen getting her hair done and Larry his beard. But one thing has remained constant throughout their eight-year relationship.

“Through thick and thin, we’ve had lots of laughter and tears,” said Carmen. “We’ve lost pets that we adore, family members that have passed, but we always make sure that we go to Stella’s. It doesn’t matter. We have a part-time home in North Carolina and we make sure to come to Stella’s during the summer. I say ‘It’s time to go to Stella’s.’”

However, the streak appeared to be in jeopardy in 2018, when Carmen became ill. In spite of adversity creating what would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle, Carmen rallied, recovering in time to make their monthly engagement. “The photo shows a very frail me,” said Carmen. “My husband held me, and we took the picture.”

The couple never envisioned their first date would lead to a life of love, listening, and lifting one another’s spirits.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this way but after talking with him, looking into his eyes, our conversation and how much we had in common… Although we’re different in so many ways, but in so many ways, we’re alike,” said Carmen.

Those commonalities and similarities provided a foundation during that initial encounter.

“It took us about two seconds to decide what we were going to eat,” said Larry. “We agreed immediately on what we were going to share, what kind of flatbread pizza we were going to have. It was a special evening, and it hasn’t changed since then. It was a wonderful evening. That’s one of the wonderful things about it. We get to celebrate it every month, to relive it, and get to experience it each time.”

And to this day, the romance, commonalities, and their irrepressible love for one another keeps the relationship healthy and flourishing, making each other a priority, finding time for one another.

“We have a candlelight dinner every night, even if we’re having leftovers. … We dim the lights, light the candles, put on some soft music and talk,” said Carmen. “He’s my best friend. He’s my best fan. He always listens and has the best advice. When he doesn’t have advice, he always offers support, and holds my hand,” she said, giggling.

The tradition of having a date night resonates powerfully with the couple, said Larry.

“It’s very important for us to do that,” said Larry. “I was in a bicycle accident, shattered my clavicle, and that didn’t stop us from going to Stella’s that month. It’s important to have those things, and we look forward to it, where we have it on the calendar with the day that we’re going to be at Stella’s. It’s something that we think about as the day’s approaching.”

Carmen is the couple’s planner and always makes sure there is time in their schedules to go to Stella’s. They try not to let more than five weeks go by before they return, she said.

The couple has served as an inspiration to others through their loyalty and commitment, according to Albert, Stella’s co-owner and chef, said Larry.

Albert will sit with the couple, acknowledging that Carmen and Larry’s love symbolizes the importance of taking the time to be with one another and how the Shroads’ relationship motivates others to start their own tradition of having a date night, said Carmen.

“They need to be each other’s best friend. … You have to be able to tell that person everything, no matter what,” said Carmen. “And also become a good listener. My husband is a good listener. He’s the best listener ever. He listens attentively.”

The deep mutual respect the couple has for one another is palpable, with Carmen referring to Larry as a gentleman and Larry to Carmen as a lady. But one thing is for certain, the Shroads will be a presence at Stella’s for years to come.

On The Menu: Latin American Café

By Sarah Jacobs | Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Serving up food as colorful as the rich culture it hails from, The Latin American cafe is sure to impress with its Cuban fair.

Food sustains us. Through cooking we are given the ability to care for one another in one of the most comforting of ways. Every culture has their own unique way of gathering around the table to feed the ones they love. Manny Camps’ family grew up with a mom who knew the importance of feeding her family. His mother was well known for her Cuban cooking, and with her authentic recipes, hard work, and resourcefulness, she was able to bring her family to America. Through cooking Cuban food, the Camps family has been able to find success.

Manny and his wife, Isabel Grisales Camps, have been in the restaurant industry for most of their lives. After selling The Charlie Horse in Dunnellon, Florida, Manny suffered a stroke. The couple was ready to slow down, but with health expenses piling up, they knew they needed to do something. Isabel was confident that if she could find a place to cook all the recipes Manny’s mother had taught her, the family would be able to make things work. They went all in on The Latin American Cafe 10 years ago and were able to bring a little piece of Cuban magic to Ocala.

The aim was to keep things simple: authentic Cuban food, great customer service, and a comfortable atmosphere. After years of hard work, the Camps were able to curate a cafe that fills a hole in Ocala’s culinary offerings. They opened in their new location three months ago and their claim of being “The house of the Cuban sandwich and the king of the Cuban steak sandwich!” remains as true as ever. Isabel’s recipes transform an average meal into a quick trip to Cuba. “Food is not a secret. We can all take the same ingredients and come up with something different. It takes a special touch to bring it together,” Manny said of his wife’s cooking. Every dish is prepared with the customer in mind and made with fresh, organic ingredients. The fresh Cuban bread is made in-house and is light and fluffy: the perfect start to any meal you order. The menu boasts a colorful array of dishes including ropa vieja, a shredded beef dish. It is served in a robust tomato sauce that will leave your taste buds wanting more. On Fridays, spicy Cuban oxtail is offered as a special and is worth a try for anyone desiring something a bit bolder. For breakfast, the Machito is a popular choice. The egg sandwich is packed with flavor and provides plenty of fuel to start your day off right. If energy is what you are after, you will want to take a look at the beverages that are offered. Cuban espresso, cortadito, and cafe con leche are all on the menu and prepared perfectly. With their rich smell and bold flavor, any of the cafe’s coffee offerings could easily find their way into your morning routine. Dessert is made from scratch, for those with a sweet tooth. You will not want to miss the tres leches or flan. Both options are a mouthwatering way to end the meal. No matter what you decide to try, one thing is clear: the spirit of Manny’s mother is very much alive in Isabel’s cooking.

If you allow the Camps to feed you at their restaurant, you will be getting more than a meal. Everytime the door opens, customers are greeted like family and often by name. Isabel pays close attention to each patron and knows them well enough to have their food started before they place their order. The moment you step inside, it is evident that you are appreciated as more than a customer. There is a sense of community that has been built, and dining at The Latin American Cafe is truly an experience. Conversation and laughter can be heard throughout the meal. As customers come and go, picking up their orders or pausing to chat while they wait for their food, the overall feeling is that you are invited to stay awhile. The new location makes great use of its space and allows diners to choose between sitting around a table or grabbing a seat at the bar. A mural pays homage to Cuba, while a few bright paintings round out the straightforward atmosphere. The overall effect is welcoming and relaxed.

Manny and Isabel believe in doing things with integrity and consistency, and it is apparent in the quality of their restaurant. They are excited to announce some upcoming changes that you will want to be on the lookout for. Beer and wine will soon be added to the menu, and an outdoor patio is in the works to provide more seating options. The cafe will also be opening its doors a bit later for customers to enjoy all it has to offer. The next time you want to eat out and try something new, stop by and visit the Camps. You will have a meal you are sure to enjoy and it will be delivered with heart and passion. 

To keep up with announcements about these exciting changes, you can follow The Latin American Cafe on Facebook and Instagram or visit their website at

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

By Kaitlyn Butler

February is for lovers. This decade, elevate your Valentine’s Day plans and get her what she really wants. Whether it’s a designer bag or an afternoon exploring downtown, Ocala has you covered.

Wine Making Class

The Corkscrew Winery now offers wine-making classes, which turns the casual wine lover into a chemist. Book a private class and craft your favorite style or join a group of other wine connoisseurs by booking on

Dance Together

Become the dancers you always wanted to be. Move in sync during a dance class with Ocala’s Arthur Murray Dance Centers, which specializes in teaching couples how to dance. Located in downtown Ocala, your first dance lesson is free.

Designer Taste

All it takes is to step into one of these elegant boutiques and any shopper will land on the perfect, fashionable gift. Shannon Roth Collection features Julie Vos and Theia jewelry, Current Air and Mod Ref clothing and home goods designed by the talented Jan Barboglio. Steps away, Agapanthus boasts Pandora jewelry gift sets, Longchamp handbags and sought-after candles like Voluspa and the Capri Blue Volcano.

Food Tour

Uncover a vast spectrum of cooking styles in Ocala’s historic downtown. Each Brick City Food Tour visits five local tasting locations in the downtown neighborhood. Between samples, your informative guides will share their experiences of local customs, historic stories, and specialty shops. This walking tour is ideal for lovers eager to discover the culinary secrets and traditions that compose the horse capital of the world—book on Airbnb Experiences.

Art Aficionado

Ocala’s art scene is booming, and art enthusiasts are sure to love hand-selected pieces. Check out the First Friday Art Walk on February 7 to explore Ocala’s native art scene. Art devotees will love the innovative work of Ocala’s local artists.

Savor The Cook

Give the gift of zest and bring home the cooking of chef Albert Barrett. The woman who savors flavors will love anything from Stella’s Modern Pantry—hand crafted chocolates, Caymus wine, specialty cheese, caviar spread and more.

Sentimental Selection

Gallery on Magnolia is home to hand-crafted “spirit tiles.” Each tile begins with wood and is wrapped with copper and a glass infusion then fired to create a work of art. Each displays a glistening scene paired with a synonymous quote, and the E.E. Cummings “I carry your heart with me” tile is perfect for a special woman.

Commemorate Your Wedding

The creative team at Marley Mae Market & Paperie is known for thinking outside of the box. They’re bringing their A game for Valentine’s Day with custom pieces to commemorate your wedding day. Choose from a custom print of your wedding vows or first dance song lyrics and remind your lady of the first day of the rest of your lives.

Water Adventure

Silver Springs State Park is a natural wonder right here in Ocala. Spend the day on the water taking in the springs by paddleboard, canoe, kayak, or glass-bottom boat. It’s perfect for the couple who loves to get outdoors, and as an added bonus: finish the day sharing an ice cream cone at Paradise Treats.

A Night at the Theater

What’s more romantic than a night at the ballet? The Reilly Arts Center hosts Dance Alive National Ballet on February 21 as they present “Loveland.” This ballet is inspired by the pull of the moon, a love story that blends love, romance, and passion.

Be Inspired

Ocala is host to an award-winning museum, home to approximately 18,000 objects in its permanent collection and features temporary traveling exhibits. At the Appleton Museum of Art, take in artwork from Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and more as you cozy up to your partner.

Horse Capital of the World

What could be more fitting for a romantic day out than horseback riding in the horse capital of the world? Book a private ride or join a group and tap into your adventurous side with Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides. We hear some of the best bonding experiences come from experiences that test your comfort zone.

Ocala is home to a wide variety of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day whether your partner prefers gifts or quality time. Regardless of how you celebrate, what matters most is who you share it with.

170 Years: Ocala’s Depth, Development, and Definition

By Ben Baugh

It’s a city with a deep and rich history, one that spans more than 170 years. But what is it about the municipality that derives its name from the Timucua word meaning “Big Hammock”? Ocala is also referred to as the “Kingdom of the Sun” and the “Brick City,” taking on a character of its own and creating its own unique place in history.

Ocala and Marion County has been shaped by its past, is undergoing a transformation though its present state, and thanks to careful planning and innovative thinking, is on the cusp of creating a visionary future, endemic to an expanding area whose consistent growth and development has attracted nationwide and global attention.

From its nascent stages when the economy was based on the citrus industry and phosphate mining, the area’s vast natural resources began attracting those who understood the value of the land that lay atop the karst topography and Floridan aquifer. Plantations would be a major component in the area’s early development, with sugarcane, tobacco, turpentine, cotton, citrus and timber becoming important sources of revenue.

The city has seen and survived its fair share of adversity, overcoming the impact of a fire that tore through the municipality on Thanksgiving Day in 1883, destroying five city blocks. But even then, Ocala demonstrated its resiliency, rebuilding using brick and iron, said Brian Stoothoff, Historic Ocala Preservation Society vice president.

Ecotourism and agritourism would remain constant sources of revenue with Hollywood taking notice, with Silver Springs becoming a nationwide attraction.

However, the area’s five rivers and enviable springs only seemed to enhance the area’s presence as a place with significant potential.

We talked to several people who played prominent roles in the development of the area and how they and their families helped to shape the complexion of a county whose past and present will create a future that’s indelibly Floridian but more importantly Ocalan.

There are also ample employment opportunities in the Ocala and Marion County area, with a number of companies boasting a nationwide footprint either basing their operation in the area or having a satellite facility as part of the corporate landscape. According to the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership’s 5-year goal, the objective was to create 4,500 jobs, and in the first two years of the plan, through 2018, 2837 jobs were created. During the same time frame, the goal was $400 million in capital investment, and two years into the 5-year plan, the partnership had reached 80% of their objective.

Developer Glen Lane grew up in Miami and went to school at the University of Florida and the University of Miami. He began doing business in Ocala in 1978 with the Turning Hawk and Turning Hawk II communities, relocated to the area, and fell in love with the place he has made his home for over 40 years.

He has left an imprint on the area, developing all four sides of I-75 and route 200, with the Hilton Hotel being the original landmark, Park Centre and Park Centre West and a place that seemed to be on the itinerary of any tourist heading south and on their way to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom.

“The Disney Welcome Center sure made selling real estate a lot easier,” said Lane. “When I moved to Turning Hawk, I had friends from different parts of the world in for the horse sales, and they would call me, and would say, ‘Where do you recommend that I stay?’ And I didn’t have a great recommendation, and sometimes I would say, ‘Stay at my house.’ And then I tied up the land for the Hilton Hotel, and we got that done in partnership with Arvida, the high end developer at the time and they still are, out of Boca Raton.”

Simultaneously, Whit Palmer was developing Paddock Park, and the properties were adjacent, said Lane. Whit Palmer’s influence continues to resonate throughout the area, playing an instrumental role with developing landscaped walkways, medians, signage requirements and underground utilities, changing the quality and complexion of the development, said Lane. Many of the improvements made by Palmer raised the standards and quality of the area, with Palmer and Lane working together on a number of projects, creating an aesthetically pleasing environment that still exists today.

“He [Palmer] was the leader in quality development,” said Lane, who owns the Friendship Center in front of On Top of the World, which he purchased from the Colens. “I’m appreciative. We wanted to do the same kind of thing.”

Sidney Colen purchased the Circle Square Ranch from the Norris Cattle Company, which was nearly 13,000 acres and became a major part of State Road 200 corridor. Kulbir Ghuman bought out Pine Run and developed Oak Run, and those were among the variables driving development in the area. Lane started a group called Task Force 200, where a lawsuit was brought against the state, transforming State Road 200 from a two-lane road to a six-lane road.

“Ken Colen, Kulbir Ghuman, and a lot of the other people, they gave me the money to rent the space at the Hilton, so we could hire the experts to present it to the all the landowners,” said Lane. “The landowners were going to donate the right-of-way to the state in return for negotiable impact fee credits, so then the developers could then buy the impact fee credits from the landowners who donated the land, and it didn’t cost the state anything to get the right-of-way.”

Lane played a critical role in the change, by starting out every televised and public meeting where he spoke, by saying, “The State Road 200 expansion has been in the 10-year plan for 30 years,” generating a significant amount of bad publicity for the Department of Transportation, eventually resulting in monumental transformation.

“I was literally at the meeting of DOT Fifth District in Deland, when Nancy Houston was head of the fifth district at that time, and we had a big meeting room,” Lane said.

“I had the deeds in escrow with the county, there were 99 landowners who had right-of-way, and all 99 agreed to do this, we were ready to turn them over…
she [Houston] said ‘Glen,’ and everybody went silent, ‘If it becomes public knowledge that the state funded this, and could buy the land, do you think people would still donate their land?’”

“I said, ‘Hell no. I won’t either.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Why would you do this? I’m saving the state about $18 million, and if you use my method, you could do this in other areas, where people that own the land along the road dedicate the right-of-way, get impact fee credits, so, the developer and landowner help mitigate the traffic impact on their own, and the state builds the road. And they can save on the land acquisition around the state. I just don’t understand.’”

“She said, ‘This generated so much bad publicity, statewide and Orlando television, and with you saying it’s been in the 10-year plan for 30 years, we decided we had to fund it because you made us look bad.’ ”

“I said, ‘Okay.’ That’s how we got that done,” Lane said.

The county still possesses its original rural character, but mainly its people haven’t lost their character, said George Albright, Marion County tax collector.

“There are a lot of nice people here, and a lot of nice people who’ve moved here,” said Albright. “That’s one of the things that I like about Marion County is its people.”

The senior communities are all-inclusive from an infrastructure standpoint, said Albright. That was a critical component in being able to service people with rapid growth without the infrastructure.

“There were years where highway 200 wasn’t up to its adequate size, and it was causing delays, but that’s been by and large remedied,” said Albright. “I think 200 flows very well.”

About a third of Marion County is permanent green space because it’s in a state park, the Ocala National Forest, and serves as a water recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer, high magnitude springs, and rivers.

‘’Water, having clean water and plentiful water, is going to be the biggest challenge,” said Albright. “It’s a challenge for Marion County in the future.”

Albright also had the distinction of living next to the Ma Barker House when he was growing up in Lake Weir.

“I have a very long and personal history with that house,” said Albright.

Ecotourism and history tourism have also brought a lot of people to the Marion County area, said Albright.

“It tends to be long-term, and we’ve been very blessed that our elected county commissioners for the last 20 to 40 years, as well as the elected city council for the last 20 to 40 years, have all been historical preservationists,” said Albright. “They put a value on our historical sites.”

The county has designated northwest Marion County as an equine management area, said Albright. The county’s recognized that the equine industry and what has come with it is one of the things that provides the county with its unique character.

“There are a lot of ancillary services that have come to Marion County because of that,” said Albright. “I think that the growth will stay fairly compact on [County Road] 27, and won’t move much into the equine area.”

There is concern about the possibility of a toll road going through northwest Marion County, said Albright. A thoroughfare of that nature would dramatically change the complexion of the landscape.

“I think that may be as much of a character change to the area as growth,” said Albright. “A toll road, unless you make it really limited access, will have commercial nodes at every exit. You’ll see rapid growth because of people’s ability to get up on a toll road and go to faraway places in a short period of time.”

“I think what Larry Roberts [World Equestrian Center] is going to be doing is fantastic,” said Albright. “I think it’s going to put Marion County on the map for the whole world. We have the equine industry here, but now through Mr. Roberts’s enormous financial efforts, we’re going to be able to showcase that. We’re going to get a lot of visitors that we haven’t had in the past, which I think is a good thing. Communities love to have visitors come and spend their money and leave. That’s probably one of the best situations from a taxation standpoint that a community can have.”

It was a market study for Edward DeBartolo Sr. that brought developer Jerry Glassman to Ocala. DeBartolo was under contract to purchase land, which was the property that was going to be the Paddock Mall. It was a friend of Glassman’s who was a Tampa-based broker, who worked with the DeBartolos, who had been asked by them to do the study, but he wasn’t familiar with the area. Glassman’s friend called him, and the rest is history.

“Being a consultant to DeBartolo, I learned that the mall was going to come there, and I started to buy land and develop it. I bought up a mile square around the mall,” said Glassman. “We developed from where Home Depot and Bob Evans are on State Road 200, all of those parcels down to the college. We developed the land and then sold it to various companies that put their projects down. We developed from Burger King all the way down to the Buick dealership, which is now the Nissan Dealership on 17th Street, where I put in Walmart originally, in the shopping center where Blockers is in now and Hobby Lobby. I put the Burger King there with Gene Camp. That was his.”

Glassman has been involved with a deep volume of projects, helping to grow the area to what it is today, bringing in a number of national outlets, making Ocala a preferred destination. He was also responsible for developing the shopping center where Best Buy is located. The developer also left a definitive imprint on 27th Avenue.

It was Glassman’s friend, John Curtis, who was responsible for building the apartments on 27th avenue. The former Michigander also built Easy Street and Cala Hills, and moved Walmart to their present location, partnering with several people to have the corporate entity relocate to their current site. Glassman, with several other people, donated the land for Scott Springs Park, brokering the deal, working with the city to see that through to fruition. He and his wife are the current owners of the Ocala Family Medical Center.

The developer was also part of a group that was created in 1980 that was known as Vision 2020 that was composed of the most influential people in Ocala. Glassman’s wife was the President of the Central Florida College Foundation for 20 years.

“She built their endowment from $5 million to $20 million over that period of time,” said Glassman.

Major development projects are showcasing the area’s future vision, including the Hilton Garden Inn on the city’s square, set to open in February, and a new commerce park in Marion Oaks, adding to an already deep business footprint.

As a state senator, Dennis Baxley does quite a bit of traveling as an elected official, but the best part of his job is coming home to Belleview and Marion County.

“We’ve watched the growth of the state over the past 50 years, and it’s been remarkable,” said Baxley, who was born in Ocala in 1952. “Florida’s roots are very close to the surface…there are changes happening around us very quickly. We’re in a very positive period of economic well-being, after going through a deep recession a few years ago.”

One-third of Marion County will never be developed, largely in part of the green belting. The Ocala National Forest, the state parks, lakes, rivers and streams, springs and property purchased around the springs have been preserved for future generations. The equine industry is big part of the brand, beauty, and green belting of the region, said Baxley.

“My own roots are very rural,” said Baxley. “My dad was born in Weirsdale, down on the south side of Lake Weir. My granddaddy grew orange trees, when citrus and cattle were king. My mom was raised on a farm in Oxford, just over the Marion County line in Sumter County.”

The son of a pastor, Baxley lived in different parts of Florida, but Marion County has always been home. In June 1970, after graduating from high school, Baxley went to work for the Hiers Family at Hiers Funeral Home. Baxley who has dedicated his life to serving others, has lived a life that’s been well-lived, one of meaning and purpose. The opportunity to walk through life and death with several generations of families has provided Baxley an intimacy with the community he represents.

“Little did I know, the kid that washed the cars and mowed the yard, went on ambulance calls and was the Saturday secretary, would one day be the principal,” said Baxley, who has served in more than 20 community organizations. “And help grow the company to six business locations and serve about 1,500 families per year…I’m very thankful to have been a part of the script for the past 50 years.“

And as Ocala and Marion County move forward, Baxley believes the area’s time is just beginning, and the area’s residents are living in one of the most exciting chapters in north central Florida’s history. Lake, Sumter, and Marion Counties continued expansion has led to additional growth in the corporate sector, becoming a regional distribution hub for companies with a nationwide footprint.

Transportation will play a critical role in the future, said Baxley.

“We’re in the center of a great time of job opportunities; it’s the lowest unemployment rate that I’ve seen,” said Baxley. “The country’s in bloom, north central Florida is at the very apex of it.”

The county is synonymous with equestrian sport and the equine industry. The Marion County Fair conducted racing in 1908. Carl Rose moved to Florida in 1916 to supervise construction of the first asphalt road in Florida, according to the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame. He would become the area’s pioneer in the Thoroughbred industry with his Rosemere Thoroughbred Farm. It was through his experimentation with limestone that he determined that the soil would be perfect for livestock, both equine and bovine.

Rosemere Farm produced Marion County’s first Thoroughbred racehorse winner, Gornil at Tropical Park, in 1943.

However, a Thoroughbred named Needles, raced by Bonnie Heath and Jackson Dudley, would go onto share the 1955 2-year-old male award with Nail, but Needles sophomore campaign made the world take notice. Needles captured the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Belmont Stakes and, in doing so, was named 3-year-old champion of 1956. Needles, who was bred and raised in Ocala, put the area’s Thoroughbred industry convincingly on the map.

The area has established itself as one of the world’s premier horse communities, featuring every equestrian sport discipline, and has the infrastructure in place to accommodate the vast number of horses, horse farms, training centers, competition venues and horsemen.

The equine industry’s economic impact resonates powerfully statewide. The Thoroughbred industry has a $2.7 billion total impact with a $1.5 billion value added total effect, according to a study commissioned with major support from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners Association and the American Horse Council Foundation. There is strength in numbers with the state boasting more than 99,000 Thoroughbreds.

“Marion County and the City of Ocala are called “The Horse Capital of the World” for a very good reason,” said Lonny Powell, FTBOA chief executive officer. “Florida is one of the top horse population centers in not just North America, but the world. That being said, most of the horse breeding, conditioning, farming and much of the show and contest competition takes place in Marion County where all residents, businesses, and visitors benefit from the green space, culture, character, jobs and economic impact that comes with being such an enthusiastic equine-centric community.”

The equine industry and equestrian sport continue to serve as the impetus in attracting the best in international competition and horsemen from around the globe to the Brick City. Amenities and events like the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Horse Shows In the Sun, Live Oak Invitational, Florida Horse Park, Ocala Jockey Club Invitational 3-Day Event and Larry Roberts’ World Equestrian Center, which is expected to open in 2021, will continue to make Ocala/Marion County the world’s premier equine destination.

“The area’s long established signature Thoroughbred industry, along with a flourishing show and contest as well as pleasure horse scene, continue to be driving economic and quality of life drivers for our city, county and state,” said Powell.

Finding The Baseline

Words and Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Tell me about how you started?  

Andrew: It started out as an alias for me to play acoustic shows under. I didn’t want my full name on the bill so I went under “Baseline” or Andrew from Baseline. I had hopes of having a full band one day, but until then, I just liked the name and ran with it.  There was some talks of friends who wanted to play in the band but it wasn’t until the month of my 23rd birthday that I found a good friend I’d known for a while who was also looking for a band to play in.  I asked Jason Feagin if he wanted to play a Blink 182 cover set for my 23rd birthday, and after our first practice, it just felt like the right fit.  I remember him bringing over a couple IPAs for us to have during our practice and saying, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”  And it definitely has been over the last five years, being in a band with Jason. After a couple lineup changes, we solidified our group with the final addition of Zach Hess (drummer) joining the band about three years ago. This is the dynamic that is Baseline.

How long have you been involved in the Ocala Music Scene?  

Andrew: We started with playing acoustic sets in 2014. With the addition of new members, we started playing full sets the year after.  The band had a couple of lineup changes but has been continuing to perform as a full band since 2015.

What got you interested in music?

Jason: For me, I was just a kid who wanted a guitar.  After I learned to play, that’s all I wanted to do.

Andrew: When I was 14, I broke my left arm jumping off a trampoline. While I was in a cast, I watched a little movie called “School of Rock,” and it was then I realized I wanted to play guitar. A year later, I went to see Relient K at Rock the Universe for the first time. It was then, in a full moment of clarity, that I knew I wanted to write songs and create my own music.

Zach: Music has always been a passion for me personally, personifying that which cannot be spoken. Music has always been the soundtrack to my life and that intrigued me so much that I wanted to create music that could speak to people like it does to me.

What or Who are some of your biggest  Musical influences?

Andrew: When I first started writing songs, Relient K,  MxPx, and Anberlin were big staples in my life, so a lot of our earlier songs sound like the work of Matt Thiessen. Things definitely changed when I found out about The Cure. Robert Smith has a big influence in my life that I am so grateful for. Lately it’s a lot of stuff.  The more I discover, the more I find things I love and want to put to use in our music.  I’d say Fugazi and Ceremony have been pretty influential to the band as whole.

Zach: The faster, the heavier, the better! Metal music was what definitely sparked my fire to play music. As I grew, I learned to love all forms of music and fell deeply in love with jazz and Latin grooves and have been broadening my musical horizons ever since.

Jason: I grew up on punk rock and metal. Lately I’ve been most influenced by bands such as PUP and The Menzingers.

Baseline is a great name! How did you come up with it?

Andrew: Back in 2013, after many of humorous and joking attempts at band names, one of the underdog names actually stuck. After hitting golf balls on the “Baseline” driving range and passing the local “Baseline” discount beverage store, a friend blurted out “You should name your band ‘Baseline,’” purely as a joke. Little did we know it would stick.

How long have you been performing as a band?

Andrew: As full band? Five years. We’ve had some lineup changes, one of them being my little brother, Cole, who filled in on drums for a couple years before Zach joined. It’s been two full years of Jason, Zach, and myself as Baseline.

Take us through the songwriting process when in comes to the band. Is it just one or all of you contributing to the lyrics?

Andrew: It might change in the future, which I hope it does, but usually I come to the band with a rough idea of a song or a mostly complete piece, with lyrics and all. From that, we all toy around with the progression of the song musically, both Zach and Jason adding their own touch to it, making it a true collective piece.

Being in the music scene here in Ocala, what would you like to see in the future that could improve the state of the scene?

Andrew: I think a lot of times, I hear folks and bands complain about people not caring enough about the music scene. Not coming out to support more or just coming out to see the bigger bands. And that may be true, but I don’t think people are impressed enough with what the scene has to offer.  There’s not enough bands taking bigger risks with their art or trying something different, too much of the same old, same old sound. If we took chances, then maybe we could start a chain reaction of creating something new and exciting. Something people can’t get enough of. And also, having a solid venue to play at would be nice too.

What has been the most memorable moment you’ve experienced while performing? 

Andrew: For us, playing a house show block party and having the fire dancers walk through us during the middle of our set, while the homeowner hijacked the mic and was screaming the lyrics to Green Day’s “Brainstew.”

What does the future of Baseline look like? Any shows or more EPs coming soon?

Andrew: We have a pretty big show on January 19th. We’re the local support for the 15th anniversary tour of Hawthorne Heights’ “Silence in Black and White” as well as one of our favorite albums “The Weeks End” by Emery who is also on tour with Hawthorne. Like I said, it’s going to be huge, at least for us.

As far as new music goes, we have a five song album already written and ready to go. Hoping to get back to the studio and knock them out, so we can release it before spring of next year.  The future feels pretty bright for us. Just wanting to write and release more music, each album being better than the last one. All the while wanting what we do to make some difference in the local scene or our music making a difference in someone’s life. If not, at least we have fun doing what we do: drinking beer, playing rock and roll, and hanging out with our friends.

To listen to their latest EP “Discount Beverage,” visit and be sure to follow them on all social media platforms at @baselineocala.


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