Tougher Than Steel

On a bright Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 at exactly 8:46 am, the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, the South tower was hit. Then the Pentagon, and lastly a fourth aircraft went down in Shanksville Pennsylvania.

On that day our nation saw the worst in humanity. Destruction on a mass scale. And from that day forward those events were forever etched in history. 2977 Americans including 343 firefighters, 23 New York City police, and 37 Port Authority officers were lost in the greatest attack in history on American soil. Yet, with as much destruction as we witnessed, there are those who showed us what it means to be an American. They are the First Responders, they are the courageous ones doing the unthinkable without hesitation. The following days were a test of our strength as a nation, our love for each other, and our will to rebuild from Ground Zero.

Brian Stoothoff, former President of the Historic Ocala Preservation Society and retired Assistant Fire Chief remembers the day in vivid detail. On the morning of September 11th, Fire Station #1 watched in silence as the North tower fell. Before they could even process the magnitude of the destruction the alarm sounded, sending them out to handle a structure fire. Stoothoff, recalls being on edge, stressed, and in a constant state of heightened tension. This day was unusually busy with calls that kept them moving and it, was a while before they found out the exact events that had occurred. “Immediately after there was an outpouring of support and appreciation from the public. In a lot of ways, it made our jobs easier,” says Stoothoff. Our community remained united and showed our appreciation for our First Responders as we still do today.

On the same day, Hurricane Gabrielle formed in the Gulf of Mexico. On September 14th , just three days after the attacks, Hurricane Gabrielle hit Florida as a Category 1 with sustained winds of 70mph, wreaking havoc as it moved up the state. Ocala firefighters were prepped and ready to deploy to Ground Zero when Hurricane Gabrielle kept them in the state to assist through the cleanup. Entrapments, trees on powerlines, loss of power, and flooding damage kept them working into November. In November of 2001, Stoothoff traveled to Ground Zero not only pay respects but to assist in any further cleanup and identification. During this visit, the Port Authority gifted our community with a segment of steel from the World Trade Center. This segment is currently and permanently on display at the Ocala Fire Museum which hosts a rich history of our city’s fire department and stories of the bravery of September 11th.

Sadly, there is an entire generation of people who have no emotional attachment to this piece of history. It’s important to continue to educate future generations so it is not forgotten. “Ocala is fortunate to have on permanent display a segment of the World Trade Center steel. It serves as an educational and visual reminder of the horrific events that occurred that day and it’s my hope that everyone from Ocala would take the time to visit the Ocala Fire Museum.” – Brian Stoothoff

This year will be the 18th anniversary of the attack. While the wound still feels fresh, there is hope. The true American spirit rises from the ashes. Love for our fellow American, unity in the face of peril, and laying down our lives for others are trademarks of the America we saw in that time. In the middle of Ground Zero sits a lovely Callery Pear tree, known as the “Survivor Tree”, which endured through the destruction of the World Trade Center. Every year the 9/11 memorial presents seedlings from the pear tree to three communities that have suffered tragedy in that year. These seedlings are symbols of hope and healing. Like that tree, we have a visible demarcation from the pain of our past. Now with our nation currently divided, the call for unity is of the utmost importance. 

Mayoral Candidate Q & A

Kent Guinn

What is the one thing you want citizens to know before going to the polls?
The one thing I would want people to know is that I genuinely care about the people I serve.  I’ve demonstrated it through my leadership and vision for the city and never giving up. Because of that, we have a growing vibrant city. Let’s continue that success together.

With public safety a major concern in today’s society, how will you as mayor help to foster a feeling of security in our local community?
Since I became Mayor 8 years ago overall Crime is down 10%. It’s down another 10% over last year. I’ve enacted a Panhandling and Public lodging ordinance and enforce it to keep our city safe and clean. I believe in the Broken Windows Theory of policing whereby addressing the small crimes and social disorder you prevent much larger crimes from occurring. People feel safe living in their respective neighborhoods. We will continue that trend. We’re hiring 8 new officers to deal with violent crime. I’ve developed a relationship between the United States Attorney’s office and the State Attorneys office where they are partnering on putting violent criminals away for a very long time. That relationship will continue to make our community safe. I need your vote to continue to make our community safe.

Barbara Fitos

What is the one thing you want citizens to know before going to the polls?
I care deeply about this community and will use my 40 years of public service experience, knowledge, and civic engagement to be a proactive, hopeful voice for ALL citizens to address the ongoing challenges and opportunities through that generosity of spirit that is the hallmark of this wonderful city that I am privileged to call home.

With public safety a major concern in today’s society, how will you as mayor help to foster a feeling of security in our local community?
The main role of the office of the Mayor is oversight of our police department. Our police officers put their lives on the line each and every day.  We cannot ignore the increase in violent crime or the need for an opioid task force or the need for a violent crimes task force or the need for the presence of officers in our schools.  What we can do is work to create a climate of respect, trust, and inclusion between and among our police officers and the law-abiding citizens they serve to protect.  Through enhanced community policing, through monthly neighborhood meetings, we can address and seek solutions to the root causes of these issues and strive to provide the needed resources to create neighborhoods based not on fear and exclusion and mistrust but neighborhoods that are sustainable and foster that “feeling of security” that we all seek. Thanks for your support and for helping to make Ocala a great place to live. 

An Insomniac’s Dream

By Melissa Deskovic

It’s a stormy afternoon. Rain clouds have unleashed a fury of water over the city, and although  it’s only 4 pm, if one didn’t know any better, they would think it was midnight with how dark the sky had become. Other than the sounds of rain, everything is productively silent. The workday is winding down as we wait for Chad Taylor to arrive. A local celebrity of sorts those in the artistic community know him well. He is recognized not only by his name—but for his work. He is the definition of a true creative. He has struggled for his art, and through blood, sweat and tears, he founded and kept the Insomniac Theatre alive. As he opens the door, the entire office lights up, and suddenly the stormy weather outside is of no consequence. Everyone loves him, and he is greeted with open arms.

Born in Ft. Lauderdale and raised in Ocala, Taylor has always had a love for the arts “I was always one of those ‘overdramatic’ kids,” he states. “When I was 11, I signed up for the Arts for All summer program at the Civic Theatre. My first role was as the Major General in the Pirates of Penzance, and as soon as the spotlight hit me, I was hooked.”

His ability to weave a story is magnetic. A trait honed over decades in the theatre; one cannot help but become enveloped in his vividly detailed anecdotes. He shares personal musings from a life devoted to his passion for storytelling; and for his knife-wielding rabbit named Slippers Aloysius Von Bunnybutt of the Honeycut Von Bunnybutts. “People think I joke about that,” he laughs. “But I was twenty minutes late to a meeting one time because the bunny had me trapped.” Speaking with a twinge of nonchalance, he sets the scene, and his delivery is perfect. “I used to live downtown right off the square, and I used to let my bunny run around the room. You would hear the clack clack clack on the wood floors. I was laying in my bed writing—I was working on Barfly on the Wall—and it was about time for me to go to a meeting, and here’s the edge of the bed.” He raises his arm. A prop in this imaginative tale “…and the bunny’s head goes like this.” He raises his other hand imitating a bunny menacingly looking over the bed. “…and it’s got a knife in its mouth, and I don’t know where the hell it got it.” He laughed, “Then it does this.” He lowers his hand to mimic bunny disappearing beside the bed. “I was scared to move because I’ve seen Pet Sematary. I know what happens if I move.” The office roars with laughter. He has our full attention.

This story, although inconceivable for most, is just a glimpse at the type of situations he finds himself in. His journey is somewhat a comedy of errors. And one that he is happy to discuss.

“Have you seen my car wash video on Facebook?” He asks, smiling. Again the office erupts with laughter as the video plays. The footage he captured plays out as if written for the big screen. In the video, you hear him exclaim in delighted horror as he helplessly watches the brightly colored soap start pouring in through a leak on the driver’s side door. All he can do is laugh. Because it’s the picture-perfect end to a day that was a laundry list of mishaps and this is just another day in the life for Taylor.

His love for storytelling is nothing new. His journey has taken him from Ocala to Orlando and eventually out to Los Angeles. “I always thought the best way for me to learn something was to do it, so I wanted to be where there were more opportunities for me to learn. So one day I just said ‘I think I’ve gone as far as I can in Florida, I want to move to L.A.’ I sold everything I own, and about a week later there I was.”

As he recounts his days out West, you can hear the fondness he has for the journey. Aside from New York, the Los Angeles entertainment scene is a rough one. It’s home to some of the greatest acts you will never know because the competition is fierce. Politically charged, it’s often more about who kisses the ring than who is the most talented. “I got a lot of callbacks, but always lost the roles to the same two more well-known guys, so I decided to scratch the theatre itch again. That’s when I started producing my own shows, and it felt like home.”

The official start of Insomniac Theatre Company was created not out of a long-held desire to establish a formal business, but as a matter of convenience. “One of the venues I wanted to rent—if I didn’t want to have to pay extra insurance—I would have to have an actual company. I decided to call it Insomniac Theatre Company because I’ve been an insomniac since I was 13,” he explains. “So that is technically how Insomniac got its start—11 years ago in California, as a joke.” 

Through a tragic twist of fate, the time in Los Angeles was abruptly interrupted. “I ended up moving back to Ocala because they told me that I only had a year to two years left of hearing. I was going deaf.” He states. “I wanted to come back and be around family to adjust. Then, I got bored,” he jokes. Making the most of being back home, he once again re-entered the theatre scene. Despite prior experience, community theatre can be extremely difficult. The dance between the players and the decision-makers is a choreographed movement that can grow tiresome. “Even though I was able to do theatre professionally out in Los Angeles—which is one of the hardest markets—it was very hard for me to get on stage or cast in a show here. So I thought, `If I can’t get cast on stage then who else who has talent and can’t get on stage?’ I figured I would start something to give people another opportunity.” 

The independent nature of Insomniac Theatre draws quite the mix of creatives. A community with a passion for the performing arts, without the overlaying corporate stigma often rampant in mainstream theatre. Obstacles don’t matter. Industry politics merely feed the desire to succeed. It’s the support from the audience that helps them go on. Bringing Ocala quality, live shows to enjoy, and sparking conversation among the community is at the heart of the Insomniac mission.

But in order for the arts to thrive locally, it needs support. For the Insomniac Theatre, support has been a hard-fought battle. It’s something they have wrestled with tooth and nail, and even when the doors were shut in their face, they persevered. “We were always kind of the island of misfit toys,” he jokes. “Our first big event was Life Imitates Art, where I got artwork and wrote original short plays about each piece. I wanted to give the proceeds from the show (to a charity), and all I asked was that they allow us to say we were giving away the proceeds. I had to go to 33 different non-profits before someone would say they would take money. I’ve been trying to find an organization since then to do it again, but nobody’s been interested.”

In a stroke of much-needed luck, they finally found an ally in Nancy Ledding and the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA) who opened their doors and gave Insomniac a home. It was with her help they acquired the historic bank building on the downtown square. Built in 1911 this 3,975 square foot building would be their home for more than 150 different productions over the course of three and a half years.

There are benefits to being an independent theatre. There is freedom to push the envelope delving into topics that others may find taboo. “We were a smaller venue, and we were at the place where we really had nothing to lose. Like when we did Hedwig And The Angry Inch,” he says proudly. “No one else would touch that, but it’s such a good show. We had people come back four or five times because they loved it so much.”

The downtown location was a labor of love for all involved, but there is only so far love will go. With a lack of funding, eventually the theatre officially shut its doors. A consistent trend, the performing arts have always battled for community support. For those who pour their souls into this medium, it’s an exhausting experience. One that, over time, chips away at the passion that once kept them going. “I was just done. Just mentally, physically, financially done,” he recalls. “It had gotten to a point where it felt like there was no community support. I would swallow my pride—go ask for help from places—and nothing. I worked a day job and then worked another 60-70 hours a week at the theatre. Eventually, I got so burned-out, if I didn’t close it down I probably would have put myself in the ground.” After all the work poured into the venue, after all the shows were over and the cheers subsided, they turned off the spotlight and called it a day. And after 12 years of working, he finally took a vacation.

Unbeknownst to him, his talent for production had garnered the attention of Matthew Wardell and Pamela Calero-Wardell who at the time were busy trying to put together the puzzle that would become The Reilly Arts Center. “They said ‘If we do this, would you be interested in putting on some shows there?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’” He laughs now as he looks back, but it was their passion for what they were doing with The Reilly that influenced further introspection. The final crescendo arrived in a manner familiar to him: the theatre. A prequel to Peter Pan, Peter and the Starcatcher was not supposed to be on stage that weekend, but the day of his arrival in New York, the production company announced a limited, Off-Broadway run. Sitting in the audience, he found himself overcome with emotion. “It reawakened to me what live theatre should be.”

The Reilly was very gracious, offering full creative control over his productions. As the resident theatre company of The Reilly, he took a tip-toe-into-the-deep-end approach, gauging audience reaction and interest. “I played it safe the first year, and then we had the idea for the shadowcast series, which we had never done. We wanted to do shadowcasts to a movie that should not have a shadowcast to it. So we did Jaws.”

Shadowcasting is especially difficult for both actors and directors. Following a movie move-for-move brings a level of creativity to the stage that keeps time with the screen and is only accomplished through a strict set of rules. “I love shadowcast because it’s essentially my brain on stage.” Surprising audiences with their theatrical choices at every turn filled seats quickly, and audiences clamored for more. So they pushed the envelope once again. “I got to show The Reilly what we could really do with Sweeny Todd. It was the first show we had money behind. People came up to me who had seen the revival on Broadway and said ‘Yours is better.’ The reasoning I think is because ours is more intimate. You feel like you’re a part of the show.”

As we look towards the future, the dream that Chad Taylor built, is solid. With support from the community, the Reilly Center, and a strong team—he is ready to take his final bow. In November Taylor’s run with Insomniac Theatre will come to a close. “I think I’ve taken it as far as I can. If I want it to grow and change, then I need to put someone in there that has a different viewpoint than I do you know. In November he will hand over the reins to Sebestian Lombardo. Familiar with Insomniac Theatre, Lombardo began his work with the theatre company on the stage. He’s been Taylor’s right hand through many of their productions; he has a good grasp of the process, and a great vision for the future. And now that Taylor has weathered the storm he feels secure enough to hand it over to a new generation.

“I’ve always been a believer in that art, at the end of the day, should make you feel something—and that was always our goal,” he reflects. “We may not have done the shows that people have heard of before, but people were always able to come and know that when they came, they could see a good show—and they’d feel something during it.”

The theatre can be a great teacher. Whether you are on stage or in the audience every story has a twist. For Taylor, there was one thing he didn’t expect, one thing about the process that was surprising. When posed with this question he leaned forward, as he looked away in thought.      
     With a heavy sigh his reply was simple: “How hard it is to let go.” The room fell into a bittersweet silence. He has had a great run but now it’s time to move on to other things and hopefully this time- his bunny will be a little more supportive. 

Set Your Compass for West 82°

By Ilia Laboy

As Florida residents, we tend to take all of the natural charms around us for granted. But just southwest of Ocala is a hidden paradise filled with nature so beautiful and food so scrumptious you won’t want to leave. Come with us and explore West 82° Bar and Grill, Plantation on Crystal River’s main dining attraction and a must-visit destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

I’ve lived in Florida for more than 15 years and I know I’m not alone when I say that I have no idea about a tenth of the magnificent destinations it has to offer. We are lucky to have virtually endless opportunities to get away from the stress of the daily routine and escape to one of our many natural havens. After all, we get to live where everyone else vacations. If you’re looking for a getaway without too much travel, set your GPS for Plantation on Crystal River.

Originally constructed in 1962, this beautiful golf resort and spa was the first of its kind along the Florida Gulf Coast to provide an elegant atmosphere and southern hospitality while showing respect for their natural surroundings. The beautiful golf resort is surrounded by over 25,000 surface acres of lakes and rivers, wildlife refuges and state parks. Apart from a golf school and tennis lessons, the proximity to all these ecological beauties gives the opportunity to also indulge in some nature-based activities, and there are plenty to choose from. From snorkeling, fishing, and sailing, to swimming with manatees, ecotours and scuba — you could even get scuba certified! If you have a water or nature-related activity you want to explore, chances are Plantation on Crystal River can give you access to it. Take advantage of your stay and visit the relaxing spa, play a round of golf on their 27 hole course or spend the day out on the water, sailing, dock your vessel on their ample marina, and come into West 82° Bar and Grill to satisfy your appetite.

Quaint and homey, with a view slightly reminiscent of a Bob Ross painting, the West 82° dining room is the heart of this small paradise. It has served as the main dining area since the beginning of Plantation on Crystal River. From the moment you enter the lobby of the resort, you can’t help but be welcomed and enamored by the aromas of the delicious delicacies this restaurant has to offer. As soon as you cross that threshold, you’re greeted by friendly faces. Once seated, you’re waited on with great care. The surf & turf inspired range of variety allows for elevated takes on southern classics, like their luscious shrimp and grits meal featuring perfectly spiced Conecuh sausage, fresh shrimp, stone ground cheesy grits, and topped with crispy fried onions. In following with the resorts long-standing commitment to the preservation of the natural resources that make their location so unique, it’s apparent with just one look at the menu that they focus significantly on fresh, locally sourced seafood, meats and produce. The Ferris Farms Strawberry Salad, for example, features fresh spinach, pickled shallots, freshly picked strawberries, tangy goat cheese, and sweet candied walnuts for an extra crunch, topped with an enticing whole grain mustard vinaigrette. They also offer house staples like grouper, chicken, or shrimp cooked to your liking, able to satisfy every palette. Their commitment to fresh ingredients is so vast that there is even a menu option allowing you to cook your catch! Here you get to harvest your own fresh scallops or fish and have it prepared for you to your liking that same afternoon, without having to worry about cleanup or prepping for only $11.95, and the meal includes two sides from the restaurant and your choice of soup or salad. This unique dining option allows their guests to see that food comes from nature and doesn’t just appear by magic at the grocery store, allowing for a greater appreciation not only for their food  but for nature as a whole.

When it comes to amenities and options on what to do, this location does not disappoint. Their menu is vegetarian and celiac-friendly, just make sure to let them know. And if you’re looking for a more casual dining experience, they have you covered too! The West 82° alfresco Tiki Bar faces the sparkling lagoon-style pool and has its’ own menu of delicious options to choose from. Their drink specials are sure to keep you cool by the pool while you munch on some lite bites. From specialty burgers and sandwiches to saucy wings and cocktails, their cuisine is any foodies dream. They also specialize in banquets, catering for weddings and special events, corporate meetings, sweet sixteen celebrations, and pretty much any other event needed to be organized. One of their most popular internal events is the Swamp Party, a fun and creative outdoor event with special props and outfits, creating a memorable celebration. The team at West 82° is always innovating and creating new ways to bring unforgettable experiences to their guests.

As they continue to evolve, they continue to focus on their guests’ needs and expanding on what they already do well— to bring their visitors a continuously great experience. As the industry continues to move in a more eco-friendly direction, they also carry on their journey to even more local, fresh, and sustainable products. This is reflected in their menu and the variety of new creative dishes they experiment with to bring you the most unique and delectable dining experience possible. Their location puts them in a favorable position where their biggest challenge has been trying to keep up with the demand for the area. This hideaway is smothered in southern hospitality and Florida charm, and although they specialize in surf & turf style dining, they cater to all tastes. The views are amazing, the service is excellent, and the food is delicious. West 82° is definitely a luxury watering hole amidst an ecological paradise. 

For more information


Wedding Wisdom

If you are a newly engaged bride (or groom) and are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process of planning your wedding day, then you have just won the lottery! We have assembled the quintessential seasoned wedding team to help guide you along and drop some pearls of wisdom along the way.  Think of them as a real-life local Pinterest board, chock full of great ideas and inspiration.  Each one of these professionals has an established online presence that puts a plethora of brilliant ideas and creativity at your fingertips.  We sat down to break bread, and for a roundtable discussion on how to get started, dish on wedding trends, and overall sage advice for anyone contemplating the plans for their big day.

What is your best advice for a first time newly engaged bride or groom who doesn’t know where to begin?

Dawn Lovell: “Before we even approach the subject of budget, I would advise them to really define how they see the day unfolding.  What is the tone and atmosphere they would like to create?  If it is within their means, then it is highly recommended to hire a trusted, experienced wedding planner to assist either with the entire event or at the very least a “day of” person.”  (This was unanimously agreed upon by all of these pros).

Chef Alabaugh: “Our team at Golden Ocala always recommends a troubleshooting list to utilize continuously throughout the planning process.  I try and guide our clients through the food selections by educating them on what will hold up well in a banquet situation, have a beautiful presentation and satisfying to many different palates”.

Lauren Grove: “Hopefully, they will check my website and social media pages!  There they will find not only informative checklists and other useful tools, but expert planning advice for the novice, and experienced couples as well.  Today’s bride is looking for structure and guidance, but also the ability to customize the experience. It’s also great to give them a variety of budgetary options (from low to high costs).  The average wedding is now running around $28,000, so flexibility is of paramount consideration. It’s important that they educate themselves a much as possible, so they have an idea of what they want before they start choosing venues and vendors”.

Brittany Bishop and Taylor Grace both agree that establishing a relationship with your vendors is key.  “During the selection process, make sure that you feel comfortable with this person, and that you genuinely like them.  It can be a long, and sometimes stressful day, so you want to know that your vendors will take care of the details as discussed and have your back.”


What should a couple look for when selecting a venue? 

Brittany Bishop: I always look for the lighting (both natural and artificial), pretty backgrounds, and interesting architectural details. 

Dawn Lovell: “We look at key entry points (entering and leaving, flow and access to food stations and restrooms).  We can make just about any venue look amazing, but flow is fundamental”.

Chef Alabaugh: “Well I am partial to Golden Ocala, which has all of those elements the others have outlined and more.  In addition, in my humble opinion, we have the best food and beverage team in Central Florida. 

What are some current

wedding trends?

Dawn Lovell: While the rustic-glam design is still popular, we are seeing the shift away from “farm” to a more elegant design. In other words, less cowboy and more jewel-tone glamorous.


Taylor Grace: “We emphasize natural colors and elements, and frankly, choose not to work with anything else.  These classic hues and texture never go out of style.  We try and guide our clients into blending complementary colors into their color scheme rather than going for a full-on match.  This can render the most extraordinary results.”

Lauren Grove: “We are definitely seeing a shift from the blush and creams that have been popular in the recent past to more muted jewel tones.”



Finding the right team to trust with your wedding can be overwhelming for a newly engaged couple. That is why we gathered some of Ocala’s most experienced and knowledgeable wedding professionals that are ready to help you make the most of your wedding experience.


Lauren Grove

Wedding blogger extraordinaire! Lauren is the Founder and editor of Every Last Detail. A wedding blog where she delivers expert advice on everything from finding your vision, working out a budget, choosing your vendors, and making your whole event become a reality.  Find them at or Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @everylastdetailblog


Dawn Lovell

As Designer and owner of Party Time Rentals, Dawn leads the best team in Central Florida to assist in all aspects of décor and equipment rental. From choosing silverware to tents, and everything in-between, they’re more than just a rental company. Party Time has a full-fledged event design team who can make wedding daydreams a reality. Their warehouse in Ocala is a marvel to behold and is the perfect place to find inspiration galore!  Find them at (352) 629-8858  or on  Facebook and Instagram as @partytimerentals or on Pinterest as @partytimedesigns


Chef Rick Alabaugh

Executive Chef at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club, Chef Rick is the man behind the kitchen magic that happens at Ocala’s premier wedding venue. His years of experience and perspective on food and menu design can make any wedding a delicious experience. Part of a well-oiled team of wedding professionals at Golden Ocala, the dedication he brings to his craft shines through at every event held there. The extraordinary clubhouse, well-manicured grounds, and attentive staff make it an unparalleled experience. Find them at  or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram: @goldenocala


Taylor Grace

Owner of The Graceful Gardener, Taylor Grace is Ocala’s most sought after florist- and with good reason. Her flower designs are on-trend, equally perfect for the modern bride or bride who prefers a more traditional or vintage look. The Graceful Gardener will understand your idea and deliver the goods. From Flower crowns to large pedestal pieces and everything in between, if you are looking for beautiful, natural floral designs, then look no further. Contact them at (352) 414-9807 Find them on  Instagram and Facebook as @ocalagracefulgardener


Brittany Bishop

Photographer extraordinaire Brittany Bishop is a true artist who can capture the aesthetic and emotion of your wedding with every shot.  Her informative blog can help you navigate the entire process of wedding photography.  From capturing beautiful moments during the ceremony, reception, and wedding departure, Brittany has the eye to   Brittany will create charming and beautiful memories for you. Find them on   Instagram @brittanybishopphoto Facebook and Pinterest

Breaking the Rules

By Melissa Deskovic

When it comes to the art of Improv there are specific rules to guide participants through the process. You cannot say no. You must say “yes, and.” Make statements and realize there are no mistakes. For fans of the hit television show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,’ the format of improv,  is almost as well known as renowned television star and stand up comedic legend Colin Mochrie. For decades he’s been making people laugh all over the world via stage and screen, and now he is coming to The Reilly.

His tenure on ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ alongside comedic heavyweights such as Wayne Brady, Aisha Taylor, and Ryan Stiles has prepared him to bring audiences something they will not expect. With Master hypnotist Asad Mecci, the duo is prepared to wow audiences with a show that combines improv with the mysterious art of hypnosis.

The brainchild of Mecci, the concept for HYPROV came together on a whim. Knowing the comedic value of hypnosis from his years working in the field, he decided to approach Mocheri to see if a collaboration could be arranged. After composing a quick email to Mocheri’s team, within 24-hours he had his answer. Colin was in.  “I thought it was terrifying but my entire career has been built on being uncomfortable so they talked me into it.” Mocheri states.

Performing a show with seasoned improv professionals is in Mocherie’s nature, however this is different. Professional comedians know the rules of improv—audience members don’t—so there is no telling how they will react.  From the overly-emotional participant who becomes frantic over a make-believe parrot who just flew into ceiling fan to the deadpan reponse, there’s no telling what each show holds.

If you’re hesitant about hypnosis there is no need to fret. The show is performed with audience members who volunteer to be on stage. “The best way I can describe it is like you’re watching a horror movie right, and you’re so into it that you’re moved to a physiological re

sponse. You jump in your chair your palms start to get sweaty. Logically you know what you’re watching on the screen is not real but for that moment in time it feels really real. It’s like walking into a movie theatre and suspending your disbelief.” Mecci explains.

For skeptics, hypnosis is a proven method in many areas of study. From criminal justice to mental health, hypnosis is widely used- and yes they can tell if you’re really under. “It’s interesting because I really have had no experience in this area,” Mocherie explains. “Now I watch as Asad is putting people under and I can see almost immediately ‘Okay-that person’s faking or that person’s totally out…’”

The mix of improv and hypnosis is highly entertaining and audiences all over the world have enjoyed the dynamic the two share on stage. For more information or to purchase tickets visit or

While They Wait

Photography by Ralph Demilio

With over 130 years of dedicated service, our firefighters work around the clock, and are always there to help during life’s most tragic events. Without recognition or accolade they serve the community by running into the face of danger without a second thought. Yet, they long for the  slow days. Not for their own benefit, but on the days when the alarm does not sound it means that Ocala is safe.

A lack of calls does not mean their work is done. They do not sit idly by, rather they complete a list of chores. Tasks assigned to them as they work together to keep their station in top working order. They complete continuing training courses, using the time between calls productively. Behind the walls of the station they are their own mini communities living and working together while they wait for the next emergency.

Socially Speaking August

Glitz & Glamour

Four hooves flying, lathered in sweat, mane and tail fanning out at record speeds with a jockey up in the saddle and whip in hand, champion horses are thoroughbred royalty. Homage was paid at the recent Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Awards Banquet and Sapphire and Diamonds Gala held in the ballroom of Circle Square Cultural Center. The sold-out fete was packed with glitzy honorees from the thoroughbred world along with our Ocala/Marion County supportive community and business leaders. The evening raised more than $37,000 for Florida Thoroughbred Charities. The thoroughbred industry in the state of Florida has a $11.7 billion dollars economic impact. In 2019 alone there were over $1 billion dollars in thoroughbred sales.

The mayor of Horse Capital of the World, Kent Guinn, was on hand with his wife, Sandra. An extensive auction included art by famed Remi Bellocq who dazzled with sketches on the spot. He raised more than $4,000 from his appearance. The evening was a Who’s Who of equine pros from Pat Parelli to trick horse trainer Carole Fletcher. Horse Capital Television set up an onsite studio and host Barbara Dawson wore fashion by Dillards and jewels by Gause & Son. The store also donated a $1,500 equestrian themed piece for the evening.

Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Stud was the diamond sponsor hosting the Live Oak Stud Winner’s Lounge for honorees. New sponsor Christopher Whitney of Red Brand observed that his group had a wonderful time and will be back next year.

Social and events committee chair and board member Valerie Dailey said, “The Florida Thoroughbred Charities has been fortunate to have such great support from the entire community. Each year the gala has grown with more business and community members becoming involved. The Circle Square Cultural Center provides a great backdrop for this worthwhile cause.”

Florida Thoroughbred Charities is a non-profit organization and the charitable arm of the FTBOA. FTC is committed to strengthening both the industry and community through events and raising funds. Funds raised go to the Florida Thoroughbred Retirement program. It is the only program in the nation partnering women inmates and thoroughbreds where women learn life skills and equine knowledge that assist them with gainful employment when they are released.

“The FTBOA believes in the care and support of retired thoroughbreds. What makes our particular program different at Lowell Correctional Institute is that it also cares for and heals people as well as horses,” said Lonny Powell, FTBOA CEO.

The star of the night was Horse of the Year Imperial Hint who took home three honors. He was bred by Bert and Martha Pilcher of Shade Tree Thoroughbreds in Reddick.

Mike O’Farrell and his sons Joe and Dave of Ocala Stud were honored with the Joe O’Farrell Memorial Award from Ocala Breeders’ Sales, the Broodmare of the Year, the leading freshman sire with Uncaptured, and Breeder of the Year for the fifth time. The memorial award had special meaning as it was the name of the family patriarch who founded the farm more than 60 years ago.

Chad and Courtney Meagher of Citra, were presented the Needles Award as the state’s small breeders of the year. Bonnie Heath whose family campaigned Needles presented the award. The honor is named after Needles who was the first horse from Florida to win a Kentucky Derby in 1956. Stallion of the Year was First Dude who stands at Donald Dizney’s Double Diamond.

Everyone needs a helping hand to get into the saddle. Make your helping hands especially strong by donating to Florida Thoroughbred Charities, Inc. 

For more information or to make a donation please visit You can also phone the FTBOA at 352-629-2160.


Florida Magazine Association Charlie Awards Gala

Each year magazines from all over the state of Florida converge for a weekend of learning, networking, and celebrating all of the successes the Florida magazine industry has had this year.  The 2019 Florida Media Conference, held at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort hosted hundreds of guests, panelists, and vendors all eager to see what new trends are on the horizon. Rounding out the weekend with the Florida Magazine Associations Charlie Awards, magazines were awarded for their superior quality and content. On the list of winners was Ocala Magazine taking home five awards over the weekend.


Building Credit with the Community

On July 11th Ocala Magazine joined other community leaders for the ribbon cutting of the 51st branch of VyStar Credit Union. Present for the Ribbon Cutting was Chair of the Board, Eric Hatfield, with Mireyli Hernandez, VP of the Ocala Branch. This three day event included cash and special prize giveaways, new account incentives, and special treats for the kids. This is the first branch in the Ocala area and, as they continue to establish themselves as a financial household name, they are hopeful to continue to grow within the community. We would like to say thank you to Vice President Mireyli Hernandez and the entire VyStar Team for being such gracious hosts.

For all of your banking needs, stop by and visit at 4614 SW College Rd. Ocala, FL 32615 or call (352) 642-1140


Couch Sessions at Pi

Local artist Jessi Miller and local DJ Joel Downing entertained a sold-out show for their performance at Pi on Broadway. Jessi’s exhibit, entitled “The Messengers,” featured the likeness and quotes from some of history’s greatest thinkers and creative minds. People such as Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Mos Def, and others were all highlighted with their famous words surrounding them. While Joel Downing spun tracks handpicked for the event, Jessi Miller painted a 36 x 40 canvas of William Shakespear.

For more information on how you can purchase Jessi’s work or book Joel for an event:.

Jessi Miller:
[email protected]

Joel Downing: Instagram


Couch Sessions is sponsored by
the Rielly Arts Center and hosted
by Oliva Ortiz

Protecting Our Children

It’s been 20 years since the Columbine High School massacre where 15 people lost their lives and our nation watched in horror. And just over a year ago on Valentines Day a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. But as students, parents, teachers, and a community we felt the very real impact of the Forest High School shooting incident in April of last year. It was no longer thousands of miles away. The faces were no longer nameless. They were our kids. Our spouses. Our significant others. Our family. Our friends. Thankfully there was no loss of life. Statistic go out the window and things get very personal when someone you love is in harm’s way. Emotions run high and nerves are raw. But I’m not here to relive or recount the particulars of that day. We as a community need to continue to look forward from the Forest High School shooting incident in terms of school safety and the part that each of us plays in providing a safe learning environment for our children. Our future leaders. The legacy that we will leave.

Let’s take a look at where we were before the Forest shooting and after for some perspective. I had the pleasure to visit with Kevin Christian, Public Information Officer for the Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) who was a wealth of information and if I were a parent of school age children here (as I was over 20 years ago) these ongoing improvements in security would give me great comfort.

It’s important to note that the recommendations in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (born out of the Parkland shooting) were already being followed by MCPS prior to the bill being signed into law on March 9, 2018. The day after the Forest shooting armed Student Resource Officers (SRO’s) went from being on 17 schools to 56 campuses. Increased visibility led to increased awareness by students, teachers, and staff. SRO vehicles are parked as close as possible the main building entrances as a further deterrent.  Another front that Christian spoke of is fencing and it’s a big priority for MCPS even with the challenges it presents at some of the school locations.  The goal is to keep those off of school property that don’t belong and to keep those who do belong in a space that is safe and conducive for learning with a single point of entry. It’s not always possible to install perimeter fencing so in some cases fencing is being installed between buildings using the structures themselves as part of the barrier system.

Marion County Public Schools is also looking at the monetary cost of add more video cameras. A proposal has already been submitted to the School Board for 1.4 million dollars that would bring the total number of cameras to 672, nearly tripling the number there are now. Still, there is the challenge of how do you monitor all of these cameras? Kevin made a statement that stuck with me. “Students are the best eyes and ears we have on campus.” I think that 43,000 plus aware student eyes and ears trumps any number of video surveillance if they live by their mantra of “See it, Say it, Report it.”

Training and practice are also an integral part of the MCPS plan. There is a quote that says, “If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready.” Active shooter protocol training was completed by MCPS employees within 2 weeks of the Parkland incident and Sherriff Billy Woods said, “It saved lives.” In addition to training, active shooter drills are practiced as often as fire drills (which is at least 12 times a year while classes are in session.) This further reinforces top of mind awareness.

I also talked with Pastor Darren Gaddis of First Baptist Church, Ocala whose daughter, Leah was in close proximity of the shooter on the Forest campus that day. As a parent prior to the incident he said he felt his children were safe. Since the shooting he has observed the SRO’s vehicles at the front doors of the schools where his children attend. Although Rev. Gaddis dealt with a school shooting in 1997 just out of seminary he said, “We can get lulled into a false sense of security by the percentages.” Percentages go out the window when it comes to someone you love.

In a separate conversation with Leah (now a graduate of Forest High School) she echoed her Dads sentiment. “I felt safe because I knew everyone. I wasn’t as cautious because I didn’t feel the need.” Leah told me wearing a school ID made her feel safe as well as the gates and fencing. “The biggest thing for me,” she said “was the room with The Rock in it. It’s changed the culture of the school. It was a place to go that made me feel emotionally safe.” I asked Leah if she had any advice for students on campus. She shared 3 things with me:

• Always have an escape plan.

• Be proactive.

• Be prepared but not scared.

We live in an increasingly violent and unpredictable world but we shouldn’t let fear paralyze our lives. Safety whether on a school campus, a place of worship or a shopping mall all starts with walking into those spaces and being aware of our environment. Look up when you’re walking instead of down at your cellphone. Ask yourself if anything looks out of place and if it does say something to someone. We all too often think someone else will say something and “they” never do. Be the active teller of what you see. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened and have the ability to leave or flee the area to safety do it! Marion County Public Schools has the right idea for all of us.


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