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While typical Easter egg hunts feature colorful eggs hidden in the grass by the lovable Easter Bunny, Saturday’s egg hunt in Alachua featured a high flying Easter Bunny delivering eggs by helicopter. Buzzing the Christ Central Alachua property off U.S. Highway 441, the famed bunny made four aerial deliveries for children of different age groups.

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Carson Willis shows her steer at the Alachua Youth Fair Livestock Sale and Auction.

GAINESVILLE – After a year of working with his steer, Briar Mitchell got 16-month-old Ace to stop head-butting him.

Nine-year-old Briar, member of the Archer Trailblazers, was able to control his steer at his first Alachua County Youth Fair Livestock Sale and receive $4.50 per pound. Ace was the second best steer at the sale.

Briar was one of the hundreds of kids who were selling their market animals at the charity sale held by the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show Association on Tuesday.

Chenoa Dixon, fair board president, said this annual auction is a way for kids to raise money for their hard work. Children who participate range from ages 5 to 18 years old.

The animals brought to the auction are market and breeding animals such as steers, hogs, goats and rabbits.

“All the market animals get sent off to be harvested and breeding animals continue to be raised,” Dixon said.

After 35 years, the auction continues to bring the community together.

“Exhibitors work on this program all year and come and show off their skills,” Dixon said.

Those skills include how the kids raised their animals so they can behave and remain calm in front of a big group of people, she said. They also show what they have learned and market their animals by recruiting sponsors, family, friends and different companies to come out to the auction to support them.

This year, there were more than 300 exhibitors and more than 500 animals. Of those 500, 126 were market animals, which were all sold. Market animals included hogs, goats and steers, Dixon said.

The grand champion market animals were a 1,135 lbs. steer that was sold for $6 per pound, a 100 lbs. goat sold for $10 per pound and a 279 lbs. pig sold for $4 per pound.

Whitney Jerkins, member of the Santa Fe FFA, had the highest bid of $12 for her 210 lbs hog.

The average sale per pound for the animals is $3 to $5 but it depends on the type of animal, Dixon said.

Although the attendance for each auction seems to be a large group, Dixon said it’s always the same companies and exhibitors and she said it would be great if more people participated.

“The fair really depends on the community and their support,” she said.

Three large companies that regularly attend the event are Santa Fe Ford and Power Sports, Florida Farm Bureau General Insurance and Rays Metal Works, Inc., said Cindy Sanders, extension director.

Some of the other buyers that attend the event are returning exhibitors. Since kids are allowed to sell their animals from age 5 until their last year of high school, former sellers support the current participants by bidding.

Richard Feagle, Archer Automotive and Tire owner, used to bring his two sons for about eight years when they were young to show their own hogs and steers. During Tuesday’s auction, Feagle was in the audience as a buyer. He has been a buyer for eight years and purchases hogs and steers. This year he bought five hogs.

Jason Breeden is also a former exhibitor when he was a child, and now his kids participate in the sale.

His kids, Garison Breeden, 11, and Kayley Breeden, 13, both sold steers this year.

Jason Breeden said this event helps the children learn about responsibility, among other things.

“It’s a good learning experience for the kids,” he said.

A returning participant, who has been involved in the auction before, said this was her last year. Tori Banner, 17, from Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club, sold her steer for $2 per pound.

Banner said she started showing animals when she was 10 years old. The first animal she showed was a goat.

“This is my last year,” she said. “I’m excited and it mean I’m going to miss it but I’m excited to move on. It’s bittersweet.”

Some of the kids not only take away money from the event but life lessons through the work they have done all year with their animals.

Fifteen-year-old Wyatt O’Grady, also from the Micanopy Friendship 4-H Club, said he learned to treat animals with respect.

“It teaches you disciple and makes you a better person,” he said.

O’Grady sold a market goat for $3.25 per pound.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Michael Eugene O’Steen, 58, of High Springs was hit and killed at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2013, when a vehicle heading east on U.S. Highway 441 collided with him. The accident occurred in the 600 block near the Springs Diner as driver of the vehicle, Laura Rodriguez, also of High Springs, was on her way to work in Alachua.

High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley and Officer Ryan Scott, the City’s traffic homicide investigators, were on the scene and reported that O’Steen was wearing neutral colored clothing at the time of the accident. As of press time, it remains unclear whether O’Steen was attempting to cross the highway or was walking along the road.

The accident is still under investigation, but no charges have been filed in the case.

A High Springs resident for several years, O’Steen is survived by his two sisters, Elizabeth Ann Langford of High Springs and Rose Hanson of Lake City; two children, Melissa, 24, of Gainesville and Brandon, 28, of High Springs and ex-wife, Cathy O’Steen, also of High Springs. His brother, Eddie O’Steen is deceased.

Funeral arrangements are under the care of Evans-Carter Funeral Home of High Springs.

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Axogen Edward - W - Axogen NERVE G 20121226181637

Alachua based AxoGen specializes in products for peripheral nerve damage repair. Edward Bonfiglio received an implant of AxoGen’s Avance® Nerve Graft in 2009 following an injury to his sciatic nerve after coming under fire while serving as a Navy Corpsman in Afghanistan in 2009.

ALACHUA – An Alachua-based company is helping wounded warriors to feel again.

Bioscience company AxoGen develops and markets a full suite of surgical products for surgeons and hospitals to help patients with nerve injuries.

The company, located at 13859 Progress Blvd., specializes in products for peripheral nerve damage.

Peripheral nerves carry signals to and from the brain to allow a person to feel sensations or move muscles. When a peripheral nerve is damaged the signal transfer is reduced or completely stopped.

Peripheral nerves can be injured in many ways including traumatic injuries such as kitchen knife lacerations, falling through plate glass, car accidents and major military injuries. Peripheral nerves can also be damaged by nerve compression like in carpal tunnel syndrome.

AxoGen’s products can be found in trauma centers, hospitals, military facilities and surgical centers throughout the United States and Canada. It is currently expanding its prominence in the European market.

The company had a humble beginning.

It was founded in Gainesville in 2002 by Jamie Grooms and John Engels. They started the company in a room next to the garage of Grooms’ house, working to develop patents and prove the science.

Since then, the company has grown to three product brands – Avance® Nerve Graft, AxoGuard® Nerve Connector and AxoGuard® Nerve Protector – with over 50 full-time employees. The company is publicly traded on the OTCBB exchange and has reported revenue of $5.6 million through Q3 2012.

“AxoGen has developed a strong team of employees fully committed to making a difference in the lives of people with peripheral nerve repair injuries,” said CEO Karen Zaderej. “We come to work each day believing in what we do and doing our very best for the doctors who use our products to help their patients.”

The company relocated to Progress Corporate Park in 2007.

The University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was an ideal environment for an early stage company, Zaderej said.

“We found the well-designed lab space, access to shared equipment and proximity to a community of similarly situated companies to be very attractive for AxoGen,” Zaderej said.

AxoGen is involved with the “Thank a Wounded Warrior” program, which provides signed thank you cards for injured U.S. military personnel being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

It also supports entities such as the American Society of Surgery of the Hand with educational grants.

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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs residents may eventually see a wireless communication tower erected on top of the City water tower near Railroad Avenue in the downtown area. The tower, if erected, is expected to provide increased reception to area residents.

“Right now, we are just trying to determine if there is any interest in representing the City in negotiations with a communication tower company,” explained City Manager Ed Booth. Commenting that the High Springs City Commission had authorized City personnel to advertise for a request for qualifications (RFQ) during a June 2012 commission meeting, “The City received one response at that time,” he said.

Utility Service Communications Co., Inc., Perry, Ga., was the sole responder to the RFQ. An agreement, which was submitted along with their RFQ, listed a 60-day time limit for enactment. Action was never undertaken by the City to proceed; therefore, their submission expired.

During the Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 commission meeting, Booth explained that he was going to re-advertise the RFQ to see if there was any current interest in representing the City.

Ultimately, qualified responders will need to receive Commission approval to represent the City. Among other actions the firm will undertake will be to locate a company to site the tower, obtain permission from landowners (the City) to lease the property and negotiate on behalf of the City with the communications company to erect the tower.

“The City does not have the expertise to negotiate with these companies and most communication companies will not negotiate directly with the City,” explained Booth. If the commission chooses a company to represent the City, they will be the ones to go out and get a proposal. It would then come back to the City Commission for approval. “There are still a lot of steps to go through before a communication tower is installed,” said Booth. “This is a normal thing for a City to do.”

In response to concerns about dangerous emissions, Booth explained that the City already has a cell tower in town not very far from the water tower. “If there is any kind of radiation emitted, it is close to the antenna itself,” he said. Booth estimated the water tower height, without an antenna, to be 150 ft.

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Restaurants bank on variety to increase business

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D.W. Ashton Catery (above) is just one of several eateries on Alachua’s Main Street that is aiming to serve up flavor and variety to satisfy diverse appetites and boost business in the downtown area.

ALACHUA – Monday and Tuesday afternoons for D.W. Ashton Catery now stray from the typical catering routine. Instead of prepping for orders or serving clients, D.W. Ashton invites the public in for lunch service in its reopened café.

D.W. Ashton, along with veteran and new businesses on Alachua’s Main Street, aims to revitalize the area after an economic downturn.

Hoping to bring more attention to Main Street, D.W. Ashton owner Mary Nell Combs restarted her café service. Visitors now have a lighter lunch option when visiting the eatery. Soups, salads and sandwiches are served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We provide quaint dining at a reasonable price, and hopefully it will bring people,” Combs said.

Originally, D.W. Ashton Catery, formerly called P’diddles, provided both catering and lunch services regularly, but as the catering business took off, juggling both became too much. Combs said the decision to close the café, located at 14816 Main Street, was a hard one, but she had a stable business catering for clients like the University of Florida football team.

However, as the economic climate changed Combs began to worry about the health of Main Street. Restaurants such as Saga, Los Avena and The Ivy House closed. The street saw less and less traffic.

Combs saw it as a sign of the times and decided to fight it.

“No one should feel like it’s competition,” Combs said. “It’s variety. I think more cafes would be great. We all feed off each other.”

Though the café has only been open a short time, Combs has already seen new faces in her restaurant and on Main Street.

“It’s nice to see old friends, but it’s great to see new faces,” She said.

Another restaurant Main Street business owners hope will bring more people to the street is The Sandbar Seafood and Steak, which will be occupying the empty space at 14841 Main Street.

The Sandbar will offer surf and turf cuisine. Co-owner Dean Waters also hopes to bring residents to Main Street by adding to the variety of dining.

“I believe we’re bringing something to Alachua that they don’t have,” Waters said.

Waters chose Alachua, Main Street in particular, for his business location because he liked the area and said everyone gave him a warm welcome.

Waters hopes to contribute to the Alachua community with The Sandbar and by hiring local residents.

The restaurant plans to open March 4.

Though it is too early to see how the café has affected Combs’ business, the opportunity for reinvention has been positive.

“When you’re in the restaurant business you have to recreate yourself,” she said.

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ALACHUA – Alachua’s police department honored two residents who stopped a Georgia fugitive from attempted kidnapping several months ago.

Chief of Police Joel DeCoursey, Jr. presented a plaque at a City Commission meeting on Feb. 11 for Bradley Winburn and Devin Carroll for their assistance in the capture of a felon who attempted to carjack a woman outside of the Alachua Branch Library on Dec. 9, 2012.

Police said the fleeing felon, Donald Mac Brown, attempted to commandeer the victim’s vehicle by pointing a revolver at her, hitting her in the face with the barrel of the gun and putting his hands around her throat. During this encounter, Winburn and Carroll heard the victim screaming and ran toward the noise. Both came to the assistance of the victim and went in pursuit of Brown.

Brown, 36, had two warrants for arrest from Georgia for child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes and solicitation of sodomy and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Brown had been on the run since at least Dec. 5, 2012 when bulletins seeking him and his partner, 57-year-old David Crawford, were issued in the Conyers, Ga., area. Crawford also had pending child molestation charges.

Brown was charged with attempted kidnapping, armed burglary, resisting arrest without violence and tampering with evidence.

Winburn and Carroll were not at the meeting to receive the award, and DeCoursey joked that they were probably out saving someone else that night.

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