ALACHUA ‒ On March 26, 2024, the Alachua Lions Club celebrated the 84th Cattlemen’s Banquet, holding its largest charity fundraiser of the year to a packed house at Valley View, just outside of Alachua.

The evening's program featured an array of entertainment, including a live music performance, a silent auction and the Cattleman of the Year award.

The annual Cattlemen's Banquet is the longest continuous Lions Club fundraising event in Florida, with all profits from the banquet supporting charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities. It all started 1940 when the Alachua Lions Club sought to bolster Alachua High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) students in their quest to raise a steer for auction. Lions Club members attended the auction and drove the bidding higher. Not only did their winning bid cover the FFA's cost, but it also provided additional funds to the FFA.

Each year the event grew, bringing many of the area’s cattle ranchers, politicians and residents to the event. For years the event was held at the Alachua Woman’s Club and attracted the attention of local and state officials as guest speakers including President Jimmy Carter, Florida Governors Buddy McKay, Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham. Eventually the event outgrew the Woman’s Club and was moved to a bigger venue at the Santa Fe River Ranch, and in 2022 the fundraising event was moved to an even larger venture at Valley View at Santa Fe River Ranch.

Last Tuesday was another fun filled evening of laughter and good food as nearly 450 people attended the event that was kicked off with a cocktail hour on the veranda overlooking rolling pastures dotted with sprawling oak trees.

When the doors opened to the main hall, guests were welcomed by Club President Paul Good. The Pledge of Allegiance ceremony was led by Lions Club District Governor Tony Esposito, the traditional singing of “God Bless America” was led by Alachua Lions Club member Bill Johnson, and the invocation was led by club President Good.

Former City of Alachua Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr., served as Master of Ceremony and offered good natured jokes, many directed at attending guests, who took it all in stride as an appreciative audience laughed.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by Newberry native and former UF graduate and football player Jimmy Getzen. Getzen was introduced by Lions Club President Paul Good along with longtime friend and former UF teammate Fred Abbott. Throughout his performance, Getzen took the opportunity to share personal anecdotes and insights. And his up-tempo vocals accompanied by guitar and frequent audience interactions were a hit with the crowd.

Alachua Lions Club2Web Inset

Alachua Lions Club Perry WebThis year’s Cattleman of the Year award went to Samual Pratt Perry, posthumously. Perry was an African American cowboy born and raised in Alachua County. The award recognizes Perry for his contributions to the cattle industry. The award was accepted by his two sons.

An event of this size takes months of planning as well as coordinating support from corporate sponsors who provided either funding or services for the banquet. The Alachua Woman’s Club, a longtime partner with the Alachua Lions Club, once again sponsored the Silent Auction. And, in keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School FFA Chapter was on hand to assist as guests helped themselves to the choice aged controlled steaks, loaded potato casserole, salad and dessert.

The curtains have come down on this year’s Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet, but it will undoubtably be back for the 85th such event of good food and good times for a good cause.

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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Commission Chamber was standing room only on March 25, 2024, as parents and friends of Irby Elementary students came to witness a presentation of certificates.

In a display of creativity, Alachua’s City Hall foyer was transformed into a colorful gallery showcasing the imaginative works of young artists from Irby Elementary School.

 

The artwork, created by students in Mrs. Chapov and Mrs. Fischer's 1st grade classes, was in recognition of January’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

 

As each student’s name was announced, the child walked to the front of the commission chambers to receive his or her Art Certificate from Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

After the last child was awarded, all the young artists and the City Commission posed for a group photograph as parents proudly took pictures of the memorable event.

Organized by the Deputy City Clerk’s Office in collaboration with local schools, Art in City Hall aims to highlight the importance of arts education in fostering self-expression and imagination among young learners.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The Newberry City Commission on Feb. 26, 2024, approved a number of land-related ordinances. The Commission unanimously approved a large-scale change to the future Land Use Map on 161 +/- acres owned by Whitehurst Cattle Company from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture. The property is located east of County Road 337/Southwest 282nd Street.

This matter was earlier approved by the Newberry City Commission on first reading, and the amendment was forwarded to the Florida Department of Commerce for review. The state offered no comments or changes to the proposed action which allows the City to consider it on second reading.

The zoning change aligns the existing and proposed uses with City of Newberry zoning districts and changes the zoning to Agriculture, which allows one dwelling unit on five acres of land.

Zoning Change - Marlowe

Also unanimously approved by the Commission were two actions related to three parcels of land annexed into the City owned by Herbert A. Marlowe, Jr. The first was a Future Land Use Map classification amendment to the Comprehensive Plan from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry, Agriculture on 29 +/- acres of land.

The second action aligns the existing and proposed uses with the appropriate City of Newberry zoning districts and changes the zoning to Agriculture, which allows one dwelling unit on five acres of land.

Zoning Change to CI

The Commission approved on first reading a small-scale Future Land Use Plan Map amendment changing 3.67 acres from Agriculture to Commercial. The property, owned by Intellectual Partners LLC, is located on the south side of West Newberry Road/State Road 26 and partially bordering the west side of Southwest 218th Street.

Intellectual Partners LLC recently purchased the property and also owns All Florida Enterprises, a fence installation supply company, which is leasing its current location about a half mile to the west of the property on SR 26. Plans are to move the business to the new site.

In a second related action on the same property at 21831 West Newberry Road, the Commission approved rezoning from Agricultural (A) to Commercial, Intensive (CI). CHW’s Gerry Dedenbach, representing Intellectual Partners LLC, addressed concerns regarding spot zoning and other aspects of CI zoning. He said that other businesses planning to locate in this industrial park area would be required obtain a special use permit from the City of Newberry. This matter will come before the Commission again for second reading.

Abandoning Alleyways

Commissioners unanimously approved first reading of an amendment to the downtown plat addition, providing for closing, abandoning, releasing and vacating of public alleyways as part of the plat entitled Original Newberry Chapman and White’s Addition. This amendment affects a series of downtown plats found in Ordinance 25-14.

The next Newberry City Commission meeting is scheduled for March 11.

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NEWBERRY ‒ In a bid to strengthen community safety and enhance law enforcement accessibility, a new Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) precinct has opened in the heart of Newberry at 22211 W Newberry Road.

The local precinct aims to provide a centralized hub for law enforcement activities. The new location will facilitate quicker response times and increased vigilance in the area.

Additionally, residents will have the opportunity to engage with ACSO officers in a more informal setting, fostering open dialogue and mutual understanding, helping law enforcement better understand the needs and priorities of the community. Community engagement also plays a pivotal role in the fight against crime, as trust and cooperation are strengthened, residents are empowered to play an active role in crime prevention.

ACSO Sheriff Emery Gainey expressed enthusiasm about the inauguration of the new precinct, emphasizing its role in amplifying the presence of law enforcement within the community.

In a statement issued by ACSO, Gainey said, “ACSO is proud to partner with the City of Newberry - Government, and Ultimate Boat & RV Storage for our fourth precinct in the county. We look forward to building a stronger community that benefits all citizens.”

The precinct officially opened on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. The new precinct comes shortly after the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office opening another precinct in Gainesville’s Butler Plaza in January and one in Hawthorne in December 2023.

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Alachua County ‒ The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is monitoring rabies among wild animals in the area. This is in response to a confirmed case of rabies in three raccoons that were captured in the southwest area of the City of Alachua and State Road 45 (US HWY 27) in Alachua County last week. All residents and visitors should be aware that rabies may be currently present in the wild animal population.

People and domestic animals should always avoid physical contact with wild animals (e.g., raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, coyotes), which carry a higher risk of human exposure and a need for rabies post-exposure treatment. If you are exposed to rabies, receiving appropriate treatment after exposure will protect you from the risk of rabies.

The center of the rabies alert is the intersection of Northwest 94th Avenue and Northwest 2226th Street / Northwest 234th Street in the city of Alachua This rabies alert is for 60 days. It includes the following boundaries in Alachua County:

South of Northwest 122nd Avenue, Alachua

East of Northwest State Road 45 (HWY 27), Alachua

North of Northwest 78th Avenue, Alachua

West of Northwest 202nd Street, Alachua

Take the following precautions to prevent rabies exposure:

  • Keep pets under direct supervision and on a leash, and keep livestock secured on your property. If an animal bites your pet or livestock, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6880.
  • Avoid contact with wild or stray animals. Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract them with outdoor pet food, open garbage cans or other food sources. If you have been bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal, seek medical attention and report the injury to DOH-Alachua by calling 352-334-7930.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Instead, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 
  • Call your local animal control agency to remove stray animals from your neighborhood. Contact Alachua County Animal Services at 352-264-6880.
  • Immunize your pets and livestock based on your veterinarian’s recommended schedule.
  • Prevent wildlife, including bats, from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, schools, and other areas where they might contact people and pets.

For more information on rabies, visit FloridaHealth.gov/Rabies or contact DOH-Alachua at 352-334-7930.

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ALACHUA ‒ In an effort to protect citizens from falling victim to a scam, the Alachua Police Department (APD) is issuing a warning to the Alachua community regarding individuals impersonating officers and falsely claiming that individuals have outstanding warrants for their arrest. These imposters are demanding immediate payment through various means via transfers, gift cards, or bitcoin to settle these fictitious warrants.

The scam typically involves fraudsters posing as law enforcement officers contacting individuals via phone calls or emails. They use tactics aimed at creating a sense of urgency and fear, informing the targets that they have warrants for their arrest due to various reasons, such as unpaid fines or missed court appearances. To avoid imminent arrest, the scammers instruct victims to make immediate payments to resolve the warrants.

Legitimate law enforcement officials will never demand personal information or payment over the phone and will always provide proper identification when conducting in-person visits.

In a statement issued by APD on April 2, 2024, Chief Jesse Sandusky said, “Please be aware that the Alachua Police Department will not contact you by phone to inform you of a warrant for your arrest, nor will we ask for payment over the phone or through unconventional methods like gift cards or bitcoin.”

Authorities emphasize that these communications are entirely fraudulent, and individuals should not comply with any demands for payment. Legitimate law enforcement agencies do not request payment over the phone or through unconventional methods like gift cards or cryptocurrency.

APD advises that if you receive such a call, do not provide any personal or financial information. Hang up immediately and report the incident to APD at 386-462-1396.

Authorities are calling on residents to help spread awareness of these scams, especially to vulnerable populations who may be more susceptible to manipulations by these impostors.

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Photo special to Alachua County Today by Magnolia Lane Studios

ALACHUA ‒ In the heart of Alachua, the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department continues to be a source of community engagement. Last week and weekend the Alachua community provided a packed punch of activities and events at local parks and facilities. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 people enjoyed fun and excitement at open space locations including the Hal Brady Gym and Legacy’s Multipurpose Center with.

This past Saturday the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department hosted the annual Easter Egg Hunt for children ages 3 - 10 years of age. For some, the event has become a cherished family tradition as parents, who once hunted eggs on the expansive grounds, now bring their own children to experience the same excitement and create memories.

Well over 1,000 eggs spread throughout the Hal Brady Complex were found by some 100 excited and determined children, baskets in hand. Many families walked away with baskets provided by the local Dollar General Distribution Center. Even the Easter Bunny made an appearance throughout the entire event. Adding to the memories, Magnolia Lane Photography donated time to take family photos and action shots of the event.

Prior to Saturday’s event, Santa Fe Babe Ruth Softball and Baseball hosted games throughout the week with Union County, Ocala Wrigley, Branford, Chiefland and Newberry.

The Santa Fe Soccer Alliance hosted practices and academy games with their record setting numbers of almost 400 participants this Spring Season—12 games played (all local) at Legacy Multipurpose Fields.

The City of High Springs Youth Volleyball and 399 Sports/Recreation hosted weekday games and practices at Legacy’s Multipurpose Center and the Hal Brady Recreation Gym.

Spring season marches on from early April to late May, and each week and weekend throughout spring season, from basketball to volleyball, sports enthusiasts of all ages are taking advantage of the indoor facilities, fostering friendships, skills and healthy competition among local youth.

For decades the City of Alachua’s Recreation & Culture Department’s mission has been to provide a safe and enjoyable atmosphere with volunteer support from local residents. Recreation department staff say none of the activities and events can be manageable without the support of the Alachua City Commission, merchants and a strong volunteer base.

Looking ahead, coming up in the following weeks – A.C.T.F.O.R and Santa Fe Youth Soccer Alliance Host Games at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex and Legacy’s Multipurpose Fields on April 12 and 13.

And 399 Sports/Recreation & Prep Zone will host their local High School All-Star Basketball Tournament at Legacy’s Multipurpose Center on April 12 & 13 as well. More information is forthcoming.

On a final note, Recreation & Culture Department staff members are ramping up efforts on their Facebook page. Detailed information like events, programs, availability/access to fields and facilities, schedules and more are consistently provided weekly and daily. And staff members are encouraging people to visit Facebook – City of Alachua Recreation & Culture Department and “like” the page.

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