Last updateThu, 20 Aug 2015 9pm

Alachua City Commission honors 2012 military recruits

W_-_Military_kids_DSCF6017_copy  The City of Alachua Commission took time out of their meeting Monday, May 21 to honor four Santa Fe High School graduates-to-be who have committed to entering various branches of the military.  A plaque expressing the City’s appreciation for the recruits’ willingness to serve was presented by Mayor Gib Coerper to each of the students.  L-R: Santa Fe High School (SFHS) Registrar Donna Bradley, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Velarde, SFHS Principal Bill Herschleb, Marine Corps recruit Amanda Veil, Air Force recruit Clinton Vaughn, Army recruit Joseph Robinson, Army recruit Korina Coe and Army Sgt. Marro. The young men and women were joined by their families and local recruiters as they accepted their plaques.

Add a comment Add a comment

Watermelon Queen visits Newberry Elementary

W_-_Newberry_Elem_Watermelon_visit_copyL-R: Jenna Garrett, Principal Lacy Redd, and Katie Florence Thomas

NEWBERRY – On Thursday, May 3, the Newberry Watermelon Queen visited Newberry Elementary School. Jenna Garrett, representing the festival, talked with the grade levels about melons and farming and the importance of agriculture. Katie Florence Thomas, last year’s 9-year-old queen helped with the presentations. Principal Lacy Redd always supports the festival and enjoys have the queen come for a visit. This year’s festival will be held at Oak View Middle School on Saturday, May 19

Add a comment Add a comment

Third Annual Pangea Missing River Adventure Race returns to North Florida

O'Leno State Park Ranger Rick Redding on a walking bridge which spans the "missing" Santa Fe River.

HIGH SPRINGS – North Florida explorers, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies are in luck: The third annual Pangea Missing River Adventure Race, a self-navigated race through the 4,500-acre River Rise Preserve State Park, returns to High Springs on May 5.

The race, which is produced by Pangea Adventure Racing, a Central Florida-based organization, puts a unique spin on the traditional footrace, allowing participants to use maps and compasses to create their own routes. Racers face mental, physical and natural challenges as they make their way by boat, bike and foot to a series of checkpoints.

The Missing River Adventure Race is named for the “disappearing” Santa Fe River that flows underground in O’Leno State Park and reemerges miles later in River Rise Preserve State Park.  The Santa Fe River feeds into the Suwannee River near Branford, Fla.

In 2011, the race attracted about 250 participants, more than doubling the turnout of its first event in 2010.

Jeanette Ciesla, a 32-year-old Gainesville resident, competed in the Missing River race in 2011 as well as in 12 other adventure races over the past two years. Ciesla said her favorite part about the races is the self-navigation.

“You’re thinking the whole time,” Ciesla said.

She competed in Pangea’s most recent race, Myakka Mud Slide, in Sarasota, Fla., on March 31. She came face to face with nature when canoeing down a gator-filled river.

“We had to get out of the boat and push the canoe in parts of the water that were too shallow,” Ciesla said.

Ciesla said she also enjoys the team atmosphere of adventure racing. During races in which she did not have a partner, she said she completed the race with strangers, making new friends along the way.

The registration deadline for the Missing River Adventure Race is April 10, and the late registration deadline is April 30. There are two divisions within the competition: a sport division and an elite division. The sport division is for beginners and lasts three hours. The elite division is for experienced adventure-racers and lasts eight hours.

The participation price differs based on division, team size and time of registration. Within the port division, the price ranges from $120 for a single person to $320 for a four-person team if registered by April 10. Within the elite division, the price ranges from $220 for a two-person team to $400 for a four-person team if registered by April 10. The price increases $10 per participant if registered between April 11 and April 30.

Ted Spiker, a journalism professor at the University of Florida, has completed similar adventure races in the past, such as the obstacle-based Tough Mudder challenge. Spiker said he has seen adventure racing explode in popularity in the past 10 years.

“I was sore, tired, with bruises all over my body, but the first thing we said was, ‘Which are we going to do next year?’”

Morgan Tyrone, park manager at River Rise Preserve, said the event is low-impact on the environment, causing no damage to animals or to vegetation. It also increases awareness of the state-park system, he said.

While the course does not have any set obstacles, Tyrone notes that there are always natural obstacles participants will have to face.

Tyrone said the Missing River race is more rustic than other adventure races.

“It takes into account things out of your control and makes you deal with them,” Tyrone said.

He recalled the first event in 2010, when a big storm the night before the race put branches and unexpected amounts of water on the paths.

At the end of the race, two young women were covered in dried, cracked mud. When someone pointed out how dirty they’d become, the women replied, “But that’s what we love about this.”

A portion of the profits from the Missing River Adventure Race go toward the River Rise Preserve State Park.

Add a comment Add a comment

Haven Hospice ViVA! goes carnival


ALACHUA – A sold-out crowd of 650 guests walked along the stylized vintage 1920s boardwalk on a beautiful Saturday evening for ViVA! 2012 at the Rembert Farm in Alachua.

The new theme – a Coney Island Carnival – was a smash hit for attendees at the eighth-annual Viva!

Guests played carnival games while snacking on gourmet classic carnival treats prepared by Embers Wood Grill. After dinner they were able to witness an extraordinary acrobatic display.

Clearly ViVA! 2012 was a big success, raising more than in 2011, as well as creating awareness and educating people about the mission of Haven Hospice, which has been providing compassionate end-of-life care in North Central Florida since 1979. Proceeds will go to unfunded Haven Hospice programs and services like Camp Safe Haven, Transitions, pre-hospice programs and community grief and loss support.

Approximately 130 volunteers worked to ensure that it was a fantastic evening. Almost 100 items were on display in the Remberts’ barn – all part of the silent and live auctions.

“ViVA! 2012 was a great success,” said Haven Hospice Vice President of Organizational Development Michael Morse. “Whenever you change themes, like we did this year, you don’t know what to anticipate, but this event went beyond all of our expectations.”

Submit your story by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Add a comment Add a comment

Where does milk come from?

UF Dairy Farm has the answer

W_-_Dairy_Farm_Open_House_1_SAM_0971_copy  During a recent open house at the UF Dairy in Hague, the public was given a glimpse inside the working dairy and research facility.

HAGUE – Eight-year-old Paris placed her finger into a cow-milking tube. The tube compressed, gently closing up around her finger. Then, it released. Again, it gently compressed and released.

Paris chuckled to her dad, Jeff Thornburg, 45, as the tube compressed. It was her own first-hand experience – from a cow's perspective – of how a cow was milked.

On a recent Saturday, youngsters and adults flocked at the University of Florida Dairy Farm to observe the inner workings of the farm during an open house.

Hosted by the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Family Day at the UF Dairy Farm brought in more than 800 people.

“A lot of kids never get to see an actual working dairy,” said farm herd manager Eric Diepersloot. “I think this was good [for the kids to see] that the milk comes from the cow and not from the shelf in the store.”

Some 16 areas of interest were available, including a station with cow-feed samples, a dairy product matching game, coloring book giveaways, chocolate milk and a walkway leading visitors between a number of relaxing cows.

A petting station with six-week-old calves was out in the open, surrounded by thin rods. Buckets of cow feed, including corn and corn seeds, and a bucket of water was placed in a holder for each calf.

A little girl dug her hand into the cow feed. “If you ate like a cow, you would have to eat 360 cheeseburgers and drink 600 cartons of milk a day,” read a sign titled “How Much Do Dairy Cows Eat?”

Paris took a short walk with her dad to the milking parlor where other adults and children were already waiting as nearly two dozen large cows weighing about 1,400 pounds each exited the barn where they ate and slept. The dairy farmer opened the gate for the cows to walk into the milking parlor.

“The whole herd doesn't live in one giant group because the big ones would push the little ones around,” said Gary Mitchell, a sales representative from Afimilk, a company that manufactures milk meters.

All milk is tested for bacteria and the presence of any antibiotics before leaving to enter the human food supply, he said. If the milk has either high-bacteria or antibiotics count, the milk has to be disposed of.

“The farm that produced that milk has to buy the whole truckload and is responsible for disposing it,” Mitchell said. “And the value [of the dumped milk] could be enough to put a farmer out of business.”

He said the cost of losing that amount of milk could act as deterrent for dairy farmers to ensure it doesn't happen in the first place.

The UF Dairy Farm, used as a teaching institution, brings vet school health personnel twice a week or when a cow falls sick. In addition to treating sick cows, if a cow is limping badly, a vet can trim the hooves to adjust the footing.

The next tour stop was the barn where the cows generally stay while feeding or resting. An entrance sign said the barn beds were made of sand or water beds to keep the cow's udder and legs healthy. “Cows spend 11 to 13 hours a day lying down,” it read.

Natalia Martinez-Patino, a doctoral student at the Department of Animal Sciences and event volunteer, showed visitors a poster of the several parts of a cow stomach.

As a ruminant, the cow can regurgitate its food until the food becomes minute-substances for the microbes and bacteria in the stomach to eat or break down, she said.

A fistulated cow, which had a hole in its stomach, lay in the corner. The hole, created by a vet, allows researchers to open the window and observe how the cow is digesting its food, Martinez-Patino said.

These cows can also act as a “donor” for other cows, she said.

When a cow falls sick, the cow stops eating as much and the essential microbes and bacteria die.

In response, the dairy farmer takes the substances with the needed microbes and bacteria from the fistulated cow's stomach and gives it to the sick cow.

In another barn, cows have a color chain around their neck. Martinez-Patino said the chain acts like a key. Only the cow with a specific chain can enter its particular gate.

The experiment was to see how much they eat, what kinds of food they eat and how it affects the amount of food the cows produce, she said. Money to conduct research studies came primarily from private companies and federal tax dollars.

Wrapping up her visit to the dairy farm, Paris removed the blue boots she had to wear during the tour. She said her most memorable moments included walking through the barn and seeing a cow with a window in its stomach.

One word to describe the event: Paris chuckled to the whispering hints of her dad in her ear as she said the word, “Awesome!”

Add a comment Add a comment