Last updateWed, 17 Dec 2014 11pm


'Top Gear' cruises into downtown High Springs

W - Top Gear 4314Carl McKinney/Alachua County Today

Professional racecar driver Tanner Foust rolls through Main Street in High Springs, leaving a trail of smoke behind him as part of a stunt. For several minutes after he drove by, onlookers were coughing and covering their noses and mouths to protect themselves as air cleared.


HIGH SPRINGS – Main Street in High Springs was lined with onlookers. Some of them knew why, but some of them only knew something interesting was about to happen.


“All I know is it’s some TV show called ‘Top Gear’,” said a man sitting on a bench in High Springs’ historic downtown area.


The History Channel’s “Top Gear,” a show exploring car culture, made a stop in High Springs on Thursday, March 13 to film part of an episode focusing on the history of drag racing.  


After filming in Gainesville and Micanopy, the crew chose High Springs next because it kept in line with the theme of the episode, said Tabitha Lentle, co-executive producer of the show.


“It has that gorgeous Americana look that goes with the muscle cars we have,” she said.


High Springs represents what America looked like when these cars were made, she said, with high streets and little stores.


Around 5:30 p.m., the film crew and producers started arriving. Ambulances, police cruisers and fire engines got into positions.


As one producer talked to High Springs Mayor Byran Williams, he explained what the episode would be about.


“It’s about how drag racing evolved in America,” he told Williams.


Bystanders, many of them wearing Gatornationals gear, the annual National Hot Rod Association drag racing event held every March at the Gainesville Raceway, waited for something to happen.


As City Manager Ed Booth stood on a corner, he said the traffic was unreal. On the bright side, he said, it seems to have brought a lot of business to the local shops.


Three muscle cars drove through Main Street, one for each of the show’s hosts.


Actor and comedian Adam Ferrara drove a 1972 Dodge Charger. Professional racer and stunt driver Tanner Foust drove a 1967 Shelby Mustang. Fox Sports racing analyst Rutledge Wood drove a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro.


For about two hours, they drove up and down Main Street shooting various scenes. Even the audience watching didn’t seem to know what the hosts were doing.


When Alan DeVaney was asked if he could tell what was going on, he responded with “not a single idea.” Devaney had been following the filming of the episode on social media all week, he said.


They drove around the block a few times. As the hosts raced past cars on Main Street, multiple cars with a device attached to them had their alarms set off.


Each of the three cars drove from one end of the street toward Railroad Avenue in an apparent stunt where the back tires appeared to be smoking.


Host Rutledge Wood didn’t want to spoil exactly what they were doing or how the finished episode might look, wanting to preserve the element of surprise for the viewers at home. He did say they were not drag racing.


“We were flexing the muscle of some muscle cars,” he said.


Wood stuck around to pose for photos and converse with fans.


The smiling kids watching the filming with their parents was one of the coolest parts, Wood said.


“Everyone could not have been nicer,” he said. “It reminds me so much of my home town.”


The episode is expected to air sometime around late May.

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Newberry Main Street fries fish for funding

W  - Newberry Main Street Fish FryEllen Boukari/Alachua County Today

L-R: Lowell Garret and Reuben Hamlin handled the fish frying duties for the Newberry Main Street Organization. The fish fry was a fundraiser to support the organization’s activities.


NEWBERRY – Hungry visitors stopped by the Newberry Municipal Building, 25440 West Newberry Road, on Saturday, March 15, to help their town economically and to also fill their stomachs with a yummy fish dinner with all the trimmings.


Newberry Main Street Organization, Inc. (NMSO) produced a dine-in-or-take-out dinner of mouthwatering fried fish, coleslaw, beans, hushpuppies, grits and iced tea as one of several fundraising events planned for this year.


To top off the tasty meal, baked goods were also available for purchase for those who had a little bit of room left for a tasty treat. The Newberry High School Baseball Booster Club sold brownies, cookies, cupcakes and more as their fundraiser in an admirable attempt to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth, while earning a little money for their club.


One of the highlights of the event was a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to Gander Mountain sporting goods and clothes store in Ocala. The winning ticket was purchased by Trenton resident Greg Landingham.


“We couldn't have done it without the help of Newberry's Backyard BBQ, Visit Gainesville and the City of Newberry,” said Barbara Hendrix, NMSO Director. “The turnout was great,” she said.


NMSO's Mission Statement, “Enhancing a downtown through sound economic development that promotes our future while preserving the past,” is embodied in the events and projects undertaken each year to attract visitors to historic Newberry.


In addition to providing visitors with a Tourism Information Center, NMSO also produces the Newberry Farmer's Market on a monthly basis throughout the growing season, the Newberry Spring Fling Festival in early April, the Fall Festival in October, the Festival of Lights in December and provides a free website for others to advertise local events. All of these projects help boost tourism, increase visitors to the downtown business community and provide a central online location for residents and visitors to discover other community events.


In an attempt to balance their budget this year, the city reduced their contribution to NMSO from $40,000 to $25,000 in an across-the-board budget reduction. The funding change left NMSO with a $15,000 shortfall. “While we do fundraising every year, we are beefing up our efforts this year to help make up for those lost funds,” said Hendrix. “We want to continue to bring new people into Newberry to see what a wonderful town we have and to meet our friendly residents and business people,” she said. The NMSO Board thought this type of fundraiser would serve two bring residents a great meal and also help make up for some of the funding shortfall, she said.


In addition to the city's funds, NMSO receives revenue through memberships, donations, festivals, sales of artwork through the Newberry Firehouse Gallery and through the Farmer's Market.


NMSO has also written grants which have led to funding of some events. “Every one of those grants requires us to make reports back to the funding group to prove that the money is actually bringing people into Newberry,” said Hendrix. “It takes some time to do all of that, but it's well worth it when I hear business owners say they have made enough money in one day [in tandem with one of our events] that they were able to pay their bills for the month,” she said.


Anyone interested in becoming a member of the organization or learning more about the events and programs sponsored by NMSO, may stop by the Newberry Fire House Gallery, 25435 W. Newberry Road, call 352-472-2112 or check them out online at


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High Springs chief fired

HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley has been terminated from his position with the city. Holley’s failure to return to work following a 30-day leave led City Attorney Scott Walker to send a letter to Paul Donnelly and Christopher Deem, Holley's attorneys, on behalf of the city citing that Holley had been absent without leave and his position as police chief was terminated.

The letter, which was dated March 14, 2014, reminded Holley's attorney that Walker had sent a request on March 7 to have Holley return to work by March 10, 2014, following Holley's absence from work on Feb. 24, the date he was to return after his 30-day leave.

“As Mr. Holley has failed to return to work within three (3) days of the end of his paid leave, or for that matter within three (3) days of demand by the City that he do so, Mr. Holley is now deemed A.W.O.L. from his job.” Walker continued, “As Mr. Holley was employed by the City as the Chief of Police at all times relevant hereto, Mr. Holley is covered by the City's Personnel Policy & Procedures Manual adopted November 3, 2011, and is not subject to any collective bargaining agreements with the City.”

Walker went on to say that due to Holley's continued absence, he was considered to have voluntarily terminated his employment with the city as of March 10, 2014.

Walker's letter also specified Holley resigned without providing the requisite two week’s notice and because of that, was not entitled to cash out his accrued vacation and sick pay. The letter went on to explain that no further salary payments would be made “effective at the end of the day March 10, 2014” and that Holley “shall immediately return to the City any and all property of the City” which included his car, gun, shield and any other items belonging to the city.

Subsequently, Holley returned all property to the city on March 14, 2014.

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA) issued a statement March 17, 2014, responding to Holley’s termination, writing “The City Manager's claims are neither factual, honest, legal nor ethical,” and accuses the city manager of attempting to hide his own official misconduct. It also states that the basis of the termination of Holley's employment is “fabricated, misleading and blatantly untrue.” The PBA also charges that the city attorney and city manager have violated the provisions of the city's Personnel Manual, Charter and state and federal statutes and accuses both of “slanderous and illegal practices.”

In response to the PBA’s statement, Booth said he is unable to comment on the case as it is part of an ongoing Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.

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Gazebo gets clean sweep

W - Gazebo yes-S5000077Carol Walker/Alachua County Today

L-R: Gloria James, Greg Dirocco, Sandra Webb and Eyvonne Andrews volunteered their time to pitch in and help improve the gazebo, stage and surrounding area. The entire project was coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce.


HIGH SPRINGS – Spring cleaning came early this past weekend in High Springs. In preparation for the second anniversary celebration of the Music in the Park (MIP) Series, the High Springs Chamber of Commerce and a few High Springs residents volunteered to replace the old leaky roof over the gazebo behind City Hall on Saturday, March 15, and help clean up the area. The structure, which was built in 1983, “leaked like a sieve,” said Michael Loveday, MIP Program Organizer.


Mud Crutch, the Gainesville band that went to California and became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, was the first band to play in the gazebo said Loveday as he described a small part of the historic significance of the structure. All the sweeping and cleaning yielded another bit of historic information. The concrete steps were inscribed with the year they were built – 1938.


“We were delighted when Jim Brown from Signature Roofing, Inc. said he would donate his time, labor and shingles to help with the project,” said Chamber President Sandra Webb. The Chamber decided to take on this project as a way to thank the City of High Springs and its residents for all they do for the Chamber. Along with a contribution from Lowe's in Alachua, the Chamber purchased $700 in wood which was needed to support the shingles.


Loveday was on-hand as well, filling wheelbarrows with leaves and debris and pushing them and down the steep sinkhole embankment as part of the cleanup effort. The entire gazebo floor and everything around it was covered with leaves and branches that had fallen during the last few rainstorms. Webb and Chamber board members Eyvonne Andrews and Gloria James pitched in to help clear the debris and neaten up the entire area with help from Roy Blake, an employee with the City of High Springs Public Works Department. City Manager Ed Booth oversaw the production and made sure the volunteers lacked for nothing. Lunch was provided to all the volunteers by the Chamber and the Great Outdoors Restaurant.


Brown and Greg Dirocco, another volunteer, worked together to install the wooden structure that supports the roof. Another High Springs resident, Steve Hart, volunteered his time to install the barrier between the wood and shingles and Brown and Morgan Dall’Aqua, a Signature Roofing employee, installed shingles until dark. With 85 percent of the shingles installed that night, the gazebo was water tight for Sunday's Music in the Park concert. Each quadrant of the structure was removed and replaced separately to ensure the supporting structures maintained their stability during construction.


Construction and cleanup began at 8 a.m. and continued all day, said Webb. Brown returned on Monday to complete the last part of the shingle installation. “Just like any roof we build,”said Brown, “it should last another 20 years.”


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‘Southern Hospitality’ brings small town drama and comedy

Final shows Friday and Sunday

ALACHUA – Will “Southern Hospitality” live up to its reputation and will the Futrelle sisters be able to save their town? These questions will be answered Friday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, March 23 at 2 p.m. at the Alachua Woman’s Club.

Back by popular demand, club members are presenting “Southern Hospitality,” a small town adult comedy. Frankie, Twink, Honey Raye and Rhonda Lynn are in trouble again. This time, the problem is bigger than ever: their beloved hometown, Fayro, Texas, is in danger of disappearing and it’s up to the sisters to save it from extinction.

Ever since the Super SmartMart and the rendering plant closed, folks have been leaving Fayro in droves, but Honey Raye, with a major assist from her former nemesis, Geneva Musgrave, has come up with a possible solution. It seems a salsa manufacturing factory is looking to relocate and a company representative is headed to Fayro on a scouting mission.

Honey Raye, as the president of the Chamber of Commerce, makes promises that are not to be believed in order to woo the rep to choose Fayro. In fact, Honey Raye has told them that on the very weekend of the rep’s visit, the town just happens to be having their biggest celebration of the year: “Fayro Days,” which includes a craft show, a pet costume parade, a beauty pageant and a huge Civil War battle reenactment. So now it’s up to the citizens of Fayro to quickly make her promises a reality.

The Friday night showing offers dinner and a play for $30 and the Sunday afternoon showing features a play and dessert for $20. Tickets are available at Valerie's Loft or 352-214-6342 or 352-226-0153 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . This fundraiser helps support the Alachua Woman’s Club in their efforts to support the community.

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