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ALACHUA ‒ On Saturday morning June 26, Alachua joined the ranks of Gainesville and Newberry in holding a remembrance event. Held at Mebane Middle School in a drizzling rain, over 100 people attended the event to memorialize lynching victims, especially the eight known victims in Alachua-Newnansville, as well as Reverend A.S.J Allen who was shot to death in 1904.

The Civil War officially ended slavery, but much of the racial tension and animosity from the war and its after-effects on the South still festered. There was no equality between white southerners and former black slaves and equal treatment under the law did not yet exist. More than 4,400 African Americans were lynched across 20 states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. Florida had 350 lynchings, making it fifth in the nation. Alachua County had 19 documented lynchings making it the second highest in the state.

The "Soil Collection Ceremony for Alachua/Newnansville" was coordinated by the Alachua-Newnansville Subcommittee of the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project, which worked in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, Alabama.

The subcommittee was formed under the leadership of Alachua Vice Mayor Shirley Green Brown with the purpose of educating the community about past racial discrimination and memorializing those who suffered repression and violence in the Jim Crow era, while also reconciling to bring the community together.

Brown opened the ceremony with poems and song lyrics. “I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom,” she recited from a civil rights-era song. Alachua First Baptist Reverend Doug Felton gave an Invocation followed by a scripture reading by Reverend Debra Frazier Sermons.

Nii Sowa-La led a spiritual tribute Libation ceremony honoring the traditions of their ancestors, where a drink is poured into the ground to honor the dead. He slowly emptied two bottles onto the grass while leading a rhythmic chant as the audience clapped to a beat. “We are calling for forgiveness,” he repeated.

Several prominent officials spoke including Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. and Alachua County Commissioner Charles Chestnut, who said the goal of the event was to bring light to the truth and begin to reconcile the tragic historical events.

“We are here to bring the community together and have a real conversation about the history of lynching here in Alachua County,” he said.

Keiana West of the Equal Justice Initiative spoke about the history of lynchings and long-term consequences in the South. “Slavery did not end in 1865, it simply evolved,” she said. “We can’t get to the reconciliation work without the truth telling work, the history needs to be told.”

Volunteers lit nine candles in recognition of the lynching victims: Cooley Johnson, George Bibbon, Willey Bradley, Caesar Sullivan, Harry Hurl and his 15-year-old son, Harold, William Rawls and murder victim A.S.J. Allen.

While each is identified as a victim, little is known about the circumstances or locations of their lynchings. Rawls was accused of murdering a white merchant in 1895. While Rawls awaited a trial, a white mob stormed the jail, dragging him out and hanging him. No one was ever charged for the lynching.

Rev. A.S.J Allen was a well-respected black minister. On April 2, 1904 he got into an argument with his white neighbor about placement of a fence and the neighbor shot Allen dead. The courts exonerated the neighbor and charges were never filed. However, Allen’s regional and national stature led to numerous black communities going into mourning and 800 people attended his funeral.

Ceremony attendees placed a cup of soil into empty mason jars arranged before the podium. Each jar displayed the name of a victim with two jars for each individual. One jar will be stored at the Equal Justice Initiative Museum in Montgomery, Alabama while the other will stay in Alachua.

Since the exact location of the lynchings is unknown, the soil to fill the jars was collected from three sites in the former town of Newnansville. The Newnansville/Alachua Cemetery was one, the other two were sites in the former township called Black Street Road and Gallows Pond as likely spots.

One by one, a long line of people solemnly put a cup of dirt into each jar until it was filled and sealed. The jars that go to the Equal Justice Initiative Museum will form part of a wall of remembrance made entirely of soil jars from where these victims died or were interred.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ On a rainy evening on June 24, the Great Outdoors Restaurant literally went to the dogs. The Humane Animal Treatment Charity (HATC) and The High Springs Women’s Club hosted a “Yappy Hour” on the patio of The Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs.

A crowd of some 60 people, many with their well-behaved leashed canine companions, attended the fundraiser event despite the rain that had been falling most of the afternoon. The event started at 5 p.m., just about the time the rain stopped, and the crowd slowly filtered in.

The canine friendly event has been popular and well attended in the past. “The rain kept some people from coming, the ones that did were very generous in supporting our efforts to save animals and provide crucially needed funds to support volunteer no-kill rescue facilities,” said Arlene Levine, Vice-President of HATC.

HATC is an all-volunteer non-profit charity. Their mission is to raise funds to aid small all-volunteer humane no-kill animal rescue facilities that save unwanted and abused animals and prepare them for adoption. All net proceeds raised by the charity are given to these rescue groups. No state, federal or local funding is provided as the charity relies solely on the support and financial aid of local organizations and individuals.

While the event's purpose is to raise money from participating humans, much of the focus is on their canine companions. There was a doggy menu, including peanut-based ice cream for the dogs. For the owners, the Great Outdoors had their Thursday special offering of one-half priced bottles of wine. Musical entertainment was offered by the popular duo Gosia and Ali.

Attendees were treated to a silent auction of items spread out over two long tables with various gift packages, including 13 decorated baskets filled with items supplied from local businesses. There were also popular games enjoyed by the crowd such as Ring Toss, Pin the Bone on the Puppy, Trivia Questions and Guess the Number of Biscuits in the Jar. Prizes were awarded for game winners as well as a raffle of prize packages.

Organizations supported by HATC include the Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek, K9 Services German Shepherd Rescue, Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation, Second Chance Rescue& Rehoming, Helping Hands Pet Rescue and Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary.

While HATC and the Women's Club Sponsored Yappy Hour, the event enjoyed communitywide support. Local businesses and individuals donated baskets and prizes as well as financial aid. Support came from The Great Outdoors, Pink Flamingo, Alachua Animal Hospital, High Springs Playhouse, Bare Essential Massage, Little Cottage Spa, Gene's Gifts, Sam and Becky Tift and other individuals.

“The rain limited the turnout, but the support we got from those that showed was great,” said HATC President Gene Levine. “We made over $4,000 at the event and have a number of donations that are still coming in. It’s great to see the support and know so many care about the welfare of these animals.”

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The new fire services assessment fee and qualifying period for the Nov. 2 election were the two newest items considered at the June 24 City Commission meeting.

Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham proposed an increase in the new fire services assessment fee from the current amount of $155 per home or $0.42/day to $223 or $0.61/day for the coming fiscal year. The fire assessment is billed annually along with property taxes and is used exclusively to fund fire protection services in the city.

The increase will help fund a 24/7 professional Advanced Life Support (ALS) department, which many smaller cities do not have as part of their local fire department. “Adequately funding this department was a high priority at our strategic planning sessions,” said City Manager Ashley Stathatos.

The increase in fees will also fund replacement of three aging trucks. Engine 29, a commercial cab unit, was purchased in 2012 and is approaching the end of its life. “Commercial cabs, while cheaper to purchase, generally only have a 10-year life expectancy,” said Gillingham.

Squad 29, a 2006 commercial cab truck, was given to the High Springs Fire Department (HSFD) as part of a five-year automatic aid agreement with Columbia County. HSFD took delivery in 2012, replacing a 2003 truck that was due to be retired. The current truck is at its end of life and is far too small for the advanced technical rescue equipment it carries.

The third vehicle is a 1997 brush truck that HSFD has owned since it was new. “The truck has had several mechanical issues during the last few years and is now totally inoperable and has been out of service for a year,” Gillingham said.

Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 2021-C, which will increase the fire assessment fee as requested.

In other City business, Resolution 2021-D, which sets the election date, lists seats that are available, and specifies the qualifying period also received unanimous approval. Seats #4, currently occupied by Commissioner Byran Williams, and #5, currently occupied by Commissioner Scott Jamison, are the two seats for which candidates may run. The election date was set for Nov. 2 and the qualifying period was set by this resolution to run July 19 – 22. City Clerk Jenny Parham will be available to handle qualifying paperwork from the beginning of the work day to closing on each day of the qualifying period.

In other business, resident Linda Tanner spoke about water runoff at 243rd Street, which have impacted her home and those of other neighbors. Stathatos said she has asked the city’s engineers, Mittauer & Associates, to review several locations with similar problems and provide feedback about what can be done to remedy these situations.

Other items that were approved on second and final readings included Ordinance 2021-04, which addresses mobile food vendors and food trucks, Ordinance 2021-05, which addresses changes to the Land Development Code and Ordinance 2021-07, which changes Memorial Park from a Residential zoning designation to Public/Semi-Public designation, bringing that property into the proper designation for its current use.

Following several complaints by citizens about the waste removal service provided by WCA, City Attorney Scott Walker reported that his firm is in the process of compiling a letter for the city manager’s review. If approved, she will forward the letter to WCA to make them aware of the City’s concerns regarding their service.

Commissioner Byran Williams announced that Farm Share would be in High Springs on July 17 to distribute food. Volunteers are needed to help with dissemination of the food items into cars.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for July 8 at 6:30 p.m.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Area residents expressed anger and concern Monday night at the joint City of Newberry and Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meeting about a proposed Hazardous Waste Rural Collection Facility that would be located between Newberry and High Springs on SR 27/41.  The meeting took place at Easton-Newberry Sports Complex the evening of June 28. 

Sixteen residents, many of whom were from High Springs, addressed their concerns, explaining why the proposed location was wrong for this type of facility.  Reasons cited included the school bus stop at the proposed site, a blind spot for drivers in the area and the residential nature of the neighborhood.

As the County was still in its due diligence period on the proposed site, County Commissioner Merihelen Wheeler made a motion to discontinue the due diligence period on the proposed site and allow the option contract to expire.  County Commissioner Mary Alford seconded the motion and it passed 4-0 with County Commissioner Charles Chestnut absent.

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe suggested a site in Newberry that might suit the County’s needs, and County Commissioner Anna Prizzia moved to direct staff to explore the option with Newberry as well as other locations.  That motion passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote as well.

In other business, although the Newberry Community Redevelopment Agency Redevelopment Plan was on the evening’s agenda, it was not considered at this meeting.  Instead, it will be heard at the BoCC’s August meeting to allow time for County staff to review it.

Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief Harold Theus addressed the issue of the Trunk Radio System.  Theus explained the history of the contract agreement between GRU and the County and why the County is exploring other options.  According to previous comments from Newberry City Manager Mike New, this is not impacting Newberry as much as it might some of the other cities as they are paying less than $1,000 annually.  Although the topic was discussed, no action was taken at this meeting.

Another issue discussed, but for which no action was taken, was the potential extension of Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) Surtax with the inclusion of Housing and Infrastructure Projects.  The WSPP surtax is an eight-year half-cent sales tax which is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31, 2024.

There is interest in potentially extending WSPP in 2024 for an additional eight years.  One option proposed by the County is to add another half-cent for housing and infrastructure for 10 years on the 2022 ballot so both would sunset on Dec. 31, 2032.  No action was taken on either issue during this meeting.

When it came to the discussion of the proposed Residential Rental Unit Permit and Inspection Program, Mayor Jordan Marlowe and several of the Newberry Commissioners expressed disagreement, preferring an opt-in option. 

One concern regarding potential issues with the permit and inspection program was that it might involve too much oversight.  Other concerns raised included that codes enforcement officers would be put in a position where they have to act as referees between the property owner and tenant, liability concerns and that the measure would cause even more of a housing crisis than currently exists.  No action was taken during this meeting.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ The Humane Society of North Central Florida and Scenthound Gainesville, a recently opened dog care and grooming business, have announced a partnership to help dogs get clean and healthy. Beginning in July, Scenthound Gainesville will provide free bathing and grooming services to adoptable dogs from the Humane Society of North Central Florida.

“Giving back to the community is an integral part of our business model,” Scenthound Gainesville’s owner Joseph Pizzurro said. “We are thrilled to be partnered with the Humane Society to help dogs find a forever home as quickly as possible by providing these needed services.” In addition to basic grooming, Scenthound focuses on five core areas where all dogs need care: Skin, Coat, Ears, Nails and Teeth.

“We are very excited to be working with Joseph and the team at Scenthound,” Humane Society Executive Director Heather Thomas said. “We pull animals from 18 local county shelters and many times they are in serious need of both a bath and grooming. This partnership will help us make these pets more comfortable and help them find a home even faster.”

Additionally, the partnership will launch Scenthound’s Clean Start Program; providing a free bath, ear cleaning, nail clipping and teeth brushing to all dogs adopted through the Humane Society of North Central Florida.

The humane society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping healthy and treatable dogs and cats in Alachua County, Florida. For over 40 years, the organization has worked to achieve its goal of becoming a community where no healthy or treatable animal is euthanized due to lack of space.

Scenthound is a membership-based dog grooming business focused on dog health and wellness. Visit Scenthound’s new location in Haile Publix Market Square at 2835 S.W. 91st Street, #330, Gainesville, Florida.

For more information about the Humane Society of North Central Florida or Scenthound, visit https://www.humanesocietyncfl.org/ or https://www.scenthound.com/.

The Humane Society of North Central Florida was created in 2018 when the leadership of the Alachua County Humane Society, Gainesville Pet Rescue, and Helping Hands Pet Rescue decided to permanently join forces. By becoming the Humane Society of North Central Florida, these organizations were able to effectively streamline services for pets and pet owners, eliminate any duplication of services, maximize the community’s resources, and improve the life-saving abilities of the entire region.

The Humane Society of North Central Florida is a limited intake, no-kill animal rescue shelter. The animals are transferred from open-intake and/or managed admission municipal shelters across North Central Florida. The Humane Society of North Central Florida is an independent, local 501(c)(3) organization and does not receive funding from federal agencies, nor is it affiliated with any other state or national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA.

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ALACHUA ‒ For 20 years the City of Alachua hosted an annual July 4th celebration they billed as the “Largest Small Town Fireworks Display in America.” The event was so popular that it attracted up to 25,000 people, two and a half times the population of the city. It was an all-day event with food vendors, child activities, games and several bands through the course of the evening. However, most of the crowd came for the fireworks show which rivaled the size and expense of larger metropolitan areas.

But last year, everything changed due to COVID-19. All mass events were canceled or restricted in size and people stayed home to avoid spreading or catching the virus. The year 2020 was the year that put everything on hold, and the City canceled the annual event due to concerns for everyone's safety.

This year the “Largest Small Town Fireworks Display in America” is back—but with changes. An event of this size takes months of planning and coordination with multiple organizations, vendors and City departments. While the City was in favor of bringing the event back, in January and February, the future was uncertain as the Pandemic was still raging. Given the ongoing uncertainties, the City opted to move forward with the fireworks show and hold off on the other activities.

“We had to plan ahead in uncertain times, but we wanted to make sure the celebration and fireworks show returned,” said Mike DaRoza, Communications and Executive Project Manager for the City of Alachua. “While we had to scale back the daytime activities, we put a full effort into fireworks show, which will be as big or bigger than it has in previous years.”

This year the event has been moved from the Hal Brady Recreation Complex where it has been held in previous years to the adjacent Legacy Park. “This area offers closer parking, a bigger space and viewing area as well as the new amphitheater for the band to play at,” said DaRoza.

The 2021 Fourth of July Celebration will take place on Sunday, July 4, at Legacy Park. Parking will open at 6 p.m. with live music by Crooked Counsel in the amphitheater at 8 p.m. and the “Largest Small Town Fireworks Display in America” beginning promptly at 9:30 p.m. The event will happen rain or shine.

While the event is hosted by the City of Alachua, there are many volunteers and sponsors that contribute to the event, including 26 business sponsors that contributed either services or funds. People attending the show should bring bag chairs or blankets to enjoy all the fun from the multipurpose fields in front of the amphitheater under the stars in a smoke-free environment. Pets and glass products are prohibited.

A time-honored celebration of America’s independence is back.

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GAINESVILLE – Artists can share their works for the Alachua County Library District’s eighth Summer Art Show starting July 1 through July 29.

The summer show will feature pieces from adult artists on the Library District’s website in August. Participants can submit up to two works each by email with a completed entry form for each piece. Entry forms and rules are available at www.aclib.us/summerartshow or by emailing ccarpenter@aclib.us.

Submissions should be in the form of a jpeg, png, or pdf file and may include paintings, photography, drawings, mixed media, digital art, and 3D artwork. //www.flickr.com/photos/13863811@N06/albums/72157715282920633/with/50195652803/" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.flickr.com/photos/13863811@N06/albums/72157715282920633/with/50195652803/&source=gmail&;ust=1625186183902000&usg=AFQjCNHXjt8QY5hPVN1L0sr0lG9RTLLapQ">The 2020 art show moved online for the first time and featured paintings, photos, sculptures, and even a cross-stitch entry.

“The art show has thrived online and we’re eager to see what inspired pieces our talented local artists submit this year,” said Adult Services Librarian Cheris Carpenter.

To schedule an interview, please contact Rachel Cook at rcook@aclib.us or 352-334-3909.

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