News Features

Pilot OK After Plane Crash On Lake

    All's well that ends well, and a huge sigh of relief could be heard coming from the Crescent Lake area of Umatilla on Wednesday, March 22, when pilot Jim Knopke emerged safely from his single-engine amphibian plane that was upside down in the lake.  Knopke, returning home from a brief flight to the Umatilla Municipal airport for fuel, saw his plane overturn upon landing after the plane's dry land landing gear, which had failed to retract after leaving Umatilla, plowed into the water and flipped the plane over.
    The plane, which witnesses de  More...

Goodwill Effort After Bicycle Stolen

    “It takes a lot longer walking.”
    Umatilla Public Library employee Ralph Howard was all smiles last Thursday, March 23, when he was presented a bicycle to replace the one that had been stolen while he was at work a day before.  Howard was called next door to the Lubemaster II drive-through oil change outlet just after arriving at work at 1 p.m. for a surprise presentation put together by Lubemaster owner Chad Sines and his friend Brian Jensen.
    Sines was still grumbling at himself that he didn’t s  More...

St. Johns River Duck Race, More On Saturday

    A fun weekend lies ahead for the northern regions of the readership area.  Both Astor and Barberville will host special events this weekend, with the public invited to come out for activities ranging from blacksmithing demonstrations to rubber ducks racing on the St. Johns River.
    Here’s a breakdown of the activities:
    - The Astor Area Chamber of Commerce will host its Spring Festival on Saturday, April 1.  From 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., the Big River Marina on the shores of the St. Johns River will be the p  More...

Umatilla/Eustis Wastewater Hook Up (Almost) Ready

    The City of Umatilla has announced that its new wastewater hookup with the City of Eustis was expected to go active this week.  The estimated $7 million project that has featured the construction of a wastewater line from Umatilla’s processing plant on Golden Gem Drive south on SR 19 to the city of Eustis, and will allow Umatilla to abandon its wastewater plant going forward.
    “We are looking to open the sewage flow to Eustis tomorrow afternoon,” said Aaron Mercer of the City of Umatilla on Monday.    Howeve  More...

Umatilla Moves To Ban Smoking In Parks

    The Umatilla City Council on Tuesday night gave initial approval to an ordinance that seeks to ban the practice of smoking or vaping in city parks.  The move comes after the council heard a recent presentation from Umatilla Middle and High School students seeking such a move to increase public health.
    Citing a variety of data and threats to humans of all ages, the Students Working Against Tobacco asked the city to consider such a ban, a request that was met with broad approval within the city.


Big Antique Boat Festival Returns This Weekend

    The largest wooden boat show in the country will return to the Tavares shoreline this weekend, when the 42nd Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival returns for a three-day run.  Antique boats, classic and custom cars, seaplanes, and more will all be a part of the event.
    The event is sponsored by the Sunnyland Chapter of the American Classic Boat Society.
    “There’s something for everyone,” said Debi Weinert, who is coordinating the volunteer corps necessary to pull of the big event.  “There a  More...

Lake Yale Boat Ramp Permanently Closed

    A popular access to Lake Yale has been closed, and is expected to remain so.  Lake County officials this week confirmed that the Lake Yale boat ramp lying at the end of Lake Yale Boat Ramp Road has been permanently closed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
    "FWC has closed the ramp and is reverting the property back to the landowner," said Lake County Commissioner Leslie Campione.  Campione said the FWC has operated the ramp via an easement with an adjacent property owner.  That agreement has been  More...

County Moves To Create New East Lake Road

    Lake County is moving ahead with plans to create a new road in East Lake County.  The Lake County Commission on Tuesday approved a right-of-way acquisition agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation that looks to create a path for a road running north of Wolf Branch Road up SR 44.
    The $4,000,000 acquisition project includes $2 million in grant funds with the balance to be paid from county impact fees and sales tax revenue.
    The project will begin at Round Lake Road and travel north through an area th  More...

Recognition For Lake County Fire Chief

    Central Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association President John Miller, accompanied by Maria Haun, selection committee chair Fire Chief Mike Johansmeyer, and 2020 award recipient Retired Chief Matt McGrew, presented the 2022 Chief Craig E. Haun Leadership Award to Lake County Office of Fire Rescue - Fire Chief Jim Dickerson at the March 9, general membership meeting.  The bestowment of this award was in recognition of Chief Dickerson’s leadership, his personal passion and care for the “boots on the ground” and his career accomplishments at LCFR spanni  More...

Drought Conditions Worsening In Lake County

    Drought conditions are intensifying locally, as Lake County, along with much of the Florida peninsula, continues to be bereft of regular rainfall.  Data released on Monday by the United States Department of Agriculture indicate Lake County joins much of Florida in what is now a ‘moderate’ drought, with no immediate end in sight.
    Lake County's situation as defined by the percentage of the area experiencing drought conditions has more than doubled since the start of the calendar year, from just under 30% to now approaching 65%.  More...

Area Firm Celebrating Five Years Of Service

    “It’s done better than I ever dreamed.”
    Marathon Electrical Services owner John Davis, III, this week was all smiles about the company, which is celebrating its fifth year in business.  A full-service electrical service provider with residential, commercial, and industrial branches, the company is experiencing explosive growth that has included its recent move from Eustis to Umatilla, where it now resides in a new building inside the Gateway Commerce Center.
    Davis, a Tavares native, created Mar  More...

County Sees Slowing Growth Ahead

    “We have some uncertain times ahead.”
    Lake County’s Executive Director for Economic Development Mary Ellen Stern on Tuesday indicated Lake County may see less of an impact from an expected national slowing of the economy, but it won’t be completely spared.
    Stern, during a presentation on Tuesday to the Lake County Commission, stated that while it is impossible to know what the future holds, Lake County's economy is in a position to weather economic uncertainty with less pain than other parts o  More...

Huge City Wide Yard Sale Returns Saturday

    Nearly 100 sales,  on the grounds around the Umatilla Public Library and throughout the broader community, will take place on Saturday, as the annual Umatilla City Wide yard sale returns for another day of bargain hunting in the name of supporting the library.  The event has grown into one of Umatilla’s largest days of commerce, with large crowds flocking to the community for sales held both at the library and at homes.
    Umatilla Public Library Director Amy Stultz in the past week said the event was looking at another sellout of  More...

Controversial Development Withdrawn In Umatilla

    A proposed high-density apartment complex in Umatilla has been scrapped.  The proposal, for 116 units at the intersection of CR 450NE and Fletcher Road, which had been widely criticized by residents in the area, will not move forward.
    “They’ve officially withdrawn it.  They are going to regroup,” said Umatilla City Manager Scott Blankenship while speaking on the topic in the past week.  The item had been set to be up for consideration during the Umatilla City Council’s March 7 meeting, after being tabled a  More...

Big GeorgeFest Weekend Arrives In Eustis

    The big weekend has arrived in Eustis, as this year’s GeorgeFest heads for its climax.  Nearly a month of activities has led up to the arrival of a downtown carnival, a large street parade, and days of special live entertainment as the community celebrates the 121st edition of the Washington’s Birthday Festival.
    This year’s Georgefest will feature premiere entertainment from Little Texas, Friday, February 24, at 8 p.m., and Chase McDaniel on Saturday, February 25, at 7:30 p.m., free of charge at the Alice McClelland Bands  More...

New Book Features East Lake History

    The East Lake Historical Society will present the book launch of “Images of America: Sorrento, Mount Plymouth, and East Lake County” by Bob Grenier and the East Lake Historical Society.  The book is published by Arcadia Publishing.
    The book launch is Tuesday, March 7, from 6-8 p.m., at the East Lake Chamber of Commerce located at 24214 Sorrento Avenue in Sorrento.  The book will be available for purchase for $20 each.  Author, Bob Grenier will be on hand to give a short presentation about the book, give a sample readin  More...

Public Voices Opposition To High Density Development

    A raucous meeting was convened last Wednesday night, February 8, at the Cadwell Park community building in Umatilla.  Developers of a proposed high-density apartment complex on Fletcher Road hosted a public meeting to solicit input on their plans to place a 116-unit apartment complex at the CR 450NE intersection, but the estimated 100 people in attendance were far more interested in discussing scuttling the project.
    Just five minutes into the meeting, which was led by attorney Alison Yurko on behalf of the developer, Umatilla resident Mary  More...

Eustis Tops Umatilla In Districts, Bulldogs On To State Playoffs

    After falling short of earning an automatic bid to the state playoffs, the Umatilla High School varsity boys basketball team received good news on Sunday, when it was announced the team had earned an at-large bid.  The boys will play on Thursday, February 16, at North Marion High School in the first round of the playoffs.  Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
    Umatilla, now 21-5 on the season, lost in the second round of last week's class 4A District 6 playoffs, falling to Eustis by a score of 58-44.  Eustis would lose on Friday night in the  More...

Altoona Business Damaged By SUV

    The female driver of an SUV was transported from the scene of a crash on Friday, February 3.  The driver, unidentified by the Florida Highway Patrol, was southbound on SR 19 around 11:30 a.m. when she struck the back of a southbound truck, careened off the road, and struck the front of a building that houses the Laura’s Sweet and Spicy Emporium.
    The store is located at the southwest corner of the CR 42 and SR 19 intersection, and saw the northeast corner of its building broken away as the driver, who didn't appear to attempt to slow  More...

Palmer's Astor Marine Breaks Ground On New Location

    After nearly two years of permitting delays, Palmer's Astor Marine is set to begin construction of its new location.  Business owners Rick and Georgia Palmer welcomed friends and business partners to a special groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, February 3, marking the official beginning of the project that will see the business move from its temporary quarters in Astor Park to a new, three-acre site on SR 40 at the intersection of River Road.
    “We jumped through all their hoops,” said Rick Palmer on Friday, while discussing the  More...

United Southern Bank Announces Big Solar Project

    “We waited a long time.  Until it made economic sense.”
    United Southern Bank CEO Greg Nelson spoke this week on the bank’s upcoming project that will see its Umatilla branch become home to a large solar project.  Being constructed in partnership with area firm Jack’s Solar, the project is expected to bring an estimated 160 panels to the roofs of the branch and result in a reduction of traditional electric usage of over 20%.
    The project, years in the discussion, is expected to begin n  More...

Commissioner Provides Garbage Collection Update

Ed. Note:  The north end of unincorporated Lake County has been experiencing several months of disjointed garbage collection.  Lake County continues to work to smooth over the rough edges in its curbside service provided by its new hauler, and this week Leslie Campione, whose district covers much of North Lake County, provided an update regarding the county’s efforts.
    By Leslie Campione, Lake County Commissioner - District 4
    To say it has been a difficult transition from the county's last trash hauler to the current haul  More...

Woman Airlifted After Striking Concrete Pillar

    A woman was airlifted from a serious crash that occurred on Wednesday, January 25, at the intersection of SR 19 and Beach Street north of Umatilla.  The woman, unidentified by the Florida Highway Patrol, was southbound on SR 19 when her vehicle, a white Chevrolet, left the roadway on the right shoulder, eventually striking a concrete pillar and a tree.
    The intersection serves as an entry to the Silver Beach Heights neighborhood, and the concrete pillar was part of the neighborhood’s entry monument.
    The cra  More...

Newest Carter's ACE Now Open

    The newest member of the Carter’s ACE Hardware family arrived this week, when the Carter family opened its location at 1750 North SR 19 in Eustis.  The store, located just south of the Publix grocery store complex, is the 11th location in the chain, which also features stores in Umatilla, Mount Dora, Tavares, Sorrento, downtown Eustis, and beyond.
    The store features a wide range of home and hardware supplies, outdoor grilling inventory, paints, and more. The new store also includes an expansive outdoor garden center, which is stocked  More...

Historic Courthouse Facing Repairs As Pillars Decay

    Fears over the status of the columns at its historic courthouse, Lake County in the past week has begun taking measures to stabilize cracking pillars and closing walkways below while it considers its options regarding how to move forward.
    The pillars, which are prominent load-bearing features of the Lake County Historic Courthouse, are showing large cracks, outright separations, and other signs of decay.  A contractor was on site beginning late last week to cut samples from the pillars to gauge their condition, a move which was followed wi  More...

Arson Arrest After Eustis Fire

    A 22-year-old Eustis woman is facing arson charges in connection with a fire at 2220 Titcomb Street in Eustis.  Autumn Walker has been charged with starting a fire that severely damaged the home and reportedly confessed to the crime shortly afterward.
    Reports indicate Walker, who has lived at the home with her grandfather, intentionally ignited a mattress in her bedroom on January 16 after becoming angry with her grandfather, James Kilfoyle, over the sale of an inoperable Jeep. 
    Walker was seen by witnesses  More...

Development Meeting Set In Umatilla - Group Forms

    Residents living in the area of a proposed apartment complex in Umatilla have announced a Facebook page designed to serve as a central communication spot for those interested in helping impact future growth in town.
    ‘Umatilla Residents For Responsible Growth’ is now active on the social media platform.
    “It’s a private group,” said Scott Ede, a Fletcher Road resident whose house sits directly across from a proposed 116-unit complex.  Ede, and others in the immediate area, are hoping  More...

Locals Line Up To Oppose High Density Development

    The application for a controversial high-density, multi-family complex at the intersection of CR 450 NE and Fletcher Road in Umatilla was due before the Umatilla City Council on Tuesday night, as the project’s applicant was set to pursue a zoning change on the estimated 10 acre site. 
    However, when the item came up on the council’s agenda, attorney Alison Yurko, representing Fletcher Grove Development, LLC, requested the hearing on the application be moved to March 7.  The purpose of the request was to allow the developer  More...

500 Years Of Cattle In Florida, A Cattle Drive To Remember

    The Great Florida Cattle Drive…that name conjures up images of 150 years ago, cowboys rooting Cracker Cows out of the palmettos and swamps of a yet uninhabited free-range Florida, back in the days when panthers, gators, and red wolves were taking as many baby cows as they could catch.
    One would think with all the subdivisions, theme parks, and high-rise beach condos that we see today, there wouldn't be a place left that was big and wide and open enough to still make a cattle drive possible, but there is still a little bit of wild Florida left!  More...

New Astor Library On The Way

    A new County Library being developed in Astor will include new amenities to serve residents of the area. The facility will feature a 5,600-square-feet open floor plan, the first library drive-thru window for both drop-off and pick-up in Lake County, space for computers, flexible seating for readers and laptop users, a study room, and a 280-square-foot conference room.
    Additionally, the plans include a community services room to help residents to meet with Housing and Human Services, Veterans Services, and other non-profit resources.
&n  More...

County Agrees To Purchase YMCA Property

    First was the North Lake Regional Park, built in 2005 outside Umatilla.  In the years that followed, other large parks have been built around the county, and as of Tuesday, the Golden Triangle is set to receive its dose of high-end county recreation.
    The Lake County Commission on Tuesday voted to move ahead with plans to purchase the site of the Lake County YMCA, located at 1465 David Walker Road in Tavares, at a cost estimated at $4.8 million.  The move fulfills the county's desire to create a regional park in the area, dating back t  More...

Umatilla Home Damaged By Fire

    An early morning fire damaged a Umatilla home on Saturday, when a fire in a Sunshine Avenue home’s fireplace escaped. Multiple units from Lake County responded to 41420 Sunshine Avenue around 7 a.m. on Saturday and were able to extinguish the fire, but not before it spread to at least two rooms of the home and damaged a portion of the home’s rafters.
    No injuries were reported from the fire.
    Temperatures were in the upper 30’s early Saturday, and homeowner Tim Coleman reported he had started the fire  More...

COVID In Lake: Hospitalizations Rise, Cases Fall

    The winter season had brought an uptick in COVID cases in Lake County, but the most recent data available from the Center for Disease Control indicated that last week, at least, cases have declined here.
    CDC data indicates that during the week that ended January 4, Lake County reported 322 COVID cases, down just over 15% from the week prior.  Exact death tolls were not available, with the CDC only showing ‘less than ten’ as a data point.
    However, data indicates that while Lake County's positivity rate  More...

Apartment Complex Under Consideration In Umatilla

    The largest apartment complex proposed in Umatilla in over a decade is slated to come before the Umatilla City Council on January 17, the first in what could be several hearings that if approved would lead to the largest multi-family construction in the town in a generation.  The proposal, for a site located at the northwest corner of CR 450NE (Collins Street) and Fletcher Road, near the Umatilla Health Department, looks to develop just under 10 acres of land for the purpose of building an apartment complex.
    If approved, the site would be  More...

Bear Comes Calling Near Downtown

    An interesting visitor welcomed residents coming home Monday evening in a section of downtown Umatilla.  A black bear was reported in the area of Cassady Street and Orange Avenue around 5:30 p.m., making its way south through the eastern section of town.
    “I was getting groceries out of my car,” said North Orange Avenue resident Rosie Short, “A man stopped to tell me a bear was coming this way.”
    Sure enough, a few minutes later the bruin made its way past Short's home.

At Last: River Falls Below Flood Stage

    For the first time since Hurricane Ian blew through the area in late September, the St. Johns River in Astor has receded below flood stage.  According to data supplied by the US Geological Survey via a monitoring station in Astor, the river receded below flood stage on December 29, around 7 p.m.
    Anything above two feet is considered ‘actionable’ by the USGS, with flooding considered ‘minor’ when rising above 2.3 feet.
    The river has been in steady decline for many weeks, and by Tuesday aft  More...

Christmas Freeze Worst Since 1989

    Temperatures dipped into the low 20s on Christmas morning, marking the coldest holiday since the Christmas freeze of 1989.  Unlike that year, when a hard freeze brought temperatures into the teens and decimated the area’s citrus industry, early reports on the impact of the Christmas freeze of 2022 indicate less damage to what’s left of the area’s citrus industry, and mostly spared strawberry and other winter crops.
    The Christmas freeze was bookended by two other freezing mornings.  On Saturday, Christmas Eve, pockets  More...

Umatilla Rolls To 9-0 On Season

    Umatilla High School is in the midst of enjoying its strongest start to a season in a generation or more, and this past week capped off its early season perfection by winning its own holiday tournament.  Umatilla dispatched Mount Dora on Thursday night by a score of 60-48 to win the Lake County Tournament of Champions and push its record to 9-0 heading into a Christmas break.
    “The kids play hard for us,” said Umatilla coach Pat Todd after Thursday’s win.  “We compete, but we have a long way to go.”

North Lake Bracing For Christmas Freeze

    North Lake County residents spent the early part of this week prepping for frigid temperatures that are expected to dip below freezing for up to three nights in a row. With lows potentially dropping into the mid 20's in some areas, and daily highs Friday through Sunday not expected out of the 40's as of press deadline Tuesday, this year is expected to be the coldest Christmas in well over a decade.
    While residents considered the need to cover pumps and fragile outdoor plants, the area’s governments and agricultural interests were busy tak  More...

First Look Inside First Baptist Umatilla Expansion

    The congregation of the First Baptist Church of Umatilla on Sunday was able to take a first walk-through of the church’s latest expansion.  The first phase of a $14.5 million expansion, a building that will house a 1,278 seat sanctuary, classroom space, baptismal, and ancillary facilities is taking shape, with the expectation that the building could be occupied by the middle of 2023.
    The project, which will immediately be followed by a renovation of the church’s events center to add a second floor and additional classroom space  More...

Cerney Leaves UHS Head Football Post

    The Umatilla High School football program will have a new leader, after Umatilla High School announced the resignation of Charlie Cerney.  Cerney, who led Umatilla to a 5-5 record this past season after taking the Bulldogs to the state playoffs in 2021, leaves Umatilla with a 14 win, 25 loss record over four years while resurrecting a beleaguered Umatilla football program.
    “I’m proud of the work me and my staff did,” Cerney said on Friday, while commenting on the school’s official announcement.  “I can st  More...

Umatilla Garbage Collection Switching To Thursday

    Garbage customers in the City of Umatilla will soon see their collection day shift from Tuesday to Thursday.  The move is part of a larger amendment made to the contract between the city and its hauler, GFL Environmental, that will also see a hike in charges to the city.
    An amended contract was approved during a meeting of the Umatilla City Council on Tuesday, December 6. 
    The city had previously agreed to an increase charged by GFL, brought about due to increased fuel, labor, and other charges being experi  More...

Umatilla Undefeated As Holiday Tournament Nears

    The Umatilla High School boys varsity basketball team's season-opening hot streak continued Friday night, when the Bulldogs dispatched the visiting Lake Weir Hurricanes by a score of 70-45.  After a tight first quarter that saw Umatilla leading by just two points, 11-9, the Bulldogs broke open the game with a 23-point second quarter, leading 34-16 at the break.
    Lake Weir turned the tables on Umatilla in the third quarter, outscoring Umatilla by 23-9, but the Bulldogs outscored the visitors 27-6 in the fourth quarter, pulling away to a comfo  More...

Unique Gift Idea: Lightered Wood!

Fat Lighter
    Long before the packaged FireStarter logs came about, everyone relied on the real deal. A natural product of growth and time, fat lighter. You might know it by a few other names such as lighter(ed) knot, pitch pine, fat pine or heart pine. Humans couldn’t remake something this awesome if they tried. It makes starting a fire a breeze, even in a breeze. And most people have a stash that they rely on for their fire starting material.
    This valuable product is created when the sap is high in the pine tree and the tree either  More...

Local Youth Sports League Investigating Missing Funds

    “The money was gone.”
    Umatilla Babe Ruth board volunteer Nick Guerrina on Monday was succinct  in describing how the league in recent weeks has become aware of money being taken out of its bank account in what is believed to be in an inappropriate manner. 
    Guerrina, who was installed as the organization’s president on Monday night as the league attempts to unwind what is believed to be a months-long pilfering of its bank account, said the organization’s board of directors only became  More...

The Future Of Fresh Is Here

    Lake County’s agricultural history is rooted in the citrus industry, but today’s farmers are bringing to market a growing variety of produce that is giving area residents fresher options and greater assurance of where their food is coming from.
    In recent years, seasonal u-pick operations have brought selected items, like blueberries and peaches, to the forefront, but those crops have a more limited scope.  Now, farmers are bringing to market a growing list of everyday produce items, raising hopes that local agriculture is enter  More...

Cracker Christmas Parade Arrives Saturday

    The biggest day of the year in Umatilla arrives on Saturday, December 10, when the annual Cracker Christmas Celebration returns to downtown.  Featuring a parade on SR 19 through downtown and an all-day arts and crafts show in Cadwell Park, the event, now in its 47th year, serves as Umatilla’s largest celebration of the holiday.
    The fun begins at 9 a.m., when the annual Dog Jog takes to the northbound lanes of SR 19. The public is invited to bring their vaccinated pooch and join the fun, as decorated walkers are welcome for the four-l  More...

River Flooding At Lowest Level Since Before Ian

    Tuesday brought a landmark moment to the Astor community.  US Geological Survey data indicated that on Tuesday the St. Johns River receded out of 'major' flood stage, the first time the river had done so since Hurricane Ian arrived in late September. 
    On Tuesday, the river was at three feet, continuing a steady decline that began shortly after Tropical Storm Nicole passed through the area a few weeks ago.  Three feet above flood stage is considered the high-end of ‘moderate’ flooding, with ‘minor’ flooding  More...

Umatilla Hopes Completion Of New Wastewater System Is Near

    With a series of delays hopefully in the rearview mirror, the City of Umatilla hopes that the new year will bring a conclusion to its wastewater connection project with the City of Eustis.  Supply chain issues, weather, and manpower issues have left the multi-million dollar project months behind schedule with officials now eyeing a February 2023 completion date.
    “The project should be completed in February of 2023 and put into service in March of 2023,” said Umatilla’s director of development and public services Aaron Mer  More...

You Could Grow More Than You Think!

    Growing things in the garden can be beneficial to your health in more ways than one. Not only is the exercise and fresh air helpful, but the food you produce can be very nutritious and delicious.
    We got to observe two examples of this Thanksgiving. One such example was in Umatilla where local gardener Eli Reed grew Seminole pumpkins in his yard and then turned them into pumpkin pies for his family's holiday dinner. Beautiful pies full of locally sourced goodness and nutrition.
    Another example was at our friend Sue's ho  More...

Light Up Eustis Kicks Off Christmas Season Friday

    This year’s 35th Annual Light-Up Eustis will be held in Ferran Park on Friday, November 25, from 5 - 9:00 p.m. A ceremonial tree lighting will be at 6 p.m., followed immediately by the arrival of Santa. Porter’s Cameras Cards & Gifts will again be providing free photos with Santa during the event.
    This year’s event will feature community favorites like the snow slide and there will also be a simulated snowfall in the park.  The magic of the holiday season will come alive as guests enjoy 10-minutes of snowfall every ho  More...

Spring Creek To Name Gym After The Late Jerry Hatfield

    Spring Creek Charter School has announced it will honor the recently deceased Jerry Hatfield.  Hatfield, who was the school’s founding principal, will have the school’s future gymnasium named for him.
    Current Spring Creek Principal Wesley Locke announced the move in a public letter this week, which proclaimed the building will be named the Jerry Hatfield Community Athletic Center.
    Hatfield passed away on November 11.
    Locke’s letter announcing the naming of the buildin  More...

Congregation Celebrates Restoration Of Historic Chapel

    The congregation of Umatilla’s Calvary Chapel of the Lakes gathered Sunday for a special service marking the reopening of its historic chapel.  The building, located at the corner of Guerrant Street and Kentucky Avenue in Umatilla, has been refurbished in recent months to make it suitable for church and public use.
    The building is part of the property that originally served as the grounds of the First United Methodist Church of Umatilla.  Several years ago, Calvary Chapel of the Lakes took over the property, which includes a new  More...

Lake County To Offer Rebate To North Lake Garbage Customers

    Customers of Lake County’s garbage system living in north and northeast Lake County will soon receive a refund for the equivalent of one month’s cost of service.  The Lake County Commission on Tuesday approved the refund after a recent transition of haulers in the area resulted in service disruptions.
    Residents in the Umatilla, Tavares, Sorrento, Pine Lakes, Paisley, Mount Plymouth, Mount Dora, Altoona, Astor, Eustis, and surrounding areas will receive a check from the county in the amount of $16.83, part of a $405,000 fund all  More...

Nicole Briefly Pushes River Back To Near Record Flooding

    Hurricane Nicole won’t go down in history as Lake County’s most damaging storm, but its path remnants brought the one thing the Astor community didn’t need:  More rain and northerly winds.  
    The St. Johns River in Astor swelled into major flooding status last week, as Nicole’s wet impact arrived. US Geological Survey tracking indicated that as early last Tuesday, the river began to rise in Astor, due in large part to a northerly wind that was pushing water south from Lake George, and also slowing the river&rsquo  More...

North Lake Trail Input Sought At Upcoming Gathering

    Lake County has announced a public meeting to solicit input on the planned North Lake Trail.  Officials will be on hand on December 8 in Umatilla, where the public will be able to hear about the ongoing plans for Phase 3 of the trail, slated to run from Umatilla to Astor.
    The purpose of the PD&E Study is to evaluate the potential impacts of the trail alignments proposed in the Corridor Planning Study (2019), resulting in a preferred trail alignment. The study will consider engineering analysis, environmental review, and public input as  More...

Victim Identified In Tuesday Umatilla Murder

    Lake County Sheriff’s Office detectives were looking for a suspect Tuesday afternoon, after a man succumbed to injures suffered in a Tuesday afternoon shooting at 38946 Merrell Avenue in Southside Umatilla.  The victim, identified on Wednesday as 31-year-old Antwain Jamar Hart, died while in transport to the hospital after the incident. A white Jeep Cherokee stolen from the scene on Tuesday was later recovered in Eustis.
    “Lake County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area... just after 3:25 p.m. this afternoon regarding  More...

New JROTC Marksmanship Range Dedicated To Ludecke

    Saturday saw the Umatilla High School JROTC program dedicate a new shooting range to program founder Carl Ludecke.  Ludecke, who conceived the program and ushered its foundation through the many Army and Lake County Schools required hurdles, saw the new range building dedicated to him during ceremonies hosted on Saturday.  The building, located next to the JROTC’s  home on Smith Street, was donated by Lake County Schools and will serve as the home of the program’s new marksmanship element.  Above, Ludecke is pictured at center with program  More...

Downtown Eustis The Place To Be For Veterans Celebration

    Veterans Day will be marked throughout the area this week.  The official day arrives on Friday, November 11, and the public will have the chance to show its appreciation to veterans at events both on Friday and over the weekend.
    The largest event on the local calendar is the City of Eustis' Salute To Veterans festival on Saturday, November 12.  Running from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. in downtown Eustis, the special day will include a parade, a special honor ceremony, food and vendors, a historic military vehicle display, live entertainmen  More...

Florida's Natural To Invest Millions In Umatilla Operations

    “We have made a ‘pivot’ to reinvest in the Umatilla facility with a $30 million expansion.”
    Florida’s Natural CEO Bob Behr last week announced that Florida’s Natural has moved beyond simply confirming it will maintain its Umatilla Packaging operations.  Behr, speaking at the annual meeting of the Umatilla Citrus Growers Association last Monday, said the project, which will include the installation of a new packing line in 2023.
    The announcement comes after a year of questions su  More...

Umatilla High School Homecoming Arrives: Schedule:

    Homecoming arrives at Umatilla High School this week, with a series of traditional activities filling the schedule, with a twist.
    The traditional Homecoming Parade will be held on Thursday as in years past, but the 2022 edition of the festive event has moved off of SR 19 due to ongoing construction.  Instead, this year's parade will be held one block east, and run north on Trowell Avenue from Lakeside Avenue to the high school.  The parade will roll off at its traditional 5:30 p.m. time, with the public invited to sit along Trowell Av  More...

Seasonal Events Fill Up Local Calendar This Week

    A long weekend of Halloween and/or fall activities is coming to North Lake County, with special events dotting the calendar through the weekend and into Monday evening, when Halloween officially arrives. Locals of all ages are invited to come and experience costume contests, entertainment, and much more.
    Here’s a rundown:
    Saturday, October 29:  Fall Festival at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Eustis, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.  Celebrating the congregation’s 140th anniversary, the event will include a scarecr  More...

City In Hot Pursuit Of Stolen Generator

    A generator stolen from the City of Umatilla during Hurricane Ian’s pass over Florida has left the city’s police department itching for an arrest, and department officials this week updated the investigation that in the past week has included interviews with individuals who may know about the incident.
    “This one really bothers me,” said Umatilla Police Chief Adam Bolton this week.  “I take it as a personal offense.”
    The city had placed the 3500-watt generator at the intersecti  More...

Fresh From The Farm: Watching For Weeds

    Your mind is a garden.  You can grow weeds or you can grow seeds.  I remember my mom saying something to that effect recently.  Oh, how true it is.  Watching for weeds in our minds is a lot like watching for weeds in the garden.
    A friend was recently visiting my garden and as we walked around and talked I would reach down and pull any weeds that I saw popping up.  He remarked on how I really hated weeds.  Well, it's not so much that I hate them, it's just that it's easiest to get them while they ar  More...

Flooding Remains As River Starts To Recede, Very Slowly

    As the St. Johns River in Astor continues its frustratingly slow retreat from record flood levels, recovery agencies have formalized a presence in town to support those impacted by the flood waters brought by Hurricane Ian.
    In coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Lake County government opened a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) last Friday at the First Baptist Church of Astor, located at 24731 Ann St. in Astor. The Disaster Recovery Center will provide disaster surviv  More...

Historic Downtown Building To Get New Look

    Umatilla’s most prominent downtown building is going to get a new look.  The historic three-story structure located at 9 North Central Avenue is set to undergo a facade upgrade that will include a change from a dark red color to a neutral, light greay look.
    The project is being partially funded by the City of Umatilla Community Redevelopment District grant program.  On Tuesday night, the Umatilla City Council, meeting as the town CRA board, approved a $10,000 request submitted by building owner Jonathan Jennings via Umatilla Col  More...

Senate President In Town For Annual Farm Bureau Event

    An estimated 350 supporters of Lake County agriculture gathered in Eustis on Monday night, when the Farm Bureau of Lake County hosted its annual fall meeting.  Local and state-level members of Farm Bureau were joined by members of the public and area 4H and FFA members at the Lake County Fairgrounds to celebrate agriculture and raise awareness of the importance of agriculture.
    Florida State Senate President Wilton Simpson, who is currently campaigning to become the state’s next commissioner of agriculture, served as the event’s  More...

County Agriculture Dodges Hurricane Bullet

    “We got lucky.”
    Kris Sutton of Umatilla's Faryna Grove Care and Harvesting joined Lake County's broader agricultural interests in breathing a sigh of relief that the worst of Hurricane Ian's impact on the state's farming industry was confined to areas south.  Sutton, speaking on the potential damage to county citrus this week, said the local area's damage was nonexistent compared to southern counties that saw a large percentages of the coming year's citrus crop blown off trees.
    "I've heard down s  More...

Locals Organize Support For Southwest Florida

    Several local residents have partnered to deliver support to those impacted by Hurricane Ian.  Altoona resident John Parrish III, his son Logan Lambert have returned from the Northport and Arcadia areas, where they cooked 700 meals for hurricane victims, donated supplies including 200 rolls of toilet paper, 100 bags of rice, 100 bags of beans, 100 gallons of fuel, a case of batteries, bug spray, feminine hygiene products, diapers, tarps, cases of water, 60 loaves of bread, 200 candles, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food kits, five tents, seven cots, and more.  More...

River Could Start To Recede This Weekend

    Two weeks after Hurricane Ian rolled across Central Florida, Astor is still reeling from massive amounts of water brought to the area by the storm.  After having peaked at 4.72 feet above flood stage, a new recorded record, in the days following the storm, the St. Johns River in Astor has remained frustratingly high.
    On Tuesday, the river was at 4.5 feet, well above the 4.0-foot level that the US Geological Survey defines as 'major'.  The river was expected to stay in the 4.4 into the weekend, when it could dip to 4.3 feet above flood  More...

Astor Disaster: Record Flooding From Ian

    Hurricane Ian passed east of Lake County overnight last Wednesday and into Thursday, largely sparing area residents the worst of the storm's wrath.  While power outages lasted for a day or two and were reported throughout areas of North Lake, the worst of the storm's damage descended on Astor, where the riverfront community is experiencing record flooding in the storm's aftermath.
    "This is the worst I have ever seen it," said James Powell, a life-long resident of the community, current president of the Astor Area Chamber of Comme  More...

Astor Utility Holds Up Under Flooding Pressure

    The flood event currently underway in Astor is unprecedented, at least in the time of recorded history.  The St. Johns River has reached record flood levels since Hurricane Ian passed through late last week, leaving many hopes, and their utility services underwater. But if there is a bright spot in the middle of the otherwise dire circumstances, it can be found in the fact that the area’s utility system has stood up to the generational test.
    St. Johns River Utility provides water and wastewater services to the vast majority of residen  More...

Bees An Important Part Of Your Garden

    “The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use. But the bee...gathers its materials from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.”- Leonardo da Vinci
    There are so many gardening proverbs and maxims about bees. For centuries they have been revered by gardeners and for good reason. Did you know there are over 320 different types of bees that live in Florida and over 4,000 in the whole United States? We didn’t.
    There are so many  More...

Hurricane Prep Updates From Local Providers

    Lake County spent the early days prepping for the possible impact of Hurricane Ian.  Official agencies, utility providers, and citizens all took measures in advance of the potential arrival of the storm during the second half of the week.
    At press deadline Tuesday, the storm was expected to impact the area starting Wednesday and could remain in the area until some time later in the week.
    “The latest track for Hurricane Ian shows the storm traveling directly over SECO Energy's Central Florida service area,&  More...

SR 19 Rehab Project Enters Next Phase

    The SR 19 rehabilitation project running through downtown Umatilla entered a new phase in the past week, as contractors with the Florida Department of Transportation began the process of milling sections of the highway.
    The FDOT is reworking just over 1 mile of SR 19 from Golden Gem Drive in the south to Palmetto Street in the north, with new pavement, new curbing, and improvements at the Bulldog Lane intersection among highlights of the $3 million project.
    Work began several months ago on the project, with undergrou  More...

Time To Plant For Fall, Unique Ideas For You?

    We have heard about a lot of people getting those fall gardens in the ground this week. The end of September is a good planting time in Florida. Turn the soil, plant shallow, water, and add mulch once the sprouts come up. It really doesn't matter what you plant. Gardening is just fun to try.
    Andy Palmer is having fun growing some peppers and tomatoes from seeds. He said that he has just been saving the seeds from peppers he has bought and dried them out. He said that the sprouting number has been very good. Tomatoes, too, are doing well. Sounds  More...

St. Johns River At Flood Stage In Astor

    Steady, and sometimes heavy, rains throughout Central Florida in the past week have raised the St. Johns River in Astor into flood stage.  The US Geological Survey’s data complied at the SR 40 bridge indicate the river rose into flood stage last week, and peaked on Monday at 2.52 feet above flood stage.
    The river gathers rainfall from tributaries throughout Central Florida, water which flows north before eventually entering the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville.  Astor’s unique geography, lying south of Lake George in an area  More...

SR 19 Paving Paving Projects Could Push Parades To Side Street

    The City of Umatilla, after meeting with officials with Umatilla High School, has announced a provisional route for this fall’s Umatilla High School Homecoming Parade. The parade, slated for November 3 this year, might have to be moved if a SR 19 repaving project isn’t complete by the time the parade arrives.
    The Florida Department of Transportation is currently undertaking improvements to SR 19 through downtown Umatilla, a project that is including new pavement in addition to roadside curb improvements.  City officials have sa  More...

Lake County Fair Announces Queens

    Four young ladies were selected on Saturday to serve as ambassadors for next year's Lake County Fair.  The annual fair queen pageant, held this year at the First Baptist Church of Umatilla, featured a variety of opportunities for judges to work with entrants, including interviews, stage presence, and question-and-answer sessions.
    In the end, Umatilla High School student Michaela Melchiorre was selected as Lake County Fair Queen, and will spend much of the coming year helping promote the 2023 Lake County Fair.  Emily Show, Chloie Sebre  More...

School Supporters Push Back Against Group Trying To Stop Firearm Fundraising

    An ongoing effort to prevent gun raffles from raising funds for Lake County School students is gaining little traction, as the Lake County School Board continues to distance itself from any direct connection with the activity and, at least in Umatilla, those conducting the raffles showing little interest in discontinuing the practice.
    In Lake County, gun raffles have been shown to be a highly profitable way to raise money for community support groups.  Locally, the Umatilla Kiwanis Club, Umatilla Chamber of Commerce, Project Graduation, an  More...

Commercial Development Taking Off In Area

    Following on the heels of increased residential development in North Lake County in recent years, an uptick in commercial development can now be seen in the local landscape.  In both Umatilla and Eustis, commercial expansion is just the latest indicator of the area's growth.
    In Umatilla, a Pizza Hut that has been in service for several decades on SR 19 was razed in the past week.  That property will make way for a new joint-use dining structure that will house a smaller Pizza Hut and a new KFC restaurant.  The site is being total  More...

FWC: As Fall Nears, Bears More Active In Area

    With autumn approaching, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds residents and visitors that the state's black bears are more active in their search for food. You can help prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife by securing garbage, removing food attractants, and following other BearWise® practices.
    During the fall, bears start consuming more calories to pack on fat reserves for the winter, even if they are not hibernating as they do in colder climates. Any accessible food source, such as unse  More...

Community Riled Over Jet Circling Umatilla Airport

    A jet at the Umatilla Municipal Airport? Yes, and no.
    Umatilla's social media outlets were astir last Wednesday, August 31, when a small jet was seen making multiple approaches at the Umatilla airport.  The plane, which never landed or got below several hundred feet of altitude, undertook several flyovers of the airport.
    The incident raised public concern that the newly lengthened airport, now at 2,800 feet in length, could support the takeoff and landing of certain small jets.  While that may or may not be  More...

Motorcylce Smashes Into Power Pole After 'Wheelies'

    A Eustis man was transported from the scene of a serious crash on SR 19 in Umatilla that occurred on Wednesday, August 31.  Nathan Alviles, 20, suffered incapacitating injuries after a motorcycle he was riding struck a concrete power pole near the intersection of SR 19 and Turtle Run south of downtown.
    Umatilla Police indicated that Alviles and another man on a second motorcycle were traveling southbound on SR 19 at a high rate of speed just before 4 p.m. Alviles apparently lost control of the 2001 Suzuki GSXR100 he was riding before leavi  More...

Time Is Now To Get Prepared

By Annette Codding
How Prepared are You?
    Every year around this time people start talking about being prepared for hurricane season. Gas, food, water, and a reliable generator are all on the list of things we need to get through. Storm season comes and goes and many times we never needed the things we gathered. But then there are other times when we are either thankful that we had the foresight to prepare…or wish we had. Let's do some things now so that the bumps in the road are a little easier to deal with later.
    Most people  More...

City Honors Spruce Creek Flyers At Umatilla Airport

    The skies around Umatilla were buzzing Saturday morning, when dozens of flights took to the air during a special day at the Umatilla Municipal Airport.  The Experimental Aircraft Association welcomed an estimated 100 children for flights as part of its Young Eagles ‘get young people interested in aviation’ program, and pilots from the Spruce Creek fly-in community brought 15 planes over in that community’s largest ‘visit Umatilla’ day yet.
    The event brought a large crowd of participants, their parents, and gen  More...

County Approves License Plate Reading Cameras

    The Lake County Commission has approved a proposal forwarded by Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell that will see 108 automated license plate reader cameras placed around Lake County.  The cameras will read license plates from vehicles traveling through intersections throughout the county, and transmit them to a database, with the results showing if vehicles that are being searched for by local, state, or federal authorities are traveling through the county.
    The approval came during last week's meeting of the county commission, with only m  More...

Man Enters Burning Home To Save Pet

    A quick-acting passerby is being credited for saving a dog, and potentially a neighbor, when a fire broke out at a Umatilla duplex last Thursday afternoon.  The fire, reported on August 18 around 3:15 p.m., damaged the duplex, which is located near the Lakeview Street and Lakeshore Avenue intersection.
    Units from Umatilla, Eustis, and Lake County responded to the scene, where a fire was raging in an attic area. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire within 20-30 minutes, and no injuries were reported.
    The  More...

Community Cheers: Florida's Natural To Remain In Umatilla

    Officials with Florida’s Natural this week announced that the firm, which had previously announced plans to sell its Umatilla plant and eventually cease operations here, has instead changed course and plans to remain in the community long term.
    “We are excited to announce that we will keep the Umatilla facility in order to support our long-term strategy,” said Nikki Hayde, Senior Marketing Manager for Florida’s Natural Growers, “Our Board of Directors approved our recommendation.”

County Elections Results

    Lake County voters wrapped up primary voting on Tuesday, with registered voters taking to the polls to select party representatives for November, and to attempt to settle non-partisan races.  Lake County Supervisor of Elections D. Alan Hays reported  66,271 votes were cast, with a turnout of registered voters at  24.38%.
    Many elections on the ballot Tuesday covered multiple counties or were even statewide.
    On Tuesday night with all 91 precincts reporting around 9:30 p.m., the following results were avail  More...

School System Sees Population Surge On First Day

The first day of public school in Lake County saw nearly 3,000 more students in attendance than the first day last year, yet another sign of growth coming to Lake County.

      Lake County Schools data from Wednesday, August 10, showed 43,770 students attending school, up from 40,932 the first day a year ago.  The gains were near across the board, with only alternative programs Lake County Virtual School 7004 seeing a decline of 328 students, near half its enrollment from the first day of last year, and Lake County Virtual Franchise 7001 having two fewer stu  More...

Celebrating 101 Years: Getchell Honored At Kiwanis Club

         Longtime Umatilla-area resident Priscilla Getchell was the guest of honor on Monday when the Umatilla Kiwanis Club gathered for its weekly meeting. Getchell, a fixture in the community since she and her husband Ralph moved to the Pittman area in the early 1960’s, celebrated her 101st birthday on August 9.  The mother to nine sons, a Navy WAVE during World War II, and a longtime staff member at Umatilla High School, Getchell was celebrated for her many accomplishments.
         &ldquo  More...

Eclectic Market Set To Mark First Anniversary With Celebration

    It started this time last year as a small produce stand that offered ceramic and products from a few local artisans.  Today, the Dona Vista Market has bloomed to feature nearly 75 local farmers, artists, and artisans in a combined co-op market.  The market's first anniversary will be celebrated this Saturday, August 20, beginning at 6 p.m. with a ribbon cutting that will give way to an evening of celebration.
    And everyone is invited.
    “How better to celebrate but by throwing a big party?” said ma  More...

Sheriff Looking To Expand License Tag Reader Program

    License plate reading equipment could soon be expanded on Lake County road right-of-ways, after a majority of the Lake County Commission on Tuesday voiced consensus approval to a program presented by Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell.  
    Grinnell was in front of the commission seeking to gauge sentiment toward an expanded surveillance system that would link cameras on major roadways with law enforcement databases to locate license plates, and by association people, that have been put in those databases. Tuesday's presentation comes after the c  More...

Short Film Finds Production Home In Umatilla

    Filmmakers are in Umatilla this week working on a short film that is expected to be a part of the upcoming Orlando Independent Filmmakers JOLT challenge.
    ‘The Persistence of Time’ is expected to be a nine-minute piece about a pair of time-traveling detectives who are sent to investigate a cold case murder in 1956. 
    Among the sets of the film is Umatilla’s Fox Den Country Inn, and crews were in town early this week shooting scenes at the historic downtown motel.
    The i  More...

Worth A Short Drive To Visit Navy Aviation Museum

By Asa Newby
    If you were a reader of my column back in the day—or maybe just back in the spring of 2021—you may remember an article where I discussed the "Valiant Air Command," a vintage warplane museum in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida. That article covered many attributes of the museum, but our visit was rushed by the lateness of the day, and we were given just forty-five minutes to literally jog around the property in order to glimpse the highlights of the collection. This left us unsatisfied, and we resolved  More...

Young Umatilla Permaculturist Showing The Way

    Imagine going out your home's door to pick a fresh bag of fruit and vegetables to eat daily. Now imagine those items are packed with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and natural immune system boosting elements that no store offers. Sound pretty good?
    We visited such a garden in a most unexpected place this week. Nestled 1,000 yards or less from the shores of Lake Umatilla, in a shady oak hammock, we stepped into a lush food forest brimming with tropical and sub-tropical plants. This is no everyday garden, in fact, upon first glance, it looked mor  More...

Officials Decry Continued Destruction In Forest

    Regular visitors to the Ocala National Forest know it is not uncommon to see areas that have been vandalized or otherwise negatively impacted by other users.  A decades-old problem, the issue has only grown more severe as the forest becomes more and more popular as more people move to Florida and discover the unique outdoor opportunities of the Big Scrub.
    This week, it was reported that a vehicle was vandalized while parked near Blue Sink, a once popular recreation area in the forest.  Blue sink is technically closed to use, but like  More...

Umatilla/Eustis Wastewater Connection Nears Completion

    Umatilla and Eustis’ new wastewater connection is nearing completion, with officials with the City of Umatilla this week voicing hope that the new system could be up and running in October.
    For several months, contractors have been working to construct a wastewater line from Umatilla's wastewater plant on Golden Gem Drive south on SR 19 to Eustis and east on CR 44, where it will connect with a Eustis wastewater facility.  The estimated $7 million project will allow the city to mostly abandon its current wastewater operations and inst  More...

New Leadership Takes The Helm At Altoona School

    The Altoona School charter elementary will see some familiar faces in new places this fall.  Longtime staff member and former assistant principal Dawn Cerney has been elevated by the school’s charter board to the position of principal, and staff members Nikki Tabb (Assistant Principal) and Jennie Donohue (Instructional Coach) have been elevated to new positions.
    “We want to work as a unit,” Cerney said during a recent interview.  She says the trio, who will share an office in the school’s historic main building, wi  More...

Sales Tax Holiday Is On! What Is Eligible?

    The State of Florida's annual Back To School Sales Tax Holiday is underway, with a variety of school-related items available for purchase tax-free through August 7.  The annual holiday is authorized through state legislative action each year, and has become a fixture on the calendar during the last decade.
    Here is a breakdown of the holiday, via answers to some frequently asked questions about the holiday.  Information courtesy of the Florida Department of Revenue:
 2022 Florida Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday
F  More...

K-9 Takes Down Man Fleeing From Stolen Vehicle Chase

    An Altoona man is facing a variety of charges this week in connection with the theft of a vehicle, a subsequent chase, and eventual apprehension by a Lake County Sheriff’s Office K-9 animal. 
    Dennis Imhoff, 36, was charged with grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, and resisting without violence after deputies made contact with him at his Lake King Road home on Tuesday, July 19.
    Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies came to 18736 Lake King Road on that date during the mid-morning hours to  More...

American Pride Month In Lake: Flag Retirement Ceremony

    Lake County is wrapping up its first Pride in America Month, and on Tuesday morning hosted a special flag retirement ceremony.  The event was held in front of the historic Lake County Courthouse and featured a short ceremony before dozens, if not hundreds of flags, were retired by burning.
    "We are the only county we know of," said Lake County Chairperson Sean Parks during remarks that noted Lake County's unique place in providing a month-long celebration of the nation.  "One day just isn't enough," Parks said, refe  More...

Old Ways New Again - Homestead Gardening Gaining In Popularity

    What is a Homesteader? In the old days, it meant someone striking out into the wilderness to carve out a new place to live. And while the wilderness has mostly been settled in 2022, the idea of homesteading is alive and well. In fact, homesteading has a new incarnation that is simply said “a renewed interest in being self-sufficient.” Modern homesteaders are trying to grow, restore, harvest, gather and become more self-reliant. This rebirth of desire for self-sufficiency and learning the arts of agriculture and hands-on crafts is a lovely tip of the hat to the  More...

Royal Trails Man Arrested With Bomb Making Material

    A search warrant of a Royal Trails home found booby traps, incendiary devices, and a large stash of bomb-making materials that reportedly were being gathered for an eventual, large-scale explosive event.
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the home of Markus Fricke at 30927 Tulip Avenue, in the East Lake County area of Eustis on July 15 after a resident there fled the home when they became concerned about what was being assembled and statements by Fricke that he was planning to commit suicide by blowing himself up in the ho  More...

Area Congregations Among First To Seek Exodus From Methodist Church

    A years-in-the-making split of the United Methodist Church, delayed in recent years due to COVID and other factors, has officially begun.  In Florida, churches tired of waiting for a broader settlement to leave the church for the new, Global Methodist Church, have filed suit seeking separation.
    One hundred and six United Methodist churches filed suit in Bradford County last Friday against the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The lead plaintiff is Grace United Methodist Church in Lawtey, Florida, founded in 18  More...

School Grades Released - In Depth Coverage

    Area School Grades - 2022
Eustis Elementary:  C
Sorrento Elementary:  C
Eustis Heights Elementary:  C
Seminole Springs Elementary:  B
Round Lake Elementary:  A
Mount Dora High:  B
Tavares High:  I
Tavares Middle:  C
Umatilla High:  B
Mount Dora Middle:  C
Triangle Elementary:  D
Tavares Elementary:  C
Umatilla Elementary:  B
Umatilla Middle:  C
Spring Creek Charter:  C
Eus  More...

Christmas In July - Baking When You Are Less Busy

    Baking Christmas cookies in December is time-consuming when moms and grandmas have many extra tasks pulling at their time. We often reach New Year's longing to have spent more time in the kitchen baking, instead of time in stores shopping. We know time management is part of the issue, but sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day.
    Fast forward to July, when the hot sticky hours drag on endlessly because the springs are full, the yard is hot, and friends are away on vacation. Now is the easy time to turn frowns upside down, by schedulin  More...

Free Lunches Return In County Schools

    Lake County Schools no longer qualifies districtwide for the program that has allowed all Lake students to eat free breakfasts and lunches at schools since the 2018-19 school year, but the district will use other food service funds to cover the costs for all students to continue to eat free for at least another year.
     The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a key provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that allows the nation's highest poverty districts and schools to serve all students free meals without the burden of co  More...

Some Areas See Over Five Inches During Wet Weekend

    There was very little need to worry about unintended fires starting from Independence Day fireworks this year.
    Another weekend of dousing rainfall in north Lake County was a welcome sight for anyone worried that a stray spark from the ever-growing number of private firework shows would start a wildfire.  A wet start to the 2022 rainy season has left the area with soil moisture levels rarely seen in early July.
    This weekend’s rains were devoid of the lightning, wind, and power outages that descended on the a  More...



Lake County sheriff’s undercover narcotics detectives, in collaboration with multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies, recently wrapped up a four-month investigation that targeted high-level traffickers of dangerous drugs operating throughout Lake County. The investigation began in February as part of an ongoing, aggressive stance to combat those who are responsible for dealing this poison in Lake County and the results of this operatio  More...

Independence Day Holiday Schedule: Boat And Street Parades, Fireworks

    A new tradition in Astor is expected to see explosive growth this year, as organizers are expecting the second edition of the community’s Independence Day lighted boat parade to more than double in size.  To be held this coming Saturday, July 2, on the St. Johns River, the event is free to join,  isn’t judged, and is just a chance to celebrate the holiday in a uniquely River Country way.
    “It’s just something I thought would be fun,” said Patti Small, who conceived the event that started last year with 19  More...

Bridges Through History On Local Rails

By Asa Newby
        It is perhaps fitting that my reappearance on these pages would feature trains or railroads in some form; it's nice to know I haven't changed! There are still adventures to be had, though, so I'm still here to share them.
        On a quiet avenue next to Lake Eustis, the rusty pair of rails that run along the shore recently served as entertainment for us boys in a moment of distraction. Walking along the wooden ties and smelling the sticky creosote, we came upon a very rare sight indeed; a  More...

Old Picture Leads To Time Capsule Find

    What once was lost, has now been found.
    Members of the Calvary Chapel of the Lakes congregation in Umatilla put on their archeology hats on Wednesday, June 22, to find a time capsule that had been buried back when the church was still known as the First United Methodist Church of Umatilla. The time capsule had been buried on August 16, 1992, and was originally scheduled to be opened one hundred years later.
    But it had been forgotten until a member of the Collins family, Leslie  Oaks discovered the capsule’s  More...

Health Department Ending Some COVID Programs - Cases Decline This Week

    The last day of operations of all three Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) Covid-19 vaccines and testing sites will be Thursday, June 30. The schedule until that day will be as follows:
•DOH-Lake Community Health Site located at 560 W. DeSoto Street, Clermont, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
•DOH-Lake Leesburg Site located at 2113 Griffin Road, Leesburg, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
•DOH-Lake Umatilla Site located at 249 E. Collins Street, Umatilla, Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 8  More...

State Restricts Parking Near Dona Vista Businesses

    “It’s a waste of government money.”
    Bea Carlson, owner of Bz's Happy Plants in Dona Vista, this week is struggling with new Florida Department of Transportation signage that eliminates the historic parking in front of her nursery.  Carlson, who has operated at the location for many years, is concerned the new restrictions will negatively impact the ability of customers and delivery trucks to access her location.
    She’s not alone.  Next door, Barbara Walker’s Signature Designs emb  More...

Couple Welcomes New Addition To Growing Collection

    Collecting is a time-honored tradition.  From spoons and pens to classic vehicles and, yes, tractors, North Lake County residents have a rich history of preservation.  On Sunday, Umatilla resident Rusty Robinson was seen tootling along SR 19 atop he and wife Martha's newest edition to their growing tractor collection, a 1962 Oliver model 1850.
    "It got here Friday," Robinson said of the tractor, which was shipped from Iowa, just a few miles from the Oliver plant where it was manufactured.  The tractor is the second Olive  More...

New SR 44 Bridge Taking Shape

    Work is progressing on a new bridge over the St. Johns River in DeLand.  The Florida Department of Transportation is in the midst of a $45 million project that will see a new permanent span built over the river on SR 44, and replace the current draw bridge at the location.
    The project, not slated to be completed until late in 2023, so far has featured two large dirt berms being built on either side of the river, and concrete pilings being installed in the river.  More recently, large support structures have been put in place.

New Minister Seeing Growth At Altoona Baptist

    Two months into his time as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Altoona, Robert ‘Bert’ Hickman is enjoying getting to know the community and his congregation.  A Georgia native, Hickman brings 11 years of pastoral experience to a congregation that has deep roots in the community and which is looking to embark on a new era of service.
    “I came to a church that was holding its own, and now we’re seeing growth,” Hickman said this week from his office at the historic church campus.  He has found the church f  More...

Summer Fun: Container Gardening

    Container gardens can be a whimsical and charming part of your garden while being practical as well. We used to enjoy going to Uncle Donald's Farm when the boys were little. Every old container that would naturally kick around a barnyard was made into a planter or container garden at that place. Old washtubs that had sprouted rust holes, were put to use in a new life as flower pots. Old baskets, wheelbarrows, rusty tools, and even old pots and pans would be home to ferns, spider plants, ivy, and more, depending on where they came to rest.
    Of cou  More...

Work Begins On Area's Newest Ace Hardware

    Work has begun on the newest Carter’s Ace Hardware store in the area.  To be located north of downtown Eustis along SR 19, the 15,000 square foot store is the latest addition to the growing chain of family-owned stores, with the Carter family operating in a footprint that will soon include 11 stores stretching from Apopka to Crystal River.
    Dubbed ‘North Eustis’, the store is envisioned to serve customers in that growing area as well as service residents along CR 44 west to Grand Island. Along with stores in Umatilla, down  More...

City Pool Reopening Celebration Set For Saturday

    An energy not seen in many years, or even decades, has arrived at the City of Umatilla’s city pool complex.  The pool is just reopening for its first full summer season after undergoing an extensive rehabilitation over the last two years, and the public is being invited to a special open house this coming Saturday to help celebrate the improvements.
    The city has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the complex, rebuilding the pool from the plumbing up,  upgrading its decking surfaces, rehabbing its bathhouse, installing  More...

Grant Funding Park Improvements

    A $100,000 Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) grant from the State of Florida is funding a variety of recreation upgrades in Umatilla.  Two town parks, Cadwell and Southside, are receiving upgrades from the funds.
    At the Southside park facility, located along SR 19 and north of Ball Park Road, the city is replacing a basketball court, will add playground pieces, and install upgrades to the dugout facilities at the baseball field there.  Cadwell Park, located downtown along Cassady Street, will receive new playgr  More...

Future Development In Umatilla Could Be Less Dense

    Where Umatilla stands with potential housing units and how it might grow in the future are an ongoing topic of discussion inside city hall.  With long-dormant infill lots finally being built on, and the city regularly hearing from developers looking to bring large projects into the city limits, city leaders have been more and more vocal about development in the city and what it should look like going forward.
    At a meeting of the Umatilla City Council on Tuesday, May 17, members heard a city staff presentation on potential housing units alr  More...

Summer Reading Time - Lots To See In Area Libraries

       When we were very young, we always loved going to the library, and that passion has carried into adulthood. Though we’ve graduated from the children’s books to more advanced material, visiting our local libraries remains one of our favorite summer activities. During a recent visit to W.T. Bland Public Library, located in Mount Dora, we were delighted to see all of the different ways that they are helping visitors to foster new interests, making themselves into a gathering point for a community united by their love of discovery.
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Summer Flower Season - What's In Your Garden?

    Sue and Rick Kiefer live in one of Umatilla's more historic homes. It is a beautiful rural backdrop for the never-ending garden that Rick tends. When he isn't planting vegetables, he is improving the landscape. Over the years, he has cultivated oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, nectarines, and lots of sunflowers as well as other pretty flowers. Sue is very busy as well. She is the lady who runs Tall Pines Soapery and makes things to wash with that look incredible.  At present, Rick is having success with his variety of sunflowers including some red ones called Red Sun,  More...

Memorial Day Services Well Attended Monday

    Memorial Day was observed throughout Lake County on Monday, with several special services held throughout the day.  The public turned out in large numbers to recognize those who lost their lives in military service to the country.
    The day began with a sunrise service in Mount Dora a the AW Peterson Gun Shop.  Elected officials including Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker and state senator Dennis Baxley were on hand for the event, which included the retirement of flags through a flag burning ceremony.  Attendees were invit  More...

Memorial Day Activities, Riderless Horse Presentation

    Memorial Day will be recognized at a sunrise service on Monday, May 30.  The event will be held at Peterson’s Gun Shop in Mount Dora.  There will be guest speakers, playing of Taps by AJ Rohe, and other activities will convene beginning at 6:15 a.m.
    Lake County Commissioner Leslie Campione will serve as keynote speaker.
    Included in the ceremony will be a bagpipe performance by Bob Cunningham.
    Peterson’s Gun Shop is located at 4255 West Old US 441.

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Big Week Of Rain, Totals Near Ten Inches

    North Lake County experienced storms and heavy rains throughout the second half of last week, with rain totals approaching 10 inches in some areas.  The rain ended a spring drought that had persisted through April and Much of May.
    Through last week, over nine inches of rain was reported in reader gauges west of Umatilla.  A Florida Forest Service rain gauge in Leesburg reported over eight inches on Thursday and Friday alone, and rain tracker and Pittman resident Johnny Bates logged almost 7.5 inches for the week.

Smoke, Smell Brings Responders To Post Office

    Lake County and City of Eustis fire engines joined Umatilla units in response to a 911 call Tuesday morning at the Umatilla Post Office.  Employees reported seeing smoke and smelling hot electric at the office around 9 a.m.  
    Eustis deployed its ladder truck to access the post office’s roof, where air conditioning units could be accessed and inspected.
    No injuries or damage was reported.


Cast Iron And Blackberres - A Great Combination!

    We had a nice note from Myrtle Quinn this week. She has an easy do-it-yourself pickle tip to share. She takes 1 qt. of store-bought Dill Pickles and pours off all the juice into a pot. She then slices the pickles back into the jar in smaller bites. She then adds 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds to the juice. Bring it to a low boil and then pour it back over the pickles in the jar. Let them refrigerate for 2 or 3 days and you will have a fine homemade tasting pickle with more pizzazz. Myrtle has been enjoying her pickles this way for years. Thanks for sharing  More...

Big Crash On SR 19

This crash occurred on SR 19 in Altoona Friday late afternoon.  The crash, which took place about a quarter mile north of the Ravenswood Road intersection, involved these two trucks in a head-on collision.  It was reported that two people were airlifted from the crash, but the Florida High Patrol had not made any details available as of press deadline on Tuesday. 


Humane Society Marks Resident's 16th Birthday

    Years ago, when Pug’s Pub was still open near downtown Eustis, the bar was home to ‘Mere’ cat, the business’s mascot and regular sight among patrons.  When that establishment closed, Mere needed a home that didn’t involve dogs chasing her, which led to her moving in at the Humane Society of Lake County’s shelter in Dona Vista.  Years later, Mere is still going strong, and on Saturday the shelter celebrated the cat that is believed to be 16 years old.
    “When the bar closed, Mere needed a place t  More...

Big Scholarship Awards For Class Of 2022

    Umatilla High School’s Class of 2022 was honored during a special awards ceremony last Friday, May 13.  Members of the class were recognized for academic and athletic achievement, as well as received dozens of local and institutional scholarships.
    “We’re going to give away around $250,000 today,” said principal Brent Frazier in kicking off Friday’s festivities.  Frazier also announced this year’s Valedictorian - Allison Shields, and Salutatorian - Grace Kessinger.
    Here&rs  More...

Effort To Save Wildlife Carvings Continues

    Umatilla’s Cadwell Park wood carvings have been in various states of repair/removal in recent months, as the city looked to preserve what it could of the unique wildlife art carvings.  Termites and other pests, as well as Florida’s heat and rain had conspired to bring a large amount of decay to the carvings, leaving the city scrambling to preserve what it could of the popular art pieces.
    In recent weeks, carvings that had been removed and ‘restored’ have found new homes on the back porch of the city’s Cadwell  More...

Next Up: SR 19 Project Through Eustis Planned

    With a current project on the road finishing up between Eustis and Umatilla, and another set to begin in Umatilla, the Florida Department of Transportation has now set its sights on a stretch of SR 19 through Eustis.
        The FDOT will host a public meeting regarding plans for two projects on State Road (SR) 19 from north of Stevens Avenue to County Road (CR) 452 in Eustis on Thursday, May 12, at 5:30 p.m., at the Eustis Community Center, 601 Northshore Drive.
    Together, the two projects will enhance safety for  More...

Mother's Day Stabbings, Suspected Homicide In Altoona

    Two separate incidents of violence in Altoona during the past week left one person dead and two others airlifted for hospital treatment. 
    The first incident occurred on Wednesday, May 4, at 19331 East Altoona Road in Altoona.  Deputies came to the scene in the morning hours in reference to a deceased person at the home, and found the body of Ernie Wayne Wilburn, 44.  Witnesses at the home could not provide an explanation as to what had happened to Wilburn.
    “Detectives say that the circumstances s  More...

A Wild(Life) Week With Panthers, Bears In The News

    The reclusive Florida Panther for years had mostly been confined to a range in South Florida.  However, as its population has slowly grown, so have reported sightings in other areas of the state.  While local sightings have been rarely reported and sometimes questioned, when a panther was killed on I-95 several years ago in Flagler County it became clear that the state’s largest predatory cat had increased its range and could be assumed to also be in the expansive Ocala National Forest.
    And today, even closer.
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Another Big Firm Planning Umatilla Move

    One of the area's fastest-growing companies this week announced plans to move its operations to Umatilla.  RCM Utilities, currently based in Eustis, has purchased an estimated 10 acres in Umatilla with plans to construct a 30,000 square foot building to house its three-dozen employees.
    “We’re laying the groundwork to move back into town,” said Chris Creech on Monday.  Creech, who founded RCM in 2018 said Umatilla is where RCM “needs to be.”
    "Most all of us are Umatilla peo  More...

Effort Underway To Mark, Find Confederate Gravesites

    Properly marking and identifying gravesites is a time-honored tradition.  However, with passing years and patchy record availability, keeping everything just as it should be can get complicated. This week, the City of Umatilla is working to unwind questions around four buried veterans of the Confederacy after an effort was undertaken to mark the long-since buried men.
    The city operates two cemeteries in town.  However, some of those buried in what are now city cemeteries predate the city’s legal founding in 1904.  As such,  More...

Combo Pizza Hut/KFC Slated For Umatilla

    Plans to replace Umatilla's current Pizza Hut with a combination Pizza Hut/KFC are moving forward.    The City of Umatilla on Tuesday released preliminary drawings that indicate a new combination building will be placed on Pizza Hut's current location, with Pizza Hut being carry out only in a section closest to SR 19 and KFC having a drive-through at the rear.
    The project is set to have its first appearance in front of the Umatilla City Council on May 17, when a request will be brought forward to allow for the drive-through. More...

Historic Church Coming Back To Life

    In service to the Cassia community since the 1880s, the Cassia Baptist Church had all but closed in recent years.  With just one person turning up on Sundays to sit outside during the worship hour, it appeared the historic building’s future could be in doubt.  However, there has been a rebirth at the little country church, which today is enjoying the beginnings of what is hoped to be a lasting revival.
    “We had 56 people for Easter,” said church pastor Mark Douglas on Saturday while giving a tour of the facility.   More...

Farm Bureau Makes UES Donation, Talks Farming Challenges

    Lake County Farm Bureau hosted its annual active member dinner on Monday evening, April 25.  Nearly 100 Lake County farmers gathered at Sunsational Farms in Umatilla for a night of raising the profile of Lake County’s farming community.
    “We have to band together in times like these,” said county board president Michael Hill, noting the many pressures facing farmers today, including environmental, regulatory, and economic challenges growers have to overcome to stay in the industry.  “Tonight, we recognize our ac  More...

Richard Greer Announces New Book: Crossing Paths Finding Hope

    “I wrote the book because we all need hope.  We long to have hope in our life.”
    Umatilla pharmacist and area resident Richard 'Doc' Greer is a well-known face in North Lake County, having served thousands of people from his Umatilla Drug Store location over the years.  Greer's caring nature and desire to help people while bringing them closer to God has resulted in a lifetime of experiences that are being recalled in his first book, "Crossing Paths Finding Hope: Inspired By True Stories".
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County Tourism Revenue Soaring

    Tourism revenue is skyrocketing in Lake County.  Officials with the county’s economic growth department this week reported that the county’s income from its Tourist Development Tax has reached past pre-pandemic levels as the county is reaping the benefit of a public that is itching to get out after being limited during the COVID 19 pandemic.
    “Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue in the tourism industry has rebounded to pre-COVID numbers due to pent-up demand,” said Tracy Garcia, Interim Executive Director of Econom  More...

Man Found After Two Days Lost At Alexander Springs

    The Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the US Forest Service on Tuesday located a man missing since Sunday in the Alexander Springs area. The man was found near midday.
    "Lake County deputies and officers with FWC located Mr. Anjab while searching the area on foot," said John Herrell with the Lake County Sheriff's Office said on Tuesday when announcing the find.  "He was located about one-tenth of a mile into the woods from the shoreline where he was last seen."  Herrell said the man "is significantly dehyd  More...

A Week In Pictures - Lake County Fair!

How Many People Do You Know At The Fair?                       
Check Out The This Week In Pictures Tab To Find Out!


Locals Shine In Fair Competitions

Overall Grand Champion - Dafaney Williams
Reserve Grand Champion - Emma Pridgen
Best Lake County Native Calf - Joseph Willis
4-H Grand Champion - Defaney Williams
4-H Reserve Grand Champion - Isaac Robbins
FFA Grand Champion  - Emma Pridgen
FFA Reserve Grand Champion - Joseph Willis
Class 1 4-H Best In Class - Braden Sredl
Class 1 FFA Best In Class - Tyler Dunaway
Class 2 4-H Best In Class - Charles Hendley
Class 2 FFA Best In Class - Joseph Willis
Class 3 4-H Best In Clas  More...

Resident Wakens To Find Intruder Taking A Bath

    A Umatilla woman is facing charges this week after entering a home in the early hours of Tuesday, April 5, and taking a bath.  Amand Toler, 33, was charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling after entering a home at 16632 Lake Smith Road through a window, undressing, and taking a bath.
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Umatilla Police Department officers responded to the home around 1:15 a.m., who had remained in the tub even after the residents had confronted her about why she was in the home. 
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Walk For Life Raises Huge Amount

     A large crowd turned out on Saturday morning for the Life's Choices Annual Walk For Life Event.  Plenty of local faces were on hand, including Umatilla Mayor and Mrs. Kent Adcock, all walking to support mothers choosing life for their unborn babies.  The event was at Ferran Park in Eustis, and the event raised over $52,000!  Among the people recognized for their fundraising for the event were the Lott family, who raised $2,775 to take first place in the family category, and the Goodknight family, who took second place in the children's category.  They  More...

Bad Timing: Rain Puts Fairgrounds Under Water As Midway Tries To Set Up

    “It’s a big deal.”
    Lake County Fair manager Stacey Wade isn’t a performer at the fair, but her juggling skills might make her a candidate for a stage should the need arise.  Wade spent the weekend and the early parts of this week working with her midway provider, Lake County, the fair board, former manager CE ‘Happy’ Norris, and state regulatory officials to quickly undertake work that was thought to be done months ago.  Thanks to yet another heavy rainfall on an already soggy fairgrounds, the layou  More...

Wettest March In 20 Years Leaves Area Saturated

    The wettest March in years left Lake County soil saturated in the past week.  Another rainy weekend left the county in lowest, or wettest, range of the Keetch Byram Drought Index, a tool used by the Florida Forest Service to gauge potential fire risk.  The month closed as the wettest March in at least a decade, with the Florida Forest Service’s (FFS) Paisley weather station recording 8.6 inches of rain, the most since 9.15 inches was recorded in 2001.
    Historically, March has been known to produce little to no rain.  FFS data  More...

Lake County Fair Ready For Annual Run - Details Here

    The 101st Edition of the Lake County Fair opens this Thursday, April 7.  For the next ten days, the Lake County Fairgrounds in Eustis will be bustling with daily activities, including youth livestock shows, live entertainment, creative arts exhibits, and of course a large midway full of rides for all ages.
    This year, in addition to the regular livestock shows, the fair has expanded its entertainment schedule.  Them Sweeney Boys, and Robinson's Racing Pigs return this year, and are joined by new acts including the Space Adventures Thril  More...

Florida's Natural To Close Umatilla Facility

    Officials with Florida’s Natural this week announced the company plans to sell its Umatilla plant.  The company, which employs just over 80 people at the SR 19 facility at the south end of town, is planning to consolidate its packaging and storage operations at its home facility in Lake Wales.
    “We have decided to put it up for sale,” said Nikki Hayde, Senior Marketing Manager for Florida’s Natural.  “This is a way for us to help our overall performance and help our growers.”
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Sheriff Speaks On Rising Drug Use, Growing County

    Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell visited Umatilla on Monday, speaking at the regular Monday lunch meeting of the Umatilla Kiwanis Club.  With over 40 people in attendance, the sheriff spoke on some of the current issues facing the office and Lake County.
    "It's good to be back out in the community," Grinnell said, noting that the regular practice of conducting town hall-style gatherings has been mostly put on hold during the last two years due to the COVID pandemic.
    Citing data that indicates Lake Co  More...

Didn't Know It Would Live Through That!

    We want to thank Winifred Begley of Eustis for submitting the information for this week’s gardening column. Her experience with ponytail palms, Beaucarnea recurvata, the elephant's foot, may help some of our readers. This drought-tolerant native of Mexico is often grown as a house plant or potted plant. The trunks can grow to 15 feet tall and can live for 350 years. They are endangered in the wild in their native habitat because of habitat destruction (according to Wikipedia) and an over harvesting for commercial propagation.
      W  More...

After Delays, Westervelt Name Now Towers Over UHS Football Field

    After months of discussion, planning, and installation delays, Tuesday saw the long-anticipated completion of the new scoreboard at the Umatilla High School football stadium.  A partnership between the school, its athletic boosters, and the Umatilla Kiwanis Club, the sign was part of the larger naming of the football field in the name of former principal John Westervelt.
    Westervelt served as principal of Umatilla High in the 1980’s, and continued to volunteer at the school and within the community as a member of the Kiwanis club unti  More...

Lowe's Volunteers, Funds Make Improvements At City Pool

    Thanks to a $2,500 grant of supplies and labor from the Lady Lake Lowe’s Home Improvement store, the Umatilla City Pool has received more renovation.  The facility, which saw its pool and pool deck refurbished last year, last week was treated to a renovation of its bathhouse area as part of the Lowe’s Heroes program.
    "We do one big project a year," said Clay Tew, manager of the Lady Lake store.  Tew was on hand last Thursday as a crew from the store jumped into painting the bathhouse.  Additional work was to  More...

Familiar Local Faces Seek To Boost Ukraine Support

    Many area residents will remember the former Nicky D’s restaurant in Umatilla.  Some may even know that the restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie DiAngelis, is of Ukrainian descent.  As that country continues to defend itself from a Russian invasion and its people struggle under the weight of the onslaught, Stephanie and her husband, Nick, have created a way for locals to support the struggling nation and its people.
    The Nicky and Stephanie DiAngelis Ukrainian Freedom Fund is now active at United Southern Bank, with donations a  More...

Umatilla To Buy 50 More Acres Of Land At Airport

    The City of Umatilla is looking to expand its municipal airport footprint in a big way.  The Umatilla City Council on Tuesday night approved a Florida Department of Transportation grant that will fund the city's purchase of 47.58 acres of open land just to the east of the airport and across Skyline Drive.
    The FDOT has approved a $1,025,000 grant for the purchase. The land is currently owned by members of the Martin family, descendants of the late Bob Martin, who lived on land adjacent to the parcel under discussion.
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Rainfall Totals Pile Up From Week Of Wet Stuff

    What a difference a week makes.  A deluge of rainfall over the past week erased Lake County’s current rainfall deficit, filled area waterways, and left enough soaked soil behind that the risk of wildfire has decreased substantially.
    With rainfall totals rising over eight inches in some areas of the county, the rain was just what was needed to quell a fire danger that had been rising steadily in recent weeks. Significant rainfall fell throughout much of the north and central portions of the state in the la  More...

FDOT Undertakes Repairs To SR 19 U-Turn Problems

    Florida Department of Transportation contractors have begun the process of widening sections of SR 19 between Umatilla and Eustis to pave driving areas created by recent changes in traffic patterns.  The estimated $4 million project features the closing of some median crossings and creating new turn lanes, lanes that when used to make U-Turns on the road have created large dirt areas.
    The turn lanes have been constructed in such a way that it makes it hard for large vehicles, and especially vehicles with trailers to make a U-Turn on the ro  More...

Rising Prices Taking Toll On Local Economy

    North Lake County has not been spared the national hike in the price of gasoline.  Per gallon costs have jumped over $.50 in the past week, rocketing past $4 per gallon.
    The jump has placed prices at their highest in over a decade, with the largest jump coming since mid-February.  According to, the Orlando area's average price for a gallon of gas on Monday was $4.08.  That's the highest since at least 2012, the earliest year available to search. 
    The increase is placing a pinch on all  More...

548 Homes Proposed At Former Pine Meadows Golf Course

    At its meeting this Thursday night, March 3, the Eustis City Commission is expected to consider a plan that looks to put nearly 550 homes on property of the former Pine Meadows Country Club.  The project, which covers just over 240 acres, looks to develop 548 homes over the next decade in three phases, beginning in 2023.
    Due to the land’s low-lying topography, much of the development is being envisioned in a central corridor of the project, which has pushed density in those areas to a level that includes some lot sizes at just 40 fee  More...

Park Carvings Fall Victim To Rot/Pests

    “It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
    The City of Umatilla on Monday had to remove or drastically cut back three of its estimated 12 wildlife carvings in Cadwell Park.  The carvings, believed to be part of the largest collection of such creations in one place in the state of Florida, had fallen victim to the elements and had deteriorated to the point that safety was a concern.
    “We’ve been trying to shore them up, but they do have a lifespan,” said city manager Scott Blanke  More...

Propane Leak Brings Evacutations, Road Closure

    CR 450W (Ocala Street) was closed for parts of Monday evening as emergency responders managed a propane gas tank leak near the intersection of Ogden Avenue.  No injuries or damage was reported, but the road was closed for nearly two hours as responders ‘burned off’ leaking gas.
    The incident began around 6 p.m., when a property owner became aware that a large propane tank behind his house was leaking after a recent fill.  The odor of the gas led to a response from Umatilla and Lake County fire units, as well as Umatilla Pol  More...

Party Time In Eustis This Weekend: GeorgeFest Arrives!

    The biggest community celebration of the year arrives in Eustis this week, when the annual GeorgeFest celebration returns for its 120th installment.  Downtown Eustis will be buzzing for several days as it plays host to entertainment, a carnival, fireworks, the annual Washington's Birthday parade, and a Sunday live concert featuring Eustis native and 'Commodores' founder Thomas McClary.
    The event is the longest-running celebration of George Washington's birthday in Florida, and the second-longest in the country.  This year's event carr  More...

Results From Big Cooking Competition

    It was a rollicking good time on Saturday, when the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce and Sunsatianal Farms combined to host the annual Big Orange Day with its chili and BBQ cookoffs.  Nearly two dozen entries joined the fray, with a large crowd coming out to spend the day at the agritourism locale and enjoying the offerings of some of the area’s best cooks. 
    A series of awards were presented to participants at the end of the event, with the following winners announced:
Rifle Raffle:  Kim Ludwig
Alcohol Raffle:&n  More...

BBQ, Chili Cookoff + Dozens Of Vendors = Big Orange Day Saturday!

    Umatilla's biggest eating event of the year returns this Saturday, February 19, when the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Sunsational Farms hosts the annual BBQ and chili cookoff.  The event, featuring dozens of cook teams and market vendors, will be held in the shadow of The Big Orange, at 40541 Roger Giles Road in Umatilla.
    The fun begins at noon, when Susational Farms kicks the gates open on a vendor market and family fun day.  Running until 6 p.m., the market features a wide variety of items for sale, with children  More...

114-Home Development Taking Shape

    A planned 114-home development near Southside Umatilla is the latest plan to come alive in town, though formal action on the development has been pushed back a few weeks.  The development, named Woodsong, sits on a previously approved but never developed site at the southeast corner of Pine Street and Tenth Avenue.
    The property, on just over 39 acres, was initially approved for houses in 2005, but never was developed.  Today, the site is eyed to have just over four units per acre, with housing lots proposed at 54 feet wide by 120 feet  More...

City Declines To Close Street After Public Outcry

    Tuesday night’s community input session and further discussion during a meeting of the Umatilla City Council showed little public interest in closing Owens Lane, as residents in the area seeking the road remain fully open and council members agreeing.  Instead, expect the city to take a more aggressive look at maintaining the clay road that runs between Ocala Street and Lake Street, alongside Umatilla Elementary School.
    Closure of the north section of the road had become a top in recent months, with officials citing traffic, maintenan  More...

Habitat For Humanity Fixing Up Area Homes - For Free

    Habitat For Humanity may be known for helping construct homes for low-income families, but this week an estimated 40 existing homes throughout the county are getting improved through Habitat’s Preservation and Repair program.
    Early this week, crews were in Umatilla painting homes and clearing away overgrown brush, with nearly 30 volunteers undertaking projects.  Similar crews were busy in Mount Dora and South Lake County.
    "Habitat Lake Sumter's Preservation and Repair program works to preserve the exi  More...

Public Meeting: Owens Lane Closure Considered

    Months of on and off again discussions about closing a portion of Owens Lane in Umatilla will take the next step toward potential action.  The City of Umatilla has announced a public meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 15, to solicit community input on the proposal.
    The city has considered closing a section of Owens Lane that runs from Bayless Street north to Lake Street.  The section includes a border with Umatilla Elementary School and Crescent Lake.  In previous discussions, reasons for the potential closure include a red  More...

Worst Freeze In Years: How Much Damage?

    With temperatures dipping into the low 20’s or even lower in certain locations, North Lake County saw a weekend of frigid temperatures not seen in several years.   A hard freeze descended on the area early Sunday morning, raising concerns for area agricultural interests that had already dodged one bullet the previous weekend.
    It has been at least five years since temperatures in North Lake dipped into the teens, but at least one forest-area location reported just that early Sunday morning, when a low of 18 degrees was recorded.&  More...

Man Charged After Driving Equipment Off Construction Site In The Middle Of the Night, Crashing

    Driving a piece of heavy equipment off a construction site in the middle of the night is bound to draw attention.  Crashing it into a power pole across the street might garner even more notice.  And telling police that you had been requested to undertake the activity could prove to be a hard sell.
    Jordan Meadors, 25, of Umatilla is facing a variety of charges in connection with such an incident, which occurred around 3:15 a.m. on Sunday, January 30.  Meadors was charged with loitering and prowling after he went onto the constructi  More...

Teen Charged After Shots Fired In Parking Lot

    A Umatilla teenager is facing charges after reportedly firing shots at a light in the area of a Circle K convenience store at the intersection of SR 19 and CR 42 north of Umatilla.  Noah Wheat, 18, of Umatilla and a juvenile were allegedly involved in the incident, which occurred just before midnight on Wednesday, January 19. 
    Reports state Umatilla Police Department officers arrived at the convenience store in reference to a shooting in the parking lot.  Upon arrival, officers made contact with Wheat, who initially stated severa  More...

Freezing Weather Puts Spring Fruit Crop At Risk

    Temperatures plummeted to their lowest level of the winter so far in North Lake County early Monday, with northern areas reporting as low as 25 degrees before sunup on January 24.  The cold snap left bird baths frozen, rooftops and windshields sheeted in ice, and tropical plants damaged.
    Area agriculture appeared to escape the cold mostly intact, with only the spring peach and blueberry blossoms at risk from low temperatures.  Area peaches are currently in bloom, and blueberry crops could be even further ahead, causing concern as more  More...

Frozen Landscaping? Time To Plan For Spring

By Holly Newby:

A Garden With Good Bones
    If ever there was a week to look at your garden’s “Good Bones” this is it. After the freeze the elephant ears are flat, the perennials are pooped and the lawn is golden brown.
    What seems like a messy clean-up, with frozen poinsettias and azaleas alike, may be just the planning opportunity of the year. There is basically an 11-month growing season in Florida so there aren't many weeks of not mowing in which to plan.
    Up north in Vermont  More...

Local COVID Update: Lake Sees Record Cases, Schools See Jump, Hospitalizations Below Last Summer

    Lake County’s COVID numbers continued in the wrong direction in the last week, with 6,412 new cases reported for the week ending Friday, January 14.  That is an increase over last week’s then-record high of 4,107.  Lake County’s positivity rate on those tested for the virus was reported by the Center for Disease Control as 35.32%.
    The CDC also reported 14 deaths during the period, and 209 new hospitalizations.  Fatality data can represent deaths from over longer stretches of time, and may not reflect just the wee  More...

Large Medical, Rehab Clinic Opens In Umatilla

    The most extensive medical and rehabilitation facility to call Umatilla home is opening this week at 925 North Central Avenue.  Acumen Clinical Services, Inc. has taken up residence in an estimated 8.500 square feet in the Save-A-Lot plaza, bringing to the community an expansive, state-of-the-art equipped facility that will offer a variety of physical and occupational therapy, as well as urgent medical care.
    "We are here to serve the community," says Dr. Rachelle Alcide, DPT, who is opening the facility with her husband Marty Ric  More...

Morning Frosts Arrive With Coldest Weather Of Winter So Far

    Storms rolled through North Lake County early Sunday morning, bringing rain and high winds.  The system, which blanketed the state, spurred tornados in south Florida, but North Lake appeared to avoid any serious damage.
    Wind gusts were reported as high as 30 miles per hour at a weather station located at the Umatilla Municipal Airport, and power outages occurred in localized areas, including the Shockley area of Altoona.
    The system moved quickly through, and by mid-morning the rain was mostly over, with gusting w  More...

Locals Fill Testing Sites, Record COVID Cases Here

    The omicron variant of COVID 19 continues to grow in Lake County.  In the most recent data from the State of Florida, released on January 7, indicated Lake County had 4,107 cases reported in the previous seven days, up from 2,814 the previous week. To date, this week's report represents the most new cases in the county for a single week since the pandemic began.
    Residents have flocked to testing sites, and on Monday a line of over 100 cars could be found at the Lake County Fairgrounds as people sought out clarity on their COVID status.  More...

Mixed Returns, But County Grad Rate Slips Slightly

    Lake County’s 2021 graduation rate was reported this week at 90.6%, slightly higher than the statewide rate of 90.1% and surpassing Superintendent Diane Kornegay’s goal of 90% for a second year in a row.
    Lake’s graduation rate was 77.8% in 2017, when Kornegay was chosen to lead the district.  At that time, she said one of her primary goals was to help the district reach and exceed a 90% graduation rate.  The district reached that goal in 2020 when the graduation rate reached 91.2% and it stayed above the goal in 2021  More...

A Dainty Fern And Heirloom Plants

By Holly Newby

    One of the plants we have had in our garden the longest is a Maidenhair fern. Also called by common names such as Southern maidenhair and venus-hairfern, it can be found growing in the wild of Florida from the Panhandle to the keys, anywhere limestone rocks and seeping water are found together.
    Imagine our surprise in going swimming in a sinkhole in Tallahassee many years ago, only to find ourselves climbing up walls of limestone covered in dangling maidenhair ferns.
    Widely cu  More...

Tragic Start To New Year As ATV Crash Kills Local Business Owner

    It took less than 23 hours for the community to pour over $10,000 into a gofundme account set up for a Umatilla resident, parent, and businessman who died just after midnight on January 1 when he crashed while riding an ATV style vehicle on Lakeview Street in Umatilla.  Josh Carpenter, 36, of Umatilla died from his injuries at AdventHealth Waterman after a crash on Lakeview Street in Umatilla.
    Florida Highway Patrol reports state the incident happened around 12:30 a.m.  Carpenter sustained fatal injuries after the ATV he was riding we  More...

County Schools Reopen With Few Changes Amid Record COVID Surge

    Lake County Schools students returned to the classroom on Tuesday, after several weeks off that saw an explosion of COVID cases throughout the county.  With 2,844 new cases reported in the county during the week ending December 31, Lake County is an unprecedented surge in cases, though how dangerous the omicron variant may be is unknown as serious illness and death - so far - appear to be less with the current variant than earlier iterations of the COVID 19 virus.
    To date, public officials across all local jurisdictions have declined to ma  More...

Woman Jailed After Campsite Crash, Child Injured

    A North Carolina woman is facing charges after an incident in a forested area near Deerhaven.  Sarah Smith, 33, of High Point, was taken into custody after a child was involved in a traffic crash around a campsite area off Clay Lake Road.
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office reports state deputies responded to the remote area of Northeast Lake County in reference to an assault and possible battery with a deadly weapon.  Upon arrival, they met with two male subjects, one of which reported being a passenger in a vehicle that Smith was driv  More...

Ball Drop History - By Sailors, For Sailors

By Atticus Newby

        Just a week after Christmas Eve is New Year's Eve, the final day of the year. Like Christmas, we have a number of traditions that we enjoy for welcoming in the new year, and one of the most popular is staying up until midnight to watch the Times Square Ball drop and cheer "Happy New Year" when the seconds run out. The Times Square Ball is the most famous example of a time ball today, and likely the only one that most Americans have ever seen, but there is a lot more to time balls than being a part of our New Years' tra  More...

Security Light Argument Leads To Murder/Suicide

    A dispute over the brightness of a security light led to two deaths Monday in Paisley.  Timothy Patch, 59, was shot dead in his driveway at 26402 Fisherman’s Road in Paisley, apparently by his next door neighbor, Eric Hilderbrand, 62, who was discovered by investigators dead in a chair at his home, from an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound.
    Deputies arrived at Patch’s home around 12:30 p.m. on Monday, December 27, in reference to a shooting.  They discovered Patch dead in his driveway, just below a security light that  More...

For 140th Birthday, Area Church Will Offer 1882 Service

    Worshippers of all faiths are invited to take a step back in time this coming Sunday, January 2, when St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Eustis will conduct a service as it would have been held in 1882, the year the church was first built. Beginning at 10 a.m. at 317 South Mary Street, worshippers will see what it was like back then in what is today Eustis’ oldest church.
    “It is a completely different style,” said the Reverend Matthew Perreault in announcing the special service, which will mark the church’s 140th year of ser  More...

Camellias Offer Holiday Blooming Options

    Ed Lisle has a green thumb, and a good sense of humor. He and his wife Josie have a lovely lakeside home in our little town. We have mentioned his ability to grow pineapples before, about the beautiful table arrangements that he used to make for the Taste of North Lake County Restaurant Showcase out of tropical foliage, and even about some of his palmetto hat projects, but this week he topped them all. He stopped by our office with the most lovely and delicate handmade corsage made out of flowers and foliage from his yard. In the old days, ladies were very fond of corsage  More...

Locals Pour Out Goodwill As Christmas Nears

    Amid the stress of holiday shopping, a new COVID variant, and the general tension that seems to envelope much of life in the past year, North Lake County residents have shown their capacity to embrace the goodwill of the Christmas holiday.  Stories of strangers buying people's groceries, and of strangers' paying for others' meals in area restaurants have abounded during the holiday, as have the many varied acts of kindness that hundreds, if not thousands of people, have participated in.  In North Lake County, the heart of Christmas has been beating loudly in 202  More...

Former Jungle Den Restaurant/Lodge Demolished

    The Astor-area landscape changed in a big way in the last week, when demolition crews took down a former restaurant and lodging facilities at the former Jungle Den location.  The demolition is part of an ambitious plan to redevelop the riverfront property into a large camping and recreation facility.
    Located north of Astor on the St. Johns River in Volusia County, the property has sat nearly vacant for many years, with mobile home renters serving as its main residents in recent years.  In the future, it is conceived to include hundred  More...

Tour UF Horse Teaching Unit

By Mick Vonk
    Ron Smith, Amy Toman, and I participated in a field trip to UF Horse Teaching Unit concluding a 10-month equine remote on-line course we took.  Each month’s lecture varied from feeding, pesky parasites, poison in the pasture, pasture management, manure management, horse behavior, vaccines, and colic.
    UF has two properties they use for equine studies; the 65-acre Horse Teaching Unit that we visited and the 320-acre Equine Science Unit.  The Horse Training Unit is home to 30 broodmares, 4 stallions, a herd of g  More...

Umatilla Christmas Parade, Festival Coming Saturday

    Umatilla’s Biggest Day of the year arrives this Saturday, December 11, when the annual Cracker Christmas Celebration returns for a full day of community Christmas celebrations.  Organized by the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce with the support of the City of Umatilla and a host of partners, the event will bring the largest crowd of the year to the community.
    The morning fun starts early, with a 9 a.m. Dog Jog up the northbound lanes of SR 19.  The lanes will be closed for much of the morning for parade activities, and the public is  More...

Man Facing Charges After Dog Found Dead

    A Eustis man is facing animal cruelty charges after officers responded to a Dixie Avenue apartment.  Jonathan DiazCapo was jailed after officers responded to an apartment at 2201 Dixie Avenue and found a dog dead and inside two garbage bags.
    Officers responded to the scene on November 30 around 9:30 a.m. after a  complaint call came in about an argument inside the apartment and sounds that could be consistent with harming an animal.
    Responding officers demanded to see the dog during their investigation, and  More...

Harris Family Celebrates 60 Years At Oil/AC Business

    “Sixty years.  And I’ve been here for all of them.”
    Jim Harris was all smiles Friday, as Harris Oil and A/C celebrated 60 years of operation.  Founded in downtown Mount Dora and making a stop along the way on Highland Street, the business has resided on US 441 in Mount Dora since 1988, serving the community with quality oil, gas, and self storage facilities.
    “We’re now fourth generation, “ said Nancy Harris on Friday, as the business was set to host a large customer appre  More...

Results From Street, Boat Parades In Astor

Lil Miss Astor - Brystal Powell
Lil Mister Astor - Jesse Spence-Lightfoot
Individual - George & Nancy Corbett -- First
                   Mike & Brenda Buckley - Second
Group - Lake County Airboat Club - First
              Blackwater Yacht Club - Second
School - Spring Creek Band - First
              Spring Creek K-Kids - Second
Business - Castaways on the River - First
      &  More...

Local Woman Set To Appear On Disney Cooking Show

    The streaming service Disney+ will debut a new show, “Foodtastic” on December 15, featuring three contestants in competition to create ‘extravagant scene work and larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of food’, according to Disney. Among the contestants on the show will be Umatilla resident Tammy Mashburn, owner of an edible art business and a body shop assistant manager.
    Mashburn, who hails from Eustis originally, has been making custom cakes for over ten years, and is a self-taught award-winning cake artist.&nb  More...

4:30 a.m. Fireworks Leads To Arrest

    The pre-dawn hours of Thanksgiving Day were interrupted in Umatilla when a reportedly intoxicated man began to shoot off fireworks near Umatilla Middle School.  Jordan Light, 38, of St. Matthews, South Carolina who was a guest at a home at 305 Kristen Court, was charged with disorderly intoxication after the incident that also involved a confrontation with a neighbor.
    Umatilla Police reports state an officer was at the Umatilla Circle K convenience store around 4:30 a.m. and heard a large boom.  A few minutes later, he heard another,  More...

Fire Destroys Home Of Well Known Local - Community Stepping Up

    Customers of Umatilla’s Ace Hardware will remember former longtime employee Jon Wilson’s smiling face and desire to help.  Now, the community is stepping forward to return the favor, as Wilson looks to rebuild his life after his home was consumed by fire.
    Lake County Fire Rescue responded to Wilson’s home at 45631 Palm Street in the Lake Kathryn area just after midnight on Tuesday, November 16.  They found the mobile home in flames, with Wilson, three sons, two cats, and a dog safely outside.
  &nb  More...

New Downtown Umatilla Businesses Plan Celebrations

    Downtown Umatilla's retail economy is in the midst of a resurgence, with a variety of new shops opening recently.  From clothing outlets to hairstylists, an ice cream shop to a gift shop/art studio/you name it shop, the SR 19 corridor through Umatilla is coming to life. On December 4, the public is invited to join several of the new shops for a holiday special occasion designed to celebrate the area's many new offerings.
    Leading the charge is the just-opening Forever Fabulous, led by Amy Sellers.  Sellers' vision of 'a place for commun  More...

For Veterans: Free Pet Adoptions

    The Lake County Animal Shelter is offering fee-waived pet adoptions for veterans.  This promotion was made possible by a donation from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Ellen Robertson Chapter.
    “We are honored to accept this donation from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  This will benefit both our local veterans and our homeless pets,” said Whitney Boylston, Lake County Animal Shelter director.
    In partnership with the Lake Coun  More...

Citrus Growers Hopeful As Harvest Begins

    “So far, what we are seeing is promising.”
    The citrus picking season is underway in North Lake County, with area growers ramping up for a season that has shown early signs of positivity. Faryna Grove Care's Kris Sutton this week provided an early-season update this week.
    Sutton said navels, the first variety to be picked each season, are off to a good start.
    “So far, for only two blocks, we’re up,” Sutton said, after having seen a greater yield so far.  I  More...

Elections/Sheriff Building Plan Hits Costly Snag?

    Lake County’s Plans to purchase land south of Tavares to consolidate the Supervisor of Elections and Lake County Sheriff’s Offices has hit a snag.  The county, during its due diligence on approximately 13 acres at the intersection of SR 19 and Lane Park Road, has found a variety of environmental issues that could cause the price of the property to skyrocket.
    The Lake County Commission on Tuesday heard a staff update on the land, on which the county holds a $1 million option through next June.  As part of its due diligence,  More...

Former Sheriff Gary Borders Passes Away

    The Lake County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday afternoon announced the passing of former sheriff Gary Borders.  Borders, who served as Lake County Sheriff from 2006 until 2017, reportedly passed away after a ‘recent battle with cancer’ early Tuesday.
    Borders became sheriff after then-sheriff Chris Daniels was killed in a charity bus race in Volusia County.  Upon retirement, he returned to his home state of Kentucky.
    “Sheriff Borders faithfully served our citizens as the Lake County Sheri  More...

Watch Out! Manatees On The Move

    November is Manatee Awareness Month and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding people on the water to slow down and look out for migrating manatees this time of year.  As water temperatures cool this season, manatees are naturally migrating to warmer waters around the state.  Go slow and look out below to allow them to swim safely.
    While manatees are large, they can be difficult to see in the water.  That is why it is important to:  follow guidelines and follow all manatee protection zones, l  More...

Keep That Food Out For Pollinators!

    Pollinators. We don't even think about the tiny players that keep the ecosystem perking along the pollination cycle of life. Tiny bees, butterflies, and many other winged friends play a pivotal role in the health of many habitats as well as in our food supply.
    Making our green spaces friendly to pollinators has become an essential part of being good stewards of the Earth. As more and more wild spaces are developed, natural habitats are replaced with low maintenance landscapes which often leave the plates completely empty for our flying friends.  More...

After Many Years, Umatilla Set For Return To Football Playoffs

    The Umatilla High School football team is headed to the state playoffs for the first time since 2014.  The Bulldogs, which secured a 6-4 record on Friday night with a 16-8 win in cold and rainy conditions at Bronson, will travel to Keystone Heights this Friday for the first round in the playoffs.
    Keystone Heights defeated Umatilla earlier this season by a score of 68-13 on September 17.
    “We are excited about another opportunity to compete against Keystone Heights,” said Umatilla head coach Charlie Cer  More...

Rains Put Part Of Astor Underwater

    A drenching, all-day rain soaked much of North Lake County and beyond on Friday, with upwards of three inches or more of precipitation filling retention areas and pushing the St. Johns River into a ‘moderate’ flood stage.  When the rain finally tapered off on Saturday afternoon, soggy conditions could be found throughout the area.
    Astor, which bears the brunt of high rainfall events due to its low-lying status next to the St. Johns River, received reports of as much as 3.25 inches of rain, with the St. Johns River Utility repor  More...

New Restaurant Open At Former Blackwater Location

    After several months of renovations, the former Blackwater Inn restaurant in Astor is open and ready to serve customers.  Now known as Drifters River Front Bar and Grill upstairs and McHenry’s Pub on the Water downstairs, the location offers two unique dining experiences in one, waterfront location.
    Owner/operator Mechelle McHenry, an Astor-area resident, was busy upstairs in the past week, preparing Drifters for its first customers. The remodeled space that formerly housed William's Landing offers a variety of casual dining options,  More...

Umatilla Middle School Student Charged Wednesday For Threatening A School Shooting

Woman Brandishes Gun At Deputy After Paisley Beer Argument

    A domestic altercation in Paisley was in danger of turning deadly on Saturday, October 30, before Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived to quell the incident.  Amanda Foster, 33, of Paisley was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after reportedly hitting her live-in boyfriend, Leslie Jenkins, with a variety of items including a 2x4, and brandishing a rifle at him over him drinking the last of her beer.
    Sheriff's office reports state deputies arrived at 43425 Loudermilk Drive around 12:15 a.m. to find both peo  More...

Eustis Native Sydney Bakich Starring In Feature Film

    Eustis native Sydney Bakich has parlayed a life-long love of acting into a starring role in her first feature-length film. ‘The Wedding Trip’ is out on Amazon Prime, and features Bakich in the romantic comedy as one of two strangers who carpool to a mutual friend’s wedding.
    “They really start off on the wrong foot, which leads to several bumps along their journey together,” Bakich said this week.
    Bakich’s path to the big screen started on the stage at Eustis’ Bay Street Theat  More...

Booster Shake-Up: Umatilla High To Take Spending Decisions From Boosters

    The Umatilla High School Bulldog Boosters is no more, at least in the sense of how the group has operated for decades.  Members of the volunteer group on Monday voted to embrace a new mission and name, and will in the future operate less independently as the high school itself takes a larger role in how money is spent on athletics.
    The group has been in flux in recent times, and has even seen its non-profit tax status expire.  The group’s officers resigned in the last month amid membership strife regarding how money should be sp  More...

Florida History To Come Alive This Weekend

    The biggest weekend of the year is set to descend on the community of Barberville, when the Barberville Pioneer Settlement hosts the 45th Annual Fall Country Jamboree.  Slated for November 6 and 7, the weekend looks to bring history alive on the grounds of the living history settlement.
    Six stages of folk music, living history demonstrations, an arts and crafts show, and much more are all part of the two-day event.  Visit a train layout of the historic line running through the Barberville area and west Volusia County, tour the histori  More...

Domestic Incidents Leave Two Dead This Week

    A Paisley man was shot and killed on Saturday night after a domestic disturbance at 27631 Veva Avenue in the Lake Kathryn area. 
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office officials reported that the shooting occurred at approximately 9 p.m., and when deputies arrived they found Chris Smith, 31, deceased from an apparent single gunshot wound.
    An interview with Smith’s wife, Marina McDonald, resulted in her reporting she and Smith had been in a physical altercation, during which Smith pointed a gun at her.

Vet Fest Events Set For Eustis, Umatilla, Leesburg

    Vet Fest Lake County is a family-friendly, 3-day event to pay tribute to active Military, Veterans, First Responders, and the families and friends who support them.  Proceeds raised will help two Lake County not-for-profit organizations, The Last Ride and One Team One Fight 4 PTSD.
    October 29-October 31, the City of Eustis will host both the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall and the War on Terrorism Wall in Downtown Eustis.  Additional Vet Fest activities include a Gala Dinner, 5K Run/Walk in Umatilla, and Bed Races hosted by Gator Harle  More...

Bear Killed In Umatilla

This Florida Black Bear was found dead next to SR 19 in Umatilla on Monday morning.  The bear, estimated at 200 pounds and two years old, was reportedly struck on Sunday night when it ran into the road in front of a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by John David Edwards of Umatilla, who was southbound.  Edwards reported to Umatilla Police that he struck the bear just before 9 p.m. after being unable to avoid the animal as it ran across the road.  The bear was removed on Monday.


Halloween Weekend Events Announced

    Dentists favorite holiday of the year arrives this Sunday, as children from all over North Lake County are expected to hit the ground running for an evening of candy collecting as part of celebrating Halloween.  Events are scheduled throughout the area to mark the dress-up day, with groups inviting the public to join the fun.
    The party actually starts on Saturday, October 30, when Sunsational Farms in Umatilla hosts its annual Tent or treat from 3-6 p.m.  Family fun and tents providing treats are all expected to be part of this event.  More...

Church Breaks Ground On $14 Million Expansion

    Birds were released, prayers were spoken, and the dirt was flung on Sunday evening, marking the official beginning of a nearly $14 million expansion of the First Baptist Church of Umatilla.  An estimated 500 church and community members gathered at the facility for ceremonies led by lead pastor Brooks Braswell.
    The 1,270 seat facility will be located on the northeast side of the church's facility, which is bordered by Hatfield Drive, CR 450NE, and Orange Avenue in Umatilla.  The 17-acre facility has grown in several phases since the ch  More...

Fall Favorites In Bloom Right Now

    In the fall, there are a few favorites in the garden that we always look forward to seeing. Florida doesn’t have a riot of color like the northern states, but we do have some signs of fall here, too. One of these signs is the Cassia bush loaded with yellow blossoms and bees. The bees are busy gathering nectar to the point that the whole bush is humming. Yellow sulfur butterflies use the plant as a host bush, so they are frequent flyers as the nectar buffet as well.
    Another friend of fall is the American beautyberry. The branches that are l  More...

Bank Robbery Tuesday In Eustis

    Two people are in custody following a bank robbery that occurred Tuesday afternoon at the Insight Credit Union located at 15120 US Highway 441 in Eustis.
    The Lake County Sheriffi’s Office reported that shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday a male suspect entered the bank wearing a surgical-type face mask and presented a bank employee with a note, the contents of which was not made public Tuesday. The bank employee gave the suspect cash, at which time he ran from the bank and jumped in the bed of an awaiting pick-up truck and fled the scene. <  More...

Schools: We Believe Shooting Threat A Hoax

    Lake County Schools officials on Monday said there was no evidence that a school shooting was imminent, despite a social media posting that intoned such a threat may exist. 
    Parents of students in the school system received emails on Monday letting them know of the situation, and that it isn’t believed there was any credible threat to a Lake County school.
    “A photo circulated on Snapchat among students in Lake and neighboring counties. Law enforcement investigated and found no evidence to suggest the  More...

Umatilla Homecoming Has Arrived! Your Schedule Here

    It’s Homecoming week at Umatilla High School, with students and faculty enjoying a week of activities leading up to special events later this week.  It’s Tame The Toros this week, with Tocoi Creek High School of St. Augustine coming to town for a Friday night game that will feature the crowning of the Homecoming Queen and King, as well as see the initiation of the first three people in Umatilla High’s Legacy Hall hall of fame.
    School-based activities give way to public events beginning on Thursday, October 21, when the an  More...

Umatilla Baptist To Break Ground Sunday On $14 Million Expansion

    Decades after it was first conceived, and years in current planning, Sunday will usher in the formal groundbreaking of a new, 45,000 square foot sanctuary at the First Baptist Church of Umatilla.  A formal ceremony will be held this coming Sunday evening, October 16, on the east side of the church campus, located at 550 Hatfield Drive in Umatilla. The $13.5 million project will feature a 1,270 seat sanctuary and other amenities.
    “God is sovereign in his timing,” said Brooks Braswell, lead pastor at the church on Monday.  &  More...

Turmoil In Umatilla High Boosters Leads To Mass Resignations

    Rancorous times within the Umatilla High School Athletic Boosters came to a head-on Monday night, with three of the group's four officers resigning.  President Sandy Gamble, Treasurer Kristen McCall, and Secretary Jennifer Brown all vacated their posts at the end of a meeting that showcased philosophical differences about how the organization should run.    
    The meeting was attended by an estimated 35 people.
    "James wants it.  He can have it," Gamble said of vice president James Roac  More...

Last Day For Hartman's Garage - 51 Years Later

    “It’s hard, but I’m tired.”
    This Thursday afternoon, October 14, the doors will roll down for the final time at Altoona's Hartman's Garage.  Owner Rick Hartman will close his shop after 51 years of operation, closing the book on Altoona's only full-service car care center.
    “I’ll miss my customers,” Hartman said this week in between finishing repairs.  “They are like family.”
    The garage, which Hartman ran with his father, spent  More...

River Gunfight - Investigation Drags On, Still No Charges

    “Still under review.”
    Officials with the State Attorney's Office in Tavares on Monday indicated there was no change in the status of the investigation into a shooting that occurred on the St. Johns River in late August.  The incident, which saw individuals on a boat and a group on jet skis near the SR 40 bridge escalated to a shooting event, with the groups reportedly exchanging shots.
    Two people were injured in the incident, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office at the time reported two people  More...

Growing 'Happy Accidents'

By Holly Newby
    Happy accidents. That is the starting point for many a gardening enthusiast. You get a plant from someone, leave it to dehydrate, and instead it grows like wildfire and all of a sudden you are a gardener.
    We have had that experience with an ornamental sweet potato this year. The one little plant we planted last year, sat quietly until a few months ago, then it kicked into overdrive. It has filled in an area of the garden that is 10x10 feet square.
    We didn’t just want to prune and pitch the  More...

Carrino Named Interim Manager In Eustis

The Eustis City Commission on Thursday night voted unanimously to appoint Tom Carrino, the City’s Economic Development Director, as Interim City Manager.  Carrino has been the Economic Development Director for the City since 2014. He also serves as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Administrator.  <  More...

14 Arrested In Jail Smuggling Case

    The Lake County Sheriff’s Office recently concluded a year-long investigation that resulted in 14 individuals being charged with various crimes related to introducing illegal items into a detention facility.
    The sheriff’s office launched the investigation in December 2019 when information was developed that indicated there were several inmates in the Lake County Detention Center who were working with people on the outside to bring narcotics and tobacco items into the facility to be sold to other inmates.
    Th  More...

Alligator Season - Running Out Of 'Monsters'

    The annual Florida Alligator Harvest continues until November 1, with hunters taking to the water for several weeks now in search of that prized ‘gator.  But nearly a quarter of a century after the state alligator harvest was founded, it is getting harder and harder to find the types of huge alligators of years gone by.
    “We’re not running out of alligators, we’re running out of the monsters,” said Curtis Lucas of Astor this week.  Lucas, who operates an alligator processing business that takes in around 1  More...

Fall Fun Events Arrive Saturday

    The fall carnival season kicks off this Saturday, with two Umatilla-area events designed to bring the fun to children of all ages.  The two events, one at Sunsational Farms and the other at Cadwell Park, are just the beginning of a month of activities being held from Astor to Cassia and beyond, as communities throughout North Lake County take their turns in the spotlight.
    This Saturday, October 9, will see the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce host Kids Fun Day at Cadwell Park downtown.  From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. the public is invited to c  More...

Haunted Trail Arrives In North Lake

    Umatilla's Sunsational Farms has a new fall attraction this year, arriving just in time to provide some Halloween frights.  It's Dr. Grimleys Haunted Trail, and it is located inside the farm's orange crate maze.
    The open-air maze includes animated props, scare actors, computer-controlled lights and audio, scents, and other high-tech scare equipment.
    The haunted trail is being held in conjunction with Epic Eagle Studios.
    The trail is open Friday and Saturday most weeks during the month o  More...

Hay Replaces Citrus As North Lake Cash Crop

    “Ag is alive and well in Lake.”
    University of Florida IFAS Extension Director Megan Brew this week noted that Lake County is still a farming community, “even if it does look a little different than it did 20-30 years ago.”
    Longtime residents have no doubt taken note of the large amount of former citrus acreage that is now being farmed for hay.  As citrus continues to decline due to citrus greening-a condition that slowly kills trees, along with high production costs and low prices for fru  More...

In Umatilla, Pushback On Prospect Of Road Closure

    Not everyone is in favor of the City of Umatilla’s plan to close the intersection of Cassady Street and Lakeside Avenue behind city hall.  The plan, several years in the discussion and recently approved for conceptual design, involves closing the street behind city hall and creating a new road that would run east and west just north of the Fox Den Country Inn and connecting to SR 19.
    The closure would allow for an expansion of green space between Umatilla City Hall and Cadwell Park, and according to city officials create a safer inte  More...

Roadside Surveillance Cameras Banned In Lake County

    The Lake County Commission on Tuesday approved an ordinance that when finalized will prohibit the placement of surveillance cameras on county rights of way.  The new law comes after a recent incident where a private company through a partnership with the Lake County Sheriff's Office installed nearly 100 license tag reading cameras throughout the county without proper permitting.
    The new ordinance, brought forward by commissioner Josh Blake, prohibits cameras on any county-maintained right of way, with certain exceptions.  One is for F  More...

Lake Search For Man - Missing For Months

    Divers with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office were in Paisley on Monday to assist the Lake County Sheriff’s Office with an ongoing missing person investigation.  Deputies spent most of the day diving in Lake LuLu, just off Fisherman’s Road, trying to locate Keith Lebby, a man who has been missing since December 2020.
    At nearly 5 p.m. on Monday, the divers had not found a body.
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant John Herrell said the Pasco dive team came to assist Lake County, which is  More...

Locals Show Off Yard Fruit Production

By Holly Newby
    This is the week where gardening intersects with practical. Why did the first Floridians begin to cultivate gardens? Because they liked to eat.
    Gardening in its most basic form is about growing enough food to survive. Today, we live in the land of plenty with a grocery store on every corner, but that hasn’t always been the case.
    Early Floridians had to be self-sufficient, and that meant growing food at home. Many a homestead in Florida would have a fruit orchard including things like figs,  More...

County Continues To Struggle With EMS Staffing

    Emergency response continues to be a topic within the Lake County government, as efforts to attract new paramedics have so far been fruitless.
    The Lake County Commission last month agreed to an $8,000 hiring bonus and other incentives to build staffing in its ambulance service, but emergency management director Tommy Carpenter on Tuesday said that results have been disappointing.
    “We’ve not been able to recruit any paramedics successfully,” Carpenter said.
    In recent weeks  More...

Pears, Persimmons And More - Fall Is Baking Season!

    This is the week where gardening intersects with practical. Why did the first Floridians begin to cultivate gardens? Because they liked to eat.
    Gardening in its most basic form is about growing enough food to survive. Today, we live in the land of plenty with a grocery store on every corner, but that hasn’t always been the case.
    Early Floridians had to be self-sufficient, and that meant growing food at home. Many a homestead in Florida would have a fruit orchard including things like figs, pomegranates, kumquats,  More...

FWC Bear Warning

    Fall is approaching and that means Florida black bears are traveling and searching for food.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds you to help protect both people and bears by securing garbage and other items that could attract these animals to your yard or neighborhood.
    Each fall, bears begin eating a lot more calories to pack on fat they will need during the winter.  Throughout the fall, bears require around 20,000 calories per day and will eat anything that’s convenient, including items in your g  More...

Eustis City Manger Out

On Thursday, the Eustis City Commission and Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert parted ways.  Neibert has resigned as part of a mutual agreement with the Eustis City Commission. The commission approved the separation agreement at its September 23 meeting.

The separation agreement include  More...

Update: Prosecuter Speaks On River Shooting Case

    Two people were hospitalized, and three more taken into custody.  But nearly a month after a gunfight erupted on the St. Johns River in Astor, no charges have been announced and officials remain mum on details surrounding the case.
    But that could change as soon as later this week.
    Jonathan Olson, prosecutor with the Office of the State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit, said on Tuesday that the investigation remains active.
    “The case is still under investigation,” Olson said  More...

Happy Birthday, Umatilla Drug Store!

    Umatilla Drug Store, Umatilla’s locally owned and operated pharmacy, spent last week celebrating 15 years of service to the community.  Operated by the Greer family, Umatilla Drug Store provides a full service of pharmaceutical services with a personal touch.
    “We feel blessed,” said Claudia Greer of the occasion, describing the drug store as a ‘ministry’ effort of the family, dedicated to bringing a Christ-centered pharmaceutical experience to the store’s customers.  “It has allowed us to mini  More...

COVID Cases On Decline In Lake

    Hope that the worst of the current COVID 19 pandemic wave is over grew this week, as Lake County reported a decline in new cases for the third week in a row.  Data indicated Lake County posted 1,464 new cases in the week running from September 17-24, a decline of 275 from the week previous, and a decline of 784 from two weeks ago.
    Data from the Centers for Disease Control on Monday indicated Lake County has had a total of 50,713 positive COVID cases, and 1,028 deaths from the virus.  
    Lake County Schools con  More...

Fundraiser For Veterans Saturday

    The 6th Annual Rocking 4 Awareness Hops for Vets celebration will convene this Saturday, September 18, at Gator Harley Davidson.  From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the public is invited to come celebrate those who served in the military with live music, food, vendors, a live auction, and more.
    This year, the event is dedicating its proceeds to the Warriors to Farmers project.
    The fun starts at 8 a.m. at the 1745 US Hwy 441 business, with a morning ruck march with Florida4Warriors.  When the main event gets underway a  More...

Ocala Forest History: Learn About Carr Family Cabin

By Dalton Yancey

    As an extension of the reopening of the Umatilla Museum under the leadership of new manager, Mary Nichols, a program concerning the award-winning Carr Family Cabin, located in the Ocala National Forest will be presented.  The program is scheduled for Thursday, September 30, at 2 p.m., in the Old School House at 299 North Trowel Avenue in Umatilla.  Light refreshments will be served.
    Dalton Yancey, president of the Friends of Carr Family Cabin, and Carrie Sekerak, Deputy Ranger of the Seminole Ranger Di  More...

Change Coming To Lake County Water Authority?

    Area state representative Keith Truenow was in Umatilla on Monday, addressing a meeting of the Umatilla Kiwanis Club.  With an estimated 40 people from the Umatilla and Mount Dora clubs in attendance, Truenow provided a legislative update with special focus on the upcoming effort to remake the Lake County Water Authority.
    Entering his second year serving district 31, which encompasses North Lake County and parts of northwest orange county, Truenow said his goal remains the same as when he first decided to run for office.
 &nb  More...

School Board Set For Mask Vote?

    After extended debates, the Lake County School board is expected to vote on a school mask policy at a meeting scheduled for this Thursday, September 9.  The meeting will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the chambers of the Lake County Commission, located at 315 West Main Street in Tavares.
    The meeting is expected to be a culmination of several weeks of on and off again discussion about the school system’s policy toward masking in its schools.  Currently, masks are optional on Lake County Schools campuses, but that could change  More...

Remembering Early Altoona Citrus Industry

By Ed Lisle - The Sandspur Cracker

    Continuing from last week’s story, here is the rest of the story about the Altoona Packing Company as told by E.H. Webb.
    “Lawton Long was one of the truck drivers, Noel F. Harbison was another, and Wallace Kight was one of the ‘goat’ drivers.  ‘Goat’ trucks were used mostly to get field boxes of fruit out of close, difficult groves.  Many had steep, sandy hills.
    “Inside the packing house:  Bill Collins acted as house for  More...

9/11 Attacks Remembered 20 Years Later

By June Perry

    I normally write an article celebrating this week in our American History, however, history is nothing if not personal.  As a Daughter of the American Revolution, I take great pride in the sacrifices my patriot ancestors made so that I could enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  On September 11, 2001, that freedom was attacked.
    September 11, 2001 was an average Tuesday morning.  I was working for a telecommunications company and had a meeting scheduled to go over a custome  More...

You Could Win This Henry Rifle For Just $20

    For just $20, you could soon be the owner of a new Henry .22 rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition to go with it.  The Umatilla High School Athletic Boosters this week announced the raffle, with just 300 tickets being sold in the program.
    The gun, with an estimated retail value of $400, is on display at the Jolly Rogers gold and pawn shop in Umatilla, which is co-sponsoring the fundraiser for the group that funds the majority of UHS athletics.  The raffle will remain open until October 8. 
    Proceeds will g  More...

Duo Escapes Rollover Into Lake

    Two people were transported from a Thursday morning crash northwest of Umatilla.  The incident, reported around 9:30 a.m. on August 26, occurred on Peru Road just east of the Keene Road intersection.
    The couple was westbound on Peru Road when the SUV they were in went off the road’s south shoulder.  The vehicle struck a small palm tree and overturned, coming to rest upside down in the lake’s edge.
    The vehicle’s cabin didn’t totally submerge in the crash, but was partially underwater.  More...

North Lake Trail Gets $4 Million Boost

    The proposed North Lake Trail, running from Astor to Umatilla, is getting a big shot in the arm that will bring it, at least partly, to reality.  News broke this week that Lake County is poised to allocate nearly $4 million toward the trail, enough money to conduct a full study of the section and to partially fund construction.
    “The plan is to do the study with $2.2 million, and use the other $1.7 million for construction,” said Lake County Commissioner Josh Blake on Monday.  Blake, whose district covers the area in and ar  More...

Editorial: River Violence Was Only A Matter Of Time

    The ticking time bomb that has been St. Johns River violence finally exploded over the weekend, with two people shot after a confrontation on the water.  For people who have followed activity on the river and its social gathering spots in recent years, there couldn’t have been any surprise upon hearing the news.
    Details of exactly what caused the confrontation are either unknown or as-yet-unreleased by law enforcement officials, but locals have been talking plenty.  And have been for months on end about problems on the water.  More...

Grocery Store Parking Lot Crash

    Injuries were avoided, but property was damaged on Thursday, August 26, when a driver in the parking lot at the Woodlands Publix reversed through a parking spot, striking an adjoining vehicle and additional property.
    Eustis Police Department reports state that around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, a Hyundai driven by Lyndon Foley, 87, of Eustis was in a parking space next to a Toyota driven by Betty Asklof, 87, of Umatilla.  Foley reversed, striking the Toyota in the right passenger side before jumping the curb at the back of the parking lot and t  More...

Duo Detains Burglar Until Police Arrive

    An observant neighbor and fast-acting resident were able to stop a robbery in Astor this week, and also helped law enforcement out by detaining the suspect until deputies could arrive.  Michael Emerson of Astor is facing a variety of charges after he broke into a shed at an Armadillo Road residence and attempted to steal guns.
    Lake County Sheriff’s Office reports stated William Lightfoot was on his way home from work around 6:45 p.m. and driving past 23902 Armadillo Road when he saw a man jumping over his neighbor’s fence, and  More...

Lake Considering Merging Emergency Services

    Lake County could be on the cusp of combining its fire and EMS services.  The Lake County Commission on Tuesday voiced support for a study that could begin as soon as next month and lead to the eventual melding of the two county emergency response agencies to one.
    The prospect of merging emergency systems was part of a broader discussion held by the commission on Tuesday.  Facing shortages of staffing in its ambulance services, the commission is eyeing sign-on bonuses, extra pay, and more to increase response levels in the county.  More...

Umatilla Citrus History Celebrated

    Umatilla’s Citrus History was celebrated on Monday, as two locations in town became the first sites to unveil large placards as part of a new Lake County Citrus Label Tour.  Designed to showcase the county’s rich citrus past, the two sites will join at least ten others from around the county in drawing people to learn more about how citrus shaped Lake County over the last 100 years.
    “These are portals,” said program organizer John Jackson on Monday.  Jackson, a retired Lake County extension agent, organized the  More...

Lake Eustis Health Warning: Toxic Algae Found

    The Florida Department of Health in Lake County (DOH-Lake) on Monday issued a Health Caution for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in the northwest corner of Lake Eustis. The move was taken in response to a water sample taken on Monday, August 16.
    The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Eustis.
    Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolo  More...

EMS Shortages: County Brings In Help From Other Agencies

    A staffing shortage and increased call load has resulted in Lake EMS calling on agencies from around the state to offer support to its operations. EMS announced the move on Monday, through social media post stating the move was made to ‘relieve our first responders who have worked tirelessly to serve our community.’
    Responders from Sarasota County and City of North Port have come to Lake with their trucks and equipment to support Lake EMS’ normal operations.  “We can’t thank the Florida Division of Emergency M  More...

Man Crashes While Fleeing From Umatilla Police

    A short chase on SR 19 in Umatilla ended when the suspect struck a power pole, breaking it in two.  Shameel Bradberry, 37, of Orlando is facing a variety of charges after the incident, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday, August 15.
    Umatilla Police reports indicate Bradberry fled a traffic stop that was initiated in the area of SR 19 and Cassady Street in downtown Umatilla around 2:06 a.m.  Heading south, the suspect - who was driving a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu - traveled on SR 19 to the area of Ballpark Road, where he crossed t  More...

Fellowship Of Christian Athletes Has New Local Leader

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes movement continues to grow in Lake County, and the organization this week is announcing the addition of its newest director, Bobby Rowe.
    Rowe, who lives in Mount Dora, will oversee the FCA’s North Lake unit, which includes the Golden Triangle high schools, Umatilla High School, and the Leesburg area.
    Rowe comes to the position after volunteering at Mount Dora High School in recent years.
    "We want to expand, increase disciples," Rowe said  More...

First Baptist Umatilla Set For $13.5 Million Expansion

    As soon as this coming fall, the First Baptist Church of Umatilla is expected to break ground on a $13.5 million expansion project.  Church members on Sunday voted to proceed with the construction of a new sanctuary and classroom space, culminating years of fundraising, planning, and preliminary site work.
    "We are very excited as a church family," said Brooks Braswell, lead pastor at the church.  "This is a historic moment in the almost 157-year history of First Baptist Church Umatilla."

Surveillance Camera Controversy Blows Up This Week

Ed. Note:  The below story appears in our print edition this week, and in  More...

Summer Isn't Too Hot For Certain Garden Plants

    Rain, rain, rain. We aren’t complaining, but the whole yard is wet and growing like crazy right now. This hot, sticky time of year is what we always refer to as the green season, meaning it is time to get the bleach and the scrub brush out and start scrubbing the house for fall.
    The white painted wood of our homestead turns green from all the rain and humidity, and it is a summer ritual to give it a good scrub in preparation for fall. It isn’t fall yet, but blink your eyes and it will be time for pumpkins and scarecrows.
&nbs  More...

Happy 100th Birthday, Priscilla Getchell!

By Holly Palmer Newby
    What would you do with 100 years? Not a question very many  folks get to ask. Priscilla Getchell, however, will be crossing that mile marker on Monday, August 9. What has she done with her years? A whole lot.
    We went to visit her today in her home in Dona Vista, where she has lived many years now with her son Timothy. She greeted us with a big smile, handshake, and a welcome. She, like many of us, has been shut in during a year of Covid and was happy for a visit with an old friend.
    We  More...

COVID Cases Continue To Rise, No Fatalities Here

    Reported cases of COVID 19 continue to rise in Lake County, with weekly numbers indicating 1,962 cases occurred in Lake County from July 23 - July 30.  That was an increase from 1,165 reported a week earlier and the sixth week in a row that cases have risen.
    As has been the case since June 3, no new fatalities were reported as a result of COVID 19, meaning everyone who has recently contracted the virus has survived, at least through last Friday.  Overall, Lake County’s reported mortality rate since the pandemic began was at 1.8  More...

Local Agritourism Outlet Announces New Product

    Area agritourism received another boost in the past week, when Umatilla’s Graham farms finished installing over 900 blackberry plants.  The farm, which has gained notoriety in recent years for its u-pick peach and sunflower operations, installed the plants with an eye to adding to its spring product offering.
    “It wasn’t part of our original plan, but it was an opportunity,” said Mary Graham this week while taking a break from tending the plants, which are in the process of growing limbs to house next year’s cr  More...

Arrest After Restaurant Break-In

    An Idaho man was hospitalized early Saturday morning after a break-in at a downtown Eustis restaurant.  Colby Mushinskie, 20, of Meridian, Idaho, was transferred to AdventHealth Waterman hospital with various cuts and abrasions that didn’t appear to be suffered during the break-in.
    Affidavits indicate Mushinskie was walking in the area of the El Marie Pizzeria restaurant at 200 North Bay Street around 2:30 a.m. when he broke into the front of the restaurant by throwing two chairs through the front door glass.  When police arrive  More...

County Residents Among Group Arrested In Sex Sting

    Detectives assigned to the Lake County sheriff’s Intelligence Unit recently concluded a four-day undercover operation targeting those who attempt to meet children online for sexual activity. The investigation, dubbed Operation Flip Flop, resulted in 10 arrests for various sex-related charges.
    Detectives conducted the operation from an undisclosed location, during which they posed online as either a 13- or 14-year-old child. The subjects traveled to a predetermined location with the intent to have sex with whom they thought was the child an  More...

Asa's Adventures - Local Archaeology Of Railroads

        When people think of archaeology, they will most likely think of rocks, pith helmets, and artifacts from ancient civilizations. The definition of archaeology according to the dictionary is “the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains,” and our view of what this looks like is often affected by pop culture: ancient cities, buried treasure, and dinosaur bones receive plenty of screen time in television and films. However, archaeology can take various differen  More...

Locals Back From Italy To View Bethune Unveiling

    A group of Lake County Historical Society representatives and their families have returned from a trip to Italy, where they participated in the official unveiling of a statue of civil rights leader Mary McCleod Bethune.  The marble statue will take residence in the US Capitol at Statuary Hall in the coming months, representing Florida and replacing the current statue or Civil War general Edmund Kirby Smith. 
    While much of Bethune’s history is written in Volusia County, she does have links to Lake, beyond the number of residents  More...

Meet Longtime SR 19 Bicyclist

By Ed Lisle

    Shortly after moving back to Umatilla, I usually saw him riding his bicycle along SR 19 through town.  For over 20 years, there he was, stooped over his bike, cigar stub clenched behind his beard, usually clothed in a camouflage jacket, pedaling along Umatilla’s main drag.  I asked around about his identity and really got no answer.  “I think he works at the Quarterdeck,” was the best response I got.  I don’t know why I waited for over 20 years to just ask him his name, but I finally did.  I pulled to th  More...

New Clothing Store Opens Downtown

    Umatilla welcomed a new clothing and accessory retailer in the past week. Southern Magnolia and Co. celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, July 15, with shop staff and supporters joined by representatives of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce and the Umatilla Scholarship Beauty Queens for a reception and luncheon.
    The shop is owned by Kim Dixon, with sons Patrick and Shawn supporting the effort.  With an online store that has been up and running for around six months, the retail storefront adds to the company’s offer  More...

Where Will Trail Go Through Umatilla?

    Exactly where a proposed recreational trail might go through Umatilla is yet to be settled, but nearly 40 people turned out last Tuesday night in Umatilla to see proposals and offer their input, giving city and trail officials lots of ideas on how a proposed trail could pass through town.
    The trail, proposed from Astor to Eustis and joining with a larger statewide trail system on either end, has been discussed for several years, and has gained steam recently as more funding has become available.  Locally, surveys have been taken north of U  More...

Drug Overdose Leads To Murder Charge

    A Umatilla woman is facing murder charges after an investigation into the death of a Leesburg man.  The Lake County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, July 15, announced charges had been filed against Jalynn Nichole Davis, 35, in the overdose death of a 57-year-old unidentified Leesburg man.
    Reports state the man was found deceased in his home, with witnesses stating the night before he had purchased what he thought was Heroin from Davis.
    “The investigation continued, and the cause of death was ultimately deter  More...

Farewell, Blackwater Inn

    “I’m going to miss all my customers.”
    Bill Nordle has announced that he and wife Tina will shutter their Blackwater Inn/William’s Landing restaurant in early August, closing the book on Astor’s most prominent dining establishment.  Nordle, who has been at the Blackwater Inn since 1985 and served as its owner since 1994, has announced that the business and property has been sold.
    Blackwater Inn and William’s Landing are expected to cease operations around August 9, with new own  More...

County Ready To Help Clean Up Roadside Messes

    The side of the road isn’t really the place for old furniture to sit for the rest of forever, and Lake County this week is reminding citizens it’s bulk waste unit is ready to pick up abandoned furniture - as long as it knows about them.
    Mary Hamilton, interim assistant county manager on Monday said the county is ready to respond to the growing problem of roadside furniture, as it is a service provided as part of the property owners’ tax system.
    “If you are paying the assessment, it’s part  More...

Umatilla Welcomes New Head Librarian

    The City of Umatilla will welcome its new head librarian on Monday, July 19.  Amy Stultz will take over for Janet Lewis, who recently left the post.
    Stultz comes to Umatilla with a Master’s degree in library studies from Florida State University, and for the past 14 years has served in Clermont at the Cooper Memorial Library, including as its head of Youth Services.
    “She has local roots in Umatilla and is happy to become part of the community,” said Umatilla City Manager Scott Blankenship in an  More...