News Features

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.
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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...