March 30, 2015: Morning News In 90

By on March 30th, 2015 | Last updated: March 30, 2015 at 10:51 am

Taylor Gaines produced this update.

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Patrons and Artists Pack Cedar Key for 51st Annual Fine Arts Festival

By on March 30th, 2015 | Last updated: March 30, 2015 at 6:33 pm



Cedar Key held its 51st annual Cedar Key Fine Arts Festival this past Saturday and Sunday.

The festival showcased a number of different arts including jewelry, photography, wood making and mixed media. The festival allowed participating artists to demonstrate their work and interact with their patrons.

Beverly Ringenberg, event coordinator with Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, said between 19,000 to 20,000 people attended the Cedar Key Fine Arts Festival over the course of the weekend. Visitors included people from supporting counties and out-of-state visitors

Festival patrons relished the sunny weather by relaxing in Cedar Key Park, listening to bands play their music or boating—all the while sampling food from the many booths present. Children also enjoyed the playground and the henna face-painting booth.

The next Cedar Key Fine Arts Festival is scheduled for April 9 and 10, 2016.

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In The News: Charter School Lawsuit Loses Major Plaintiff, Florida Group Advocates for Children of Illegal Immigrants, Seminole County Power Outage Affects 2,000 Residents, Local Students Qualify for International Competition

By on March 30th, 2015 | Last updated: March 30, 2015 at 11:51 am
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Artwalk Gainesville Gives Downtown an Artistic Feel

By on March 29th, 2015 | Last updated: March 30, 2015 at 4:31 pm


Frank Curtis sat on a chair in front of his display of suitcase-arranged art hung on the wall.

“They’re (suitcases) a good metaphor for our baggage, our memories, our travels, our adventures, our lives,” Curtis said. “We put everything in them.”

Along with the suitcases, Curtis displayed hand-colored etchings and large pastel drawings in Lennie Kesl Artist Studios, located on South Main Street in downtown Gainesville.

Right next door was Sweetwater Print Cooperative, a gallery focused on printmaking, that presented a mixed media exhibit by Laura Richards.

Residents, families and students filled downtown galleries and took part in the art experience.

Richards’ exhibit, “Departure,” included works she made this year from acrylic paintings to sculptures. Each piece explored departure and what it means to depart from a place, time or familiar comfort.

Richards also used a series of mixed media encaustics, a wax-based medium, to display the story of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Curtis and Richards were two of many artists who displayed artwork around downtown for Artwalk Gainesville’s event on Friday from 7-10 p.m.

Many of the studios gave visitors an opportunity to purchase art and paintings.  Artwalk Gainesville is a free event that provides a variety of art and entertainment held the last Friday of each month with venues spread throughout downtown.

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‘Home-Free’ Squatters Find Community In Gainesville

By on March 28th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm
Amy 'Runaway' Gates sits on the floor of an abandoned house on Jan. 27, 2015, in Gainesville. She said she slept on the hardwood floor for a little over a week with ten others before heading to the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala. Photo by Andrea Sarcos/WUFT News

Amy ‘Runaway’ Gates sits on the floor of an abandoned house on Jan. 27 in Gainesville. She said she slept on the hardwood floor for a little over a week with ten others before heading to the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala. Photo by Andrea Sarcos/WUFT News

They call her Runaway.

Sleeping on the hardwood floor of an abandoned house alongside 10 others for a week, she found a temporary home.

She met a group of fellow travelers in downtown Gainesville whom she stayed with in a squat house they knew about through word of mouth.

“I hit the road to find myself,” said Amy “Runaway” Gates, an 18-year-old self- proclaimed “dirty kid” from Houston who hitchhiked for about a month before arriving to Gainesville in mid-January.

A week and a half later, the group left the house. The smell of human waste was unbearable, Runaway said.

The house, at 810 SW First Ave., has a large oak tree growing sideways by the front door while old junk mail sits decomposing in the mailbox.

According to the Alachua County Property Appraiser, Innovation Square LLC owns the property. Lee Nelson, director of Innovation Square, said he hasn’t heard about people squatting there. The landlord who had handled the property retired about a month ago.

After finding more shattered glass from the broken windows of the derelict house, neighbor Eduardo Arenas said it was time to board it up.

“As many broken windows as I’ve noticed is how many times I’ve told the landlord,” he said.

Arenas is one of three co-owners of The Jam, a music venue and bar that shares its backyard with that of the squat house. He said he used to live in a now-abandoned duplex next to the house the squatters lived in. Arenas knew the last tenant: a nice but reclusive man who lived in the squat house.

“When we went in there to scope it out, there was stuff in there from before he even moved in, like 15 or 18 years beforehand, and he never even went through it,” he said. “It was like this time capsule of random art supplies, empty bottles.”

Arenas said when he lived in the apartment two years ago, he knew squatters would sleep in the abandoned house. He would kick them out if he saw they were disrespectful to the property.

“I don’t mind if people stay there. What I mind is people being disrespectful of wherever they’re going to be,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who has opened up my house for homeless people before — I have a heart for that.”

 A group of 'dirty kids' fly a sign on the corner of SE 1st St and SE 2nd Pl while one patches up a jacket and another plays guitar on Jan. 23, 2015 in Gainesville​. Photo by Andrea Sarcos/WUFT News

A group of ‘dirty kids’ congregate on the corner of SE First Street and SE Second Place on Jan. 23, 2015 in Gainesville​. Photo by Andrea Sarcos/WUFT News

He said he thinks the house is like a monument and deserves more respect. Only a few blocks from Gainesville’s Historic District, the house isn’t protected and is left to the whims of the landowners.

“Their life is a reflection upon the mess they make everywhere they go, the smell, the lack of respect, the lack of hygiene,” Arenas said. “That’s what I associate with the people that squat back there.”

He and the other two owners of The Jam requested the house be boarded up. A month later, Arenas said the landlord finally put up wooden panels along the bottom floors of the abandoned apartment and the squat house.

Colorful art now decorates these wooden panels.

Fredrick Lassiter, a 22-year-old security guard at The Jam, said the only bad encounters he has had with the squatters involved breaking up fights. He said he’s seen 30 to 40 people come in and out of the building in the past two-and-a-half years — the time he’s worked at The Jam.

“They’re not really bad people,” he said. “They just got a habit of getting too drunk and getting crazy with it.”

Officer Ben Tobias, the spokesman for Gainesville Police Department, said squatting is not that big of an issue in town. If authorities do catch someone in an abandoned house, GPD will first figure out whether the people have permission to be there.

Trespassing is a misdemeanor, and residential burglary is a felony. Otherwise, Tobias said, GPD does not see squatting as an everyday problem.

Lassiter said people in the “dirty kid” scene are attracted to the parties and large music shows of Gainesville and the surrounding area, like the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground in Live Oak and the annual Rainbow Gathering in Ocala. Some of their common characteristics, he said, include dreadlocks, suspenders, boots, piercings and tattoos on the face, dog companions, giant backpacks and patches.

He said no one with these characteristics has stepped into the house since it’s been boarded up.

“It’s almost like a resistance,” Lassiter said. “They’re like their own government just about. There’s so many ways you can think of a dirty kid.”

Runaway described the dirty kids as traveling people who are trying to find something better than what society has to offer.

“You can be a dirty kid at 40. You’ll always be a dirty kid,” she said. “We don’t want to be called homeless because we’re not really homeless. We’re home-free.”

She said dirty kids get “itchy feet” and cannot stay in one place for a long time. She said a group called the Dirty Kids Couch Coalition offers accommodations, especially on cold and stormy nights.

When in doubt, however, they squat.

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Flooding Disrupts Hunting During Spring Turkey Season At Gores Landing

By on March 27th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 3:33 pm
Gores Landing Wildlife Management area is a popular place for turkey hunters to visit during the turkey season in March. Photo courtesy of Greg Workman.

Closure of a main road in Gores Landing Wildlife Management Area may ruffle turkey hunters’ feathers.

A large portion of McLemore Road, which is frequently traveled by turkey hunters, is closed until March 29 due to heavy rainfall and flooding conditions in the area.

The closure overlaps with the spring turkey season, which only allows about a week to legally hunt bearded turkey or gobbler, from March 21-29, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. March is Florida’s main turkey season.

Greg Workman, a spokesman for the FWC, said the road is, “a main artery within the management area.”

Workman said it can become a hassle for hunters to lug equipment through an alternate trail covered in water to get around a main traffic road like the one in Gores Landing.

The commission chose to close the road because of unsafe driving conditions during this time of year.

“Accessibility is important,” said Wade Brenner, a biologist for the fish and wildlife commission. “(But) the closure was based on public safety.”

Although the Ocala National Forest boasts a large alternate option for turkey hunting, Workman said Gores Landing is a popular area. He cited the cypress low lands and oak hammocks which make a great habitat for turkey as reasons why.

Workman also explained the intricate calls, equipment and methods of luring involved in turkey hunting. Gun ammo, turkey calls, decoys, a portable turkey blind and a turkey seat are all needed for success.

A wrong call can be detrimental to the process; a “putt” instead of “yelp”, and the turkey could be uninterested and long gone. Both calls involve the hunter mimicking female turkey, or hen, noises, but the wrong one could cause him to lose his prey.

“It’s not about connecting and shooting; it’s just about the hunt itself,” Workman said.

Situations like a closed road can cause even more problems for hunters, and it’s not the first time this has been an issue.

Workman said the road has been closed due to flooding previously and the only long-term solution to the problem is to get funding to build a new road with a water flow system, while keeping the area as natural as possible.

Gores Landing runs along the Ocklawaha River and the commission built the road in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection to enable travel across the entire length of the property from north to south and vice versa, said Andrea Boliek Walker, regional public hunting areas biologist.

In the past, the agency at the wildlife management area used construction on the river bed to prevent the river from flooding but ran out of funding before they could reach the area currently closed, she said.

Boliek Walker said because the closed area fills with so much water, even with proper construction, they may not be able to prevent future closings.

Bad news for hunters, but good news for turkeys.

“There is a very healthy turkey population in that area and the habitat in that area is very favorable for turkeys as well,” Boliek Walker said.

The detailed art of turkey hunting has attracted people from around the country to this area because of the Osceola wild turkey, a celebrity within the turkey world.

Hunting areas and local communities are greatly impacted by the demand for the Osceola turkey, and turkey season is in full swing around the state despite this area’s obstacles, Workman said.

“Funding is number one,” Workman said. “But public access to all areas within that management area is a goal and that would definitely be a positive step in the right direction in accessibility.”

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Couple Travels North Central Florida Teaching Blues In Schools

By on March 27th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

For Mark and Barbara Armbrecht, teaching students the blues isn’t just about music and melodies.

It’s about the young girl, who climbs on Barbara’s lap while she plays the blues.

It’s about another girl, who tells them her mom is an alcoholic.

It’s about the boy with a severe handicap, who refuses to join the semicircle, upset at his changed environment. That same boy heard just a few minutes of a blues melody and couldn’t help but sit in the front row, clapping his hands to the beat.

“That really meant something,” Mark Armbrecht said. “I had tears running down my cheeks. The power of music, holy smokes, it’s amazing.”

Wife and husband, Barbara and Mark Armbrecht

Wife and husband, Barbara and Mark Armbrecht, are active in the local North Central Florida Blues Society, which promotes blues education in schools. Other blues societies run parallel programs to help keep the blues alive. “We hear about so much bad stuff in the world, but we have some good people, too,” Mark Armbrecht said. “We have good things going on too.”

Since last year, husband and wife Mark and Barbara Armbrecht have been volunteering their time at Blues in the Schools, a North Central Florida Blues Society program that brings blues music education into schools. They travel around North Central Florida to educate students.

The Armbrechts are members of the North Central Florida Blues Society. Mark Armbrecht is the vice president and Barbara Armbrecht is a board member. Mark Armbrecht is an artist in many capacities, from music to metal sculpture. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music and a performance degree in trumpet.

Barbara Armbrecht is a retired professional horse trainer, who now dedicates her life to music and what she describes as “gigging around.” Although she does not have formal training, Armbrecht has dabbled in the music industry since she was a teenager.

The couple also plays music as a duo called Middleground, which performs around North Central Florida.

“Music has been an incredible gift for me,” Barbara Armbrecht said. “I’ve experienced things in my life I never would have, had I not gotten to play music. It’s that time in my life when I can give back.”

Photo2 (1)

Mark and Barbara Armbrecht perform around Gainesville and surrounding areas as the duo ‘Middleground.’ Whether through Blues in the Schools programs or blues performances, music is a huge part of the Armbrechts’ lives. “We’ve been very fortunate to get to do what we do,” Mark Armbrecht said. (Courtesy of Mark Armbrecht)

Spreading blues music and education is their way of giving back to the community. They have had 10 performances so far: seven for public schools and three for private schools. Some of the performances were held at the Hippodrome State Theatre in downtown Gainesville. Public schools follow a rigid schedule, so it can be difficult for the Armbrechts to perform in the classrooms, specifically for public schools.

“There is a requirement to have music and art education, but it’s being pushed aside,” Mark Armbrecht said.

He said the teachers don’t have time in their schedules to afford an hour to do something extra.

However, the Armbrechts said they think these difficulties might be changing. Mark Armbrecht recently spoke with Alachua Board of Education member Rob Hyatt about increasing music and arts education in public schools. Hyatt said he could not comment on the topic at this time.

However, the Armbrechts haven’t let scheduling woes stop them from being active blues educators.

North Central Florida Blues Society president Rob Richardson said the Armbrechts don’t limit where or how they can teach the blues.

“They’re actively out there looking for opportunities to educate,” Richardson said. “They’re two of the more important, valuable people to the blues society. They’re doing something critical: They’re reaching out to children.”

Tas Cru, also a blues educator and musician, agreed. Cru said Mark and Barbara Armbrecht have a deep understanding of blues history and how it is performed, which highlights their commitment to the program.

“Mark and Barbara are very, very active themselves in designing and presenting programs within that reach,” Cru said.

Barbara Armbrecht teaches a Blues in the Schools program at the Hippodrome in downtown Gainesville. She often uses the call-and-response technique: She yells out and the kids respond. This method gets them involved and teaches them about the historical significance of where blues music came from in America. (Courtesy of Mark Armbrecht)

Barbara Armbrecht teaches a Blues in the Schools program at the Hippodrome in downtown Gainesville. She often uses the call-and-response technique: She yells out and the kids respond. This method gets them involved and teaches them about the historical significance of where blues music came from in America. Photo courtesy of Mark Armbrecht.

They have worked with kids from as young as 3 or 4 years old up to high school age. Although the Blues in the Schools program outlines a sample session for different age groups, the Armbrechts adapt sessions to the group of kids at hand. One group of children might need to be active during the session. Another might need to have visuals in addition to the music.

Regardless of age, working with children is especially rewarding for the duo.

“You don’t give back to the people who gave to you,” Barbara Armbrecht said. “You give to the people who are in need. And that is the kids. They are missing out. They’re the ones who need someone to take them by the hand and open a door here, or open their eyes here, or open their heart here.”

For the Armbrechts, blues education expands beyond just school doors. It is equally as indispensable for adults in their understanding of the blues, of music and of American culture.

“Music is at the heart of every single one of us,” Mark Armbrecht said. “It affects every single one of us whether we realize it or not. If you let that music come in — wow. It’s just tremendous what can happen.”

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Mar. 27, 2015: Afternoon News In 90

By on March 27th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm

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In The News: NASA To Launch Identical Twin Into Space, Pentagon Attacks ISIS With Political Cartoons, Florida Unemployment Rates Decrease, Florida Homeless Shelter Closes

By on March 27th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm
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Mar. 27, 2015: Morning News In 90

By on March 27th, 2015 | Last updated: March 27, 2015 at 11:48 am

Kelly Audette produced this update. 

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