Taylor Gaines produced this update.
Florida has received a four out of five-star rating from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The only qualification preventing Florida from a five-star rating is a mandatory all-offender ignition-interlock law.
Ignition-interlock devices measure blood alcohol content before drivers can start their cars. Florida’s current ignition-interlock statutes require first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content greater than or equal to 0.15 percent and repeat offenders to use these devices, according to the MADD statistics on Florida.
The five requirements to achieve a five-star rating include conducting sobriety checkpoints, enhancing penalties for DUI child endangerment, low blood-alcohol content test refusal rates, revoking licenses and requiring ignition-interlock devices for all offenders, according to MADD’s 2015 Report to the Nation.
Lt. Ryan Martina, assistant chief of public affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol, said approximately 7,185 ignition-interlock devices were installed in Florida from January to August 2014.
Florida has received more than $1 million for a federal interlock-incentive, according to the 2015 MADD report.
During the 2014 Florida Legislative session legislators expanded the existing law, as explained on the MADD website, to allow judges to order interlocks for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 to 0.14 percent in lieu of a 10-day vehicle impoundment.
Williams said none of the legislators in Florida have pitched the idea to make ignition-interlock devices mandatory for all convicted drunken drivers.
Since the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving report was first published in 2011, Florida has consistently received a four-star rating.
An explosion at a Southwest Villas apartment on Thursday around midnight left 12 people seeking shelter.
Gainesville Fire Rescue District Chief Michael Cowart said the explosion originated from a middle, second-story apartment. It blew out the windows, sending clothing and other household items flying outside. The explosion then caused the apartment to catch fire. Before firefighters arrived, the fire spread to two adjacent apartments.
Firefighters stopped the fire before it spread further. No injuries were reported; however, the 12 residents from the three apartments affected were taken in by the Red Cross and given food and shelter. The total damage was estimated between $200,000 and $300,000.
After hearing the explosion and mistaking the sound for a car striking the building, Liban Jirmo, a resident in the complex, exited his building to investigate and saw the flames.
“I noticed that nobody was out, so I started banging on the doors,” Jirmo said. “I got two old guys out and their roommate.”
Cowart said the cause of the explosion is unknown.
According to UF researchers, paddling as a form of punishment in schools is ineffective. After interviewing 27 principals about paddling, most respondents said they felt obligated to use corporal punishment and did not know what other methods to use, said special education associate professor Joseph Gagnon.
Twenty-nine years ago the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire began with only a few people.
On Saturday, performers, merchants and the Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs will work together to create what artisan Joseph Bilella called a truly magical and authentic experience.
The first of two weekends of the 2015 Hoggetowne Medieval Faire will begin on Saturday and continue through Sunday at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. The Faire will resume on Jan. 30 and conclude Feb. 1.
Bilella said many other medieval fairs have been taken over by larger corporations and lack the magic of the old world. A group of artisans agreed that Linda Piper, the fair’s producer, runs the fair differently.
Piper said the Faire must raise enough money to support itself — it receives no funding from the city. In years past, the Faire not only met its financial goals, but exceeded them.
Last year about 55,000 people attended the event with 58 percent of attendees coming from outside of Gainesville — some came from as far away as Pennsylvania. The local economy has benefited from tourists checking into hotels, eating at restaurants and shopping in the surrounding areas.
This year an additional entertainment stage will be added to attract more people. Twelve new artisans will also be attending this year, bringing the total to 165. Some artisans traveled across the country to show their wares despite all odds.
Dixe-Lee Bernet, 78, came from Minnesota. Originally, Bernet was an English teacher who studied medieval literature in college. Because of her declining health, she was forced into early retirement. When she wasn’t teaching, she enjoyed sewing children’s costumes.
Bernet was inspired by her daughter to take her hobby on the road and make a new living selling her costumers at Renaissance fairs. She had already participated in a couple of fairs before teaching, so the transition back was natural. She has been traveling now for 23 years, but plans to hand the business over to a younger worker in the future.
Like Bernet, Joseph Bilella travels around the country.
“Natively, I’m from New York,” he said, but he laughed and explained his true home is really wherever he spent the night before. “So for right now, I’m from Micanopy.”
Bilella’s artisan roots began in high school when he studied art and later went on to pursue his Master of Art degree. He originally came to Gainesville with two storage trunks of his art and stayed in Micanopy at a bed and breakfast.
The Faire was an opportunity for some artisans to break away from financially troubling pasts and into brighter futures.
Tom McGuigan and his wife Melinda were traveling from art show to art show trying to make a living selling statues in Ohio until they met Piper 15 years ago. They were offered the opportunity to show their pieces at art shows in Gainesville, and after a few years, they were offered a chance to set up a stand at Hoggetowne.
At first Tom McGuigan worried about not having costumes or the ability to decorate a stand. But Piper said she would take care of both the costumes and the stand and even gave them their first name: “Tom Starcrafters.”
Now known as “Ye Ole Wizards and Dragons,”the McGuigan’s stand brought in $6,000 in just two weekends in their first year — it took six months to make $10,000 in Tom McGuigan’s last year working art shows.
The artisans are not the only ones involved in the Faire. Various performing groups put on shows such as jousting tournaments, balancing acts and the famous human chess board — a show put on by the Thieves’ Guild with a different theme and twist each year.
This year’s theme is Robin Hood and his merry men. Each guild member was assigned a role and given the opportunity to personalize his or her character.
Katey Sands is one of the designers behind some of the specialty costumes and acts. She created two costumes based on “The Legend of Zelda” and even worked to create a subplot within the play.
For Sands, joining the guild was a chance to express her creative side — but everyone had a unique reason for joining.
The main character, Robin Hood, is played by Michael Riling, who studied theater in school and picked up fencing during his time there. Seeing the human chess board performances as an opportunity to use his studies and hobby, he performed at his first fair in 2008.
Other members, such as Shael Millheim, remembered growing up watching family members perform in Renaissance fairs and decided to follow in their footsteps.
What draws people to the guild varies, but members all agreed they felt a sense of belonging.
Molly Gillis originally joined the guild three years ago to meet like-minded people. Yet, she never expected to find the man she would fall in love with. Today, Gillis and her husband both play active roles in the guild.
While Gillis has only been involved for a few years, other members have a long history in the guild. This year marked Sunshine Andrei’s 20th anniversary since joining. She was recruited by the original producer and has since worked her way up to that role for this year’s show.
Andrei said the show is a chance for her to meet new people and feel young again. She compared her experiences at Hoggetowne to those of a child entering Disney and even called it her “fountain of youth.”
The Thieves’ Guild was founded in 1988 by Ted Lewis under the name of The Hoggetowne Players. The Players performed at the second annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire with only a few members. Lewis later left the group to pursue other opportunities with the Gainesville Community Playhouse.
Meanwhile, The Hoggetowne Players continued to work under the leadership of Shawn Bauldree and first performed the human chess board at the seventh Hoggetowne Faire. With the aid of the Playhouse, Lewis created a second group called The Thieves’ Guild.
The two groups came together to form one guild after the seventh Faire. Today, the group is still going strong and is a not-for-profit organization.
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Occupy Gainesville was set up by a group of homeless people to ensure a community atmosphere. This band of tents sits right outside the fences of Grace Marketplace and was included in the homeless census. Residents of Occupy Gainesville can still use the amenities Grace offers while living across the street on a sepate patch of land.
Danielle Veenstra / WUFT News permalink
Peter Dannenhoffer, 52, eats a toaster pastry for his morning breakfast. Even though Dannenhoffer lives in Occupy Gainesville, a tent community outside of Grace Marketplace, he is still able to get something to eat within Grace’s fences. "Grace provided me a place to live immediately after I became homeless," Dannenhoffer said.
Danielle Veenstra / WUFT News permalink
A garden was planted and tended to by a resident of Occupy Gainesville named Tygur. According to Executive Director Theresa Lowe, Tygur was one of the original occupants of the tent community and set up this plot of land to become more self-sustainable.