UF’s BugFest Opens To The Public For The First Time

By on April 13th, 2015 | Last updated: April 13, 2015 at 3:36 pm

People of all ages gathered to observe, race and consume little creatures during the fifth annual BugFest on Saturday, hosted at the University of Florida’s Steinmetz Hall, which houses the department of entomology and nematology.

This year marks the first where the event is open to the public, rather than just for students, said Kristen Donovan, a 22-year-old entomology senior at UF.

Donovan said the Entomology Club puts on BugFest each year to spotlight the study of insects. This year, she said, they wanted to inspire children and families with the world of bugs.

Dmitry Kardasz, 5, held a rectangular piece of paper marked with abstract lines of green, purple and blue.

“We put maggots in paint, and when they come out you put them on your paper,” he said. “And then they make art for you.”

Dmitry said maggot art is the best activity, but he also enjoyed the food.

He tried the banana bread–but it had a surprise.

“It was bug banana bread, for some reason,” Dmitry said.

The menu also included oatmeal worm cookies, larval hummus and mealworms in Creole, nacho cheese and plain flavors.

Farther down the hall, cameras flashed during photo-booth sessions and cockroach races.

Outside, visitors were able to observe an Asian forest scorpion, Chilean rose tarantula and a hive of bees.

University of Florida | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Noah’s Endeavor Celebrates the End of Their Softball Season

By on April 12th, 2015 | Last updated: April 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Every Sunday afternoon, children in Alachua County participate in outdoor activities thanks to the Noah’s Endeavor program. Softball was a common favorite this spring.

The program’s awards picnic took place Sunday at Albert Ray Massey (Westside) Park in Gainesville to celebrate the end of the season.

The Endeavor program was founded by Gainesville resident Will Voelker in 1999 as a way for boys and girls with disabilities to play and make new friends, according to the program’s website.

Over the years, the Endeavor program has grown to include a wide array of disabled and non-disabled participants along with their families and student volunteers. The program changed its name to Noah’s Endeavor in 2009 in memory of Voelker’s son Noah.

Softball isn’t the only sport available. Aquatic sports are an option, in which Will and his wife, Shelly, offer swimming lessons. Other options include basketball, bowling and soccer.

Steve Jackson, whose nephew Brian participates in the program, said he was grateful for the love and affection the kids receive..

“It’s really nice what they do,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them [Will Voelker and Noah’s Endeavor], these kids would always be overlooked.”

Upcoming events include a music day Sunday at 1 p.m., which will allow Noah’s Endeavor members to play various instruments in the University of Florida’s Music Building.

Local | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UF Students, Staff Attempt To Save Heritage Trees

By on April 11th, 2015 | Last updated: April 15, 2015 at 5:36 pm

The people behind a social media campaign that took root at the University of Florida overnight are celebrating a small victory for a big tree.

After discovering a unique tree on UF’s campus was scheduled for removal because of construction, a group of students and faculty rallied to save it.

The university’s current construction plan includes Nexus, an expansion of the Nuclear Sciences Building.

But the design planners have one very big obstacle in their way: Bert.

A large bluff oak tree, or Bert, as it is affectionately referred to, is one of 35 trees designated for removal under preliminary designs for the Nexus expansion.

However, after concerns were raised concerning the removal of trees like Bert, a UF landscape committee has asked that new design plans be submitted for consideration.

Jason Smith, an associate professor in UF’s school of Forestry and Conservation, is a former member of UF’s Lakes, Vegetation and Landscaping Committee who described himself as passionate about trees. On Thursday, Smith gathered around Bert with other students and faculty who worked to influence the committee to save the tree and the other heritage oaks.

During a committee meeting Thursday morning, members voted to ask the Nexus design team to explore all options to build around the heritage trees and bring revised plans back for consideration.

Students and faculty joined Smith in asking the committee to consider the legacy of Bert and other heritage trees on site. Reflecting on the achievement, Smith noted the size and strength of the campaign to save Bert, hastily put together over the course of two days.

“We have tree experts and people who are enthusiasts that love trees from all over the world saying, ‘This is an important tree. This is something the campus needs to protect,’” Smith said.

He noted the facts confirmed by arborist Erick Smith with Kestral Ecological Services.

Bert the bluff oak stands about 80 feet tall and is more than 36 inches in diameter. It’s estimated to be more than 100 years old, perhaps the third or fourth largest of its kind in the state.

Bardia Khajenoori, a UF student, jumped on the opportunity to spread the word about the plight of Bert and its neighbors.

Speaking at the meeting, Khajenoori stressed the importance of UF’s environmental legacy.

“We want to make sure that the progress this campus can make in the future doesn’t come at the expense of our past,” Khajenoori said.

Despite their hope to keep the trees where they are, committee members also understood the challenges presented in rerouting the design.

“I do think it will be very challenging, ultimately, for them to prevent that … and avoid the heritage trees,” said Jeanna Mastrodicasa, a current committee member. “I’m not really sure how that will be done. But hopefully, they can at least hear the concerns, give it a try, see what can happen.”

The architects and design planners will bring their findings and plans to a future committee meeting. From there, the committee will decide whether it’s possible to save the heritage trees.

If removal cannot be avoided, those trees will be replaced at a greater value than non-heritage trees per UF’s tree mitigation policy, either on-site or elsewhere. Even though the committee will make a formal recommendation to the university, the fate of Bert and his friends is still in question.

Meanwhile, Smith and students are pushing for a campus environment receptive to their ideas to keep the flora in Florida.

“Although today isn’t the end for Bert,” said Khajenoori, “he does live to see another day.”

University of Florida | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

15-Year-Old Arrested for Bomb Threats to Six Gainesville Schools

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

The Gainesville Police Department arrested a 15-year-old male believed to be responsible for six bomb threats made to local schools on Friday.

In an email to WUFT, GPD spokesperson Ben Tobias said the suspect, a Gainesville resident, attends Horizon New Pathways school and could be charged with six counts of false report of planting a bomb or explosive, a second degree felony, if he is found guilty. The suspect would also have to pay a fine due to the significant law enforcement response.

According to an email from Jackie Johnson, the Alachua County Public Schools public information officer, threats were made to Kanapaha Middle School, Gainesville High School, Lincoln Middle School, Horizon New Pathways and Westwood Middle School.

Students at Lincoln Middle School gather outside after the school received a bomb threat. The call came in around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

Students at Lincoln Middle School gather outside after the school received a bomb threat. The call came in around 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Ryan J. Nelson / WUFT News

School officials evacuated students in response to the bomb threats. Students were dismissed early as GPD swept and cleared each school for bombs, Johnson said.

Don Lewis, principal of Lincoln Middle School, said he was impressed by how his students and staff responded to the bomb threats. Everyone was “very calm, very orderly, very professional.”

“I don’t think it could’ve been handled much better than by my students,” he said.

David Shelnutt, the Gainesville High School principal, said about 1,800 GHS students had to evacuate the school. He said situations like this are exactly why schools run emergency drills — to ensure preparation in case of disaster.

“You never know when you may need it,” he said.

Local | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Army Veteran Opens Local Powerlifting Gym, Forms Community Around It

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm
American Barbell Club owner John Hollier stands in front of the powerlifting section of the gym. Here, “people actually care about getting in shape,” Hollier said. “It’s more of a hardcore training environment. You gotta put in the work.”

American Barbell Club owner John Hollier stands in front of the powerlifting section of the gym. Here, “people actually care about getting in shape,” Hollier said. “It’s more of a hardcore training environment. You gotta put in the work.” Christine Flammia / WUFT News

American Barbell Club is a powerlifter’s paradise.

Inside the warehouse-type garage, the unfinished walls are trimmed with pieces of chain-link fences and a large American flag. Above the professional-grade equipment, expletives are stencilled on the wall like graffiti.

This gym is no fuss, no frills and no joke.

Gym owner John Hollier, a burly 28-year-old, officially opened American Barbell Club’s doors the first week of March.

He personifies the gym’s rugged feel. While his dark beard, beanie-covered hair and abundance of arm tattoos seem intimidating at first glance, Hollier is anything but. He speaks slowly but confidently with no shortage of smooth profanity, knocking his fist in his hand at each sentence.

Hollier is a U.S. Army veteran who toured in 2010 and 2011. He was then stationed in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, before moving back to his home state of Florida with his wife, Olivia. He began to lift competitively in 2013.

Because there were no gyms with powerlifting-grade equipment, he set up shop in an area of his home for training last summer. Friends and fellow powerlifters started coming to his house to use the equipment.

Jake Suggs is a local powerlifter who started training at Hollier’s home after being introduced by a mutual friend.

“[Hollier] is probably the most hospitable person I’ve ever met,” Suggs said. “He just let us work out there for free.”

Suggs and other trainees joined American Barbell Club when when it opened in March. The gym has fitness equipment specific for competitive powerlifters. The list of specialty equipment includes a monolift for safer squatting and standard powerlifting bars used in competition, including a Texas Deadlift bar, a Texas squat bar and Texas power bars.

“Everyone is here to train,” Hollier said. “Everyone has a purpose. They’re doing it for something, not just ‘the gym, bro.’”

The American Barbell Club is housed near downtown Gainesville at 250 SE 10th Ave. It’s mostly concealed off a nondescript side street, but the sweaty gym members pushing sleds and flipping tires in the parking lot give it away.

“It’s his baby,” Olivia Hollier said. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I’m really, really proud of my husband as far as putting his mind to something and doing it. He’s really pulled through.”

She said when he got out of the army, he couldn’t find a gym he liked. And after his stint in the military, he didn’t want to have a 9-to-5 job. So, this gym became his venture.

John Hollier said he was used to being in a competitive environment after about six years in the military.

“I don’t really feel like you can turn competitiveness off,” he said.

Competitive lifting and his gym became the replacement.

About 50 members have joined since the gym opened, and about half of those members lift competitively. Before the opening, those training for competition struggled to find the proper equipment. Lake City, about an hour’s drive away, was the closest spot they could train properly.

The gym welcomes the intensity that often accompanies powerlifting: dropping weights, grunting loudly and dusting chalk.

Jared Skinner, the gym’s strength and conditioning consultant, said he was almost forced to find a gym where he was able to train freely.

“As a power lifter, not a lot of gyms welcome you,” Skinner said. “They have this generalized persona that you’re just a meathead that just picks things up with no regard for equipment or people.”

This gritty gym might look like the “Fight Club” gym of Gainesville, but members keep coming back for the supportive environment Hollier created.

Skinner said what separates Hollier’s space is the members’ levels of knowledge about lifting. He wants to raise the standard of powerlifting education, Skinner said.

“There’s a lot of education involved in here, and not the run-of-the-mill certification anyone can get over the weekend,” said Skinner, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science. He is currently a doctoral candidate in applied physiology and kinesthesiology.

Others have or are getting doctorates in physical therapy and exercise science. He said this is important to both Hollier and the gym because the experienced, educated staff not only brings their own lifting experience and perspective, but they can also back it up with research.

Gym member Jake Suggs said he loves the camaraderie in the gym.

“Even though the people who work out there want to train themselves to the highest level,” he said, “they’re still really friendly.”

Hollier expressed similar feelings.

“It’s kind of turned into a family,” he said. “If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re not going to like it here.”

Local | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Final Four: Gainesville City Commission Run-Off

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Just four candidates advanced from a pool of 10 who ran in Gainesville City Commission initial elections on March 17. 

Come Tuesday, two will finally emerge from the group as winners. The Gainesville City Commission District 1 seat and the City Commission At-Large seat 1 will be decided in a run-off election on April 14. Precinct and voting location information can be found on the Supervisor of Elections website.

Though polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, election day, early voting began on April 6 and continues through April 11. Registered voters can cast ballots from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Supervisor of Elections office, Millhopper Branch Library and Cone Park Library through Saturday.

The four candidates are highlighted below.

District 1 Candidates

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls

Hear from the candidate:

Current District 1 commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls was born, raised and educated in Gainesville.

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, one of the candidates for District 1 commissioner. The current District 1 commissioner, Hinson-Rawls studied special education at the University of Florida before working as a principal in Miami.

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, one of the candidates for District 1 commissioner. The current District 1 commissioner, Hinson-Rawls studied special education at the University of Florida before working as a principal in Miami.

 She studied special education at the University of Florida and at age 22, she was recruited to teach neurologically impaired students in New York.

She later worked as an educator in Miami and became the principal of a magnet art school, where she created job training programs for at-risk students.

“It was the joy of my life,” Hinson-Rawls said. “I spent 15 years there, and it took them five principals trying to replace me.”

She wants to bring similar ideas to Gainesville.

One of her top priorities includes creating job-training programs that would allow people to learn skills while on the job.

She also wants Gainesville jobs to incorporate bias awareness training to ensure equal opportunity.

“I think I need to consider teachers doing this,” she said. “I can see the University also getting involved.”

Hinson-Rawls has begun seeking grants for these programs but said reoccurring dollars are needed to turn the programs into realities.

A tax increase could help fund these projects, but Hinson-Rawls wants to make sure citizens are on board first.

“If we truly want to move forward, it’s going to take money,” she said. “I would not want to raise taxes without surveying my people.”

She suggested a poll to gauge how citizens feel about it.

Hinson-Rawls said she wants to redevelop areas in east Gainesville to include office suites, medical buildings, cafes and outdoor areas with Wi-Fi to attract more people to the area. She said funds can be used from the Community Redevelopment Agency to make this happen.

More information about Yvonne Hinson-Rawls can be found on her website.

Charles Goston

Hear from the candidate:

Charles Goston said he’s running for the District 1 seat because he’s tired of seeing little change from commissioners in his district year after year.

Charles Goston, one of the District 1 commission candidates. If elected, Goston will focus on the high utility costs in District 1 and revamping RTS.

Charles Goston, one of the District 1 commission candidates. If elected, Goston will focus on the high utility costs in District 1 and revamping RTS.

“They’re not even concerned about their own constituents,” he said. “I’m watching this because I’m living in the district.”

One of Goston’s primary concerns for the district is the high cost of utilities. He said the biomass contract City Commissioners signed with Gainesville Regional Utilities has caused a serious financial burden for Gainesville residents.

“Now, people my age…are going to leave their property to their children, who are going to be strapped for the next 20 years with these escalating utility bills,” Goston said.

He said he hopes lower utility costs will inspire new businesses to move into District 1.

Other important things on Goston’s platform include the construction of an emergency medical center on the east side of town and a revamping of the Regional Transit System. He said he will use money more efficiently than it’s been used in the past to fund these projects.

Goston claims he is already more active in the community than many elected officials. He said he has played an unofficial role on various city campaigns and spoken on behalf of city developments like the Plum Creek Project.

“Why should [people] have to come to me in an unofficial capacity when I could run for office, and they could come to me in an official capacity, and I could do a heck of a lot more?” Goston asked.

He was born and raised in Gainesville and was among the first 700 black students to attend the University of Florida.

Goston played a role in many firsts at UF, including the creation of the university’s Insitute of Black Culture and the Black Student Union. He then went on to create the first African American collegiate publication, Black College Monthly, which still circulates nationally today.

Goston also worked at major radio stations around Florida as well as creating three of his own. He has served as president of the Alachua County Black Caucus two times.

More information on Charles Goston can be found at his campaign Facebook page. 

At-Large Seat 1 Candidates

Jay Curtis

Hear from the candidate:

Jay Curtis, one of the candidates for commissioner-at-large. Curtis is a small-business owner who plans to focus on creating diverse jobs and protecting the environment, if elected.

Jay Curtis, one of the candidates for commissioner-at-large. Curtis is a small-business owner who plans to focus on creating diverse jobs and protecting the environment, if elected. Photo courtesy of Jay Curtis.

Jay Curtis was born in Orlando and has lived in Gainesville for over 15 years. Curtis said he is running “to make Gainesville the greatest place to live in America.”

He believes in a balanced approach between job creation and protecting the environment.

Curtis is a small business owner with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s degree in aviation. He is also a member of the UF Performing Arts Advisory Board of Directors.

Although he has no experience in politics, Curtis said he plans on making up for it in analytical skills.

“When you vote for commissioner, you’re voting for a manager of your city,” he said. “You are hiring somebody to get in there and make good decisions for you, as the citizen, to run your city.”

Curtis said his main priority is to create an economy that works with everyone. He said he plans to diversify job opportunities and develop living-wage jobs at every level. He hopes to break the cycle of unemployment.

“I want to create jobs for everyone, encourage people to start businesses in East Gainesville,” Curtis said. “There’s a program there that I want to work with that will incentivize people to break the cycle of unemployment.”

Curtis said he wants to focus on cleaning the environment, specifically the springs and parks in Gainesville.

Lowering utility rates and improving city-wide transportation are Curtis’ other two priorities. He said he wants to focus on keeping roads in working order and providing cost-effective energy for the community.

More information about Jay Curtis can be found on his website.

Harvey Budd

Hear from the candidate:


Harvey Budd, one of the candidates for commissioner-at-large. Budd is the president and founder of Budd Broadcasting Company, and plans to focus on increasing jobs and GRU governance, as well as ending poverty. Photo courtesy of Harvey Budd.

Harvey Budd has lived in Gainesville for around 50 years. He is currently the president and founder of Budd Broadcasting Company.

Budd has served on the City of Gainesville Plan Board and Cultural Commission and was chairman of the Alachua County Planning Commission for two years.

He believes his skill set makes him the best candidate for the seat.

“When I saw that there was kind of a change taking place in the city commission, I decided it was time to jump in, and see if I could bring my thoughts to bear,” Budd said.

His platform includes enhancing GRU governance, working to end poverty and increasing jobs. To fight poverty Budd said he will focus on finding those who do not have much job training and help develop their skills.

“What we really want is we don’t want to leave any student behind who doesn’t have a job skill or talent and something by the time he gets to be 16 or 18 years old,” Budd said. “It’s a tragedy that somebody would drop out of school or finish school and have nothing to show for it.”

To increase job opportunities, he said he wants to bring in more businesses and development to the city.

Budd said he has the most experience involving job creation and fundraising. As a former certified public accountant he brought Wendy’s to Gainesville and helped his clients get loans from banks.

He also wants to make transportation friendlier for the community outside of the University of Florida campus. Budd says his goal is to give back to the community and improve the quality of life in Gainesville.

Budd said he is confident in his ability to do so.

“I’ve always had success, and when you have success, you want to give back.”

More information on Harvey Budd can be found at his campaign Facebook page.

Local | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 10, 2015: Afternoon News In 90

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 10, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Andrew Briz produced this update.

News in 90 | Leave a comment

Gators Wrap Up Spring Practices In Advance Of Orange And Blue Game

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm

The Florida Gators completed their final spring practice on Thursday. Spring ball ends for Florida on Saturday when the Gators take the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the Orange and Blue Debut presented by Sunniland.

The Orange and Blue debut will feature four 12-minute quarters pitting an orange team against a blue team. There will also be an overtime period at the end of regulation, regardless of the score. The event is open to the public.

Following the game, players will be signing autographs for about 10 minutes. Offensive players can be found on the home sideline and defensive players along the visitor line.

Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Century Home Nominated To Preserve Architectural History

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 10, 2015 at 1:57 pm
The Cassisi home in Gainesville, Florida was built in 1964 by Harry Merritt. The home was nominated for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Photograph courtesy of Gainesville Modern

The Cassisi home in Gainesville, Florida, was built in 1964 by Harry Merritt. The home was nominated for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Photograph courtesy of Gainesville Modern

Surrounded by grandfather oak trees, a mid-century home built with only cement and redwood was recently nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Gainesville. The home was nominated in early March, but the proposal is in the process of being reviewed by the staff of Florida’s Bureau of Historic Preservation in Tallahassee.

The homeowners, Nick and Elayne Cassisi, received a call from the home’s architect, Harry Merritt, reminding them that the house was 50 years old, making it the qualifying age for a spot on the register.

The home, at 3105 SW Fifth Court, was designed in 1964 by Harry Merritt, a former architecture professor at the University of Florida. It is the only modern house to be nominated, said David Forest, executive director for Gainesville Modern.

Gainesville and its surrounding areas are becoming a hotspot for mid‐century modern architecture, Forest said. Gainesville Modern is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Gainesville’s architectural past that works to brand North Florida as a modernist mecca, Forest said.

“Our mission is to preserve very unique architecture gems in town,” he said.

Merritt came to Florida from Harvard University to work under architect Jean Levy. He soon began teaching at UF, said Murray Laurie, a historic preservation consultant. While Merritt was at UF, he designed 30 homes and 40 commercial buildings around North Florida.

When the 50-year mark passed, the Cassisi’s came to Laurie with a nudge from Merritt with the idea of getting the house on the National Register.

When Merritt designed the house, he worked with the original client to create  a concept meant specifically for the space, budget and surrounding natural elements, Laurie said.

“The house is made of redwood and concrete Ocala block,” Laurie said. “Glass windows line the house, so you can see from one side to the other. Merritt was particularly interested in the setting — hills and large oak trees are part of its mystique.”

Gainesville Modern hopes one of Gainesville’s mid‐century modern buildings also receives a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s an honorary designation, especially for a house that is unique and in pristine condition,” Laurie said.

Forest said the house is historic not only because of its architect, but because it is a great representation of mid-century homes. Most homes in this style of architecture have been demolished or updated too much.

After moving into the house in 1973, the Cassisi’s have not done much to the original structure to the house, except for replacing the original terrazzo flooring, which was beginning to crack, and moving the washer and dryer from the upstairs closet to downstairs after the dryer caught on fire, Elayne Cassisi said.

Marty Hylton, president of Gainesville Modern’s Board of Directors, said he will be happy about the recognition but would like to see more buildings designated as historic on the National Register to keep them from being demolished.

Laurie sent the nomination to the Florida National Register, which will then review the application when the committee meets again in a couple of months. Laurie frequently speaks to Merritt, who is retired in Maine, and he said he is hopeful for the approval and will be pleased with the recognition.

Local | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In The News: SeaWorld Sued, U.S. and Cuba Meet To Discuss Relations, Hillary Clinton To Announce Candidacy, Gainesville Man Shot

By on April 10th, 2015 | Last updated: April 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm
In the News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments