The seventh annual Lake County Firefighters’ Charity, a two-day chili cookoff and barbecue competition, was hosted in January at Gator Harley-Davidson in Leesburg. The event attracted 30 teams preparing barbecue and chili, and nearly 4,000 visitors—the largest crowd ever, says Lake County Firefighters Charity President Brian Gamble. The event netted about $5,000 for the firefighters’ charitable causes, including aiding local firefighters battling cancer, PTSD and other medical issues.
AdventHealth Waterman rolled out the red carpet in January for the opening of the AdventHealth Medical Plaza in Mount Dora. The two-story, 22,260-square-foot facility is the first of its kind in northern Lake County. The first floor of the facility is home to physicians Dr. Veronica Chastain, Dr. Devlin O’Connor, Dr. Anielka Rodriguez and Dr. Kurt Wagner, and Estrellita Lu, an advanced practice registered nurse. The second floor is slated to open at the end of the year and will house pediatric care and specialists.
Sumter County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual dinner and awards gala in January at Savannah Center in The Villages. Awards were presented to Beth Hunt, community outreach coordinator at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, for Volunteer of the Year; the Rotary Club of Wildwood for Outstanding Nonprofit; Allstate Insurance/The Kevin McDonald Agency for Small Business of the Year; and Primus Pipe & Tube for Large Business of the Year. Mary Beth Locke, owner of Back Road Berries in Oxford, was named Business Woman of the Year, and Jim Duncan, CEO of SECO Energy, was honored as Business Man of Year.
Clermont hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in January for its new boat ramp along the southern bank of Lake Minneola, east of Waterfront Park. The $2.49-million project is part of Clermont’s $22 million Downtown Waterfront Master Plan to enhance and reenergize the area. “The new boat ramp will be a great asset to our waterfront,” City Manager Darren Gray says in a press release.
Community Service Awards were recently presented by the Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce to TEDxEustis, Dr. Tiffany Scott, Davis Walkins, Ron Neibert, Eustis High School girls’ bowling, Oscar DeVere Morris, Officer Lauren Brown, Carla Rodriguez, Joshua Thompson, Bob Davis, Keith Totten, Dr. John Radnothy, Wolf Branch Brewing Co., Black Bear Golf Club and United Southern Bank. The Hall of Fame Award was given to Glenn Tyre, of Tyre & Taylor Realtors.
Leesburg Regional Medical Center’s 24th annual Mistletoe Trot 5K and 10K on Dec. 14 brought out 102 participants enjoying an early-morning run or walk around Silver Lake to benefit the Community Medical Care Center in Leesburg. Tommy Ramirez, 48, of St. Cloud, was the overall first-place finisher with an average pace of 5:42 a mile.
The 83rd annual installation and awards gala of the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce was hosted Dec. 5 at the city’s beautiful new community venue, the Venetian Center, on the waterfront of Lake Harris. Dr. Jeffrey Glover, of Glover Chiropractic Clinic in Leesburg, was installed as the chamber president for 2020.
Hundreds strolled the islands of Leesburg’s picturesque Venetian Gardens to sample more than 35 craft beers, a variety of wines and regional foods from area restaurants at Leesburg Partnership’s recent Craft Beer, Wine and Food Festival. The popular event also featured a concert by Winslow and the Rockefellers, and a huge firepit for people to gather around and make S’mores.
The Tavares Chamber of Commerce’s recent Taste of Tavares was a big hit at Pavilion on the Lake. The People’s Choice winners included Deli Llama for Goats on a Date appetizer, and AdventHealth Waterman for braised short ribs entrée and white chocolate and strawberry bread pudding dessert. Judges also declared the bread pudding as the best dessert, along with Deli Llama’s bacon blue pita pizza as best entrée and Osprey Lodge Assisted Living’s bison sliders as best appetizer.
The Floor Shoppe, 9815 U.S. Highway 301, Wildwood, has been flooring homes and businesses since 1979, and the Stewart family recently took time out to celebrate with their friends and customers over hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine. The company offered its biggest sale, and guests were treated to several nice door prizes, including an entire kitchen backsplash.
Soirée en Blanc, an evening in white, was the theme of a recent festive gala in downtown Leesburg hosted by Leesburg Rotary Club Sunset. The event featured an elegant evening of dining and music for more than 110 guests at Starlight Ballroom. “Even though we had to move the event inside because of weather, it was an amazing and absolutely stunning evening,” says Joyce Huey, owner of Two Old Hags Wine Shoppe in Leesburg. Proceeds from the night benefit Leesburg Center for the Arts and Forward Paths Foundation.
Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell’s second annual Boots, Buckles and Badges gala Nov. 8 at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora was a successful sellout event of more than 500 guests and about $140,000 raised to benefit the sheriff’s charities of Shop with a Cop and Project Kids Connect, as well as support several community organizations, a scholarship fund and families in need. “We exceeded what we raised the first year by more than $30,000,” says Kristy Marden, of the sheriff’s office. “We have a very giving community.”
Waterfront Park in Clermont was the site Nov. 7 for the sellout Taste of South Lake, a premier restaurant and business expo in South Lake County filled with business vendors, music and signature dishes from more than 30 restaurants. The winners: Clermont Oyster Bar, best appetizer; Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ, best entrée; Clermont Brewing Company, best drink; Jose’s Original Mexican Restaurant, people’s choice; and city of Clermont, best decorated booth.
Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire generated crowds of thousands the first two weekends of November at Lake Idamere Park in Tavares. This 12th annual fundraiser for the Education Foundation of Lake County benefits teachers and students. Organizer Carmen Cullen-Batt noted the event provided a $2 million economic impact for Lake County, and it’s also the fastest-growing festival in the county.
The 20th annual Art of the Deal fundraiser hosted Nov. 2 at Mount Dora Plaza Live featured a catered dinner by Pisces Rising, open bar, dancing, live and silent auctions, gaming tables, entertainment by the Queens of Broadway and live painting by Wendy Rose, an oil finger painter. The silent auction included art donated by artists from the Mount Dora Arts Festival and donations from area merchants.
AdventHealth Waterman Foundation hosted its 26th annual Partners in Health Care Golf Classic Nov. 1 at RedTail Golf Club in Sorrento. Contests of hole-in-one, par 5, golf ball cannon and 50/50 putting were among the day’s activities for the amateur golfers, all in support of raising funds for emergency services at AdventHealth Waterman in Tavares.
Florida Trikers Association and Stormy Hill Harley-Davidson know how to have fun for a worthy cause: Pink Bra Ride for a Cure. Men and women were decked out in pink bras Oct. 26 as they left the Clermont motorcycle dealership and rode to Lake Harris Hideaway in Tavares. The inaugural event was a fundraiser for the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation.
“Passport to Africa” was the theme for LifeStream Foundation’s annual Gala of Hope fundraiser Oct. 25 at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora. Proceeds from the event will benefit children and their families who cannot afford the agency’s services. LifeStream is a nonprofit behavioral health and social services organization serving Lake, Sumter, Citrus, Marion, Hernando and Orange counties. More than 24,000 individuals were served last year.
The 22nd annual Leesburg Chamber Golf Classic was hosted Oct. 25 at Continental Country Club in Wildwood. The event provided members with the opportunity to enjoy a day on the links with business friends, clients or prospects, and to network with the Leesburg Chamber’s leadership, board members and elected officials.
“A Havana Evening Beneath the Stars” was the theme of an Oct. 18 fundraiser at the Leesburg home of Genene Rawls, chairman of Women for Hospice. The event benefited Tavares Hospice House and Patient Care in central Lake County. Local CPA Sandy Stokes was honored during the event for his extensive efforts in the community.
Lake-Sumter State College hosted its eighth annual Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame awards banquet Oct. 17 at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills in honor of people making a difference in the community or who have impacted the college. The honorees were Marilyn Budzynski, Mike DeGraw, Edward Daugherty, Mark Logas, Dean Simmons II, Alissa Sustarsic, Andrea Brooks and Pete Wahl.
The Ladies in Philanthropy (LIPs) group for Leesburg Regional Medical Center hosted its seventh annual Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon Oct. 11 at Paquette’s Show Barn in Leesburg. All proceeds benefit the LIPs mammogram voucher program, which provides free mammograms for anyone in the community who cannot afford the diagnostic test. Dr. Celia K. Nelson served as the keynote speaker.
Showing it off for a cause
The 12th annual Bras for the Cause and Boxers, too, presented by the Greater Clermont Cancer Foundation, was themed “Puttin’ on the Glitz.” It was held at the Clermont Performing Arts Center and featured a fun-filled fashion show with bras and boxers designed, decorated, and modeled by local residents. GCCF is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance, scholarships, and other free services to cancer patients, their families, and caregivers in the community.
Though rain forced the event inside the armory, it didn’t ruin the taste of any of the great offerings from Taste of Lake & Business Expo. Featured food included everything from seafood to barbecue, appetizers to desserts, and sangria to beer. Entertainment for the evening included Kelly Jarrard’s sultry tones and the antics of the Blues Brothers. The rain didn’t dampen anything as hundreds of guests enjoyed an evening of food, drink, and music.
It’s still amazing!
The sixth annual Amazing Race for Charity was another challenging feat this year. Featuring more than 20 challenges along a five-mile route, the race is for teams of two. The challenges can be as simple as solving a puzzle or reciting the Miranda rights or as difficult as rappelling off a tower. Participants don’t know what to expect until they arrive for the race. By the end of the day, racers have learned a great deal about the host city, worked together as a team, enjoyed (or endured) a great workout, and benefited local charities.
A diamond fundraiser
Lake Cares Gala & Silent Auction actually was a yearlong event. Eleven women wore a diamond necklace valued at more than $20,000 for a month each. The necklace, titled Bella Diamante, was part of the fundraiser for the 10th anniversary of Lake Cares. Carol Lynn Nelson was the winner of the necklace, and her name was drawn by Cheryl Jarvis, author of “The Necklace,” the novel that spurred the idea. Irene O’Malley, the pantry’s executive director, surprised everyone by announcing Maribella is the necklace to be raffled next year as the saga of “The Necklace” continues.
A roar from the past
Vintage and classic race boats were displayed at Wooton Park for the 10th annual Tavares Spring Thunder Regatta. Since Tavares is a major stop on the Florida Vintage Race Boat Circuit, there were 75 lovingly restored vintage and classic race boats doing demonstration laps on Lake Dora. Visitors were also able to view the boats up close in the pit area. The daylong event was free and featured large heats of all the APBA vintage classes, including outboards, classic glass, small hydros, flatbottoms, skiffs, speedsters, gold cuppers, and fire-breathing grand prix hydros.
This event was smokin’!
The Downtown Leesburg Business Association and the Leesburg Partnership had great success with the annual BBQ, Brews, and Blues event in Towne Square. Plenty of cooks in the outdoor kitchens prepared many pounds of great pork, brisket, and chicken for everyone to enjoy. Those who walked around sampled barbecue and also voted for first-, second-, and third- places for trophies and cash prizes. Blues master David Julia provided the music for the popular event.
@ Sunset park / Photos: Nicole Hamel. It’s always a culinary treat when everyone gets a taste of the best eating places in town. The 19th annual Taste of Mount Dora was no exception. Downtown streets were closed and residents and visitors were able to casually stroll through Sunset Park and taste the treats from 20 local restaurants. There was also a silent auction and some great games of chance, as well as live entertainment.
@ Wooten Park / Photos: Nicole Hamel. They may not have been Vikings, but their dragonboats performed beautifully on Lake Dora during DragonFest 2019. Hosted by Lake County Golden Triangle Rotary Club, the colorful event featured dragonboat races, an arts and crafts fair, live entertainment, a car show, a 5K road race, and multiple food vendors. It was a great day of fun on water and land.
@ Orlando Science Center / Photos: Douglas Tyler. During the 10th annual Celebration of Life Gala for AdventHealth Waterman, guests enjoyed a silent auction, elegant dining, and entertainment by MPire, along with a special drawing for a pair of garnet and diamond earrings. The first phase of the emergency services expansion will be opened this month. All proceeds from the gala supported this campaign.
@ The Villages / Photos: Nicole Hamel. The Southern Draft Horse Association sponsored the National Draft Pulling Championship, featuring more than 45 teams of sturdy workhorses at The Villages Polo Club. The sport of horse pulling is simply that—a team of horses pulling heavy loads. The best horses in this competitive sport are worked daily to prepare for the contests. Some may think it’s not good for these horses to be pulling such heavy loads, but the truth is, draft horses were bred to handle weight and pulling. The winning lightweight team was Durgin Pulling and the winning heavyweight team was Roger and Smock.
@ Leesburg Boat Club / Photos: Nicole Hamel. Mardi Gras is one of the most popular celebrations in Leesburg, and one of the highlights is the crowning of the king and queen. This year’s royalty was King Rex, Steve Bell, and Queen Divine, Lyndsi Johnson. All guests wore formal attire or costumes and enjoyed the music of Hypersona. The royals were crowned at the Leesburg Boat Club.
BABETTE’S EXPANDS TO A NEW STORE IN BROWNWOOD PADDOCK SQUARE
Popular furniture and décor store Babette’s Furniture & Home has opened a new location in Brownwood Paddock Square in The Villages. The 12,000-square-foot showroom features the same quality furniture and home décor found in the Leesburg store. The grand opening was truly a celebration of 30 years of serving this area with an unparalleled reputation for quality and service.