The Hot List

of everything that melts us in Lake & Sumter. 

Stories: Leigh Neely, James Combs, Theresa Campbell, Chris Gerbasi, Paula F. Howard


Hot looks

Hot braids

Forget everything you think you know about braids. 

“These are not your momma’s hair braids. Our braids make our clients a trendsetter and star,” says Danielle Daugherty, co-owner of Mia Bella Salon and Spa in Fruitland Park, who notes braids are stylish for all ages, and even men are requesting faux braids for the “Viking look.” 

Danielle and some of her stylists have traveled the country doing braids at motorcycle show—as many as 100 a day, with each one taking 15 minutes to an hour to do. Locally, the shop does about five to 10 braids daily and more on weekends. 

“Braids are edgy, romantic, trendy, and fun,” Danielle says. 


Hot makeup

Sometimes all you need is a little gluten-free foundation with wheat-free mascara.

Chamomile Skin Care & Makeup Studio, 346 Dora Dawdry Way in Mount Dora, is a unique place where customers can find a variety of services and products that they won’t find anywhere else. Amy Dornsife is a master esthetician, which means she has advanced knowledge of skin care and hands-on training about cells and skin.

In addition to providing facials and oxygen infusion, microneedling, and organic microdermabrasion, Amy operates the Mount Dora Lip Lab. She will sit down with you and create a lipstick or lip gloss that is uniquely you. You select a color, and she makes your bespoke lip product while you wait. You can also add a bit of shine to your gloss and pick from a variety of flavors or scents. Looking for a fun girls’ night out? Join Amy at the Lip Lab and get new, luscious lips for everyone.

“This is not a cookie-cutter makeup store,” Amy says.

In addition, Amy’s makeup products are vegan, gluten-free, and organic. Choose from an array of concealers, mascaras, and other cosmetic items that are safe and good for your skin.

“I hand-pour foundation and match your skin tone so that you have a nice, smooth finish, and it’s not too sheer or too heavy. All my products are talc-free, too, because talc mimics gluten,” she says.


Hot eyes

Eyelash extensions are hot at Renew Day Spa in downtown Leesburg.

“It’s like hair extensions for your eyelashes and it makes the eyes look brighter. It’s a desired look,” says technician Christina Pizzimenti, who applies a single synthetic lash on top of a client’s natural eyelash to make lashes look fuller and thicker without the need for mascara, a technique that women love.

She says they also love not messing with adhesive strip of false eyelashes, which can be cumbersome. 

Clients first choose the length of the lashes they want, ranging from 9 to 15 millimeters (from natural to Kardashian length) and the “desired curl,” ranging from natural to dramatic. 

“I usually tell people to allow at least two hours, and don’t come in with any makeup on. Be prepared to fall asleep because your eyes are going to be closed the whole time and it’s relaxing,” Christina says. 

Clients are treated in the spa’s personal care room as calming music plays in the background “and then they wake up with nice, full lashes,” she says. 

Christina notes the eyelash extensions are so lightweight that clients don’t even notice feeling them. With proper care, the synthetic lashes can last 1½ months, and touch-ups can be performed every two to four weeks. 

The cost for a full set of eyelash extensions at Renew begins at $150; and $65 for fill-in lashes. 


Hot décor:

Uplifting messages

Do you have a favorite author’s quote or inspirational verse? 

One of the hottest new trends at Love Home Harmony shop in downtown Mount Dora is customized metal signs that people can have made with cut-out phrases or quotes that are meaningful to them. 

“The metal signs are really popular, and people like that the metals are made here in the Southeast,” says Carolyn Wood, owner of Love Home Harmony. “Most of the metal is recycled, and they love that they can customize it with quotes.” 

One requested custom sign made for one couple reads: “Paris is always a good idea.”

“They love going to Paris, so we did a little Eiffel Tower on it,” Carolyn says.

Her shop is filled with several ready-made signs, including the beloved words of the late poet and playwright Robert Browning: “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” 

Under the Cherry Blossoms in Mount Dora also has inspirational signs in tie-dye, and store owner Lynn Wisniewski has created 20 uplifting cards filled with inspiring quotes that people can place on their desks, carry around with them, or give as gifts.

One of the shop’s popular quotes is from the late author Wayne Dyer: “I intend to take time for myself to live the life that I came here to live.” 


Shall we dance?

Ballroom dancing is very popular in the United States and it’s going to get hotter at Dancin’ Ballroom and Event Center in Leesburg. The center is preparing to move from a strip-store location to a more spacious 8,221-square-foot building with a 6,500-square-foot dance floor for aficionados of the waltz, foxtrot, samba, salsa, swing, mambo, cha-cha, and tango. 

Dancin’ Ballroom’s new home will be in the Publix Supermarket plaza at Shoppes of Lake Village, 10601 U.S. Highway 441, by Lake Square Mall. 

“We are very excited to become the largest ballroom dance studio in Florida,” owner Chris McCain says.

He’s thrilled that the new venue provides more room for dance parties and lessons, plus plenty of parking.

“We will be hosting more open-to-the-public dances,” Chris adds, “along with offering the studio as a wedding venue on Saturdays and Sundays.” 

The three squares in The Villages also offer public dancing each evening outdoors (weather permitting) as bands and performers entertain on stage. Dancing runs from 4-9pm at each square. 

Dancers also can dance the night away in The Villages from 7-10pm at Garvino’s Wine Bar, 1081 Canal St.; till 11pm at the two City Fire restaurants, 1018 Canal St. and 2716 Brownwood Blvd.; and until 2am at Margarita Republic, 1102 Main St.

Dancing is touted as a fun way to get into shape for people of all ages; it can improve muscle tone, strength, balance, endurance, and fitness. Dancing also provides a great way to meet new people.


Hot athletes

Former Eustis High School baseball standout Brady Singer is one step closer to the major leagues. As a pitcher for the High-A minor league Wilmington Blue Rocks, he posted a 5-2 record with a 1.87 earned run average. As a result, Brady, the Kansas City Royals’ top pick in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft, was promoted in late May to the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals. 

When people think of college basketball royalty, Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke immediately come to mind. Those elite programs are among a handful of schools hoping to land Montverde Academy basketball player Cade Cunningham. The 6-foot, 7-inch combo guard is ranked as the No. 3 player in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports. 

Sprinter Justin Gatlin will be 38 by the time the 2020 Summer Olympics roll around, but he appears to have enough gas left in the tank to be a serious contender in the 100 meters. He started his career with a gold medal in the event in 2004 and hopes to finish his career achieving the same feat. In 2017, Justin, who lives and trains in Clermont, defeated legendary Jamaican track champion Usain Bolt at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in London. 

Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal is hoping to bounce back from a season-ending injury that left him sidelined during the 2018 season. The former South Sumter High School star tore his ACL in the first game and spent months in rehabilitation. Keanu, who was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2017 season, has recorded 220 tackles, eight forced fumbles, and one interception during his career.


Hot fashion

Prominent Fox Boutique

While buying online or shopping at national retailers is common, Style staffers really love the personal service and personal aspect of buying local, along with discovering unique or one-of-a-kind fashions and accessories at local shops. 

Doggibags Boutique

Dell Ross, owner of Doggibags Boutique, which has been at its current downtown Leesburg location for 36 years, looks after her customers and her boutique has stylish designer jackets, pants, jackets, dresses, and tunics that can be mixed and matched. Many items are in easy-to-care-for fabrics and resemble works of art.

“I have customers who have been coming here for years and years,” Dell says, adding that one benefit of shopping local is that the tax dollars stay in Lake County, “and it keeps small business owners surviving.” 

Leigh Ann Berry, owner of the Prominent Fox Boutique in Oxford, has trendy fashions with a bit of country chic, such as off-the-shoulder denim rompers, cheetah-print pants, bralettes, jumpsuits, and maxi dresses, that appeal to young women and fashionable Villagers. “Forget the rules. If you like it, wear it” is one of the boutique’s mottos. The Fox also carries lightweight faux leather earrings that are popular. 

Under the Cherry Blossoms in Mount Dora has original, one-of-a-kind off-the-shoulder silk dresses and scarves made from ice chip tie-dye by local artist and designer Karen Simmons, and Spartina fashions, jewelry, and purses are exclusively sold in Lake County at Chamomile Studios in Mount Dora.

Love Home Harmony shop

Love Home Harmony shop, also in Mount Dora, has unique cork handbags and accessories that are organic, lightweight, eco-friendly, waterproof, and very stylish, too.


Hot on the horizon

Olympus

This innovative development in Clermont will combine sports, wellness, entertainment, and residences as part of the Wellness Way Area plans in South Lake County. The 243-acre complex will include multi-sport competition and training venues; leading-edge wellness, fitness, and sports medicine facilities; and world-class dining, shopping, and office/conference venues.

Olympus, to be built over the next several years, is estimated to create more than 5,000 jobs and generate over $1.4 billion in local economic impact during a 10-year period.

“Olympus aligns perfectly with our Choice of Champions brand and our reputation as a world-class haven for athletes,” Clermont City Manager Darren Gray says in a news release. “This is a historic moment for Clermont.”

Mount Dora Marketplace

There’s no place like this place in Mount Dora: an indoor marketplace featuring food, crafts, and eclectic businesses under one roof in the heart of downtown. Owners Michael Ross and Peter Burgess, who hope to open in September, have lined up about 40 vendors, anchored by a bar serving 28 craft beers and a New York-style deli.

“The most exciting thing about it is that we’re creating an opportunity for young entrepreneurs who normally would not be able to open a business in Mount Dora because of the rent, because they can do it on a small scale (in the marketplace),” project manager Dawn Williams says.

The 9,000-square-foot marketplace includes the main building at 100 E. 4th Ave., which formerly housed the Pisco Sour and Lost Parrot restaurants, and a building next door at 334 N. Donnelly St.

Among the vendors are P Is for Pie Bake Shop, Aunt Gingibread’s Bakery, Cassie’s Cupcakes, the Ceviche Mix, a ceviche and guacamole bar, White Orchid plant and flower sales, and Yumm Popsicles, as well as a mimosa bar, gourmet chocolatier, crêperie, candlemaker, and jeweler.

Venetian Gardens

The city of Leesburg has steadily improved Venetian Gardens on the shores of Lake Harris. The cornerstone of the master plan, a new community center, soon will make Venetian Gardens a destination for public and private events, entertainment, and recreation.

The $7.8 million project includes: the 20,700-square-foot multipurpose center, under construction with a Nov. 1 target date for completion; and a 6,500-square-foot Ski Beach waterfront restaurant, designed by the same developer of Eaton’s Beach Sandbar & Grill in Weirsdale, expected to open in 2020.

“We hope that investing in that (area) brings more people to the region, and bringing more people to the region is obviously good for economic development,” City Manager Al Minner says. “We’re real excited about the investment and excited to see the impact that it will have.”


Hot video games

Here are 10 of the most anticipated video game releases for the rest of the year:

  • Madden 20,” Aug. 2
  • Life Is Strange 2, Episode 4,” Aug. 22
  • Conan Chop Chop,” Sept. 3
  • Gears 5,” Sept. 10
  • Doctor Who: The Edge of Time,” September
  • World of Warcraft 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition,” Oct. 8
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” Oct. 25
  • Death Stranding,” Nov. 8
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” Nov. 15
  • Pokémon: Sword and Shield,” Nov. 15

Source: gamesradar.com

Millennials and video games by the numbers

66% of millennials in U.S. who play video games every month.

71% of millennial gamers who watch gaming video content (online videos about games).

6: Average number of hours millennials watch gaming video content each week.

54% of millennial gamers with full-time employment.

43% of millennial gamers with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

$58K: Millennial gamers’ average household income.

Source: The Nielsen Company


Hot things to do at Lake Square Mall

Via Entertainment at Lake Square Mall in Leesburg has always attracted families. The addition of Adrenaline Rush Raceway karts created a new rush of fun. Now, there are more exciting entertainment additions that will please parents and kids looking for fun.

Paradise Lost, featuring a jungle theme, is a laser tag adventure that just opened. Teams Alpha and Delta battle each other to get to the other team’s base and destroy it. Score sheets are available at the front desk when the teams are finished, and participants get a bit of a workout going through the “jungle.”

“There’s a competitive edge to everything we do,” says Darrell Kainer, operations director at the mall. “This is the biggest laser tag arena on this side of Florida. We’re developing packages for families so they can enjoy all the entertainment. In addition to laser tag, we’ve got the Escape Room, which is also challenging.”

The Escape Room has two playing options for participants and a morgue with the actual smell of death misted in to make it more real.

“It’s exciting and a total immersion in what you’re doing,” Darrell says.

A lot of anticipation surrounded Winterland Adventures, an ice skating rink that debuted recently and will be open year-round.

“We’re going to go from ‘it’s hip to be square’ to ‘it’s hot to be cool,’” says Meir Benzaken, owner of Lake Square Mall. “The rink will be run by championship skater Jean-Louis Lacaille and his wife, Sarah Abitbol, who was an Olympic skater.”

According to Meir, the couple will be doing a performance at Winterland Adventures that fans normally would see only on TV. 

“This is an exceptional skating rink, very high-tech, and the food will feature tastes of Europe—lots of things you can’t find anywhere else,” Meir says.

Virtualize is open now and ready for virtual reality adventurers. Owner Brett Baldwin, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, says he wanted to venture into a business that gave him a positive experience.

“This is a great date-night activity or something the whole family can enjoy,” Brett says. “I have 140-plus programs with everything from a pirate ship to a haunted house to a fantasy game. The headsets are lightweight and you’re not just sitting like you do with video games. You’re moving around and doing stuff.”

Brett says Virtualize has received many positive reviews, and he’s looking forward to more visitors coming in when the new entrance to the mall opens, as his business is just inside the doors.

Here’s a sneak peek: Plans are underway to create the scariest of haunted houses this year at Lake Square Mall. Keep your eyes on Style for updates.


Hot spots, new trends

The Villages never goes out of style.

What makes a hot spot hot? It’s a place where fun and laughter meet, a place where people want to be seen. Sometimes, the best hot spots are classics that stand the test of time.

People also like new experiences. They want action and new places making it happen. Mostly, hot spots are where magic begins, like meeting someone special…maybe this time…maybe tonight.

Hot Places to Meet Friends

GarVino’s Cigars, Fine Wine & Gifts,affectionately known as GarVino’s Wine Bar, 1081 Canal St., Lake Sumter Landing. Get there by 5pm to snag a seat for the music at 7pm.

Known for:

  • Classy atmosphere
  • Great wine selection
  • Great meeting place

“There’s a group of about 30 of us who get together there,” says Pat Barnes, from the Village of Duval. “We’re thinking of hiring an artist to draw us all into a caricature map to commemorate our friendship.” There’s a hot idea!

City Fire Restaurant, 1018 Canal St.,Lake Sumter Landing. People come prepared to dance, be seen, be admired, and appreciated. They come in all shapes, sizes, looks, and experiences. They mingle and enjoy the atmosphere of being together. Music is played from 7-11pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Known for:

  • Dancing
  • Good bands, including Alan Darcy, the Core, Joe Hand, Stephanie
  • Place to be seen: on the dance floor
  • Good food
  • Trivia on Tuesday nights
  • Karaoke on Thursday nights
  • Best bartender: Liz

Hot places to play

Third base on any softball league

“Third base is a hot spot, it’s the closest position to the batter,” says Dan Walters, of the Village of Summerhill. “You have to have good hands to play the position.” 

Voted into the Softball Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, in 1998, Dan says, “I believe there will be softball in heaven. I’m looking forward to it.”

Golf’s most challenging hole

 “All the courses in The Villages are fantastic, but there’s one hole that’s really challenging,” Pat Barnes says. “You hit the ball onto an island and hope it stays there.”

It’s the eighth hole on the Tequesta course at Belle Glade Country Club, 434 Moyer Loop. Try it. Villagers play on executive courses and championship courses and even attend the Golf Academy. All courses are at golfthevillages.com.

Fenney Putt and Play at Fenney Recreation Center,3200 Fenney Way, is a great place for people of all ages. It’s a hot idea for families, visiting relatives, and date nights.

Hot Places to Eat

Food cannot be ignored in The Villages, which has more than 350 restaurants and counting. Among the favorites:

Bonefish Grill, 3580 Wedgewood Lane, a chain but still a favorite, “is one of the best dining places to take a date,” says Phyllis Walters, of the Village of Summerhill.

Metro Diner, 4110 Wedgewood Lane, a newer place where lots of locals frequent. “I like their fish sandwich,” says Claire Rahn from the Village of Gilchrist. “Their breakfast menu is outstanding and reasonably priced.”

Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack in the Old Mill Playhouse, 1000 Old Mill Run, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, is a new trend of opening a stand inside a movie theater with a walk-up window serving the public outside. It’s open from 11am-9pm seven days a week.

Hot Places to Go

The Villages Polo Club,703 N. Buena Vista Bvd.,  is in a class of its own, becoming the newest great location for large events.

In February, the Country Western Hoedown and Bar-B-Q hosted by The Villages Homeowners Advocates was a hit.

In June, the inaugural Hot Air Balloon Festival (what could be hotter?) was there. Watch for it next year when this beautiful spectacle will again fill the sky. 

In June, it was the location for the fifth annual Florida High School 7-v-7 Association State Championship. Around 35 high school football teams competed in the tournament. 

Polo championship matches are played during two annual polo seasons.

The Villages Grown, 7275 East County Road 44, coming soon. This garden-to-table farming operation is designed to provide restaurants in The Villages with the freshest foods by using growing methods that meet and exceed U.S. Department of Agriculture organic standards for chemical-free produce. Eventually, there will be a marketplace for the public.

Hot things to do

Attend a performance at The Sharon Performing Arts Center, 1051 Main St., The Savannah Center, 545 N. Buena Vista Blvd., andThe Studio Theatre, 806 San Marino Drive. Top-name talent appears in The Villages every night of the week.

Perform yourself at the Showcase of Talent at La Hacienda Recreation Center, 1200 Avenido Central. On the third Friday of each month, you can showcase your talent before a live audience. There’s a different theme each month. The $5 entrance fee goes toward scholarships for young performers in and around The Villages. More than $70,000 has been donated to date.

Attend the Resident Academy. The Villages is divided into community development districts. If you want to know how it all works, the Resident Academy should be your first stop. Offered just a few times annually, the next opportunity is Nov. 13, 8am-1pm. Register on districtgov.org or call the District Customer Service Center at 352.753.4508.

Attend the Enrichment Academy. Learning never is out of date. Find courses on an array of topics on a fee-based platform. The courses complement the existing resident lifestyle and recreation services. Find courses online at districtgov.org.

Join The Villages Homeowners Advocates (VHA), which offers programs, support, and education to residents. Programs include Golf Cart Safety Clinic, Operation S.A.F.E., and a presentation on how to protect yourself in a dangerous situation. Visit thevha.net.

Attend a class, club, or seminar. With more than 3,000 lifestyle clubs in The Villages, there’s a place for you. Access available offerings by visiting districtgov.org and then scroll to departments, recreation, then resident lifestyle clubs. One choice could change your life.

Volunteer. More than 100 organizations and groups in The Villages need you. In retirement, skills and experience offer so much.


Hot pics

If you love candid photos, there are plenty of places around Lake and Sumter counties to get some great pictures and make memories:

The historical Lady Lake Log Cabin is delightful at 106 U.S. Highway 441.

Though the Tavares Marina & Seaplane Base is still under repair from hurricane damage, you can get a photo beside a seaplane or grab a ride from Jones Brothers Air & Seaplane Adventures, 210 E. Ruby St., Tavares.

You’ll find a picturesque fountain in front of City Hall or a great photo spot beside the Towne Square clock at 501 W. Meadow St. in Leesburg.

Ferran Park Lake Walk in Eustis offers many photo spots, but the iconic heron sculpture at 250 Ferran Park Dr. is perhaps the most popular.

When the city of Umatilla couldn’t save some trees, the trees became art at 4 Cassady St.

The cattle sculptures at the entrance to Brownwood Paddock Square off State Road 44 in Wildwood is a prime attraction for photographers.

Dade Battlefield Historic State Park has a variety of great photo spots at 7200 County Road 603 in Bushnell.

Get your photo made with the mammoth live oak tree in Lake Griffin State Park, 3089 U.S. Highway 441 in Fruitland Park.

The Mount Dora Lighthouse actually is an inland navigational aid located off Tremain Street on Lake Dora.

Waterfront Park at 330 3rd St. in Clermont offers an array of great photo opportunities.


Show time

Billie Green and her dog Tux

Umatilla teen makes her mark as young dog show handler at Westminster and Royal Canin.

Dog show trainer and handler, Billie Green, 17, of Umatilla, proved as a little girl she has the poise and confidence in the dog show ring and in front of judges. 

 “When I was 7, it was my first show,” Billie recalls of showing at the United Kennel Club in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “I had little ballet slippers on, and one flew off and I did a little circle and slipped it back on. I kept going like nothing happened and ended up winning.” 

 Another unforgettable thrill was winning the Best of Breed title with Tux, a Black and Tan Coonhound, at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City last February. It was Billie’s fourth time at Westminster; a first for Tux, yet he was able to compete at Westminster since he won the championship status at previous, smaller venues. 

“His breed has a special place in my heart,” Billie says, recalling she won her first breed award with another Black and Tan at the Royal Canin in Orlando.

The Umatilla High School senior and daughter of Bobby and Tricia Green shows her own dogs or canines she has bred, and she credits her aunt and uncle, Deanna and Rick Donohue, of Umatilla, for exposing her to the world of dog shows. 

Billie says the best show advice she’s ever received came from handler and family friend, Marylynn Jensen, who said: “Breathe and have fun!” 

These days, Billie is having fun showing Bebe, a German Wirehaired Pointer, at dog shows every other weekend. She enjoys meeting new people and seeing other dogs. 

“It takes a lot of love for the animals, and patience because you can’t win every time, so you have to think of it as there’s always another show and judge,” Billie says. “Also, you have to be a good sport.”

When she’s not showing dogs, Billie enjoys hunting and playing volleyball for her high school. 

“I love what I do, but it will be a hobby once I graduate,” says Billie, who aspires to become a pediatric nurse.


Hot reality

Once in a while, everyone needs to escape reality, let off a little steam, and blow away some zombies.

Mind Immersions Virtual Reality Experience can be your playground. The entertainment center opened in December 2018 at 2410 E. Highway 50, Suite B, in Clermont. The center offers four gaming rooms, five racing/coaster simulators, a large battle arena for multiple players to fight zombies and cowboys, plus free games on tablets.

Mind Immersions is the only multi-experience VR gaming facility of its kind in Florida, owner Jesse Domeracki says. 

“We brought together many VR companies and designed a unique place to experience VR,” Jesse says. “There is truly nothing like it out there.”

The center recently enhanced the five racing simulators so drivers can compete against each other, and as additional competitive VR games evolve, Jesse plans to introduce them as well. 

The Cartoon Network’s developers also chose the company to launch a new series of games to hit the market.

“Our venue offers the atmosphere for a company like that to showcase their product,” he says.

Nearly 25 eye-popping games listed on the center’s website include VR Fun House, a virtual carnival; No Limits 2, the “ultimate” roller coaster; Rapid Fire, a gunman battling villains in the Old West; To the Top, a climbing/platforming game that gives players superhuman abilities; Waltz of the Wizard, which provides magical powers to players; Time Zombies, a zombie survival shooter game; and Gorn, described as “a ludicrously violent VR gladiator simulator.” The center has tamer stuff for younger minds as well, and games are designed for all ages.

Mind Immersions also hosts gaming and racing tournaments, date nights, parties—the place is “birthday party central for Lake County,” Jesse says—and special events such as a summer camp for robotics and STEM (science, technology engineering, math) learning. Mind Immersions’ hours vary by season, so call 407.559.1090 or visit mindimmersions.com.

Something’s fishy at LHS

Homework is a little different for students on the bass fishing team.

Students spend countless hours mastering the three Rs: reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic.

For some, two other Rs are factoring into the learning process. 

Rods and reels.

In August 2018, avid angler Jeff Chastain convinced administrators at Leesburg High School to let him form Lake County’s first high school bass fishing team. The 14 team members fished in tournaments organized by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.).

“This was my way of giving back to the community, and the fact that it has to do with fishing is right up my alley,” says Jeff, a Tavares resident who competes in 20 fishing tournaments each year. “We had three kids on the team who had never caught a bass before, and others on the team probably won’t have an opportunity to fish the rest of the year without our tournaments. This is a great way to introduce them to a sport that they might not have participated in otherwise.”

Tournaments were held on weekends at popular fishing destinations such as the Harris Chain of Lakes, as well as the St. Johns River and Lake Tohopekaliga near Kissimmee. Jeff and other members of Lake County Bassmasters volunteered their boats and their time to serve as captains.

“We’d give the kids some pointers the night before the tournament, but once the boat was in the water, we could not give them any advice,” Jeff says. “It was up to them as to where they wanted to fish on the lake and what type of bait they wanted to use. I really appreciate our captains because without them this team wouldn’t be possible.”

Two students from last year’s team—Dillon Humphrey and Spencer Williams—competed in the high school state championship held May 4-5 at Lake Tohopekaliga. The duo finished in 47th place among 98 teams.

“It was a great experience to be part of the team,” says Spencer, 18, a lifelong Lake County resident. “Going out of town, sleeping in a hotel, and fishing with the guys is a complete win in my book.”

Learning how to reel in largemouth bass wasn’t the only lesson he learned from being part of the team. 

“I also gained knowledge about conservation and taking care of the environment,” Spencer says. “We have to keep the ecosystem alive so future generations can enjoy our lakes and participate in this wonderful sport.”


Campgrounds: So hot they’re cool

There’s nothing quite like camping during summertime and practically drowning in your own sweat. If your idea of a true camping experience consists of roasting marshmallows around a blazing campfire, then you might want to consider holding off for a few months. 

But if you cannot resist the urge to disconnect from the technologically advanced world, here are a few cool camping spots for hot weather:

Lake Louisa State Park: This park, which has 60 campsites, has come up with the ultimate summertime solution. For $120 a night, campers can choose to sleep in a fully furnished, luxury bell tent that has air conditioning. The tents also include a queen bed, interior sitting area, a chandelier, and bedside tables with lamps. See, there are ways to camp without roughing it and sacrificing the comforts of home. 7305 U.S. Highway 27, Clermont / 352.394.3969

Wekiva Falls Resort: With 800 RV sites and 100 tent sites, finding a camping spot likely won’t be a problem. When the day starts heating up, venture into the resort’s lagoon-style swimming area and stand under a 40-foot cement waterfall. It provides a misty reprieve from the sizzling summer sun. 30700 Wekiva River Road, Sorrento / 352.383.8055

Alexander Springs Recreation Area: In addition to a 67-unit campground, campers can swim or snorkel in a crystal-clear, 72-degree spring. Yes, 72 degrees. Finding the perfect temperature is certainly one way to beat the heat. 49525 County Road 445, Altoona / 352.669.3522


Hot topic:

Hydrilla threat

Hydrilla is an invasive weed that’s bad for our lakes. Lake County has more than 1,000 lakes and residents love life on the water—boating, skiing, fishing, and just enjoying the beauty of a sunrise or sunset over glistening waters. However, hydrilla is making that difficult in many places.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has a “weed alert” on its website, myfwc.com, to keep residents aware of hydrilla. The submerged plant was introduced to Florida in the early 1950s and now is found in more than 140,000 acres of public lakes and rivers. Stems can be 35 feet long below the water, keeping the sun from native plants, reducing oxygen levels, and degrading water quality. The weed can grow as much as an inch per day and is spread by boats and even diving gear, according to the website.

Michael Perry, executive director of Lake County Water Authority, says action is ongoing to subvert the problem. “Back in May, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission did treatment, and the water authority applied an additional $1.5 million to help. Now, we’re in monitoring mode.”

Because the plant is so aggressive, FWC encourages resident to clean all boats and trailers, live wells, and diving gear before entering or leaving the water. 

Environmental damage caused by hydrilla from the FWC:

Hydrilla canopies lower dissolved oxygen concentrations, reducing aquatic life.

Hydrilla decay doubles the amount of sediments that accumulate in a water body.

Dense hydrilla infestations can restrict water flow resulting in flooding along rivers and canals.

Hydrilla canopies produce ideal breeding environments for mosquitoes.

Dense hydrilla canopies shade out native submersed vegetation, lowering biodiversity.

Hydrilla infestations restrict recreational activities such as boating, swimming, and fishing.

It’s not an enemy to all, Michael says. “Bass fishermen like it because it’s an instant habitat for bass.” 

 

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