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61st Annual Watermelon Festival, Chiefland, FL–June 6, 2015

melonfest 300x293 61st Annual Watermelon Festival, Chiefland, FL  June 6, 2015

The 61st Annual Chiefland Watermelon Festival is coming up on June 6th. There will be contests, a parade, music, entertainment for the kids, and of course watermelon! This event will be taking place at the Train Depot Park in Chiefland from 8am to 2pm

The Annual Watermelon Festival is perhaps the biggest event in Chiefland during the year, drawing thousands of visitors from all parts of the state. The one-day event began in 1954, as the City of Chiefland wrapped up the completion of new sidewalks and streets. The Chiefland Civic Club decided there was a definite cause to celebrate! It was summer and the watermelon season was drawing to an end, so farmers donated their last watermelons for the celebration. Today, farmers continue to donate watermelons, which are served ice cold and delicious for all visitors to enjoy.

With time, the festival has grown, and now showcases arts and crafts exhibits from around Florida and neighboring states. There are plenty of children’s activities, including a watermelon seed-spitting contest! The watermelon parade, auction, weighing-contest, and the Watermelon Queen contest are just some of the festival highlights that draw spectators from all around the area


Learn About “Florida Cuisine” at Gainesville’s Matheson Museum, May 2015

 

floridafood 1 300x225 Learn About Florida Cuisine at Gainesvilles Matheson Museum, May 2015

Natural North Florida is known for good local food…

Florida’s food baffles lots of visitors.  As a surprise to many, oranges are not our largest agricultural output, nor are fish.  Would you believe beef cattle?  Natural North Florida is especially varied, and you’ll likely see more cattle ranches than citrus groves as you cruise our 10 county region.  Of course, we have fish, and with maybe the exception of Cedar Key clams, we eat most of them right here at home.  And statewide, you’ll find the influences of Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Europe and Asia in just about every city.

floridafood 2 300x225 Learn About Florida Cuisine at Gainesvilles Matheson Museum, May 2015

The region’s early settlers stopped here in North Florida for a number of reasons.  Some escaped big northern cities and others came hoping our heat would alleviate their aches and pains.  Others simply sought the solitude of Florida’s vast wilderness.  Famous author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings fit all three categories. She came to Cross Creek, in rural Alachua County, and there she wrote stories like The Yearling and Gal Young ‘Un.  And she cooked in the frame house that’s now the centerpiece of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park in Cross Creek.   Much of the kitchen has been reproduced at Gainesville’s Matheson History Museum as part of the “Florida’s Global Kitchen” exhibit.  Of course, the exhibit covers the diverse food of the entire state, and I recommend you read an excellent article in the May 24 Gainesville Sun by Shayna Tanen, a local correspondent. And be sure to check out the museum’s website for a complete schedule of events.

rawlings 1 200x300 Learn About Florida Cuisine at Gainesvilles Matheson Museum, May 2015

rawlings 2 194x300 Learn About Florida Cuisine at Gainesvilles Matheson Museum, May 2015

Visit Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park in Cross Creek and experience Natural North Florida’s past.

Gainesville’s Matheson History Museum, 513 East University Avenue, Gainesville

What: Matheson History Museum’s “Florida’s Global Kitchen” exhibit
When: 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, through July 30
Admission: Free; charges for select events. For a list of upcoming events, see Page 2F.
Info: 378-2280, www.mathesonmuseum.org

floridafood 4 300x225 Learn About Florida Cuisine at Gainesvilles Matheson Museum, May 2015


“Customer Fish”: Catch Fish–And Let Someone Else Cook Them!

Yes, you’ll still have to clean your catch, but in many coastal settlements and towns along our Natural North Florida coast, there are restaurants with “customer fish” on the menu.  There’s nothing quite like fish, fresh from the Gulf, served in the comfort of a restaurant, and usually accompanied by side dishes like grits, butter beans, French fries and hushpuppies.  Typically, most restaurants who are willing to cook your catch charge only for the service and the sides.  And you usually have the option of having your fish fried, grilled–or even blackened.

food 1 300x225 Customer Fish: Catch Fish  And Let Someone Else Cook Them!

Fried!

food 4 200x300 Customer Fish: Catch Fish  And Let Someone Else Cook Them!

Blackened!

 

food 10 300x200 Customer Fish: Catch Fish  And Let Someone Else Cook Them!

Grilled!

Here’s a listing of restaurants in Natural North Florida that will gladly cook your catch

Steinhatchee

Fiddler’s Restaurant

Roy’s Restaurant

Who Dat Bar and Grill

Suwannee

Salt Creek Restaurant, 23440 SE Co Rd 349, Suwannee, FL 32692   (352) 542-7072

Cedar Key

Island Hotel

Seabreeze Restaurant, 310 Dock St, Cedar Key, FL 32625   (352) 543-573

Island Room

Steamers

Yankeetown

Riverside Inn

Inglis

Shrimp Landing, 48 US-19, Inglis, FL 34449   (352) 447-5201

Panacea

Posey’s Up The Creek, 1506 Coastal Hwy, Panacea, FL 32346   (850) 984-5243

Here are a few  places that can’t be beat for fresh fish, right from the Gulf.  O’Neal’s and Cherry’s get their fish fresh daily, and cooked food at Northwest’s Tioga shop is “straight from the case” in their retail seafood market. 

Trenton

Cherry’s Seafood and Steaks

Madison

O’Neal’s Country Buffet, 558 W Base St, Madison, FL 32340  (850) 973-6400

Gainesville

Northwest Seafood (Tioga)

 Got Recommendations of a restaurant I missed?  Please comment below and I’ll get them listed!


Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

I’m a product of college in the 60’s.  That means when I hear the words “local”, “southern” and “blueberry wine” in the same sentence, I think of the  Boones’ Farm Apple wine and “Mad Dog 20/20″ common at fraternity parties.  But I’m a pretty open-minded guy and recently took the opportunity to visit Island Grove Winery, just down the road (in Island Grove, near Cross Creek, in Alachua County) from Gainesville.  And what a surprise!

igwine 9 247x300 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

Island Grove Winery is located at 24703 SE 193rd Av, Hawthorne, FL

First, I was expecting to see a ramshackle mobile home with a couple of folks who looked like my famous relative and Cracker Cowboy Bone Mizell, sitting on the front porch, smoking corncob pipes.  Not hardly.  After a lengthy ride from “downtown” Island Grove, I saw acres and acres of perfectly manicured rows of berries–blue and black. In the middle was the “welcome center/store”, surrounded by blooming gardenias, with a crew of very nice folks running the store, doing demos on wine production, and best of all–doling out samples of wine!

igwine 10 300x200 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

No foolin’ with Mother Nature allowed in the blueberry fields at Island Grove Winery!

igwine 4 300x193 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

igwine 5 300x200 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

igwine 2 300x200 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

Be sure to take a bottle or two home.

igwine 1 300x200 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

The main building at Island Grove Winery is nice, but just wait. There’s a new shop opening soon at the corner of CR325 and US301 in “downtown” Island Grove.

My sidekicks and I tried several of the wines on the tasting table.   I’m no fan of sweet wines, except for using them in cooking (blueberry wine will turn chicken blue!) and over ice cream, for dessert.  And I expected the wines, many of which are award winners, to be sweet and not dry.  However, the “Black and Blue” was dry and flavorful, made from both blueberries and blackberries and the “Kinda Dry” was, well, kinda dry.  I’d reserve the Moscato or “Sorta Sweet” for dessert or cooking, though.  However, lots of folks like sweeter wines than I and I suspect the folks at Island Grove Winery put as much work into their sweet products as they do with their dry offerings.

igwine 8 255x300 Take a Tour and Taste a Sample at Island Grove Winery, near Gainesville

Award Winners! 

No matter your wine preference, show some respect to the God Bacchus and head out to Island Grove for a tour.  They’re open 10AM to 4PM Monday-Friday and on Saturdays by appointment for group tours.   And on the way, stop and see one of Florida’s great treasures, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings homestead, in Cross Creek.  You won’t be disappointed at either place.


Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

2010 02 Kanapaha 63 Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Walking through the Bamboo Forest at Kanapaha

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet – Thich Nhat Hanh

Wandering through a thicket of bamboo, gleaming green stalks that tower so tall they blot out the sun, the footpath tunnels through an interplay of light and shadow, sharp angles cast across a forest floor that could be somewhere in Thailand, not Gainesville. As to echo that thought, the path emerges at a statuette of the Buddah, inviting reflection.

2015 03 Kanapaha 34 Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Bamboo and Buddah

First planted in 1978, Kanapaha opened its doors in 1987. But its botanical roots go much deeper, to the earliest botanizing in Florida. For it was “Puc Puggy” – The Flower Hunter, William Bartram – who camped beneath these oaks in 1774, overlooking “a spacious sink or grotto, which communicates with the waters of the lake,” in this case, Lake Kanapaha. On his journey across Florida, Bartram collected botanical specimens for his patron John Fothergill, a London physician and naturalist, and published a notable work now known as Bartram’s Travels.

2010 05 Kanapaha 212 Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

A dragonfly alights on floating leaves that look like four-leaf clovers

Lilies drift across the clear waters of that grotto as a pair of Northern map turtles sun on their perch on a rock. As spring yields to summer, massive Victoria lilies – the world’s largest, which look like you could sit cross-legged on them – unfold their beauty to the sun.

A walk through Kanapaha Botanical Gardens focuses the senses. Along the rambling hillsides leading down to the lake, thematic gardens break the 62 acres into distinct niches within natural woodlands.

2015 03 Kanapaha 95 Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Blue flag iris raise their nodding heads to the sun

On the eastern side of Kanapaha, most of the gardens are set beneath a natural woodland canopy. Bright colors paint the understory of the Ginger Garden. The taste of a savory mint tempts in the Herb Garden, calling from its ever-so-proper raised bed. Sharp-needled cacti raise their blooms to the sunshine in the Rock Garden. In the leaf litter of the forest floor, be mindful of the little things: unusual roots, limestone protrusions, the nodding heads of trillium blooming at the southernmost extent of their range.

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Alligator framed by the Oriental Gardens

Water features are the central attraction in the West Gardens, the younger part of Kanapaha. Let the soothing sounds of water over rock slow your footsteps on the paths of the Oriental Gardens between the waterfalls. Even the Children’s Garden is rich with details, from found objects pressed into a rock wall to a snaking hose painted like a giant coral snake.

2015 03 Kanapaha 128 Finding Zen at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

The Children’s Garden delights with colors, textures, and sounds

Central to the gardens is the Summer House, the public entrance to this floral feast. Just outside is the Labyrinth, ready for a meditative walk. Rocking chairs sit on the porch, inviting you to just be.

Open daily except Thursdays and Christmas, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a place to slow your pace, to stop and smell the roses. Admission costs $7 for adults, $3.50 for ages 6-13.

Learn more about Kanapaha Gardens


Coastal Conservation Association Florida STAR Tournament Begins May 23, 2015

CCAFL star Yamaha presented Coastal Conservation Association Florida STAR Tournament Begins May 23, 2015

star release 4 300x200 Coastal Conservation Association Florida STAR Tournament Begins May 23, 2015

Here’s what anglers will be targeting this summer on Florida’s Gulf Coast–a CCA STAR tagged redfish!

Imagine a 108-day fishing tournament that covers the entire Gulf Coast of Florida, including all the waters of Natural North Florida.  With almost $500,000 in prizes (a truck, 3 boats and motors, and countless other prizes) this inaugural tournament will attract the attention of anglers state-wide.

The big prizes (truck, boats and motors) will be awarded to anglers catching one of the 80+ tagged redfish, released along the Gulf Coast.  In Natural North Florida, fish were released in Levy, Dixie, Taylor, Jefferson and Wakulla counties.

star release 11 300x200 Coastal Conservation Association Florida STAR Tournament Begins May 23, 2015

Tagged redfish were released in areas where anglers have easy access.

You must enter the tournament to be eligible to win.  Current CCA members can enter for $30.  Non-Members pay $60, which includes a one year CCA Dues.  Tagged redfish are the main target, but other saltwater species (seatrut, snook, cobia, and sheepshead), entered using the STAR APP (availalble online at the Apple APP Store) are eligible for drawings at the end of the tournament, after Labor Day.   Complete information, including rules, registration, regulations and prize listings, can be found online at the CCA-Florida STAR website.  Remember, if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

Don’t be the guy or gal who shows up at the dock with a tagged fish — and who forgot to enter!


10th Annual Williston Ranch Rodeo, May 22 & 23, 2015

rodeo2 1 300x248 10th Annual Williston Ranch Rodeo, May 22 & 23, 2015

 

Heading towards Natural North Florida this weekend? Florida’s Levy County is “cowboy country” and the 10th annual Williston Ranch Rodeo is taking place May 22 & 23 at 8pm at Williston Horseman’s Park. There will be shopping, concessions, and kids’ events. Check out the flyer for more information on rodeo events.

rodeo 10th Annual Williston Ranch Rodeo, May 22 & 23, 2015


Kevin’s Redtrout Shootout, Wakulla County, May 30, 2015

redtrout Kevins Redtrout Shootout, Wakulla County, May 30, 2015

It’s back! The Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel Redtrout Shootout will take place May 30, 2015.

Cash rewards will be paid out to the top 10 teams weighing in the heaviest combined weight of (1) redfish and (1) spotted seatrout. With an entry fee of $75.00 per angler and a guaranteed cash purse, you and your crew will want to get registered today!

This unique inshore fishing tournament allows teams to launch their boat at any boat ramp, fish their favorite holes and then weigh their catch in at Jerry’s Bait & Tackle located at 664 Woodville Highway, Crawfordville, FL. Click here for map!

If all that sounds good wait till you hear the rest. We have everything from Banquets & Kick Off parties featuring live music. So be sure to take a few minutes and navigate the website to see what else we have in store for this years edition of the RedTrout Shootout.

Click here today to register!


BoatUS Advises “K.I.S.S.” Principle for Safe Boating Week May 16-22, 2015

Here’s some excellent advice from the BoatUS Foundation:
ANNAPOLIS, Md., – May 16-22 is National Safe Boating week, reminding anyone who spends their time on the water to think about ways they’ll have a great summer and avoid any chance of becoming US Coast Guard statistic. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has four tips that follow the familiar K.I.S.S. principle – but with a bent for boating safety – that are near universal:

Keep your life jackets handy: This means readily accessible within arms reach, not still in it’s plastic bag or behind compartment doors buried under junk. Better yet, wear it. You’d be surprised at how comfortable and slim today’s newest inflatable life jackets are.

Instruct your passengers on where to sit and how to move about the boat safely. This applies to all boats, but the smallest ones can have biggest problems: swamping, large wakes and overloading can turn your day into one you’d rather forget.

safety 1 300x132 BoatUS Advises K.I.S.S. Principle for Safe Boating Week May 16 22, 2015

Yes, the kids are wearing life jackets, but “bow riding” is a serious “no-no”!!!

See that all passengers are briefed on where emergency equipment is kept and how to use it: don’t forget to show how to use the VHF radio, and what everyone needs to do in case someone falls overboard (designate a spotter).

Share your float plan with someone ashore to let them know where you’re headed and expected to return. The simple act of telling someone has been demonstrated to greatly reduce a rescuer’s response time.

For more information on boating safety or to take a no cost online boating safety course, go to BoatUS.org.

About the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water:
The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating. Funded primarily by donations from the over half-million members of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the non-profit provides innovative educational outreach directly to boaters and anglers with the aim of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of America’s waterways and keeping boating safe for all. A range of boating safety courses – including 34 free state courses – can be found at BoatUS.org/courses. – See more at: http://www.thefishingwire.com/story/346334#sthash.VOcrJ7V5.dpuf


Island Grove Blueberry Festival, Saturday May 16, 2015

blueberry3 Island Grove Blueberry Festival, Saturday May 16, 2015

Blueberries…good eats!

>>>BLUE BERRY FEST 2015 SATURDAY MAY 16. IN ISLAND GROVE 8am – 4pm<<<


Fun for the Whole Family!
Delicious Florida foods, blueberry bake sale, arts and crafts vendors. Kids activities and entertainment,
old time activities ( cow drop, turkey shoot, etc.) blueberries and plants.
Proceeds benefit Cross Creek Volunteer Fire Department

blueberry2 300x201 Island Grove Blueberry Festival, Saturday May 16, 2015

blueberry1 300x199 Island Grove Blueberry Festival, Saturday May 16, 2015


21921 S HWY 301
Island Grove, FL 32654

(10 miles south of Hawthorne, 20 north of Ocala on Highway 301)