AVON PARK — Downtown Avon Park was the place to be for music, food and fun Thursday through Sunday. Vet Jam 2020 was the reason. It’s a community event that brings people together.
Vet Jam is the flagship event of The Battle of the Bands, Inc., a veteran’s 501c3 organization that raises awareness and funds to assist local veteran’s projects and charities. The cool and windy weather Saturday morning did not keep people away from enjoying the event.
“We have four days of fun activities,” said organizer, Anna Marie Feeney. “This year’s event is dedicated to the Vice President of the organization, Christopher John Knight. He was my husband and sadly he passed away last week. He was a good man. In his younger days, he was a cowboy and a bull rider.”
Thursday was the opening day of the event with The Parade of Boats being the highlight. Since the weather was very mild, turnout was excellent. It was the perfect way to begin the weekend festivities.
Friday showcased the Winter Haven Water Sport Water Show with their Fly Boarding. There was also a car show and the Avon Park Fire Department cornhole contest.
“This is our sixth year,” Feeney said. “We have eight awesome food trucks on site. We also have a drone flying over the event to take pictures.”
The food trucks had treats such as deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, barbecue, hot pretzels, cheesesteaks and fresh lemonade. A craft beer station was set up by the band stage.
Saturday was full of activities including the Cypress Gardens Water Show Team, the car and bike show and the Chili Cook-off.
The Battle of the Bands tent was filled with a variety of raffle items. Mary Alice Osterhout was buying her tickets from Moddie Desselle and Amanda Gorut.
“Just taking a chance. Who knows? I might win something,” Osterhout said.
Victor and Adriana Rodriguez, with Victor’s Table, had a variety of animals made from tires.
“The body is made of tires and the head is made of pressure treated wood,” explained Adriana. “We’ve been making roosters, alligators, flamingos, peacocks and more for about 12 years. Victor recently did a special order for a ring-necked pheasant.”
Rev. Joseph Stubblefield was handing out four-leaf clover coins for good luck.
“I’m with Christmas in the Highlands, Inc. Our project is ‘heart of service.’ Armor Radio is our on-line sponsor. We want to help veterans and their families suffering with PTSD and other needs. Two other local ministers and I will be starting biblical counseling later this month.”
The weekend was also loaded with fantastic musical entertainment and included Florida Country, Blackbird Anthem, Ransom, Raisin’ Cain, Lotela Gold, the VooDoo Kings, Covered in Black, Free Agent, He Said She Said, Southerndipity, Crush and the Heartland Pops.
Debbie Hadden was huddled up against the cold listening to the music on Saturday morning. “I love the music! I’ve been here all three days so far.”
Burn Out Candles is a regular at the Vet Jam event according to owners Allan and Vicki Spires. They offer soy candles and other treats. The Soy candles are clean burning, biodegradable, non-toxic and are all natural using essential oils.
All money raised during the event benefits the local veteran’s projects and charities in our community.
SEBRING —Cheryl Mikel tasted all the pulled pork at the People’s Choice competition Saturday, and gave a few bites to Sadie Grace, her Pomeranian riding snug in a pouch hanging from her shoulder.
For $5 per person, Backyard BBQ Bash patrons packed a pole tent to sample smokey, sweet and/or savory servings. Visitors to this weekend’s Backyard BBQ Bash enjoyed a leisurely day of live music, classic cars, cornhole and of course, barbecue.
Saturday’s chill made the crowd thinner than on Friday night. Event co-organizers J.C. Shoop and Sebring Fire Capt. Austin Maddox said between 500-700 people stayed up until 10 p.m. in the fenced-in field beside South Commerce Avenue to hear live music.
Two-year-old Janelle Zayas found the best way to ensure a perfect cornhole game: Stand over the board and drop the bag directly in the hole.
Saturday’s festivities also included a classic/antique car show and the indoor/outdoor weekend flea market held in the buildings and fields of the Highlands County Fairgrounds.
While shopping there, Judy Gschwind of Lake Placid got a complement for her bright and multi-colored jacket. She said it helps her husband find her in a crowd.
Over in the barbecue competitions field, lemonade vendor Patty Jefferson wanted to wear a lemon-patterned shirt but had to keep it covered under a jacket.
The team of “Make ‘Em Squeal BBQ” — Drew Bishop and John Peck — took the People’s Choice award with a sweet-flavored barbecue pulled pork butt.
John Lott of “Back Country BBQ” took second in People’s Choice.
Winners of the other competitions were as follows:
- Chicken: Darrin Davis and Mark McGovern of D.M. Barbecue took first place, and the team of Bishop and Peck took second.
- Ribs: James Brown of Avon Park took first place, and the team from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took second.
- Brisket: Andrew Bible of Heartland National Bank took first place, and the team of Bishop and Peck took second.
Bishop and Peck also recently won first place for chicken and fourth overall at Haines City’s 10th annual “Ribs on the Ridge” barbecue competition on Feb. 21.
Sebring Police Chief Karl Hoglund said his team, consisting of himself, Detective Ryan Brand, Detective Sgt. Jeff Reinhart and Inspector Tommy Haralson tried their hand at brisket Saturday.
Hoglund said his department has been in the competition for two years.
The event dates back to more than 15 years ago, under such names as “12 Hours of Barbecue,” “Pig Fest” and the “Central Florida BBQ Festival,” always sponsored by Sebring Firemen Inc. to raise funds for children’s charities.
This year, funds went to Sebring High School Youth Athletics, Shoop said.
In 2015, Shoop said, they started hosting the event free to teams consisting of first responders, and then gradually brought back civilian teams.
LAKE PLACID — Terry Jackson wears many hats these days: licensed mental health counselor, head of special education at Lake Placid High School and more recently published author. Last summer saw the release of her first children’s book, “The Greatest Things in Life.” The book features a rhyming prose and is meant to encourage uplift people of all ages by highlighting many of life’s simple pleasures from a Christian perspective.
“The Greatest Things in Life” was recently selected as the gold medal winner of the Illumination Book Awards in the Keepsake/Gift Book category. According to the Illumination Book Awards website, “With the motto, ‘Shining a Light on Exemplary Christian Books, the Illumination Book Awards are designed to honor the year’s best new titles written and published with a Christian worldview.”
“My book ‘The Greatest Things in Life’ will also be featured in the 2020 Book Expo America and I will be attending an Illumination winners reception in New York City in May,” said Jackson.
Jackson’s new book, “Fingerpaintin’,” is a rhyming children’s board book aimed at helping preschoolers identify basic colors along with items associated with each of those colors. The book is meant to develop better vocabulary, recognition of real items and an understanding of common adult phrases such as “green thumb.” Each page is beautifully illustrated by Jason Fowler.
“It is a board book perfect for preschoolers helping them identify several basic colors with the marvelous illustrations which are associated with each color,” said Jackson. “I teamed up with the same illustrator, Jason Fowler, who made this second book oh so appropriately fun and lively for small children.”
“Fingerpaintin’” is available now and already in the running for a Moonbeam Award for board books.
Jackson’s next book, “Quallo Zuto” will focus on the solar system and an imaginary planet called Quallo Zuto. “It will teach the basic planets of the solar system,” said Jackson. “But with illustrations also teach about the gods the planets are named after. Very educational. Another rhyming manuscript with a fun surprising twist at the end that too will be illustrated by Jason Fowler.”
As part of the kickoff to the release of “Fingerpaintin’” Jackson will be reading the book the children at Trinity Tots in Lake Placid on Friday, March 13. Each student will receive their own signed copy of the book supplied by Trinity Tots. The preschool has declared it “Color Day” in honor of the book. The students have been asked to wear bright colors and there will be coloring activities. “I will read the book to them and tell them a little about the history of writing it and give them their pre-signed copies,” Jackson said.
Copies of “The Greatest Things in Life” can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, or you can reach out to the author directly at email@example.com. “Fingerpaintin’” can be found at Lake Placid Feed and Western Wear or through the author directly for $9 via email or phone at 863-464-0814.
SEBRING — The attorney for the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Heartland Christian Academy has filed a motion to compel the release of confidential information of the Child Protection Team and/or Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Motion was filed March 3 in the 10th Judicial Circuit, Highlands County, by an attorney from Herman Law, Boca Raton, who is representing a female student (named as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit) who attended Heartland Christian School.
This case arises out of the alleged sexual assault and battery of Jane Doe (a student at Heartland Christian Academy) by Jack Howard, III, who was a teacher at the school, according to the motion.
In two criminal lawsuits, Howard is charged with battery, sexual battery custodial authority and six counts of lewd molestation. The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred on the school’s campus between August 2018 and January 2019 involving four female victims between the ages of 12-16.
The motion notes that Jane Doe is only one of “numerous victims” who have alleged sexual assault against Howard. There is an ongoing criminal investigation as a result of the allegations against Howard.
As part of the criminal investigation, Jane Doe gave an interview with the Child Protective Team and she seeks the release of that interview, according to the motion.
The Child Protective Team requires a court order before producing the requested documents and information, which is both necessary and relevant for Jane Doe to prepare and prosecute the case, the motion states.
Howard was initially arrested in January 2019 on a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior involving a female student at Heartland Christian School.
On Feb. 7, 2019 Howard incurred the additional charges of four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and one count of battery after three more victims were identified by authorities.
The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred on the school’s campus between August 2018 and January 2019 involving a total of four female victims between the ages of 12-16.
On April 12, 2019 Howard was charged with another count of sexual battery (custodial authority) of a victim between 12 and 17 years old and lewd/lascivious behavior with the victim between 12 and 17 years old.
A mediation date has been set for April 8 in the civil lawsuit against Heartland Christian Academy. A jury trial is set for 10 days starting on June 8.