A Magazine Looks at FIFTY
A stylish glimpse back at the first 50 issues of Lake & Sumter Style-so far.
By Dean Blinkhorn - Wednesday, December 31, 2008
1. Lake & Sumter Style is Born
OK, so not really born, but our first issue was launched in November 2004. It was an instant success. In her opening letter, Publisher Kathy Johnson said, “I’ve always wanted to capture the amazing stories of the people and locations that make this area so unique.” Fifty issues later, I think we’ve done just that. But what do you think?
2. You’ve Got Mail
In most of the 49 issues, not counting the first one, we’ve compiled the best letters from readers like you, literally hundreds of cards, e-mails, comments, and gripes on a litany of subjects, most dealing with the stories we chose to cover in the magazine. Pat Huizing, the executive director for the Mount Dora Center for the Arts gets the nod as our first Mailbox scribe. Also, Colette Sasina’s occasional poetic submissions have been printed in multiple issues. The best letter, though? Probably Gerard Felice’s touching tribute to firefighters from November ’07.
3. A Story With A ‘Bite’
One of our earliest—and one of our most memorable—stories was called “CSI: Central Florida” by Karin Fabry-Cushenbery in January 2005. She profiled Dr. Kenneth Cohrn, a Leesburg dentist who works with the medical examiners office in a five-county region.
Another memorable story was also in January ‘05. I took photographer Steve Floethe with me down to the American Idol auditions in Orlando to see if any locals tried out for the popular show. After hours of combing the lines, waiting outside the judging area, and interviewing hundreds of wannabe idols, we found seven contestants from our coverage area. None made it past the first round, though.
UPDATE: We covered American Idol again in the issue. This time in Jacksonville and this time with extra help in the form of Assistant Editor Kristina Kolesa, Steve, and I went looking for more wannabes.
5. Every Picture Tells A Story
Speaking of Steve Floethe, this award-winning photographer submitted our first-ever photo essay in the February ’05 issue. Called “War Games,” his killer (no pun intended) shots of the annual reenactment of the Second Seminole War in Bushnell were nothing short of amazing. We’ve continued the photo essay tradition ever since.
After being profiled in Lake & Sumter Style, three well-known locals died under tragic circumstances. We remember them here (L-R) one more time.
Teasha Edwards (February ’05)—Profiled as Sumter County’s teacher of the year, she would die two months later in a freak ATV accident.
Chris Daniels (May ‘05)—Profiled as Lake County’s newly elected sheriff, he would die 18 months later in a senseless bus accident during a charity fundraiser.
Gary Woodward (March ’06)—We featured Gary’s collection of vintage bicycles in a whimsical five-page article, which showcased some great photography by Kent Weakley. Unfortunately, Gary was critically injured just three months later in an explosion while working on an antique car in his garage. Fellow cycle enthusiasts, called “Wheelmen,” later held a parade in his honor in Gary’s home state of Michigan.
In March ’05, Steve Floethe shot another photo essay for the magazine. This one, “The South Rides Again,” highlighted The Villages Gridiron Classic. Most Valuable Player honors went to LSU quarterback Marcus Randall who completed seven of 11 passes for 88 yards to lead the South to a narrow 24-21 victory.
UPDATE: Not selected in the 2005 NFL Draft, Randall later played quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers. He was converted to safety and later played the linebacker position. In 2007, Randall was selected in the inaugural draft by Team Arkansas in the newly created All-American Football League—as quarterback. Unfortunately, the league postponed its inaugural season and will try again in 2009.
An in-joke around the office is my fondness for music-related headlines. Regular readers will know that, yes, I have an unhealthy obsession with music, especially tunes from the ‘80s, so I will admit that these headlines come naturally for me. Can you spot the ones from this feature alone?
Not like some ghost or anything, but April ’05 marked the first appearance of my editor’s column in Lake & Sumter Style. I’m proud to say that “The Editor’s Desk” has picked up a few awards since then. (See item #19 for the full list.)
An UpFront item in April ’05 announced the opening of Target in The Villages. Why was this important? Because it sparked a massive development project on Hwy. 441. Villagers finally got some real shopping options close to home. Now they’re just a golf cart’s drive away.
Some stories just weren’t meant to be. The ink had barely dried on my April ’05 feature interview (“Coming Home”) with local DJ/country music star Chad Brock and his return to the area on WTRS when he bolted for greener pastures. Literally. He took waaay more money for basically the same gig on WQYK in Tampa.
UPDATE: Chad still hosts the morning show there and recently returned to the studio. His first single in four years, “Put a Redneck in the White House,” was released in August 2008 on the independent Straight Shooter label. I’m assuming he wasn’t invited to the Obama inauguration.
12. A Fly-By Shooting
One of our prettiest early features came courtesy of writer JoAnn Guidry and photographer John Jernigan. “Up, Up And Away” in the March ’05 issue highlighted an Oxford business near busy I-75 that offered rides in powered parachutes and paragliding. No, JoAnn, they’re not tethered to the ground. My bad.
UPDATE: Fly-By Ranch no longer operates in its previous location and reservations are now required. You may bring your own equipment or you can take a helicopter tour. Call (352) 689-0072 or (407) 406-0463.
13. Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs
We’ve covered a lot of signs in Lake & Sumter Style, some may say it’s a bit of an obsession. Here are a few favorites.
14. On A Serious Note
Although we’re a lifestyle magazine whose main focus is to highlight the lighter side of our communities, we’ve examined harder, newsier stories, too—when circumstances warranted it. These three stood out:
“The Groveland Four” by Karin Fabry-Cushenbery, November 2004—Karin interviewed local author Gary Corsair and his account of a darker side of this small town’s history from July 16, 1949. He painstakingly researched hundreds of original documents and interviewed dozens of people in the hopes of shedding some new light on this tragic crime.
“For Jessie” by JoAnn Guidry, January 2006—JoAnn interviewed activist Mark Lunsford as he tried to promote legislation to toughen the laws against child predators. His daughter went missing on February 24, 2005, and later died at the hands of a registered sex offender who lived nearby. This was one of Lake & Sumter Style’s strongest pieces of journalism and provoked a passionate response from readers.
“Storm Stories” by Mary Ann DeSantis & Karin Fabry-Cushenbery, March 2007—When a series of tornadoes ravaged Lake County on February 2, we scrapped our editorial plans and went into action to send a team into the wreckage to come back with some emotional stories. The result was one of our magazine’s most-compelling features.
15. ‘Touching The Face Of God’
I don’t have anything new to add to this story from June ‘05, other than to tell you that this is one of my all-time favorite pictures from the magazine. Again, only Steve Floethe was in the right place at the right time—except maybe for pilot and Canadian Soaring Champion Walter Weir. His expression of sheer joy is priceless.
Our first round-up (“Lake County’s Great Outdoors”) appeared in the June ’05 issue. What’s a round-up you ask? Well, it has nothing to do with cowboys or the Wild West. No, a round-up is a journalism term for a story with multiple subjects, often numbered (like this one). We’ve done many pieces since, so much so that a few of the graphic artists ask what current stories aren’t round-ups. This also marked the start of our great relationship with the Lake County tourism department and its director, Greg Mihalic.
17. They Give A Hoot & Don’t Commute
Everyone laughed at this headline from a September ’05 article on an owl-relocation program in nearby Orange County, but I stood by my choice. It later won a first-place FMA award—and it wasn’t even based on a song title (see item #8).
Our first Fall Arts Preview kicked off in the September ’05 issue. Jam-packed with listings, profiles, and stories, this has become an anticipated annual tradition.
No section in the magazine elicits more passionate controversy than our Social Style pages. Readers either think they take up valuable editorial space—or that the stories get in the way of the “party pages.” We’ve certainly covered everything—grand openings, gala charity events, and barbeque luncheons—publishing more than 2,400 social photos in these 50 issues. Were you in one?
The most respected organizations in Florida have consistently awarded Lake & Sumter Style their top honors.
Society of Professional Journalists Awards (2008)
Florida Magazine Association Awards
CREATE Magazine Awards
The Gators have always been a favorite topic for us to cover in the magazine. When Buddy Martin profiled then-new UF Coach Urban Meyer in August ‘05, who knew what was to follow?
UPDATE: Can you say “championship?” The Gators took it all in 2006 against Ohio State. As of press time, only Oklahoma stands in the way of a repeat.
Strong opinions usually come from likely sources in the magazine business—columns, letters to the editor, political stories. So, when I assigned a story about a popular new breed of dog to Associate Editor Karin Fabry-Cushenbery for the January ’06 issue, we couldn’t have possibly anticipated the heated reaction. A sampling:
From the very beginning, Lake & Sumter Style has spotlighted the best artists and photographers in the area. A January ’06 feature on Mount Dora photographer/environmental activist Jeffrey Berger was one of our best.
UPDATE: Berger’s latest exhibit, A Wetlands Reflection, is now open at the Marine Science Center in nearby Ponce Inlet. View additional images and check out his latest news at ecophotos.blogspot.com.
We have always championed our local libraries, so it certainly wasn’t out of character to show a sneak peek at the yet-to-be-built Downtown Leesburg library in our October ’05 UpFront section. An amazing space, the new library should be the catalyst for downtown redevelopment for years to come.
25. Can We Take A Mulligan?
Sometimes deadlines seriously affect how a story turns out design-wise. In hindsight, I think these three needed a few more minutes in the oven.
Our first Parting Shot, the popular photo-driven finale to the magazine, debuted in July 2006 with a tongue-in-cheek offering by the equally tongue-in-cheek Steven P. Hlavac, Lake & Sumter Style’s award-winning photographer.
Writer JoAnn Guidry caught up with former major leaguer Chet Lemon in the June ’06 issue. A former player for the Tigers and the White Sox, Lemon was known for his all-out effort on the diamond. He now coaches that skill to youngsters in his hometown of Umatilla and at Eustis High.
UPDATE: Like father, like son. Marcus Lemon was selected by the Texas Rangers in the fourth round of the 2006 Major League Draft. Now a shortstop with the team’s Class A affiliate, he hit a promising .295 with 47 RBIs and an impressively low strikeout total in 118 games last season.
28. The Match Game
In the spirit of the kid-themed May ’06 issue, we decided to run childhood pics of our key staffers and contributors. Can you match up the new and the not-so-new photos?
The April ’06 issue treated readers with a whole new Lake & Sumter Style—redesigned editorial pages, a matte finish on the cover, and some new departments. Creative Director Steve Codraro, Art Director Trevor Byrne, and Designers Mitch Carnes and Kim Gaucher came up with the new look. How well did they do? It’s been in use ever since.
30. A Story That Had To Be Told
For the September ’06 issue, we knew we needed to treat the five-year anniversary of 9/11 with dignity and respect. In a piece called “The Ultimate Sacrifice,” JoAnn Guidry interviewed Wildwood resident Jerry Bingham who recounted his version of the day in detail. He had a unique perspective because his son, Mark, died that day—but not in vain. Mark, athletic and young, was one of the passengers on United Flight 93 who tried to overtake their captors before they could plunge the jet into an undetermined target in Washington D.C. No one survived the flight, but how many lives did they save with their ultimate act of heroism?
31. A Few Of Our Favorite Covers
With 50 covers (OK, 49 if you don’t count the one on this issue) to choose from, it wasn’t easy to pick just a few. Here are three that come to mind.
Sometimes stories are within the walls of our own office. We thought it would be fun to let our readers know that the stork visited Lake & Sumter Style in 2007. Associate Editor Karin Fabry-Cushenbery (left) had a boy, Tyler, and Sales Director Cara Newby (right) had a girl, Jordyn. The babies were born just one day apart at the same hospital.
UPDATE: Tyler is 18 months old and weighs 22 pounds. He’s learning new words every day, loves to play outside, and is very excited at becoming a big brother this June. Jordyn is also 22 pounds and is now walking and babbling. Her mom, Cara, accepted a new job with the American Cancer Society in July 2008.
Photographer Joel McEachern has been covered in our magazine several times, but in the October ’06 issue, we decided to give him the full-blown feature treatment, including a cover (see item #31). His distinctive first-light photography, taken at the first break of dawn over the horizon, is nothing short of spectacular. From time to time, you’ll see his talents grace our Parting Shot page. Amazing.
When we heard that the Eustis High varsity football team had a girl on the squad, as a kicker no less, we knew we had a story on our hands. JoAnn Guidry interviewed the charming Keirsten Cheatham on what it was like to be “one of the boys” and submitted a memorable piece. And Steven P. Hlavac’s incredible photographs elevated this simple profile story to a major cover feature (see item #31), an editor’s dream.
UPDATE: Keirsten graduated in 2008 and is now a freshman at Cochise College in Arizona. She’s continued her athletic career as well—on the soccer team, her natural sport.
35. The Department Graveyard
In the magazine biz, only the best ideas survive. Here are a few—for one reason or another—that didn’t:
36. History Buffs
Can you tell we love all things old?
37. Lake & Sumter Style Or Entertainment Tonight?
I’m not sure how, but we’ve talked to a lot of famous people in just 50 issues. Here are the most memorable, from left: Paula Deen, Gary Burghoff, Sandra Lee, and Clint Black.
38. Coming Full Circle
In the January ’07 issue, we introduced Associate Editor Mary Ann DeSantis’ regular column, Full Circle, to you. A full-time resident of The Villages, Mary Ann has authored some of the magazine’s finest stories (see item #14). She’s also one of the funniest—and nicest—Southerners you can ever hope to meet.
39. Catching Up With Corey
This story was every editor’s dream. I sent a writer and a photographer out to tiny Montverde to get an interview and some pics with actor Corey Feldman (remember him from Stand By Me or The Lost Boys?). Instead, we got great access from the film crew and some remarkable photos, courtesy Steven P. Hlavac. This little 2-pager turned into a major cover feature. Awesome!
UPDATE: The resulting horror film, Terror Inside, debuted at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival on November 3, 2008. Go to www.terrorinside.com for official merchandise, location stills, the trailer, and a pre-order form for the DVD.
Karin Fabry-Cushenbery recently profiled Leesburg real estate agent Tom Grizzard in November ’08 since he’d won contests impersonating singer Kenny Rogers and author Ernest Hemingway.
UPDATE: He still looks like Hemingway.
41. Quick Bites Debuts
A year ago, we added food columnist Roseann to our Lake & Sumter line-up. Since then, she’s provided the inside scoop on what’s happening in our area’s restaurant biz. Wanna know about the special? Ask Roseann.
42. The Race Of The Tiger Bunny
Something odd happened concerning this Leesburg statue from the April ‘07 issue. Every one of our photographers from Lake & Sumter Style pitched it for the magazine. Who does this striped bunny have for an agent? Not even John Travolta gets this much attention from the local press! And, by the way, the winner of this amazing race was... Steve Floethe!
43. Eskimo Style?
If you took every page of every copy of Lake & Sumter Style and laid them end-to-end, they would stretch from Leesburg to Fairbanks, Alaska, and back—twice!
44. Fantastic Fido Photos
Our first-ever dog contest in the July ‘08 issue generated lots of buzz, with hundreds of submissions. You might even say it was a tail-waggin’ good idea.
45. Bound For Beijing?
Karin Fabry-Cushenbery reported on Olympic hopeful Jason Richards in our February ’06 issue. The Clermont athlete was training hard to make it on the American decathlon team. So, how did he actually do?
UPDATE: Well, an American did do well in Beijing, just not Richards. Bryan Clay won gold by the largest margin since 1972. He had the title virtually guaranteed before entering the final event.
46. Books Every Central Floridian Should Read
I asked our editors and writers—myself included—to choose their 13 favorites. Here are the top four from that list to remind you again. Have you read these yet?
Mary Ann DeSantis’ memorable August ‘o8 column dealt with the buffalo in The Villages and the unpopular decision to remove them from their high-profile grazing spot. Yes, we received a stampede of letters on this one!
I bet if I called this “An Advertiser Thank-You” that you wouldn’t have read a word. Seriously, these loyal sponsors—Central Florida Health Alliance, First Baptist First Academy, Florida Hospital Waterman, Mid Florida Eye, and United Southern Bank—have been with us from the first issue to the one you hold now. We couldn’t produce this magazine—for free—without their generous support. And if it could talk, my daughter’s college fund would say the same thing…
49. Life In The Fast Lane
Sherry Mims caught up with teenage racecar driver Shea Holbrook in May ’08 for a memorable feature on the phenom’s amazing career to that point. And to think, most of us were still considering our next move at that age. But Shea’s plans are on the fast track—literally.
The last item is the one you hold in your hands—this issue. And so begins the next chapter. See you at 100…