Wouldn’t my father be proud!
The only official key to the city I’ve received anywhere—including the four municipalities where I’ve paid taxes, mortgages, and held an address—links me forever to Ocala. Mayor Gerald Ergle made a house call to my friend Amy’s cottage on Fifth Street to present it to me in person, along with a flowery letter I treasure, which proudly and immodestly hangs on my bulletin board at Southern Living. I was—and am—touched.
You see, my dad decorated my childhood with stories of O’Calla. Or was it Oh! Calla!? I may have perceived the destination before I could figure out the spelling or the location, but I made a little-girl vow to visit someday. It seems Ocala—not flashy Miami or beachy Daytona—drew my grandparents and their only son southward from West Virginia for a family vacation so very, very long ago. And they never forgot it.
Same with me. I secretly suspect you all stash a magnet in my luggage each time so I’ll be drawn back, for I do seem to show up again and again. Once for an equestrian event and to peer through the glass bottoms of the famous boats. Another time to admire the Appleton Museum and write about the stuffed French toast at the Seven Sisters Inn. More recently, for a girlfriend party catered by Cindy Dinges, to meet members of the Gypsy Chicks book group and to rejoice in your lush canopies of trees and the city’s devotion to them.
Admittedly, my favorite attraction is Amy Mangan, the editor of the book you hold in your hands, and the person who flattered me with the invitation to write these words. Special friends are exceptional and rare—like cities that see their own worth and wisdom. So I’m reading the pages of The Style Book with excitement—impressed with Ocala Style, the lovely rooms, the people, the ideas, and the energy that makes Ocala the place I continue to embrace.
You’ve honored me with the key—and it continues to unlock endless wonders. Congratulations for holding onto the magic that drew my dad so long ago, and the charm that continues to engage me today. I can’t wait for the next visit—with thanks in advance for your hospitality!
—Carolanne Griffith Roberts
Travel Editor, Southern Living