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Performers take stage as forbears

From left: Denny Wells, Mallory Chauncey, (front) Harper Archambault and Julia Archambault, and Shelly Neri.“I was about to step on stage in my seersucker suit and I had to stop for a second. I thought, ‘I’m about to play my grandfather.’”

Denny Wells, who plays City Manager Frank Wells in the Baker County High drama and Baker County Community Theatre production of Baker County, Fla.: 1861-1961, was one of several performers with personal connections to the people in the play.

When he was asked to portray his grandfather, who had a big hand in helping stop moonshining in Baker County, he paused for a moment before saying, “You can’t imagine what an honor this is.” He then went out and bought a seersucker suit, which was his grandfather’s signature apparel.

For Mr. Wells, playing the role has been like channeling his grandfather. The two were extremely close and he remembers seeing his grandfather in the self-same suit. Others also remember it fondly.

Wells was leaning against the front of the stage after the sold out performance January 13 and a passing audience member commented, “I saw your grandfather dressed like that many a day.”

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Parade, speeches pay homage to MLK

BCMS Majorettes (from left) Mallory Cain, Kate Walker and Wilnesha Johnson.Area students joined a handful of public officials and others for the annual parade and ceremony to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. near Keller Intermediate School in Macclenny on the cool and sunny morning of January 13.

The event has grown smaller in recent years, with fewer people taking part in the parade and program organized by Rev. Tommy Rollins of Macclenny.

The parade traveled through the center of the city, beginning and ending at Emmanuel Church of God at the northeast corner of South Boulevard and 8th Street.

Children and staff from nearby day care centers and preschools gathered at the roadside waving and clapping as the parade’s various groups marched, walked or rode by. Residents came out of their homes to watch the annual observance as well.

The roughly 45-minute procession was led by the flashing lights of law enforcement motorcycles from the Florida Highway Patrol and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Darius Green, AFJROTC cadet.They were followed by the high school’s Air Force Junior Officer Training Corps [JROTC] cadets, who near the end of the route halted after approaching a crowd from the Episcopal Children Services’ Head Start program. The cadets turned and saluted the  children before marching on.

The school district’s Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson and Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Robin Mobley soon rode by in a bright red Jeep Wrangler, preceded by a golf cart from the Baker County Women’s Political Network. Then came the high school band’s drum line, the middle school’s girls basketball, Dancin’ Paws and Marjorettes teams, and local fire and rescue units.

Click here for more photos from the parade and speeches.

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Small choices can make a big difference, says retired admiral

Retired Admiral and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas F. Hall.Thomas F. Hall started his life as a poor boy from a small town in Oklahoma, but he rose to become an Assistant Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C.

What happened in between was recounted by the two-star admiral, pilot and Vietnam War veteran before more than 50 students in the high school’s media center the afternoon of January 5. Most of them were Junior ROTC cadets.

His message: seemingly minor choices in one’s life can be the difference between life and death, or love and loss. He talked about some of the close calls he’s had while flying, but also how his decision to join the Navy led to his 48-year marriage.

“Every morning look in the mirror, stare at yourself and say, ‘What are my choices?’” Mr. Hall, 72, told the group. “And how can my choices make the difference between me living and dying.”

He repeated the mantra more than once during the hour-and-a-half encounter, which ended with a question-and-answer session that impressed  the visitor.

“You guys have better questions than most of the adults I speak to,” said Mr. Hall, who now works as a consultant for a handful of companies. 

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Shaggin’ on the (Highway 90) Avenue

Danny Lamb gives Sharon Teague a whirl on the dance floor.To promote and celebrate their love for a dance that originated in South Carolina decades ago, Macclenny resident Danny Lamb and his wife Debbie hosted an event they called “Beach Music 101: Shaggin’ on the Avenue” in mid-December.

The Shag is a swing dance that originated along the coast between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. It was adapted by South Carolina as the state’s official dance in 1976 and today is recognized in national and international dance competitions held across the United States.

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