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Teen takes stage at Suwannee River Jam

Maci McDuffie at the 2012 North American Country Music Association Awards in Tennessee on March 15.Teen vocalist Maci McDuffie, an 8th grader at Baker County Middle School, performed at the Suwannee River Jam on May 4-5 in Live Oak along side guitarist Matt Carter, formerly of the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

She also performed on the same stage as country music legends like Trace Adkins and Randy Travis.

Ms. McDuffie, 14, secured a spot in the event’s line-up by winning the Bradford County Talent Festival on February 24 and auditioning at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, also in Live Oak.

The Glen St. Mary resident will perform on May 18 and 19 at the 4th annual Boots-n-BBQ event at the Bradford County Fairgrounds to benefit Santé Fe Community College scholarships.

She also won Female Vocalist of the year at the 2012 North American Country Music Association Awards in Tennessee on March 15.

Below is The Press’ interview with Ms. McDuffie via e-mail about her show in Live Oak last weekend and her fledging singing career.

The Press: How would you describe your performance at the Suwannee River Jam?

Maci McDuffie: I feel good about my performance, the crowd was awesome and really into the music. After the performance several people asked for my autograph, which was really cool.

Press: What songs did you sing, what are they about and why did you select them?

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JU coach, former Gator guest speak at Y’s Playmaker awards

The honorees with Mr. Bell.Former Florida Gator and present day Jacksonville University football coach Kerwin Bell was the guest speaker the evening of April 26 at the Playmaker Awards banquet sponsored by the Baker Family YMCA.

Mr. Bell, a native of Mayo, FL, was a walk-on at UF in 1983 and spoke on how a combination of circumstances brought him to the starting slot after he was initially eighth on the depth chart.

“Look at the positive in any situation,” he advised attendees, reflecting on his on-field experience in high school where he led the Layfayette County High School Hornets to a state championship, his four years on the Gators squad and post-graduate professional career in the NFL and CFL.

He said his inspiration for never giving up came from Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford and Johnny Unitas. All initially failed several times before taking their place in history.

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Program honors veterans at Heritage Park

Above, Robert Osborn (left) of Jacksonville and Karl Joyce of Macclenny meet in a tearful reunion. Both attended Robert E. Lee High in Riverside.A modest but patriotic crowd turned out at Macclenny’s Heritage Park at midday on April 21 for the second annual Korean and Vietnam veteran appreciation day.

With the theme, “Freedom is not Free,” the program organized by Jessie and Karl Joyce included speeches by veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, a special tribute to the missing in action and other recognitions.

Mrs. Joyce planned to have just the single event last year, but public demand led to the second annual tribute in 2012. “And I enjoy doing it,” she said.

Mrs. Joyce got the idea for the first tribute after a visit to Jacksonville International Airprot to welcome home returning vets.

“We would go to the airport and greet them and wave flags,” she said.

But it made her remember how Vietnam and Korean War veterans were not greeted in the the same way.

“They were never welcomed home,” she said. “They were spit on when they came home.”

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Expedition team’s cross-state trek ends here

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team reached Ocean Pond in west Baker County last week after embarking from the southern tip of the Everglades and heading north last Photographer Carlton Ward Jr. (right) presents FDEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard with map of the envisioned Florida Wildlife Corridor.January.

Its goal: travel 1000 miles in 100 days to highlight the state’s natural resources and ongoing efforts to “re-connect and restore the fragmented lands and waters in Florida.”

The state’s natural landscape and water flow has been altered through more than a century of development and the expedition aims to showcase lands already protected while identifying where additional conservation is needed.

The team is documenting the expedition online with photographs, videos and social media updates, all accessible from the expedition’s website  www.floridawildlifecorridor.org.

The expedition team arrived at Ocean Pond the evening of April 12 and met with Florida Department of Environmental Protection [FDEP] Secretary Herschel Vinyard at Olustee Battlefield the following morning.

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