The Voice of the Gem City

News May 6, 2021

It’s National Day of Prayer in the United States with ceremonies happening around the nation. In Putnam County the service, normally held on the courthouse lawn in Palatka, has been moved to St. James United Methodist Church across from the courthouse on Reid Street due to possible rain. The hour-long service begins at noon and is put on by Central Putnam Ministerial Association. Flagler County Sheriff’s Office sponsored a breakfast and ceremony this morning in Palm Coast.

For years the shrimping and boat building industries were major forces in St. Johns County. These days only a fragment remains, mostly off Riberia Street where you can still buy fresh seafood. However, there’s now a marker up to the days when shrimp boats lined the docks around the city. A $50,000 coquina-and-bronze monument created by Chad Light has gone up on the San Sebastian River near where the boats once went out. Families involved in the industry raised the money for the monument that features a relief map including one-time boat building facilities and fish houses along the San Sebastian. While Fernandina Beach gets credit for the start of the shrimping industry, St. Augustine at one time had nearly 300 working shrimping boats. Members of the Versaggi and Paaso families were on hand for the ceremony. At the St. Augustine Lighthouse a revamped exhibit about local shrimping started family is on exhibit. Title of the exhibit says it all: Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy.

Although coronavirus face mask requirements are easing, Flagler County schools says masking requirement will stay in place until the end of the regular school year. The district will make masks voluntary at the beginning of summer school and expect masking to remain voluntary when schools reopen for the fall unless a significant coronavirus outbreak is seen.

Florida Department of Health in Flagler County has once again changed the coronavirus related death total, dropping from 111 to 109 deaths on the state dashboard report. This has happened several times over the past couple of weeks. Flagler reported 13 new cases in Wednesday’s report bringing the total to 7,282 since counting began in March a year ago. In Putnam County 14 new cases were reported for a total of 6,488. Coronavirus-related death total in Putnam is at 148. St. Johns County reported 57 new cases for a total of 22,573. In St. Johns 210 deaths have been reported.

Crescent City Commission Judith West got a partial victory in her effort to fight off citizens seeking to have her recalled when a circuit judge dismissed the lawsuit attempt that included allegations of Sunshine Law violation and granted “declaratory relief” as requested. This is the second time a petition has been filed; the first did not have enough valid signatures. West had included Supervisor of Election Charles Overturf III but that effort was dismissed earlier by the judge. West voted to abolish the police department, a move that did not please a number of residents.

American Legion Bert Hodge Post No. 45 stepped up to install a flag post and pole for the new Veterans Village of Palatka. Putnam Habitat for Humanity is overseeing the project where homes are being constructed for veterans. A flag dedication ceremony is set for May 20 at noon at 1603 Westover Dr./Frank V. Oliver Way. “What a group of patriots,” praised Habitat head Ramicah Johnson of the Palatka post.

A $5.75 million expansion and renaming of Palm Coast Tennis Center has gotten the go-ahead by the City Council. On Tuesday the Council voted 3-2 for changing the facility into a regional racquet center despite opposition from some in the audience concerned over cost and lack of citizen input.  Some questions whether there will be enough tennis and pickleball play to justify the expansion. New name will be the Reilly Opelka Racquet Center. Opelka who grew up in Palm Coast is among the top 50 tennis players in the world. His parents still live in the area.

Florida School of the Arts students are Broadway Bound at tonight’s free performance at Romanza Festivale of Music and the Arts in St. Augustine. The show by students from the Palatka-based arts school will do musical theater show tunes from 7:30-9 at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church 37 Lovett St. The performance is free as are the operettas being performed at the same time by A Classic Theatre and First Coast Opera at Lincolnville  Museum and Cultural Center on King Street in St. Augustine.

The second and final weekend of Matilda the Musical opens tonight at C.L. Overturf Jr. Sixth Grade Center auditorium In Palatka. Palatka High School Musical Theatre Department holds performance through Sunday. Call Ralph’s House of Flowers at 386-325-4734 for tickets.

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