The Voice of the Gem City

News February 18, 2022

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Organizers have canceled the 75th annual Florida Azalea Festival citing loss of vendors and continuing Covid concerns. In an official letter to vendors Thursday, Sam Deputy, who has headed up the festival for several years, said the final blow was when the children’s vendor pulled out Wednesday night citing lack of employees. That came after several other big vendors had said they couldn’t come this year because they couldn’t find enough workers for the March event. Covid is being cited as another reason. “So many either had the virus or currently have or (are ) trying to recover and were not able to take part,” Deputy reported. Last year the festival was not held due to the Covid shutdown. Vendors are being told they can get a refund or leave the money and be guaranteed the space they want and not have to pay what will probably be a higher fee in 2023. Some events that occur at the same time are still planned including the annual Azalea Pickleball tournament that attracts several hundred players.

His Christian name was Clarence but everyone knew him as Pooh Bear. Pooh-Bear Williams, who was a football star at the local and college level and played in the NFL and and returned as a coach to Putnam County, died early Thursday morning in a single-vehicle crash on County Road 308B near Pomona Park. Williams, 47, played four seasons as a Crescent City High Raider then signed with Florida State University where he played from 1993 to 1996 and was a fan favorite. He played briefly for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. When he returned to Putnam County he worked as an assistant coach in several sports at Crescent City and was head football coach for several years. He became a manager for Winn-Dixie but last year returned to coaching as Palatka High School’s defense back coach and was to take over as defensive coordinator this coming season, according to one report.

A review by the State Attorney’s Office cleared a St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deputy following the shooting death of a man in September 2021. In a case that depended heavily on results from the District 23 Medical Examiner’s Office, coroners determined the man shot himself in the head during a traffic stop in the Julington Creek area. The man fired the shot and Deputy Jylton Tusha reacted returning fire. His bullet struck the man in the shoulder but was non-life threatening, according to officials. The deputy joined the department in October 2019 and had never been involved in an officer-related shooting before the 2021 incident. “This is an unfortunate situation for all involved and illustrates the dangers of this profession and that a deputy sheriff never really knows what they are approaching,” Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in a statement at the time. “We ask that you keep those involved in your thoughts and prayers including the deceased’s family.”

Don’t forget Monday is Presidents’ Day. It’s a federal holiday so banks and post offices will close. Schools in Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties all celebrate with student/teacher holidays. St. Johns County and St. Augustine government offices plan to be closed. Most Putnam County and Palatka government offices are open. Some Flagler County offices are closed. It’s best to check before you head out to do business.

Peniel Academy in Palatka celebrates its 50th anniversary this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the public is invited. The school offers classes for pre-K through 12th graders and was founded by Peniel Baptist Church. The Palatka facility is at 110 Peniel Church Road.

Palatka’s Larimer Arts Center features Ghana native Emmanuel Manu Opoku in a month-long exhibit that opens tonight at the Center, 216 Reid St. A reception is tonight from 6-8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Opoku will be at the Arts Council of Greater Palatka hosted reception.

In St. Augustine, Fort Mose presents two nights of jazz at the fort off U.S. 1. Tonight it’s the legendary Count Basie Orchestra playing. On Saturday Amythyst Kiah brings her sharp guitar picking and powerful vocals to the stage at Fort Mose. Both concerts begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are available. The Oldest School House on St. George Street downtown holds their annual step back in time to school days in the 16th Century Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also Saturday St. Anastasia Catholic Church continues its free “Let There Be Music” concerts this one featuring Peter Simon performing The Music and Poetry of Love. Concert begins at 7 p.m.

In Hastings Saturday you can Run With The Big Dawgs at the annual Hastings Boulevard Car Show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Main Street in Downtown Hastings. The fifth annual event put on by Christ United Methodist Church features cars, food, vendors and music from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food includes fish sandwiches, Menorcan clam chowder, wings and things, cabbage and corn bread and Mrs. Bryson’s Sweet Potato Pies are on the menu and prepared by local cooks.

In Palatka start your Saturday off with a heart-shaped pancake breakfast at St. James United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. You can follow it up with pickle ball in the church lots across from the Putnam County Courthouse on Reid Street. 

Then you’ll want to spring by the Bronson-Mulholland House at 100 Madison Street in Palatka and learn about Putnam County’s history and maybe your genealogy at the Putnam County History and Genealogy Expo. About 30 booths will be set up with re-enactors, history groups, authors and musicians on the grounds. And they’ll give you a homemade cookie to sweeten the deal. There will be a drawing for a free Ancestry/DNA kit. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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