Suwannee Valley Times is distributed into the following cities and towns: Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Branford, Dowling Park, Falmouth, Lee, Wellborn, Jasper, White Springs, Fort White, High Springs and Alachua


Columbia County’s First Solar Power Plant is now powering the county grid

-Photo Courtesy of FPL Sunshine Gateway Solar Energy

By Sarah Fenaughty


Last week, FPL hosted a celebration commemorating the opening of Columbia County’s first solar power plant, the new FPL Sunshine Gateway Solar Energy Center. The plant, which generates enough zero-emissions electricity to power approximately 15,000 Florida homes, has over 300,000 solar panels and is now powering the Columbia County grid.

  To celebrate, Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, Julie Wraithmell, the executive director of Audubon Florida, Glenn Hunter, the economic development director of Columbia County, and local students gathered for an on-site farmer’s market featuring produce from local vendors.

The celebration comes after the announcement of FPL’s 30-by-30 plan, which promises to bring 30 million solar panels to Florida by 2030.

  More information about the event can be found in the advisory below. Please feel free to reach out with any questions



Hundreds of students visit RIVEROAK Tech’s Career Fair

Above: Career Fair at RIVEROAK Technical College in Live Oak. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson


By Tami Stevenson

Hundreds of students from the North Florida area, including public, private and home schooled students, visited RIVEROAK’s Third Annual Career Fair in Live Oak recently. Students and adults alike were given the opportunity to see what career and technical education opportunities are out there. From practical nursing to culinary, masonry and construction RIVEROAK is proud to offer 19 different programs to choose from and each of them were represented at the career fair along with 50 other community organizations and businesses. Some of the other organizations were military, law enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and many others.


Stephen Foster houses the largest carillon tubular bell collection in world - In our backyard
Bells at Stephen Foster in need of repair

The beautiful carillon bell tower at Stephen Foster. -Photo: Florida Parks Service

By Tami Stevenson

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs draws thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. Befittingly nestled along the historic Suwannee River, the same river that composer Stephen Foster was so famously known for including in his song, “Old Folks at Home,” in 1851, the park has become a multi-cultural showplace of Florida history over the years.

The park also houses the largest carillon tubular bell collection in the world and it is in dire need of repair. Built in 1958, the 97 bell carillon is one of the largest musical instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere. It has admirably weathered the last 61 years. Visitors were awe struck by their unique sounds that could be heard throughout the entire park as the bells rang out renditions of Stephen Foster’s music, Christmas/Holiday music and other compilations. The bells also chimed on the hour and every quarter hour.


Madison Ace
- Chosen as one of the two Coolest Ace Hardware’s in nation

Madison Ace Owner Tim McDonald, right, accepting the award presented by Ace Hardware President and CEO John Venhuizen.
-Photo: Submitted

By Tami Stevenson

The owners and employees of Ace Hardware in Madison were both elated and surprised when they heard the news that their store was chosen as one of only two of the “Coolest Ace Hardware’s” in the entire nation. Last week owners Tim and Lacretia McDonald, along with their son and manager of the store, Tyler McDonald and Business to Business Manager Rodney McKinley, flew out to Las Vegas to accept the award.


Self-Protection – Trust instincts, learn to control environment

Jeffry Boatright, left, and Jack Blair from Defensive Firearms and Training Academy (DFTA) demonstrate handgun techniques.

Staff Reports

Local residents gathered on the morning of January 19, for a self-protection seminar at Jo Kennon Public Library in Dowling Park. The seminar, which was presented by Defensive Firearms and Training Academy (DFTA) of Live Oak, was one of the many programs that the public library offers to area residents.

All State-Supported Testing Sites Temporarily Close for Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –  Today, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) announced that all state-supported drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing sites will temporarily close at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, in anticipation of impacts from Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine.


Lake City Humane Society now has spay/neuter facility onsite

By Tami Stevenson

Adopted pets can be the most rewarding companions anyone could hope for. Many adopted pets from shelters are famous working animals in the film industry today and even used in law enforcement. Animal shelters across the state are filled with dozens of abandoned dogs and cats other humans left behind for one reason or another. When visitors walk into the area where they keep the dogs, the entire facility can hear the excitement of the dogs barking as they hope this visit is for them. With wagging tails, the adoptable dogs hope this visitor will be their special someone come to pick them out and take them to their forever home. The cats are a little more aloof and much quieter about it than the dogs, but no less hopeful.


A well-lit tradition

Live Oak's lighted Christmas Parade

Winter wonderland was the theme for this year’s annual lighted Christmas parade and float participants did not disappoint the hundreds of residents that lined the streets to watch the parade. Shimmering lights from the many floats lit up the night, Saturday, on the streets of Live Oak. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright


By Jeffry Boatright

Dazzling lights and the sounds of Christmas overtook the streets of Live Oak again Saturday evening with the community’s annual lighted Christmas parade. The much-loved event, which traditionally brings closure to a day of fun-filled festivities associated with Christmas on the Square, had been slated for December 01. Persistent and lingering rain showers, however, forced organizers to postpone the parade until the evening of December 15 instead.


What (Exactly) Is An Amateur (Ham) Radio Operator And What Do They Do?

 Columbia County’s Emergency Coordinator Richard Heston Talks About 9-11 And Hurricane Floyd

SVT Video by Tami Stevenson

The Suwannee Valley Times had the privilege of visiting Richard Heston at the Columbia County Communications Center in Lake City. It is the Emergency Operations Center or EOC for the county.

“You’re lucky to get in here,” he said, “not very many people are allowed in.” The building certainly is under ‘lock and key’ as I had to go through three people before I could get to Richard and I had an appointment.


Our First Amendment Right;
Speaking Responsibly

By Jeffry Boatright


The Bill of Rights, which consists of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, was carefully constructed to insure our liberties are not infringed upon. These amendments were designed to protect us from government, and in some cases, from one another.


Perhaps the most complex amendment of all is the First Amendment, which the Framers deemed so important that it was the first amendment that they added to our Constitution. We refer to the First Amendment in various ways. Some refer to it as the freedom of speech, others simply call it freedom of religion, and yet others define it as freedom of assembly or freedom of the press. It is all of these things.