photo of a tank

Honoring the History of Green Cove Springs’ “Mothball Fleets” 

Story by: Judd Barczak

Though from the outside, the North Florida Military Museum seems like nothing more than a small bunker just off state road 16. Though the land that this building is on and the Reynolds Industrial Park in general has much more to its story than what we see today. 

With Jacksonville’s vast military community, the Military Museum of North Florida is doing their best to offer a place where anyone can learn about the military history of the United States free of charge. With exhibits ranging from the Revolutionary War, to Operation Desert Storm there is something for every interest. 

Where the museum now operates was once the site of the Lee Field Naval Air Station, which is known for training notable pilots such as the “father of marine corps aviation” general Roy Geiger, Ed McMahon, John F. Kennedy’s older brother Joe Kennedy, and the Black Sheep Squadron pilots. The Lee Air Station was also the home to the US Navy reserve fleets affectionately referred to as the “Mothball Fleets.” 

Though the Naval reserve fleet no longer calls Lee Field its home, that doesn’t mean that the history that they have created left with them. The rich history that filled the skies above still lives on inside that same small bunker. With part of their mission statement being to “honor every branch of the military and those who fought for our country,” the historic nature of the site the museum is built on is symbolic and fitting. 

The museum has done everything in its power to keep information of our military past open and available to the public. With everything from free admission, to hosting reenactments of different battles. The museum staff are continuing to honor the history and spirit of the airfield that used to reside in their place. 

welder working in dim room

Empowering Women with Metal

Story by: Delaney Akridge

Patricia Muniz is a multimedia artist empowering women through metalwork. 

Though traditionally being represented by men in long overalls, Muniz is overhauling the notion that metalworking is just for boys.

Patricia Muniz welding pencil-rod. Photo by Delaney Akridge

“I think a lot of my work stems from working in the metalshop and noticing that things aren’t really catered to women, and just in my life things aren’t really catered to women,” says Muniz.

Her newest piece is an armature-like sculpture made from metal pencil-rod. Each piece of the metal skeleton is taken from Muniz’s own measurements and will take the shape of her body. 

The final form will be draped in women’s clothing and cast in resin–representing the empty space that women don’t take up.

Early stage of Patricia’s sculpture. Photo by Delaney Akridge

Muniz’s sculpture is part of the Enliven Spaces exhibit at Yellow House, a community hub for artists to display their work and educate the public about causes that are important to them.

The exhibit will feature a cohort of artists, each with their own large-scale installation representing various social justice themes.

man in brown crew neck t shirt and blue denim jeans holding black and white book

Femme Fire Books: a company built from the ground up  

Story by: Grae Barron  

Femme Fire Books is built on the mission of spreading diverse joy to readers around Jacksonville, but it didn’t start with multiple employees and a store front.  

The small bookstore started online as a way to share books written by and for diverse audiences. As COVID continued to spread around the world, it became a way for founder Vanessa Nicolle to share her love of reading to like-minded people.   

As the world calmed, Femme Fire Books made its way into pop-up markets in 2021. Enjoying the face-to-face interaction is something Nicolle said sparked her interest in opening a brick-and-mortar location.   

“So just seeing the joy on people’s faces when they pick up a book is, like, really cool,” she said. “That’s what gets me into work every day.”  

When the storefront opened Jul. 2022, Nicolle needed help to continue fostering the community. Employees were hired to continue going to the pop-up markets and help run the store.  

Company logo inside the brick-and-mortar location. Photo by Grae Barron 

Lindsey Cotti is one of those employees. Cotti works as the event bookseller for Femme Fire Books. She saw the mission of the company as something she wanted to be a part of. To spread the love of reading, Cotti goes to the pop-up markets with a small selection of what Femme Fire has to offer.  

“I participate in the markets that we do, both here and off-site as well. A lot of pop-ups or big neighborhood markets and things like that,” she said.  

Cotti shared her pride in the community surrounding Femme Fire Books, because although it is a small store, it has shown so many people that they are represented in literature.   

Starting as an online store, Femme Fire Books has come a long way and continues to share a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone.   

tilt shift photograph of gray and black microphone

Long Journey Ahead: The Music Collective

Story by: Johnathan White

A long day at work does not deter Reilly from sending a text to Zeke if he could come by and record close to midnight. That drive fills everybody in Long Journey Ahead. While these young men are just getting their feet wet in the industry, their youth is not hindering the experience.  

Reilly met Zeke in the summer of 2021 and from there, the connection was not to be broken. Reilly then recruited Alex Besemer (Atexx), upon becoming coworkers at Sandollar Restaurant and Marina last summer. Once Alex told JJ Willet (Crocc Decaprio) about the collective, he fit right in as he was engrossed in music for a few years already. This domino effect was not by chance, as these guys were meant to take the long journey together.       

Alex and JJ perform at 1904 Music Hall. Photo by Johnathan White  

There is much more to come for those who are already fans and want to become fans. It is at this point that every artist has a decent catalog. Atexx and Reilife have a collaboration album dropping this week, Zeke Avery is gearing up for a big release, and Crocc Decaprio recently dropped a mixtape. Fans will surely see some of these guys appear on each other’s album.  

Long Journey Ahead is artist led and produced. This career independence allows focus on getting better and better. While the group supports each other wholeheartedly, the love and appreciation from fans keeps everybody going.  It is not just the music that draws people, but being around the group is inspiring.  

titrist golf ball near golf hole

Hidden Players at The Players

Story by: Kaitlin Ward

The Players Championship, Hole 18         Photo credits: Kaitlin Ward 

The Player’s Championship was held in Ponte Vedra on March 7-12. The world’s best golfers come to TPC Sawgrass to play in the tournament. The large event expects nearly 10,000 spectators to come out each day. With over 2000 volunteers helping out, UNF students were given the opportunity to get involved. 

“We had first dibs at basically getting the experience and being able to sign up, compared to everyone else,” said University of North Florida senior, Malorie Aldrich 

Aldrich typically gets her required practicum hours through work with UNF athletics. The Players allowed her a unique opportunity to get a variety of hours, working in a different sport. She is spending her time inside the PGA Tour Fan Shop. Golf is not her sport of choice but she said being at the tournament and getting to watch famous golfers has been a great experience.  

She is studying both Sports Management and Multimedia Journalism. Her goal after graduation is to be a sports broadcaster.  

Malorie Aldrich          Photo credits: Kaitlin Ward 

“I basically want to be Erin Andrews but I want to do it for basketball because I don’t want to take Erin’s job,” shared Aldrich.  

This was her second year coming, but the first year that she was able to practice her sports reporting at an in-person event.  

Aldrich is a volunteer for “Inside Swoop in 90,” the UNF School of Communication internship program that allows it’s students to create a 90-second segment. She was able to do her sports segment “Malorie’s Madness,” live from the event.  

This was my first taste of actually doing it live at a sporting event, I’ve never done that before, I’m normally just in the studio,” said Aldrich.  

Malorie isn’t the only UNF student given the opportunity to work during the players. UNF journalism student, Nevin Jeacoma, was also able to give reporting live a chance.  

TPC has been absolutely incredible. I am the news anchor for UNF inside Swoop in 90 and I go live at 10 every morning. So being here at TPC is an incredible feeling the energy is so high, we really lucked out being able to do our live shots here,” Said Jeacoma.  

Nevin Jeacoma            Photo credit: Kaitlin Ward  

At the tournament, he interviewed fans and got to speak with a variety of different people, while out in the field. With plans to work in Golf after graduation, UNF gifted Jeacoma an experience like no other.  

So next time you think of The Players, maybe you’ll think of these Players too.  

green leafed tree

A Walk in The Park at Ravine Gardens

Story by: Samantha Stephenson

The Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, FL, is a place you are going to want to visit. It is rich in history and offers something for everyone whether you are a local or just visiting. It is one of nine state parks constructed during the New Deal and features two ravines that reach 120 feet deep, with steep banks angled at 45 degrees.  

Bicyclists and motorists can admire the gardens by driving on a 1.8-mile paved road that loops inside the ravine. It is open from 8 am to sundown 365 days (about 12 months) a year. Approximately one hour before sunset, the Ravine Loop is off-limits to vehicles but still open to cyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users.  

Ravine Gardens. Photo by Samantha Stephenson

Whether you would like to stay on the loop or immerse yourself in the trails, you can do so either by running, jogging, or hiking. The Azalea Trail, which extends 2.5 miles through the Ravine Garden State Park, is one of the park’s most popular attractions. Looking at some of these unleveled, cracked steps along the trails, you can see why it is considered physically demanding. Take a walk over the two suspension bridges and look out for azaleas on the way.  

Along the way, you will notice the path featuring a playground, an amphitheater, and a workout station. Originally built in 1939 for the Miss Azalea Pageant, the amphitheater has been used for various events ever since. The park includes a gazebo with picnic tables, located along the loop.  

football game

Shark Season is Here 

Story by: William Horne

The first new face that has got to be mentioned in head coach Jason Gibson, who is about to start his first season with the Sharks. Gibson has coached in the NAL for several years, including his latest stint with the Columbus Lions. Coach Gibson was asked about the challenges with coming to a new team with new players and trying to get them to buy into what he wants to accomplish here in Jacksonville.

“You got to bring in the right people, that want to learn, and want to be leaders. That’s half the battle right there,” said Gibson. 

Someone who is familiar with Jacksonville and Sharks fans are definitely familiar with him is Kamrin Solomon, who is returning to play in his fourth season with the Sharks as a wide receiver and a defensive back. Solomon is a leader for the Sharks and uses his experience and time in Jacksonville to help the new guys to understand the ins and outs to Jacksonville and Sharks football expectations.

“ The sooner we can get everyone moving and operating on the same page and understanding the mission which is obviously a championship then that’s when we really get started,” said Solomon.

Solomon hopes to bring a championship back to Jacksonville, who does have two NAL championships, but have had disappointing seasons since their last championship win in 2019. 

 Sharks’ Solomon in action. Photo by The Jacksonville Sharks

Every great team is faced with adversity and Coach Gibson is already facing it in his face year as the Sharks will start off the first half of the season without veteran receiver Devin Wilson. Wilson is the all time leading receiver in the NAL and is still serving a suspension after coming in contact with an official last season.

“It’s an unfortunate situation with Devin, but the upside and good news is, you can look forward to a strong second half of the season,” said Gibson. 

The Sharks know the expectations of the city and their fans and will not be satisfied with anything less than a championship for this upcoming season. With a new head football coach and seasoned veterans on the team, their mission is simple; bring back a NAL championship to Jacksonville. 

Coach Gibson. Photo by The Jacksonville Sharks 

brown fedora hat in selective focus photography

How Sunny Life Hats is Trying to Make a Difference

Story by: Giana Mercado

As bands rocked out at the Seawalk Music Festival last month, vendors and food trucks set up camp to advertise what their unique businesses are all about. One of the vendors tabling was Sunny Life Hats with a display of dozens of colorful hats. 

Not only is their mission to protect people getting active in the sun with their UV hats, but to create relationships with their workers.  

Sunny Life Hats specializes in selling hand-made hemp hats made by a women’s crochet collective in Nepal. From fibers, spools, and looms, everything is sourced out of the Himalayan mountains in Nepal. Sunny Life Hats works with over 100 farmers, weavers, dyers, and artisans and ensures equitable trade and social services are provided.  

The business has a huge impact on the community in Nepal by sponsoring healthcare assistance, school supplies, clothing, disaster recovery, and more for their workers.  

Sunny Life Hats at the Seawalk Music Festival, Jacksonville Beach. Photo by Giana Mercado. 

Sunny Stefan helped create the Sunny Life Project around seven years ago when he was traveling the world. He said met a family that had a concept of love for people and eco textiles that inspired it all.  

“I found myself getting closer and closer and building relations with folks out there in Kathmandu, Nepal,” said Sunny Stefan. 

Sunny Life Hats had humble beginnings bootstrapped out a backpack and a table at a farmers’ market. Now, Sunny Life continues to travel and make connections with different communities around the world. Sunny Life Hats regularly vendors at music festivals around the country, including ones in Jacksonville. The business also has plans to travel to other cities in Florida to vendor at and meet people. 

Traveling and creating authentic connections with positive interactions is one of Stefan’s passions in life. “My favorite part about moving around and sharing the Sunny Life Hat project is meeting so many beautiful people. Being inspired and being inspiring; we all want to be doing the good stuff,” said Stefan. 

Sunny Stefan helping a customer try on a hat. Photo by Giana Mercado.