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Local
Gas prices finally head back down

Finally some good news on the gas price front.

For the first time in nine weeks, the average price declined 7 cents after reaching an all-time high of $4.89 per gallon. And it doesn’t look now like it will reach the dreaded $5 per gallon price point.

Florida gas prices averaged $4.82 per gallon on Sunday, according to AAA – The Auto Club Group.

But will it continue to go down?

“I’m hopeful the trend may continue this week, especially as concerns appear to be mounting that we may be on the cusp of an economic slowdown, putting downward pressure on oil,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

“But the coast isn’t yet entirely clear,” De Haan cautioned. “We could see the national average fall another 15 to 30 cents, if we’re lucky, by the time fireworks are flying, barring any unexpected shutdowns at a time when the market is extremely sensitive to such.”

The state average declined 7 cents last week, after reaching an all-time high of $4.89 per gallon.

AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins expanded on the latest news.

“Gas prices are following oil and gasoline futures prices, which suffered significant losses last week,” he said. “The losses are being tied to last week’s rate hike from the Federal Reserve bank, sparking fears of a possible recession – which could lower fuel demand.”

Jenkins said prices also faced resistance on reports that the Biden administration is considering possible limits on petroleum exports, in an attempt to strengthen domestic supply.

“Petroleum exports have accelerated in recent weeks, as countries compete for fuel in what has become an extremely tight fuel market,” he said. “The increased competition for fuel has contributed to rising prices.”

Motorists in Citrus County can find prices below the state average if they don’t mind comparison shopping.

A check with GasBuddy Monday morning showed some of the lowest gas prices in Citrus County are in the Inverness area. Circle K and Shell along U.S. 41 north were selling unleaded at $4.67.

For the latest prices, visit www.gasbuddy.com


Local
Dunnellon man follows that dream

Elvis Aaron Presley is estimated to have sold a billion records worldwide.

The musician and singer still sells about one million records annually, 45 years after his death in 1977. He’s earned 171 gold, 94 platinum, and 34 multi-platinum discs for his albums and singles as of 2018, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Not bad for a kid born in Tupelo, Mississippi, who grew up in a two-room house his handyman father built for his family.

Almost 20 years after Elvis’ death, Cote Deonath was a hyperactive 2-year-old dropped off at his grandmother’s home. At her wit’s end to keep him occupied she played a video tape of the film “Follow that Dream.”

“I wouldn’t sit still for anything ... but I sat still for one and a half hours (to watch the movie),” Deonath told the Chronicle.

The next day she played a recording of “Aloha from Hawaii,” a 1973 Presley concert broadcast via satellite, with the same result. She played the tapes hour after hour and soon he was mimicking the singer who had become one of the biggest cultural icons of the 20th century.

Two years later, when he was 4, he performed as Elvis at Dunnellon Christian Academy.

“I loved it,” he said of the performance.

Photos by 49th Place Productions 

Alex Mitchel will one of more than a dozen Elvis Tribute Artists performing from June 22 to June 26 at the Elvis Summer Festival at the Citrus County Fairgrounds.

As he grew up, the Elvis tribute was supposed to be nothing more than a hobby – something he did for fun. That was even true after Deonath, at 16, won an Elvis tribute contest.

Deonath’s father does vehicle body work. His mother cleans homes.

“Now ... I have my own production company: 49th Place Productions,” said the 25-year-old Deonath.

“We produce (multi-day Elvis) tribute festivals across the country. We do nine festivals in nine states,” he said.

Along with organizing all the festivals, Deonath still performs his tributes to Presley, entertaining in front of thousands of audience members during a festival.

His summer festival series will kick off just outside Inverness at The Citrus County Auditorium, 3610 S. Florida Ave., Inverness.

49th Place Productions 

Riley Jenkins will be one of the youngest performers at the Elvis Summer Festival at the Citrus County Fairgrounds.

It is the fifth year Deonath has produced the festivals that typically include at least 10 Elvis tribute artists, along with himself. The events include food vendors and merchandise for sale.

Not bad for a kid from Dunnellon, Florida.

Tickets are $20 and $30 per show. The festival begins Wednesday, June 22, and runs until Sunday, June 26. Each day, except Sunday, has an afternoon and evening show. Each show offers its own theme about a period in Elvis’ life and career. Sunday will offer only an afternoon show.

For more details about each show and buying tickets, readers can go to: https://www.elvis thesummerfestival.com/ copy-of-schedule

Deonath is also unique in that he’s the only Elvis tribute artist who also created a series of annual festivals.

“It was a dream of mine,” he said of creating the festivals.

What’s made the festivals successful is, in part, knowing his audience, he said.

People want family oriented entertainment at an affordable price, he said.

“They want to be educated (about Presley) as well as see a show,” he said.

“It’s a full emersion experience,” he said of the festivals and set decorations. “Our goal is to transport you back into that time as best we can.”

The festivals are licensed and endorsed by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Deonath said.

For Deonath, there’s a difference between an Elvis tribute artist and Elvis impersonator.

Elvis impersonators typically perform Presley in a manner that’s exaggerated or campy. Tribute artists perform Presley’s work in a way that Presley would have done.

49th Place Productions 

Bill Cherry will perform during the Elvis Summer Festival.

“I don’t discourage anybody, but if you’re going to do it, do it the right way,” he said. “It’s an art. You have to study. You have to study how he breathed. You have to study his vocal inflections. It’s an intense thing.”

It takes Deonath about 90 minutes to apply his makeup, arrange his hair, and get dressed in outfits for his shows.

Deonath has competed in the Elvis Presley Enterprise’s The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist competition and finished third for the past four years. To be invited, artists are required to win smaller, regional competitions.

“My goal is never the income. It’s about the product,” he said.

And as a result, the festivals have done financially well, he said.

Deonath said he also enjoys the business side of the festivals – arranging the shows, hiring the other tribute artists, and marketing the events.

“I love every minute of it. If I didn’t do this, I’d feel lost,” he said.

While there are tribute artists for other musicians and singers, none rival Elvis’ tribute festivals, he said.

But being an Elvis Tribute Artist (ETA) doesn’t mean being blind to Presley’s faults.

“We all idolize him and don’t want to believe anything bad about him,” he said. “But Elvis had people around him that failed him. Elvis also failed himself.”

“But we celebrate Elvis the entertainer. We all love the man,” he said.

The audiences that come to see the festival shows are a mix, Deonath said.

Parents and grandparents bring younger relatives and they all enjoy the events, he said.

Deonath said when he performs as Elvis there’s an emotional exchange with the audience and there is nothing else like it or as rewarding.

He said he still performs at birthday parties, which allows him to get up close to his audience and see the joy they get from his performance.

Deonath said that he wasn’t above performing at someone’s home.

“Elvis always took care of his fans,” he said. “And at the end of the day you have to take care of your fans too.”


Crime_and_courts
Homosassa man on verge of trial for trafficking meth takes plea for seven years in prison

As potential jurors for his upcoming trial waited outside court, a Homosassa man chose prison as a resolution for having roughly an ounce and a half of methamphetamine.

Brian Thomas Friske, 61, pleaded no contest the morning of Monday, June 20, to trafficking in between 28 and 200 grams of meth, accepting an offer from the State Attorney’s Office to serve every day of seven years behind bars as a minimum-mandatory sentence for his crime.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Friske

Friske announced his new plea right before his jury was going to be picked, and after Citrus County Circuit Court Judge Richard Howard rejected Friske’s motions for a furlough and a new lawyer.

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Friske July 23, 2020, after finding 44.4 grams of bagged meth in his pants during a traffic stop in Lecanto. Friske was the passenger in a vehicle pulled over for speeding.

Friske wrote a letter for Howard and Assistant State Attorney Tara Hartman to read Monday on the verge of his trial.

James Dozier, Friske’s lawyer, told Howard his client’s letter, which wasn’t filed in court, indicated Friske wanted to resolve his meth-trafficking case short of trial.

Friske, who was in custody on Monday, also asked Howard in his letter for a furlough so he can gather evidence he believes would be helpful for prosecutors, Dozier said.

Howard told Friske he wouldn’t read the letter prior to either a jury verdict or a change of plea, adding he also wouldn’t grant a furlough.

“We’re at the time of trial and jury selection,” he said.

Hartman told Howard the prosecution also wasn’t interested in any information Friske “may or may not be able to provide.”

Following Howard’s denial of his furlough, the handcuffed Friske gestured for Dozier, who was standing beside Friske at the courtroom lectern, to pull some folded papers from the breast pocket of his inmate uniform.

After reading the document he pulled from Friske’s pocket, Dozier shared it with Howard and Hartman, saying it was a motion from Friske for the judge to remove and reappoint his lawyer.

Howard noted Friske’s motion came right after he denied Friske’s request for a furlough.

“It wasn’t for that reason,” Friske responded.

Friske told Howard that Dozier wasn’t able to find evidence that would’ve absolved him, like cellphone images and text messages showing someone else in the vehicle owned the meth he was found with.

“It would show it belonged to them and it was theirs,” he said. “It had nothing to do with me.”

Dozier told Howard in response to Friske’s claim he’s received no such evidence from prosecutors, and said the owner of the cellphone wasn’t charged but is on the run for pending offenses.

“There’s no way for me to get those photographs from that gentleman’s phone,” he said, noting subpoenas for cellphone texts also wouldn’t provide him with the messages themselves.

Howard denied Friske’s motion for new counsel, calling it “generalized dissatisfaction” with his current predicament.

Hartman asked the judge to schedule Tuesday for opening statements in Friske’s trial. Howard obliged, and ordered for Friske to be taken to the courtroom holding cell so he could change for jury selection.

Dozier went with Friske after a bailiff informed him his client wanted to speak with him in private.

Moments later, Dozier returned to the courtroom with news Friske wanted to take the prosecution’s plea offer “‘to save everyone’s time.’”


News_notes
Supervisor of Elections to be at Lakes Region Library

The Supervisor of Elections office is holding an outreach event at the Lakes Region Library on June 23 from 9–11 a.m. located at 1511 Druid Road, Inverness.

This is a convenient way to register to vote, make changes to voter records, update signatures or request a vote-by-mail ballot. Information to apply for election worker positions will also be available.

Anyone interested in having the elections office staff at an organization or business, contact Supervisor Maureen Baird.

To learn more, visit votecitrus.gov, email vote@votecitrus.gov or call the office at 352-564-7120.


Local
Jim Farley pens second book, “American Cop: Lessons from the Street”

All cops have stories to tell.

Some, like Jim Farley, write their stories in a book.

Farley’s newest book, “American Cop: Lessons from the Street,” starts out with a story about an attempted jailbreak.

Farley was a young sergeant on the Fort Lauderdale Police Department at the time, in his late 20s.

“The jail was in the same building as the police station, and three hardcore armed robbers were being brought in,” he said.

“Two officers took the worst one into a holding cell to do a strip search. They told the guy to take his clothes off, and as he bent down, the guy reached into his waistband and pulled out a gun,” Farley said. “The officers tried to go for the gun, but he fired it, and the bullet went through the hand of one police officer and into the abdomen of the other officer.”

Farley was off-duty at the time, and when his wife heard the report about what was in-progress at the jail on the TV, Farley immediately headed to the station.

Before he got there, the guy with the gun demanded a car and then was about to take the officers he shot as hostages.

The least-injured officer told the guy just to take him, that the other officer, who was semi-conscious from his injuries, would slow him down.

As the guy and his hostage headed down two flights of stairs to the awaiting car, which had all its fuel drained out so it wouldn’t even make it out of the parking lot, they were at the first stairwell landing when there was a noise above them.

“The bad guy looked up – and got hit with a .357 round and a shotgun slug, which ended that particular incident,” Farley said. “I got there right after the shooting.”

Farley said that’s the first story in his book, one of many true stories of his three decades in law enforcement.

It’s part memoir and part advice for people just starting out in their law enforcement careers.

“I have to warn people that there’s graphic violence and graphic street language, because it’s all real life,” he said.

His first book, “Blind Pass,” published in 2015, is a fictional story about a young Fort Lauderdale cop hunting down the killer of his older brother.

“That’s the book I loved writing,” he said.

As for “American Cop,” the back book cover says:

“From shootouts, suicide by cop, and violence of all kinds, to working undercover, and violent SWAT operations, this fast moving and hard-hitting account puts you on the street with both the humor and the horror that real cops encounter.

“James T. Farley was a law enforcement officer for more than three decades. His career encompassed virtually every area of law enforcement, including patrol, traffic operations, detective, plainclothes, tactical operations and SWAT. James worked at the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Crystal River Police Department.”

Farley moved to Crystal River in 1999 from Volusia County to take a job as Crystal River Police Chief. After retiring in 2004, he served on the city council and then as the city’s mayor until December 2018.

“I’ve retired three times,” he said. “I think the last one will stick.”

Meet the author event:

Jim Farley will be doing a book sale and signing event beginning at 5 p.m. at St. Johns Tavern on Citrus Avenue in Crystal River, in conjunction with the First Friday Crystal River event, Friday, July 1.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the “Count the Snouts” program of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

The flights and counts are only funded during the fall, winter and spring. This money will allow summer counts to provide information about the migratory habits of the manatees in King’s Bay, which may be changing due to the success of the subaquatic plant program with Save Crystal River.


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