Oak Hill's Riverfest brings families, friends together

Oak Hill River Festival fun / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer video and photos / Families and friends celebrate the festivities at the annual Riverfest on Saturday, May 18, 2013, at Mary DeWees Park in Oak Hill, Florida.

By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

OAK HILL, Fla. -- There is no greater symbols of family and friends than the laughter of children at play under the rays of the Florida sun, grandparents and such sitting in folding chairs in the comfort of the shade provided by stately trees and the parents of young ones alternating between fishing out some change for cotton candy and checking their electronic gizmos for messages or news alerts.

Welcome to sleepy Oak Hill where families and friends come together and make a Saturday out of it for the annual Riverfest at Mary DeWees Park. Where pre-adolescent children give it their all in a watermelon-eating contest and adults tap their toes to a snappy country song by a solo guitarist and his percussion machine.

It is here that small-town America, where traditional family values and sense of place are embraced. But it wasn't that long ago that Volusia County's southernmost and smallest city of just under 2,200 people were at odds over a crumbling situation within the ranks of their small police force and discord between the city asministration and elected officials caught up in divisions.

With intense media scrutiny by this 24/7 internet newspaper that drew more and more of the Orlando TV cameras, the city commission by a 3-2 vote with newcomer Douglas Gibson, a retired state trooper leading the charge , shut the troubled police force down in favor of public safety provided by Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson's sworn personnel and sent the divisive city clerk/administrator packing in the same August 2011 meeting. 

With momentum from that dramatic change, Gibson ran for mayor in the 2012 elections against then-Vice Mayor Linda Hyatt, who supported former Police Chief Diane Young, and he won. 

Today, Hyatt, a private citizen, continues writing a blog for Headline Surfer as has the mayor since winning the election and a sense of unity has held in place with a new attitude and a steady hand in place at City Hall with Kohn Evans elevated from deputy clerk to city clerk/administrator.

These days, the elected officials are pressing ahead for ways to develop revenue streams with county and state officials for modernized water and sewer and vitally needed jobs with the prospect of Space Florida setting up in the Shiloh Preserve just south of the majestic Mosquito Lagoon straddling the border between Volusia and Brevard counties.

"There is a lot that needs to get done," Vice Mayor Jeff Bracy said at Saturday's Riverfest, "and we can accomoplish these things if everyone works together and does what they are supposed to."

Just earlier this month, Gibson, Commissioner Ron Engele and Mike Arman, chairman of the economic development board attended a Volusia County Council meeting in DeLand where a county resolution led by dist. 3 Councilwoman Deb Denys of New Smyrna Beach supporting the private space program, passed 6-1 with the lone opposition vote coming from Councilwoman Pat Northey of Deltona, an avowed environmentalist.

But on Saturday, politics and the agenda moving forward for vitally needed jobs and city infrastructure were set aside in favor of art exhibits by students at the Burns Sci-Tech Charter School, cotton candy for the kids and some soothing country music for the older folks art Riverfest. "It's a beautiful day for everyone here in Oak Hill -- for families and friends alike," Linda Hyatt said.

Oak Hill City Commissioner Linda Hyatt / Headline SurferBut on Saturday, politics and the agenda moving forward for vitally needed jobs and city infrastructure were set aside in favor of art exhibits by students at the Burns Sci-Tech Charter School, cotton candy for the kids and some soothing country music for the older folks art Riverfest. 

"It's a beautiful day for everyone here in Oak Hill -- for families and friends alike," said Oak Hill City Commissioner Linda Hyatt, shown here. 

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories narly eveenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.