2015: A Year In Review

Every turn of the calendar year gives us pause to reflect on the milestones of the past 12 months and presents a fresh place for new ideas and continued growth in the year ahead. In 2015, Jacksonville saw its share of progress and change. EU Jacksonville chronicled some shining moments in our city’s thriving culture.

Looking back to the best of 2015, it’s easy to award the city’s downtown district for having achieved the most growth. The ebb and flow of the Northbank, the anatomy of the downtown district and the evolution of The Elbow is part of the ever changing face of the city core. (September Issue)  

Throughout the year, EU toured many more of our city’s neighborhoods from Avondale to Arlington, LaVilla to Ft. George and the Southbank to the Southside. Each one of these diverse community pockets has its own distinct character, history and voice revealed in profiles of residents and merchants, narrations and photographs of the past and the present.

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Springfield Neighborhood, Jacksonville FL

Beginning the year in Springfield, we detailed the spirit and the renewal of the area, architectural history, the preservation and restoration efforts, and the overall renaissance underway in the community. (January Issue

The secrets of Old Arlington were revealed. (February Issue) It was the site of Native American occupation, the hub of the silent film industry and the link between the city and the sea. The salt marsh, Spanish moss and towering oak hammocks are part of fabric of Ft. George. Situated along Heckscher Drive to Amelia Island, Captain Jean Ribault is said to have landed and met with Timucuan Indians on the north banks of the St. Johns River. (March Issue)

Florida Yacht Club

From its debutantes and yacht clubs to the beautifully appointed landscapes and grand, historic homes, the enclave of Ortega is among the city’s oldest and wealthiest communities. Prominent residents and significant historical figures are memorialized by name throughout many of area’s parks. (April Issue) Past and present connect in Northwest Jacksonville where the city’s vast musical history is immortalized in early blues recordings and new generations of artists hone their skills at the LaVilla School of Performing Arts. In LaVilla, legends like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole are part of the history. Residents such as Walter Whetstone remain as the keepers of the area’s culture. (May Issue)

Roux Arts Mirrored River_Southbank

Changes to the Southbank and Riverwalk, including a new 60-foot mosaic in mirror, tile and stone beneath the Main Street bridge, create a more family-friendly environment. Features like Friendship Fountain, the Treaty Oak, the Museum of Science and History and the breathtaking views of the city’s skyline give the Southbank a unique appeal. (June Issue)

William Morgan, Dune House, Atlantic Beach Architecture

Only in Atlantic Beach can you find an architectural wonder built directly into the sand dunes. With two miles of sandy beaches and 65-acres of dedicated park space, this quaint postage stamp acoastal community features Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "beginning-atlantic-beach", country club, a five star oceanfront resort and community theatre while maintaining its charm and easy, island lifestyle. (July Issue)

 St George and the Dragon 2

StGeorgeDragonNew endeavors on stage provided a bookend to the city’s live theatre scene. The Northeast Florida premiere of the Tony Award-winning “Book of Mormon” written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone started the year off with a bang at the Times-Union Center (January) with Bold Theatre’s inaugural production “Circle Mirror Transformation” at MOCA and Jason Woods’ inspiring dual offerings of his original play “St. George & the Dragon” and his breathtaking solo performance of “A Christmas Carol” ushered out the year at the WJCT Studio Stage. Those in the audience recognized Wood’s Christmas Carol asPost to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "christmas-carol-jason-woods" (December Issue)

Swamp Radio Summer 2015

Ian Mairs offered a delightful respite from the summer swelter with his uproariously funny installment of Swamp Radio ‘How’s Your Summer? at the Florida Theatre. Dedicated to the eccentricities of Florida culture, Swamp Radio featured a detailed account of the Great Fire of 1901, a charming remembrance of Tillie Fowler and storyteller Derek Coghlan’s hilarious stories of a family funeral in the heat of July warmed hearts. (June Issue)


Anniversaries are treasured milestones that are make us grateful what was still is. EU raised a glass to several notable anniversaries in 2015. The Jacksonville Children’s Chorus recognized 20 years of helping kids find their voice with a special concert engagement with Kristin Chenoweth at the Times-Union Center. Under the direction of Executive and Artistic Director Darren Dailey, the JCC has an annual membership of 500 kids who travel the word raising their voices in song. (December Issue)


It started with six hours of live blues in front of 3,000 people in Jacksonville Beach. The 25th anniversary of the Springing the Blues Festival drew thousands to help celebrate the rich legacy of storytelling through the blues. Founder Sam Veal and past artists including Daryl Hance, Fruteland Jackson, Chuck Saunders Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "25th-annual-georges-music-springing-the-blues-festival" and the love of playing for 10,000 grateful fans on the festival stage. (April Issue)


For 35 years, Dick Kerekes has shared his passion for live theatre as the Amazing (and humble) Watchhound. Kerekes set out in 1980 to help promote the city’s vibrant theatre culture. With partner Leisla Sansom, the Watchhound has reviewed thousands of productions with an unsurpassed knowledge and everyman approach that makes theatre accessible and fun. (September Issue)


Joe Schwarz_PBTS_GSIt was a golden year at Players by the Sea as the Beaches community theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala fundraiser and staging of La Cage Aux Folles. From a fledgling company to a respected and revered theatre under the direction of Executive Director Joe Schwarz, PBTS continues to bring innovative and daring theatre to local audiences. (September Issue)


St-Augustine-Brand-v8_RGB - 450 verticalNo anniversary had a greater presence or significance than the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine. It was a fitting tribute as international dignitaries including the King and Queen of Spain, local figures, regional artists and musicians came together to commemorate the nation’s oldest city. The multi-day fiesta featured cultural reenactments, dance, performances and live music by Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, Rodney Crowell, JJ Grey & Mofro, Justin Townes Earle and Emmylou Harris. EU chronicled every aspect of the voyage of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the history of some of the city’s oldest attractions such as Castillo de San Marco and the Fountain of Youth, oddities at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and Wolf’s Mystery Museum, a locals guide to eat, drink and be merry and a behind the scenes look at what it takes to host a national gathering (August Issue).


The Cummer Outings Project brought what’s inside outside. Pieces of the permanent collection at Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens popped up all over downtown in grand scale as part of the Cummer Outings Project. Jacksonville is among 16 US cities selected for the endeavor, which used the images to give new perspective to weathered structures, abandoned buildings and the odd corners and alleyways throughout the city’s core. The sense of disproportion and whimsy introduced art to the world beyond the museum walls (July Issue).

 In Time We Shall Know Ourselves offered a portrait of the American south as seen through the lens of renowned photographer Raymond Smith at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1974, Smith documented his three-month journey through the south en route to California, capturing images of people and places along the way. The exhibit was an epic travel narrative one man’s journey and a snapshot of times past (July Issue).

David Engdahl
David Engdahl

FaceForwardArtExhibitCoRKOver 30 of the city’s most inspired artists presented their interpretations of themselves through multi-media self portraits in Face Forward. An opening reception was held at the CoRKs Arts District followed by an exhibit at the JIA’s Haskell Gallery. The diverse collection of artists included Chip Southworth, Doug Eng, Mindy Hawkins, David Engdahl and Jim Draper. (October Issue)

Freebird Live

The New Year is time to bid farewell to old friends and welcome new ones. Opened in September, 1999 by Judy and Melody Van Zant, Freebird Live established itself as an anchor for live music at the corner of 1st street and 1st Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach. Over the last 16 years, the venue named for the Lynyrd Skynyrd family legacy, Freebird Live welcomed such artists as Blues Traveler, Ryan Bingham, Richie Havens, Buddy Miles, Johnny Winter, Leon Russell and They Might Be Giants to the stage. A farewell show with Galactic and guests will be held Jan. 20. The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall and Mavericks Live are on deck to absorb the fans searching for a new place to roost but the spirit of the Freebird will live on (November Issue).

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Courtney Lewis, EU Jacksonville, Performing Arts Guide, Classical Music

With new leadership at the helm at the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, times are a-changing. Incoming symphony president Robert Massey is ready to implement new ideas in his new role. Starry Nights is among the opportunities Massey identified to widen the appeal of the symphony and bring the music outside to a new audience beyond the walls of the concert hall. Massey’s plans include transforming cocktail napkin sketches into dynamic and impactful art for everyone (May Issue).

Shania Twain performs at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Dec.1, 2012. Singing superstar Twain and the late Saskatchewan curler Sandra Schmirler are among the notable Canadians who will be celebrated with postage stamps in 2014.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eric Jamison/Invision/AP ORG XMIT: CPT105

After an 11-year hiatus, 2015 witnessed the return of Shania Twain to the concert stage. Twain completed a two-year residency in Las Vegas and used the time away to reboot, refocus and reclaim her crown. She kicked off her tour in Jacksonville, proving to fans while she is still the one (July Issue).


Tomboi, the all-female, all-queer electronic indie band of Paige McMullen, Summer Wood and Alex E, set the mood for what would prove to be a very big year with its release of the “Lobos” video at Underbelly (February Issue). Already a familiar face in local circles, 14-year-old musician Dalton Cyr was hoping to break into the big time with “The History of Radness.” Cyr shot the pilot for Amazon with a presence and talent far beyond his years. A gifted artist and storyteller, he recorded his first album at 10 and regularly performs throughout the city. It’s no secret that this kid is destined for big things (June Issue).


It was a family affair for legendary guitarist Robby Krieger as he was joined on stage by son Waylon in the role vacated by Jim Morrison for an evening of The Doors at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. With The Doors, Krieger was instrumental in defining a generation and opening the doors of perception with their profound contribution to music history (August Issue).

Dweezil Zappa channeled the spirit of his late father Frank Zappa in an epic performance of Zappa Plays Zappa. The event was a master class in improvisation and musicianship and provided a unique and intimate opportunity to learn the fundamentals of guitar playing from the younger Zappa at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. (September Issue)

Tedeschi Trucks Band, Derek Trucks (left), Susan Tedeschi (right), photo: Mark Seliger
Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi (photo: Mark Seliger)

Jacksonville’s favorite family Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi played a hometown show with Tedeschi Trucks at Magnolia Fest at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Trucks talked to EU about their new album recorded at their home studio, cheering on his beloved Jaguars, performing with an all-star ensemble on the Stephen Colbert Show (in a Jags jersey!) and what it meant to pay tribute to the late Joe Cocker and the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour at the Lockn’ Festival (October Issue).


Businesses, bands and brands competed for crowd votes at the 3rd annual One Spark, the world’s largest crowdfunding festival. Creators are vying for a chunk of the $350,000 prize to fund their projects. There are no small ideas and no small amount of exposure. The festival brings an invaluable awareness to innovative entrepreneurs and hungry musicians and funnels a huge volume of pedestrian traffic into the city core. It’s all about making the connections to spark a cohesive and creative energy that makes this a game changer for everyone. (April Issue)

GastroFest 2015 in Hemming Park

GastroFest at One Spark 2014_captionCreated by locals, EU’s own Rachel Best Henley and Erin Thursby, GastroFest celebrates all elements of local food and drink from craft beers, signature cocktails, and workshops and panel discussions covering topics from bread making to sustainable eating (March Issue).


In its inaugural year, Collective Con united nerd culture with festival-like convention for sci-fi, anime, fantasy, horror, cosplay and gaming fans at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. The free and ticketed events and live music, the Collective Con team of Jason Lewis, Max Michaels, Christopher Major and Mike Yokan put Jacksonville on the map. (May Issue

MOSH Summer Camp YOTR

As the Year of the River came to a close, EU reflected on the city’s efforts to preserve the St. Johns River. The initiative was a call to arms to protect the waterway from development and dredging, remove the discharge of harmful pollutants into the river and reduce consumption that threatens the beauty of the natural and economic resource. Failure is not an option (October Issue).

ferry 1

Lisa King_Ferry“Ferry Godmother” Lisa King discussed her passion for the ferry and commitment to maintaining the ferry as a means of multi-modal transportation. King volunteers as a ferry ambassador and has authored grant applications to secure $5 million in funding for operation and maintenance. The Ferry Fest held at the Mayport Village was an extension of the mission to encourage ridership of the ferry and promote the amenities waiting on the other side. (October)

Jacksonville-Porchfest-Live-Music-On-Springfield-PorchesIn Springfield, artists set up temporary residence on the expansive porches in the historic neighborhood. Porchfest offered a guided walking tour of Springfield, with live music, food trucks and a vintage market to guide the way. Porchfest was yet another reason to visit Springfield and a shining example of why we should keep coming back (November Issue). 

CHEF-SELECTS_EUJ_general photo header

EU closed out the year with its two-art series Chef’s Selects. Some of the city’s most inspiring local chefs from Taverna, Moxie, Kitchen on San Marco, Blue Bamboo, Black Sheep, Ovinte, Candy apple, Il Desco, Sbraga & Company, 13 Gypsies and Café Nola shared what they think you should order from their restaurants this season and why. Go ahead and get started. It’s not like you’ve got all year! (November Issue and December Issue)

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About Liza Mitchell