The stories you cared about most in 2020

After many months of planning, a ‘Welcome to Mainstreet Daily News‘ post officially launched this community news website on March 2, 2020.

In that launch post we promised to cover local breaking news, features, upcoming events, arts, sciences, the environment, healthcare, education, children, family life, the local economy, religion, and government.

We also announced our intention to inform, engage, and inspire our readers, in hopes of making a difference. And then, two weeks later, a pandemic changed everything. But we still kept our promise to deliver.

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Looking back through the hundreds of stories we delved into in 2020 was an emotional journey for me. Some stories were heartwarming, others heartbreaking. My ties to Alachua County go back decades to my first round as a student at University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications in 1987. I returned 10 years ago as a high school teacher and went back to UF for another degree. And for these past 10 years I have photographed and reported about this community with pleasure.

Here’s a look at the top stories of 2020 based on your feedback.

1. You can’t win a war if you send your soldiers to battle without armor: Gainesville ER nurse answers distress call of hospital in the Bronx

In this four-part series nurses from Gainesville gave eyewitness accounts of what was happening in four hospitals in New York City when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic. Click on each nurse’s name to read about their experiences.

Gainesville RN Lori Smith

UF Shands Health trauma ER RN Barbara Edwards

– Former combat medic, RN Kerrie Mitrione

UF Health Shands Hospital ER nurse Julie Hulsey

2. There’s a new kid in town: Missile and rocket hauling locomotive has quite a story to tell

In September, a new train engine showed up in Newberry. After some digging and interviews, we discovered that she had served in the Korean War and at Cape Canaveral for the USAF Titan II Missile program. How she landed in Newberry was quite a journey.

3. Trash talking brothers launch Youtube channel

Brothers Travis and Maverick Smith are not just saddened by the amount of trash left behind by visitors to local state parks and springs—they’re doing something about. We took a kayak trip along with these environmental advocates to show you how.

4. Oysters are returning to Cedar Key

At the end of February, Dr. Peter Frederick, research professor at UF’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, let us tag along to check the progress of the Lone Cabbage Oyster Reef off the coast of Cedar Key.

5. Gainesville Fire Rescue team reads to kids via Facebook

Krista Ott, fire and life safety educator for Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR), found a special way to reach out to kids during the COVID-19 battle, with the help of book reading firefighters.

6. Alachua County cold case detective recounts interview with serial killer featured on 60 Minutes

Alachua County Sheriff’s Cold Case Detective Kevin Allen said he was lucky to be the first of 10 detectives to interview convicted serial killer Samuel Little at the Wise County jail in Decatur, Texas. Case closed.

7. “I DO!” Couples take the fast lane to marriage at county courthouse despite COVID-19 restrictions

Alachua County Clerk of the Court J.K. “Jess” Irby, decided that just because the courthouse was off limits for proceedings and events during the pandemic, people should not delay getting married. His creative solution brought national media to Gainesville.

8. March for justice and equality draws hundreds of peaceful protesters to Newberry

Marchers filed onto the front lawn of Newberry City Hall and under the shade of pecan trees listened to speakers and took a knee to recognize the death of George Floyd and many others.

9. Out of town DJs drawing thousands of fans to Ginnie Springs for light shows and electronic dance music

When hundreds of cars lined the streets near Ginnie Springs in Gilchrist County blocking residents in, we found out why crowds were flocking and traveling from hundreds of miles aways during a pandemic.

10. Alligator staffers reunite in ‘ZOOMunion’ decades later: Former reporters, editors, photographers take a trip down memory lane

On July 11th, a coordinated effort by former Alligator photo editor (1988-1991) Reggie Grant and former Editor (1987-1990) Mary Shedden started with an invite, then a survey and culminated with an hour and a half long Zoom meeting that reunited 30 former staffers.

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