Williston Heritage
Williston lies in northeast Levy county and represents a crossroads. It's an American heartland small town with approximate population of 2,400 people, surrounded by a variety of working farms, later-day private homesteads and miles of scenic back-roads. The area attracts independent minded people from all over Florida as well as many new Floridians who want to put a little distance between their homes and the Interstate/shopping center/traffic jam scenes that so dominate our modern activities.

The area has many hidden treasures that make it a wonderful place to live and work, raise a family or retire. Locals take for granted the peace and quiet of the surroundings, the low crime rate, and the overall healthy, unpolluted environment.

Williston Back Then

Back in 1853 the area we know as Williston was actually a part of Marion County.

Jesse Mercer Willis, then a county tax collector, decided to homestead the area and build his plantation.

The tall timber, rich soil and good water made the area well suited for his purpose.

Foolish Pleasure ­ 1975

Bred by Waldemar Farms near Williston, Foolish Pleasure was purchased by John L. Greer at the Saratoga Yearling Sale for $20,000. Greer, a successful businessman from Knoxville, Tennessee, was considered a "little owner" among the Thoroughbred ranks. He had only a handful of horses -- four or five at a time -- in his racing stable, bought a couple yearlings each year, and owned just a few broodmares.

Today Larry King manages Stonehedge Farm South, the former Waldemar Farms, but in 1973 he was a teenager and his father, Joe King, managed Waldemar Farms. Larry clearly recalls being at the Saratoga sale when a prominent trainer asked to see their best sale colt.

"We brought Foolish Pleasure out and the trainer said, If that's the best you've got, you don't need to bring anything else out,' Larry remembers with a laugh. "The colt toed out on both front feet and the so-called experts want a horse to be perfect, but it's been proven over and over again that the perfect horse is not always the best runner. Horses have faults. I think what it gets down to is nobody really knows. You just have to have a hunch."

Larry also recalls that the bay colt didn't have the sweetest disposition and hated having his head handled. Those flaws, however, did nothing to slow him down once he hit the racetrack. Under the capable training of LeRoy Jolley, Foolish Pleasure had an undefeated two-year-old season and was voted Champion Two-Year-old Colt of 1974.

As a three year old, the colt got his first taste of defeat when he finished third in the Florida Derby. Two days later, Greer announced that Foolish Pleasure had lost most of the frogs (the V-shaped sections that act as a kind of "shock absorber") in both front hooves when they were peeled back during the race.

"I believe he showed more courage in the Florida Derby than in any of his other races," Greer was quoted in a Blood Horse interview in May 1975. "We didn't want to publicize the extent of his injury at the time and have people thinking we were trying to come up with an excuse, but I really believe he showed more courage running the way he did that day he lost than he did in any of his winning races."

Fifteen horses contested the 101st Kentucky Derby, which Foolish Pleasure won capably by 1-3/4 lengths. The game colt ran second in both the Preakness and the Belmont. Later that summer he challenged champion filly Ruffian in a match race and crossed the finish line alone after the ill-fated black filly tragically broke down before stunned viewers.

In 1976, Foolish Pleasure went on to thrill racing fans again and defeated champion Forego before retiring that year with earnings of $1,216,705. He won 16 of 26 total starts and was the sport's 11th all-time earner upon retirement.

Foolish Pleasure was 22 when he died in November 1994.

Williston Today

Today the area is still predominantly rural and unspoiled, but things have changed a bit... Downtown Williston is a bustling retail center - with involvement of neither government grant nor large developer. One property owner made some improvements, others followed and businesses moved in. Customers have followed bringing with them the whole town's appreciation for the transformation.

Education and churches have played vital roles in building the city into a close knit community. We currently have four public schools and one private school.

Williston has excellent police and fire protection, with sanitation, sewerage, natural gas and electrical service supplied by the city. Cable TV is available in the city limits and adjacent areas.

Nature Coast Regional Hospital provides emergency, quick care, surgical and routine hospital care.

The local airport, owned by the City of Williston, is a growing and dynamic operation run by experienced professionals. It offers fixed base facilities and pilot training along with an active skydiving group.

The Airport Industrial Park, adjacent to the airport, is being developed with clean, environmentally sound industry. Approximately 700 acres are available for development and we welcome inquiries from prospective businesses.

For eating out Williston offers hometown restaurants with varied menus for family dining.

Williston area residents enjoy many educational, entertainment and economic advantages from the town's close proximity to the cities of Gainesville and Ocala. Gainesville, a beautiful 25 minute drive from Williston, is home to the University of Florida and Shands medical facilities. Both Santa Fe Community College, and Central Florida Community College in Ocala are excellent resources and easily accessible to Williston area residents.

Williston offers all this and more. Why not visit our American Heartland Small Town today?

Williston Chamber of Commerce
37 South Main Street, Williston, FL 32696
Phone: (352) 528-5552 Fax: (352) 528-4342
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