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Big Cypress Reservation celebrates opening of SemFuel station

BIG CYPRESS — The gas is flowing at the newly opened SemFuel gas station on Josie Billie Highway in Big Cypress, making the reservation a gasoline desert no more.

Customers waited for officials to speak and the ceremonial ribbon to be cut Aug. 20 before they drove up and filled their vehicles on opening day.

“This community really needs this fuel,” said Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger. “I’m so glad it’s done now and I’m very pleased with what my administration was able to do in such a short time.”

Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger speaks during the grand opening of the SemFuel gas station Aug. 20 on Josie Billie Highway. Employees and other tribal leaders, including President Mitchell Cypress, far left, participated in the festivities before the first tank of gas was filled. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

It had been two years since residents of Big Cypress had easy access to gas. Prior to the opening, the closest gas was the Miccosukee station at Snake Road and I-75, about a 20-mile drive.

When Councilman Tiger was elected in May 2017, Tribal members in BC asked if he could get a gas station open on the reservation. He said he would try, and just over a year later, SemFuel is open for business.

“I think this will be beneficial for the community and our visitors,” Councilman Tiger said. “I think it’s a win-win for the Tribe and for Council. It’s our responsibility to make sure our Tribal needs are met.”

Seminole Petroleum, a Board business, supplies five types of gasoline to SemFuel: regular, mid-grade, premium, diesel and Rec 90.
“It’s a good thing we are doing business with our own reservation to help the community,” said President Mitchell Cypress. “This has been a long time coming; I think everybody’s happy today.”

Veldina Osceola was first to get gas during the grand opening festivities. It was fitting since her father Roy Nash Osceola built the first store on the very same site many years ago. Her brother Raleigh put in gas pumps in the 1990s.

“It started as a small store in a chickee and then he built the store behind it,” Osceola said. “I’m honored to be the first customer. People need gas around here; now we don’t have to drive so far to get it.”

Junior Billie was one of SemFuel’s first customers on grand opening day. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The atmosphere at the SemFuel grand opening was festive. Swamp Water Cafe served lunch, country music played on the loudspeakers and, as each vehicle filled up, SemFuel and Executive Operations Office employees applauded heartily.

The hours at SemFuel are Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Veldina Osceola was the first customer at the SemFuel gas station. Employees pumped the gas as President Mitchell Cypress observed. Osceola’s father built a convenience store on the site years ago. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

 

 

President Mitchell Cypress and Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger cut the ribbon declaring the opening of the SemFuel gas station in BC. Executive Director of Operations Andrew Jordan Bowers, SemFuel manager Michelle Willie and employees watch the ribbon fall. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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