Monthly Archives: June 2016

Outdoor Play List


Amicalola Falls State Park
Photos courtesy of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Get out and get active as Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites celebrates its 85th anniversary with special programs, tours and treasure hunting challenges.

Almost any summer day is a good day to enjoy the outdoors. However, when the day also celebrates a milestone anniversary for the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, it’s even better. The state park system is commemorating its 85th anniversary with ranger-led hikes, kayak tours, caving, geocaching and behind-the-scenes tours at the parks and historic sites on National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4, which also marks the start of Get Outdoors Georgia Month. 

Founded in 1931, the Georgia park system has grown to more than 60 sites that protect the state’s natural resources. The system’s original parks, Indian Springs and Vogel, are two of the oldest state parks in the nation.

The public can get involved by sharing experiences and photos from the parks on as well.

All of Georgia’s state parks offer opportunities for outdoor fun, but there are some additional claims to fame that you might not know.

Where America’s Gold Rush Really Began
America’s rush to find gold actually began in Dahlonega, Georgia — not California, as commonly believed. Twenty years before the famed 1849 gold rush in California, thousands of prospectors flocked into the Cherokee Nation in north Georgia to seek their fortunes. Today, you can still pan for gold in Dahlonega and see coins minted in Georgia at the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site. 

Sherman’s March to the Sea
In 1864, General Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea ended in Georgia at what is now Fort McAllister State Historic Park, just south of Savannah on the bank of the Great Ogeechee River. The park contains a Civil War museum and is home of the best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy. The earthworks were attacked seven times by Union ironclads but did not fall until 1864, ending General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Providence Canyon State Park

Providence Canyon State Park

Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon
At first glance, you’ll think you’re in the Southwest, and technically, you are — southwest Georgia. Providence Canyon State Park is a network of gorges, chasms, plateaus and cliffs. Erosion from poor farming practices in the 1800s led to the massive gullies and canyons, some as deep as 150 feet. 

A Mysterious Wall
One of Georgia’s archaeological mysteries is the 855-foot-long rock wall at Fort Mountain State Park in the Chattahoochee National Forest. No explanation for the wall has ever been found. It is speculated that Indians built the wall, which stands on the highest point of the mountain, for fortification against other more hostile Indians or for use in ancient ceremonies. 

Longest Covered Bridge in Georgia
Known as one of the most picturesque state parks in Georgia, Watson Mill Bridge State Park in Comer contains the longest original-site covered bridge in the state. The bridge, built in 1885, spans 229 feet across the South Fork River and is supported by a town lattice truss system held together with wooden pins. 

Tallest Waterfall in the South
At 729 feet, Amicalola (Cherokee for “tumbling waters”) Falls in Dawsonville is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Visitors have choices on how to best view the tumbling waters, ranging from an accessible pathway to a challenging trail with staircases. The waterfall is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia

Oldest State Park in the Nation
Located in middle Georgia off I-75, Indian Springs is believed to be the oldest state park in the nation. It is named for its many springs, which the Creek Indians used for centuries to heal the sick. Today visitors still collect the water, which loses its sulfur taste after sitting a few hours.

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Stephen C. Foster State Park

Largest Swamp in North America
The Stephen C. Foster State Park (named after the songwriter) is a primary entrance to the famed Okefenokee Swamp, a primitive wetland refuge. The 438,000-acre swamp, formed about 7,000 years ago, spills across 700 square miles in the southeastern corner of Georgia.

One of the Rarest Trees in the World
The tongue-twister name of Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in southeast Georgia comes from the once-rare Gordonia tree — a member of the bay family that grew in the park — and the original spelling of the nearby Altamaha River. This native Georgia plant was once thought extinct, but is now commonly grown in gardens, especially in the South.

A President’s Home
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Southern getaway — the Little White House in Warm Springs — was the only home the president purchased for himself. He first came to Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the warm, buoyant spring waters, hoping to find a cure for the polio that struck him in 1921. Visitors can tour his home, which has been carefully preserved much as he left it.

Coffee State Park

Coffee State Park

Silver Screen Success
Through the years, many movies and scenes have been filmed in Georgia, including Sweet Home Alabama, My Cousin Vinny, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Legend of Baggar Vance, Driving Miss Daisy, Remember the Titans, Smokey and the Bandit, Cobb, The Gingerbread Man, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Dumb and Dumber, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Forrest Gump, The Blind Side, Trouble With the Curve, Anchorman 2 and The Hunger Games. Georgia’s state parks and historic sites also have played host to Hollywood filmmakers, resulting in additional films such as The General’s Daughter (Wormsloe Historic Site), Warm Springs (Roosevelt’s Little White House) and Deliverance (Tallulah Gorge State Park). 

Hidden Gems Challenge
As part of its 85th anniversary celebration, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is launching its Hidden Gems series to encourage visitors to explore the undiscovered side of its venues. Hidden Gems programs range from guided hikes and lake paddles to behind-the-scenes tours. Some of the secret treasures include: 

  • Rare Silky Camellia – Mistletoe State Park, Appling
  • 400-Year-Old Red Cedar Tree – Elijah Clark State Park, Lincolnton
  • Tabby Ruins and Shell Rings of the Chocolate Plantation – Sapelo Island
  • Crashed Prohibition Era Moonshine Truck – Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville
  • Bald Eagle’s Nest – Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Newnan
  • Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid – Don Carter State Park, Gainesville
  • Etowah Indian Mounds – Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, Cartersville
  • Hidden Sherdly Noticeable Pottery Pieces – General Coffee State Park, Nicholls
  • Greasy Creek Falls -  Black Rock Mountain State Park, Mountain City
  • B-29 Superfortress Plane – Georgia Veterans State Park, Cordele
  • St. Catherine’s Sound – Fort Morris Historic Site, Midway
  • Pitcher Plant Bog Habitat – Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park, Reidsville
  • Magneto Phone – Hardman Farm Historic Site, Sautee Nacoochee
  • Gopher Tortoises – Kolomoki Mounds State Park, Blakely
  • Marble Mine – James H. (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, Summerville
  • Boardwalk to Cypress Swamp – Little Ocmulgee State Park and Lodge, Helena
  • Homestead Trail – Red Top Mountain State Park, Acworth
  • Vulture Venues – Reed Bingham State Park, Adel
  • Honey Bee Hives – Smithgall Woods State Park, Helen
Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Other state parks such as Tallulah Gorge and Sweetwater Creek are home to multiple hidden gems. For more information, visit 

By Morgan Davis
Photos courtesy of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites


Jean E. Garniewicz


PYSK-JuneCommunity Volunteer

Number of years in position: 30+

Family: Husband, Richard A. Garniewicz; no children

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: I am passionate about life. I enjoy meeting and working with people and volunteering in various activities in Columbia County. I have been volunteering here as long as I can remember living in the Columbia County area.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: I am currently a member of the Columbia County Economic Development Authority, an auxiliary with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, past chairwoman of the Columbia County Planning Commission and a Columbia County Growth Management Plan 2035 member. I have assisted in various county and statewide elections, and my general involvement is for the betterment of Columbia County – my county and my home. 

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: Leaving the Boston area, where I was raised, and moving to Columbia County 30 years ago. This involved giving up my comfort zone with family and friends to move to a new area for my husband’s job at SRP. I had to grow up in a completely new environment with a new culture, which soon became second nature to me, and stop feeling sorry for myself for being relocated. This was our most maturing experience. 

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: My 48 years of marriage to my husband, and the various life experiences that we have faced and survived together

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: Enjoying friends, entertaining at our house and sharing various experiences with those that we love 

Favorite TV Shows: “NCIS,” “Scandal” and “House of Cards”

Favorite Movie: Gone With the Wind 

Favorite Sports Team: Atlanta Braves (previous years), but we were Augusta Lynx season ticket holders for 11 years.

Favorite Comfort Food: Anything chocolate (or on a cruise)

Favorite App: Fox News Station

Last Book Read: Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Dream Vacation: Lately we have been cruising, but I also enjoy the U.S. National Parks.

Something That Has Changed My Life: My mother’s diagnosis of Lewy body dementia and her eventual death to this disease

Best Thing I Ever Learned: Never love anything that cannot love you back!

Favorite Hobbies: Shopping, gardening and enjoying my yard, cooking and sharing with friends

Secret Aspiration: To write a book. I need to get going on this! 

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: If they had a reality show on “NCIS” trivia, I would win!

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, although I talk like a Bostonian. I am a first-generation American, and I’m very proud of it. My mother was Canadian, and my father was from Scotland.

Bayou Bash

A & E

Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew FestivalIf you’re craving crawfish, then hightail it to the area’s only French Quarter-inspired festival.

There are plenty of ways to kick off your summer fun, but it’s hard to top the eighth annual Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew festival. Even the name makes you smile.

The crawfish boil will include a crawfish-eating contest – of course, local live bands, a free commemorative T-shirt for the first 1,000 visitors, children’s activities and more. The festival also will feature craft and domestic beer, but the focus definitely is on the crawfish.

“We want people to learn more about crawfish. We cook them live on-site,” says Jim Beck, owner of French Market Grille West, which puts on the event. “There are lots of craft beer festivals, but we want to do something different. This is the last time to have an event before it gets too hot to have an outdoor summer festival.”

Other Cajun and Creole dishes such as jambalaya and muffuletta sandwiches also will be available. All-American favorites such as corndogs and lemonade will be on the menu as well. In addition, a variety of vendors, ranging from car dealerships to outdoor sporting goods stores, will have booths at the family friendly festival.

If You Go:

What: Mudbugabeaux-N-Brew Festival

When: 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. Saturday, June 4

Where: Augusta Commons

How Much: $5 

More Info:

All Shook Up

A & E

Elvis-Presley-'56Relive the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s breakout year with “Elvis ’56.”

Sixty years ago, a performer named Elvis Presley began to take the entertainment world by storm. In January of 1956, he was a regional sensation. By the end of the year, he was an international phenomenon with four No. 1 songs on Billboard’s Top 100 chart, 11 television appearances, a movie deal and a record deal — something that no individual artist had ever accomplished before in one year.

In “Elvis ’56,” world-renowned Elvis performer Cody Ray Slaughter recreates the rock ’n’ roll star’s electrifying performances from that year. Slaughter creates the illusion of Elvis as a vibrant, young entertainer who is beginning to make history.

The performance also features Hillbilly Katz with David Fontana, son of Elvis’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer DJ Fontana, and an upright bass player and rockabilly guitarist.

VIP ticketholders can meet the artists at a Meet and Greet from 4:30-6 p.m. Light snacks will be provided, and photo ops, along with a Q & A, with the cast will be available.

If You Go: 

What: “Elvis ’56”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25

Where: Imperial Theatre

How Much: $19-$79

More Info: (706) 722-8341 or

Ham It Up

A & E

ham-radioAnyone who has ever wondered what ham radio is all about has the opportunity to learn at Amateur Radio Field Day. The free event will be held from 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25 until 2 p.m. Sunday June 26 by local amateur radio clubs. 

The Amateur Radio Club of Columbia County will hold its event at the Grovetown Lions Club, 105 Whisky Road, while the Amateur Radio Club of Augusta field day will be at Blythe City Hall, 294 Church Street.

“People can come out, and we’ll guide them through opportunities to talk on the radio to people around the world,” says Rusty Welsh, the Columbia County club president. 

During the annual event, amateur radio operators across North America establish temporary ham radio stations in public locations to showcase the science and skill of amateur radio. The goal is to test preparedness skills, including deployment and operations of equipment, and to contact as many other amateur radio stations around the globe as possible during the 24-hour period. 

Ham radio operators provide a critical public service for the community during times of disaster, and they can provide reliable communications when the normal infrastructure is offline or overwhelmed. Licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and trained in the art and science of radio communications as well as basic electronics theory, amateur radio operators own and maintain their own communications equipment and are prohibited by federal law from receiving payment for services.

“A lot of people have no idea what amateur radio is, but we want people to know we’re here,” says Chris Clark, the Augusta club president. “We pride ourselves on being an educational club. We do a lot of community service during events and emergency situations in the area.”

Natural Habitat

In The Home

Photography by Haley Lamb

Some folks just know where they belong. Count Joel Ferrara of Evans as one of those people.

When he was growing up, he used to spend his summers at Clarks Hill Lake with a friend whose parents had a small lake cabin in Lincolnton. “We would go back home for a day and mow about 30 yards,” he recalls.

Fast forward a few years, and Joel, who lives in Jones Creek, still uses the lake as an escape. He bought a house at Clarks Hill last year, but he makes sure that his homes have separate functions.

Home-Backyard-View“I work from home, so I don’t want the lake house to become just another office,” says Joel, who owns Bonsai Produce & Distribution. “I just want to come up here and relax.”

He looked for a house at the lake for a long time, but he couldn’t find what he wanted. In fact, he had looked at his Keg Creek house once but decided he wasn’t interested.

“I didn’t want to get into a big renovation,” he says. “But after looking at every house on Clarks Hill, it was either renovate or build.”

After a second look, he decided he liked the house’s large lot and proximity to town. Sold. Before the house was ready for full-time R & R, however, there was work to be done. The house underwent extensive remodeling to convert it into a modern, yet rustic, cabin.

Point of View 
The changes begin at the road. The wrought iron gates that open onto the driveway have been replaced with gates that feature an iron bonsai tree – a common feature in the house in honor of Joel’s business – in the design. The formerly red brick columns are now a natural color.

The house, which previously had a green exterior and a small front porch, has undergone a transformation inside and out. The new façade features natural-colored siding; a covered porch with rough-sawn posts and a metal roof that stretches across the front of the house; wood shutters, including a pair of Bermuda-style shutters made of rough-sawn cedar; a wooden bridge to the front porch and stacked stone on an addition to the house. A pair of white cedar rockers, which came from Helen, Georgia, set the tone for the rustic décor inside. 

A window occupies the spot where the original front door opened into a small, closed area, and the stairs have been moved from their initial location right inside the front door. The locations of the kitchen and the billiards room were flipped as well. 

Home-Great-RoomJoel knew he wanted a two-story vaulted wood ceiling, a big fireplace, a nice entry, a spacious kitchen and a large master bedroom. He turned to Brittany Wallace of Brittany Wallace Interiors, who had helped him with his house in Jones Creek, for her expertise.

“He called me one day and asked, ‘Do you want another project?’” Brittany says. “We walked through the house and figured out the plan. The house needed to be warm, rustic and masculine, but comfortable with modern touches.”

Of course, the house needed to take advantage of the spectacular view of the water as well.

“It’s probably one of the best lots on the lake,” says Joel. “We have a big view. We’re not on the main channel, but we still get big water and a big view because the lot doesn’t have too many trees.”

The original house had 8-foot ceilings, but the vaulted, two-story pine ceiling in the great room, which overlooks the water, gives the room an open, airy feeling. The room also features reclaimed heart pine flooring, a stacked stone wood-burning fireplace with a cedar mantel, two ceiling fans, a chandelier and a flat-screen TV.

A pair of one-of-kind teak root chairs occupies the space in front of the windows on either side of the fireplace. The coffee table features a rustic metal top.

A large Peter Lik photograph, which Joel got in a Las Vegas gallery, hangs on one wall in the great room. Sconce lights on the wall above the frame highlight the picture. “It makes it look like sunset and sunrise when you turn the lights down or bring them up,” says Joel. 

The photo hangs above a chest that is made of old railroad ties. Two round tables by the couch in the great room, along with a table on the porch, also are made of railroad ties.

The billiard room/bar area, where the original kitchen was located, is adjacent to the great room. Although the view of the lake was obstructed in the original kitchen, the area now overlooks the lake and a covered porch outside.

“The pool table was the only thing that stayed from the previous owners,” says Joel. “I’m not a big pool player, but I like to have people around. So why throw it away?”

The bar in the corner of the room features distressed wood cabinets, and the granite countertop, which has lots of color and variation, includes a brushed finish. Tucked in another corner of the room, a Jack Daniels barrel serves as a table and iron chairs are modeled after old tractor seats. Old pulleys hang on the wall above the table, and an iron bonsai tree occupies another wall.

A three-quarter bath is adjacent to the billiard room. “This is the one that everyone sees, so it had to be cool,” Brittany says.

Strips of tile run from a porcelain wall, which matches the floor and the shower, to the center of the floor and line up with the center of the shower to create a waterfall effect. The vanity features a sandstone vessel sink, distressed wood and a granite countertop. A set of knobs on the vanity cabinet and on the linen closet doors features a compass design.

Home-KitchenKeeping in Step
During one of many renovations to the original house, the floor stepped down to an addition. That step-down is gone, but the house now includes a step-down to the kitchen because of its a low ceiling. The tile flooring in the kitchen contrasts with the heart pine flooring in the great room to call attention to the step-down.

The kitchen island, which is painted pale green with a glaze, features the same granite – with lots of color variation – as the countertop on the wet bar. The solid black perimeter countertops with a brushed finish don’t clash with the rest of the kitchen features, and the deep, single-basin, granite composite sink blends in with the countertops.

Three light fixtures above the kitchen window give the room soft lighting and the feel of a rustic, old farmhouse. The kitchen also features a stacked stone backsplash and stainless steel appliances. The wood, custom-made hood above the stove serves as a focal point in the room.

Joel added two guest bedrooms to the house, which are connected by a Jack-and-Jill bath with brushed granite countertops and rustic fixtures. 

The master bedroom takes advantage of the lake view. “The sunlight in here is minimal, so we decided to leave the windows wide open,” says Joel. The trees outside offer privacy, and another bonsai tree makes an appearance in the room in the form of an iron base to an oval glass-topped table.

The master bath features tile flooring and pebble mosaic under the free-standing tub and on the shower floor. The space includes contemporary fixtures with channel faucets, and more Peter Lik photos hang on the walls. 

Home-Kitchen-TableAdjusting Priorities
The renovations to the house, which features taupe trim throughout, took seven months to complete. However, Joel says he spends 90 percent of his time on the covered porch in the rear. “I haven’t even laid on that giant sofa in the great room,” he says.

Joel and his fiancé, Toni Snoddy, like to entertain friends at the lake, and a bead board ceiling tops an outdoor kitchen that adjoins the porch.

The covered porch includes a pine ceiling, a one-piece picnic table and benches made of cedar slabs, a stacked stone fireplace with a cedar mantel, flat-screen TV, pine decking and a railing around the porch. He recently added curtains to the space, and a table in the sitting area features a weathered wood base and a copper top.

“I like to build a fire, relax and watch TV outside,” he says.

However, this will be the first summer that he has been able to enjoy his lake house, so he expects his habits to change. “I imagine I’ll be in the water most of the summer,” he says. 

By Betsy Gilliland
Photography by Haley Lamb

Get Your Shag On

A & E

summer beach blastIf you’re just thinking about “Cooling Out,” then the Summer Beach Blast is the place for you. Evans Towne Center Park will become our own little “Ocean Boulevard” when The Catalinas, The Tams and Soul Dimension perform beach music favorites.

In addition to music, the event will feature a sandy “shoreline” and free water slides for the younger set and the young at heart. 

Concertgoers who purchase VIP tickets will get “Big Kahuna” treatment including reserved parking, a Lowcountry dinner, beer and wine, preferred seating and viewing areas, and private restrooms.

No coolers are allowed, but food and beverage vendors will be on hand. Bring blankets or chairs to sit and listen to the music – unless of course, you’re dancing the night away. Shoes are optional.

If You Go:

What: Summer Beach Blast

When: Friday, June 3; gates open at 4:30 p.m., music begins at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Evans Towne Center Park

How Much: General admission – $10 in advance, $15 at the gate; VIP – $80; advance tickets are available online or at Associated Credit Union

More Info: (706) 650-5005 or

Friends of Mistletoe State Park


CALLING-POST-3Mistletoe State Park is full of amenities including boat ramps, a sandy beach, nature trails for hikers and bikers, camping facilities, educational programs and some of the finest bass fishing the nation. 

One of its biggest assets, however, is Friends of Mistletoe State Park.

“Anyone who buys a Friends’ membership is technically a member of the organization, but we have a core group of about 20 to 25 volunteers,” says Carol Sanchez, assistant park manager at Mistletoe.

CALLING-POST-2The volunteers include board members, people who help with school programs and campground hosts. In the past year, Mistletoe volunteers contributed 700 to 1,000 hours of service to the park. And for every hour of labor donated by a volunteer, the Friends of Georgia State Parks contributes $2 to the park.

The Friends of Mistletoe help with annual events such as the Kids Fishing Rodeo and Family Fall Festival by sharing their expertise or serving concessions. In the past year, the Friends secured a grant to expand the Nature Center, and they installed a pollinator garden as part of a statewide initiative to raise awareness about pollinator conservation. They helped to replace a boat dock at the park as well. Friends even have contributed taxidermy animals to the park.

“Their biggest contribution is supplying financial help for programs and special projects,” Sanchez says. “They help us provide the fun extras that enhance our programs.”

Calling-Post-1With the Nature Center expansion, for instance, the park has a covered area to conduct programs during inclement weather. Volunteers also share their talents by leading programs that showcase their special interests ranging from cooking to soap carving.

“They come up with ideas that aren’t necessarily on our radar, and they enable us to do special interest projects in a timely manner,” says Sanchez. “It’s great to have support from our local community.”