Monthly Archives: March 2017

Arnie: The Life of Arnold Palmer by Tom Callahan

Literary Loop

ArnieIn this definitive biography, veteran sportswriter Tom Callahan shines a spotlight on one of the greatest golfers ever to play the game.

The winner of more than 90 championships, including four Masters Tournaments, Arnold Palmer was a legend in 20th century sports: a supremely gifted competitor beloved for his powerful hitting, his nerve on the greens and his great rapport with fans. Perhaps above all others, Palmer was the reason golf’s popularity exploded, as the King of the links helped define golf’s golden age along with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

In addition to his talent on the golf course, Palmer was a brilliant entrepreneur and one of the first sportsmen to create his own successful marketing brand. Forging an alliance with sports agent Mark McCormick, Palmer parlayed his popularity into lucrative deals and helped pave the way for the multi-million-dollar contracts that have become standard for stars across all sports. But beyond his golf success and business acumen, Palmer was a larger-than-life character, and Arnie recounts a host of unforgettable anecdotes from a long life in the spotlight.

Tom Callahan knew Palmer well for many years, and now pays tribute to this golfing icon. Filled with great stories from the key people in Palmer’s life, Arnie is an entertaining and illuminating portrait of a remarkable man and his extraordinary legacy.


Glass Menagerie

Carol Ayer

Photos courtesy of CarolAnn Ayer

When most people look at a shoe, they see a shoe. (Even if it’s a great, to-die-for shoe, it’s still a shoe.) Same thing with a door. Or an instrument. For CarolAnn Ayer, however, the world and everything in it are a canvas. 

And they’re all deserving of being turned into a work of art with her stained glass and mosaic talents. CarolAnn has been creating stained glass artwork since she made her first panel in a class at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in 1983, but she developed her passion for mosaic more recently.

Creative-Guitar“Four years ago, mosaic became a trend in the art world, so I picked it up,” she says. “I want to mosaic everything now. I’ve done a lot of arts and crafts through the years, and these stuck.”

Feeding the Habit
CarolAnn, who lived in Columbia County for 30 years and worked as a paraprofessional at Harlem High School for four years, has a home filled with her artwork.

While she primarily creates stained glass and mosaic pieces for her early 20th century home, she makes things for friends and family as well. She also does commissioned pieces, and she sells some of her work at Schweitzer Art Glass in Waynesboro “to generate money to feed the habit.” She will have a dual show with local artist Cole Smith at the Waynesboro studio from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Creative_BustTo create her artwork, CarolAnn works out of a room in her home where shelves are filled with glass panes; jars full of tile, glass and stone pieces; glass cutters; adhesives; grout and even Band-Aids.

“It’s not a difficult art. It’s just very time consuming and detailed,” says CarolAnn. “And you get a lot of cuts on your fingers.”

Future projects such as a high heel sit on the shelves and instruments are propped against a wall, waiting to be transformed from the ordinary to the sublime. She also keeps a supply of the materials she needs to prepare everyday objects for their metamorphosis into works of art. For instance, she’ll wrap the shoe in mesh and cover it in plaster of paris to shape it. She’ll sand the instruments before she adheres glass pieces to them. “They’re glossy,” she says of the instruments, “so you have to rough them up so the pieces can stick to them.”

Creative-College-stonesSometimes, however, CarolAnn takes her work outside. “The sun helps. It gives it a better picture of the colors. Sometimes there’s a right side and a wrong side of the glass,” she says.

Trial and Error
CarolAnn says the choice of glass determines whether a project becomes stained glass or mosaic art. Often working by trial and error, she likes coming up with ideas and picking the glass and colors for each project.

Creative-Crosses“I’ve always been attracted to color. I like being able to create something beautiful,” says CarolAnn. “It’s a lot like painting. When you paint, you have to know where to shade, where to put the dark and where to put the light to get the contrast you need.”

She even enjoys the inevitable struggle that comes with creating art. “There’s always a dilemma. What color am I going to use for the grout? That can change the whole look of a piece,” says CarolAnn. “The creative part takes me a little longer, but once I get it, you can’t stop me. For any artist, the creative process is what drives you. It’s in your heart and in your soul.”

CarolAnn, who also is a caterer and formerly owned Old Towne Inn and Fox’s Lair until she retired in July 2016, works on her art every day. She works at least four hours a day and sometimes all day. She usually works on more than one piece at a time to take the monotony out of the process, and it took her a month to make a mosaic mirror that hangs in her bathroom.

Creative-Parrot-window-trioOther pieces in her home include a stained glass window in her kitchen and a stained glass door to a spice rack, a space that once housed an ironing board, on a kitchen wall. She also made a stained glass screen out of a French door, and she plans to hang it on her side porch. Mirrors, cremation boxes for pets and instruments are some of her favorite canvases for her artwork.

“I’m trying to find a big bass to do, and I haven’t done a banjo. I’ve done all the other instruments,” says CarolAnn, who comes from a family of musicians. 

Some of her pieces have personal significance. For instance, she made a female torso clad in a denim dress with her husband in mind. “I wore a blue jean dress on our first date, so I did that for him,” CarolAnn says.

Creative-DragonflySources of Inspiration
CarolAnn constantly learns new things about her crafts. She often visits the Mosaic Mentoring site on Facebook, which has members from all across the world, for ideas and encouragement.

“Artists are generous with their time and information,” says CarolAnn. However, she adds, “You can look at other’s people work, but you have to be very careful not to copy other people’s work.”

She also draws inspiration from magazines, photographs and nature. “Artists see nature in a different way. You tend to study things more closely,” she says.

In homage to her love of nature, she even covers animal skulls in glass. The first two skulls she ever did were found locked together in the woods by a friend.

CarolAnn says she sees “everything as mosaic” now, and she often wonders what attracts a person to a piece of art.

“When I make something for someone else, I hope they cherish it,” she says. “It takes a lot of time to do a piece, but it’s worth it.”

For more information, visit CarolAnn’s Facebook page, Designs in Glass.

By Leigh Howard

Photos courtesy of CarolAnn Ayer

Relay for Life

Community Groups in Action

Relay for LifeA cancer diagnosis is frightening for anyone, but people who battle the disease – and their loved ones – don’t have to do it alone. They can find plenty of support at Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at Evans Towne Center Park.

“There is virtually no family in the world that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” says Gregory Tsikerdanos, the Relay for Life community manager. “The relay is a culmination of a yearlong fundraising effort. While it is an American Cancer Society event, it truly is a community event as well.”

Relay for LifeThis year’s Star Wars-based theme is “May the Cure Be with You,” and about 48 teams are expected to participate in the event. The fundraising goal is $175,005 – an amount that covers costs for patients that need transportation to and from treatments. 

The event will include opening and closing ceremonies, a survivors’ lap, a caregivers’ lap and laps throughout the event by team members to represent the ongoing battle against cancer. Teams will set up camps and continue fundraising efforts by collecting donations for food, goods, games and activities. A luminaria ceremony, which gives people a chance to grieve but also offers hope and comfort, will begin at sunset. Each luminaria bag represents a loved one lost to cancer, and the ceremony also honors survivors and supports those affected by the disease.

Relay for Life“Our goal is to raise awareness about cancer as well as about research and development, treatments, cures and services for those with cancer and their caregivers,” says Tsikerdanos. “We hope to save lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.” 

For more information, visit

Paddle Up

Photography by Addie Strozier

Photography by Addie Strozier

With about 1,000 people from 12 states and 800-plus vessels on the Savannah River for the Benderdinker in 2016, last year’s paddle was the most successful one yet. And the popular event, scheduled for Saturday, April 29, seems to expand every year. 

“We expect to continue growing and getting people involved in this thriving community of kayakers,” say Kristina Williams, the Benderdinker founder. 

The Benderdinker once again will include a leisurely, noncompetitive trek on the Savannah River, where paddlers can stop and listen to music and sample locally sourced snacks (think pork/veggie tamales and roasted or boiled peanuts) along the six-mile route. And along with communing with nature, paddlers can enjoy the camaraderie of fellow rowers aboard kayaks, canoes or standup paddle boards as well. 

Once paddlers have completed the route, there is no need to pack up and go home. An on-land festival will include games such as pickup volleyball, corn hole, giant tic-tac-toe, ladder golf, mini disc golf and bocce ball. Vendors will offer demos of their products and sell food. Paddlers ages 21 and older can quench their thirst with craft beer. 

The music will continue at the festival, and a Nashville duo, Me & Molly, is returning this year to headline the musicians that will perform.

Benderdinker registration is available online through Sunday, April 23, and check-in will be held 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, April 28 and 8-10 a.m. Saturday, April 29. Latecomers also can register online through midnight Friday, April 28 or in person at check-in Friday night or until 11:45 a.m. the day of the event. Sorry, no T-shirts or goodie bags for procrastinators.

If You Go:

What: Benderdinker 

When: Saturday, April 29; paddle launches 10-11:30 a.m.; Riverfest noon-5 p.m.

Where: Riverside Park at Betty’s Branch, Evans

How Much: $40 per vessel. Cost to rent kayak or canoe is not included. Food, beer and other beverages will be available for purchase at the festival.

More Info:

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Garden Scene
Photos courtesy of the National Garden Bureau

Photos courtesy of the National Garden Bureau

2017 has been named Year of the Rose, and whether your thumb is green or black, now’s the perfect time to fall in love with America’s national flower. 

Not long ago, roses were widely considered finicky, difficult to grow, prone to disease, sparse on flower production and apt to lose their leaves to stress. Frankly, roses seemed more trouble than they were worth for many American gardeners. But not anymore.

Due to new breeding work, today’s roses are much easier to grow than older varieties. They have been bred for vigor, disease resistance and controlled growth, meaning much less work for home gardeners. In fact, most roses can thrive in our area with the proper care. 

And because roses grow well here, we’re not limited in our choices. It simply comes down to personal preference. There are many classes of roses, which sometimes can lead to some confusion. The ones most commonly grown here include:

  • Hybrid Tea — the classic, long stemmed varieties
  • Grandiflora — similar to Hybrid Tea, but usually have several blooms per stem
  • Floribunda —  more compact and multi-flowered
  • Miniature — smaller specimens, often grown in containers as gifts
  • Climbing — good for fence lines and trellises
  • Landscape or shrub — once considered a hodge-podge of varieties that did not fit any of the other categories. These now make up about half of the market and have led a revolution in the landscape.
  • Heirloom/heritage — produced by boutique nurseries

Rose_MyGirl_EasyEleganceRosesReady, Set, Grow
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a flower expert to grow your own roses. Here are some helpful tips to get you started. 

• April and May are good months to plant most roses here. You can plant them almost any time — even in July or August — but you’ll have to give them a little more TLC. They need a deep root system, and the roots may not be as established.

• Decide if you want the style of your rose garden to be formal, country casual, personal or a landscape design. You can get great ideas from garden tours, magazines, professional landscapers and the Internet. 

• Choose an area that is well drained and will not have competition from tree roots or shrubs. Beds raised with railroad ties or bricks provide the best drainage for heavy soils. Also choose a location that allows plants to be placed three to four feet from each other. 

Rose_HighVoltage_EasyEleganceRoses• Select a spot that receives six hours or more of direct sunlight each day. Without six to eight hours of full sun, your roses will have fewer flowers and long, leggy, weak stems with a higher likelihood of disease.

• Consider the height of your roses. If you plan on planting several different rose varieties, you’ll want to arrange the roses with the tallest in the back of the garden.

• Suppliers sell roses as bare-root, packaged bare-root (also known as tube) or container grown. Inspect the plant before you buy, looking for sturdy, fibrous roots and firm green stems. You want a healthy-looking leaf and strong stems to your blooms.

• Prepare the soil and then fertilize your roses according to soil test results. Soil preparation is an important part of rose care and includes several steps. Before you plant the roses, you’ll want to consult a nursery or a rosarian on the perfect way to prepare your roses’ new home. The Augusta Rose Society ( often offers educational programs and rose clinics at local garden centers, and reputable nurseries have helpful resources on hand for the rose novice.

Rose_Snowdrift2_EasyEleganceRoses• Water roses deeply (don’t just wet the leaves) two to three times per week in the summer, but don’t deluge them. There should not be any standing water left over. One to two inches of mulch will help conserve water and keep feeder roots cool.

• Roses appreciate a deep watering during dry spells, and drip irrigation is ideal to avoid diseases caused by wet foliage. The three most common diseases on roses are black spot, rust and powdery mildew, with humidity being the worst cause. 

• Spray roses weekly to prevent fungus diseases like blackspot. Roses are more susceptible to fungi in our area because of the high humidity, but using a combination insecticide-fungicide spray on a regular basis helps cut down on the problem. 

• Prune roses in the dormant season to ensure healthy flowers during the blooming season. Wear garden gloves and use pruning shears to cut back one-fourth to one-third of last year’s branches. Also remove any dead or diseased branches. Most roses have their big, main flush of color the end of April to the beginning of May. They will bloom sporadically throughout the summer and then have another big flush of flowers in the fall.

Sight Lines

In The Home
Photography by Haley Lamb

Photography by Haley Lamb

An eye for crisp, clean edges and a love of golf are clearly visible in this Champions Retreat home. 

Inspiration comes from many places, and a magazine photo of an Alabama lake house was the impetus for Kim and David Frank to design their dream home in the Founders Village section of Champions Retreat. They modeled the front of their home, which overlooks The Creek Nine at Champions Retreat Golf Club, after the house in the photograph and designed the windows and interior of the home based on the lake house elevation.

The Franks, who have one daughter, Cameron, moved into their Evans home in December of 2013. However, they had the property 10 years before they started to build. “It took two years by the time we started drawing the house and finished it,” Kim says.

Home-PoolSunny Side Up
First impressions are important, and this house has plenty of curb appeal. Featuring a siding and stone façade, the house has shiplap above the stone on the front exterior. A copper awning covers the front porch as well as the roof of the walkway, which features a beadboard ceiling, on the flagstone courtyard between the house and the garage.

The Franks like to spend time in the side courtyard, which overlooks the backyard. A grouping of resin wicker furniture accented with gray cushions faces a raised-hearth stone fireplace. Square tables are tucked between the furniture, and containers of flowers add a splash of color. 

Home-Covered-PatioThe outdoor living space on the back of the house, which gets awash with afternoon sun, features another grouping of box-shaped resin wicker chairs around a square ottoman on the upper level, travertine tile patio. The striped cushions on the gray chairs offer a contrast to the solid gray cushion on the ottoman. 

“I just like a lot of simple, straight lines,” Kim says. 

A covered patio includes travertine tile, an outdoor kitchen with a granite countertop and two ceiling fans above a seating area with more square seats and tables. Another ceiling fan above a nearby ping pong table circulates air in that space. 

A pass-through window from the patio opens to another kitchen in the basement. This kitchen features tile backsplash above the sink, honed granite countertops and antique brass fixtures. 

Home-Family-RoomAn avid golfer, David has golf memorabilia on the walls on the lower level. Four framed, autographed Masters flags line one wall, and David has an autographed print of Arnold Palmer at Southern Hills Country Club in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma on a brick wall in a sitting area in the basement. The Franks even have a 2-year-old Westie named Palmer.

Other golf memorabilia include a framed print of the famous black-and-white photo of Ben Hogan at the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. 

A peek over the estate fencing, which surrounds the beautifully landscaped yard, offers a view of the third tee box of The Creek Nine, which was designed by Gary Player. Two aqua umbrellas shade poolside chaise lounges, and five chairs and a bench surround a nearby fire pit. The outdoor furnishings showcase Kim’s style, and the straight edges of the swimming pool illustrate her preference for lines as well.

Home-Living-RoomMaking the Transition
The simple, clean lines continue inside the home, which is characterized by transitional décor. Oversized two-story picture windows in the living room offer a view of the deck, and benches are tucked beneath the built-in bookcases on either side of the raised hearth, stone fireplace. A three-tiered chandelier suspends from the two-story wood ceiling with exposed beams, and wood columns separate the living room from the foyer. A round table sits in front of the windows, and throw pillows add pops of color to the furniture that is upholstered with natural colors.

“We needed large-scale furniture for the living room,” says Kim.

An upstairs catwalk, which includes bookcases made of reclaimed wood, overlooks the living room.

Home-KitchenBarn doors lead to the family room, which was supposed to be a screened-in porch in the original house plans. The space includes a wet bar with a hammered stainless steel sink and nickel faucet. The bar is made of reclaimed wood, and the lighting was copied from an Atlanta restaurant. Leather, studded stools are tucked beneath the granite countertop, and photos of Champions Retreat hang on a wall. The wood on the walls was painted to give it a weathered look, and the ceiling beams are made of reclaimed wood. A glass door leads to the wine cellar, which features brick walls and a barrel ceiling. 

One of the guest bedrooms was supposed to be a dining room, but the house has an eating area nestled between the family room and the kitchen instead.

“We don’t have a formal dining room. I haven’t missed it. In our last house we used it once a year,” says Kim.

Home-Dining-AreaThe concrete table in the dining area weighs 600 pounds, and wicker chairs line the sides of the table. An upholstered chair anchors each end. The space also includes a stone fireplace with a wood beam mantel, and a set of double doors lead to the courtyard. A large dough bowl hangs on one wall. “We hung it on the wall because we didn’t want to have to move it from the table every time we ate,” Kim says.

The rug on the dining area floor matches the stone tile backsplash in the kitchen, and both rooms feature exposed wood beams on the ceiling. The kitchen features marble countertops, an island with a sink, a pot filler above the stovetop and gray painted cabinets. The doors to the top cabinets feature frosted glass, and the wood door to the pantry has frosted glass as well. Two large conical pendant lights hang above the island, and a trio of smaller conical pedant lights top the windows above the sink. 

The master bedroom features a flat screen TV on a metal wall, built-in bookcases, built-in drawers, a ceiling fan and a view of the deck. The adjoining master bath includes a stand-alone tub, walk-in shower, double sinks, separate vanity area, marble flooring and granite countertops.

One of Kim’s favorite features in the home is the laundry room off of the master bedroom. With all of its bells and whistles, it – almost – makes doing laundry a pleasure, or at least tolerable. The laundry room features tile squares separated by faux wood tile, a chute from upstairs and drying racks in the drawers. The space even includes a gift wrapping area with wall-mounted rolls for gift wrap and a built-in bed for Palmer. 

Pine flooring and acrylic doorknobs are found throughout the house, and, fittingly, all of the bedrooms overlook the golf course. 

By Sarah James

Perfect Setup

Photos courtesy of Veteran Golfers Association

Photos courtesy of Veteran Golfers Association

Veterans enjoy playing in a golf tournament with celebrities and visiting Augusta National Golf Club during a Master Tournament practice round

The Masters Tournament and the military are full of traditions, but it’s never too late to start a new one – especially when the two forces come together. Last year the Veteran Golfers Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes golf to veterans and their families, launched Tuesday for the Troops, a fundraiser for the VGA, to honor veterans during Masters Week. This year’s outing will be held April 2-5.

sports-Aaron-Ojard,-Jim-Dent-and-Randall-McDanielOn Monday golfers will go to Augusta National Golf Club for a Masters practice round and have dinner at Azalea House. A golf tournament for the troops will be held Tuesday at Jones Creek Golf Club, and they will attend the Rock Fore! Dough concert that night.

Last year 28 golfers – 14 veterans and 14 celebrities – played in the tournament, and about the same number is expected this year. The soldiers will include the overall male and female winners and flight winners at the 2016 VGA National Championship and VGA board members.

“We’d like to create a long-standing tradition of holding Tuesday for the Troops during Masters Week,” says Josh Peyton, the VGA president and retired U.S. Army Ranger and infantry officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. 

sports-Andrew-Smith-Jones-Creek-1He certainly has allies at Jones Creek. Through PGA REACH and other programs for veterans, the property has been a longtime supporter of the military. 

“We are happy to help groups like the VGA raise money and raise awareness. It’s a way for us to give back,” says Gregg Hemann, director of operations. “Joe Caley, the VGA vice president, has been part of Jones Creek for years. This is a cause that touches everyone, especially in Augusta, Georgia, which is a military-based town.”

sports-Jim-DentAll-Star Event
The VGA partnered with Augusta Warrior Project for the outing, and the family of amateur golfer Bobby Jones, co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, sponsored the event as well. Jones served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and his family provided the veterans with apparel for the event.

Celebrities included Randall McDaniel, NFL Hall of Famer; Plaxico Burress, former New York Giants wide receiver and Super Bowl champion; Russ Ortiz, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and All-Star; DJ Irie, the official DJ for the Miami Heat; Alexa Pano and Allan Kournikova, the top-ranked junior golfers in the world at the time; and Theo Ratliff, a former NBA All-Star. Augusta native Jim Dent, who played on the PGA and Champions tours, made a surprise appearance at the event as well.

“We won’t know who the celebrities will be this year until the last minute,” says Peyton. “It depends on their schedules.”

Last year U.S. Army Sergeant Andrew Smith, who lost both legs in 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, earned his way to Tuesday for the Troops by winning his flight for wounded veterans.

sports-DJ-Irie-and-Joe-Caley“Golf became a passion after I was injured,” he says. “It was part of my therapy.”

The Chattanooga, Tennessee resident used to play golf occasionally on weekends with his dad and his brother before he was injured. Afterward, his therapist put a golf club in his hands and told him to swing it to work on his balance.

“The tournament was less about the competition and more about the camaraderie. They made a lot of new friends,” says Peyton. “For Andrew Smith, a double amputee, to hit a ball 200 yards, it’s a pretty special thing to witness.”

Hemann, who calls the wounded veterans the true celebrities, agrees.

“It’s great to see. It’s a really happy day, and I think they have a great time. There are a lot of conversations, a lot of picture taking and a lot of laughing, he says. “When someone makes a great shot, we hear a lot of cheering that we don’t normally hear on a golf course. You can see the bond among the veterans, and it is so inspirational seeing people that have had devastating injuries overcome them.”

Smith, a Purple Heart recipient who was part of the 82nd Airborne Division, went to a Masters practice round for the first time last year. “It’s cool to be on the golf course. It’s extremely special,” says Smith. “It’s one thing you never think you’re going to do in life.”

Peyton met Ben Crenshaw at the practice round last year when he saw him on the golf course and introduced himself to the two-time Masters champion. “It was really cool to shake his hand and get a couple of moments to talk to him,” Peyton says.

However, he is just as happy to help provide an unforgettable experience for his fellow veterans. “For 99 percent of them, this was their first time at the Masters. They all became little kids and had the biggest smiles on their faces when they came back,” Peyton says.

sports-Cedrick-King,-Andrew-Smith-and-Josh-WetzelLife-Changing Experience
While golf can help veterans recover from physical and emotional disabilities, Peyton says the sport also gives them hope and makes them feel whole again.

“Veterans have gone through some really dark moments. A lot of them suffer from PTSD and other combat-related injuries. A lot of VGAs are using golf as a recovery tool for veterans to make their lives normal again,” says Peyton. “Veterans have seen bad things, been injured or had a bad experience from the VA system. We’re all about post-traumatic growth. Having a positive experience from golf is important to them to help them change their lives.”

Peyton underwent two years of surgeries to save his right hand after a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq in 2011.

“Supporting veterans is a big deal. It makes a big difference in a lot of veterans’ lives. They need positive stories, and they need to set goals for themselves,” he says. “Tuesday for the Troops does that for them. It motivates them to earn a trip to the national championship, and especially to the Masters. If you set goals for yourself, you can achieve them.”

He also says golf rekindles a trait that they all have in common.

“The one quality that all veterans share with each other is competition – the competition to be number one and the competition to never fail. Veterans have a desire and a will to succeed,” Peyton says. “Golf is a sport where you don’t have to be the tallest or the fastest. You just have to be determined and put in the time to see positive results. It’s one sport where disabled individuals can compete against able-bodied individuals through the handicap system.”

Hemann, who says the wounded veterans expect no special treatment, looks forward to Tuesday for the Troops. Ditto for Peyton.

“It’s a life-changing experience to go to Augusta. It’s a way for us to give back, and it’s a token of our appreciation for their service to our country,” says Peyton. “These are the guys that are true American heroes in my eyes. They’re all over the country, and they love to play golf. We would love for the entire community to get involved through sponsorships or donations.” 

For more information about the VGA, visit

By Betsy Gilliland


Shrimp & Grits with Andouille Sausage

  • shrimp and grits1 cup grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 green onions, sliced 
  • Cook grits per package instructions until tender. Stir in butter and cheese; set aside. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook sausage about 3 minutes and set aside. Toss shrimp in Cajun seasoning and add to pan. Cook about 2-3 minutes and set aside. Add broth and tomato paste and simmer 3-5 minutes. Add sausage and shrimp, season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in cream and remove from heat. Place grits in individual bowls and top with shrimp and sausage mixture. Garnish with green onions and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Herbert Judon


Herbert JudonAugusta Regional Airport Executive Director

Number of years in position: 10 Months

Family: Wife, Satonia; son, Brentson; and daughter, Skylar 

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: First, I love the energy associated with airports and aviation and the variety that each day brings. Second, I love helping people. Thus, the customer service component of airports. Third, being in a leadership role, I am cognizant of the opportunity and responsibility to serve and help others.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: I am new to the CSRA and have yet to adopt any local charitities. However, I have been a consistent contributor to United Way, faith establishments and many other national organizations. The last several years I have also randomly selected a family in need and provided financial support, food or gifts during the holiday season.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: I recently relocated here from Charlotte and worked for the Charlotte-Douglas Airport. Making the decision to leave my previous job and city was difficult. To be honest, I was very comfortable and established in my role, and had lived in the city for more than 25 years. Taking the leap of faith to accept my current job, move to a new region and uproot my family was a significant step. I can recall a former coworker telling me to approach each change in life as a “new adventure” and seize all of the challenge, excitement and novelty that each new season of your life/career brings. She was correct. I have transitioned very well and am extremely happy I decided to move to this region. I have never looked back and am “all in” in terms of wanting to be a key leader to help enhance the quality of life and business within the CSRA. 

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Serving as a military commander during a year-long deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite many tough challenges and numerous combat missions, I was able to accomplish the mission and return all of my men and women back home to their families.

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: I don’t have any specific things I do on Saturday afternoons. I am constatntly working around the home or, at times, attending family events. Many Saturdays I will participate in a running event or exercise in the mornings. When in season, I typically will watch a college basketball game on Saturday afternoons. 

Favorite TV Show: “The Practice” (former show) 

Favorite Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite Sports Team: University of Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

Favorite Comfort Food: My mother is from Louisiana. I love traditional Cajun foods such as gumbo and other Louisiana/Southern-themed cooking.

Favorite App: ESPN

Last Book Read: Turbulence Before Takeoff by Flint Whitlock 

Dream Vacation: I would like to take a trip to Israel and do a Holy Land tour. I would love to see all of the places where Jesus and many other biblical figures lived. I could only imagine the feelings of awe and all the other myriad of emotions one would experience. 

Something That Has Changed My Life: Becoming a father. I had my first child in my late 30s and have never taken for granted the miraculous experience and privilege of being a parent. My mother was, and still is, such a great role model in terms of conveying kindness, unconditional love and selflessness as a parent. I try my best to follow her example.

Best Thing I Ever Learned: To listen more and talk less. Listening has become somewhat of a lost art. It seems as though everyone is trying to talk over one another or attempting to be the most dominant voice in the room. As a leader, I think listening is important not only for greater comprehension of issues but also to catch the fine details and to convey humility and empathy.

Favorite Hobbies: Deep and insightful conversation 

Secret Aspiration: If I wasn’t doing what I do, I think I could have excelled in the music industry. I have no talent in terms of performing, but I do have a natural connection and comprehension to all types of music. I may have had a propensity for one of the “behind the scenes” roles such as management, production, writing, etc.

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: I think I would be good at “Jeopardy.” When I was a child I used to read encyclopedias for hours, read lots of nonfiction books and watch documentaries and news. I tend to know a lot of facts and figures that are useless in most contexts. 

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I have traveled to more than 30 countries in my lifetime.

Foot Traffic

Foot Traffic

Photos courtesy of Sandy Straw and the Hike Inn

Take a five-mile trek through the north Georgia mountains to discover Hike Inn

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and so, too, does a visit to Hike Inn in Dawsonville, Georgia. Fortunately, however, a mere five-mile trek will get visitors to the front porch of the picturesque inn in the north Georgia mountains. Of course, on foot is also the only way to reach the aptly named Hike Inn.

Trail Mix
The easy-to-moderate trail that leads to Hike Inn begins at the parking area at the top of Amicalola Falls. One of the most popular mountain trails in Georgia, it also is one of the state’s most beautiful and diverse. The trail, which takes two to four hours to complete, crosses small streams and traverses mild ridges. Hikers also amble past hickory, pine and oak trees along the way. 

Foot Traffic“Some people think that our inn is just for hard-core hikers, but that’s not the case,” says Eric Graves, executive director of Hike Inn. “We’ve had visitors as young as 3 and as old as 84. The trail isn’t particularly difficult, and visitors can take their time hiking.”

Marked by lime green rectangular blazes, the trail is easy to follow. The trail briefly joins with the blue-blazed 4.4-mile Approach Trail that leads to Springer Mountain, the official southern terminus of the famed 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail, and “Backpacker” magazine recognizes it as one of 36 “Best American Hikes.”

To reach Hike Inn, which sits on a mountainside in the Chattahoochee National Forest, travelers only need to carry a daypack with toiletries and a camera, of course.

Foot TrafficGuests make the trek to Hike Inn for a variety of reasons. Some come to escape the hustle and bustle of their hectic, everyday lives. Others simply want to spend quality time with the friends and family, with a girlfriend getaway or small group outing. More ambitious hikers sometimes make the trip before setting off on the Appalachian Trail. Regardless of their reasons, however, guests find the same relaxing amenities at the end of the trail.

Rustic Comfort
Operated by a Georgia Appalachian Trail Club affiliate and owned by the state Department of Natural Resources, Hike Inn is a sustainably designed state park facility.

Foot TrafficThe 20 rustic rooms include bunk beds, linens, blankets, pillows, towels, washcloths, lights, shelves, a sitting stool and a mirror. The bunkrooms also include a number of ways to stay warm or cool, depending on the time of year. While the rooms have electrical lighting, there are no outlets for cell phones, personal computers or alarm clocks. In other words, leave modern technology at home, and enjoy the natural surroundings. Oh, and there is no room service, either.

The lack of room service, however, does not mean that guests don’t receive a little well-deserved pampering. Whether guests work up a sweat or an appetite – or both – during their five-mile hike, the inn can take care of each.

The bathhouse, where guests can find a hot shower and a fresh towel, might be the most appreciated amenity at Hike Inn. Separate facilities for men and women include two showers in each section, plenty of sinks for washing up and odor-free, waterless composting toilets. And just in case anyone is undergoing withdrawal symptoms from the lack of outlets in the bunkrooms, the bathhouse has electrical outlets for blow dyers.

Foot TrafficDinner and breakfast are served family-style at long picnic tables and benches to encourage guests and staff members to get to know one another. Dinner is served at 6 p.m., and it might include chicken, pork or roast beef with vegetables, macaroni and cheese, salad and bread. Desserts and coffee round out the evening meal. Breakfast is on the table at 8 a.m., and the aroma of eggs, grits, sausage or bacon, apple cornbread or biscuits is sure to entice guests from their bunks.

Self-serve beverages are available all day long, and trail lunches are available upon request.

Foot TrafficSimpler Times
During some seasons in the evenings, staff members meet guests at the trailhead for a photography or wildflower walk or to listen to nocturnal sounds. After a good night’s sleep, some guests take the 8.8-mile round-trip hike to Springer Mountain the next day. 

Of course, not everyone who visits Hike Inn, which is open year-round, comes for nonstop hiking. The Sunrise Room provides guests with a library, board games, puzzles and a cherry wood-burning stove. A wraparound porch offers an eastern-facing view, and many guests – yes, even without their alarm clocks – get up early to enjoy daybreak.

A daily tour at 5 p.m. showcases Hike Inn’s sustainable features such as the red wriggler worm composting beds and the recycled barrels that harvest rainwater.

“Part of our mission is to show how buildings and people can have a minimal impact on our environment,” says Graves. “Kids love checking out the worm beds that we use for composting. Diners are encouraged to not waste food. We have earned LEED certification for our construction and management practices.”

Other evening programs include regional and historical storytelling, discussions about local flora and fauna, and games of “Hike Inn Pictionary” and “Appalachian Trivial Pursuit.”

Some people simply prefer to relax in an Adirondack chair on the Sunrise Room porch or at Star Base, a massive granite block formation that channels the rising sun through a cylindrical hole to the back of a small cave behind the formation. Designed by Atlanta’s Fernbank Science Center, Star Base marks the extremes of the summer and winter solstices, as well as the four main points of the compass. Both spots offer a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Regardless of the activities they choose to pursue, however, guests simply can enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains without the distractions of modern life. 

If You Go: 

What: Hike Inn

Where: Dawsonville, Georgia

How Much: From $122 per room for single occupancy; from $175 per room for double occupancy. Prices include dinner and breakfast. Reservations required. All guests must check in at the Amicalola Falls State Park Visitor’s Center by 2 p.m. 

More Info: (800) 581-8032 or

By Todd Beck

Rick Crawford


PYSK-MarchExecutive Vice-President, Security Federal Bank

Number of years in position: 9

Family: Daughters Lisa Land and Kelley Strickland, son Ricky Crawford and four grandchildren

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: Security Federal Bank’s tag line “Helping People, Changing Lives” is the way we do business. My position gives me the opportunity to work with our employees to deliver our products and services in a professional manner. To have a positive impact on the success of our employees and the financial well-being of our customers is very gratifying. 

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: I have been fortunate to be involved in several community groups and organizations. Currently, I am chairman of the Columbia County Soil & Water Conservation District, a member of the Columbia County Recreation Department Advisory Board and vice chairman of the Columbia County Community Connections Board.  I was also past chairman of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

I have always tried to serve on boards that have an opportunity to improve the quality of life in Columbia County, whether it’s conservation education, protecting our natural resources or helping areas like business, tourism or recreation grow. Each has a positive impact on this community. 

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: My wife of 34 years was diagnosed with cancer May 5, 1989 and was never cancer free until she went to a better place September 16, 2014. Being a caregiver throughout those years was a blessing in disguise. I don’t consider it an obstacle; I was given the opportunity to share her faith and strength, which helped make me a better person. I was lucky enough to have the constant support of family, friends and my employer, and for that I am very grateful.

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: My three children. I enjoy watching each of them grow, raise a family and be successful. They are all still here in the area, and we have a very close relationship. 

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: Doing yard work. I enjoy working on different landscaping ideas for the different seasons and maintaining the existing yard. 

Favorite TV Show: “The Big Bang Theory.” It has pretty good delivery and timing, is funny and easy to follow, and the girl is kind of cute.

Favorite Movie: Armageddon. Any movie that involves a few rednecks going up in space, landing on a meteor and blowing it up to save the world is entertaining.

Favorite Sports Team: Atlanta Falcons — and I’m not just on the bandwagon. I have been going to Falcons games since the ’80s.

Favorite Comfort Food: I don’t really have a favorite comfort food. I usually eat for nourishment not enjoyment; but a good glass of red wine and a steak sound good right now.

Favorite App: Facebook. Is there any other venue where you are able to know what your neighbor is doing or had for lunch and also know the same thing about someone on the other side of the country? 

Last Book Read: The last book I read was Starting at The Top: Learning the Nuances of Executive Leadership by Pat Blanchard. Pat and I are cousins, and I have had the pleasure of watching him evolve into an outstanding leader in the Columbia County/Augusta community. The book is about his relationship with certain mentors in the area and their impact on his professional career. 

Dream Vacation: Dream vacations are not something I think about. However, any place with sun, sand and saltwater will do.

Something That Has changed My Life:  My relationship and marriage to Cindy drastically changed my life. During her illness I learned how to set priorities. Things that seemed important usually aren’t. 

Best Thing I Ever Learned: Treat people fairly and with respect. 

Favorite Hobbies: I don’t have any hobbies unless you consider my yard work skills. It is very comforting to me to be outside and be a small part of nature.

Secret Aspiration:  I have used this comment for a long time: Making the world a better place, one person at a time. Some people have told me that sounds arrogant, but helping someone can be contagious. 

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: I don’t watch reality TV, so anything that involves no talent or skills would be my choice.

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: My children will probably disagree, but I am a great cook. I don’t have any recipes to share; you will have to take my word for it.