Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Ghoul Power

In The Home
home

Photography by Haley Lamb

There’s no disguising a lifelong love of Halloween – or a weakness for witches – in this West Lake home.

Ever since she was a little girl, West Lake resident Debbie Clark has loved Halloween. 

“I grew up in a small town, and Halloween was a lot of fun,” she says. “We always had a big party at our school.”

The party has continued into adulthood for Debbie, and her family and friends have joined in the fun along the way. Every year Debbie decorates her home, where she and husband Lee have lived since 2003, with Halloween decorations that she has accumulated for 30 years.

Surrounded by witches and pumpkins and candy corn every October, Lee has no choice but to love the holiday. And Debbie can decorate with no double, double toil and trouble because Lee has one job to perform each year.

“He brings all the stuff down from the attic and puts it back up in the attic,” says Debbie.

Side-Porch-1Witches, Ghosts and Pumpkins
Evidence that the Clark residence is a happening Halloween house is apparent before anyone even steps foot inside. Two pumpkins sit on the brick front porch, where a quartet of witches could hold a convention on four black rocking chairs. One pumpkin rests beside a witch while the other sits next to a trio of black cats. Six white columns stand in a row along the porch, but one of them is the true marker that Halloween has arrived at the Clark house. The column is the landing spot for a gray-haired, black-clad, pointy purple-hatted, broom-riding witch that has crashed into it.

“I have had the witch for the longest time,” says Debbie. “That was my daughter’s favorite decoration for Halloween. She’s now 31, but I still put it up.”

Healthy ferns – that look as if they have been fed a magic potion to help them grow – spill out of the sides of two black planters, which could double as cauldrons for a witch’s brew. 

Across the threshold through the front door, even the pumpkins dress up for Halloween. At the foot of the stairs, two pumpkins clad in wedding attire greet guests. The “bride” wears a white veil and a white boa while her well-dressed “groom” sports a black top hat and black bowtie. Spider “rings” dangle from each of their hands. Debbie put the bride and groom pumpkins together for a fall wedding shower for a friend’s daughter, and they fit in perfectly with her décor. The faceless couple are typical of the pumpkins – not jack-o’-lanterns – around the house. “I can sew a costume, but I can’t carve a pumpkin,” Debbie says. 

Dining-Room-Table-CengterpieceIn the dining room, the table features an orange polka-dotted table runner underneath a shorter runner with spider webs on either end. A pair of black, oversized witch’s shoes filled with burlap, gourds and pine cones serves as the centerpiece.

“I found the shoes several years ago. I fell in love with them. I thought, ‘They have to go home with me,’” Debbie says. “I just thought they were cute and fun. I fill them with something different every year.”

There are signs of Halloween throughout the house – literally – as well. A cloth banner on the back of a dining room chair says, “Come fly with me.” On the dining room table, a small sign reads, “Hanging with my Ghoul Friends.”

 Debbie really takes those words to heart. Every October she has a Halloween costume party for the women in her neighborhood bunko group.

On a small chest, ghost and witch candles keep a close eye on all of the Halloween happenings around the house. The candles are nestled in gobs of candy corn that fill clear candleholders of all sizes. Showing her practical side, Debbie saves the candy corn from one year to the next.

On the opposite side of the room, a three-tiered stand is covered with Halloween petit fours. Round orange pumpkin petit fours are mixed together with square cakes with white icing that are decorated with ghosts or pumpkins. 

“All of this is an accumulation of things,” says Debbie. “Most of my friends know I love Halloween, so a lot of this stuff has been given to me through the years.”

Den-Witch-&-PlanterWords to Live By
A collection of witches can be found throughout the house – Debbie has a thing for witches –  and her favorite decoration is a papier mache witch stationed by the fireplace in the den. A jack-o’-lantern planter filled with spider mums sits next to the witch, which is dressed in green from her pointy hat to her pointy shoes.

Witch legs clad in silver-and-black-striped stockings and red heels poke out of two black cauldrons on the mantel, and an orange grapevine wreath, topped with a purple witch’s hat, occupy the center of the mantel. A cluster of black or white painted pumpkins, decorated with polka dots or stripes, is grouped in front of the wreath. 

The den features hardwood flooring and built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace. Using a bit of Halloween sorcery, Debbie wrapped orange netting around a stand that she topped with a witch hat and placed on the bookcase. “I thought the stand was kind of ugly, so I just wrapped it to make it look a little better,” she says.

Gold pumpkins line the top of a secretary, and a Department 56 Halloween village is set up on the writing area of the secretary. Another witch, which was given to Debbie by a friend, dangles from the ceiling fan chain. Small orange, black and white painted pumpkins, also adorned with stripes and polka dots, fill a big bowl on the round glass coffee table in the den.

In the adjoining kitchen, which features granite countertops and hardwood flooring, a two-tiered stand on the counter is full of gourds. Orange pumpkins are scattered around the kitchen as well, and two wine bottles clad in witch and ghost costumes stand sentry on a side counter.

Of course, since Debbie has her practical side, the kitchen isn’t as decorated as the rest of the house. “I can’t work around all my decorations,” says Debbie, who likes to cook.

A pumpkin filled with spider mums bring a touch of the holiday to the deck off of the den. On the side porch, a pumpkin, a witch hat and a sign that says, “Come On In My Pretties” add to the Halloween décor. The doormat reveals Halloween words to live by – “Eat, Drink and Be Scary.” 

Side-Porch-2Tastefully Tacky 
The Clarks have lived in the area since 1979, and Debbie thought it would be fun to decorate for Halloween after they bought their first house. She starts decorating for Halloween at the end of September, and it takes her a couple of days to finish the décor. Of course, those boxes of Halloween goodies that Lee brings down from the attic are carefully labeled and stored. (He’s better than waving a magic wand.)

And one of Debbie’s favorite thing about her Halloween décor is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. She gets a lot of her decorations from discount stores, and Fat Man’s was one of her favorite haunts back in the day.

“I’m always on the lookout for things,” she says. “I started with it because it can actually be tacky, and it’s OK. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

While Debbie celebrates the holiday all month long, the festivities come to a thrilling, chilling finish on Halloween night with a neighborhood block party on their cul-de-sac. “We set up tables and wear costumes, and we have lots of trick-or-treaters,” says Debbie. “It’s so much fun.”

By Betsy Gilliland

No-Bake Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Desserts
  • No-Bake-Caramel-Apple-Cheesecake1 1/2 cups (1 1/2 sleeves) chocolate graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 3 Braeburn or Honey Crisp apples
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cans apple pie filling, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton Cool Whip
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish

Place graham crackers in a food processor and process until fine crumbs. Empty into a medium bowl; add sugar and 6 tablespoons melted butter. Mix well. Press crumb mixture onto bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Chill 5 to 10 minutes in the freezer until set. 

Peel, core and slice apples. Sauté in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat 4-5 minutes until cooked through; set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Gently stir in the apple pie filling and whipped topping. Spread over the prepared crust. Spoon caramel sauce evenly over top of cheesecake. Garnish with cooked apple slices in a pinwheel pattern. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Lightly garnish with cinnamon before serving.

Down to a Fine Art

People

Down to a Fine ArtThe timing might be different, but Art in the Park Fall Fest should feel reassuringly familiar to local fine and performing arts lovers.

Usually held in the spring, the annual Art in the Park got rained out after about an hour in May. It’s back with a fall twist, however, and many of the same local and regional fine arts vendors that set up booths at the previous event are expected to return this month.

In addition to vendors’ booths, the event will feature entertainment by local performing arts groups throughout the day, a sidewalk chalk contest and children’s activities. Food vendors include Chick-fil-A and Big D’s BBQ. 

“If Fall Fest goes well, we could have the event two times a year,” says Regina Brejda, Columbia County Arts Inc. president.

Columbia County Ballet will kick of the entertainment with a fall-themed performance. Other performers will include Musical Theatre Workshops, VOCE, Suzuki Strings of Augusta, Patrick Duncan, Denise Mundy, Harmony River Chorus, Augusta Youth Dance, Kane & Co. Dance Productions and Augusta Junior Players. 

Attendees can explore their creative talents by tie-dying T-shirts or entering the popular sidewalk chalk contest. The sidewalk chalk contest features competitions between local public and private elementary, middle and high schools. Individuals also can compete in a separate contest for a $20 registration fee, which includes chalk. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners in each category.

In addition, Brejda says, “Nonprofit art organizations will be awarded their grant checks at the closing ceremony of the event.”

If You Go: 

What: Art in the Park Fall Fest

When: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, October 14

Where: Columbia County Library Amphitheatre

How Much: Free admission; food and beverage vendors will be on site

More Info: columbiacountyarts.org; columbiacountyarts@gmail.com; Regina Brejda, (706) 267-6724 or Jillian Decker, (706) 730-5273

Southern Blood — Gregg Allman

Listen To This

Southern Blood — Gregg AllmanThere’s truly no finer representation of Southern grit and soul mixed with rock ’n’ roll than the late Gregg Allman. Alongside his brother Duane and a revolving 18-pack of rebel rockers, Allman wrote, performed and authenticated the blueprint for Southern Rock and Blues-fusion music.

Though the lineup may have changed over time, the iconic gravel of Southern comfort that embodies the vocal style of Allman remains as true and familiar as fresh-cut grass on a Georgia backroad.

In recent years, Allman was faced with journeys that took his health down some dark paths, and as the inevitable sunset was casting long shadows on a life well-lived, he decided to clear one more pathway in his sonic legacy. Southern Blood was recorded shortly after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Concerned that his illness might win, he set the clock and pace for nothing short of a brilliant composition of songs.

Most artists who release an album during the dusk of life typically depend on mix arrangements and vocal enhancements to carry the weight, but Allman’s signature voice is robust and powerful in range and resonance. Every track on Southern Blood is a treasure, but he sums his life and love perfectly to a muse on “My Only True Friend.”

“You and I both know, this river will surely flow to an end/Keep me in your heart… I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul… But you and I both know the road is my only true friend….”

- Chris Rucker

Play Ball!

Sports
Play Ball!

Photos courtesy of Marvin Hudson

The 2017 Major League baseball season may be winding down, but it got off to a pretty good start for Washington, Georgia resident Marvin Hudson. He had the best spot in the house as the home plate umpire at the Atlanta Braves’ opening game in the team’s new Sun Trust Park.

If the start of this season was auspicious, however, then the end of last season was even better. Hudson was the third base umpire in the deciding seventh game of the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year drought to win the Fall Classic by defeating the Cleveland Indians.

Exclusive Club
It may not have taken the 53-year-old Hudson, who became a Major League umpire in 1999, quite as long as it took the Cubs, who until last year had not won a National League pennant since 1945, to make it to the World Series. And he didn’t have to contend with years of frustration, the curse of the Billy Goat and an infamous foul ball that haunted Cubs fans for decades. However, the thrill of reaching the pinnacle of his profession – and sharing it with those who matter most to him – was just as real for Hudson.

“My biggest thrill was having my wife, Sherry, daughter Breckyn and son Zack at the games,” he says. “Just seeing my family enjoying the thrill of the games and being in that electrified atmosphere made it all worth it.”

Hudson was one of four members of the seven-man crew that was umpiring a World Series for the first time.

3.-Hudson-(second-from-right)-at-the-2016-World-SeriesWhile he was in an exclusive club with his Fall Classic assignment, the nature of his job puts him in a small coterie of professionals as well. Hudson is in a select fraternity of only 76 Major League umpires. Each year more than 300 prospects try out for the coveted positions.

“Few slots are available each year because of the low turnover rate, and some veteran umpires may serve 30 years or more,” Hudson says.

The prospective umpires are under strict scrutiny by their superiors and Major League Baseball. Each pitch in every game is recorded, and umpires are graded as to whether they miscalled a ball or a strike.

The former baseball player for Piedmont College, where he was inducted in the Demorest, Georgia school’s Sports Hall of Fame in February, decided to become an umpire at the urging of his friend, Doc Sisk. After Sisk encouraged him to try his hand at calling games, Hudson enrolled in professional umpire training school. Minor League Baseball Umpire Development has approved the curriculum for two training schools, which run for four to five weeks in January and February each year.

Hudson finished umpire school at the top of his class, and his first professional assignment came in the Appalachian League in 1992. He continued to pay his dues by calling games in the South Atlantic, Florida Instructional, Southern, Hawaii Winter and International leagues before breaking into the Majors in 1999. Most umpires spend seven to 10 years in the minor leagues – twice the amount of time it typically takes a baseball player to make his way through the ranks – before getting called up.

During training, instructors evaluate potential umpires on much more than their knowledge of baseball rules. Umpires must exhibit traits such as confidence, a strong presence on the field, knowledge of mechanics (where to go when the ball is hit), forceful calls, effective use of voice, hustle, character, good judgment and the ability to handle situations on the field. In short, baseball umpires must be able to represent the integrity of the game.

Play BallUmpires need to develop a thick skin – and decide just how much they’re willing to tolerate from players, managers and fans – to perform their duties as well. Hudson once tossed an unruly fan out of the stadium during a Southern League game in Memphis. He had words with the Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper and manager Matt Williams about a called strike before ejecting them in the third inning of a 2015 game against the New York Yankees.

Easy Call 
Umpiring in the Major Leagues is much more than calling ball or strike, fair or foul, safe or out, however. At training school, professional umpires also are taught how to conduct themselves on and off the field. And some of those off-field attributes translate into charitable work. Hudson serves as vice president of the board of directors of UMPS CARE, which provides financial, in-kind and emotional support for America’s youth and families in need. His wife serves on the Volunteer Wives Committee.

The mission of UMPS CARE is to put its creed – “Helping People is an Easy Call” – into action. The professional umpires enrich the lives of at-risk youth and children coping with serious illness by providing them with memorable baseball experiences. Through scholarship initiatives, the organization also offers financial support to children adopted later in life and to current and former members of the military. 

Having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others – as well as the chance to wear a Major League umpire’s uniform – have made the endless travel, grueling schedule and low pay in the minors all worthwhile. With patience, perseverance and focus on his goal, Hudson has achieved his dream. 

By Lamar Garrard 

Wine, Tapas and Song

People

Wine, Tapas and SongIt might be the heart of football season, but not every festivity has to revolve around a stadium and a tailgate. For instance, CSRA Wine Festival Inc. will kick off a party for wine and food lovers with its Coco Wine & Culinary Festival on Saturday, October 21 at West Lake Country Club.

The festival will feature more than 150 wines and various imported beers for sampling, along with tapas, live jazz music and a silent auction. Tapas will be provided by Augusta Technical College Culinary Program students, Abel Brown Southern Kitchen & Oyster Bar, P.F. Chang’s, Finch & Fifth and Sam’s Club.  Festivalgoers will receive a souvenir wine glass, and the jazz band Michael Whittington & A Step Up will provide entertainment. 

“It’s a great cultural event,” says Pat Goodwin, the festival CEO. “It gives people an opportunity to taste award-winning wines and great wines at average prices. As consumers, we see so many labels and brands. It’s confusing and intimidating. The festival educates people about the wines that are available to them. It’s also a great way to mix and mingle and make a new friend.” 

Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Easter Seals East Georgia and the Augusta Technical College Culinary Arts Program Educational Scholarship Endowment Fund. 

“We’re happy to support an individual at the culinary program. A great chef is going to come out of this area one day,” says Goodwin. “Easter Seals keeps individuals working who may not have gotten an opportunity elsewhere. I’m proud that we can be part of those programs. And we couldn’t do it without our distributors and Vineyard Wine Market. They really help make the event.”

Door prizes will be available, and Easter Seals will hold a silent auction as well. All of the proceeds from the silent auction will benefit Easter Seals, which helps people with disabilities and other special needs maximize opportunities for employment, independence and full inclusion in society. Some of the auction items include trips, golf packages, specialty item baskets, package deals for restaurants, fitness coupons, nail salon services and jewelry. 

“We’re very excited to collaborate together,” says Lynn Smith, the Easter Seals East Georgia president and CEO. “I hope people enjoy the day, learn about wonderful wines and try food from vendors and fabulous restaurants. They also have the opportunity to support organizations that are doing a lot of good in the community.”

All attendees must be at least 21 years old and show a photo ID. Advance tickets are available online and at Washington Road Storage, Bowles Construction Company, Easter Seals, South State Bank (Washington Road location only) and Vineyard Wine Market. 

If You Go:

What: Coco Wine & Culinary Festival 

When: 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, October 2 

Where: West Lake Country Club 

How Much: $50 in advance and $55 at the door; designated drivers $25 

More Info: csrawinefestival.com

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

Literary Loop

literary loopFrom the author of the #1 international best seller The Girl in the Spider’s Web, comes the newest book in the Millennium Series — The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz. The series began with the late Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Even Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo — the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others — has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. 

Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And she will let nothing stop her — not the Islamists she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the prison gang leader who passes a death sentence on her; not the deadly reach of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudoscientific experiment known only as The Registry

Once again, Lisbeth and Mikael, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

Promised Land

People

Promised LandThe best way to celebrate success is to share it with friends, and the Central Savannah River Land Trust takes a dual approach to that idea. Since 2001, the Land Trust has protected more than 7,300 acres of land in Georgia and South Carolina for future generations to enjoy. The nonprofit organization also shows its appreciation to the people who make its mission possible with its annual Bash on the Banks each October. 

“The Bash sells out every year,” says Bethany Surles, the Land Trust membership and events coordinator. “It’s a celebration of the Land Trust, our mission and the tremendous accomplishments we’ve made. It gives us a chance to say ‘thank you’ to people for their support.”

The 14th annual Bash on the Banks, held at River Island, will include an oyster roast, Southern food, live music, corn hole and a raffle.

Sweet Magnolia’s Deli and Grille in Pelion, South Carolina will serve Southern food, and The Unmentionables once again will provide music for the event. Raffle items include an adult and a children’s kayak, a clay shooting package and a turned wooden bowl by Dr. Dave Welter. In addition, local artist Richard Worth will paint a nature scene during the evening, and the acrylic will be auctioned off at the event. 

Funded entirely by donations and grants, the Land Trust concentrates its efforts on protecting large areas of natural habitat, the major sources of our drinking water, larger forests that purify the air and grand vistas that offer scenic views.

“The land is preserved forever, and these places are protected for families and the community to enjoy,” Surles says. “It’s an investment in our children’s future. We love that the area is growing, but we only have one planet.”

One of the Land Trust’s major conservation projects is the 262-acre Greystone Preserve in North Augusta. The site includes undulating hills, mature oak-hickory forests, creeks, granite outcroppings and wildflowers, including the rare, endangered Relict trillium. The Land Trust also is in the process of building an outdoor classroom at Greystone, and the classroom will include event space, organic gardens and miles of scenic trails.

The Land Trust has a number of projects underway in Columbia County as well. “We are currently focused on Crawford Creek, River Island and Sumter Landing,” says Surles. “This year we plan to add a couple hundred acres with the addition of Greenbrier Creek and Euchee Creek.”

If You Go:

What: Bash on the Banks

When: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday, October 12

Where: River Island clubhouse

How Much: $50 through September 30, price increases to $60 October 1; raffle tickets $20; drink tickets $5 

More Info: csrlt.org

Pat Goodwin CEO, CSRA Wine Festival Inc.

People

CEO, CSRA Wine Festival Inc.Number of years in position: 12

Family: Daughter and two grandchildren

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: We chose to reside in Columbia County, relocating back to Georgia from Birmingham, Alabama. I became involved in the area as I attended Leadership Augusta, Class of 2001. I learned a lot about our entire community, and I’ve met some wonderful people living here. A friend, who knew I enjoy food and wine, shared details about a culinary event held at Hilton Head Island. I attended the event and was convinced that we needed to have a food and wine event here. I felt that if I could create an event it would accomplish two things.

First, the event could raise funds and give back to a nonprofit organization or entity. Second, it could bring diverse people together for a common cause. That was my focus as I began developing the wine festival event in a volunteer role. As the event has grown, this has allowed us to provide funds to the Culinary Endowment Scholarship at Augusta Technical College. Looking forward, I want to see the event grow and have more educational components. I also want to invite local top chefs to be a part of this process.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: It’s important we contribute to making our communities better. Through the CSRA Wine Festival, we have given back to the American Cancer Society, CSRA Humane Society, the arts and primarily, the Culinary Endowment at Augusta Technical College. We added Easter Seals to the event this year, and we’re happy to help this wonderful group to continue and support its mission.

Both causes help support individuals who are productive and are a contributing component to the economic impact in our area. If you haven’t toured the Easter Seals facility, make a call and do so. If you haven’t observed or attended an event at Augusta Technical College conducted by the culinary class, you are missing out on a wonderful treat.

I also have been a volunteer on Leadership Augusta and Leadership Columbia County, assisting the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce in developing its first leadership program. I am passionate about economic development, and I was honored to serve on the Development Authority of Columbia County as chair of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau for several terms. I also have served the Augusta Chamber of Commerce, volunteering with the Red Carpet Tour, and as chair of the Capital Campaign Planning Committee and as chair of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. Currently, I am serving as secretary of the Columbia County Chamber and as a member of the Government Affairs Committee.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: It’s always a challenge to be able to change and adapt at any given time, and to stay calm and think through the what if’s. With the wine festival, I shared the concept with a local distributor, who laughed and told me I would never be able to make it happen. We both laugh about it now. I admit, I doubted myself at first. But as I did my research, I found that there were many obstacles and old laws on the books in Georgia. As a project manager, this helped pave the way to communicating with people and learning what I could and couldn’t do legally

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Always learning from each life experience and involving others. I previously worked at Southern Company for 29 years and at the Medical College of Georgia for 13 years, and I’m thankful I have been allowed to hire employees that have great potential and watch them grow. Today, I am appreciative of helping mentor younger leaders to become more involved and to give back to their communities.

What Your Childhood Self Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: An airline stewardess

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: I have worked as a Realtor at Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate Company for four years, and I love conducting open houses and meeting people.

Favorite TV Show: I’m a Food Network and HGTV junkie.

Favorite Movie:Sleepless in Seattle

Favorite Sports Team: Atlanta Falcons – whether they win or lose

Favorite Comfort Food: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Favorite App: Intuit Quickbooks Mobile for my iPhone

Last Book Read:The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Dream Vacation: I would love to go on a California wine tour. It’s just an experience I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m adding it to my bucket list.

Something That Has Changed My Life: My faith, children and best friend.

Best Thing I Ever Learned: Have faith in people and in yourself. There are strengths and positives in each person, and you need to know them first to help guide and mentor them where they can be successful. In other words, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

One Word You Would Use to Describe Yourself: Persistent

Favorite Hobbies: Traveling

Secret Aspiration: To become a food writer or critic in my spare time

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: “Wheel of Fortune” 

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I knew nothing about planning a wine festival, and before I started doing that, I only knew there were two types of wine – red or white.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night

Community Groups in Action

LighttheNightAugustaWalk252A cancer diagnosis for an individual or a loved one can be one of a person’s darkest hours. With Light the Night, however, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society brings hope to those who are battling blood cancers.

This year, the area Light the Night will be held Saturday, October 21 at Evans Towne Center Park. Registration begins at 5 p.m., and the walk begins at 7:30 p.m. The event will conclude with a fireworks display about 8:30 p.m.

“It will be more of an event now than an actual walk,” says Marci Miller, Light the Night campaign manager for the local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chapter. “We will have a variety of family friendly activities. During part of the ceremony, we will have a survivors’ circle where survivors come to a certain spot and a light will shine through the middle of the group to make it more of an experience.”

Lanterns of different colors will be distributed to participants as well. Survivors will receive white lanterns; supporters will carry red lanterns; those who have lost someone to cancer will have gold lanterns. 

“The different colors of lanterns lit up really provide a dramatic perspective on just how widespread cancer is as well as how it can be overcome as a result of the great research that organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society make possible,” says Phil Alexander, CallingPost founder.

LighttheNightAugustaWalk235Currently, 75 teams have registered for the event, and the fundraising goal is $280,000. Proceeds from the event go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“We are a national organization with a local presence,” Miller says. “Our chapter provides co-pay assistance for local residents and education for people when they initially are diagnosed.”

The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma and to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Because there are no means of prevention or early screening for most blood cancers, the LLS research agenda focuses on finding cures.

For more information, visit lightthenight.org.

On the Homefront

What's New 2017

what's newAccording to Strickland, community members have indicated that they want to limit residential development in the county. 

“The county will limit growth in the William Few and Appling areas. We will preserve rural areas in the county to provide two different lifestyles for folks,” he says. “Some want quick access to areas, and others want a rural lifestyle.

Nevertheless, near the Pumpkin Center area of Appling Harlem Road, a new residential development called Greenpoint eventually could have 600 homes. “It will be six to eight months before construction gets underway,” says Strickland. 

Existing neighborhoods also continue to grow. For instance, Riverwood Plantation is expanding with new sections in Mitchell Park and on Franklin Ridge. More new homes also are being built in neighborhoods such as Canterbury Farms in Grovetown and Whispering Pines off of William Few Parkway. Jones Ferry off of Furys Ferry Road is almost complete as well.

Property on Hardy-McManus has been rezoned for residential use. “We’ll start to see a couple of neighborhoods be constructed in the next year,” says Strickland. 

In Grovetown, Euchee Lake on Harlem-Grovetown Road will feature 53 single-family homes upon completion. Across from Euchee Lake, the site has been cleared for Caroleton, a neighborhood of 106 single-family dwellings, and sewer lines are being extended west from Grove Landing, which just added 45 more homes, for the new neighborhood as well. 

Two new residential areas in varying stages of construction are being built on former mobile home sites in Grovetown. Ground has been broken at George and Bennett streets for the construction of Highland Hills, a 10-building, 80-unit apartment complex. Joiner Crossing, which includes 83 townhomes off of Katherine Street, should be completed this year. 

Construction on Grovetown Crossing, which features 40 townhomes on Dodge Lane, also should finish this year.

In addition, construction has started on the first phase of Brighton Landing at Wrightsboro Road and Horizon South Parkway in a newly annexed portion of Grovetown. This phase features 73 single-family homes, and Waller says the second phase could include townhomes. He says construction on this neighborhood could continue through 2024. 

A bridge across Euchee Creek, which connects phases I and II of Deer Hollow, has been finished as well. “The bridge allows us to go from phase to phase without having to get back on Wrightsboro Road,” says Waller. 

According to Waller, the city also is reviewing plans for McCoy’s Creek, a Richmond County neighborhood that extends into the Grovetown city limits.

Harlem has approved three new neighborhoods – West Forrest, Hickory Woods and Cornerstone Phase III – this year.

“Harlem is the last area in Columbia County that is undeveloped,” says Cook. “People want to live in Columbia County because of the schools. The X factor for everything is that Fort Gordon’s new gate will be in Harlem. The key for us is to focus on transportation and traffic.” 

Roads have been built in West Forrest, and home construction is expected to begin this fall. The neighborhood will have 60 to 70 homes. Construction at Hickory Woods, which will have about 150 homes, will begin in the winter or early spring. Cornerstone will feature about 150 homes as well.

Another residential construction project, Hardy Station, is expected to break ground in the spring off of Harlem-Grovetown Road. Plans also are underway for an 88-unit townhome community, which has not yet been named.

In addition, Cook says, “We’re seeing buildout in all of our existing subdivisions.”

Opening Up Shop

What's New 2017

what's newStrickland expects commercial development in the county to continue at a rapid pace through 2019.

“It improves the quality of life for our residents when we have retail and services in our community,” Strickland says. “It supports our traffic infrastructure when folks don’t have to drive too far to get services.”

The first phase of construction is underway at The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, which is designed to be a walkable, multi-use downtown area in the heart of Columbia County. The first phase of the project, a public-private venture between the county and Meybohm Development Group, includes the Meybohm building, greenspace, streetscape and sidewalks. In addition to housing Meybohm headquarters, the four-story building will include restaurant, retail and professional space as well as a rooftop terrace. According to Strickland, the goal is to complete the first phase before Masters Week 2018. 

Upon completion of the entire project, the 22-acre site will include about 60,000 square feet of professional space and almost 75,000 square feet of retail space.

More retail options are heading to Columbia County as well. Belk is expected to open in Mullins Crossing II this month, and Madison’s Closet is coming to Riverwood Town Center. Retail and professional space also is under construction at the corner of Halali Farm and Washington roads.

Southeastern, an Augusta-based real estate and commercial brokerage firm that serves seven states throughout the Southeast, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new office in Evans in June. A new Anytime Fitness location opened in September in the Riverwood area, and Christian Brothers Automotive has a new location on Washington Road next to Sherwin-Williams.

Some local businesses with familiar names have moved to new locations. Mish Mash relocated from Washington Road to Grand Slam Drive in Evans in August, and Studio 285 hair salon and Tiffinie Bleu Bridal Boutique have moved from Grand Slam Drive to the nearby Carraway Crossing. Maras, a new clothing boutique, was slated to open in Carraway Crossing this fall.

Residents who want to pamper their pets can take their dogs and cats to the new Boarding and Grooming at Ivy Falls or Garden City Pet, a pet supply store in the Centre at Furys Ferry in Martinez. People who want to pamper themselves can visit The Blush & Glow Studio, a new airbrush and sunless tanning service business, which also is in the Centre at Furys Ferry. 

In Grovetown a new Family Dollar store has opened in the Shops at Summerfield on Robinson Avenue, and an Ace Hardware opened on Wrightsboro Road in late 2016. A new self-storage facility, also on Robinson Avenue, should open by the end of the year. 

The way that the city conducts business for its residents is changing as well. In August the city of Grovetown broke ground on its new $23 million wastewater treatment plant – the second phase of the four-phase project. Currently, Waller says, “We send two-thirds of our wastewater to Columbia and Richmond counties to be treated.” 

The first phase – the construction of the headworks facility – started in May. The third and fourth phases, which include the sewer system, piping and forced main, should get underway in mid- to late 2018. “In the spring of 2019, the plant will be fully operational,” says Waller. 

Renovations to Grovetown’s Department of Public Safety on East Robinson Avenue also were completed in August. The project included four new bays for the fire department next door. “All of our police officers are in station 1 now. It is a combination police department and fire station,” Waller says. “In the past our police officers were at station 1 and at the public safety annex.” 

Court and probation services remain at the annex two blocks away on Robinson Avenue. “We’re thinking of other uses we can come up with for the annex,” says Waller.

Waller also is involved with the CSRA Regional Commission’s land use survey for Fort Gordon. “The intent is to make sure the operations of the post don’t have an adverse effect on neighboring communities and the operations of neighboring communities don’t have an adverse effect on the post,” he says. “We have to balance the needs of the post with the needs of the community.” 

To keep community operations from interfering with Fort Gordon activities, says Waller, the commission could recommend that neighboring municipalities adopt new ordinances pertaining to issues such as noise, lights and cell tower locations. 

“Fort Gordon is a big draw to Grovetown right now,” Waller says. “It is bringing soldiers, contractors and their families to the area. People want to live close to the post, so we can expect continued residential growth.” 

The closure of Gate 2 to Fort Gordon (which still could be used for special events) across from Robinson Avenue and installation of a new gate at the intersection of Parham Road and Gordon Highway in 2019 is expected to move traffic further west. “There will be less traffic on Robinson Avenue, but Harlem probably will see an increase in traffic,” says Waller.

Medical Alert

What's New 2017

what's newThe medical community continues to expand in Columbia County as well. Savannah River Dermatology opened its new office on Furys Ferry Road earlier this year. The dermatology practice occupies the bulk of the 12,000-square-foot facility, and the building also includes 2,500 square feet of leasable space.

In May Myers Family Dental moved into a new building on one side of the dermatology practice, and on the other side site work is underway for Augusta Plastic Surgery, which will relocate to Columbia County from University Hospital. The physicians hope to start seeing patients at their new location in the summer of 2018.

Two assisted living facilities also are coming to Furys Ferry Road. Construction has started on The Claiborne of West Lake, a 100-unit, resort-style senior living facility. The county is working on site plan approval for Indigo Hall, which will be located between Westhampton and Brookfield subdivisions. In Martinez Orbic Eye Care opened in the Centre at Furys Ferry in July. 

Medical facilities are being constructed in other parts of the county as well. Augusta SmileCare, recently moved into a new building on Columbia Road, which is about a mile from its previous location. An Aspen Dental office is under construction on the former Evans Diner site, and a new MedNow is slated to open soon in the Gateway area. 

Summerville Dentistry has opened an office in the Riverwood area in Evans, and a University Medical Center Greenbrier Primary Care facility is under construction at Washington and Blanchard roads. 

Doctors Hospital in west Augusta broke ground on a $19.8 million expansion of its emergency department this summer. The expansion, which should take about 14 months to complete, will increase the number of emergency department rooms to 46, including 10 pediatric rooms. The expanded emergency department also will include 16 clinical observation rooms, CT scan imaging technology, an X-ray suite, a new walk-in entrance and a new ambulance entrance.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

What's New 2017

whats newAll that traveling across Columbia County can cause people to work up an appetite, and those who have been hungry for more restaurants have their plates full.

Papa John’s has opened in the Market Place at Riverwood, a strip center with more than 23,500 square feet of space that is under construction next to Riverwood Town Center. The Flying Biscuit is slated to locate in the shopping center as well. 

The old Evans Diner location also will be the site of Chicken Salad Chick, which is under construction. The diner building was moved to Waynesboro in February, and the owners opened The Flippin’ Egg in the former ShoChin’s Chinese Kitchen building on Washington Road in Evans. Chicken Fingers opened this summer in The Shoppes at Blue Ridge.

In the Grovetown area, Culver’s, which features hamburgers, sandwiches and frozen custard, opened on Gateway Boulevard last winter. The locally owned Diablo’s Southwest Grill, as well as Chick-fil-A and Dairy Queen, have opened locations in the Gateway area as well.

An Aldi grocery store opened its doors in June, and a free-standing Starbucks and McAlister’s Deli also are slated to come to the area. In addition, Your Pie, a pizza restaurant, is scheduled to open on Meridian Drive in November. 

In the past year, a new Sonic Drive-In opened in the city of Grovetown at the corner of Whiskey and Wrightsboro roads, and a Walmart Neighborhood Market opened on Wrightsboro Road in May.

In addition, Pelican’s SnoBalls, which sells shaved ice with gourmet flavors, opened its doors on East Robinson Avenue in March. A new Spirit Food Mart, slated for construction at Robinson Avenue and Harlem-Grovetown Road in 2018, is in the planning and development stages. Java House opened on North Louisville Road in Harlem in December. 

School Days

What's New 2017

whats newThe Columbia County Board of Education did not open any new schools this year, but two existing schools moved into brand new buildings. The $22 million, 47-classroom, 131,091-square-foot Harlem Middle School building opened off of Appling-Harlem Highway in August, and the former middle school building on West Forrest Avenue has been demolished. A new North Harlem Elementary School building will be constructed on that site.

A new Grovetown Elementary School building also opened for the 2017-18 school year. This $19.5 million, two-story building, which was built next to its former site on Ford Avenue, includes 111,328 square feet and 55 classrooms. 

Construction of the School for Arts Infused Learning, however, has brought a new charter school to the county. Phase I was completed on the Blanchard Woods Drive facility in Evans in July. This phase will house grades K-6 this year and seventh grade should be added next year. Phase 2 will house grades 6-8 when it is built. The $7 million school is completely state funded, and its curriculum focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and math.