Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Winter Wonders

Garden Scene
Photos courtesy of Colorblends

Photos courtesy of Colorblends

You don’t need a green thumb to successfully grow exquisite amaryllis.

Winter is not the season most often associated with growing flamboyant flowers — unless the subject happens to be amaryllis. With large tropical flowers that rival anything the summer garden can boast, amaryllis are grown indoors in pots to brighten the dark days of winter. And while it might seem daunting to grow, it’s actually so easy that even a child can do it.

Typically, amaryllis are potted up late fall through January to grow and bloom from after Christmas until the end of winter. The large, unassuming bulbs — many larger than a softball or a grown man’s fist — are easy to plant, nearly foolproof to grow and provide weeks — sometimes even months — of indoor blooms. 

Amaryllis varieties offer a riot of flower colors that range from subtle shades to screaming brights of red, magenta, pink, fuchsia, white, salmon, orange, bi-colors and more. A few are even green. Flower sizes and shapes range from enormous single blooms to multi-petaled doubles to miniatures. Petals can be rounded, pointed, spidery, reflexed or slightly cupped. 

Amaryllis-'Red-RIval'Each bulb produces multiple flowers that can bloom successively for weeks, adding color, vibrancy and cheer wherever placed. It takes only a single bulb to make an excellent display. Those in the know also consider amaryllis bulbs unbeatable holiday gifts — the gifts can be as simple as a bare bulb wrapped in tissue paper or presented ready-to-grow in a pot with soil. 

Potting in Soil
All that’s needed to grow amaryllis is a bulb, potting soil and a six- to seven-inch pot with a drainage hole (amaryllis bulbs are normally planted in pots that are only slightly larger around than the bulb). Layer the bottom of the pot with heavy potting soil (soil/sand mixes are ideal), pop in the bulb and add soil up to where the bulb’s “shoulders” taper inward. Leave the upper shoulders and neck of the bulb exposed.

After potting, water well and then water only when the soil is dry to the touch. After a green shoot appears, water regularly to keep soil moist but not soggy, and move the pot to a sunny spot. Access to good sunlight during the growing phase is important to keep the plant from stretching in search of light.

Allow eight to 12 weeks from potting to bloom. Be forewarned: growth starts slowly. Usually, nothing much happens for a month or so. Then one or two stems emerge and grow very tall. Each stem is topped by four to six flashy flowers. The show continues, when multiple stems bloom in sequence.

Growing in Water
Amaryllis can also be grown without soil. Like most bulbs, all of the food the plant needs is in the starchy material inside the bulb — it’s what makes the bulb so fat. To grow bulbs in small water gardens, use a shallow container and substitute pebbles or stones for soil. Make sure to add enough stones around the sides to give the bulb upright support.

Add just enough water so it nearly reaches, but doesn’t touch, the bottom of the bulb — as the Dutch like to say, “close enough so the roots can smell the water.” Position the bulb in the pebbles or in sand poised above the water level so the roots will grow down to meet the water. Once growth begins, be sure to place the plant where it receives some sun.

Amaryllis-'Faro'Stagger Your Plantings
Amaryllis bulbs are generally available fall through April. Pot some every few weeks to have fresh blooms all season. For the December holidays, choose “Christmas Flowering Amaryllis,” which hails from the southern hemisphere (generally South Africa) and is predisposed to an earlier bloom season. For winter bloom (including some in December), try the Dutch Amaryllis in single, miniature, double and specialty categories.

More is More
If one bulb results in an excellent display, grouping several bulbs together is downright spectacular. Try planting two, three, even five or more amaryllis bulbs shoulder-to-shoulder in a broader (not deeper) decorative container.

The effect works best when all of the bulbs planted together are of the same variety. Each bulb will send up one stem, then another (sometimes more), and will be topped by four to six colorful florets. A bonus: since amaryllis tend to be top-heavy, planting multiple bulbs can also make the arrangement less likely to tip over since the container will have a broader base.

Bring ’em Back
Amaryllis bulbs are among top choices for holiday hostess gifts and always make a thoughtful present. But many recipients are clueless about how to keep plants “happy” once the holidays are past. Unlike most forced bulbs, amaryllis can be brought back to bloom for years and years — even decades. Some people have 40-year-old bulbs handed down from their grandmothers.

If you want an amaryllis to bloom again for years to come, grow it in soil, not water. When the bloom is spent, remove the wilted flowers and then treat it as a green houseplant. Water as needed, and add a dose of houseplant food once a month until August. Then stop watering and give the bulb a rest — no water, no light.

Double-Amaryllis-'Dancing-Queen'Leave the pot in a dry, dormant state for at least two months. When you’re ready to start the flowering process again, spread some fresh potting soil on the top of the pot and water well, letting water drain out the bottom. Move the pot to a warm area, but not in direct sunlight. Water sparingly until you see signs of growth, then move the pot into bright light and start regular watering as needed.

As with most bulb flowers, amaryllis will grow toward sources of light, so turn the pot regularly to keep the flower growing upright. Once the blooms open, move the pot away from direct sunlight and sources of heat, including televisions. This will ensure that your blooms last as long as possible.

The Real God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Features

God Rest Ye Merry GentlemenPsst. Here’s what that title actually means.

Somehow, God Make You Mighty, Gentlemen just doesn’t evoke the same Christmas spirit as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. But, without the evolution of the English language, that is how the beloved Christmas carol would be known today. 

Like most of the earliest Christmas songs, it was penned as a direct reaction to the music of the church. Usually written in Latin and put to somber, dark melodies, church songs were hardly a source of comfort and joy.

While people continued to go to organized worship services, they created their own light, lively church music — outside the walls of the cathedrals and chapels — in common language. Their Christmas folk songs became the foundation of our cherished Christmas carols.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was the most famous and loved of all the early carols. Written 500 years ago with an upbeat melody and a joyful message about the birth of Jesus, the song was sung for centuries before finally being published in the 1800s. 

Because Queen Victoria loved Christmas carols, the song won the approval of the Anglican Church. Soon the Protestant English clergy were enthusiastically teaching God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to their congregations. Moving to Europe and America, the carol became a favorite throughout the Christian world, and it is still sung in much the same way that it was originally. 

Today, however, with the change of word definitions over time, few people fully understand the meaning of the carol. Now, when people say “Merry Christmas,” they mean “Happy Christmas.” Yet when God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was written, “merry” meant “great and mighty.”  

So, in the Middle Ages, a strong army was a merry army, a great singer was a merry singer, and a mighty ruler was a merry ruler. (Just think about Robin Hood’s “Merry Men.”) When English carolers in the Victorian era sang “merry gentlemen,” they meant “great or mighty men.”

“Rest” also has a much different meaning in today’s world. In the Victorian era, it meant “keep or make.” So, in modern English, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen becomes God Make You Mighty, Gentlemen. Over time, the comma after the word “merry” has been lost as well. Using this translation, the old carol suddenly makes perfect sense, as does the most common saying of the holidays, “Merry Christmas.” In the language of today, have a “Great and Mighty Christmas!”

Life’s a Beech

Getaways
Credit: Sam Dean Photography

Credit: Sam Dean Photography

Head for the hills where a North Carolina ski resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season.

Some might argue about which ski resort is the coolest in North Carolina. However, there is no denying which one is the highest. At an elevation of 5,506 feet, that would be Beech Mountain. In fact, the slopes at Beech Mountain, which opened in the winter of 1967-68, are the highest east of the Rockies.

And snow bunnies can have plenty of fun at Beech Mountain Resort as it celebrates 50 years of skiing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina this season. When it made its debut, Beech Mountain was the only North Carolina resort built around an alpine village and remains that way today. 

“Skiing in the South was just being developed, and this was a unique facility at 5,506 feet in elevation with a Swiss Bavarian village. It exposed the Southeast market to something new,” says general manager Ryan Costin. “That continues to be one of our strongest assets – a layout where you can navigate the village and experience all the wintertime activities we have here.” 

Courtesy of Beech Moutain

Courtesy of Beech Moutain

Something to Celebrate
To celebrate the half-century mark, Beech Mountain Resort is offering season-long throwback prices for night sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. The resort will offer 1967 lift ticket prices of $9 for ladies’ night every Tuesday and for men’s night every Wednesday. On couples’ night each Thursday, the first lift ticket will be available for $16 and the second ticket will cost $8.

The resort will hold a special golden anniversary celebration January 20-28 with activities, contests, live music, games and fireworks. First, however, the annual Winterfest Beer Festival is on tap for Saturday, January 6 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. The event, which will fill both levels of the Beech Tree Bar & Grille, will feature more than 50 ales and ciders from North Carolina craft producers.

 The festivities continue with the seventh annual Totally ’80s Retro Ski Weekend February 22-25. Think big hair, leg warmers, bandanas, Members Only jackets, ski suits with shoulder pads and lots of ’80s-era activities. 

With the addition of 65 high-tech, automated SMI Super PoleCat snow guns in recent years, the ski resort has undergone a snowmaking transformation. Adding more snow guns to its arsenal this winter, the resort will have its highest snowmaking capabilities in its 50-year history. The 5,506-foot elevation of the mountain complements the resort’s snowmaking abilities, leading to an average annual snowfall of 84.6 inches.

This winter a new streamlined check-in process will get skiers on the slopes faster than in years past. Customers purchase lift tickets and rental equipment at a central location and then go straight through the fitting process. Another new feature this winter is the opportunity to buy multi-day tickets and rentals to avoid repeating the same process each day.

“Going into the 50th year, we took a hard look at not only the product on the mountain, but the process, too. That’s one of the elements we needed to make easier,” says Costin. “We want people to spend as much time outside enjoying activities as they possibly can.”

Sam Dean Photography

Sam Dean Photography

Beech Mountain also offers much more than skiing to entice winter sports lovers to the resort. Other activities include snow tubing, ice skating and learn-to-ski programs for adults and youths. Snowshoeing on the town’s Emerald Outback trails at the mountaintop is becoming another popular wintertime activity. Snowshoes are available for rental from the Beech Mountain Parks and Recreation Department, which offers guided winter hikes throughout the season as well. Beech Mountain also is home to a free sledding hill next to the visitors’ center in the heart of town. Complete with its own snow gun, the hill is open all winter for kids ages 12 and under.

Courtesy of Beech Moutain

Courtesy of Beech Moutain

Après Ski
For après ski, the resort is located in the town of Beech Mountain, where lodging, shops, restaurants and nightlife are within walking distance or a short drive of the slopes. Lodging options include ski lodges, condos, ski-in chalets, inns and larger rental homes.

The resort also has invested millions in upgrades during the past five years, adding a craft brewery, a skybar at the top of the slopes and a new terrain park with its own dedicated surface tow lift, lighting and snowmaking.

Beech Mountain Brewing Company, one of the nation’s only breweries owned and operated by a ski area, handpicks the finest ingredients for its brews. The bi-level brewery features a large fireplace and hardwood flooring. Accessible to all visitors, Beech Mountain Brewing Company is open to the general public and does not require people to participate in resort activities to visit. Guests can try the brewery’s latest creations Thursday through Sunday or enjoy a flight of its various brews. They can enjoy live music on Friday evenings and trivia nights, beer bingo, karaoke and more during the ski season.

In 2013, Beech Mountain added a skybar called 5506’, paying tribute to the elevation that gives the resort the distinction of being the highest ski area in eastern America. The facility features a glass roundhouse with a bar, barstools and tables, a snack bar, a Bald Guy Brew mini coffee shop and heated restrooms. The full-service bar provides a selection of well and top-shelf liquors, mixed drinks, wine and Beech Mountain Brewing Company beers on tap. Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are available as well. The skybar’s 2,800-foot deck – complete with Adirondack chairs and picnic tables – offers a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

During the winter season, 5506’ is only accessible to skiers and snowboarders with a valid lift ticket. After riding the chairlift up the summit, guests are required to ski or snowboard back down the mountain. There is no ride available to go down the chairlift.

BeechMtnGazebo-CREDIT-Mark-File“It’s an exciting year for us, and we look forward to another half century of serving skiers across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions,” Costin says. “A lot of people are surprised at just how good a winter season we have. Our infrastructure provides a strong product all winter.”

For more information, visit beechmtn.com or call (800) 468-5506.

Tips for Your First Day at Beech Mountain

  • Take a ski/snowboarding lesson from a professional instructor. You’ll safely learn more in a one-hour lesson than you will all day on your own.
  • Obtain proper equipment, and be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted correctly.
  • Rent or wear boots that fit firmly around your foot.
  • Dress in layers to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Wear thin woolen socks, a windproof and waterproof jacket, waterproof pants and non-cotton thermal underwear. Wear fleece for warmth or a down jacket or vest if it is really cold.
  • Be prepared for changing weather. Wear something to keep your head and ears warm. Wear insulated, waterproof gloves or mittens.
  • Know your limits. Learn to ski and snowboard in control, and take a break if you get tired. Most injuries occur when people are fatigued. 

By Morgan Davis

Holiday’s Rule Vol 2 — Various Artists

Listen To This

Holidays-RuleThe soundtrack that brings us into a joyful union of the Christmas spirit and warm gatherings of loved ones and kindred companions is something most of us build over time. We add to the mix songs of seasonal nostalgia and traditional foundations while enhancing the holiday mood like a candy cane garnish in a hot mug of coca.

One notable release this year is Holiday’s Rule Vol 2, which features everyone from Paul McCartney to Lake Street Dive. Song for song, this is the perfect shopping or road trip to Grandma’s house compilation. 

From the poppy a capella rendition of “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots to the sultry “Christmas Moon” by Grace Potter, these 16 tracks of classics wrap this season with a nice big bow. 

May this new addition to your Christmas soundtrack be the cinnamon broom for your ears this holiday season. 

- Chris Rucker

Frosty’s Brownie Peppermint Cake Pops

Food
  • Frosty's-Brownie-Peppermint-Pops1 box brownie mix
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Cake pop or lollipop sticks
  • Crushed peppermint pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownies according to directions for fudgy brownies; let cool completely. Remove brownies from pan and cut off edges. Mix brownies together with softened cream cheese. Using a cookie dough scoop, scoop into balls and roll with hands. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a bowl. Microwave 45 seconds, then stir until smooth. (If not fully melted, microwave an additional 10 seconds.) Insert cake pop sticks and dip brownie balls into white chocolate. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint pieces. Let sit until chocolate is set.

Semper Fideles

People

Semper FidelesSemper FidelesWith Toys for Tots and other community programs, this Marine Corps League Detachment brings generosity into play year-round.

The holidays bring out a giving spirit in everyone, and the Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess Marine Corps League Detachment 921 is no exception. Its members support young and old alike.

With no Marine Corps Reserve in the area, the detachment sponsors the local Toys for Tots campaign by collecting toys and donations during the holiday season. Last year the detachment collected 86,263 toys for 28,754 children, 12,107 stocking stuffers and raised $58,752.66 – an increase of 1,174 more children than 2015 as well as 3,429 more toys and $16,269.20 more in monetary contributions. The increases occurred despite the reduction in volunteers from 2015. 

During the holidays, members of the detachment also visit the Georgia Veterans’ Home and bring Christmas gifts to the veterans.

1.-2017-standup-at-Harris-JewelersHowever, the detachment, a nonprofit veterans’ organization for Marines, Navy corpsmen who served with Marines in the Fleet Marine Force and FMF chaplains, participates in community outreach and charitable activities all year long. The Marine Corps League, chartered by Congress in 1937, sponsors a Young Marine detachment for youths between the ages of 8 and 18. Similar to other youth organizations, it is designed to help young people develop structure and discipline in their lives through leadership training, growth and promotion opportunities, education and community outreach activities. 

5.-veternas-home-2Any parents interested in getting their children into this program can contact Albert Genao, unit commandant, at (910) 238-0499. The detachment also recognizes newly designated Eagle Scouts in the area, and each spring it presents citizenship awards to high school students in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. The detachment also supports the Doctors Hospital burn unit. 

A focus on supporting the military and veterans is a big part of the detachment’s mission. Each fall, the detachment supports Fort Gordon’s annual Tribute Run for the Fallen, which commemorates individuals who sacrificed their lives in the war on terror. Detachment members also are encouraged to spend time at the VA hospitals and support local veterans.

3.-Doris-and-MeekerIt is no surprise that the Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess Marine Corps League Detachment 921 is so involved in the community. After all, it was named for someone who embodied caring and service to others. Lt. Col. Dyess was an Eagle Scout, a Carnegie Medal recipient and a Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action during World War II. He is the only person on record to receive all three of these honors. 

The detachment is always looking for new members as well. Any active or prior-service Marines or Navy Corpsmen, or anyone wishing to support the charitable and outreach activities of the detachment, can help. For more information, visit augustamarines.com or email mcl921@yahoo.com.

- Senior Vice Commandant Randy Hirsch

Making a Joyful Noise

Features

CHRISTMAS-CONCERTEvery family has its holiday customs, and Christmas with the Annie Moses Band is becoming a tradition for local residents. The band will perform its Christmas-themed show Wednesday, December 20 with a combination of folk and classical music. 

Comprised of Julliard-trained musicians from the same family, the band has a sound all its own. The siblings call their style “chamber pop,” a blend of classical, jazz and pop, mixed with some good old-fashioned country.

From the spirited “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” to the soulful “O Holy Night,” the performance features fiery string playing and stirring renditions of enduring favorites and fresh originals. “Christmas with the Annie Moses Band” stands on the PBS charts as one of the most frequently played specials of the season. 

Offering the best of beloved genres, the band appeals to audiences young and old ranging from classical connoisseurs and roots enthusiasts to jazz aficionados and bluegrass buffs. 

If You Go:

What: Christmas with the Annie Moses Band

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 20

Where: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center

How Much: $49; dinner for an additional $25 (limited quantities available)

More Info: (706) 726-0366 or augustaamusements.com

The Reel Deal

Sports
Photos courtesy of the Clarks Hill Youth Fishing Team

Photos courtesy of the Clarks Hill Youth Fishing Team

A local high school fishing team is schooling its competition with its success. 

Some people might think of fishing as a relaxing sport. Don’t tell that to the members of the Clarks Hill Youth Fishing Team, however. They thrive on competing against other high school fishing teams across the state. 

The Clarks Hill team includes anglers from eight to 10 middle and high schools in areas including Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties, Lincolnton and Watkinsville. With one fifth grader on the team this year, their ages range from 10 to 18. 

“The team will take any kids that are not affiliated with a school team,” says Christy Gonsalves, team mom and executive. “We’ll take them from as far away as they’re willing to drive.”

Anglers have to try out for the team, and they must demonstrate certain skill sets including casting skills, the ability to tie a palomar knot and a fisherman’s knot and the ability to use a trolling motor on a boat. 

“We have a large group that loves fishing, and they’re really good at it,” says Gonsalves. “We’re in a great area for fishing.”

Mason-Peace,-Boat-Captain-Tommy-Stephenson-and-Blake-Stephenson-BASS-state-Champion-ship-,-qualified-for-the-Nationals-3.48.19-PMTeam member Logan Plueger, 14, a ninth-grader at Grovetown High School, started fishing at Clarks Hill Lake with his grandmother when he was 2 years old.

“I like trying to figure out how I’m going to catch the fish,” says Plueger, who has been on the team for three years. “I try to look at the patterns that the fish are biting and the baits that they’re biting. Some of the fish are easier to catch than others. Bass are harder to catch.”

Seasoned Champions
The season, which started in mid-September, runs through June. Tournaments typically begin at first light on Saturdays, and weigh-ins are at 3 or 4 p.m. “They stay on the boat all day,” Gonsalves says. “The boys get to travel all over Georgia and see different lakes.”

Each vessel consists of two anglers and a boat captain, and 140-plus pairs of fishermen compete in each event. They fish for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, and the competitions are strictly catch-and-release.

Evan-Gonsalves-and-Corey-Yaden-were-happy-with-thier-catch-that-day-3.48.19-PMMembers of the fishing club compete in local, regional and national tournaments, including the Border Bass at Clarks Hill Lake in December. The Clarks Hill team, which was started five years ago, has had success on all levels of competition.

In April, for instance, the team won first place at the Georgia Bass Youth Top 6 State Championship on Lake Blackshear for the third year in a row. Team member Blake Stephenson took first place and caught the big fish; second place finisher Mason Peace also caught the No. 2 big fish; Evan Gonsalves came in fourth individually.

In June Peace and Stephenson finished seventh in the BASS Nation High School Fishing Classic at Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee, Georgia. They also qualified for the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee later that month. In fact, the club has sent two anglers to nationals four times.

Giving Back
Through tournament fishing, high school students can earn college scholarships and learn sportsmanship. High school teams also are required to do a conservation project each year. Last year, the Clarks Hill team made a fish habitat out of piping and dropped it in Clarks Hill Lake just off the new dock at Wildwood Park.

“There is so much they can get out of it,” says Gonsalves. “They learn patience and determination. They develop an appreciation and respect for the sport of fishing. They’re not just a fishing team. They give back to the community.”

sportsliteClarks Hill team members volunteer at the spring and fall Fish for Life Foundation fishing rodeos and at the fall Paralyzed Veterans of America tournament. They also help with the annual Toys for Tots holiday campaign.

“They go to Walmart, and each angler grabs a buggy and goes shopping for Toys for Tots,” says Gonsalves. “They get so excited about buying toys for kids they will never meet.”

Plueger enjoys shopping for others. “I get to help people and see how that affects their everyday lives,” he says. 

In addition to Plueger, Stephenson, Peace and Gonsalves, the 2017-18 team members are Nick Adams, Caleb Barrow, Brayden Batchelor, Logan Dixon, Fisher Faulkner, Gavin Gilbert, Jarvis Harden, Micah Holliman, Colton Hunt, Cole Langford, Caleb Medders, Cody Reeves, Dalton Reeves, Caleb Vakoc, Evan Vakoc, Corey Haden, Chris Shay and Kyle Salazar.

By Todd Beck

After the Snow by Susannah Constantine

Literary Loop

after-the-snow-Dec-2017A modern day Nancy Mitford, Susannah Constantine provides a rare glimpse into the secret lives of the scandalous upper classes in her debut novel, After the Snow.

It’s Christmas 1969, and 11-year-old Esme Munroe is living with her mum, dad and older sister in the Lodge House of Culcairn Castle, a grand estate in the Scottish Highlands.

All Esme wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her “good” days – and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat. So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year.

But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow. Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone. Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of the castle’s ornate closets, Esme realizes that life will never be the same again after the snow. 

An absorbing “upstairs/downstairs” tale with shades of English novelist Dodie Smith, After the Snow is perfect for fans of “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown.”

All is Bright

In The Home
All is Bright

Photography by Haley Lamb

From shiny gold balls and shimmering ribbons to whimsical themed Christmas trees, the holiday décor in this Magnolia Ridge home blends elegance and fun.

Most of the year, all is calm at the Evans home of Karen and Clarence Malcom. After all, they built their house nine years ago on three acres of tranquil wooded property in Magnolia Ridge. 

On Christmas, however, that heavenly peace turns into a flurry of activity when about 50 family members celebrate at their house with them. The Malcoms enjoy the holiday with their three children and seven grandchildren as well as Karen’s siblings (she’s one of five children) and their extended families. 

“Christmas is the only time of year the entire family can get together,” she says. 

Making the yuletide gay long before the guests arrive, however, Karen decks the halls with Christmas décor that ranges from the traditional to the whimsical.

“I love to decorate,” says Karen. “I like to try different things and see what works.” 

Front-Porch-2Gold Standard
Christmastime is evident at the Malcom home before visitors even cross the threshold through the front door. Wreaths with festive gold bows adorn the outside windows, and a trio of small trees strung with white lights sits in containers along the garage.

Two more wreaths with gold bows and gold poinsettias hang on the front doors that are surrounded with greenery all aglow with white lights. On the flagstone, covered front porch, two poinsettias sit in planters by the doors. A pair of decorated trees with red skirts guard arched windows. Three lighted decorative presents – one green, one red and one white – rest on the porch as if St. Nick has just stopped by as well. A bench, where a Christmas pillow rests on the seat, occupies each corner of the porch, and two wooden reindeer sit on the walkway that leads up the front porch steps.

The holiday finery continues inside with three large Christmas trees in different rooms in the house.

An elegantly decorated tree draped with red and gold ornaments stretches toward the two-story ceiling in the living room. “We call this my tree because I want it to look like this,” says Living-Room-Nativity-SceneKaren. Presents wrapped in gold paper and tied with red ribbon for the teenaged family members sit beneath the tree.

And the location of the tree in the center of the room doesn’t occur by happenstance. “A friend of mine told me that I built the living room around being able to put the tree in the middle of the room,” Karen says. “She was right.”

On the mantel above the gas fireplace, figures of Mary, Joseph and the Christ child are nestled in rows of greenery and gold balls. A full nativity sits atop a blanket of gold fabric on a table behind the couch.

Red oak flooring is found throughout the house, and an arched door to a hall leads to the master suite. The master bedroom, which features a four-poster bed, opens onto a covered porch. More touches of gold highlight the master bath décor, including gold balls in a white bowl by the tub and gold silk poinsettias and greenery in a vase by the tub.

Inside Track to Fun
If the living room reflects Karen’s personality, then the study is all Clarence. And Clarence, undoubtedly, is an avid NASCAR fan whose favorite drivers are the late Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A NASCAR-themed tree is filled with auto racing-related ornaments, including balls bearing the number 3 and the number 8 in honor of the Earnhardts – Dale drove the No. 3 car and Dale Jr. once drove the No. 8 car, gas pump ornaments and racecar ornaments. Clarence also collects model cars, and part of his collection is parked on top of a tree skirt made of – what else? – black-and-white checkered fabric.

Dining-Area-2NASCAR stockings are draped on top of wing chairs covered in NASCAR-themed fabric. “I don’t think he’ll ever let me cover these chairs again,” Karen says.

French doors lead into the study, which has black trim around the room, and more of Clarence’s car collection is displayed in a curio cabinet. A Monopoly game table sits in one corner of the room, and a small jukebox stands in another corner. “My 5-year-old grandson loves the jukebox,” says Karen. “He loves to turn the lights on and off.”

The third tree in the house in the family room has an inside track to merriment as well. “This is a fun tree,” says Karen. “Any time we go to Disney World or Key West, we buy an ornament for this tree. It also has several ornaments that sing when you push a button.”

Packages swaddled in shiny lime green paper and bright red ribbons are piled under this tree to await the younger grandchildren on Christmas morning. Greenery brightens the arched TV opening above the mantel of the stacked stone fireplace. A red poinsettia guards the fireplace, and Santa figurines rest on the built-in bookshelves. 

The colorful, fun theme continues into the adjoining breakfast nook, where square red plates with lime green polka dots top the table that is tucked into a bay window. Ornaments dangle from the light fixture above the table.

Kitchen-1The kitchen, which also is connected to the family room and breakfast nook, showcases Karen’s creativity with its pale green ceiling and tri-colored cabinets.

“I didn’t want any white ceilings in the house. I wanted to paint the ceilings different colors,” says Karen.

The kitchen cabinets are a combination of walnut stain, old world finish and black paint. “I like all of the finishes, so our cabinet man said, ‘Let’s do all three,’” says Karen. 

Striped Christmas balls hang from the light fixture above the island, which features a walnut stain and a sink. Other cabinets and the hood above the stove feature a walnut stain. The kitchen also includes stainless steel appliances, a tumbled stone backsplash and granite countertops.

“This is where we live,” Karen says of the connected rooms. And the kitchen sees plenty of activity during the holidays. While everyone brings food to share, Karen says the best part of Christmas is spending time with her family and making her children’s favorite sweets.

“I always make a chocolate layered cake for my son,” she says. “One of my daughters loves plum cake, but two years ago we didn’t even cut the cake so I made her take it home.” 

Covered-Porch-1Outdoor Décor
Even if they don’t have a chance to enjoy all of their holiday desserts, the extended Malcom family always spends time outdoors during the holidays and all year round. And why wouldn’t they? From their covered back porch, the Malcoms can hear birds chirping or catch sight of deer, wild turkeys and red foxes.

“We love to be outside, so I do a lot of decorating outside,” says Karen.

The wraparound covered porch features tile flooring, and Christmas decorations include a round glass table topped with a red lantern, red ornaments and greenery. A small tree sits in the center of a wrought iron table. Greenery with strands of white lights is wrapped around the railing.

A lighted wreath with a red, a green and a gold ball adds Christmas cheer to the landing on the stairs leading to a lower covered porch that features elements of Key West, Florida.

The lower porch features a bead board ceiling that they installed themselves, terracotta tile flooring, colored lights laced in greenery on the railing, a bar that Clarence built, a TV, grills and prints on the wall by Key West artists.

“We go to Key West every year,” says Karen. “It’s laidback, relaxing and fun.”

Just like the holidays at the Malcom home. 

By Betsy Gilliland

 

Captain Philip Canning Area Commander, The Salvation Army

P.Y.S.K.

salvation armyNumber of years in position:

Family: Wife, Captain Elaine Canning (Associate Area Commander); two children, ages 14 and 9

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: I’m passionate about my role as a Salvation Army officer because it affords me the privilege of working with a broad range of individuals and organizations in order to create positive change in our communities.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: My favorite charity is The Salvation Army. Go figure! I work for, and support, The Salvation Army because it is one of the most trusted charitable organizations in the world. With more than 82 cents of every dollar going towards programs and services in local communities, its integrity and accountablity is second to none. When individuals give of their time and resources, they can be assured that they will be used to “Do the Most Good.”

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: The biggest life obstacle I’ve had to overcome is myself. Coming out of high school and going through college, I had goals and dreams for my life. I spent 10 years in the financial services field and found myself to be successful in the pursuit of my plans. The crazy thing was that the closer I got to obtaining my goals, the more unhappy I was becoming. After a two-year debate between me and God, I finally surrendered my life plans to Him. Now I have the honor of serving God and his people and bringing hope into the most hopeless of places. 

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: I am most proud of being presented with the 2016 Community Visionary Award in Shawnee, Oklahoma. In Shawnee, my team and I developed an innovative, grassroots strategy to develop understanding between the social classes, consolidate influence around the greatest needs in our community and create meaningful change in the lives of those impacted by poverty. One of the single mothers involved, who came from an under-resourced background, is about to have her first book published by aha! Process Inc.

What Your Childhood Self Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: As a child I always wanted to be a police officer so I could ride a motorcycle and catch the “bad guys.” “CHiPs” had undue influence on my young life!

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: My favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon is to ride my bike down the Augusta Canal path, watch college football and spend time with my family.

Favorite TV Show: I don’t really watch any TV shows other than sports and news.

Favorite Movie: My favorite movie is Glory. Based on true events, it’s a great account of grace, mercy, redemption, understanding and a love that shatters all barriers. 

Favorite Sports Team: I’m originally from Atlanta, so I like all the Atlanta teams: Falcons, United, Braves and Hawks. The one exception is college football: Florida State University. 

Favorite Comfort Food: My favorite comfort food is pot roast, especially on a cool fall day.

Favorite App: My favorite app is the YouVersion Bible app.

Last Book Read: The last book I read was Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently by Don Yaeger.

Dream Vacation: My dream vacation is a cruise to anywhere. I love cruises because the toughest decision of each day is, “Do I want a chocolate, vanilla or swirl ice cream cone for a snack?” 

Something That Has Changed My Life: Something that has changed my life is my relationship with Christ. As I mature in my relationship with Him, my perspective on life and the world has changed dramatically. When I look around me I see so much division, hurt and hate that it can be depressing. Then I open the pages of Scripture and find hope. I clearly see that if we as a people would be guided by laws of relationships as given by God, then this world would be a much better place. I strive to live by these standards, and it has made me a better person. 

Best Thing I Ever Learned: The best thing I ever learned is to love God with everything that you are and to love all those around you the way you desire to be loved.

One Word You Would Use to Describe Yourself: The one word I would use to describe myself is “discontent.” I’m never satisfied with the status quo of anything. I believe everyone and everything can be better than it currently is.

Favorite Hobbies: My favorite hobbies are riding my bike and spending time with family.

Secret Aspiration: I don’t really have a secret aspiration. One of my most important goals is to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be. I’ve got some work to do here!

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: I don’t really watch TV shows, so I have no idea what reality shows are on the air. I know it’s not considered a “reality show,” but I’m pretty good at “Wheel of Fortune.” 

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: Even though I’m only 5’3” I was a starting forward on my varsity high school basketball team. 

What person do you think we should know? If you’d like to suggest someone we should meet, email editor@columbiacountymag.com and tell us why.

Sponsored by:
Universal Plumbing

Master’s Table Soup Kitchen

Community Groups in Action

calling postThere’s a good reason the Master’s Table Soup Kitchen, a Golden Harvest Food Bank initiative, operates each day of the year in downtown Augusta. 

“People are hungry every day,” says Ann Visintainer, Golden Harvest’s marketing manager. “There are not a lot of grocery stores or food resources in the downtown area. There is also a high concentration of people downtown who lack transportation to get food.”

The Master’s Table serves a hot lunch to 200 – 250 people every day at its Fenwick Street location. On holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, the soup kitchen serves about 300 people.

“For Christmas dinner we’ll have ham or turkey and traditional sides,” says Ann. “Our volunteers decorate the tables, and we’ll put up a Christmas tree.”

Executive-Director-Travis-McNeal-serves-food-at-our-Christmas-season-toy-giveaway-event-last-yearIn other holiday plans at the soup kitchen, Concerned Women Inc. will give away clothing, shoes, books and toys Saturday, December 9; volunteers will give away clothing and toys Monday, December 18; and Project Inspire will give away bags filled with hygiene products Saturday, December 23. 

The majority of Master’s Table guests are not homeless. The soup kitchen also feeds families and elderly people with small incomes. During the holidays when children are not in school, families can face additional hardships to put food on the table.

The Master’s Table also grows fresh vegetables in a garden, and this year the organization has partnered with Augusta Locally Grown to create a new Healthy Plate Program. 

Numerous volunteer groups such as 15-20 churches as well as businesses, the military and local community organizations help the Master’s Table each month.

calling post“Volunteering at the Masters Table Soup Kitchen is a rewarding experience to the receiver and the giver. Looking deeply eye to eye, heart to heart, removes pretenses and reveals that we are all equal and loved in God’s eyes,” says CallingPost founder Phil Alexander, who has volunteered at the soup kitchen numerous times.

People also can support the program by making donations online at goldenharvest.org. Each $1 that is donated provides $9 worth of food to feed the hungry. After all, as Ann says, “Christmas doesn’t end with Christmas.”

Amazing Grace

Features

amazing graceA local fundraiser will bring community groups together to advocate for orphaned children.

Connected Hearts Ministry is dedicated to helping children who are difficult to adopt find forever homes. They include children older than age 5, sibling groups and children with special needs. 

“Because a lot of the children we work with are children that are often overlooked for adoption, they need someone to advocate for them,” says Misty Hudson, who co-founded the nonprofit organization with her husband, Brandon.

KalmbacherFamily1-(2)---CopyHowever, Connected Hearts Ministry cannot fulfill its mission alone. On November 11, the organization will hold its inaugural United for Orphans fundraiser to coincide with National Adoption Month. The event will join individuals, businesses, churches and organizations together to bring hope to orphans locally and globally. 

“We saw a growing need for funding and advocacy,” Misty says. “There are a lot of families in the area that want to adopt and that have a heart for orphan care. We want to bring everyone together for a special evening.”

The fundraiser will include food from Chick-fil-A, a photo booth, advocacy for orphans, a live and silent auction and live musical entertainment by George Dennehy. The musician, who was born without arms and adopted at age 1, plays multiple instruments such as the guitar and piano with his feet. During the event, Dennehy will share his personal story as well.

“We saw George play in Nashville three or four years ago,” says Misty. “We loved his story, and watching him play was the most humbling and inspiring thing we’ve ever seen. We’re thrilled to bring him to the area.”

2be8e0_6f8349bbf26144f7a40aabfe8f7c2c92-mv2_d_2048_1365_s_2A VIP pre-show will offer a special concert by Dennehy; a meet and greet, as well as photo opportunities, with the performer; refreshments and a chance for early bidding on auction items. 

The auction will feature goods such as a Napa Valley Epicurean Adventure, Tuscany Culinary Escape, Royal Caribbean Cruises, a family friendly Ultimate Broadway Adventure and a Kennedy Space Center Adventure. Other auction items include an Augusta staycation package, designer handbags, bicycles, restaurant gift certificates, passes to local golf courses, roller skating passes, Myrtle Beach campground passes and tickets to various entertainment venues and attractions. 

All proceeds will go toward supporting the mission of Connected Hearts Ministry, which – since adoption lasts a lifetime – does much more than connect orphaned children with forever homes.

The organization provides adoption funding to help families raise money to bring their child home. Once the child is home, the ministry also offers a medical sponsorship program to help families pay for their child’s ongoing medical expenses. As part of its foster care program, the ministry provides duffle bags filled with essential and personal items for children when they enter foster care. The bags include items such as hygiene products, clothing, blankets, a stuffed animal, a Bible and coloring books. 

Families must work through an accredited adoption agency to receive assistance from the ministry. 

“We really hope the CSRA will unite together and pool its efforts to make a huge impact on orphans in the area and around the world,” Misty says.

If You Go: 

What: United for Orphans, a fundraiser for Connected Hearts Ministry

When: 6 p.m. – 9:15 p.m. Saturday, November 11

Where: First Baptist Church, North Augusta

How Much: $25 general admission for ages 18 and older; $50 ultimate VIP experience for ages 18 and older; $5 ages 2 – 17; $5 childcare ticket for ages 2 – 12 (limited to first 50 children registered)

More Info: connectedheartsministry.org

Merry and Bright Ideas

In The Home
home

Photography by Haley Lamb

Do you need a boost to your holiday décor? Check out the creativity at Augusta Ballet’s annual holiday home tour.

Every family has its Christmas traditions, and those customs typically include holiday décor. Whether people prefer the latest decorations or favorite family heirlooms, however, everyone can use a new decorating tip from time to time. And the Augusta Ballet Holiday Tour of Homes is full of ideas. 

This year the fifth annual Holiday Tour of Homes, which benefits Augusta Ballet, will showcase homes in Summerville. The event will be held 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, December 8 and Saturday, December 9 and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, December 10. Tickets will cost $20 and be available online at augustaballet.org until Friday, December 1. After that date, they will be available for $25 online and at the door. Tickets also will be available at some interior designers’ locations. However, the event not only offers the latest in Christmas décor. 

“The home tour gets a lot of people aware of the ballet,” says Larry Baratto, Augusta Ballet executive director. “It lets people know who we are and what we do. This is another way of working with the community, and Augusta has a thriving arts community.” 

Burlap, Bouquets and Ballerinas
Last year’s tour featured four homes in River Island. Three homeowners decorated their own houses, and local interior designers showcased their talents at the home of Stan Stanton.

Fleur de Lis designers set the tone for the home by decorating the mailbox with greenery and red berries. More greenery surrounded the front door, and lanterns hung from the garage.

In the foyer, where Brooks Haven Floral & Flowers designed the décor, a wreath with a gold bow and red and gold balls, hung on the mirror. A small bouquet of flowers peaked out of a small red package on the chest, and a pair of topiary reindeer dressed in a green wreath with a gold bow looked as if they were ready to fly to the rooftop. A narrow tree with gold balls and ribbons guarded the front doors, and greenery adorned with more gold ribbon and red and gold balls topped the doorways.

Dining-Room-TabletopBallet symbols were found in various parts of the house, including the dining room that was decorated by Brittany Wallace Interiors. In one corner of the room, a tall black soldier’s hat was perched atop a mannequin torso clad in a red tutu and red epaulettes with gold fringe.

“Every year Brittany Wallace does the ballerina,” says Jan Hodges Burke of the Augusta Ballet board of trustees.

White, fur-trimmed ballet slippers were tied to the china cabinet with red ribbon, and a white flocked tree decorated with red balls and red ribbon occupied a corner of the room. Topped with a white tablecloth and a red table runner and round red placemats, red and white was the color scheme for the table setting as well. Red goblets sat in the middle of white plates, and the centerpiece featured white pillar candles atop tall red candlesticks.

Royal Stewart tartan plaid throws were draped on the two head Chippendale chairs. Eye for Design added a red lacquer finish and painted fabric seats, which offer a pearlescent look, to the two chairs. The local interior design shop employs veterans to paint, wax or custom finish “rescued furniture” and décor.

Snowflakes that were handmade by Augusta Training Shop employees hung from the chandelier, which was decorated with greenery, ornaments and strand of clear beads.

The hardwood flooring in the house continued into the kitchen, which featured granite countertops with a leathered finish and a brick backsplash, and Cynthia C. Balentine Interiors added lots of greenery to the room. Greenery was tucked into fruit bowls on the counter, and two small, live trees with white lights reached for the ceiling from stockpots on the island.

Breakfast-AreaA rustic manger scene on a side cabinet featured handmade papier mache figures that were wrapped in wool.

Vince Smith of Indigo Floral Studio trimmed the breakfast area with red and lime green décor. A centerpiece of red roses with shimmering lime green balls situated in greenery sat atop the wood planked tabletop. Red plates topped with lime green napkins were wrapped with red and green ribbon that was tied in a bow. Wreaths hung from the windows by ribbon, and greenery with a red and green bow adorned the chandelier.

Greenery and burlap made up the décor by Home for the Holidays in the butler’s pantry. A trio of wreaths with snowflakes and burlap bows hung on cabinet doors, and wooden boxes filled with pinecones, greenery and burlap twists were arranged on the countertop. Greenery was tucked into the wine racks as Hallway-Treewell.

The Sound of Music
Home for the Holidays also decorated the back hallway and study. In the hallway, brown paper packages tied up with string sat beneath a tall Christmas tree trimmed with burlap ribbon, ribbons made of sheet music and homemade snowflakes. A handmade snowflake even served as a tutu for a ballerina ornament. Swag on the staircase railing included greenery interwoven with burlap, gold berries, balls and lights.

A pair of reindeer and a red lantern sat on one end of the kidney-shaped desk in the study, where a tree was decorated with red and brown burlap ribbon and poinsettias. Ornaments included burlap boots with fur trim, owls, antlers, pinecones and red and burlap balls. A reindeer head poked out of the burlap tree topper.

Pinecones on red ribbon dangled from greenery on the shutters and from a framed map on the wall behind the desk.

Family-Room-TreeIn the family room, which featured a coffered ceiling, LMT Designs trimmed a Christmas tree with red and gold ribbon and ornaments that range from elegant gold leaves and branches to whimsical Disney characters and red berries. The mantel was covered with magnolia leaves, gold ribbon and red silk flowers. A self-playing grand piano filled the home with Christmas music.

Even the laundry room, designed by Kim Landrum Designs, was awash with Christmas spirit in a scene straight out of the North Pole. Looking as if he had made a clean break from his toy-making duties, an elf poked out of a sudsy bed of snow in the washing machine. A clear bowl, filled with peppermints and a silver scoop, sat on a bed of greenery on top of the dryer. Three red-striped ‘Santa Baby” sleepers hung on a rod while a pair of elf boots sat on the countertop.

Santa’s freshly laundered red suit was laid across a plaid chest on the tile floor, and oversized mugs of hot chocolate filled with artificial marshmallows and candy canes sat on a tray on another countertop.

Green wreaths with red berries hung by red ribbons from hooks in the adjoining mudroom where three stuffed bears, along with a stuffed Santa and a Christmas pillow, lined a built-in bench.

All Snug in Their Beds
Christmas was celebrated in the bedrooms in the home as well. The master bedroom, which was designed by Martina’s Flowers and Gifts, featured an outdoorsy theme. A Christmas tree by the window included burlap ribbon, giant mushroom cluster ornaments, red beaded balls and gold balls. While a pair of owls and twigs topped the tree, small burlap trees surrounded the base. Birdhouses were set on a bedside table and at the end of the four-poster bed, and bright red cardinals were perched on the tables as well.

A grapevine wreath with red berries and cardinals hung on a wall, and a box on the upholstered bench at the foot of the bed was filled with pinecones and red berries.

The theme spilled into the master bath, which also was decorated by Martina’s. An arrangement on the vanity was filled with greenery, sticks, red berries and cardinals, and swag on the walls featured red bows and burlap poinsettias.

Continuing the natural décor, another bedroom, decorated by Peacock Hill, included stuffed bears and a wreath with pinecones above the bed. One bedside table included a Santa and a small lighted tree, and the other featured reindeer, greenery and pinecones. A needlepoint pillow on the bed said, “Like Friends, It’s the Old Ornaments That Mean the Most.”

In a basement bedroom, S.E.E. (Stage + Embellish Enterprise) placed a white tree on a bed of turquoise fabric on a white dresser. Bright pink, purple and turquoise ornaments dangled from the branches, while pink and purple nutcrackers stood at attention on the dresser. A trio of acrylic and collage canvases depicting ballerinas by Lillie Morris Fine Art hung on the walls, while four golden turtledoves nestled beneath a gold tree decorated with angel wings, gold leaves and gold branches in a corner of the room. A pair of golden ballet slippers sat on a glass-topped table.

Back-Porch-2Brooks Haven Floral provided the décor, where burgundy and gold dominated the color scheme, for a second basement bedroom. A tree was trimmed with red and green ribbon, gold ornaments and red berries. Two small cone-shaped trees stood at the base of the Christmas tree in front of a picture of jolly old St. Nick on the wall. A wreath hung on the wall above the bed while another wreath was tied to the footboard with gold ribbon. Gold busts of the three wise men were nestled in greenery on the TV cabinet.

Another tree in the basement by the billiards room, also decorated by Brooks Haven Floral, featured gold balls and red and gold ribbon. The red and gold ribbon, along with leopard-print ribbon, formed the bow at the top of the tree. More leopard-print ribbon was intertwined with greenery in the light fixture above the pool table, where the pool cues were tied together with red and gold ribbon.

The theater room had a touch of Christmas spirit as well. Brooks Haven Floral topped the coffee table with a white flocked tree trimmed with turquoise ribbon, plaid ribbon and bows, and white twigs. For a finishing touch, even a wooden sled was tied with a turquoise bow.

By Betsy Gilliland

Join the Club

Sports
sports

Photos courtesy of the Augusta Gaelic Sports Club

Local hurling and Gaelic football players try to ignite interest in the Irish sports 

The people of Ireland have a gift for storytelling. Even though their history is filled with strife, the Irish always seem to bring the tales they weave to a glorious conclusion. I’m not Irish, though, and it wasn’t too long ago that my saga linked to the Emerald Isle had no happy ending in sight.

The story began in 2004 when I visited Ireland for the first time and fell in love with its music, history, culture, and especially its sports. Yes, they play soccer, rugby, and basketball there. But those are foreign sports, and all of them fail to capture the essence of what it means to be Irish. 

For that, we have to look back more than 3,000 years to when the Celts introduced warrior training practices to the green fields of their homeland. They used flat, curved wooden sticks to propel a stuffed, leather ball toward a goal, fighting off opponents along the way. “Hurling,” they called it. And it hasn’t changed much over the millennia. Warriors in every corner of Ireland still play, simply for the pride of their home parish. 

_Main-Hurling-game-3Growing in Number and Skill
When I was in Ireland, a stadium in Dublin full of 80,000 exuberant fans woke me from a sporting slumber. I bought a stick, or “hurley,” and brought it home, hoping I could find some way to be part of what I had just witnessed.

Like it always does, life got in the way. Two jobs, rent, car repairs, and before I knew it, years had passed with nothing to show for it. It took the death of a close friend to remind me that we aren’t guaranteed time to accomplish our goals.

Within four months, I was learning hurling from an Irish coach in Atlanta. Months later I was teaching three friends everything I had learned. From there, the Augusta Hurling Club was born.

We invited friends and family, but not having enough for our own full team, we played with the Atlanta club every chance we got. We grew in number and skill. We were doing the unimaginable, something that blew the mind of every Irish person I spoke to: Developing a club of American-born hurlers in a small Southern town.

Six years ago, we aimed to introduce hurling to more people. They came, and we were glad to have them. Since that time, the sports have taken off across the country. In the Southeast alone, the number of clubs has grown from five in 2011 to 20 today.

To attract soccer and rugby players, we began playing hurling’s sister sport, Gaelic football, in 2012. We even changed our name to Augusta Gaelic Sports Club to reflect that we included both of Ireland’s national pastimes. Those changes paid dividends as well.

Group-PhotoResurrected Dream
Like every good story, though, complications must arise to create drama. As time pressed on, many of our members drifted to other pursuits. Some found jobs and moved away. Some got married, or joined the military. By spring of 2014, weekly practices had dwindled to a twosome. After months of futile effort reminding everyone we knew about these awesome sports, we decided to pack it in. The dream was over.

For two years I didn’t touch a hurley. The bags of equipment I bought for others to try, all sat in the dark corner of a closet I never opened. I returned to a familiar old pastime – playing pickup basketball with a couple of former Club members, Appling residents Chuck and Will Renfro, on Tuesdays.

Hurling eventually came up during between-game conversations. They missed it, they told me. I did too, but there was no sense in disturbing that ghost. Then another Appling resident, Nathan Montgomery, overheard us.

“Now, what sport is that?” he asked.

_Main-Hurling-game-5We explained it the best we could: “Kind of like a cross between field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and rugby, but like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

I showed him some videos on my phone, then dusted off my hurleys and brought them the next week. To our surprise, Nathan was excited to give it a try. Still skeptical, I scheduled a trial event to gauge interest in restarting the club. We planned to meet on a September Sunday afternoon last year at Patriots Park. Then the floodgates opened.

The first was a Navy man, Erik McTaggart, who had played hurling at Purdue University. He had just completed his training and been stationed at Fort Gordon. He was praying that our club was still functioning. Then came a sergeant in the Army, Sean Fox, who had seen hurling and Gaelic football in Ireland and wanted to play.

Next was Thomson resident Kim Jenkins. While living in Seattle, she had played both sports after being introduced to them during Irish Week. She was ecstatic to again have a place to play. Then came Lee Doby, a lacrosse coach from Grovetown, looking to connect to his Celtic heritage. He was followed by USC-Aiken professor, Eric Carlson, who had played in the early days of the Milwaukee Hurling Club, now the largest club outside of Ireland.

Football-2Competition and Fellowship
One by one, the messages came through email and social media. Our past members wanted to give it a go once more, and people new to the area or new to the sports were eager to try. As we continued to play, the new folks brought their friends, who brought their friends.

“I literally couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted to play more,” Montgomery remembers. “Kris let me borrow a hurl, and I would just hit the ball from one end of my yard to the other, over and over again.”

In the year that has passed, we held our own tournament and are doing so again on Saturday, November 4. We participated in tournaments in Atlanta and Charleston and helped two former members who had moved to Athens start a club of their own. We even got a club sponsor, Cornerstone Granite Company, allowing us to order authentic Gaelic jerseys.

At recent practices, we’ve had between 15 and 20 participants. But we’re still growing and spreading the word. In fact, despite how far we’ve come in such a short time, we still have a long way to go. Our story isn’t over yet. But with testimonials from people like Montgomery, who has dragged his entire circle of family and friends to the park to join us, we are sure the games will catch on to an even larger audience.

“I love the sport and the character of the guys and girls who play it here in Augusta,” he says. “Even though it can be a physical sport, American hurlers have this incredible respect for each other on and off the field.”

While our members love to play, once the competition is over, the fellowship afterward is what many anticipate most.

“Practice and food,” Jenkins says, listing the two club events she looks forward to most. “I love the camaraderie. The team is very welcoming to all skill levels and is very inclusive.”

Football-1Come One, Come All
We haven’t even considered that there’s any other way to be. For other sports, there may be a tryout, or organizers may only gather people they know are talented enough to help the team win. We are on the other end of that spectrum; we don’t discriminate. We accept everyone, from the person who has never played any sport in his life, to the Irishman who grew up with a hurl in one hand and a Gaelic football in the other.

We take pride in teaching new folks how to play. We play hard while on the field, and we shake hands after the final whistle. Then we share a meal and drink together while weaving our own tales of the battle that just ended. 

If this sounds like a story to which you want to contribute, don’t hesitate. Joining us is easy, and we will welcome you with open arms. Anyone can reach us at facebook.com/AugustaGaelicSportsClub, at twitter.com/AugustaGaelic, or at augustahurling@gmail.com.

By Kristopher Wells