Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Wonderful Christmastime

A & E

Joan-Ellison-3x3Augusta Symphony brings the community two new yuletide concerts
The only thing better than one holiday concert is two holiday concerts, and Augusta Symphony is offering music fans a double dose of yuletide tunes this month.

The first show, Augusta Symphony Holiday Spectacular, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 6 at the Miller Theater.

In this inaugural holiday concert, the symphony will perform with the Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School Chorale and Joan Ellison, who specializes in reviving Judy Garland’s repertoire from the golden Hollywood years to her Carnegie Hall concert and television show.

“It’ll be really fun to perform with these great artists,” says Dirk Meyer, the symphony’s music director. “Joan is a truly outstanding performer, and I am also looking forward to working with the exceptional chorus from Davidson.”

The concert will include holiday favorites ranging from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” to tunes from Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. Tickets range from $36 – $100.

The second concert, Family Holiday Spectacular, will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 9 at Hardin Performing Arts Center. This one-hour concert, the first of two family concerts in Columbia County, is part of a new series designed to introduce children to the symphony. 

“Introducing children to symphonic music at a young age is a wonderful opportunity to instill a love of music, art and culture in them,” Meyer says. “It sets them off for a lifetime of enjoyment of this amazing art form.” 

The family program will feature highlights such as Polar Express, It’s a Wonderful Life and “Chestnuts.” Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets for the Columbia County series, which also includes Peter & the Wolf on March 24, are $52 for adults and $20 for students. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Chill Out!

Photos courtesy of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

Photos courtesy of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

Snow tubing, ice skating, light displays, carnival rides and more offer a flurry of fun all winter long
Swapping out swimsuits and flip flops for mittens and snow boots is a cool way to warm up the festivities at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, near Atlanta. 

With the debut of the attraction’s License to Chill Snow Island, along with the updated Magical Nights of Lights, the “tropical” paradise is transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays.

“Who’s to say we can’t have a parrot wearing a scarf?” asks Darby Campbell, president of Safe Harbor Development, which operates the entertainment venue.

Holiday-Village-SignLet It Snow
Safe Harbor invested $3.5 million to create the snow-based activities and to upgrade the lights displays. License to Chill Snow Island offers a number of activities including two snow slides, an ice skating rink, two snow play areas, carnival rides and fire pits to make s’mores.

The snow tubing mountain is more than 400 feet high, and six large snow-making machines keep it covered with plenty of fresh snow.

“It’s the longest, fastest snow tubing ride in the Southeast and potentially the whole East,” says Campbell. “We graded the mountain and created the slope from scratch. We got to create it exactly the way we want it.”

5-O'Clock-SomewhereReservations for 90-minute time slots are required for guests to visit the snow tubing mountain.

“Everybody likes snow in the winter,” Campbell says.

Snow also blankets flat terrain, where kids or kids at heart can make snow angels, engage in spirited snowball fights or show off their skills in snowman contests. 

Children also can have their photo taken with Santa Claus at Landshark Landing, one of several restaurants onsite where their parents can enjoy specialty winter drinks or adult beverages.

Christmas-TreesCarnival rides include a Ferris wheel and a merry-go-round. Snow Island also features warming stations and hot chocolate stations.

Light Up the Night
To get to Snow Island, visitors travel through the Magical Nights of Lights display. Celebrating its 26th year, Magical Nights of Lights has been revamped with 600,000 additional lights and a Margaritaville twist. 

New light displays are added each year to make the experience memorable, and this season the brightly colored holiday lights exhibit features 19 new displays. They include the It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere clock tower, a surfboard Christmas tree, a parrot wearing a Santa hat, giant candy canes, hanging snowflakes and a Christmas train. Classic favorites such as the 12 Days of Christmas display are back this year as well.

Reindeer-&-Tree“The light show is 7 miles long, but there are very few spots that aren’t filled with lights,” says Campbell. “It is the largest in the Southeast in total investment.” 

Daily admission tickets as well as season passes to Margaritaville at Lanier Islands are available. A tram transports guests from the parking area to Snow Island and Landshark Landing.

“We went all out to provide a wonderful experience for our guests,” says Campbell. “It’s great fun, and it truly is done right. We want to turn Lanier Islands into one of the best places in the entire Southeast. With Snow Island and the Magical Nights of Lights, it is a year-round destination.”

If You Go:

What: License to Chill Snow Island and Magical Nights of Lights

Snowflake-TunnelWhen: Snow Island is open through February 24, hours vary; Magical Nights of Lights is open through January 6 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. or 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays

Where: Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, Buford, Georgia

How Much: Tickets to License to Chill Snow Island start at $24.99; entrance to Magical Nights of Lights starts at $43 per vehicle

More Info: 

By Morgan Davis

It’s a Holiday Soul Party — Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Listen To This

Holiday-soul-partyIn a season of all things spice, the essential ingredients in your holiday soundtrack are a must. And there’s no tastier playlist to serve on your musical tabletop than It’s A Holiday Soul Party by our local late, great native sister, Sharon Jones, and her Dap Kings.

An old-school soul platter of 11 funky holiday jams is on tap as Sharon takes traditional Christmas numbers and stirs in some heavy-whipping soul.

A smooth-clackin’ rendition of “Silent Night” and a tassel-prancing “White Christmas” set the mood as original tunes like the deep-funky “Just Another Christmas Song” and horn-riffin’ slap-count of “8 Days of Hanukkah” take the spice cake. Released in 2015, It’s a Holiday Soul Party is still the complete spread of funky sprinkles and sugar power.

Whether you are hosting a holiday party or ripping through a mountain of gifts, this classic record will make you want to jump back and kiss yourself under the mistletoe.

- Chris Rucker

Holiday Magic

A & E

CarolersHave yourself a merry little Christmas at Evans Towne Center Park

Local residents can celebrate Christmas in Columbia County with lots of lights, cameras and action. From Friday, November 30 through Tuesday, January 1 Evans Towne Center Park will be filled with lighted Christmas trees, animated light displays and a Holiday Market where children can be photographed with Santa.

The festivities will begin with a sneak peek at the lights on November 30 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., where visitors will see the new, LED-programmable, 46-foot tree this year as well as a 1,000-foot white light tunnel.

Other attractions include an animated 12 Days of Christmas display, gingerbread houses, Santa’s sleigh with reindeer, lighted toy soldiers, musical nutcrackers, a caroling family, Santa on a golf car, a waving snowman, elves, Peanuts characters and a multi-colored light tunnel.

Sparkle Express train rides will be available near the playground, and special activities include a scavenger hunt and movie nights. Free photos with Santa will be available at the Holiday Market on Saturdays, December 1, 8 and 15. 

If You Go:
Friday, November 30
Sneak Peek 6 – 8 p.m.

Saturday, December 1 – Tuesday, January 1
Light Display 5 – 10 p.m.

Saturday, December 1
Tree Lighting with Holiday Market and Santa 2 – 6 p.m. 

Thursday, December 6
Holiday Market 4 – 8 p.m.

Friday, December 7
Holiday Market and Movie Night 6 – 9 p.m.

Saturday, December 8
Holiday Market and Santa 2 – 6 p.m. 

Thursday, December 13
Holiday Market 4 – 8 p.m.

Friday, December 14
Holiday Market and Movie Night 6 – 9 p.m. 

Saturday, December 15
Holiday Market and Santa 2 – 6 p.m.

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans

Literary Loop

The-Noel-StrangerMaggie Walther feels like her world is imploding. Publicly humiliated after her husband, a local councilman, is arrested for bigamy, and her subsequent divorce, she has isolated herself from the world.

When her only friend insists that Maggie climb out of her hole, and embrace the season to get her out of her funk, Maggie decides to put up a Christmas tree and heads off to buy one —albeit reluctantly. She is immediately taken by Andrew, the kind, handsome man who owns the Christmas tree lot and delivers her tree. She soon learns that Andrew is single and new to her city and, like her, is also starting his life anew.

As their friendship develops, Maggie slowly begins to trust again — something she never thought possible. Then, just when she thinks she has finally found happiness, she discovers a dark secret from Andrew’s past. Is there more to this stranger’s truth than meets the eye?

This powerful new holiday novel from Richard Paul Evans, the “King of Christmas fiction” (The New York Times), explores the true power of the season, redemption, and the freedom that comes from forgiveness. 

“Witty and interesting,” says Kirkus Reviews. “Evans’s fans will appreciate this tale of finding the good in everyone and loving people for who they are,” says Publisher’s Weekly.

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When facing a legal issue that may impact your family, business or freedom, you will benefit from the dedicated efforts of a resourceful attorney. Joe Rhodes has been helping clients throughout Richmond, Columbia and Burke Counties in Georgia since 2010. He provides comprehensive legal support in the areas of family law, business law, medical regulatory compliance, criminal defense and immigration law. Whether you are facing divorce, DUI charges or deportation, you can be confident of his straightforward legal advice and determined advocacy. Joe was born and raised in Columbia County and graduated from Lakeside High School. To learn how we can help you, call our office for a free consultation.

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Tribute to Veterans


Carol-with-bench-A-A mosaic artist honors veterans with a patriotic bench at the All Wars Memorial.

Veterans Day is a time to remember all service members, and local artist Carol Ayer is using her talents to show her appreciation for the sacrifices of area soldiers.

In an 80-hour project, Ayer recently covered a 61-inch-by-13-inch bench at the All Wars Memorial in Augusta with a mosaic design that features an American eagle and an American flag.

“I’m doing it as a gift to the community and to create mosaic artwork in the city,” she says.

She began working on the bench in September and finished it in early October. “I used tile instead of glass because tile is a better surface for seating and a more durable material for the outdoors,” Ayer says. “I had to do it in three pieces to transport it because it’s so big.”

She hopes to secure funding to create more mosaic benches at other local memorials including a Vietnam War Memorial, which the city of Augusta plans to erect downtown. Excess funds that are raised for the memorial can be used to finance the bench projects.

More than 15,000 area men and women served in Vietnam, and 163 of them made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home. For more information about the Vietnam War Memorial or to make a contribution, visit

Sweet Pumpkin Pancakes

  • Sweet-Pumpkin-Pancakes2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 tablespoons canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Syrup 

Preheat skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat with nonstick spray. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Using a mixer, combine eggs, buttermilk, butter, pumpkin, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot skillet or griddle for each pancake and cook 1-2 minutes until batter stops bubbling and edges begin to harden. Flip pancakes (they should be golden brown) and cook other side 1-2 minutes more until golden brown. Place cooked pancakes on oven-safe plate or baking sheet and keep warm in oven while cooking the next batch. When all pancakes are cooked, sprinkle with confectioners sugar and serve warm with syrup. Makes 16 pancakes.

Packed House

A & E

Annie-Moses-BandIconic music from the ’70s, along with a Christmas show, will fill up your senses at the Jabez. 

From tribute artists to Christmas tunes, the Hardin Performing Arts Center will be stayin’ alive with music this month when a quartet of musical groups comes to Evans. 

The first of the four – Bee Gees Gold, The Tribute – is scheduled for Friday, November 2. With the detailed vocal stylings of John Acosta (Barry), Daryl Borges (Robin) and Jeff Celentano (Maurice) as the brothers Gibb, the trio will recreate the look and sound of the Bee Gees with hits like “Massachusetts,” “I Started a Joke,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “You Should Be Dancing.” Tickets are $39.50. 

The John Denver Musical Tribute with Ted Vigel is slated for Friday, November 9. Vigel won a celebrity look-alike contest in 2007 when he appeared as Denver, and afterward started planning a tribute show to the music icon. From 2010 to 2014, he toured with Denver’s lead guitar player, the late Steve Weisberg. “It was like working with John again,” Weisberg said at the time. Tickets are $39.50.

Live and Let Die, a Tribute to Paul McCartney featuring Tony Kishman will take place Friday, November 16. Kishman starred in the national and international tours of Broadway’s smash hit, “Beatlemania,” for years, and he also performs in the International Symphonic Beatles production, “Classical Mystery Tour.” Tickets are $44.50.

Finally, the Annie Moses Band will perform a blend of folk and classical music in its Christmas-themed show Wednesday, November 28. The band, made up of musicians from the same family, call their style “chamber pop,” a blend of classical, jazz and pop, mixed with some good, old-fashioned country. Tickets are $49. 

All concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. Dinner reservations also can be made for a meal at the center before each show. For more information or to order tickets, visit or call (706) 726-0366.

2018 County Fair Schedule

A & E

Candy-applesThe Columbia County Fair kicks off November 1 with new attractions that include Jurassic Kingdom, Banana Derby and ZEGA the Robot. Proceeds benefit area charities and provide scholarships to seniors from each Columbia County public high school. For more information, visit

Thursday, November 1
Hours: 4-11 p.m.

Admission: $7; free admission 4-4:45 p.m.

Unlimited Rides: $20

FFA Judging: 6 p.m.

Musical Entertainment: Elvis tribute artist Jason Sikes – 7 p.m.

Friday, November 2
Hours: 5 p.m. – midnight

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20 from 9 p.m.-midnight

Musical Entertainment: Love & the Outcome

Senior Night: $5 admission for adults 55 and older with ID card

Saturday, November 3
Hours: 11 a.m. – midnight

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: Buy unlimited ride stamp 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for $30 and use it all day

Free Ride Special: All rides free 11 a.m.-noon

Musical Entertainment: Tony Howard’s Motown Review – 7 p.m.

Sunday, November 4
Hours: 1 – 11 p.m.

Admission: $7; $2 off with church bulletin

Unlimited Rides: $20

Musical Entertainment: Little Roy and Lizzie, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Monday, November 5
Hours: 5 – 11 p.m.

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20

Demolition Derby: 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 6
Hours: 4 – 11 p.m.

Admission: $7 or free admission with 8 cans for the food bank

Unlimited Rides: $15 if purchased 4-4:30 p.m.; $20 after 4:30 p.m.

Musical Entertainment: Dayz to Come – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 7
Hours: 5 – 11 p.m.

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20

Musical Entertainment: Mr. Haney

UGA Georgettes Dance Team: 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 8
Hours: 5 – 11 p.m.

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20

Musical Entertainment: Bethany & the Southside Boys – 7 p.m.

Friday, November 9
Hours: 5 p.m. – midnight

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20 from 9 p.m.-midnight

Demolition Derby: 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 10
Hours: 11 a.m. – midnight

Admission: $7

Free Ride Special: All rides free 11 a.m.-noon

Unlimited Rides: Buy unlimited ride pass between 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for $30 and use it all day

Musical Entertainment: Mayhem on a Monday

Chainsaw Carving Auction: 9 p.m. 

Sunday, November 11
Hours: 1-11 p.m.

Admission: $7

Unlimited Rides: $20

Military Appreciation Night: $4 admission with military ID

Beatles Vs. Stones

A & E

beatles vs stonesThe boys next door take on the bad boys of rock in a musical showdown for stage superiority.

The debate between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones has raged ever since the two groups first crossed paths on the charts 54 years ago. Back in the day, the Beatles were regarded as the mop-topped boys next door while the Stones were the bad boys of rock. Pop versus rock. 

To settle which band reigns supreme once and for all, maybe, two tribute bands – Abbey Road and Satisfaction – will put on a musical showdown.

“Music fans never had a chance to see the Beatles and the Rolling Stones perform on the same marquee,” says Chris Legrand, who plays Mick Jagger. “Now, music aficionados can watch this debate play out on stage.”

The show, which has been touring since 2011, is part of a 110-stop tour of the United States, Australia and Canada. The production includes some of the more popular songs from the two rock pioneers and covers the scope of their musical careers. However, the set list for Satisfaction usually includes Rolling Stones songs up to the 1980s. 

“They certainly have more pop songs, but we’re a really great live show. The fans are in for an incredible night of music,” says LeGrand.

During the two-hour show, the bands perform three sets each, ending the night with an all-out encore involving both bands. There’s a lot of good-natured jabbing between the bands as well.

“Without Beatlemania, the Stones might still be a cover band in London,” said Chris Overall, who plays Paul. “There’s no question that the Beatles set the standard. It’s just a fun time and a cool back-and-forth, nonstop show.” 

Legrand agrees. “We’re going to bring it all,” he says. “It’s going to be an evening of high-energy music.”

If You Go:
What: Beatles Vs. Stones, a Musical Showdown

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 10

Where: Imperial Theatre

How Much: $25 – $65

More Info: (706) 722-8341 or

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Literary Loop

crawdadsFor years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life — until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. 

“Lyrical,” says Booklist. “Its appeal rises from Kya’s deep connection to the place where she makes her home, and to all of its creatures.”

“Slow down and let this lush nature-focused story unspool,” says Garden & Gun. “A mystery will pull you along, but stay awhile in the descriptions of shifting tides, shell collections and the mottled light of coastal Carolina.”

Bottle It In — Kurt Vile

Listen To This

kurt-vile-bottle-it-inAmerican rock ‘n’ roll is surely not dead. Thanks to Kurt Vile, the insurgence of pure heart-rock-folk is re-exploring territory originally cultivated by the likes of Jackson Brown and Bob Dylan. 

Vile’s eighth studio release, Bottle It In, is probably one of the finest releases of 2018. With 13 musically refreshing, lyrically stout and steel-cable-tight songs of raw emotion, it is inspired by the nuances of life and love. 

His unpolished, sturdy, low-fi vocals slink around the gentle power chords and jangle loops to create a deep tread that grips the rocky terrain of every track, creating a vibe that is infectious and endearing. Jazzy improvisations crescendo into fuzzy-lush, melodic tones of structured hooks that make you long for more. 

Like a perfect batch of goulash, every track is superbly seasoned and cooked, serving up warm spoonsful of soul that leave you satisfied inside. It’s the perfect soundtrack for welcoming long sleeves, fire pits and road trips into the holiday season.

- Chris Rucker