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On the Fast Track


exterior-museum-sideThe county is going to town with a trio of construction projects at The Plaza at Evans Towne Center.

Columbia County officials have long had a dream of creating a thriving downtown center in the heart of Evans. With three construction projects in various stages of completion underway at The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, a public-private venture between Columbia County and Meybohm Development Group, that vision is coming into focus.

lobby-1Construction on the county’s new performing arts center, which will anchor The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, got underway in early March. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete. 

At a groundbreaking ceremony in February, Ron Cross, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, called the project a dream come true that will “benefit Columbia County citizens for years to come.” 

The facility will include seating for about 2,100 people, a main floor, two balcony areas with box seats, a concessions area and an orchestra pit that has the capacity to be lowered below the floor to accommodate extra seating. 

theater-seats“We’re looking forward to the first Broadway play or musical we can have for the citizens,” Cross says.

The $31 million-plus project was approved by voters as part of the 2017 general obligation bond in the November 2016 general election. It is being financed by the GO bond and SPLOST monies remaining from completed projects.

“We’re excited that the county has started the performing arts center,” says Lionel Prather, senior vice president of commercial development for Meybohm Commercial Properties.

The other projects include the first phase of The Plaza at Evans Towne Center, a walkable multi-use area, and a raised sidewalk that will connect The Plaza with Evans Towne Center Park. The $1 million sidewalk project, which includes brick pavers, trees, plants and crosswalks, is being funded by the 2017 GO bond and TSPLOST funds. These projects are expected to be completed in late May. 

theater-stageThe first phase of The Plaza features a four-story, L-shaped building that will include the Meybohm headquarters; retail, professional and restaurant space; and a rooftop terrace that can accommodate 300 people for special events. The project also features greenspace, streetscape and sidewalks. Professional tenants are expected to include cyber and software companies, local businesses that are looking for a Columbia County presence and restaurant concepts that are new to the area. 

“We are in talks with two companies now that would take up almost all the professional space that Meybohm doesn’t occupy,” says Prather.

Your Pie, a fast-casual craft pizza and beer restaurant, is expected to open in the development this summer. Preliminary plans also are underway for the second building, which will be built behind the first building and face The Plaza. The square, three story building will house retail space on the first floor and professional space on the second and third floors. 

Upon completion, the entire 22-acre site will include six buildings covering 150,000 square feet. The development will offer 60,000 square feet of professional space and almost 75,000 square feet of office space. 

“We are completing the county’s vision of a downtown area,” Prather says. “It’s going to enhance the whole area.”

Game of Privilege by Dr. Lane Demas

Literary Loop

Lit-Loop--April-2018From George F. Grant’s invention of the golf tee in 1899 to the dominance of superstar Tiger Woods in the 1990s, Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf by Dr. Lane Demas challenges stereotypes and the fundamental story of race and golf in American culture.

This groundbreaking history of African Americans and golf explores race, class and public space in golf course development; stories of black golfers during the age of segregation; legal battles to integrate public golf courses and the little-known history of the United Golfers Association, a black golf tour that operated from 1925 to 1975.

Demas charts how African Americans nationwide organized social campaigns, filed lawsuits and went to jail to desegregate courses. He also provides dramatic stories of golfers who confronted wider segregation in their local communities.

Demas is the winner of the 2018 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award, which recognizes and honors outstanding contributions to golf literature.

“I’m proud of the fact that this book provides a narrative and historical content that’s accessible to everyone, especially the everyday golf fan,” says Demas. “It’s very humbling to receive this prestigious award and be recognized by a premier organization such as the USGA.”

The Wilmington Star News says, “The story [Demas] has to tell is enthralling. . . . Reminds us that golf can be serious business—and that it’s much more than a game.”

Got to Be There


michael jackson tributeBeat it to the Jabez to rock along with a world-renowned Michael Jackson tribute artist

Get ready for a thriller as renowned Michael Jackson tribute artist Michael Firestone moonwalks into the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 5 for “I Am King – The Michael Jackson Experience.” 

Firestone, who has performed for millions of Michael Jackson fans worldwide, has been hailed as the heir apparent to the pop artist in look, performance and authenticity. His ability to sing live while mimicking Jackson’s famous dance moves has made Firestone the most sought after MJ tribute artist in the world. 

Firestone was chosen as one of two official Jackson impersonators for the Michael Jackson Laser Spectacular shows in theaters and casinos all across the United States and Canada. Most recently, Firestone co-created and starred in “MJ Live” and numerous other tribute shows that still use Jackson’s image and video to sell tickets. 

Before Jackson’s death in 2009, Firestone had performed as a Jackson tribute artist in live shows such as “MTV Magic” and “Around the World” in Asia, “Legends in Concert” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and “LaCage” and “Masquerade” in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Firestone also did guest appearances on “Larry the Cable Guy’s Christmas Spectacular” and the Asian variety show, “The Bon Show.” 

hat-and-glove-3x2“I Am King” will feature renditions of Jackson’s biggest hits including “Bad,” “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” “Man in the Mirror,” “Human Nature” and more.

If You Go:
What: I Am King – The Michael Jackson Experience, featuring Michael Firestone

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5

Where: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center

white-hat-9x14How Much: $46

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

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

Literary Loop

The-Italian-Teacher-bookWhat if your father was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated painters? How would you define yourself against that kind of talent and machismo?

In The Italian Teacher, his third novel, Tom Rachman sets in play just that dynamic. Bear Bavinsky is a world-famous painter, a first-class narcissist and father of 17 children who he treats with careless, sometimes callous, warmth.

Bear’s shy son Pinch loves to paint, but his ambitions are snuffed by his father’s offhand critique: “I got to tell you, kiddo. You’re not an artist and you never will be.” After that, nothing in Pinch’s life seems to gel.

When Bear abandons his family, Pinch strives to make himself worthy of his father’s attention, first trying to be a painter himself; then resolving to write his father’s biography; eventually settling, disillusioned, into a job as an Italian teacher in London.

With Rachman’s signature humanity and humor, The Italian Teacher examines a life lived in the shadow of greatness. If you enjoyed William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, you’ll love this portrait of Pinch, who has the good luck to both outlive and survive his famous father, and to find, in the end, a way to take ownership of his difficult legacy.

- Sarah Harrison Smith

Rev Your Engines


gray-carA national Mustang show is wheeling into Columbia County for the second time in four years

People don’t have to cue up Ray Charles to have the Peach State on their mind this month, thanks to the Mustang Club of America. The organization, which has four national Mustang shows annually, once again will have one of them – “Georgia on My Mind” – at the Columbia County Exhibition Center on Memorial Day weekend.

cars-outsideMike Anchor, president of the CSRA Mustang Club, says about 350 cars from all across the country, including 30 to 40 local cars, will be on display at the show.

“The Mustang is an icon. It’s been around for 54 years,” says Anchor, who lives in Evans. “Everybody you run into has a Mustang story. They talk about the Mustang they had or the one they dreamed about having. The car brings everybody from all over the world together.”

inside-exhibition-centerFriday evening activities will include a hospitality reception/meet and greet, and judging in 15 divisions will begin on Saturday. Judges typically look for cleanliness, workmanship and overall quality. Unrestored cars, which usually are low mileage with original factory parts and equipment as ordered, are judged on originality. Unrestored or restored Thoroughbred Mustangs must have the original or correct era parts such as fan belts, batteries, exhaust systems, etc. Absolutely no reproduction parts are allowed. 

Saturday evening festivities will feature a banquet catered by Diablo Southwest Grill, followed by a casino night party and an auction, at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. Community members who are interested in attending can visit motosho.com to purchase tickets at $40 each.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Rebecca Erryn Moon Foundation, which fights childhood cancer. When the CSRA Mustang Club last served as host for a national show in 2015, it raised $20,000 for the foundation. Since 1989, the local Mustang club has contributed at least $150,000 to various charities, Anchor says.

Those who attend the show can do more than admire Mustangs and raise money for a good cause, however. Vendors will be on hand to sell car parts as well as merchandise like jewelry and Tupperware. 

blue-car“We would like for people to come out and enjoy the cars, make new friends and support local charities,” says Anchor. “It’s all about having fun. I have made friends all over the world because of a car.”

If You Go:
What: “Georgia on my Mind” MCA National Mustang Show

When: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, May 25 and Saturday, May 26; 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday, May 27

Where: Columbia County Exhibition Center, Grovetown

How Much: Free

More Info:csramc.org

John Luton Columbia County Director of Community and Leisure Services


John-Luton-(2-of-2)Number of Years in Position: 2

Family: Wife, Jenifer; children, Holly (4), Camille (2) and Eli (6 months)

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: In Columbia County, the best is the standard. I love working with a team and for a community with high expectations that strives to be the best. It’s what attracted me to Columbia County five years ago and what motivates me every day to do what I can to enhance the quality of life for residents. Seeing employees that I lead have success in what they’re passionate about, and experiencing the impacts of what we do on the community, is gratifying.

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: I am involved with several citizen advisory boards including the Recreation Advisory Board, Community Events Advisory Board, Monument and Public Art Committee, Greater Clarks Hill Regional Library Board, Friends of the Euchee Creek Greenway and Animal Services Advisory Board. I also work very closely with the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose mission of promoting the county as a destination marketplace is one I’m very passionate about.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: At one of my previous jobs, my department director was suddenly let go, and I was thrust into a leadership role. I was challenged to manage a brand new $17 million park (tournament complex) with only a quarter of the budget that was originally allocated to operate it, but with the same expectations for success. The park’s construction was controversial, and we faced a great deal of negativity from the public. Many couldn’t wait to see it fail. Our staff used this as motivation and rallied together. After just one year in operation, the total economic impact generated by events hosted at the park was greater than the cost to build the park itself. I still draw from lessons learned from this experience every day and consider it a crucial point in my professional development.

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: I’m very proud of many professional accomplishments I’ve been able to achieve at this point in my career, but the success would mean nothing without being able to share it with my wife and kids. So, I’m most proud of being a husband and a dad.

What Your Childhood Self Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: Some sort of professional athlete

Favorite Way to Spend a Saturday Afternoon: Couch, multiple TVs, full slate of college football

Favorite TV Show: “30 for 30”

Favorite Movies: Hoosiers, The Jerk

Favorite Sports Team: Clemson Tigers (2016 College Football National Champions)

Favorite Comfort Food: Steak and potatoes

Favorite App: ESPN

Last Book Read: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons                                                         

Dream Vacation: Anywhere tropical would work, but a safari-type trip sounds fun

Something That Has Changed My Life: The birth of my first child…then again with the birth of my second…then again with birth of my third…

Best Thing I Ever Learned: Treat others the way you like to be treated. Simple, but something I try to always remember whether it’s with personal relationships, dealing with the public or managing staff.

One Word You Would Use to Describe Yourself: Thankful

Favorite Hobbies: Clemson sports, golf, poker, spending time with the family

Secret Aspiration: I’ve always thought I would have been a good coach or sportswriter. I actually wanted to major in journalism in college, but Clemson didn’t offer it. And I certainly wasn’t going to USC.

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: I used to say I would win “Alone” on the History Channel. But my wife likes to remind me about a recent trip into our backyard woods, when I stumbled over my own feet and sliced my leg, pretty badly, with the hatchet I was carrying. So I won’t be auditioning for that.

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I’m hesitant to share, but I’m pretty good at impersonations. I don’t break them out that often because people tend to hound me to do my impression of them, and you never know how someone will take it. My high school basketball teammates persuaded me one time to do my impersonation of our coach, in front of our coach. So I did. All my teammates died laughing, coach’s face turned red as he laughed awkwardly and insecurely – and I never played again.

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.

Semicircle — The Go! Team

Listen To This

TheGoTeamSEMICIRCLECOVERrgb-1507736711-640x640The Go! Team is the electric company of vintage ’60s riffs and double Dutch chants rolled into a pep rally of retro urban-garage-cardio beats. A concept that was birthed in Ian Parton’s parent’s kitchen, The Go! Team creates an infectious groove and bombastic sonic wall of organic emotion and raw exhilaration.

Nearly two decades after the critically acclaimed Thunder, Lightning, Strike, Parton’s project dives deep into the Motor City, enlisting the Detroit Youth Choir to serve as the vocal force behind the English band’s latest release, Semicircle.

With youthful pop magic, Semicircle boasts an innocent and optimistic revel that carries a common chord throughout each track while creating a nostalgic gymnasium of varsity cheer. Out of the gate, the opener “Mayday” shines the ray of warm lush urban horns and marching band step-dives into a loop of choreographed magic. 

The momentum remains and is highlighted on the field day anthem “Semicircle Song” and roller-skating jam “All the Way Live.” As the days grow longer and the season gets warmer, The Go! Team is laced up and ready for some sidewalk sprinkler fun.

- Chris Rucker

Justin Hayes


KaterwerksExecutive Chef for Jones Creek Golf Club, Katerwerks Events and Hospitality, and Cork and Flame 

Number of years in position: 3

Family: Grandmother, Ellie; mother, Susan

Why I’m Passionate About What I Do: Passion is not taught; it comes from within. I’ve done my best to harness this gift and apply it to every aspect of my culinary career. With no allegiance to a particular style of cooking, my attention is captivated as long as the ingredients are sourced properly and cooked with purpose, balance, finesse and respect. I’ve harnessed my passion and honed my culinary skills while building a reputation for preparing seasonal items with innovative techniques. 

After initially studying with American Academy Award Chef Heinz Sowinski, I worked under Master Chef Marcel Biro and then pursued additional education under Chef Biro’s mentor in Germany, Master Chef Robert Rauh. After returning to Augusta, I began working with JCI Management, which operates Jones Creek Golf Club and Katerwerks Events and Hospitality. I remain dedicated to my craft and continue to enchant guests with innovative culinary creations. My team has been voted Best Caterer in Columbia County for 2016 and 2017. 

Community Groups and Charities I Love to Support: (1) SafeHomes of Augusta, which empowers our community to take a stand against domestic violence and supports victims as they transform their lives into survivors. (2) American Junior Golf Association, which is committed to providing a platform for high school students to gain exposure to college coaches on the golf course and enable them to receive college scholarships, thereby furthering their education. I`ve personally had the opportunity to work with both organizations through the support of Jones Creek and Katerwerks.

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: So far…my externship to Germany. As an eager novice chef, I decided when I was 24 to jump on a plane and travel 5,000 miles away with $1,000 in my pocket to study under a master chef in Germany. I spoke very little German and quickly discovered my miscalculations regarding the ease of this transition. I had to adapt to the cultural changes around me, but always found reassurance and solace in my one true love — the kitchen. Cooking transcends cultural barriers. 

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Finding a group of people who believe in me enough to invest in what will be Columbia County’s premier restaurant, Cork and Flame, which will open soon.

What Your Childhood Self Wanted to Be When You Grew Up: Shortstop for the Atlanta Braves

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: Preparing the season’s finest ingredients with my colleagues in anticipation of our first guests to arrive.

Favorite TV Show: “No Reservations”

Favorite Movie: Anything by Wes Anderson

Favorite Sports Team: Go Dawgs!

Favorite Comfort Food: Oma’s Goulash

Favorite Apps: Instagram, Amazon and OpenTable 

Last Book Read: Love Is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski 

Dream Vacation: I want to hike the Camino de Santiago in order to get away, enjoy a slower pace of life and to have time to think and reflect. 

Something That Has Changed My Life: Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else`s life.” I`ve spent the last 12 years of my life in and out of kitchens, helping with the success of other chefs. I`m finally on the cusp of building my own success, and I can’t say that it has been one event or action that has changed my life, but the guidance of my mentors along the way.

Best Thing I Ever Learned: You`re only as good as your last dish served. 

One Word You Would Use to Describe Yourself: Motivated

Favorite Hobbies: I`ll let you know when I find the time.

Secret Aspiration: James Beard Foundation Award nomination

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: “Shark Tank”

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: I have a tattoo of a 1960s children’s book — The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Everybody Has the Blues


Kenny-Brawner-as-Ray-CharlesAnd that’s a good thing when an Augusta native returns home to pay tribute to music legend Ray Charles

A brand new hybrid concert/theater work brings the music and story of Ray Charles to vivid life. Portraying Charles, master pianist and vocalist Kenny Brawner, a native Augustan, leads his 12-piece orchestra and three sultry vocalists (a la Raelettes) in performing the American legend’s most popular hits.

Interweaving songs, Brawner depicts how gospel, blues, jazz and country music influenced the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s style. He also reflects on American social history, Charles’ battle with drugs and his triumphant return home to Georgia.

Brawner plays his own distinctive style of jazz, funk, R&B and blues. John Wilson of the New York Times once described his style as “rich, romantic with bold striking figures and a strong stomping beat.” Curt Davis of the New York Post called his writing, playing and singing “strong and assertive.”

For nearly a decade, Brawner led and composed for a jazz-funk recording band called “Raw Sugar.” During that period, his funk composition, “Whups it on Me” was chosen Showstopper of the Week on WBLS in New York, and another production collaboration with Onaje Allan Gumbs achieved success as well.

If You Go:
What: “Ray Charles on My Mind” featuring Kenny Brawner
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 27
Where: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center
How Much: $47
More Info: augustaamusements.com or (706) 726-0366

Down to the River — The War & Treaty

Listen To This

The-War-&-TreatyMichael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount are a dynamic duo that captures a soul-punch of grit with a pure Gospel-holler of melodies and natural funk rhythms to invite all who enjoy life’s trials and triumphs to rally, heal and celebrate.

Trotter found his calling on the battlefields of Iraq where music became the release of burden. His powerful voice served as a release to his fellow soldiers who labored through the loneliness and suffering of extended missions of war.

After serving our country, he found a kindred voice and soulmate in Blount (internationally acclaimed recording artist best known for her performance in the movie Sister Act 2 singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”). She possessed the companion piece to his passion, birthing the instant legendary duo, The War & Treaty. Now married, they have created an intimate, vintage blues explosion of soul-folk-gospel that is as sweet as apple pie with a smoky BBQ pit of flavor. 

Their debut release, Down to the River, is a raw tap into what will be an expansive catalog of experiential and relatable heart and soul. Every track is laden with expressive soul-fire vocals and shoe-stomping rhythm. No matter the venue, The War & Treaty will fill it with pure and ferocious fire.

–Chris Rucker

Dinner of Champions

Sergio Garcia, José Andrés and Luis Figo

Sergio Garcia, José Andrés and Luis Figo

Even if you can’t get tickets to the Masters Tournament in April, you can get tickets to Taste of the Master Chefs on Friday, April 6 — while they last, that is. That’s where you can experience award-winning cuisine and rub elbows with captains of industry, athletics and entertainment.

The fundraising event was started last year by Laurie Merrill, CEO of Taste of the Master Chefs, and Wayne Kostroski, Taste of the NFL founder and 2010 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year.

“There are a lot of elite private corporate events during Masters Week,” says Merrill. “We wanted to create an evening event for local people, corporate and elite celebrities, amazing chefs and professional athletes to come together at one venue.” 

Taste of the Master Chefs will feature cuisine prepared by 15 to 18 James Beard Award-winning chefs from around the country, along with live musical entertainment. Like last year, José Andrés, one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” and 2011 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef, will serve as chef chair for the event. The party is designed to raise funds and awareness for hunger relief, and all proceeds will benefit food programs at Salvation Army of Augusta.

“It’s a phenomenal team effort involving a vast group of people who believe in the same cause,” Merrill says. “It’s a great vehicle for all of the people who are coming to the Masters to enjoy the beauty of the Masters and the beauty of Augusta in the spring. We also want local people to be there and enjoy it. It’s a one-of-a-kind event that has just enough exclusivity to it.” 

A limited number of tickets are available. Athletes who attended last year’s event include Sergio Garcia, who went on to win the 2017 Masters, and Real Madrid soccer legend Luis Figo.

“Come and enjoy the amazing party,” says Merrill. “There isn’t anything else you’ll do all year long in Augusta that will come close to Taste of the Master Chefs.”

If You Go:

What: Taste of the Master Chefs

 When: 7 p.m. 10 p.m. Friday, April 6; VIP reception begins at 6 p.m.

Where: West Lake Country Club 

How Much: $175 –general admission; $275 VIP 

More Info: tasteofthemasterchefs.com

Walk in the Park

Construction of a raised sidewalk between Evans Towne Center Park and The Plaza temporarily will close a portion of Evans Town Center Boulevard.

Construction of a raised sidewalk between Evans Towne Center Park and The Plaza temporarily will close a portion of Evans Town Center Boulevard.

Changing traffic patterns due to new construction are a familiar site in Columbia County, and a pedestrian sidewalk that is under construction to connect Evans Town Center Park to The Plaza at Evans Towne Center temporarily will close a portion of Evans Towne Center Boulevard.

The road is expected be closed from Ronald Reagan Drive to the rear entrance of the Kroger Shopping Center until construction, which began in October, is complete on May 29.

 According to county officials, construction crews are working on a traffic calming area to include sidewalks, crosswalks and parking for areas around The Plaza and Evans Towne Center Park. Pedestrian traffic is expected to increase when The Plaza, a walkable, multi-use downtown area in the heart of Columbia County, opens this spring. 

The connecting sidewalk will be raised 6 inches above street level, similar to a neighborhood speed bump. The $1 million project, which is being funded by 2017 general obligation bond and TSPLOST monies, will include brick pavers, trees, plants, crosswalks and sidewalks. 

The roadway project is designed to improve traffic safety and pedestrian access between The Plaza and Evans Towne Center Park. In addition, the streetscape element of the project will provide a cohesive and pleasant walking environment to encourage pedestrian activity between the two facilities.

Wine & Dine


1.-main-photoPremium wines fused with culinary samplings highlight the annual Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival.

Any day is a good day to enjoy good food and fine wine. For three days in March, however, connoisseurs can enjoy both at the ninth annual Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival.

The festival will feature more than 200 out-of-this-world wines from vintners across the planet as well as international liquors. Highlighting the region’s most creative chefs and culinary talent, the event will feature an eclectic mix of performers and visual artists as well. 

In addition to tastings, other activities include a silent auction, the Linger Longer Launch Party, Brew and Que cook-off, What’s the Right Glass? class, Jazz Brunch, a Masserati Ride & Drive and, of course, the Grand Tasting. 

New events this year include the Go Wild! Game and Beer Dinner and Festival Cigar Lounge (no tickets required for this event). Festivalgoers can pick and choose the activities they would like to attend. 

2.-Wine-Fest-TentWhat to Do
At the launch party, wine, beer and specialty cocktails will be available while people dance the night away to the music of country singer and Lake Oconee native Eric Dodd. The launch party tickets also include admission to the game and beer dinner, where guests can enjoy a five-course dinner featuring wild game selections paired with craft beer by Sierra Nevada.

If you have ever wondered which glass to use for which wine, wonder no more. Matt Garafalo of Oconee Cellars in Greensboro and Riedel Ambassadors will give a live demonstration on the effects that the shape of a wine glass has on each varietal.

In addition, they will explain how stemware delivers the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of a wine. Attendees will be able to sample wines from the Wagner family, the owners of Caymus Vineyard, and wines from Silver Oaks, the featured vintner at this year’s festival. Tickets also include a set of four Riedel Veritas wine glasses.

As the centerpiece of the festival, the lakeside Grand Tasting will feature food from local and regional chefs paired with wines from around the world as well as local brews and spirits. A silent auction will offer items such as destination vacations, gourmet dinners and sporting packages. Thomas Arvid will demonstrate live painting at the Grand Tasting.

Who to See
To ensure that no one goes hungry at the Food & Wine Festival, the featured chefs will offer a wide variety of offerings at the Brew & Que and the Grand Tasting.

At the Brew & Que, festivalgoers can enjoy the talents of Griffin Buffkin of Southern Soul Barbecue on St. Simons Island, Alex Davidson of Georgia Butts BBQ on Lake Oconee, Eric Thomas, pitmaster of The Rolling Grill in Atlanta and Eric Wisham of Wisham Kellies in Tifton.

The Grand Tasting will feature the culinary craftsmanship of an additional slate of chefs. The lineup includes Reva Alexander of Merci Beaucoup Cakes, Teri Blevins of Lil’ Bit of Heaven Cupcakes, Corrado Corrias of Da Corrado Ristorante in Greensboro, Scott Debernardo of The Pine Food & Drink in Athens, Joy and James Kuper of Sweet Kneads Bakery and Café in Eatonton, the Last Resort Grill in Athens, Edward Mendoza of Cucina 503 in Augusta and Derin Moore, executive chef at Reynolds Lake Oconee

3.-DessertIf You Go: 

What: Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival

 When: Friday, March 23 – Sunday, March 25

Where: Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, Georgia

How Much: Tickets for various events range from $75 to $200 

More Info: occoneefoodandwine.com

By Todd Beck

Photos courtesy of Lake Oconee Food & Wine Festival

Ruins — First Aid Kit

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first-aid-kit-knod-to-rocks-past-2When Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit, hit the map as YouTube laptop sensations four years ago with their unique covers of Americana music, little did they know it would lead to a Monte Rosa of commercial success and never-ending touring overnight. The Swedish sisters found themselves with three critically acclaimed albums with uphill sustaining expectations barreling down like a mandolin meteor.

Taking the good, bad and exhausted from a whirlwind of success and personal trials, they fueled the creative tank for their fourth full-length record appropriately titled Ruins. The simple, familial harmonious blend is as deep as the roots they share, which lends to sunbeams of lush acoustic arrangements and steel-pedal twangs of gold.

Ruins takes the distinctive braid of vocal honey and vintage tunage to a classic level of Americana nectar via Swiss-made crafted goodness. Ruins is the perfect gateway into warmer weather. 

- Chris Rucker

Tricks and Tributes


Liverpool-LegendsFrom Fido to the Fab Four, upcoming shows at the Jabez will be jumping with entertainment. 

Dogs and Beatles will appeal to your animal instincts by headlining the performances at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center this month. 

Olate Dogs, the season 7 winners of “America’s Got Talent,” will perform Friday, March 9 while Liverpool Legends will bring “The Complete Beatles Experience” to the stage Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24. 

Led by Richard Olate and his son, Nicholas, the Olate Dogs are a high-energy theatrical act filled with pet tricks. Most of the dogs are rescue dogs, and they often perform at halftime of NBA games. Richard, a third-generation circus performer who grew up in a poor family in South America, has been in the spotlight since he was 12 years old. Through hard work and struggle, he made it to America at age 33. His dream to have his own dog variety show finally came true, and he has four completely different dog acts. Tickets are $29.50 for adults and $19.50 for children under age 15. 

Liverpool Legends features four musicians and actors who were hand-picked by Louise Harrison, sister of the late George Harrison of The Beatles. Her involvement makes Liverpool Legends the only Beatles tribute band with a direct family link to the original Fab Four.

“Each member of the group is so close to the originals that I often feel like I’m transported back in time with the lads,” she says. “These are exactly the kind of fun-loving, quality musicians that my brother, George, would have loved to hang out with.”

Liverpool Legends, which has toured worldwide and performed at many historic Beatles-related venues, sings songs spanning the entire career of The Beatles as well as songs from their solo years. Tickets are $45. 

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. A limited number of meet and greet tickets also are available for the shows. For more information, visit augustaamusements.com or call (706) 726-0366.