Monthly Archives: February 2019

Sip & Savor


The Columbia County Food and Wine Festival is back in a new rooftop location.

If there is truth in wine, then it’s certain that local residents can enjoy a taste of food and drink, fun and fellowship – not to mention a fabulous view – at the 14th annual Columbia County Food and Wine Festival on the rooftop of The Meybohm Building at the Plaza.

Organized this year by Roger Strohl, owner of Cork & Flame, the festival will feature more than 200 wines from around the world for sampling as well as culinary tastings from area establishments.

Participants include Cork & Flame, French Market Grille West, Finch & Fifth, Bogey’s Grille, Papa Mountain, Events 2020 and the Augusta Technical College Culinary Program.

“Our main goal is to make food and wine approachable for everyone no matter what their budget is,” says Chelsea Mathews, manager of the Cork & Flame Wine Market.

Festival-goers also can enjoy live entertainment by jazz musician Karen Gordon and bid on items ranging from a golf car to a wine cooler in a silent auction.

Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the American Heart Association, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and the Augusta Technical College Culinary Arts Program Educational Scholarship Endowment Fund.

All attendees must be at least 21 years old and show a photo ID.


If You Go:
What: Columbia County Food and Wine Festival

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

Where: The Meybohm Building at the Plaza

How Much: $50 in advance, $55 at door; $25 designated drivers. Tickets available at Cork & Flame and

More Info:,

Music, Magic & Fairy Tales


Innovative concerts blend music and entertainment.

When Augusta Symphony performs, the show is bound to be magical. However, a performance on Thursday, March 7 will conjure up a bag of tricks in the literal sense in Symphonies of Illusion with Michael Grandinetti. Tickets range from $36 – $100.

Grandinetti combines cutting-edge magic and illusions with music and suspense. One of the stars of the hit CW television series “Masters of Illusion,” he has entertained with symphonies nationwide as well as at NFL halftime shows and the White House. During the National Independence Day Parade in Washington D.C., Grandinetti levitated a girl high above one of the floats as it moved down Constitution Avenue.

In a benefit concert on Saturday, March 16, the symphony will perform with Little River Band, which set a record for having Top 10 hits for six consecutive years. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the symphony’s education projects and Community Chords, a music therapy program in partnership with the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

Orchestra members have played regularly at the uptown and downtown VA throughout the season, participating in music therapy sessions with veterans who are working to reduce symptoms of stress, PTSD, pain and depression. Concert tickets range from $45 – $95, and patrons will have an opportunity to sponsor a ticket for a veteran when they purchase their tickets.

A Saturday, March 23 performance, Tragedy & Triumph, will feature Augusta Symphony concertmaster Anastasia Petrunina. The concert will include Strauss’ Death & Transfiguration, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

Petrunina has played around the globe in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory. She has toured extensively in Russia, the United States, Brazil, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden and China. She also took part in recording music for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Walk-up tickets will be available for purchase for $10 for students and military at the box office beginning an hour before the concert. A student is anyone under age 16 or older than 16 with a valid student ID. Tickets range from $22 – $67.

These three performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Miller Theater.

As part of its Family Concerts at Columbia County Series, Augusta Symphony returns to Evans Sunday, March 24. The audience will hear Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” in which each character is depicted by different instruments and musical themes, and Ravel’s musical illustration of the Mother Goose Suite. The performance begins at 4 p.m. at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students.

On the Ballot


Photos courtesy of the Columbia County Board of Education

A special election this month will bring Columbia County residents to the polls to vote on an ESPLOST referendum.

Voting is the lifeblood of democracy, and Columbia County residents will have a chance to exercise their right to vote in a special election on March 19. A referendum calling for authorization to issue $160 million in general obligation bonds and a 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for educational purposes, or ESPLOST, will be on the ballot.

The 2022-2027 ESPLOST would be a continuation of the current 1-cent sales tax that voters previously approved, not an additional 1-cent tax. However, David Dekle, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education, says, “This is different than past ESPLOSTs. We’re coming to voters a year earlier than normal to ask permission to issue general obligation bonds. Our growth has outpaced our ESPLOST revenue. If the voters approve the referendum, we will be able to issue bonds and start building new schools to meet that growth.”

The tax is shared by all residents as well as anyone who shops in Columbia County, and Columbia County voters continuously have approved the 1-cent sales tax since 1997. The Georgia Legislature established ESPLOST in 1996 to allow voters in a school district to approve a 1-cent sales tax on consumer goods to generate funds for capital projects such as construction of new schools, renovation of existing facilities, technology, purchasing buses or retiring existing debt.

The tax also can be used for facility improvements such as replacing HVAC systems, renovating science labs, repairing parking lots, adding lights, replacing roofs, upgrading auditoriums, resurfacing gym floors and adding new bleachers. The funds cannot be used for instructional supplies or salaries.

Anticipated capital outlay projects include a new high school campus in a centralized location, up to three new elementary schools, two new middle schools, athletic field renovations, bus purchases and technology upgrades.

Construction of the high school campus and an elementary school are the school district’s top priorities. If the referendum passes, then construction of the high school could begin in a year. The school likely would open in three years. Students from all five of the county’s high schools would be eligible to attend the central campus, which would offer classes in areas such as cyber, engineering and energy.

“Students would be at their home school for a portion of the day, then go to this campus,” says Sandra Carraway, superintendent of schools. “By building this campus, we would not be rezoning. We could take advantage of great career preparation opportunities, and it would be cost efficient. We wouldn’t be duplicating courses at our traditional high schools.”

Through block scheduling with 800 students in each of two blocks, the school could serve 1,600 students. They would attend by choice, and upperclassmen potentially could pursue an internship in their career pathway.

“The goal is to respond to the needs of the work force and create a campus in which we can meet our growth needs without building a new high school,” Dekle says. “Education is the number one driver of our economy in Columbia County. It’s the reason people move to Columbia County.”

From 2010-11 to 2017-18, student enrollment in Columbia County grew by about 14 percent, resulting in overcrowded schools. The student population for 2019-2020 is projected to climb by 579 students for a total enrollment of 28,099.

“Our projections are based on historical growth,” Carraway says. “This year we projected our growth at 470 students, but we grew by 580 students.”

The school board expects student enrollment to keep increasing as the county population continues to rise, largely due to anticipated growth at the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, which is home to the U.S. Army Cyber Command, the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and the National Security Agency.

Since 2000, 16 schools have been constructed and paid in full with ESPLOST monies – Lewiston, River Ridge, Baker Place, Cedar Ridge, Evans, Martinez, Parkway, Grovetown and North Harlem elementary schools; Greenbrier, Columbia, Evans, Grovetown, Stallings Island, and Harlem middle schools and Grovetown High School.

Additions also have been built and paid in full with ESPLOST funds at Blue Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Lewiston, River Ridge and Baker Place elementary schools; Grovetown and Evans middle schools and Evans, Greenbrier and Lakeside high schools.

“I think it’s a great investment in the future of Columbia County,” Dekle says of ESPLOST. “If we maintain a great school system, we’ll maintain a great county.”

Should the referendum fall short, Carraway says the school district would have to resort to “more portables, serious rezoning and double sessions” to accommodate growth. “If we have to wait another year, then it would halt planning for a year,” she says.

Early voting is underway. To see a sample ballot with the ESPLOST referendum question before voting, registered voters in Columbia County can visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website at

By Betsy Gilliland

Drink (and Eat) to Your Health


Sample signature culinary and beverage offerings at Bonne Santé.

There are lots of ways to spend a Sunday spring afternoon. However, one of the best ways to welcome the season is by attending Bonne Santé at Pine Knoll Farms in Appling.

Bonne Santé (French for “good health”) is a food and drink showcase that raises funds and awareness for National Kidney Foundation programs that support patients, their families and those at risk of developing kidney disease. Proceeds will be used for educating the public about reducing the risk of chronic kidney disease, advocacy, research and free kidney screenings.

The fundraiser will highlight the signature dishes of 10 to 15 local chefs at establishments such as Abel Brown Southern Kitchen and Oyster Bar, West Lake Country Club, Creative Cuisine, TakoSushi, Silver Palm Catering, The Crazy Empanada, Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q, La Bonbonnière, Lil’ Dutch Bakery and The Pie Hole.

Drinks will include signature cocktails from Bar on Broad, craft beer from Back Paddle Brewing and gourmet coffee from 7 South Coffee, whose owner Lance Shay donated a kidney to his mother 29 years ago.

Typically drawing about 200 people, the event also will feature a silent auction and musical entertainment. In a live auction, attendees can bid on a private dinner for guests in their own homes prepared by some of the chefs or dinner, paired with wine, at the chefs’ restaurants.

Guest speakers will be dialysis patients including Michael Cofer, a former NFL linebacker who spent his entire 10-year career with the Detroit Lions and was selected for the 1988 Pro Bowl.

“I like to incorporate local dialysis and transplant patients as speakers to share their thoughts and highlight the importance of kidney disease,” says Dr. Laura Mulloy, division director, nephrology, at MCG at Augusta University and chairwoman of the fundraiser.

“Kidney disease can be detected with two simple tests at your doctor’s office,” says Krista Dasher, National Kidney Foundation senior development manager. “One in seven people in Georgia are at risk of getting kidney disease, which is the highest rate in the nation.”

If You Go:
What: Bonne Santé

When: 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, March 10

Where: Pine Knoll Farms, Appling

How Much: $100 per person; $700 for table of eight; tickets available online or at the door

More Info:, or (770) 452-1539, ext. 611

Sautéed Mushroom Fettuccine

  • 4 cups mixed mushrooms (porcini, cremini, shiitake, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup homemade vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 pound spinach fettuccine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Clean and thinly slice mushrooms. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat. When garlic begins to color (about 5 minutes), add oregano and parsley; cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt to exude its juices. Cook about 7 minutes. Stir in vegetable broth and cook 8-12 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and cooked brown. While mushrooms are cooking, prepare pasta per package directions and drain. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve over pasta. Makes 2-4 servings.