Monthly Archives: April 2019

High on Hendersonville

Beyond the Peach State

Photos courtesy of Henderson County Tourism Development Authority and Sam Dean

The second largest city in the western North Carolina mountains has a first-rate playlist of things to do.

Cideries, wineries and breweries. Stunning waterfalls, white squirrels and countless trails to explore. An iconic general store, a performing arts playhouse and an accolade-winning B&B. Local wisdom shared through mountain lore, beer adventurers and a S.A.G.E. All of these things and more beckon travelers to Hendersonville, North Carolina and nearby Mills River.

“The different tourism businesses ‘cross pollinate’ to support each other,” says Beth Carden, the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority executive director. “And there are so many self-guided activities that people can do any time.”

Head to Main Street
Hendersonville first came to prominence as an escape for Charleston residents from Lowcountry summers, and any exploration of the community, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, should begin downtown. Streetscapes feature wide, pedestrian friendly sidewalks with flowers and trees in brick planters, benches and gazebos. Many of the 20-plus independent restaurants along Main Street offer outdoor seating as well.

Visitors can attend shows and concerts at Flat Rock Playhouse, officially designated as the State Theatre of North Carolina, or shop at the must-see Mast General Store with its original tin ceiling in the circa 1905 building. Inventory includes clothing, footwear, outdoor and travel gear, housewares, gift items, classic toys, gourmet country foods and more than 500 old-fashioned candies.

“Our most popular candy is vanilla bullseye,” says S.A.G.E. (Service Ambassador for Guest Experiences) Travis Spencer.

The Hendersonville store is one of nine Mast locations, including the bellwether that opened in Valley Crucis, North Carolina in 1883 with everything from “cradles to caskets,” in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

Additional downtown attractions include art galleries, Henderson County Heritage Museum and McFarlan Bake Shop, which opened in 1930 and is one of the few remaining “made from scratch” bakeries in America.

Area dining options range from the casual HenDough, specializing in chicken and doughnuts, in Hendersonville to the upscale, award-winning Season’s at Highland Lake Inn, featuring seasonal menus based on produce from its organic gardens, in nearby Flat Rock.

Hit the Trails
Henderson County, North Carolina’s top apple-producing county and the seventh largest in the nation, also is home to almost 30 tourism trails including its Orchard and Cheers! trails. As the apple of the eye of the hard cider industry, the Cheers! Trail includes three cideries, which all use locally sourced apples, two wineries and six breweries.

The award-winning, Virginia-based Bold Rock Hard Cider, the largest craft cidery in the United States, opened its second production facility and tasting room in Mills River in 2015. Dog and kid friendly, Bold Rock includes a cider garden, outdoor music venue and food truck that serves barbecue and other Southern staples. The taproom offers hard cider tastings as well as pints, flights and local craft beer. Complimentary tours are available Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

Flat Rock Ciderworks, the area’s first cidery, began operations in 2014 with its flagship ciders Wicked Peel and Blackberry Gold. Two years later the cidery opened a tasting room in downtown Hendersonville. “We take the product all the way from the orchard to the bottle, keg or can,” says co-owner Jim Sparks. “It’s all local. We want to promote the local agriculture in our community.”

Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders, located in a renovated 1940s-era barn surrounded by an apple orchard, produces dry, European-style cider. “You can taste cider in a grocery store, but when you taste it here, in the middle of an orchard, it gives you more of an experience,” says owner Alan Ward.

For those who prefer fermented grape juice to fermented apple juice, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards makes wines from 14 varieties of grapes. Also owned by Ward, the winery is located on farm acreage that has been in his family for more than nine generations. The tasting room includes indoor and outdoor seating with views of the vineyards.

The family-owned, award-winning Burntshirt Vineyards crafts its wines from fruit grown in its two vineyards. The vineyard’s name comes from mountain lore that says farmers of yesteryear tossed their shirts into the fire for good luck – and a bountiful crop – when they burned their fields to clear the land for planting. A visit to Burntshirt includes tastings, tours, live music, covered patios, a food truck, a fire pit and corn hole.

Breweries include Sierra Nevada, a California-based enterprise that opened a Mills River location in 2014 to increase brewing capacity and to provide fresh beer more quickly to fans east of the Mississippi River. Various tours led by guides, aka beer adventurers, are offered seven days a week, and reservations can be made online at

The family friendly Sierra Nevada also includes a taproom, restaurant, gift shop, amphitheater, indoor music venue, oversized fire pit, corn hole, bocce ball, children’s playground, hiking trails, gardens and kayak pull-offs into the French Broad River. No wonder it’s affectionately nicknamed “Malt Disney.”

Outdoor lovers can explore DuPont State Recreational Forest. With 90 miles of trails, the forest is home to spectacular waterfalls including Hooker Falls, where a scene from Last of the Mohicans was filmed. Farther upstream, hikers will find Triple Falls, featured in The Hunger Games, and High Falls.

Five miles from downtown Hendersonville, Jump Off Rock climbs to an elevation of 3,100 feet and offers panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. The rock gets its name from a Native American legend that says an Indian maiden threw herself off the rock after learning the warrior she loved was killed in battle. On a clear day, four states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee – are visible from the granite rock.

At ground level, you might spot a white squirrel in Henderson County. They’re not albinos, though – they have dark eyes.

Home on Tiffany Hill
It’s impossible to see and do everything in one day, so overnight accommodations are essential. One of the best places to set up home base is Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill in the rolling countryside of Mills River. The B&B, owned and operated by Selena Einwechter since it opened 10 years ago, became a Select Registry property in 2011. Tiffany Hill was the first B&B to become part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection, and in April 2018 Southern Living named it the South’s Best Inn, based on an online reader survey.

“At Tiffany Hill,” Selena says, “we celebrate something every day.”

Breakfast at Tiffany Hill is a party unto itself. The three-course meals, served at a table that is set to perfection, always end with dessert. However, it’s hardly a formal affair. Some guests come to the table in their pajamas, and Selena is happy to help them plan their daily itinerary.

Because she has thought of everything to satisfy her guests’ every whim, some people may be reluctant to leave the property at all. And Selena doesn’t indulge their desires in typical fashion. Why take a formal tour of the beautiful 6-acre grounds, for instance, when you can explore them on a scavenger hunt? Where else would you get a massage other than the human birdhouse? Feeling a little chilly at the Thursdays on the Porch music series? A basket full of blankets – or a soothing glass of wine – will warm you right up.

When it’s time to check out (sadly, that day will come), the fond farewell will put your grandparents’ goodbyes to shame. Spoiler alert: Selena helps guests bring in their luggage, but she doesn’t help them take it out. In fact, she asks that travelers don’t even let her see them take their suitcases to their cars. That’s how much she hates to see her guests leave. As for the rest of the sendoff, well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

By Betsy Gilliland

Tuna Lemon Cups

  • 1 can (5 ounces) tuna, drained
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 1/2 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or Italian dressing)
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 4 large lemons
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

Place tuna in a bowl and break chunks into small pieces with a fork. Stir in dill, celery, cucumber, onion, eggs, capers and lemon juice. Gently stir in extra virgin olive oil or Italian dressing and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes. Slice off bottoms of lemons so they stand on their own. Scoop out pulp (save it to make lemonade, basil-lemon mayonnaise, lemon butter or sauces) and fill lemons with the salad. Garnish with fresh dill and serve. Makes 4 lemon cups.

Right Where They Belong

In The Home

Photography by Tour Factory

After a brief move to the West Coast, a couple returns to their West Lake home and makes it their own with practical, yet decorative, improvements.

A whirlwind romance brought together Dana and Patrick Conley. Two weeks after meeting on, they got engaged. They were married two months later in December 2014.

Like their courtship, their initial married life followed a similar trajectory of perpetual motion. Dana still had her house in Aiken, but she moved into Patrick’s 45-year-old cape cod house in West Lake after they wed. They stayed there for a year-and-a-half until a job opportunity for Patrick took them to Corvallis, Oregon.

The pull of home was strong, however, and they returned to Martinez after 13 months. “We didn’t realize how much we missed Columbia County,” says Patrick, an Indiana native who came to the area in 1998.

They moved back into the West Lake house in January 2018 and resumed another love affair – continuing the improvements that Patrick had started when he bought the house.

“We’ve been remodeling and moving most of our marriage,” says Dana.

Sense of Place
For the most part, however, those days are behind them. They put the house, which overlooks West Lake Country Club’s ninth hole, on the market for several months last year. Soon, though, they realized that this house was home.

“When I bought the house, I was not just drawn to the location,” says Patrick. “It was the charm of house.”

If they didn’t realize how important a sense of place was to them before they moved to Oregon, they quickly discovered it afterward.

“I had never been out of the South,” says Dana. “But there was a landmark we saw every day from our apartment that was God’s way of letting me know that we were in the right place.”

Before they moved, she randomly came across a photo of what she thought was a church and saved it on her phone just because she liked it. “It meant nothing to me personally,” she says.

Until they arrived in Oregon and saw that the “church” actually was the Benton County Courthouse that was right outside their apartment.

On their last night in Corvallis, a neighbor gave them a watercolor card of the courthouse as a keepsake. “She didn’t know the courthouse story,” Dana says.

Dana and Patrick, who have four children between them ranging in age from 25 to 9, made sure the renovations to the West Lake house tell their story as well. Of course, Dana gives Patrick full credit for including personal touches before she arrived. “He was domesticated,” she says. “He had family photos.”

Cozy and Inviting
Although the house has two sitting areas, everyone gravitates to the family room. The previous owner added a wet bar to the space, and the Conleys have made additional improvements.

They removed a wall between the kitchen and family room, replacing it with a peninsula to separate the spaces. A clock that protrudes from the entry frame between the rooms was a gift from Patrick’s brother to celebrate their Irish roots. “It’s the centerpiece of the two rooms,” says Dana.

To honor Patrick’s six years of service in the U.S. Navy, the family room features a nautical theme. A picture of his submarine and a decorative anchor occupies one wall while a silver bell with a tassel pull hangs on another. Navy blue throw pillows, more nautical décor and Auburn paraphernalia – Patrick also is a proud War Eagle –accent the room as well. Lots of blankets, draped over furniture or folded up in a basket, are placed strategically around the room.

“We have people come over here, and they just camp out and fall asleep,” says Dana.

The cozy space also features wood-paneled walls, dentil molding, a ceiling fan, a flat-screen TV above the gas fireplace and three built-in bookcases. They brightened the room by painting the backs of the built-ins and by installing lighter carpet.

Photography by Tour Factory

The Conleys finished the kitchen and breakfast nook renovations in February. Although they kept the kitchen trim, Dana chose new colors that complement the existing tile flooring. The room includes granite countertops, and a brown cordless woven wood shade above the sink picks up the brown tones of the granite.

Some of the cabinets also feature sliding shelves, and the white doors and hardware for the cabinetry are new. “We kept the bones of the cabinets,” says Dana. “They’re 45 years old and made of real wood.”

They replaced the small tiles of the backsplash with longer subway tile pieces. New stainless-steel appliances accent the kitchen, and a double oven was a must. “As much as we like to entertain, we’re always fighting for oven space,” Patrick says.

‘A Pretty Haven’
Even though the family room typically lures visitors, the living room is just as inviting. Green and white accents create an atmosphere of perpetual spring. A pair of matching green ottomans sits in front of the gas fireplace, which includes a tile surround that the Conleys painted white. Black bookshelves provide a striking contrast for the accessories, and a pair of wall sconces flank a circular mirror above the cream-colored couch.

They got the sconces during a trip to Magnolia Farms in Waco, Texas last year. They flew to San Antonio for a visit and rented a Ford Mustang convertible for the drive to Waco. A clear vase holding a large magnolia bloom on a stem sits atop each sconce. Dana also fills glass containers spread around the room, which features a chair rail and dentil molding, with seasonal accents.

“I like neutral couches and rugs, and I bring in color with pillows and accessories,” she says.

The adjoining dining room features wainscoting, gray walls, dentil molding and an area rug. A grandfather clock is tucked in a corner.

“This is our favorite part of the house that we never use,” Patrick says of the two rooms.

The home also includes three custom light fixtures – Dana had purchased them for her house in Aiken – in the breakfast nook, foyer and dining room.

In the foyer, the letters P and D, along with a “home” word sign – more finds from Magnolia Farms – hang above a full-length mirror. The foyer originally had a door to the guest room, but the Conleys walled in the entryway.

The master bedroom features a dormer window seat, and an antique mirror hangs above the gas fireplace. A photo of Aiken’s The Willcox, where the couple got married, accents a wall.

“Home is important. Home is your haven,” says Dana. “I like a pretty haven.”

Dana and Patrick each have walk-in closets. He added shelving – plus all-important shoe cubbies – to hers, and his is off the master bath, which includes tile flooring, a stand-alone soaker tub, walk-in shower, quartz countertops, double vanity sink and pocket door to the water closet.

Outdoor Oasis
The Conleys love to spend time outside on the deck or the stamped concrete patio, making s’mores on the fire pit or watching movies on a 100-inch screen they can put up. The backyard also features tiered flowerbeds, water fountains, bird feeders and bird baths.

“We love it out here. It’s so peaceful,” says Patrick. “We like to watch the birds get in the birdbath and splash.”

The Conleys still have a few home projects left on their agenda. They want to change the tile in the master bath and replace the oak flooring in the house. In addition, Patrick says, “In our long-term plans, we would love to put a sunroom on the house.”

Overall, however, they’re pleased with the way the home has come together.

“We tried to add decorative elements that were useful,” says Patrick. “We’re really enjoying the house. We’ve definitely made it our own and made it into a home. We’ve put a lot of time and love into it.”

By Sarah James

BRAG-ging Rites


Photos courtesy of Bike Ride Across Georgia, Rich Dimenna, Jim Parkerson and Dennis Moberg

The Bike Ride Across Georgia, aka BRAG, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

With the inevitable passage of childhood into adulthood, some sacraments of youth are too prized to leave behind. And that’s the way it should be.

“Remember when you were a kid, and you learned to ride a bike?” asks Dennis Moberg of Martinez. “I never stopped.”

Moberg and his wife, Marita, travel far and wide to explore the planet on two wheels. They already have taken bike tours in New Zealand and Patagonia, Chile and Argentina this year, but they’re just as happy sticking closer to home. Since 1996 they have ridden in the Bike Ride Across Georgia, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, about 15 times.

The first one began in Savannah with 120 riders and ended in Columbus, when 60 saddle-sore cyclists completed the 300-mile tour. Now, however, BRAG, the second-oldest intrastate bicycle tour in the world, attracts about 1,200 riders for the seven-day event.

With bike routes that vary from year to year, BRAG showcases the best of Georgia from its food and drink to its diverse terrain to its hometown hospitality.

This year BRAG, scheduled for June 1 – 8, begins in Ellijay in the north Georgia mountains. The route winds its way through Gainesville, Covington, Milledgeville, Swainsboro and Hinesville before ending in the waterfront town of Darien. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the riders always stay overnight in the same place for a rest day, and this year the layover is in Milledgeville.

“It’s not a race. It’s incredibly peaceful to just ride a bike with a friend or your brothers,” Evans resident Rich Dimenna says.

Joy Ride
Dimenna rode in his inaugural BRAG in 2006 after a friend asked him to do it. “At first I looked at him like he was out of his mind,” he says. “Six days of riding about 400 miles?”

His friend dropped out on day one because of heat exhaustion, but Dimenna kept pedaling and has participated ever since. His younger brothers later joined him in the annual event. Although they no longer take part in the bike tour, he has continued to ride with a friend and “honorary brother” from Columbus, Georgia since 2008.

Dimenna rides a few times a week, averaging 40 – 50 miles per week or about 2,000 miles a year. He bikes around his house through subdivisions and on lightly traveled roads as much as possible, and sometimes he goes on group outings on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It’s great exercise. It’s fun,” says Dimenna, who also does other rides around the country. “I’ve had a bike for as long as I can remember. When my wife and I got married in 1969, we bought each other bikes as wedding presents.”

To train for BRAG, he rides about 1,000 miles starting in January and works out at the gym two or three times a week.

Augusta resident Jim Parkerson, who also got started at the urging of a friend, has ridden in BRAG since 2003. Not that it took much persuasion, though.

“I like riding bikes because I like the exercise and being outside,” he says. “I’ve never done a spin class. I’d rather bundle up and put on leather gloves and ride outside in a snowstorm.”

Parkerson doesn’t have a particular training regimen for BRAG. He just rides – a lot. During the winter, he rides about 400 miles a month. He usually rides 40 – 50 miles on Saturdays and 40 miles on Sundays. He bikes to and from work every day in an eight-mile round-trip commute, and he likes to ride on FATS (Forks Area Trail System) and Bartram Trail.

He also does bike tours in other states and BRAG-sponsored events including the three-day BRAG Spring Tune-Up Ride and the two-day Challenge of the Centuries. During “Big” BRAG, Parkerson usually spends “rest day” doing the optional 100-mile ride, and he has the century bandannas to prove it.

For the Mobergs, BRAG is a good way to explore the Peach State. “The ride goes through small towns that tend to be away from the interstate. A lot of people can live in Georgia all their lives and never go to these towns,” he says. “If you like exercise and touring, biking is a good way to combine the two. It’s not like being in a car when you’re buzzing by things at 60 miles an hour.”

Moberg and his wife ride their bikes whenever they can. When they’re in town, they ride an average of 50 miles a week. When they travel for bike tours, they ride about 500 miles in two weeks.

“We ride every day when we’re home, and in Georgia, we can ride all year long,” says Moberg. “All you do is ride farther when you do those rides.”

Along the Route
To begin the tour Parkerson and the Mobergs drive to BRAG’s final destination, park their cars and take the BRAG bus to the starting point. Dimenna’s wife, Sharon, drives him to the start of the race and picks him up at the finish.

Once the event gets underway, BRAG-gers typically start pedaling at daybreak and put on the brakes in the early afternoon to beat the heat. Cyclists average 55 miles a day, and well-stocked rest stops with beverages, snacks, first-aid kits, mini bike shops and porta-potties are set up every 12 to 18 miles.

Some riders, like Dimenna and Parkerson, camp overnight in school gymnasiums “with 500 of your best friends,” Dimenna says, or in tents. Others, like the Mobergs, spend the night in hotels. Showers are available for the campers at the schools or BRAG shower trucks, and baggage trucks transport bedding and extra clothes from one town to the next.

“Each night at the schools, there is a bigger stand with a bike shop truck for significant repairs,” says Dimenna. “Some of them will even sell you a new bicycle.”

Along the route, bikers carry items such as energy bars, water bottles, a pump, a patch kit, an extra tube, sunglasses and cell phones with them. Raingear is a must as well. Parkerson always takes a couple of mustard packets – his trusted cure for cramps – along for the ride.

“My wife and I ride with a blinking light on the front and a blinking light on the back, and we wear brightly colored clothes,” Moberg says.

‘A Big, Rolling Party’
BRAG is about much more than pedaling, however.

One of its highlights is the daily after-ride parties that include BRAG-tivities such as bike trivia, one-legged bike races, educational classes, yoga, massages, live music and entertainment. Of course, riders also enjoy finding their favorite beverages at the BRAG bar. For lunch or dinner, they have the option of eating at a restaurant in the town where they stay overnight.

“You catch a bus, and you go drink beer,” says Parkerson. “You can drink and eat as much as you want because you have earned it. That’s part of the appeal. It’s just a big, rolling party.”

Socializing with other riders or people that live along the route is part of the fun as well.

“I’ve met a lot of people. Usually, I’m slow to go up to people I don’t know and start a conversation,” Dimenna says. “But when we’re riding, I’ll to talk to almost anybody.”

Other cyclists include wounded veterans riding improvised bikes and parents on a tandem pulling behind their child in an attached trailer.

“It’s quite an experience. It’s like a family reunion now,” Parkerson says. “It’s a convivial atmosphere. You see the same people year after year.”

He even met his girlfriend, Joan Alden, in 2013 when she did BRAG Lite in which bikers ride for three consecutive days.

The Mobergs have met townspeople who gave them shelter from rainstorms on their front porches. At a rest stop near a filming location for “The Walking Dead,” they met people dressed like characters in the TV show.

Although BRAG is a bicycle tour, not a race, Dimenna once encountered a rider with a canine companion that thought otherwise. The dog seemed to enjoy the adventure, except for a single – yet persistent – complaint.

“Every time someone passed them,” Dimenna says, “the dog whined.”

For more information on the Bike Ride Across Georgia, visit

By Todd Beck

Triple Play


In the near darkness, Evans players celebrate their win.

Twenty-five years ago, the Evans High School Knights overcame a formidable opponent, nasty weather and three appeals to win the 1994 state AAAA baseball championship

Winning has been a habit for Evans High School baseball teams through the years, and this month marks the 25th anniversary of the Knights’ 1994 Georgia AAAA baseball championship.

The Knights were defending the title they had captured the previous year in a 17-inning Game 2 thriller against Sprayberry High School, and they defeated the Fayette County High School Tigers with a flair for the dramatic as well.

After the teams split the first two games of the three-game series in Fayetteville, the stage was set for the decisive Game 3 at 4 p.m. on May 21. The late afternoon start time avoided the heat of the day, but it allowed for little wiggle room in the event of inclement weather.

Through four innings of Game 3, the teams matched each other run for run. Clint Sauls’ home run to right centerfield in the top half of the fifth inning put Evans ahead, 5-4. Within seconds, though, the weather in Fayetteville went from pleasant spring afternoon to a surreal combination of high winds and swirling cement mix.

er rains thoroughly soaked the field, the Fayette County coaches, players and fans set the field on fire in order to make it dry enough to continue play.

A quarry-like factory located over the left-field fence housed a long, high mound of the cement mix. The windstorm that roared in from over the fence brought with it a powdery cloud of blinding, choking, sand and stone and who-knows-what-else to the baseball diamond.

As television camera crews rappelled off a media platform that overlooked the outfield fence and fans fled for cover, I urged Channel 6 photographer Keith Brown to remain aboard the swaying wooden structure and capture the scene on video.

You can’t imagine that the game continued in those conditions, even momentarily. If the raging sandstorm wasn’t enough, the rainstorm that followed forced a two-hour game delay.

By the time the storm hit, enough of the contest had already been played to render it official in the books. Evans would be declared the state champion if the game could not be completed in its entirety. Whatever hopes Fayette County held for winning a state championship were quickly running out.

More than an hour later, when the rain stopped, the infield was saturated, compounded by puddles of standing water. The dark clouds that hung over Fayetteville were also not in their favor.

The Evans Knights held a 25th anniversary reunion last April to celebrate the state championship baseball teams from 1993 and 1994. Teammates from shroughout the United States attended a weekend celebration.

In an attempt to hasten the drying process, the Fayette County faithful poured gasoline on the drenched infield and fed it with matchsticks.

To quote a few lines from the Channel 6 television report for the 11 o’clock news that night, “trouble is, the field is a mess, it’s going to get dark and there aren’t any lights here. You get the picture. Desperate men will do desperate things.”

The soggy field was deemed playable as darkness crept in, and the ballgame resumed. In the bottom of the sixth inning, local legend Keith Brownlee, the second man up for the Tigers, launched a home run over the left-field fence to tie the game at 5.

As the Fayette County fans erupted in jubilation, Brownlee slowly trotted around the bases, enough time for Evans scorekeeper Amanda Eckert to get coach Terry Holder’s attention and question who had batted.

The pen proved mightier than the sword that night. After a 15-minute delay to sort things out, the umpires ruled that Fayette County had batted out of order and took the run off the scoreboard. The Tigers appealed in vain that the umpires made an error on their lineup cards earlier in the contest.

Coach Terry Holder with Augusta sports historian Stan Byrdy

A stunned Fayette County team got in its final at-bat as nighttime descended on Fayetteville, and the game was called due to darkness with Evans in the lead, 5-4. The Knights carried off their fifth state championship trophy in seven years.

After the game, a gracious Holder remarked, “I feel sorry for their team… it was just a mistake in the heat of the battle, so to speak. This time it went our way, and so I’m proud for our kids.”

Nine days and three appeals later, the Georgia High School Association officially ruled in the Knights’ favor and declared Evans the rightful winner of the 1994 Georgia AAAA baseball championship.

The video even made its way to CNN and ESPN, and living rooms throughout America reveled in the story. The Environmental Protection Agency also caught a glimpse of the video and the baseball field at Fayette County was cordoned off. The playing surface had been exposed to hazardous material and would need to be dug up.

In the record books, the Knights won back-to-back titles, and the report won the Associated Press TV Sports Report of 1994 in Georgia.

Twenty-five years later it’s still the darndest thing you ever saw.

By Stan Byrdy

Photos courtesy of Stan Byrdy and Grady Blanchard

The Art of Family

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

From paintings by favorite artists to images of their twin sons, a River Island couple fills their home with meaningful keepsakes.

One step into the rustic River Island home of Emily and Dallas Williams immediately lets guests know that this is a house where art and family are treasured. The personal décor features paintings by local artists, photos from their 2011 wedding and pictures in a variety of mediums of their 5-year-old twins, Macon and Grant.

(The boys certainly know how to make an entrance as well. After all, they were born on Father’s Day in 2013.)

“Every picture in the house has a meaning behind it,” says Emily. “Either a friend has done it, or they are pictures from our wedding or of our boys.”

Family Treasures
The homage to friends and family begins right inside the six-paned front door. Tucked by the door in the corner of the foyer, a teal chest by Bramble, a Washington state-based furniture company that makes its products from sustainable mahogany, is topped with photos of the twins as infants. Above a table that was custom-built by Chris Pellegrino, pencil drawings of the boys at age 2 hang on the wall.

“We gave a photo that was taken in Hilton Head to Dallas’ parents, and his dad had them done for us,” Emily says of the drawings.

An acrylic landscape by local artist Richard Worth hangs on the wall by the arched entry into the dining room. (The Williamses won the painting in an auction at the Central Savannah River Land Trust Bash on the Banks one year.)

Featuring a coffered ceiling, the dining room includes a Pellegrino-built dining room table as well. The distressed china cabinet also is a Bramble piece, and a bread trough in one corner is filled with decorative orbs.

Another corner holds a cherished family treasure – a traveling chest that once belonged to Dallas’ great-grandfather, Macon Lunceford Williams, for whom Macon is named. The trunk took on even more significance when Dallas’ mother used it to store clothing that had belonged to his brother after he was killed at age 20 in a 1988 car accident. She gave the trunk to Dallas and Emily on the night of their rehearsal dinner.

“That meant a lot to me that my mother-in-law trusted me with the trunk,” Emily says.

A guest bedroom holds another bit of family history. On a desk in the room, Emily has a framed photo of her grandmother that was taken in 1939 when she was 19 years old. The portrait was taken on the night of the Atlanta premiere of Gone With the Wind, when Emily’s grandmother was the Atlanta Symphony’s first string violinist for the occasion. As if the performance wasn’t memorable enough, Clark Gable even asked the beautiful young musician for a dance at the reception following the premiere.

“I got the picture from the night that she danced with Clark Gable, and my dad has her violin,” says Emily.

A painting of a dancing couple (no, not Gable and Emily’s grandmother), which was done by the mother of one of Dallas’ best friends, hangs on a wall in the guest room. “I think the man in the painting looks like Dallas,” Emily says.

In the guest bath, an acrylic painting, “Misty Night at Sacred Heart” by Margaret Ann Smith, hangs on a wall. Sacred Heart Cultural Center has special meaning to the couple because they held their wedding reception there. A print (number one of 300) of their favorite restaurant, Sheehan’s Irish Pub, by Donna Whaley occupies another wall.

Easy Living
With the flow of the family room into the kitchen and breakfast area, the living space in the home paints a picture of togetherness. “We like the openness of the house,” says Dallas.

The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a subway tile backsplash, an island, a walk-in pantry and a wine refrigerator. The space is easy to navigate, and Grant, who was named Grant Parker after Emily’s side of the family, often makes coffee for his parents in the morning. The décor includes a picture of Amen Corner at Augusta National Golf Club above the pantry.

The Williamses rent out their house during Masters Week, and a lazy Susan on the round table in the breakfast area is the ideal spot to hold Masters-themed cookies and cake pops, along with adult beverages, for their tournament guests.

A large tobacco basket hangs on the wall above a white Bramble hutch, painted with a red floral design, and a painting of their first house in Richmond County hangs on another wall. A freestanding bar sits in a corner of the breakfast area. “It goes with the rustic vibe,” Emily says of the bar.

The family room includes a gas fireplace with a stacked stone surround and a wood mantel. A dough bowl filled with grass rocks sits on top of the coffee table, which slides open for storage.

The Williamses also enjoy spending time with family and friends outside. When they moved into their home (next door to a friend Dallas has known since first grade) in December 2016, Dallas says, “There was just a small sitting area outside.”

However, the Williamses replaced it with a covered porch featuring a wood-burning fireplace and an outdoor kitchen with black matte granite countertops, a flattop grill, a Big Green Egg and a small refrigerator.

The coffered ceiling features stained pine flooring and a pair of tropical ceiling fans, and the seating area includes wicker furnishings. Pellegrino also built the high-top table behind the couch.

Although Emily and Dallas typically go to the Masters Tournament every year, they made other plans in 2017. They finished the covered porch just in time to hold a final round viewing party in their new outdoor space.

“It’s an extension of our home,” says Emily. “Every Saturday during football season, this is where we are.”

When they aren’t spending time on their covered porch, the family enjoys the amenities of River Island. Dallas has a fishing boat with a friend, and they take it to Betty’s Branch nearly every weekend during the summer.

“We never thought we would be neighborhood people, but we love it here. There are so many kids,” says. Dallas “But the main attraction was the river.”

‘It’s All Emily’
Hilton Head Island is a favorite vacation spot for the family, and an oil painting of the four of them in the ocean at the South Carolina beach by Columbia County native Stephanie Forbes hangs in the upstairs hallway.

They also commissioned Forbes to do a triptych of paintings in the master bedroom, which features a trey ceiling and built-in drawers.

“It’s all Emily,” Dallas says of the home décor. Except for one corner of the bedroom where he made his mark with a studded leather armchair.

“That’s the one piece of furniture in the house that Dallas picked out,” Emily says.

And he loves it. “That’s a comfortable chair,” he says. “This is my chair.”

The curtains in the upstairs guest room are one of Emily’s favorite features in the house.

“Every room started around the window treatments, and I went from there,” she says. “I love fabric. I’m obsessed with fabric. If Dallas would let me, I would change them every year.

By Sarah James

Hot Cross Buns

Side Dishes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon oil


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Cream cheese icing:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl, mix together salt, nutmeg and 4 cups flour until combined; set aside. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir and let rest about 10 minutes until yeast activates (you will notice bubbles forming). If yeast does not froth up, do not continue — your dough will not rise.

Add eggs and butter to yeast mixture and stir. Pour yeast mixture over flour and mix about 5 minutes using the dough hook attachment. Add raisins and mix another minute or until dough is soft and elastic. If dough is too wet, add more flour as needed. The dough is done when it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.

Place a tablespoon oil in a large bowl and add dough. Roll dough around until completely coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough on a clean, lightly floured work surface and divide into 15 even pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place on the prepared pan, leaving enough space for dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with a clean damp towel and let rest 30 minutes until doubled in size. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

While baking, make glaze by mixing sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over low heat and then boil another minute or until glaze thickens; set aside.

Place icing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Add to piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use. When buns are done, remove from oven and brush with glaze. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes and then pipe icing over buns to form a cross. Makes 15.