Monthly Archives: May 2019

Low & Slow Pulled Pork

  • 1 (4-5 pound) bone-in Boston butt (pork shoulder)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue dry rub, or:

Dry rub (makes about 1 cup):

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika (Don’t use smoked or hot)
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper



Spread rub over pork, coating liberally. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set gas grill up for indirect cooking — heat one side of the grill on high and leave the other side turned off. Unwrap meat and place on the unheated side, fat cap up. Adjust the temperature on the heated side to get a steady 250 degrees. Grill at 250 degrees about 11 hours or until thermometer inserted into middle is 195-200 degrees. Remove from grill and set in a pan; cover with foil and let rest for 1 hour. Hand shred with two forks or pulling claws. Serve with barbecue sauce and coleslaw. Makes 12 servings.

Over the Moon(Pie)


Photos courtesy of Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce

A small town in Tennessee celebrates a bigtime culinary combination of two quintessential Southern snacks.

Every self-respecting Southerner knows that a MoonPie and an RC Cola are an unbeatable combination, but no one celebrates the dynamic duo quite like Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

The small town (population 532) in middle Tennessee, about 55 miles southeast of Nashville, holds an annual RC–MoonPie Festival, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Southeastern Tourism Society Top 20 Event.

From Races to Royalty
The festivities begin, as always, with certified 10K and 5K runs. The 10K run is limited to the first 1,000 people to register. At the finish line, all runners are invited to enjoy a complimentary breakfast that includes biscuits with all the fixin’s, fruit and – what else? – MoonPies and tubs full of ice-cold RC Colas. Awards are given to division winners, and everyone who completes the race across the rolling countryside receives a finisher’s medal.

Once the race ends, there is plenty of entertainment afoot. A craft fair, featuring more than 75 booths, and a food court are open all day, and entertainment will include the MidState Cloggers and the Howlin’ Brothers Band. Bell Buckle’s own Davis and Dayle will take the stage to provide entertainment with their special brand of merrymaking that includes a blend of comedy, drama, satire and parody.

The RC-MoonPie Festival parade features the Color Guard, high school band and the 1950 Bell Buckle fire engine. The finale shines the spotlight on Bell Buckle royalty, aka those who have been lucky enough to be crowned kings and queens of the festival in years past. Of course, a new king and queen will be coronated as well.

And it’s not only royalty that gets recognized at the annual festival. Prizes are awarded to the youngest attendee, the oldest attendee and the person who traveled the greatest distance to join the fun.

To celebrate the festival’s silver anniversary, entertainers who have provided some of the most memorable moments from the past 25 years also will be invited to give encore performances.

Fun & Games
However, the festival is not just a spectator sport. In fact, it wouldn’t be complete without its lineup of games. Think hula-hooping while munching on a MoonPie and washing it down with an RC Cola, walking across the stage while balancing an RC can on your head and tossing a MoonPie all the way to the city limits.

Although the historic little town is known for its arts and crafts, antiques and food, the Bell Buckle Chamber of Commerce started exploring ideas to increase foot traffic in the summertime in 1994. The festival was born when the movers and shakers came up with the concept of celebrating the 75th anniversary of the MoonPie.

The festival has been featured on the likes of Travel Channel and “Tennessee Crossroads” and in publications such as Southern Living, Food Network Magazine and USA Today.

Every year the festival dishes out a sweet ending by serving the world’s largest MoonPie in all of its marshmallow-y, graham cracker-y, chocolate-coated goodness. Baked fresh at the Chattanooga Bakery, which started making the confection in 1917 to satisfy the craving of a Kentucky coal miner, the MoonPie is delivered personally to the festival. Rumor has it that this year’s MoonPie will be something that never has been seen before – and likely never will be seen again – to celebrate the festival’s 25 wonderful, wacky, quirky years.

If You Go:
What: 25th Annual RC-MoonPie Festival

When: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15

Where: Bell Buckle, Tennessee

How Much: Free admission

More Info: (931) 389-9663 or

A Winning Combination
The MoonPie hit the market in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1917, after a Kentucky coal miner told a traveling salesman he wanted a snack “as big as the moon.” The salesman took the request back to the bakery, which was happy to oblige with something that was filling and fit in a lunch pail. The coal miners loved it.

At the time Chattanooga Bakery produced more than 100 items, but the bakery realized it had landed on something otherworldly with the MoonPie. At 5 cents apiece, the MoonPie became a top seller, and factory workers were boxing up hundreds every day by 1929.

Royal Crown, or RC Cola, arrived on the beverage scene in 1934. The combination became an instant success after joining forces in the 1950s when an RC and MoonPie special could be purchased for 10 cents. In those days, that was a full 16 ounces of RC Cola and nearly a half-pound of MoonPie. Soon, the combo was labeled as the instant fast food lunch of the ’50s.

The pair has been immortalized in songs such as “Gimm’e an RC Cola and a Moonpie” by Big Bill Liston, “RC and Moonpie” by NRBQ, “Moonpie” by Edwin Hubbell and a children’s musical version called “Weezie and the Moon Pies” by Bill Harley. Literary nods to the tasty twosome include “The Great American Moon Pie Handbook” by Ron Dickson and children’s book “Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-This-World Moon Pie Adventure” by Tony DiTerlizzi.

By Morgan Davis

Ham It Up


Amateur radio operators will share their skills at an open house to demonstrate the importance of the communications network.

Amateur, or ham, radio is more than just a hobby, and Amateur Radio Field Day, which is held each June, demonstrates its value to the community and to the nation.

The Amateur Radio Club of Columbia County once again is participating in this year’s event, which was started in 1933 for ham radio operators across North America to establish temporary ham radio stations in public locations to demonstrate the science and skill of amateur radio.

“We are excited about this opportunity to partner with the EOC to practice emergency response capabilities, and to demonstrate amateur radio capabilities to the organizations that we serve during emergencies, as well as the general public,” says Dan Marshall, ARCCC president. “It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach and technical skills all in a single event.”

Anyone can become a licensed amateur radio operator, and the United States has more than 725,000 licenses hams ranging in age from 9 to 100.

If You Go:
What: Amateur Radio Field Day

When: 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22

Where: Columbia County Emergency Operations Center, 650-B Ronald Reagan Drive, Evans

How Much: Free

More info:

Pinball Paddling


Stroke and squeeze your way through an arcade of cypress trees as you kayak in George L. Smith State Park.

“Let’s paddle closer to the alligator!”

As I hear myself say those words out loud, I laugh. I’m not one to ignore dangers of the wild. After all, they’re no game. But when spotting an alligator across an open clearing on Mill Pond while hosting a friend from Sweden on his first visit to Georgia, I’m willing to narrow the gap a few dozen yards so Hans can get a better look.

The creature’s eyes gaze back at us over the water’s dark surface as he glides from the open water toward a cluster of majestic cypress trees along the distant shore. We pause in our kayaks. None of us blink. He then slips from view.

“Incredible!” says Hans. Wild alligators can be spotted routinely in wet regions of southern Georgia—the state is home to about 200,000 of the 200-million-year-old species—but there are none in Sweden.

Choose Your Route
Though alligators swim in the 412-acre Mill Pond lake at George L. Smith State Park in Twin City, Georgia, it’s safe to boat in this water as long as you follow guidelines and use common sense — in fact, it’s part of the Georgia State Park’s Paddlers Club. And part of navigating the pond with common sense is relying on an experienced guide company such as Wesley Hendley’s Mill Pond Kayak tours, which weave through 10 miles of black water trails.

For nearly 10 years Hendley has made the experience easy and accessible, providing kayaks, paddles, floatation vests, instructions and guidance. He also snaps photos throughout the trip to share with his guests at no additional charge.

Paddling this otherworldly setting is a unique challenge of maneuvering between moss-draped cypress trees. It’s like a giant pinball game, and you’re the ball. Some areas are a tight squeeze — to fit you may need to lift the paddle over your head and swing it parallel with the kayak. But there’s no current or tide to worry about, and almost no other boat traffic, so the water is smooth and easy to master.

The lake has natural niches and alcoves with different tree density, lighting, moods. Shadows play on water, light juts between branches. Because the place is so serene and tranquil, it’s hard not to relax. If paddlers somehow are separated from the group (which is unlikely), it would be hard for them to actually get lost. “It’s a pond,” says Hendley. “So you can paddle to shore and then along the shoreline in any one direction and eventually will end up back at the dock.” Still, it’s comforting to explore with a guide who knows the best routes to navigate in two or three hours.

Each tour is paced to suit participants’ skills and interests, weather and conditions, as well as energy levels. “I basically see two types of groups,” says Hendley. “Some go slowly, so it’s quiet and serene to soak up the surrounding environment. Others, especially youth groups, want to get rowdy out there, playing, splashing and sometimes swimming. The experiences are totally different, but I enjoy both. I enjoy getting to know people.”

Paddlers can get the sort of experience they prefer – even a private one. Hendley schedules groups separately, and he won’t even pair up families without prior permission.

Mill Pond Kayak welcomes people of all ages on its tours, which typically run March 1 through November 30. In September 2018, however, Mill Pond was drained in order to repair the dam. The lake will be restocked with fish and reopened, as weather permits, sometime this spring. “We’re at the mercy of the rainfall,” says Hendley.

The company also offers guided kayak trips on the nearby Ogeechee and Ohoopee rivers when water levels are favorable. As for the Mill Pond tour, though, “Anybody willing to give this a try can do this and enjoy it,” says Hendley, who counts infants, senior citizens and folks with a variety of special needs among his former guests. “I have tandem kayaks so people who can’t paddle can ride with me or someone else in the group. You don’t have to be physically able — I’ve had some people in their 80s and 90s paddle, which is impressive and inspiring to see.”

Some paddlers might favor the lower part of the lake where trees are more spaced out. On hot days, the shady upper part may rank as most appealing. “Some people prefer to avoid tree obstacles, some people really think they’re cool,” says Hendley. Whatever the route, you can take your time and appreciate the surrounding natural wonders.

Photos courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Wesley Hendley Mill Pond Kayak

Mill Around with Mother Nature
And Mother Nature does not disappoint. Turtles line up on fallen branches. A white ibis nests overhead. Osprey, egret, heron and anhinga swoop in and out of view. Woodpeckers tap on trees. Ducks and non-venomous brown water snakes float around. Bream, crappie, redbreast and bass swim in the water. Occasionally, white tail deer walk the shoreline. The threatened gopher tortoise and eastern indigo snake live on the sand ridges surrounding the lake.

In addition to its natural wonders, George L. Smith State Park boasts the refurbished Parrish Mill, a combination grist mill, saw mill, covered bridge and dam built in 1880. One of only two grist mills in working order and in operation by the state of Georgia, it’s capable of grinding as much as 200 pounds of corn an hour (now limited to demonstrations only).

Reservoirs for water-powered mills, ponds like this one used to be common but have mostly disappeared as technology has changed. Before the state park was established, this pond was privately owned for about 100 years and has been referred to by locals as Parrish Pond and Watson Mill Pond for its previous owners. At the state park you can walk through the covered bridge and read placards to learn more. The park also offers 11 miles of hiking trails, though the mill and its pond are the park’s most stunning showpieces.

Kayakers could spend a few hours paddling and leave, but longer visits can be even more relaxing. George L. Smith State Park offers 25 tent, trailer and RV campsites, plus eight cottages. The cottages have been recently updated and are better appointed than some hotel rooms. They’re easy to share with a friend. Hans and I each snagged a private bedroom and bathroom while sharing a living room, screened porch and full-service kitchen. The cottage was clean, comfy and homey.

Reflecting on our experience, Hans says, “That was the best nature experience of my life!” High praise, considering how frequently he travels for outdoor treks. “The cypress’ fat, swollen root balls just above the waterline are truly wonderful,” he says. “Navigating the narrow, winding ways in between all the cypresses is so much fun.”

With such beautiful surroundings, it’s easy to envy the alligators who get to live in such a place.

More information is available from George L. Smith State Park at (478) 763-2759 or or Mill Pond Kayak at (478) 299-6616 or

By Hope S. Philbrick