Monthly Archives: May 2021

Get Your Kicks


Columbia County’s Blanchard Woods Park will be the site of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Women’s Soccer National Championship and its Division II Women’s Soccer National Championship June 3 – 9.

Each division will include 12 collegiate programs. The teams will participate in a group play format, and the group winners will advance to the knockout phase. This is the inaugural NJCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Championship, as the new division was added in soccer in January 2019 and set to play for the first-time in the fall of 2020.

“We look forward to showcasing Columbia County and Blanchard Woods Park as we continue to build our reputation as a preferred destination for prestigious tournaments and events,” says John Luton, Columbia County’s Director of Community Services.

For ticket information and updates on these national championships, check the Columbia County Parks, Recreation and Events Facebook page. In addition, anyone interested in volunteering for the events can email

Music — Benny Sings

Listen To This

If you are looking for some tunes to toss into your 2021 vacation playlist, look no further than Music.

Tim van Berkestijn, aka Benny Sings, returns with his eighth studio release and is bringing a car-top carrier of awesome. He may be a new spin for most, but he has been blasting rays of sunshine for most of the decade with his smooth, poppy-funk-jazzy-R&B soul vibes.

With every release, there is a consistent dose of vitamin D that delivers a bright and catchy sensation that beckons lawn chairs and box fans for miles.

Music is a 10-track rhythm and groove machine that packs a modern-retro collective of tight-spun rhythm and synth with loose-wrapped vocals that create ambient tones of summer. Notable tracks of sunny goodness include “Break Away,” “Rolled Up” and “Nobody’s Fault,” but SPF is required for “Sunny Afternoon,” which is by far this summer’s anthem.

If you are new to the Benniverse, Music is perfect to test the waters before your Triple Lindy into the deep catalog of records past.

As we pack up the school year and extend our toes and minds into the ocean of much needed rest and relaxation, may Music be the perfect, tropical, refreshing, fruity, cool, carefree companion for your jaunt.

– Chris Rucker

Kicking Back at the Lake

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Modoc Shores may be a second home for this close-knit-family, but it’s their go-to place for summer R&R on the water.

For Michele and Bruce Johnson, their hilltop Modoc Shores house on Clarks Hill Lake offers a front-row perch to the spectacular sunsets that mark the end of a satisfying, fun-filled day.

Sure, the generous windows provide gorgeous views of the setting sun from just about every corner of the house. But the Johnsons also have insider knowledge.

What Downsizing?

The Johnsons haven’t always been lake people. Michele grew up in Augusta, but her family never went to Clarks Hill. As a Nashville, Tennessee native, Bruce was more inclined to spend his time hunting in the woods than chilling on the water.

Their mindset changed in 1992, however, when Bruce started working at Thermal Ceramics, which has a lake property for its employees. That’s when the Johnsons originally started going to Clarks Hill with their sons, Luke, Caleb and Micah.

“I love fishing. I love being with my family out on the boat,” says Bruce. “They grew up on the lake wakeboarding and tubing.”

The expanding Johnson clan now includes Luke’s wife, Meagan, and their three daughters, Kinley, Addison and Hannah, as well as Caleb’s wife, Macey, and their two children, Landon and Riley. The grandchildren, who range in age from 8 to 1, are growing up on the water, too.

The littlest Johnsons love to ride jet skis, roast marshmallows on one of the three firepits at the lake house and jump off the double-decker dock into the water.

“We have a place in Augusta, but we basically stay here in the summer,” says Michele. “By March, we’re kicking back at the lake.”

Along with the lake views, the two-bedroom house features a great room with an adjoining kitchen/eating area and lots of outdoor living space.

“We didn’t need a big house anymore,” says Michele. “We got rid of the kids.”

Well, not exactly.

“If we’re not at the lake house, the kids are here with their friends,” Bruce says. “All of us are avid boaters.”

So, maybe the downsizing didn’t work out as planned. Frankly, though, the Johnsons wouldn’t have it any other way.

They spend all of the holidays – from Easter to the Fourth of July to Christmas – at the lake. For the Fourth, they’ll decorate, grill out and watch fireworks. And ribs on the smoker are a must.

“We have a lot of fun,” says Michele. “We ride jet skis. We have Easter picnics, parties and Lowcountry boils. We have a lot of family events at the lake.”

Décor to Adore

Even when the whole family isn’t there in person, they’re ever-present in the family photo collage on a wall in the great room. The space also features tile flooring, a stand-alone electric fireplace, a ceiling fan and a red sectional couch.

A Clarks Hill Lake reservoir map hangs on a wall by the door. Two open black shelves on the wall behind the couch are sandwiched between two black-framed mirrors. A green wreath centered in the middle of each mirror enhances the décor.

The adjoining galley kitchen features granite countertops, a tile backsplash and dark cabinetry. A pie safe with glass-paned doors provides additional storage, and a peninsula, which most likely is covered with food when the family is at the lake, provides separation from the great room.

To set the tone for fun, Michele draws a picture on a wood-framed chalkboard in the kitchen. “I change the picture every season,” she says. “My mom says I draw like a kid.”

The current artwork depicts a sailboat on the water and says, “Summer Fun” and “Lake Day.”

The family can gather around the table in the eating area, and a bench on one side offers plenty of seating for the grandchildren. A glass cylinder vase, filled with greenery and tied with a yellow and white checked ribbon, sits on a riser in the center of the table. Lemons and limes around the vase complement the sunny colors.

Featuring a nautical theme, the guest room has navy and white bedding. A decorative sailboat rests atop a chest, and a wood sign on the wall says, “Happiness comes in waves.” A round mirror above the bed resembles a porthole.

The master bedroom suite is on the second story of the house. The room features a ceiling fan, sleigh bed and an upholstered bench at the foot of the bed. A window ledge runs the length of one wall.

The room also has a sitting area with a glass-topped bistro table, a pair of armed chairs, a couch and a small chandelier overhead.

Patios & Porches

While the interior of the house offers lots of comfortable spots for togetherness, all of the outdoor living space practically negates the need to ever go inside.

A brick pathway from the driveway leads to a small patio on the side of the house. A decorative butterfly hangs on the door to the eating area, and planters contain colorful hydrangeas, daisybushes, Brazilian jasmine and carnations.

A chalkboard easel says, “Welcome to the Johnsons. Est. 1987.” That’s the year they got married, but their love story began when Michele was in high school and Bruce came to her house with a friend who was dating her sister. (Her sister and Bruce’s friend married each other, also, but the Johnsons beat them to the altar.)

A small patio in the front yard features a firepit surrounded by outdoor furnishings. Strings of lights and ferns in hanging baskets are suspended from thin black poles around the sitting area.

Two birdhouses, including a lighthouse-shaped birdhouse, hang on another pole, and a yard sign says, “Life is Better By the Water.”

The deck is another favorite spot, where the Johnsons like to gather around the bar-height table with a firepit in the middle. Lights are strung along the railing, and a pair of decorative, oversized, pink flip flops with white polka dots hangs on the door to the great room.

When it’s seriously time to decompress, though, the Johnsons retreat to the screened-in back porch.

“Bruce wanted to turn the porch into a junk hunting room,” Michele says. “I said, ‘No, no, no.’”

She was right.

This porch features wicker furnishings, a bead board ceiling, a fountain where the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and a swing bed that Bruce and Micah made from pine wood for Michele as a Mother’s Day gift in 2015. They also made the pine TV cabinet on the porch.

“We love the porches,” says Michele. “The swing bed on the back porch is my spot. I drink wine on it. I drink coffee on it.”

A pillow on the porch says, “Life is better on the porch.” Yes, this message competes with the yard sign that declares life is better on the water, but who could argue with either claim?

The upper level of the dock features two umbrellas that shade four lounge chairs and a table with a firepit. The Tigé, which is Michele’s boat, and Bruce’s fishing boat are parked underneath.

From enjoying the views to riding jet skis, boating to Lakeside Grill to relaxing on the beach area, fishing to just hanging out together, the Johnson family has a lot to love about the lake house. Perhaps, though, Meagan hits the high water mark when she sums up its appeal.

The best thing about spending time at the Modoc Shores house, she says, is “making memories with our kids.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Sweet & Spicy Baby Back Ribs


2 racks baby back ribs

Dry Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towel. Remove membrane on back of each rack (slide a knife in at top under membrane and use a dry paper towel to pull it away.) In a small bowl, mix together dry rub ingredients. Sprinkle generously over both sides of meat, rubbing into the meat and coating completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-4 hours.

Heat grill to medium-low, about 275 degrees. Turn off all burners except one on the outside. Place ribs on opposite side from lit burner, curved-side up. Close lid and grill 2 to 2 1/2 hours until browned and tender. Baste with barbecue sauce once on each side the last 15 minutes. (Note: these ribs are also great with just the dry rub.) Remove to pan and lightly cover with foil; let rest 5-10 minutes. Serve with sauce on the side. Makes 6 servings.


On the Right Track


Photography by Chris Clark

With a drive to succeed, this Columbia County car racer is finding himself in the winner’s circle.

Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta has been good to Evans resident and racecar driver Franklin Futrelle. As a boy, he spent countless weekends there with his father, Jeff, who also raced as a hobby. He met his wife, Jessica, there when they were in college. And in late March, he won the Atlanta SpeedTour, which is part of the Trans Am Series circuit, there to notch his first TA2 class victory.

“It’s my favorite track,” says Futrelle of the 2.54-mile, 12-turn, world-class road course in Braselton, Georgia.

He also worked there as an instructor in the past. In addition, he made his TA2 debut last November at Road Atlanta, finishing third in qualifying and fifth in the race.

Car Wars

The Trans Am Series, sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing Ltd., the wholly owned subsidiary of Sports Car Club of America, Inc., includes 10 to 12 races a year all across the country. The season runs from January to late October.

“It’s similar to NASCAR, but we race on road courses. And instead of making only left turns, we make left and right turns,” says Futrelle, who started racing go-karts at age 10.

The cars have no power brakes or power steering, and the drivers have to shift gears. An average track is 2 1/2 to 4 miles long with hills and multiple turns, and the races are 100 miles in length. They last about 1 1/2 hours, and Trans Am events typically have 25 to 50 racers. The Atlanta SpeedTour had 32 cars.

A Trans Am Series race does not require a mandatory pit stop for fueling, tires or driver changes. As a sprint, it is driver versus driver from start to finish.

Dating back to 1966, the Trans Am road racing series has experienced unprecedented growth in the last 10 years to include several distinct racing classes. Just as he has a preference for Road Atlanta, Futrelle calls the TA2 class his favorite as well.

“It’s top tier. It’s faster. It’s very physical and old-school. It’s also expensive,” he says. “TA2 is the biggest, most competitive class. It’s the flagship class. All of the cars are similar, so a lot of it comes down to the driver. It’s not who has the best and most expensive car.”

Futrelle drives a Ford Mustang in TA2 class races, which revive the “muscle car wars” of the ’60s and ’70s. During those years, brands like Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford released hot rod versions of their Camaro, Challenger and Mustang in a battle for supremacy to prove which one made the best performance cars on the American roads. 

TA2 racecars are purpose-built racing machines that are designed, made and tuned for performance. Their engines are restricted to just under 500 horsepower, but they produce mind-numbing speeds.

The racecars travel at speeds of 165 mph, but Futrelle, who finished the 40-lap Road Atlanta in 1:24.811, says he has no fear on the track.

“When you have grown up doing it, you just try to go faster and push to the limit,” he says. “I have crashed and broken bones, but I feel safer driving on the track than on the streets. We’re all going the same direction, and everybody is sober. We know who is driving next to us.”

All in the Family

As part of B2 Motorsports, a Huntsville, Alabama-based team that focuses on SpecRacer and Trans Am TA2 classes, Futrelle races four or five cars in different series. While he races a Mustang in TA2, SpecRacer Fords are enclosed-wheel, open-cockpit, purpose-built racecars that are powered by a Ford engine.

In the Stadium Super Trucks off-road racing series, he drives a souped-up, hand-built truck. For oval dirt racing, he drives a Chevy street stock car.

“Other people have the cars, and I drive them. If somebody will let me race, I’ll drive the car,” says Futrelle. “As you move up, it gets to be more expensive. But if you have the love for it, you’ll make it happen.”

According to, Futrelle has a race win percentage of 23.8% and a podium percentage of 42.9%. He believes he has found success in racing simply because of his inherent love for the sport.

Between running a third-generation family business and raising 4- and 5-year-old sons, Futrelle still finds time to race once or twice a month. He and his wife also traveled around the country to races before their children were born.

“My family comes to the races now. They’re family-oriented events,” Futrelle says. “We can stay at the track in a camper. The boys like it when Daddy is the ‘line leader.’”

He says his wife has no qualms about his avocation. After all, since they met at Road Atlanta, he adds, “She has no excuse to not put up with it.”

Futrelle practices every other day with a simulator at his house, and he trains and coaches people on the internet as well.

“The simulator is similar to what a pilot would use for a plane,” he says. “Practice has never been something somebody has had to drag me to do.”

Clothing is another key component of racing as well. Because the temperature in a racecar reaches 130 degrees, drivers wear three-layer Nomex suits, which were invented by NASA for astronauts. Underneath the suits, they also wear a cool shirt that has water lines running through it. The shirt helps racers prevent heat stress, reduce dehydration and maintain a safe core body temperature.

Despite the cool cars and the spaceship-inspired attire, Futrelle says the best part about his hobby is the camaraderie among the competitors.

“Racing is a niche sport. When you get to the track, everybody is just a racer. Demographics go out the window. We all have a common bond,” he says. “They’re my closest friends, even though we only see each other four or five times a year.”

By Todd Beck