Monthly Archives: July 2021

Watch It, Explore It, Do It


Photos courtesy of Western S.C. BlueWay Festival and Nathan Elliott

Get your outdoor fix at the Western S.C. BlueWay Festival.
If you’re going to have a final summer fling, then do it with gusto. That seems to be the M.O. of the organizers of the Western South Carolina BlueWay Festival, scheduled for Saturday, August 28 at Baker Creek State Park in McCormick. They have planned a full slate of events for the third annual festival, which wasn’t held last year because of covid, that’s overflowing with activities on water and on land.

After all, even when summer days are counting down, the weather is still just right for outdoor fun in this area.

“I think we’re going to have a great event. People are ready to do things,” says Karen Greene, the BlueWay exhibitor/vendor coordinator. “We structured the festival so that there are three ways to enjoy it – Watch It, Explore It and Do It.”

Show Time
The festival includes a full day of entertainment by professional groups including Freestyle Connection BMX Bike Show, which features an acrobatic stunt team.

“This year they’re bringing an airbag ramp so they can go higher,” Greene says. “We expect some really high-flying tricks.”

Another performer, Canine Stars of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” fame, is a stunt dog team made up of professional trainers and their adopted rescue dogs.

JARRRWake School is expected to put on a wakeboard show, Savannah River Kayak Rentals will provide kayak demonstrations and Brittney Conklin will exhibit paddleboard yoga.

Interactive Fun
Exhibitors and vendors will set up booths to demonstrate the use of their wares, but they’ll take it a step further to reel in the festival-goers.

“Vendors will have interactive outdoor recreation,” says Greene. “It’s a better way to engage potential customers. If they have something fun to do, it’s a better experience for everybody. They’ll also have goofy prizes to give away.”

Activities include fishing demonstrations, casting contests, axe-throwing, archery, kayaking, a disc golf putting clinic and a tall water slide into Clarks Hill Lake.

“All of our attendees get a chance to try out bikes, disc golf, SUPs and kayaks,” Greene says. “We have things that people really want to do. We love the area, and we want everybody to see what a great destination this is for outdoor, healthy living.”

Competitive types also can take part in kayak paddling races, paddleboard relays and a geocaching contest.

“It’s all about outdoor, healthy living,” Greene says. “I think covid has brought it to our attention how important a healthy lifestyle is.”

Festival-goers also can learn about local hiking and biking trails as well as other opportunities for outdoor adventures in their own backyard.

Menus & Music
A festival isn’t a festival without good food and good music, and the BlueWay Festival has those necessities covered, too.

A variety of vendors will serve foods such as barbecue, burgers, funnel cakes, Mexican cuisine and, of course, good old-fashioned fried festival foods.

Back Paddle Brewing in Lincolnton and Good Times Brewery in Greenwood, South Carolina will be on hand, and the two breweries are collaborating to brew a special craft beer for the BlueWay Festival.

Musical entertainment includes Surrender Cobra, a Greenwood, South Carolina band made up of three brothers and their dad, and She N She of Augusta, a duo that started performing together after they met at an open mic in 2010.

Most of the festival activities will conclude at 5 p.m. when attention will turn to the final musical performer of the day, Crawford, Colt, & Waite featuring Brandi Colt. This Greenwood singer and songwriter combines traditional country with Appalachian Carolina clay roots and the Texas red dirt country sound.

The festival has grown each year, attracting about 1,200 people to the inaugural event in 2018 and about 3,000 people in 2019. Organizers hope to have an even bigger crowd this year.

“We want everyone to have a good time, get fresh air and enjoy the outdoors. We’ll have the festival rain or shine. Honestly, we’re wet anyway,” Greene says. “It’s really a good family fun day.”

If You Go:
What: Western S.C. BlueWay Festival
When: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday, August 28
Where: Baker Creek State Park, 386 Baker Creek Road, McCormick, South Carolina
How Much: Free admission
More Info:

Shake, Rattle and Roll


Photos courtesy of Loudermilk Boarding House & Everything Elvis Museum and Keith Edmondson Photography

This collection of Elvis memorabilia, along with an Elvis tribute artist contest, will leave the King’s biggest fans “All Shook Up.”

There are Elvis Presley fans, and then there are those who have an unquenchable “Burning Love” for all things Elvis. Count Joni Mabe, director and founder of the Loudermilk Boarding House & Everything Elvis Museum, among the latter.

Deciding “It’s Now or Never,” she founded the museum in her great-grandparents’ boarding house in Cornelia, Georgia in 1999 after spending 14 years on the road with her traveling Elvis show.

“It was fun,” Mabe says of the traveling show, “but it was a lot of work.”

The Loudermilk Boarding House, built in 1908 and listed on The National Register of Historic Places, features her Panoramic Encyclopedia of Everything Elvis on the third floor. Listed in Guinness World Records, the museum features more than 30,000 Elvis items including the Elvis wart and the “Maybe Elvis Toenail.” No wonder the museum bills its Elvis memorabilia as “the largest collection in the world and the most unique.”

Music & Memorabilia
Mabe is the fourth-generation owner of the family’s former boarding house, but she wasn’t always an Elvis Presley fan.

“I became an Elvis fan the day he died – August 6, 1977,” she says. “On the day that he died, they played Elvis music all day on the radio.”

She was familiar with his ’70s, country and rock ’n’ roll music that the radio station played that day, but she also heard his gospel and early rockabilly songs for the first time.

“His voice really got me,” she says, “especially his gospel songs.”

Mabe, who was an art student at the University of Georgia at the time, says, “That night I made my first Elvis artwork.”

She has been collecting and making Elvis memorabilia and art ever since. She primarily creates Elvis glitter mosaics with black and white images of him.

“Everything is covered in glitter except his face and his hands,” Mabe says. “It makes it look 3D.”

She also does Elvis acrylic paintings, collages and even prayer rugs. Some of her artwork is for sale, but she keeps other pieces in her permanent collection at the museum.

Other museum memorabilia includes whiskey decanters, shoes, shoelaces, clocks and plates with Elvis’ likeness on them, black velvet Elvis paintings and roses that someone took off of his grave.

In addition, Mabe has a collection of autographed pictures of his movie co-stars including Ann-Margret, Ed Asner and Mary Ann Mobley as well as thousands of Elvis Presley albums.

“Everywhere I would go, someone would say, ‘There’s an Elvis thing at the store,’ or they would bring me something,” she says.

The second story of the house is decorated with antiques and artifacts from the eras when her grandparents and great-grandparents lived there. And of course, Elvis music plays constantly at the museum.

Mabe sends visitors up to the third floor for a self-guided tour of the Elvis museum, telling them to come back downstairs with questions for her. And they always have questions.

When did you become an Elvis fan? How long have you been collecting memorabilia? How did you get the Elvis wart?

Warts and All
Mabe purchased the wart from a Memphis doctor who removed it in 1957 before Presley entered the Army.

“I kept looking at pictures, and I kept seeing this big wart on his right wrist,” she says.

The wart is kept in a test tube in a red silk-lined case, which has an image of the wart on his wrist in the back. Mabe displays the wart and the “Maybe Elvis Toenail,” along with other mementoes, in a special showcase. The other memorabilia includes bootleg vials of Elvis’ sweat that supposedly was collected from his scarves and Elvis bubblegum cards from the 1950s.

Naturally, there’s a story behind that toenail as well.

“I found it in the shag carpet in the Jungle Room at Graceland,” says Mabe. “I just wanted to scan my hand where Elvis had walked. I felt something, so I picked it up and took it outside. It looked like a toenail.”

The “Maybe Elvis Toenail” is contained in a case with a leopard-skin bottom and a picture of the Jungle Room in the background.

Big E Fest
In addition to the museum, Mabe has found another way to connect with Presley fans and share their love of his music with an Elvis tribute artist competition. The 17th annual Big E Fest will be held August 6 – 8 at the Rabun County Civic Center in Clayton.

“I started the Big E Fest at the museum to bring people to the museum,” says Mabe. “We had it on the front porch for 10 years, but it got so crowded.”

She moved it to the local Grant-Reeves VFW for two years and then to the Main Street Special Event Facility in Cornelia for two more years, but the festival outgrew both of those locations.

“It has a life of its own now,” says Mabe.

This year the festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday, August 6 with a Meet & Greet with the tribute artists in the Civic Center Rock ’n’ Roll Café. Snacks and door prizes will be available. Friends of the Rabun Library will provide– what else? – peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Admission is $10.

Featuring past winners, the Championship Show starts at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $20. “I bring back last year’s Big E Fest winner,” says Mabe.

The event was canceled in 2020 because of covid, but the 2019 winner, Jacob Eder of Abbeville, South Carolina, will perform. Only 19 years old, he represents a “young Elvis.” David Lee, a two-time world champion Elvis entertainer who was named the 2015 Ultimate Elvis by Elvis Presley Enterprise, will be back for the fourth year in a row. He is a Conway Twitty tribute artist as well.

In addition, Mabe says, “I have a special surprise to start the show Friday night with an artist who does Johnny Cash songs.”

The doors open at noon on Saturday, August 7 for the tribute artist competition, and the contest begins at 1 p.m. Lee will emcee the contest as Twitty.

A total of 18 tribute artists competed for the coveted title of Big E Champion in 2019, and Mabe expects a similar number this year. She also has added a youth division, which will include two young boys.

Competitors have come from throughout the United States including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana. One competitor has come from Australia.

“This year we’ll have at least six tribute artists that have never competed before,” Mabe says.

Three judges will determine the winner, and Mabe gets new judges every year. The 600-seat venue has sold out to a standing room only audience the past two years. General admission is $20, and VIP tickets are $35.

Audience members also can pay $1 each to vote on the People’s Choice Award winner, and the proceeds benefit the Rabun County Public Library. A raffle benefits the Habersham County animal shelter.

“One year I took them a check and came back with a dog,” says Mabe.

The contest wraps up in the late afternoon, and this year the event also will feature a new Sock Hop Dinner.

Beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at the Civic Center Rock ’n’ Roll Café, the catered meal will be available at the 1950s-style diner featuring a black-and-white tile floor and a jukebox. Entertainment will include Lee as Twitty, Michael Florence as Johnny Cash, Jessica Nash as Patsy Cline, karaoke music and more. Tickets are $35.

“It will be like an after-party,” says Mabe. “The last year every restaurant was so crowded after the show, so I decided to add the Sock Hop.”

The weekend will conclude Sunday, August 8 with a Gospel Brunch, featuring award-winning Southern cooking and gospel songs performed by Lee. The brunch will begin at 11 a.m. at Clayton Café on Main Street. Tickets are $35.

“I love bringing people together. I love showing my collection and sharing the history of the house,” Mabe says. “I’m not one of these people who believe Elvis is still alive, but some people do. I meet some characters. I love their stories. The fans are great. Some of them have Elvis tattoos. Everyone remembers what they were doing when they heard that Elvis died.”

By Morgan Davis

Hawaiian Chicken Fried Rice

  • 2 pineapples
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut pineapples in half from top to bottom. Cut pulp out and dice, using 1-2 cups for this recipe (save the rest for snacks, smoothies or other recipes). Cook rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, crumble cooked bacon and set aside. Cut chicken into small pieces. In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and sauté 4-5 minutes until browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to plate and cover to reabsorb juices.

Wipe pan with a paper towel. Add remaining teaspoon of oil and heat over medium high. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes until softened. Stir in red bell pepper, diced pineapple and crumbled bacon; cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in rice and cooked chicken. Add soy sauce and sesame oil; gently stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm in scooped-out pineapple halves. Makes 4 servings.

Local Talent


Photography by Sally Kolar

Fans of the supernatural can look forward to a new movie featuring a homegrown cast and crew.
Filming recently wrapped up in Columbia and Richmond counties for Applewood, an indie horror-based thriller that will be released in late 2021 or early 2022.

“Almost all of our talent and crew are locally based,” says production supervisor Nik Wilets of Augusta. “We have a crew of about 50 people, and 35 to 40 of them are local.”

The film also was written by local resident Amy Rhinehart Bailey and Rob Hollocks, a British director, producer and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. In addition, the film’s three lead actors, Kate Dailey, Susan Willis and Nathan Rothwell, live in the area.

“The film is a labor of love for these people,” Wilets says. “I think small teams usually make the best products. There’s a certain esprit de corps with a small team.”

The horror-based thriller, based on a story by local writer Zach King, is about “a woman who buys a house and remnants of the past come back to her,” says Wilets.

Some scenes were shot in a Columbia County neighborhood and a local ATV park. However, Wilets says the Clay House on Milledge Road in Augusta will be one of the most recognizable locations in the film. “We show the Clay House in decay, and in flashbacks, in its heyday,” he says.

While Georgia has become a leading destination in the world for filming, Wilets says Columbia and Richmond counties are becoming more popular among filmmakers.

“Atlanta has become a little overused, and this area offers a bit of originality. There’s a lot of diversity here,” he says.

Wilets believes the film will resonate with audiences. “I hope they have some thrills and scares. There’s also a lot of takeaways about loss and redemption,” he says. “I hope they enjoy a good story.”

By Todd Beck

Beach Vibes

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

A family of six lives the coastal life in their River Island home.
If you’re not careful, the River Island home of Heather and Foy Meyer might put you in an altered state of mind – but in a good way. Even though you know in your head that you’re in Evans when you arrive, the coastal décor and light, bright, white interior almost convince you in your heart that you’re miles away at an ocean retreat.

With one glimpse of the house, you can almost smell the saltwater, hear the waves tumbling ashore and feel the sand between your toes. After all, the seafoam shaded exterior – or the “turquoise” house that the Meyers’ four daughters, who range in age from 17 to 10, fell in love with on sight – offers serious beach vibes.

“Everybody knows the ‘turquoise’ house,” says Heather. “Our girls loved it as soon as they saw it. I don’t think they cared what it looked like inside. I would never have picked the color to paint the outside, but I love it.”

The Meyer family moved here from Lexington, Kentucky almost two years ago, and they initially lived in a three-bedroom apartment for several months.

“We were looking to build in River Island. Another couple built this house, and they lived in it for less than a year. It was the only house we looked at in River Island,” she says. “We didn’t really do anything cosmetic. We could just move right in, which was nice.”

Open and Airy
In addition to Kentucky, they have lived in Louisiana, Texas and Maine. Make no mistake, though. Heather and Foy, natives of Tampa, Florida who met in high school, and their girls are beach people through and through.

“We love to vacation at Seaside, Florida and Nantucket,” says Heather. “The house fit in with our style. When we moved in, we wanted an open, airy, brighter theme.”

They lived in a traditional brick house with traditional furnishings in bluegrass country, but their new home called for a change of pace. Even though they didn’t have to make any major changes to the house, they sold almost all of their previous furniture and bought new furnishings that would complement the home.

“We just love the beach. We wanted that open, airy feel, and we have incorporated a lot of the things we’ve collected in the décor,” says Heather.

A white fence with brick columns and a wrought iron gate surrounds the back yard, where a striped umbrella shades three lounge chairs on the patio.

Open on two sides, the back porch is one of their favorite spaces to spend time. The porch features a brick floor, tongue-and-groove ceiling, recessed lighting, two ceiling fans, wicker furniture, a TV and a brick wood-burning fireplace with a raised hearth and wood mantel.

A strand of oyster shells rests on one side of the hearth, and a lantern occupies the other side. Two cube stools sit in front of the fireplace, and a round white table offers a contrast to the brown wicker furniture. A sweetgrass basket hangs on the wall above a sideboard on wheels.

“The original owners had the same piece there, and they took it with them,” Heather says of the sideboard. “I hunted all over to find another one. It’s super durable. We can put all kinds of food on it. We love to have people over. We grill out all the time.”

Double doors from the back porch lead into the kitchen, and this is the entry that everyone uses. After all, it’s the kind of household where back-door neighbors are the best.

The kitchen includes white cabinetry, quartz countertops, a marble subway tile backsplash, a pot filler, a farmhouse sink and hardwood flooring, which flows through most of the house.

The island, which includes a wine fridge, is painted light blue in a striking contrast with the cabinets, and a trio of acrylic chairs are tucked beneath the ledge.

“The chairs are strong, durable and easy to clean,” says Heather. “They don’t break up the view.”

A pair of oyster plates, which they got from a pottery place in Maine, hangs on the wall.

Whiter and Brighter
The adjoining dining area includes a long wood table. “I like the driftwood-y look of the table,” says Heather. “And it’s been durable for the kids.”

Wicker chairs with cushions line each side of the table, while upholstered seats anchor each end.

“It’s the only eating area in the house, so I wanted something that would be comfortable,” Heather says. “We can put a bunch of people around the table.”

Their white, gold-rimmed china belonged to her in-laws, who have been married for 55 years. Heather loves the simplicity of the china, and the rims of the plates accent the gold bowl that serves as the table centerpiece.

The dining area flows into the great room, and the two spaces overlook the front porch and the Savannah River across the street.

“We love our view. You can see the river from most of the windows,” says Heather. “We’re not on the river, but we can see it.”

Natural jute seagrass rugs, which were cut and bound to fit the rooms, accent the dining area and the great room.

“In this house, I really wanted to feel like we were bringing nature from the outside in,” Heather says. “I love white houses. I feel like everything now is going a lot whiter and brighter.”

A coffered wood ceiling in the great room distinguishes it from the dining area. The room also features a gas brick fireplace, a built-in bookcase and a brushed bronze chandelier. Two cane chairs sit on the opposite side of the room from a pair of lounge chairs that are arranged side-by-side against a wall.

“Against everybody’s advice, I wanted the huge lounge chairs, and now they’re everybody’s favorites,” says Heather.

She found a painting on the wall in a Columbia, South Carolina store, where, along with Merry’s Home Furnishings, she got most of their furniture. “It looks like River Island to me,” she says of the painting.

An arched doorway with brick on either side leads to the mudroom, downstairs laundry area and powder room.

The powder room includes a marble vanity and two seagull paintings. “They make a big splash for a small room,” Heather says.

A beadboard wall accents the mudroom. Baskets are tucked beneath the built-in bench, and books fill the shelves above. “It’s like the public library,” says Heather. “All my friends that come through take the books.”

Selling Points
Another selling point of the house was the upstairs apartment. This space, which has a separate entrance, includes two of the girls’ bedrooms. Although the bedrooms are connected, each room has its own bath.

Sheers hang on the wall behind a wicker bed in one room, and the bed in the other, where a white palm branch accents one wall, has an upholstered headboard.

The apartment also features hardwood flooring and a kitchen with a brick backsplash, a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a microwave and blue cabinetry that matches the island in the main kitchen.

In the sitting area, the Meyer girls watch TV from a sectional couch and an upholstered chair that unzips into a bed.

A picture that spells “Nantucket” in large white letters stacked in threes hangs on one wall, and a decorative wooden whale from Nantucket hangs above a wood chest. The chest, along with a wood wine credenza with a marble top in the downstairs hallway, came from the house in Lexington.

On a table of seagrass cloth behind the couch, a shelf holds a skinny dough bowl filled with sea glass that they collected in Maine. “We like collecting shells, but no shells wash up in Maine. It’s all sea glass,” Heather says.

Featuring a shiplap cathedral ceiling and a gas fireplace with a marble surround, the master bedroom is full of character. “The master bedroom sold me,” says Heather.

The chandelier consists of wood beads and candle lights, and two baskets with lids provide storage space for blankets. Another pair of oyster plates from Maine are centered on the wall above the bed, and two swivel chairs are placed at the foot of the bed.

“Our kids watch TV there,” Heather says. “They can swivel around and talk to us and swivel around and watch TV.”

Sliding vintage wood doors lead to the master bath. “The whole bathroom is marble with gold fixtures,” Heather says.

In addition to the marble flooring and shower, the room includes a soaking tub, two sinks and a separate vanity area with an acrylic chair.

“It’s all pretty neutral,” says Heather. “You can do anything with it.”

Two double doors in the master bedroom open onto a porch that faces the river, and Heather and Foy like to sit outside in the two white Adirondack chairs and have coffee.

The porch also features a tongue-and-groove ceiling, three ceiling fans and a pair of gas lanterns on the wall. The gas lanterns remind them of New Orleans, where Heather and Foy lived for three years when he was attending law school at Tulane University.

“We get a great breeze up here, and the house has a better view from the second story,” Heather says.

Lowcountry Feel
The downstairs front porch is just as inviting as the rest of the house. “We eat on the front porch a lot, and we entertain here,” says Heather. “The girls sit out here and do homework.”

The spacious porch includes another trio of ceiling fans, more gas lanterns and a round wood table with wicker chairs.

“I love everything about living in River Island. It’s the only neighborhood we considered. It has a Lowcountry feel. It’s Southern without being on the coast,” Heather says. “We love walking on the boardwalk. Every night we go out in the golf cart and visit. Even when it’s cold, we bundle up and go out on the golf cart.”

River Island life suits the Meyer family, but it comes as no surprise. Years ago, when Foy, who now serves as general counsel for Savannah River Remediation, had come to the area to work, Heather recalls, “We said, ‘If a job ever comes up, we want to live in Augusta.’”

Her husband would like to retire in Nantucket, she says, and she would have no complaints. Otherwise, Heather says, “Unless he’s moving me to a beach somewhere, I’m here.”

By Sarah James

Open-Door Policy


Photos courtesy of the Columbia County Board of Education

Meet Columbia County’s new school superintendent.
Eagle Scout. Outdoorsman. College athlete. Educator. High school coach. Administrator. Farmer. Yes, farmer.

Dr. Steven Flynt, the Columbia County School District’s new superintendent, says the best thing he ever learned in life is to be open to trying new things – even if he doesn’t know much about them.

“It’s probably uncomfortable for anybody to try something new,” says Flynt. “As you continue to get older, you need to look for areas where you can grow and learn.”

He has been growing, learning and making the most of opportunities his entire life. Flynt, who previously served as associate superintendent for the Gwinnett County Public Schools, began his latest venture in the spring when he assumed his new position in Columbia County. Building on the encouragement and guidance he has received from his mentors in education, he’s ready to pay forward the experience he has gained throughout his career.

However, he says, “You have to be your own person. You have to be yourself.”

Real-World Connections
From the time the DeKalb County native entered a neighborhood kindergarten to the day he earned a doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of Georgia, he has been surrounded by strong leaders.

Yet, when Flynt was a high school student, he began to notice a disconnect between the material he was learning in the classroom and its application in the real world.

“The connection of how it would help me in life was difficult to see at the time,” he says.

As a result, he gravitated toward hands-on science classes such as biology, chemistry and physics as well as industrial arts programs.

“These classes have a natural connection with the real world experience,” he says. “They were more exciting because I got to do labs and participate in activities to connect what I was learning to how I would use it later.”

And that realization motivated him to pursue a career in education. “I struggled to connect between the curriculum and the material, and I thought I could do a better job with that,” he says.

He earned an associate of arts degree from Young Harris College, where he played soccer for two years. Continuing his college soccer career at Lees-McRae College, he was awarded a B.S. in biology from the Banner Elk, North Carolina school.

While he was enrolled at Young Harris, he was a student teacher at a high school – an experience that presented a couple of challenges. His students were practically his own age, and at that time, many schools were built with an open concept with no walls between classrooms. Not one of the best innovations in education, he says, but it didn’t derail his career plans.

After graduating from college, he earned a master’s degree in science education from Piedmont College. He and his wife, Kristin, whom he met when they were working at Stone Mountain Park one summer, went through the program together. An elementary school teacher, she also played college soccer at Emory University and coached high school soccer.

Flynt began his career as an educator when he took a job teaching biology and physical science at Miller Grove Junior High School in DeKalb County in 1993.

“My first year of teaching, I had a very good experience in DeKalb County. I never looked back,” he says.

A year later Flynt, who also coached soccer and swimming when he was a teacher, started teaching high school science before being promoted to assistant principal and principal positions.

“I had taught for close to 10 years. The high school had grown a good bit, and we were on the verge of expanding and growing extremely larger,” says Flynt. “I was asked to take a leadership role, and the principals encouraged me to do that. I moved into administration at my school, and I had a good first experience. I was able to do different jobs. When you have that kind of growth, you get to do a lot of things.”

He moved into his first administrative post for the Gwinnett County schools in 2008, climbing up the ranks to the position of associate superintendent in 2016. During his 13-year tenure as a Gwinnett County school administrator, he helped open 35 schools in a system that gained 8,000 to 9,000 students a year.

Perfect Timing
Although he had multiple opportunities for career growth within the Gwinnett County school system, Flynt started thinking about pursuing a superintendent’s position a couple of years ago.

“This was the only superintendent’s position I applied for. I applied for it because I knew of the work that had gone on in Columbia County, and I knew about the region itself,” he says. “The timing of the opening fit very well.”

Between his coaching duties and the high school lacrosse careers of the two oldest of his three daughters, Jessica and Emily, he was familiar with Columbia County through athletics. He and his family had traveled here to compete against the school district’s sports teams.

While this is his first full academic year in the position, he officially started his new job on April 1. He eased into the post by coming to the district three days each in February and March to attend budget meetings and to meet school principals and administrators.

“You learn a lot about an organization when you see where the money is spent,” says Flynt. “The first couple of weeks were devoted to relationships, and I will keep focusing on building relationships both internally in the district and externally in the community.”

His immediate focus includes studying data, identifying areas to work with individuals, learning about what has happened in the past and looking at growth and facility needs.

“Facility needs are something that every school system needs whether they’re growing or not,” he says.

Getting back on track after the coronavirus pandemic is a priority as well.

“During the global pandemic and learning from home, and then coming back to in-person school, we’ve seen the importance of our teachers and that in-person connection. Students achieve more when they have that close relationship with individual teachers,” says Flynt. “It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t perfect in any district, but we were able to adjust pretty quickly. We saw how dynamic we could be.”

However, there still is work to do to recover from the last 17 months by striking the right balance between students’ needs.

“I think it’s incumbent on us to continue to find the things we need to learn from this,” says Flynt. “Some students were OK, and it was more challenging for others. Sometimes you have to provide remedial education, but you also have to provide some acceleration.”

He believes the similarities between the Columbia County and Gwinnett County school systems will serve him well.

“Any time you’re coming from the outside, you have a different perspective. I was in Gwinnett County when we grew extremely fast, and there has been a lot of growth in Columbia County and the region. All of the opportunities here remind me of Gwinnett,” Flynt says. “We always need to look for what we can improve on. I think we’re poised to make the changes necessary, but not move too quickly.”

Change of Scenery
When he’s not on the job, he enjoys the outdoors. In fact, the Flynt family lived on a Gwinnett County farm from 1995 until about two years ago.

“We’ve always lived on acreage,” says Flynt. “We enjoyed the animals and the land. You learn a lot when you work around animals. We had goats, donkeys and horses. We built fences and barns. All of us learned how to drive a tractor.”

They gave up farm life after their two older daughters went to college, where they still play lacrosse. “We didn’t have as much help then,” he says.

The Flynts and their youngest daughter, Sarah, a freshman at Lakeside High School, have settled in Evans, and the superintendent is enjoying getting to know his new community.

“I knew this was a great place, but it has been reinforced time and time again. I feel fortunate to be here,” he says. “I’m looking forward to being part of the community, not just an employee of the school district. I have an open-door policy, and I hope people will reach out to me.”

By Betsy Gilliland

The Digital Age of Rome — T. Hardy Morris

Listen To This

As the clouds of last year lift, beams of light are emerging from the music world. Many artists found unique and inventive ways to fill the void, and Augusta’s own (now Athens resident) T. Hardy Morris is no exception. Morris started out 2020 with a hefty bag of demos intended to follow up the 2018 Dude, The Obscure, but the pause button of the pandemic halted the momentum.

With the marination of slower times, reflection and reevaluation, Morris penned more songs that would gradually morph into and around the tunes he brought into the year and voila, The Digital Age of Rome was born.

This 10-track pool of reflection is some of Morris’ most raw and self-challenge-driven songs to date, but there is a common cord of relatability that resonates through the entire record. The songwriting captures perspective, expressing various points of view, and is the product of some good old-fashioned time-to-ponder.

If there is one thing last year taught us, it’s that we need to be together more and enjoy the fruits of resetting the cadence of life (OK, that was two). As good music emerges and carries us through the heat of the summer, The Digital Age of Rome is the perfect record for a late-day porch gaze and a box fan.

– Chris Rucker

A&D Carpets and Hardwoods

Home Improvements

A & D Carpets & Hardwoods offers fine carpet and flooring products to Augusta, Georgia and surrounding areas. We sell a wide assortment of carpets, flooring, and hardwood, as well as a broad selection of area rugs. Whether you are a commercial business or residential client, we can help you decide exactly what you need for any situation. We have 40 years of experience and knowledge in our management and sales teams, and we respect our customers’ opinions and business.

320 South Belair Road
Martinez, Georgia

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Great Deals on Furniture

Home Improvements

Great Deals On Furniture was started in November of 2005 by Eddie & Carol Kennedy. They have a combined 70+ years of experience in the local furniture industry. Eddie started working in his family’s business, General Freight Furniture, when he was a teenager. Eddie’s parents, Ralph & Martha Kennedy hired Carol to work in the business in 1989. After a few years, Eddie & Carol got married and started their family as they continued working together in the furniture business. During that time, Eddie co-founded the Furniture 1st National Buying Group, which today consists of 518 furniture stores in 47 states, reporting over $2 Billion in sales.
In 2005, they launched out and opened Great Deals On Furniture on Bobby Jones Expressway in Augusta and as they say, “the rest is history.”

Great Deals on Furniture
270 Bobby Jones Expressway Suite 148
Martinez, GA 30907

Phone: 706-447-4473

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Greg Oldham

Home Improvements

Greg Oldham
For over a decade, Greg Oldham has been helping clients navigate the real estate market to find their dream home or successfully sell property. With his extensive knowledge of the local market and experience both buying and selling homes in Columbia County, Greg has made it his mission to help clients achieve their real estate goals.

Greg prides himself in working closely with clients to fully understand their needs and to help find them a home that meets everything on their checklist. He will also work tirelessly to market your property listing to sell it quickly and get you the best value for your home. When you’re buying or selling a house, you want an experienced REALTOR® on your side who will work for you. Contact Greg Oldham today to get started!

Office: 706-863-8218
Cell Phone: 706-877-4000

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Merry Maids of Augusta

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Our Home Cleaning Services

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Your home is more than just a house—it’s your sanctuary—a space where you can relax, unwind, and spend time doing the things you love. At Merry Maids®, our cleaning services go beyond the basic services and provide you with a comprehensive clean that will reenergize your home and enhance your life. From everyday housekeeping to routine cleanings and seasonal services, our professional team members can provide you with an unrivaled experience.

When you trust your home to Merry Maids®, you can count on:

  • Licensed, bonded, and insured professionals
  • Guaranteed satisfaction
  • Free cleaning estimates
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Merry Maids of Augusta  (706) 389-4570


Aiken Augusta Audio

Home Improvements

Smart Home Technology provides homeowners security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices, often by a smart home app on their smartphone or other networked device. Installation of smart products give the home and its occupants various benefits — the same benefits that technology and personal computing have brought to us over the past 30 years — convenience and savings of time, money and energy.

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