Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Open House

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Designed for equal parts of entertainment and R&R, this recently remodeled contemporary home in Martinez is a place where family and friends are always welcome.

When it comes to home renovations, one thing often leads to another. And another. And another. Just ask Amy and Bryan Tuschen of Martinez. They started renovating their home in Highview Acres in October 2018 and didn’t finish until March 30, 2020. The process began simply enough, however.

“This whole renovation started as ‘Let’s get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting and popcorn ceiling,’ and then it went way beyond that,” says Amy.

‘Hospitality Bug’
The Tuschens completely changed the look of the house, where they have lived since 1998, from traditional to contemporary by following a carefully orchestrated plan.

“We established the color scheme with lots of grays and whites first,” Amy says.

They purchased new furnishings for the house before they started the renovations, giving away most of their previous furniture to family members.

Decorative elements such as wallpaper and tile are repeated in different places in the house. In addition, Amy says, “All of the hardware and all of the cabinets are the same throughout the house. It simplifies everything.”

Instead of draperies they opted for darkening, pull-down shades to cover the windows. And, even though the Tuschens – parents to three grown children, Maygen, Morgan and Matthew – are empty nesters, the house still needed to accommodate a crowd.

“We entertain regularly, so it’s nice to be able to share the house with friends and family,” says Amy. “We have that hospitality bug.”

Their home has been the site of retirement, graduation and murder mystery parties – some of which Amy has written herself. In December, they had a rehearsal dinner and wedding reception for Morgan and her new husband, Tim, and drop-ins on three different days so the get-togethers could be properly social distanced.

Their affiliation with Fort Gordon keeps them busy as well. Amy, who served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany from 1990 to 1998, is the Fort Gordon Historical Society director. Bryan, a financial advisor and self-described South Dakota “farm boy” who loves singing and karaoke, volunteers as the national director for the Signal Corps Regimental Association.

“We host a lot of events because of the Signal Corps,” he says.

To accommodate their guests, the Tuschens have two different driveways on their three-acre property that overlooks a lake. The rear driveway is for their personal use, and a ramp leads to the lower level of the house.

The long drive in front of the house serves notice that people are arriving someplace special. American flags are mounted on a wooden privacy fence alongside the driveway, and another American flag is raised on a pole by the house.

The exterior of the home features a double cupola, and pre-fabricated rock separates the brick of the original house from the brick of their new addition.

“We wanted to bring the house forward and tie in the rec room,” says Amy.

Travel-Inspired Décor
Statement-making features continue in the entryway where wallpaper from China, which has stacked triangle shapes, covers a wall that extends to the lower level of the house. (The same wallpaper is used on accent walls in the prayer room and the rec room.) Three pulleys with an Edison lightbulb hang in front of the wall.

The bedrooms are upstairs, which is the street level of the house, and they open onto a covered deck. The Tuschens converted the former master bedroom into an office for Bryan, and before the renovation, the two walk-in closets with built-in drawers in the now master bedroom were two of their children’s bedrooms.

The master bedroom is furnished with a suite of distressed white furniture and a Singer sewing machine – exhibiting another one of Amy’s talents.

As part of the addition, the master bath also includes a spa area. The bath features ceramic tile flooring, a tile walk-in shower with two rain showerheads and two rectangular vessel sinks.

“We travel to Cancun and Mexico a lot, so this room was inspired by our travels,” says Amy. “We bring our vacations to our home.”

Seems only natural. In addition to their “hospitality bug,” the Tuschens, who have been married for 30 years, also have a “travel bug.” After all, they met in college on a spring break trip to South Padre Island, Texas in March 1989.

Amy and Bryan, who attended different Midwestern schools, were among a busload of students that got stranded in Dallas because of snow – yes, snow – and mechanical problems on one of the buses.

“We were stuck at a Denny’s Restaurant for 18 hours, so we had a lot of time to talk,” says Bryan. “Our ninth time together, we got engaged. Our 13th time together, we got married.”

To commemorate their various excursions, they have a Tuschen Family Travels map, where small round-headed pushpins mark the places they have been, in their new garage. The garage, also part of the addition, features an epoxy floor that allows them to expand their entertainment space, and it adjoins the rec room.

The house originally had a detached garage, which they never used as a garage, and the Tuschens converted it to a rec room in 2001.

“We knew we still wanted the play space. We just had to attach it,” Amy says. “It’s been a great hangout for kids and adults.”

Some of the artwork in the room features two girls and a boy, representing the Tuschens’ children. One of their teachers painted a picture of the three children that hangs on one wall. Another painting, which they found in Asheville, North Carolina, shows two girls and a boy from behind walking on a beach. “They literally could have been our kids,” says Bryan.

The rec room also includes a pool table, ceiling fan, tile flooring and a sitting area with a TV and an electric insert fireplace.

Functional & Fun
However, the rec room isn’t the only entertainment area in the house. Open stairs lead from the main entryway to the living and entertainment space downstairs.

“This was the last open staircase built in Columbia County,” Bryan says. “They don’t allow them anymore, but it was pre-approved.”

To take advantage of every bit of available real estate, a built-in wine rack and a small wine fridge are tucked behind the stairs.

The open living room, dining area and kitchen offer plenty of room for guests – even in this day and age of social distancing. Before opening up the spaces in the renovation, walls divided them into separate rooms.

The living room previously featured a stone wall with a gas fireplace. However, instead of ripping out the stone, they covered it with a blue accent wall where the wood is placed on the diagonal. They installed an electric fireplace, which features a marble tile surround, on the wall. Depending on the occasion and the mood, the Tuschens can change the colors of the flames and the rocks in the fireplace.

A grandfather clock that the couple got when they were married fits perfectly into a wall nook, and a cuckoo clock from Germany hangs on a wall in the living room.

Other décor includes Leyk Lighthouses, handmade ceramic houses that are fashioned after the famous German Fachwerkhaus, or half-timbered house. They are referred to as “Lighthouses” because they hold tealight candles.

The dining area separates the living room and kitchen. “We can seat up to 12 people at the table,” says Bryan. “We just turn it longways.”

The kitchen features a large island with a built-in microwave and a sink with filtered water, a warming drawer, a stainless steel farmhouse sink and a confection stovetop. Cabinet doors to the refrigerator blend into the wall, and horizontally stacked subway tiles make up the backsplash. While the island countertop is quartz, the perimeter countertops are ceramic tile.

Doubling as a catering area for parties, the walk-in pantry features a fresh coffee maker where Bryan grinds his beans every morning, a second refrigerator and an ice machine. For variety, the subway tile in the pantry is arranged in a staggered, or running bond, pattern.

Two sets of double doors, which provide plenty of ventilation when they’re open, replaced sliding doors in the living space. The doors lead to the outdoor kitchen and sitting area of the covered patio.

Constructed with individual stones, the outdoor kitchen includes a Kamado Joe grill, gas grill, compact outdoor refrigerator and ceramic tile countertops.

The sitting area, where the Tuschens watch football games in the fall, features wicker furniture and an antique chest. A double-decker, raised-hearth, stacked-stone, wood-burning fireplace extends from the lower to the upper level, which are connected by a spiral staircase with wide wooden steps.

Quiet Time
As much as Amy and Bryan enjoy company, they relish their quiet time as well. And their house is full of spots to take in a little R&R.

A prayer room includes two comfortable chairs, a small refrigerator, cabinets and a window that overlooks their gardens.

“I like to sit there with a cup of tea,” says Amy. “It’s a nice way to start my day with the quiet.”

Her late mother made the angel quilt that hangs on one wall. She also cross stitched an angel for each of her four daughters, and Amy’s framed angel hangs on another wall in the prayer room. Porcelain angels in the family room, artwork and vases also belonged to Amy’s mother.

A sliding barn door leads to the spa area, which includes a sauna, steam bath, exercise room and massage table. “We have massage therapists that come to the house,” says Bryan. “When we work out, we can head to the steam room afterward.”

They also relax outside in their backyard gardens or by the pool. Amy enjoys working in the raised beds that include a berry, an herb and a vegetable garden. She grows blueberries and blackberries as well as mint, parsley and rosemary.

The Tuschens renovated the outdoor area for their 25th wedding anniversary, adding the outdoor kitchen and redoing the swimming pool, which is 4 1/2 feet deep from end to end. They also added a raised deck and built a hot tub, which is illuminated by a pair of solar-powered lights.

A statue of two girls and a boy, which they found in New Orleans, sits beneath a pine tree near the pool. Several potted plumerias, tropical trees whose flowers are used to make Hawaiian leis, are placed around the pool. A tea olive tree grows by the deck.

They added a waterfall feature to the koi pond and replaced a wooden bridge between the two with a metal bridge. A deck by the lake, where they keep their kayaks, includes a gazebo and benches.

“We’re so close to everything. But when we’re in the back, we feel like we’re all alone,” says Amy. “Even with just the two of us here, there’s not a lot of unused space.”

By Betsy Gilliland

A Love Story to Remember

People

(From left) Abigail Johnson, Abigail Jessee and Georgia Martinez share the bonds of friendship and the appreciation of a good love story. Through their businesses, they held a contest, which was open to all CSRA residents, to highlight the love stories of four local couples. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot from the business owners and the opportunity to tell their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

As the brainchild of Abigail Jessee of Abigail Marie Creative, “A Love Story to Remember” tells the love stories of four local couples. She started her business to share people’s lives, and particularly their love stories, through photography.

“I love a good wedding photo, but I started thinking, ‘Where are all of the other love stories?’” she says.

Enlisting the aid of her friends, Abigail Johnson of Rosilie’s Rentals and Georgia Martinez of Georgia Miller Photography, they launched the project with a contest to showcase the love stories of local residents. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot and the opportunity to share their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

Abigail Jessee and Georgia shared photography duties; Abigail Johnson provided vintage props for the photo shoots.

“The best part about this process was reading all of the submissions,” says Abigail Jessee. “I was so encouraged that every story was unique its own way.”

With her camera, Georgia loves to peek behind the scenes. “Taking part in this project was an enriching, beautiful experience for me. Although I am often photographing what is visible to the eye, I truly believe it is the story behind a photograph that gives it meaning and life,” she says. “Our love stories are timeless, unique, and they connect us all.”

Abigail Johnson is fascinated by every detail of people’s lives. Her interest in their histories grew out of the mementoes and memories that her grandfather saved of her late grandmother, Barbara Roselie, whom she never met.

“I’m so thankful my PaPa kept their love story alive through her things, photos and his memories. It made me realize how captivating history and memories can be,” she says. “It was through my grandparents and their epic love story that my love for all things sentimental, unique and antique really began.”

The contest was open to all CSRA residents. Couples could nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.

The featured couples include an engaged pair that is getting married in May – pandemic or not, a husband and wife that finally admitted their true feelings for each other and eloped after a 12-year friendship, fun-loving empty nesters who make the most of every moment they spend together and mentor other young couples, and great-grandparents (and great dancers) who have been married for 51 years. Enjoy.

Coming Up Roses

People

When you know, you know. Suzanne and Pete Adams of Appling will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary on February 20, and it all started when she spotted him on the dance floor one night in the fall of 1969.

“He was so good looking. He could dance,” says Suzanne. “I love to dance, and he’s still one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen.”

She told her friends she was going to marry that guy. “They just laughed and said, ‘You don’t even know his name,’” recalls Suzanne.

Undeterred, she told a male friend to tell Pete to ask her to dance, and he did. Suzanne invited Pete to go to breakfast with her and a group of friends the next day, but he declined. She later found out he didn’t have the money.

Pete also had just come out of a relationship, so he was reluctant to become involved with someone else so soon.

As fate would have it, though, both of them worked in retail stores in downtown Macon, so they still saw each other daily. Pete finally called Suzanne at work one day and asked her out. They went dancing again at a different place.

“She was just the one for me,” he says. “She was a little more aggressive than I was at first. I’m glad she was because I fell in love with her.”

During their courtship, Pete picked a rose and took it to Suzanne every day. “I shouldn’t have done that because they came from the garden at the town hall,” he says.

Less than six months after they met, the couple got married in Lakeland, Florida by the justice of the peace. The ceremony cost $10, but first they went to an Army-Navy surplus store and bought two rings for $1 apiece.

They got proper wedding rings later. However, Pete says, “That doesn’t make for a lasting marriage.” They agree that commitment and a Christ-centered relationship are the keys to a long-lasting marriage.

“You have to give and take,” Suzanne says. “You have to be committed and love one another. It isn’t always easy roads. You have a lot of rocky roads.”

Suzanne and Pete have six children, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. And every time he looks at her, Pete is reminded of one of the things that made him fall in love with her.

“She had the prettiest blue eyes,” he says. “She still does.”

Creamy Lobster Bisque

Soups
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 lobster tails
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced and divided
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Extra dash salt, pepper and cayenne, to taste

For the lobster stock, fill a large pot with 5 cups of water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sea salt and bring to a boil. Add lobster tails, cover with lid and boil 5 minutes or until bright red. Remove lobster tails, reserving liquid stock. Once lobsters have cooled enough to handle, remove meat from shells; set aside. Return lobster shells to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. While stock is simmering, chop meat into bite-size pieces and refrigerate.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, thyme and tarragon and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add bouillon, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in 4 cloves of the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in tomato paste and cook about a minute to coat vegetables. Sprinkle with flour and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in wine, simmer and let reduce to half. Stir in 4 cups of the lobster stock, reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes. Place in a blender or purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Return to medium low heat and stir in heavy cream.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté remaining minced garlic for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add chopped lobster meat and season with an extra dash salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Lightly sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until lobster meat is just warmed through. Mix lobster meat into bisque and serve. Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Near Misses

People

Augusta residents Brynn Allen and Nick Woo don’t plan to let covid-19 or anything else stop them from getting married on May 8, especially after a lifetime of near misses.

Both of them attended elementary school at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. Even though each grade had only two classes, they never were in the same one. Growing up, they knew lots of the same people, but not each other. “When we got older, we continued to just barely miss each other,” says Brynn. “Nick and I had so many mutual friends and were at so many of the same events together, it is almost laughable how we just kept missing each other.”

Those circumstances finally changed after a day at Clarks Hill Lake with friends the summer before their senior year in high school — Nick at Greenbrier High School and Brynn at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. “I think we might have been the only two that didn’t know each other,” Brynn says.

For their first date—which ended up being spread over two days—they sat on the dock at Savannah Rapids Pavilion and talked for hours. They had planned to get takeout food from Toki, but it didn’t work out. When they went back to the dock the next day to “finish” their date, they had Toki to-go boxes in hand.

Once they finally started dating, they also had to overcome the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Brynn went to Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, while Nick recently graduated from Augusta University. The separation wasn’t easy, they agree, but it allowed them space to grow as individuals.

Nick and Brynn have been together six years, but after a few months, she knew he was the man she wanted to marry. He proposed to her in July by recreating their first date with another Toki picnic on the Savannah Rapids dock. “To pop the question, there couldn’t have been better spot to do it,” he says.

They call communication the foundation of their relationship.

“You need to be vulnerable with that person you care about, open up and have the hard conversations,” Nick says.

“She pushes me to be the best I can be, and she supports me  in any endeavor.”

In addition, they simply have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.

“Every single year we have been together has been like a new year and a new adventure,” Brynn says.

Ahead in the Count

People

The first date for Evans residents Andria and Dave Duff was a favor for friends. His roommate wanted to ask out her friend, but he didn’t have a car. Luckily Dave had a car, so the two of them tagged along.

The guys and girls first met one night in Jackson, Mississippi. Andria, an accountant for a CPA firm, and her friends were out celebrating the end of tax season. Dave was playing minor league baseball for the Jackson Mets, but his game had been rained out.

Both from Virginia, Andria and Dave discovered they had mutual friends.

“He had a lot of character. He was thoughtful and serious about his future,” Andria says. “He had all of the qualities that I knew were going to be important in a long-term relationship. He also was super cute. He looked really good in his uniform.”

Dave proposed after nine months of dating, but he knew after six months that he wanted to marry Andria.

“She was cute and sweet and smart and funny,” he says. “She has a great sense of humor, and she always wants to have fun. She’s a great person with priorities and values.”

The Duffs have three grown sons, and they led a middle school Bible study when their boys were growing up. Now, they mentor some of those same children as young married couples at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.

“We feel like people have passed on good skills to us,” Andria says, “and we want to make a difference for other young couples.”

Dave agrees. “We feel a real calling to help young people with marriage,” he says. “The institution of marriage is so important to our society.”

The empty nesters also value their time together.

“I love that I get a part of Dave that nobody else ever sees,” says Andria. “I love that he’s so loyal and trustworthy – and that’s with everybody, not just me.”

They love to travel, and dinner is their favorite time of day.

“We’ve always had a date night no matter how busy we were raising kids or building careers,” Dave says. “Our relationship has always been the priority. It’s the most important one. We always try to put something on the calendar to look forward to.”

As for the Duffs’ friends from that first double date, their relationship lasted about two weeks.

Thirty-seven years later, though, the “tagalong” couple is still in extra innings.

 

At Last

People

All it took for Kayla and Jake Sasser to elope to Edisto Beach, South Carolina in December 2018 was a dozen years as best friends and a “what if?” or two along the way.

They met in 2006 when Kayla moved from her native West Virginia to Statesboro to pursue her master’s degree. She later moved to Millen to supplement her income with a job at BB&T after a bank employee – who is now her mother-in-law – told her about an opening there.

Kayla, who also taught gymnastics, and Jake met at a community talent show where she went to watch one of her students and he went to see his brother play in a band. Afterward, they ran into each other at a gas station.

“We ended up riding around together that night,” says Kayla. “What a small town thing to do.”

They remained friends, even after she moved back to West Virginia and then to North Carolina. Whether they talked every day for a week or went for a month without talking, they always picked up where they had left off.

“At some point in our friendship, I realized that if we ever dated and got serious, that would be it. And that’s why we never dated,” says Jake. “I didn’t want to commit to anything — I had to grow up.”

In February 2017, while living in North Carolina, Kayla emailed Jake and told him how she felt about him. Once she hit “send,” she knew they would be together or their friendship would end.

When he received her email, Jake says, “My first thought was, ‘I don’t know how to deal with this right now.’ I knew if I responded, that was going to be that. I wasn’t ready for that.”

“That,” of course, was a lifelong commitment.

After he didn’t respond, Kayla thought she had her answer. She eventually heard from Jake, and he said, “You’re my best friend, but I’m not good at relationships.”

Kayla started dating someone else that summer, and they got engaged. She kept wondering “what if,” though, and two months before the wedding she called Jake to tell him she was having doubts.

“She caught me off guard with a phone call one afternoon. And that was that,” says Jake. “You can avoid the inevitable for two years before it really starts to nip at your heels.”

Taken aback or not, this time he was ready. He told her, “You aren’t supposed to marry him because you’re supposed to marry m

Sculpture Trail

Buzz

The Augusta Sculpture Trail, which will feature a walking tour app to view 10 public sculptures downtown, will hold an unveiling and celebration Saturday, February 6.

The attraction will run until January 2023, and each month a special event will be held somewhere along the trail. The app will help visitors learn about each work of art and the artist who sculpted it.

Sculptures include:
POPSICLES @ 836 REYNOLDS ST.

By Craig Gray
Craig Gray is from Key West, FL. His focus is connecting community, exploring culture and constructing guideposts of life with art. Weaving a story with the goal of warming the creative soul, and bringing happiness to the heart are just a few of the objectives of my designs. He uses rugged materials incorporating recognizable symbols embracing aspects of a locality to bridge generations of peoples from diverse backgrounds.

UNSTOPPABLE @ 11TH & BROAD ST.

By Gus and Lina Ocamposilva
Gus and Lina Ocamposilva are from Oldsmar, FL and have worked in various media; clay, cast stone, resin, steel, stainless steel and aluminum. Their sculpture “Unstoppable” honors the freedom and perseverance of the limitless human spirit with a cheerful attitude toward life to surpass any obstacle without fear, showing the perfection of the human being through movement.

IMPRACTICAL HARDWARE @ 10TH & BROAD ST.

By Harry McDaniel
Harry McDaniel is from Asheville, NC. There are many common threads to his sculptures — graceful curves, a sense of motion, and elements of illusion—each public commission has been designed around the architectural constraints and opportunities presented by a specific site. Thematic elements reflect the function, history, or significance of a particular site. His goal is to reward those who wonder about the significance of the forms and take time to explore different viewing angles.

INVASIVE @ 836 BROAD ST. 

By Jenn Garrett
Jenn Garrett is from Gainesville, FL. An homage to her mother and sister who have fought breast cancer, Invasive is simultaneously beautiful and somewhat unsettling. The pair of hot pink forms appear to have sprouted from the landscape bringing a robust splash of color to an otherwise ordinary backdrop. The aluminum plate petals are cut with a cell stain pattern, referencing both plant forms and the disease process. Are these flowers or are they weeds?

SUN LION @ 836 BROAD ST.

By D’jean Jawrunner
D’jean Jawrunner is from Tucumcari, NM and views the world microscopically, telescopically, and empirically. Natural and urban realities are community shaping archetypes inspiring dialogue, growth, and human relationships. Horned toads are reptilian unicorns. They are mythical and spiritual… predator and prey… a gift and source of joy to anyone blessed enough to meet one. They play a role in many cultures that is always positive.

ORION @ 8TH & BROAD ST.

By David Sheldon
David Sheldon lives in Asheville, NC. Created with what he calls a ‘NASA aesthetic’, his current sculpture series are influenced in form by the immaculate instruments of space exploration, as well as the moving rhythms of modern, minimalist music and architecture. Humankind has always sought to understand our place in the Universe, and he believes Art plays a vital function in that search. Beauty goes hand in hand with the acquisition of knowledge.

MAESTRO / FOREVER YOUNG @ 8TH & BROAD ST.

By Larry Schueckler 
Larry Schueckler lives in College Station, TX. Maestro: Forever Young, was created as visual stimulus for examining the impact of movement when conveying thoughts, ideas, and even entire stories through the performing arts. The directives of the conductor, which oftentimes are perceived as abstract, have been intentionally magnified during the creation process. The youthful exuberance of a small wide-eyed student bridges the gap of time as the commanding power and authority of the 9′ plus tall maestro exhibits a slight boyish complexion and an insight into how it all began.

DUET @ 836 REYNOLDS ST.

By Gregory Johnson
Gregory Johnson is a Georgia-based artist who has been creating contemporary sculptures for nearly thirty years. Gregory’s artworks are currently on display throughout the United States and seven countries. Most of his sculptures are rendered in either stainless steel or bronze and are built upon the traditional art concepts of classical compositions with detailed attention to surfaces and forms. His works often involve geometric shapes that suggest the pathways of life, the forces of nature, and/or emotions of humanity.

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD @ 8TH & RIVERWALK 

By Leonard Ursachi 
Leonard Ursachi is a Romanian-born American artist from Brooklyn, NY. Themes that thread through his work include the consequences of human activity on the environment. He wove What a Wonderful World from the branches of several types of trees, and loosely sketched a map of the continents on its surface in pigmented cement. The ovoid, egg-like form of the “globe” evokes our fragile but reparable world, while the woven branches evoke nests and a yearning for home.

STEPPED TOWER @ 8TH & RIVERWALK 

By Larry Millard
Larry Millard, Professor Emeritus at University of Georgia, currently resides in Athens and has had 22 solo shows, over 200 group exhibitions, and has exhibited in numerous public art venues. Stepped Tower refers in an almost archeological way to revealing layers of history or information as the “steps” push up and out of the first, bottom-most “cube” of the sculpture. The ideas that influenced Stepped Tower originated in architectural forms and historic scientific and prosaic writings. The hazy, reflective metal surface integrates the sculpture into the landscape that surround it.

For more information, visit AugustaArts.com.

Come Together

Buzz

After nearly a year of limited live entertainment opportunities, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” to have some “Good Vibrations” and “Fun, Fun, Fun?”

Well, “Here Comes the Sun.” Popular tunes from the 1960s will come to Hardin Auditorium this month with two concerts — Sail On, the Beach Boys Tribute and Liverpool Legends, the Complete Beatles Experience.

Sail On will perform Saturday, February 6, and Liverpool Legends is scheduled for Saturday, February 13. The performances will include two shows each – one at 4 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for both shows are $39.95 per person.

Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Sail On has performed with musicians from Brian Wilson’s band, Earth Wind & Fire, The Zombies and Mark Lindsay and produced recordings for Micky Dolenz.

The members of Living Legends, hand-picked by George Harrison’s sister, Louise, are celebrating their 10th season of headlining their own show in Branson, Missouri. The group has been awarded multiple honors including Best New Show, Best Band, Best Show and the Visitors’ Choice Award for Entertainer of the Year.

For tickets or more information, visit augustaamusements.com.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Literary Loop

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car — strange for a frigid night.

Her World War I veteran husband and her daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author.

Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing 11 days has persisted. With her trademark historical fiction exploration into the shadows of the past, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such murky historical mysteries.

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?

Agatha Christie novels have withstood the test of time, but her own untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

Fans of The Secrets We KeptThe Lions of Fifth Avenue, and The Alice Network will enjoy this riveting saga of literary history, suspense and love gone wrongs

Looking Ahead

Buzz

Creating a plan to manage growth, particularly in areas that are growing as rapidly as Harlem and Grovetown, is vital (not to mention required by the state), and the cities recently gathered input from their residents about their visions for the future.

In conjunction with the CSRA Regional Commission, the cities are updating their 2021 – 2026 comprehensive plans. They have conducted SWOT surveys to glean information about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The city of Harlem established a steering committee to guide the planning process, and David Jenkins, Harlem’s director of community development, says officials hope to complete a rough draft of the plan this month. The public comment period closed in December.

The final comprehensive plan will include community goals, a work program of activities, and information on economic development, broadband, housing, community facilities, cultural resources and land use.

According to state requirements, the comprehensive plan should be completed by June 30. A public hearing will be held before the plan is finalized, but a date has not yet been set.

The main goal, says Jenkins, is “keeping Harlem Harlem.

“Traffic is increasing with all of the subdivisions going in and around Harlem,” he says. “We’re seeing huge residential growth, and we’ve had a lot of annexations north of town.”

Jenkins expects commercial growth to continue as well.

“The challenge is to keep that downtown feel,” he says. “We’re getting all kinds of inquiries for new development, and downtown vacancies are way under the national average.”

The city of Grovetown has made surveys available to residents on the city’s Facebook page, in water bills and on its website. Hard copies of the survey also were available at City Hall. Data was being collected through the end of January. However, Jonathan Bush, city planner, says, “We may extend it depending on our response rate.”

The plan dictates public policy about land use, transportation, economic development, community and recreation facilities, cultural and natural resources, housing and utilities. Internet access is another important component of the survey. “The state of Georgia is really pushing a broadband initiative,” says Bush.

A public hearing will be scheduled at a later date. In the meantime, residents can attend monthly committee meetings. However, they cannot offer input at these meetings.

“Grovetown does not have a true downtown, and we’re trying to narrow down where people would like to see that, or if it is even needed,” Bush says. “Traffic is a concern, especially with Fort Gordon growing as fast as it is.”

He says the city cannot serve its residents effectively if they do not voice their opinions and concerns.

“There’s a false perception that Grovetown is transitional, but a lot of people that are here now will be here for a long time,” says Bush. “They come to Grovetown because of Fort Gordon, thinking they’ll only be here for a little while. But military people get stationed here and then they want to retire here.”

III — Paul McCartney

Listen To This

If one thing is for certain during the uncertain, Paul McCartney is a masterful legend who has an uncanny and timeless knack for making everything feel all is right.

His latest album, III, proves that age is anything but a number and there is no mistaking real genius.

As most of the releases in recent times, III is a direct product of the DIY approach to recording while under lockdown, which is where Sir Paul finds an endless landscape of sonic creativity.

The first track, “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” is a five-minute instrumental jam of gentle finger-picking dropkick distortion, which kindly evades the recesses of the brain that can’t stop replaying.

The vastness of style that permeates from track to track is a fantastic voyage of revolution-style rock that springboards into yesterday-esque folk and surprising experimental swirls of industrial meets British invasion.

Out of his previous 25 studio recordings, III serves as an extra member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and stepbrother to his sophomore masterpiece, Ram.

If there ever has been a time to dive into McCartney’s discography, it is now. At 78 years of age, you don’t have to roll the dice when there is still plenty of gas in the tank.

– Chris Rucker

Music and Mindfulness

Buzz

Any time is a good time to appreciate patriotic music, and Augusta Symphony will be doing just that on February 20 with its concert, America.

The performance will include Yousufi’s Freedom, Golijov’s Last Round, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Stuart Coolidge’s Pioneer Dances, Walker’s Lyric and Torke’s Ash.

Music lovers can attend the dress rehearsal, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Miller Theater, or livestream the event. The in-person concert is sold out.

The dress rehearsal is $35 and will feature limited audience capacity, physical distancing, masking and no intermission.

The cost to livestream the performance is $10 per household, and a link will be emailed three days before the performance. For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

In addition, Community Chords Music Therapy, an outreach of Augusta Symphony, is launching Tuning In, a free program that combines guided mindfulness practices with live music experiences to help participants be in the moment and be in the music.

Augusta Symphony’s music therapist, Veronica Andreassen-Barker, MA, MT-BC, and select musicians will lead a series of five 90-minute sessions that focus on tuning in to self-care and to managing stress.

Sessions will be virtual via Zoom and move to in-person at the Knox Music Institute when public health allows.

 

For the Love of Sasquatch

Travel

Photos courtesy of David Bakara, Explore Georgia and Macy Goodwin

Whether you’re curious, skeptical or you truly believe, a roadside Georgia museum devoted to Bigfoot offers plenty of thought-provoking material about the mythical – or not – creature.

It doesn’t matter what you call him – Sasquatch, Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, Yeti. What really matters is whether or not you believe.

For believers, skeptics or those in the know, Expedition Bigfoot! The Sasquatch Museum in Blue Ridge, Georgia is dedicated to research and information about the legendary creature.

David Bakara, a longtime member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and a U.S. Navy veteran, opened the museum in 2016. The south Florida native grew up hearing stories about the swamp skunk ape – a nearly 7-foot-tall hairy beast that roams the Everglades.

“I just saw normal animals like bears, elk and deer,” says Bakara. “But as I got older, that interest grew up with me.”

Family Attraction
A pushover for vintage Florida roadside attractions and for Disney World, Bakara opened the museum in 2016 a couple of years after he and his wife moved to Blue Ridge. He thought people needed something else to do in the quiet mountain retreat.

“My wife was nervous about people that would come in the museum and try to argue with us about Bigfoot,” Bakara says. “In the five years we’ve been open, we’ve had maybe three encounters with hardcore skeptics. The vast majority of people that come here are open to the possibility that Bigfoot exists, or they already believe. By the time people leave here, they’re seriously asking themselves if this is real.”

He says the museum operates under a scientific approach, but he considers it a family attraction. Visitors come from all across the world, and Bakara says 40,000 to 45,000 people toured the 3,700-square-foot museum in 2020. It’s a space that packs a lot of punch, and there certainly is plenty for people to see.

The museum features life-size and interactive exhibits, witness sketches, artifacts from Georgia and other states, signs of Bigfoot such as broken trees and damaged structures, the country’s largest permanent display of footprint casts that includes 20-plus prints from all across the globe, hair samples and gear from expeditions to the Himalayas led by Yeti researcher Tom Slick in the 1950s.

Yes, even a print of Bigfoot’s hind end and feces that were found between footprints in Washington state are on display as well. Bakara says these exhibits particularly appeal to children because “kids love bathroom humor.”

The museum also houses the world’s only research and tech vehicle, which is armed with surveillance equipment such as thermal recorders, walkie-talkies, on-board computers, a two-way radio and a drone pod.

In the Sasquatch Theater, visitors can watch a two-minute cartoon short about a Native American Bigfoot story or the 17-minute documentary, Wild Man of Kentucky.

“People can put on headphones and listen to Bigfoots talking to each other,” says Bakara. “They can hear different howls that have been recorded.”

The attraction also has a display of Bigfoot attacking a remote cabin and a reproduction of a hairy, 8-foot-tall beast. Color-coded maps document hundreds of reported sightings. A 1967 video of an alleged Sasquatch sighting plays on a loop, along with tales from people who claim to have encountered Bigfoot.

“My favorite kind of research is recording the stories of witnesses from all over the United States,” says Bakara. “Every story is a little different.”

Museum tours are self-guided, and depending on their level of interest in Bigfoot and Bigfoot research, visitors spend an average of 45 minutes to an hour going through the facility.

Bakara says many adults who visit the museum remember seeing Sasquatch as a child.

“They’re trying to reach out to kids to let them know at a young age that they don’t have to be afraid of them, so they can take that experience with them as adults,” he says of the creatures.

Believer to Knower
Even though Bakara never encountered Sasquatch when he was a child, he became a Florida Bigfoot investigator. Too many trusted people such as police officers, military personnel and national park rangers had seen Bigfoot for Bakara to doubt the beast’s existence.

“The reality of Bigfoot negates so much of what I was taught in school,” he says. “I was a big history and science fan, but Bigfoot is a stark contrast to them. What is it? Is it real? It raises questions about history. Or are they not real, and everything I was taught is true?”

As an investigator, Bakara gets calls from people who have seen the giant creatures on their property, peering through their windows or stealing their goats. These days, though, he tries to talk people through their encounters or dispatch local investigators rather than visiting the site himself.

“They frighten people,” says Bakara. “When people’s kids see them, they want answers. The goal is to make them move on and stop scaring people.”

He has been on public and private Bigfoot expeditions, which include 25 to 35 people.

“I didn’t see anything personally,” he says. “But on every expedition I’ve been on, somebody has seen one.”

In 2010, however, his status morphed from believer to knower, courtesy of a personal experience. Asked to investigate a Bigfoot sighting on a man’s property in Alva, Florida, he and his team saw the outlines of two Yeti creatures with a thermal imager.

“They were 7 or 8 feet tall. One was taller than the other. They were standing next to each other in complete darkness in the swamp where no one could go,” says Bakara. “We examined them for about 12 minutes. They watched us watch them.”

In 2012, he saw Sasquatch footprints behind him in the Florida panhandle. “I’ve had them push trees down at me in north Florida in 2013,” he says.

Bakara says Bigfoot has been seen on every continent, and the fabled creature is known by other names around the world. In Australia, it is known as Yowie. In the Himalayas, they call it Yeti. In Russia, it goes by Alma. In China, it is referred to as Yeren.

According to Bakara, Sasquatch has been spotted in all types of areas except for big cities. “But if there are greenways that run through small cities, people see them there at night,” he says.

However, he says most sightings occur in the daytime for a simple reason — it’s easier to see in the daylight. “I don’t think they’re more active during the day,” says Bakara.

Sasquatch comes in all kinds of colors and body shapes, he says. People have seen whole families of the beasts together, and footprints have different characteristics. He says 3,500 to 10,000 Bigfoots have been spotted in North America alone.

“They have an overwhelming curiosity about us, especially if there are children in the house,” says Bakara.

If he had the chance to talk to one of the creatures, though, the Bigfoot investigator says he would take a pass. “I wouldn’t say anything,” he says. “I would let it do the talking because what am I going to tell it?”

However, he adds, people who have talked to Bigfoots say the beasts are “interested in what we’re doing to the planet.”

Bakara wants to spark museum visitors’ interest in Bigfoot and encourage them to question what they think they know. Offering eyewitness testimony and evidence, the museum leaves the question of Bigfoot’s existence up to each individual.

“Maybe there’s more to this world than the things they taught us in school,” he says. “I want them to look at evidence and ask hard questions about what’s in our world. Bigfoot is the perfect example that there is still mystery and magic in the world. There are still things that happen that we have no control over, and some of it is good.”

He hopes the Sasquatch Museum spurs conversation and debate as well.

“This really is a family attraction,” says Bakara. “There’s so much to see and hear. It gives the whole family something to talk about on the way home.”

 

Share Your Sightings
Bigfoot Expedition! The Sasquatch Museum also is a research and reporting center. People who have had an encounter with Bigfoot can share it by emailing the museum at expeditionbigfootblueridge@gmail.com or by calling (706) 946-2601. They are asked to leave their contact information, but it will remain confidential. Names and locations will not be shared without witnesses’ permission.

By Morgan Davis

 

 

If It’s Too Good to Be True…

Buzz

Beware of diet and weight loss supplement “Free Trial” offer scams.

Every New Year, a wave of trendy resolution scams surface to capitalize on consumer’s New Year’s resolution goals. Weight loss, anyone?

Consumers who want to get in shape or lose a few pounds are at risk of being deceived by products that do not work as advertised or come with a host of unwanted side effects and trapped in monthly subscription fees.

New products like topical creams, dietary supplements, workout gadgets and appetite suppressants flood the market, promising consumers spectacular weight-loss results.

These risk-free schemes often start with an ad for a free product or an article that seems to appear on a credible news site. In one example, consumers were asked to provide credit or debit card numbers for a nominal shipping and handling charge such as $4.95 or $1.95. They were shipped a one-month supply and often charged $59.95 right away. The company continued sending – and charging for – these pills every month.

Fraudsters have turned such offers into a global multi-billion-dollar industry, one that grows every year.

A BBB study reports that consumers filed nearly 37,000 complaints, and BBB ScamTracker reports since 2015 with an average loss of $186. Through October 2019, BBB received more than 6,600 complaints and reports from consumers in the U.S. and Canada about free trial offers.

The study also found that many of the celebrity endorsements are fake, and sometimes the fine print even admits they are not real. Major lawsuits have been issued against companies using celebrity imagery and names to endorse products like skin lotions. Shark Tank Investor, Lori Greiner, recently warned consumers of a Keto Pill Scam using her credibility to sell dietary supplements.

These tips will help you evaluate weight loss supplements and other weight loss products and avoid free trial scams:

  • Research the company before signing up. Many of these companies have “F” ratings with BBB. Check the product or company name by calling or visiting the BBB website to see if there are any complaints and to check if it’s a scam.
  • Read all the terms and conditions of any free trial offer. Know if there is a cancellation period and return policy.
  • Research celebrities claiming to endorse products to see if they are really backing it.
  • Call your credit card company for a refund. If you think you have been the victim of a free trial offer scam, speak with your credit card company. Some companies may issue a refund for the money lost.
  • Report the fake ads. Call your BBB to report suspicious, confusing or misleading ads to BBB Ad Truth, or to BBB ScamTracker. Consumers also can report the ad to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov or by calling 877-FTC-Help.

Free trial offers can be legitimate ways to introduce new products, but credible companies make sure consumers understand what they are signing up for and do not hide key information.

For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s video on Free Trial Offer Scams.

 

Kelvin H. Collins, President/CEO

Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, Inc.