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Art Exhibit


Sacred Heart Cultural Center will have an exhibition of the works of Ann Marie Dalis and Tom Swift in the Art Hall January 6 – February 25. An Art Reception is scheduled for 4 – 6 p.m. Thursday, January 6 in the Great Hall, and the exhibit can be seen in the Art Hall 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Dalis, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia, previously worked at Southern Living as crafts editor and taught drawing, painting, pottery and fiber arts at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School.

Swift, a practicing neurologist in Augusta, has had art shows for more than 20 years. His favorite subjects are the structure of plants and animals as well as architectural studies. ■C

Growing Grant

Garden Scene

Augusta Locally Grown has been awarded a $200,000 planning grant by the United States Department of Agriculture Marketing Service as part of the 2021 Local Foods Promotion Program.

The organization, dedicated to growing the sustainable local food community, will use the funds for a feasibility study to determine best practices to increase farmer product support and community access with the availability of a new 35,000-square-foot facility called The HUB.

The implementation plan from the feasibility study will allow ALG to increase point of sale opportunities for producers, business access to healthy food options for vulnerable consumers and food education for consumers.

The study will conclude mid-2022, and implementation will take place later in the year.

A Georgia Premiere Plus a Gala


Augusta Symphony will showcase the works of renowned composers along with Ol’ Blue Eyes this month.

The second half of Augusta Symphony’s season will open with events that draw on music with raw power as well as the soothing sound of an iconic American crooner.

In its Persevere concert, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 8 at Miller Theater, the symphony will perform Tchaikovsky’s Voyevoda, Op. 78; Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4, which is making its Georgia premiere; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Tickets are $23 – $71.

On Saturday, January 22, 2022, maestro Dirk Meyer and the symphony will perform the music of the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, at the symphony’s annual gala.

The black tie event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the Miller, where attendees can enjoy specialty boxed appetizers and an open bar. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. when guest artist Michael Andrew joins the orchestra to bring the sounds of Sinatra to life.

After the performance, the celebration will continue with an evening of heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, a full bar, dancing and raffle prizes that include a Belize beach trip, a Recteq wood pellet grill and a “Dinner’s on Us” bundle of gift certificates to popular Augusta restaurants.

The gala is the symphony’s sole fundraiser of the year. Tickets are $125 – $250.

For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

Picking Up the Pace


Paceline has announced that it raised more than $300,000 at its PaceDay 2021 ride to raise money for cancer research at Georgia Cancer Center.

Because the cost to stage the event is covered by the MCG Foundation and corporate sponsors, 100% of the proceeds go to the cancer center for distribution to researchers who present grant applications.

The casual, fun bike ride offered 25-mile, 50-mile or 100-mile options to accommodate cyclists of all skill levels. The participants included 733 individuals and 63 teams.

Eat Up!


Columbia County Restaurant Week returns with two additional days this year.

Any time is a good time to dine out, but Columbia County will make it even more enticing with its second annual Restaurant Week, sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber and the Columbia County Convention & Visitors Bureau, January 24-30.

The week-long event will highlight the diverse selection of local restaurants in Appling, Evans, Grovetown, Harlem and Martinez.

“We have some awesome locally owned Columbia County restaurants, so it’s a great way for people to try something new,” says Olivia Reich, the Chamber communications manager.

Last year 15 – 20 restaurants participated in the inaugural event including Cork & Flame, Cadwallader’s Fine Dining, Namaste Indian Street Food, Ironwood Tavern, Katerwerks, WifeSaver, Baby Jo’s and Laziza Mediterranean Grill. Organizers are hoping for even greater participation this year.

Participating restaurants must be locally or regionally owned and have at least one location in Columbia County.

In addition, the restaurants must offer a special – such as a prix fixe menu, a 20% discount, a BOGO offer or a free appetizer or dessert – that is available only during Restaurant Week.

The inaugural event ran Monday – Friday, but this year Restaurant Week will be extended from Monday – Sunday.

While many of the restaurants largely depended on takeout or delivery service because of covid last year, organizers hope that more people will dine in this year. Participating restaurants will have a poster in the window to indicate that they are part of the event.

Diners are encouraged to post Restaurant Week photos on social media with #ColumbiaCountyEats.

For more information, visit the Columbia County Restaurant Week Facebook page.

Jurors Beware


Watch out for scammers who prey on consumers’ unfamiliarity with courts and the jury duty process.

According to the Better Business Bureau, jury duty scams appear to be on the rise.

The scam works like this: a consumer receives a phone call or voicemail from someone claiming to be with the local police or sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office or county courts. The caller states that the consumer has missed a jury duty summons and could be arrested if they don’t pay a fine. The caller may even claim that a warrant already has been issued for the consumer’s arrest.

A consumer who responds to the caller is instructed to send money to pay a fine to avoid arrest. The consumer is asked to provide a bank account number, wire money, use a cash app, or put cash on a prepaid debit card or a gift card and send it to the scammer. In some cases, the scam may be used to trick a consumer into providing sensitive personal information such as a Social Security number, date of birth, or credit or debit card number.

The call may appear legitimate with Caller ID showing a local number with police department information and an official-sounding voice on the phone. However, these red flags help consumers spot the scams:

• Courts almost exclusively contact consumers about jury duty or missed jury duty by postal mail, not by phone or email

• Court officials or police departments never ask for payment or personal information over the phone

• Calls never should come in the evening. Real court-related calls should come only during normal business hours

• If the caller claims to be part of a “warranty amnesty program,” it’s likely a scam. Such programs typically require consumers with outstanding warrants (such as for failure to appear for a court date) to reach out to the courts on their own

• Requests to pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card (such as MoneyPak, Venmo, iTunes, or similar cards) are almost always a sure sign of fraud

Scammers also might send threatening emails or texts, purportedly from the local court, to get a consumer to send money, provide sensitive personal information (which can lead to identity theft) or install malware.

Consumers who are concerned th

Be Prepared


Living up to its motto, the local Boy Scouts council is ready to share its new home with the community.

The Boy Scouts of America Georgia-Carolina Council closed on the former site of the Augusta Jewish Community Center in Evans in November, and the council wasted no time making itself at home.

More importantly, the facility, which is operating as the Georgia Carolina Nature and Adventure Center, will continue as a home for community activities.

In December, the Boy Scouts partnered with Bechtel Corporation to hold an event where Scouts could earn one of three STEM-based merit badges – electricity, engineering or space exploration.

Participants included more than 45 Scouts from 14 BSA troops in Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties, and five engineers from Bechtel led the sessions.

Dan Rogers, scout executive, says the facility on the 26-acre property will offer five primary activities – Scout programs, eight weeks of day camp, school-based curriculum programming, community programs and conference room rental for local groups.

In addition to the 230-seat banquet hall/conference room, the facility includes a pool, a commercial kitchen, a pond, wooded land and more. The council offices and store are housed at the location as well.

“We see this as a great opportunity to be a much more engaged partner in the community,” says Rogers. “We can offer resources and facilities that we’ve never had before.”

As part of its community outreach, the council is holding a 16-hour Wilderness First Aid Training course that is open to medical and non-medical individuals January 29-30. The course will be taught by Dr. David Fitzpatrick, an emergency department and family physician who has led multiple treks in the Himalayas, Rockies and Appalachians. He also was a physician at the base camp at Mount Everest during the 2015 avalanche.

The course will cover practical skills such as awareness of hazards to prevent accidents and medical problems; performing a basic physical exam; treating fractures and injuries; preventing and treating environmental problems such as heat, cold, lightning and near drowning; obtaining a medical history through vital signs and improvising without the option of hospital care or other aid. CPR is a prerequisite for the session.

For more information, visit gacacouncil.org.

Best in Nation


Columbia County Convention & Visitors Bureau recently was awarded first place from the U.S. Travel Association for the best integrated marketing and messaging campaign in the nation among destination marketing organizations for its Serene18 Paddle Trail campaign. More than 400 nominations were received.

The CVB worked with Kruhu and Cineloco to develop the humorous promotional videos starring Redford and Benny as two scouts that showcase the fun that kayakers and canoers can have on area waterways.

The videos have been viewed nearly a quarter of a million times, reaching more than 4 million people. As a result, hundreds of people have visited Columbia County to paddle the trails.

Holiday Spectacular


Christmas music is a must-have for the holidays, and when you can see and hear it performed live, it’s even more fun. This month, Augusta Symphony, under the direction of Dirk Meyer, will bring its Family Concert series to Hardin Performing Arts Center with its Holiday Spectacular at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 12.

The show, designed for adults and also to introduce children to the symphony, includes perennial holiday favorites such as “Winter Wonderland,” “The Nutcracker Suite” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Tickets are $52 for adults and $20 for students and children. For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

Brew Ho-Ho-Ho!


Beer and comedy lovers can have a big time and a merry little Christmas all at once with Columbia County’s newest holiday event, Brew Ho-Ho-Ho!, a craft beer and comedy festival that will be held in and around the PAC on Saturday, December 18. 

The event will begin at 3 p.m. with an outdoor “Yuletide Beer Garden,” which will feature craft beer, food trucks and vendors.

At 7 p.m., the festivities will move indoors when some of the brightest national comedians take the PAC stage.

Admission to the beer garden is free. Tickets for the comedy show, which cost are $20 plus fees, are available at thecenterofcc.com.

Oh, By Golly


If you’re ready to have a holly jolly Christmas, then Columbia County is the place to be as parades and tree lightings, ice skating and Santa sightings bring nonstop fun throughout the month.

Festivities will kick off in Grovetown on Saturday, December 4 with the city’s Christmas Parade from 10 a.m. until noon. It will begin at Horizon South Parkway and travel to Wrightsboro Road.

The Grovetown Christmas Festival will follow at Liberty Park Community Center from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. The event will include entertainment, vendors, photos with Santa, games, face painting and snow. The Christmas Tree Lighting will start at 7 p.m.

Christmas in Columbia County will offer a full slate of events on Sunday, December 5 at Evans Towne Center Park. From 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. people can shop at a Holiday Market. Santa will be available for photos 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., and Christmas music will be played from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

The annual Columbia County Christmas Parade, put on by the Merchants Association of Columbia County, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. The parade will end at Evans Towne Center Park for the annual Christmas tree lighting program at 6:15 p.m.

Holiday revelers also can visit the park throughout the season to take a stroll through the lights display or to ice skate at Evans on Ice. In addition to an outdoor skating rink, this event offers train rides, marshmallow roasting, concessions including hot cocoa, food trucks, live acoustic music, movies in the park and ice skating lessons.

Christmas in Harlem will be held Saturday, December 11, from noon until 10 p.m. A Christmas Market will operate from noon until 6 p.m., and a kids’ area will be available throughout the day and into the evening.

A twilight parade begins at 6 p.m., followed by the lighting of the Harlem Christmas Tree on the library lawn. After the tree lighting, Santa will be available for family photos on the library porch. The evening will conclude with a family friendly Christmas movie under the stars.

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

Literary Loop

When newly divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love ― but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left behind so much furniture and junk that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it.

When Ivy comes across an old Santa suit, beautifully made and decades old, she discovers a note in the pocket from a little girl who has one Christmas wish — for her father to return home from the war. This sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community at a time when all she wanted was to be left alone. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible.

“Get this one now and read it now,” says an Amazon review. “It will remind you of the decency of humanity, the kindness of strangers, the heart of a tight-knit community and the magic of Christmas.”

A Sentimental Christmas with Nat “King” Cole and Friends: Cole Classics Reimagined

Listen To This

There is nothing finer than the ring of new Christmas music in the old familiar way. In 1946, Nat “King” Cole released his classic, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” which has remained a quintessential holiday staple on every department store soundtrack, radio station and Christmas party playlist to usher in the season and ignite Yule logs worldwide.

Now, 75 years later, Capital Records has stuffed our sonic stockings with a modern-technology-assisted genius reimagination, A Sentimental Christmas with Nat “King” Cole and Friends: Cole Classics Reimagined. This 11-track cinnamon broom of awesome fills any room with Christmas cheer and cozy melodies of the season all wrapped with complementary sentiments of love, hope, surprise and wonder.

Inspired by the 1991 remastered breakthrough of “Unforgettable,” which combined Cole’s classic into a duet with his daughter, Natalie, this album takes imaginary mash-up to the next level. Cole’s buttery vocals have been fully drawn, clarified and restored to perfection with all new orchestral arrangements and duets with contemporary artists like Kristin Chenoweth, Gloria Estefan, John Legend, Johnny Mathis and Calum Scott.

Whether you are traveling over the river and through the woods, stringing popcorn or roasting chestnuts, may Nat “King” Cole fill your soul with Christmas spirit and goodwill.

– Chris Rucker

Top Cop


Accolades continue for Columbia County’s sheriff

Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle recently was recognized by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association as the 2021 Sheriff of the Year. Whittle, who has served as sheriff since 1995, has received numerous accolades through the years.

Under his leadership in 1996, CCSO became the first sheriff’s office in Georgia to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the premier international accrediting body for law enforcement.

Since then, this sheriff’s office has achieved reaccreditation with honors and also achieved Gold Standard Accreditation.

Whittle also has been awarded the Triple Crown by the National Sheriffs’ Association for being simultaneously accredited by CALEA, the American Correctional Association’s Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, and the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.

During his tenure, crime has decreased in Columbia County year after year while the population has continued to grow. The number of reported crimes in 2020 was the lowest since he took office 26 years ago.


Sheriff Clay Whittle was recently recognized by the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association as the 2021 Sheriff of the Year. Pictured, left to right: Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Terry Norris, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle, Jones County Sheriff Butch Reese, Georgia Sheriffs’ Association President and Turner County Sheriff Andy Hester

For the Birds


A local avian sanctuary is spreading its wings

Feathered Friends Forever Rescue and Refuge in Harlem, which provides permanent and temporary housing for tropical birds, is expanding to add new attractions to its 14-acre property.

The expansion of the refuge, which acquired 3.86 adjacent acres last year, will cover about 6 acres. New amenities will include a veterinary center, six horseshoe pits, a petting zoo, a 286-foot zipline, six tiny houses and a wildlife campground.

“For years, we had only parrots. Once people had seen the parrots, there was no reason for them to come back,” says Ronald Johnson, chief executive officer.

Work is underway on the horseshoe pits and a new house with a pond for Mr. T, the 100-pound resident tortoise. “It will look like Fort Apache and be called Fort Tortouga,” Johnson says.

The refuge also is developing blueprints for the vet center and applying for grants. In the meantime, a temporary building has been brought in to serve as a veterinary center until the permanent facility is up and running.

Plans for the tiny houses include using them to provide accommodations for volunteers from across the country and veterinary technician trainees.

Keeping a Promise

Of course, the most important residents at Feathered Friends Forever, a state-licensed animal shelter and nonprofit organization, are the birds.

The refuge currently has about 200 birds from 46 states, but it has found permanent homes for more than 1,000 birds through the years.

“We do a lot of small bird adoptions. Now, 95% are big birds,” says Johnson.

The facility has housed parakeets, lovebirds, cockatiels and finches. Its big birds include Indian ringnecks, African greys, cockatoos, amazons and macaws.

Johnson has had a love of birds since he was a teenager.

“When I was in high school, I worked in a pet store. I got two birds in the 1960s, and I’ve loved them ever since,” he says. “They all have individual personalities. People don’t give them credit for being as smart as they actually are.”

When he entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, Johnson had to find a new home for his green-wing macaw and Moluccan cockatoo. Although he successfully rehomed the birds, the experience left a lasting impression on him.

“I made a promise that somehow, someday, I would make it up to every bird that needed a home,” he says.

Johnson and his wife, Tammy, founded Feathered Friends Forever in 1997, and the number of birds at the small operation quickly soared from five to 85 rescues.

Services include adoption, relinquish capabilities, temporary boarding, permanent placement and wellness checks for birds. The refuge also cares for all deployed active duty/activated national guard military personnel’s parrots free of charge with proper documentation.

In addition, Feathered Friends Forever recently became affiliated with Parrots for Patriots, a nonprofit organization in Vancouver, Washington. The program connects parrots that need a forever home with veterans who need a friend for life.

The facility also has started to work with military personnel who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Animal companions like parrots can be a source of joy and wellness for people with PTSD.

Around the Refuge

In the sanctuary portion of the refuge, 12 outdoor aviaries let birds “fly and be free birds” and live as they would in the wild – in a flock. Each of newly designed aviaries features automatic feeders, an in-flight pond, a misting system and infrared heaters.

Measuring 18 feet in width, 42 feet in length and 22 feet in height, the new macaw flight contains a full rain system, including thunder, lightning and rain; clay chew walls and individual ponds for bathing and drinking.

“Each particular bird has its own little quirks,” says Johnson. “A parrot is a 3-year-old for the next 50 years. A parrot can change its mind with the bat of an eyelash.”

However, parrots and other birds are highly intelligent, and they can learn to understand and mirror basic language skills. They also display “human-like” behaviors and have specific needs that a human companion can fulfill.

Because birds can be so unpredictable, Johnson says it takes years to understand their behavior.

“You can tell if something is wrong by their body or eye movement,” he says.

Other telltale signs of a problem include feather plucking, changes in attitude or appetite, flaring their tails and screeching or screaming.

The companion birds are not the only living beings at the facility, however. They are joined by other creatures on the endangered or threatened lists.

The 8-foot-by-10-foot, climate- and humidity-controlled honeybee house has the capacity to hold 16 individual hives. Developed by the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Agriculture, it was created to study the effects of climate on honeybees in a controlled environment. Honeybees are vital for stable, healthy food supplies, and Johnson says this is the only climate-controlled honeybee house in the world.

Feathered Friends Forever also features a butterfly garden and a certified monarch habitat as well as a reptile house that is home to spiders, snakes and lizards.

Nonstop Activity

Other activities at the facility include cornhole, a gold and rock mining area, birthday parties, educational classes, weekday tours for groups by appointment, adoption fairs twice a year and open house fundraising events.

The facility also has a cantina, a newly remodeled welcome center and an educational center called Birds on the Brink.

“It’s a full science lab. We offer it for school tours during the week, and if we have the personnel, it’s open on weekends,” says Johnson.

Birds on the Brink offers an accredited science class as well as an augmented reality and virtual reality classroom, where rainforest animals and minerals come to life, and hologram technology. The educational programs, which support the Georgia Standards of Excellence and offer an immersive, multi-sensory experience, can be tailored to students in grades K through 12.

Feathered Friends Forever, which has an all-volunteer staff, is open 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Johnson says the facility has averaged 60 – 70 visitors a day since recently putting up a new billboard.

For more information, visit featheredfriendsforever.org.