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Charitable Giving


Opening your heart – and wallet – to those in need is a good thing to do any time of year. As many organizations reach out for assistance during the holiday season, however, it is especially important to be able to make an informed decision about contributing to a charity.

The BBB offers help with its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability which cover four areas – governance, results reports, finances and truthful and transparent representations. Basic giving tips include:

• Get the charity’s exact name

• Resist pressure to donate on the spot

• Press for specifics about how contributions are used

• Checks websites for basic information

• Check with state charity officials

• Don’t assume that every soliciting organization is tax exempt as a charity

For more information, visit give.org.

Holiday Spectacular


Celebrate the joy of the season with Augusta Symphony as musicians perform festive favorites and Christmas classics at Hardin Auditorium on Sunday, December 11.

The family show, which begins at 4 p.m., will include “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bells,” “Greensleeves” and more.

The performance, designed to introduce young people to the symphony, is a merry way for audience members of all ages to catch the holiday spirit.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students. For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

Green Room Donor


The Miller Theater has gotten a behind-the-scenes facelift, and the venue has Snelling Properties to thank for it.

Through a generous donation by the company, the theater turned a previously unused space into a green room for performers.

The renovations include the installation of lights, chandeliers, flooring, heating and air conditioning.

“We took a space that had been unused for many years and made it operational,” says David Watts, general manager of the theater. “We christened it with champagne and wine on Opening Night.”

The room also was painted to give it a “retro, industrial feel,” he says, and glass brick on a wall behind the bar gives it “a fantastic glow.”

At the opening of Augusta Symphony’s Pops! Series with its Broadway Tonight! concert, Columbia County resident George Snelling and Roberta Sheehan joined the theater staff to celebrate the completion of the renovated space.

The Christmas Spirit by Debbie Macomber

Literary Loop

#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie MacomberTwo lifelong friends decide to trade places the week before Christmas and end up with a lot of surprises along the way in this new novel from the queen of holiday stories, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Peter and Hank are best friends, but their lives couldn’t be more different. Peter, the local pastor, is dedicated to his community and spends time visiting his flock, attending meetings, and, with the holiday season approaching, preparing for the Christmas service and live nativity.

As a bartender, Hank serves a much different customer base at his family-owned tavern, including a handful of lonely regulars and the local biker gang.

When Peter scoffs that Hank has it easy, the two decide to switch jobs until Christmas Eve. To their surprise, the responsibilities of their jobs are similar, but taking on the other’s work is more difficult than either expected… and their lives are forever changed.

In The Christmas Spirit, Debbie Macomber celebrates the true meaning of the holidays and the inclusive community spirit that binds us all.

“An eclectic supporting cast and a comically disastrous climactic Christmas Eve church service make the narrative shine bright,” says Publishers Weekly. “It’s exactly what readers want from a Macomber holiday outing.”

Louis Wishes You a Cool Yule — Louis Armstrong

Listen To This

Louis Wishes You a Cool Yule — Louis ArmstrongFor decades, Christmas audio and visual gems have been stacking up like generations of handcrafted family ornaments. From Bing Crosby and Elvis to A Charlie Brown Christmas and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and everything in between, there has been one staple missing, however, from the arsenal of yuletide goodness: a Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Christmas album.

The legend, whose name has been synonymous with holiday smooth moods, now has his first official Christmas release, a one-stop shop of remastered Satchmo’s finest sugar-and-spiced jingles to saddle up the most wonderful time of the year.

This 11-track remastered time capsule includes classics like the wassail-waltzing “Winter Wonderland,” the soft-brush peppermint rush of “White Christmas” and signature Satchmo numbers such as “Zat You, Santa Claus?,” “Christmas in New Orleans” and “What A Wonderful World.”

The most endearing track is a somewhat mysterious reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” known to most as “The Night Before Christmas.” A testament to how much he loved the Christmas season, an ailing Armstrong recorded this track alone on a reel-to-reel tape recorder months before his death in 1971.

Satchmo’s love for Christmas was as big and robust as his music. The brilliance of his signature trumpet and gravel-tone voice brings an unmistakable gift of happiness that embraces the hustle and bustle while encouraging spontaneous sing-a-longs at the drop of a snowflake.

The wonderful world of Louis Armstrong is a vibrant reminder that music transcends the peaks and valleys of life through the joy of a happiness that is merry and bright.

– Chris Rucker

Holly Jolly Christmas


Holly Jolly ChristmasSanta, parades, festivals and giant Christmas trees will light up the holidays.

With a full slate of parades, tree lightings and holiday markets coming up, residents will be able to celebrate the holiday season from all corners of the county.

The city of Grovetown will kick off the festivities on Saturday, December 3 with its annual Christmas parade and festival. Beginning at 10 a.m., the parade will travel down Horizon South Parkway, turn right onto Wrightsboro Road and end at the intersection of Wrightsboro Road and Robinson Avenue.

The city festival will follow from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Liberty Park. Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with multiple vendors, will be in attendance. A tree lighting ceremony and free train rides will be part of the fun as well.

On Sunday, December 4, the Columbia County Christmas Parade, put on by the Merchants Association of Columbia County, will begin at 3:30 p.m. Good little girls and boys just might catch a glimpse of St. Nick atop a red fire engine at the conclusion of the parade.

The parade will end at Evans Towne Center Park for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6:15 p.m. This year the county will have a new, 50-foot tree on display.

Christmas in Harlem will be held from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday, December 10. Featuring holiday crafts, a Christmas Market will operate 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., and a children’s play area will be available throughout the day and into the evening.

A twilight parade will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the lighting of the city Christmas tree on the library lawn. Santa will be at the library for family photos on the porch, and a family friendly Christmas movie under the stars will wrap up the evening.

Ice Skates and S’mores


Evans On Ice is back and the tip of the iceberg for winter fun.
One of Mike Boerner’s most cherished memories from his boyhood outside of Chicago was throwing rocks on a pond with his friends every winter to see if the ice was firm enough for them to skate on it. Once they deemed the pond acceptable for skating, he and his friends spent their days skating and playing ice hockey on the frozen surface.

While he may have left the rocks behind, Boerner has exported his love of ice skating from Chicagoland to Columbia County with Evans On Ice at Evans Towne Center Park.

“This is Georgia, so a lot of kids don’t know how to ice skate,” says Boerner, who co-owns Evans On Ice with his wife, Christine. “But we want them to learn how to have a good time on the ice.”

Opening day is Monday, November 14, and the rink will operate until Sunday, January 8.

Tickets cost $13 on weekdays and $17 on weekends and other prime days. Skate rental costs are included in the price of the tickets.

This will be the fifth season that Evans On Ice has operated, and Boerner says the 30-minute Learn to Skate Saturdays have helped many people become more comfortable on the ice.

This year the lessons, which cost $60 for a package of four sessions, are scheduled for November 19 and December 3, 10 and 17.

“There’s no limit to the number of people, and all ages are welcome,” says Boerner.

Private lessons by appointment also are available for $20 each. Boerner says the $140 season passes are popular as well.

Hours vary, and Evans On Ice will expand its hours during the Thanksgiving and winter breaks. The rink is even open 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

“People tell us they used to go to the movies after they opened their presents, but now they go to Evans On Ice,” says Boerner. “It’s a wholesome, family-centric thing to do.”

He says ice skating is a great way for parents and children to interact with each other.

“Parents like it because their children are getting outside for a little exercise and having some fun,” says Boerner. “Parents can get out there, too, and then they can sit on the sidelines and wave at their children as they pass by.”

Although ice skating is the main attraction, Evans On Ice offers much more winter fun.

Guests can roast marshmallows over a fire pit and enjoy hot chocolate and other concessions, and children can enjoy train rides on weekends. Skating hours will coincide with Columbia County-sponsored events as well.

The facility, which can accommodate 150 to 200 people, also is available to rent for individual or corporate parties.

For more information, visit evansonice.com or follow Evans On Ice on Facebook and Instagram.

Georgia’s First, Again


Georgia has been named the No. 1 state for business for the ninth consecutive year by Area Development magazine. No other state has earned this distinction for so many years.

The executive publication’s annual poll of about 50 leading site consulting firms from across the United States considers 13 factors to make this determination.

In addition to overall Top State, Georgia earned a No. 1 ranking for the 13th year in a row for its workforce development program, Georgia Quick Start.

The state also earned the top ranking in six additional categories, including cost of doing business, cooperative and responsive state government, competitive labor environment and available real estate. Georgia tied for first place in energy availability and costs.

The state also broke economic development records during fiscal year 2022. Between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, investments in expansions and new locations totaled more than $21.2 billion, and 51,132 jobs were created in the state through 358 projects supported by the Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team.

Sticks & Strings


Get ready “fore” some fun with everyone’s favorite sons – John, Josh and Charles Kelley.

Raised in Columbia County on golf and music, the trio of brothers is sharing their passions to give back to the community with a Sticks & Strings Golf Tournament and Concert.

On the “front nine,” the Kelleys will tell stories of their youth and sing in an acoustic in-the-round set with a concert at the Columbia County Performing Arts Center.

Then their musician, golfer and actor friends will join them for a celebrity jam. The show begins at 7 p.m. Sunday, November 20. Tickets are $40 – $350.

The “back nine” will feature a charity golf tournament at Champions Retreat on Monday, November 21. Registration is at 9 a.m., and the shotgun start gets underway at 11 a.m.

Proceeds from the event will benefit First Tee – Augusta, 12 Bands of Christmas and The John W. Kelley, M.D., Cardiovascular Endowment at the Piedmont Augusta Foundation, which is named for their father. For more information, visit kelleybrosgolf.com.

Columbia County Fair


Midway rides and funnel cakes return to the Columbia County Fairgrounds November 3-13.

Presented by the Merchants Association of Columbia County, the Columbia County Fair once again features rides and attractions from Drew Expositions.

Nightly admission is $8, and children ages 5 and under are free. Admission specials also are available on select nights.

On Tuesday, November 8, law enforcement and military personnel with a valid ID receive free admission.

Proper attire is required, and backpacks are not allowed. Fair-goers should note that ages 17 or under must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information, visit columbiacountyfair.net.

Tea Time

Tea Time

Photos courtesy of Nicole Presby

With an extensive collection of tea services, an Evans resident pours on the hospitality for her friends.
Girls never outgrow tea parties, and for Nicole Presby of Evans, almost any occasion calls for tea with friends.

Nicole, who grew up in Europe as the daughter of an American serviceman and a German mother, has had a longtime fascination with the British royal family, and the milestones in their lives are always cause for celebration.

After all, her affinity for the House of Windsor is matched only by her love of tea services, and she rarely misses an opportunity to add to her collection – or to put it to use.

“I like china and dishes,” says Nicole. “A silver teapot, a single cup, an heirloom piece – It always finds a home in my house.”

Fit for a Queen

In honor of Queen Elizabeth II, Nicole invited five friends to a tea in September to watch the televised state funeral for the monarch following her death at age 96.

In June, Queen Elizabeth had celebrated her unprecedented 70th year on the throne with a four-day Platinum Jubilee, and Nicole had planned to mark the affair with a tea in October. She even bought commemorative tea cups for the occasion.

“I ordered the first teacup in May, and it arrived on the day the queen died,” Nicole says.

After Queen Elizabeth passed away, however, Nicole simply rescheduled the get-together to honor the queen and her legacy.

The ladies also celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s long life and steadfast service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth with a special gesture.

“At three o’clock we toasted the queen with a glass of sherry because she had sherry at three o’clock every day,” says Nicole.

The menu featured various teas such as black assam, blackberry and Southern peach, and finger foods like cucumber butter sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. Desserts included cherry pie jubilee, shortbread and lemon curd poundcake.

“I always have black assam tea, and I always have multiple kinds of tea so everyone can try different ones,” says Nicole, a military wife and honorary Southerner who is living in the area for the fourth time. “Peach is my ‘house tea.’ It’s my personal favorite. I always do a nod to the South like pecan shortbread cookies or Southern peach tea.”

Her friend, Cynthia Stein, is a frequent guest at Nicole’s teas, including the one during Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and a Tiaras, Pearls and Pajamas party to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.

“Prior to the pandemic, Nicole hosted tea parties in her home. We always looked forward to them. Depending on the time of the season or event, she creates an awesome theme,” says Cynthia. “Your jaw drops as she describes artifacts she has collected to support her teacup collections, all revolving around the royal family.”

Nicole used to have monthly teas – which she recently has resumed – for various occasions. She’ll have a harvest tea or Octoberfest tea in the fall, a spring-themed tea in March for her birthday and a lemon-themed tea in the summer.

In December, Nicole hosts a Secret Santa-style cookbook exchange – a favorite among her friends – or a German-themed tea, and in January she leaves out her crystal and white holiday decorations for a Crystal in the Winter Forest tea.

Quite the Collection

Nicole started collecting tea services in 1982 when she got her first Hutschenreuter Racine Fountainbleu teapot.

“This is the teapot that got my obsession started,” she says. “My mom and grandmother started me on this service for my 18th birthday and bought pieces for every gift-giving occasion. I now have a complete service for 12 in this pattern.”

In fact, she has several full services for 12, but Nicole likes to have more intimate gatherings for her friends. She prefers to keep the guest list to six to eight people to create a cozy atmosphere.

She got some of her tea services from her grandparents and great-grandparents, and she has received many pieces as gifts from her mother-in-law and other friends through the years. “I’m always on the hunt for more,” she adds. “I like to go antiquing for them.”

Some pieces in her collection are too precious to use, however. “I don’t use the royal family services,” Nicole says. “Those are purely souvenir collectible ones.”

Her oldest piece is a teacup that dates to the June 1902 coronation of Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandparents – King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 to 1910, and Queen Alexandra.

She also has a 12-month floral teacup set that features the flowers associated with each month of the year. When she entertains with this set, she puts the cup from the month of her friends’ birthdays on the table to mark their place setting.

If several friends have birthdays in the same month, then the first person to the cup’s spot on the table gets to use it.

Always the perfect hostess, Nicole never lets her friends leave empty-handed. At the tea party for Harry and Meghan’s wedding, for instance, everyone received a gift bag and a commemorative crown brooch, which she used on the tulle silverware holders.

“My enjoyment comes from seeing my friends happy,” she says. “I want them to have a couple of nice hours and create memories. It’s not a typical party that they would go to.”

However, she gets as just as much pleasure from the parties.

“I love pulling out all of my china,” Nicole says. “I love doing the research on the place settings to use and the menu items I serve, and I love matching the tea with the food.”

By Leigh Howard

The Mosquito Bowl by Buzz Bissinger

Literary Loop

From the author of Friday Night Lights comes an extraordinary, true story in the vein of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat about a military football game played during World War II.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for war, one service branch dominated the aspirations of college football stars: the United States Marine Corps.

Which is why, on Christmas Eve 1944, when the 4th and 29th Marine regiments found themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean training for what would be the bloodiest battle of the war – the invasion of Okinawa – their ranks included one of the greatest pools of football talent ever assembled: former All-Americans, captains from Wisconsin and Brown and Notre Dame, and nearly 22 who were either drafted or would ultimately play in the NFL.

When the trash-talking over who had the better football team reached a fever pitch, it was decided: the regiments would play each other in the dirt of Guadalcanal. The resulting game became known as “The Mosquito Bowl.”

The Mosquito Bowl is the story of these brave young men, those who survived Okinawa and those who did not. It is the story of the families and the landscape that shaped them and of a far more innocent time in college athletics and the life of the country.

“In exploring the hearts and souls of those who risked everything for their country, Bissinger’s book defines some of the qualities that make America great — then, now and forever,” says Associated Press.

Tails of Happiness


Photos courtesy of Caroline Weaver

It’s a dog’s world. The rest of us just live in it.

Consequently, when dog – or let’s face it, any type of pet – owners are being honest with themselves, they know who runs the show in their households.

Yep, it’s their four-legged family members, and pet parents love to shower them with love and attention. Yet treats and belly rubs or walks and car rides are not the only ways to pamper these fur babies. Just ask Augusta artist Caroline Weaver.

Personality Plus

Three years ago, Caroline painted portraits of her two rescue dogs – a German Shepherd named Boo Radley and a Lab mix named Dakota – and then a couple of friends asked her to paint pictures of their dogs as well.

“I have never taken any classes. I’ve always been in love with art. It has always been my passion,” she says.

Her talent has grown into a side business (ccthornton_art on Instagram), where she can combine her passions of art and animals.

“My rescue dogs inspired me,” Caroline says. “They were my little guinea pigs.”

From the tilt of a dog’s head to the happy expression on its face, she loves to use acrylics on canvas or watercolors to capture the special qualities of people’s pets.

After all, Caroline named Boo Radley, who was living in a sewer in south Augusta when she found him, after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird for a reason.

“Boo Radley was very skittish. I named him that because he refused to go outside,” she says.

Clearly, Caroline, who got Dakota after she saw a Facebook picture of her tied to a telephone pole, has a knack for zeroing in on a pet’s personality.

“I am a huge animal lover. I get so excited when people allow me to paint their precious little keepsake,” she says.

When she does a commission, she asks her clients to give her as many photos as possible of their pet so she can capture its personality.

“I love to get an assortment of different pictures to get their character,” Caroline says. “I try to make my paintings as realistic as possible.”

Because she paints primarily on weekends in a dining-room-turned-art-studio in her home, it generally takes Caroline three to four weeks to finish a piece. Although she prefers painting with acrylics, clients can choose watercolor or acrylic for their portraits.

“With watercolor you’re more limited because it’s such a delicate process to balance out shades and colors. Watercolor requires a lot of layering to catch a pigment,” she says.

“With acrylics you have more freedom. I like the opaque finish of acrylics, and the pigment is more vibrant, especially on canvas. But I love both mediums.”

Caroline not only paints dogs, however. Some of her other works have included a painting of eight cats, a couple of pig portraits and a painting of a dog with two donkeys.

Bridal Party Pets

Art and painting have been an outlet for Caroline since she drew cartoons as a child. She picked up the hobby again as a stress reliever in 2019 when she started planning her wedding.

Once people saw the monogrammed crest she did for her own wedding invitations — featuring Boo and Dakota at the venue — she began to get requests.

Custom signs for specialty drinks named after a couple’s pets are another popular item for wedding receptions. For her wedding, she painted a “Boo’s Bar” and “Dakota Sour” sign in honor of her dogs.

For another bride who served margaritas at her reception, she painted a “Grangerita” sign that showcased her dog with a margarita.

In addition, Caroline paints 24-inch-by-18-inch alternative guest books on canvas that feature the bride and groom and their dogs.

“People who are huge animal lovers want their pets to be a part of their wedding day,” she says.

She also paints house portraits, venues, monogram canvas tiles and family portraits – with or without pets.

“This is such a fun outlet for me,” Caroline says. “I like to paint people and families, and I love to be creative.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Musical Delights and Frights


Augusta Symphony entertains with Broadway Tonight! and Halloween at the Symphony.

It will be show time for show tunes with the Augusta Symphony when it presents Broadway Tonight! in its first Pops! series performance of the season on Thursday, October 20 at Miller Theater.

Produced and directed by Broadway veteran Doug LaBrecque, the concert brings young talent from The Great White Way to join the orchestra in an evening that will feature classics as well as new hits. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $39 to $91.

As part of the Family Concerts at Columbia County, Halloween at the Symphony will offer a prelude to trick or treating for anyone who likes to celebrate the occasion with music – the spookier, the better. The entire family is invited to dress in costume and enjoy classical favorites as well as thematic film music.

Halloween at the Symphony will start at 4 p.m. Sunday, October 23 at Hardin Auditorium. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students. A student is anyone under 16, or anyone older than 16 with a valid student ID.

For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

Petscaping 101

Garden Scene

12 tips for designing pet-friendly yards for Fido and Fluffy.

1. Know which plants are poisonous to pets.
Many popular outdoor plants are harmful to pets. Poisonous plants include azaleas, rhododendrons, amaryllis and bulbs such as tulips, narcissus and iris. For an extensive list, visit aspca.org.

2. Landscape with flowers and plants that are pet friendly.
Dog friendly garden plants include roses, daylilies, marigolds, magnolias, ornamental grasses, junipers and lilacs. Cat friendly plants (yes, they like to eat their greens) include catnip, catmint (bees and other pollinators like these flowers, too) and cat grass.

3. Keep select garden veggies separately fenced.
Foods like onions, tomatoes, chives and garlic are fine for human consumption, but they are toxic to pets. Fence off your garden if growing these vegetables.

4. Create a lawn with a pet-proof grass.
Lawncare experts recommend a variety of grasses such as Bermudagrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fescue and zoysia for homes with dogs. All of these have thick roots, rapid growth rates and a tolerance for high traffic.

5. Give your cats some seclusion.
Cats enjoy a nice patch of grass for sunbathing, but they also like their privacy. Create nooks and crannies where they can hide by setting up a group of container plants or hollowing out spaces under existing plants where they can retreat from the world.

6. Consider a catio.
Think outdoor resort for your cat. These open-air, screened structures are often built on patios or around tree trunks and should include a cat bed, toys, climbing poles and varying levels where they can jump or lounge.

7. Design a landscape that includes shade and shelter.
If your dog spends a large part of the day outdoors, make sure it has access to shade, water and protection from the elements. If trees don’t create shady spots, create one with a pagoda, shade sail or doghouse.

8. Be sure water features are pet friendly.
An outdoor fountain or water feature can be a creative way to keep your pet hydrated. However, make sure the water circulates well to help prevent mosquitoes, and avoid water treatments that can harm pets. And remember: if pets can get in the water, they need to have a safe, easy way out, too.

9. Beware of food and garden waste, aka compost.
Although compost can enhance garden soil, some foods can create problems for pets. For instance, coffee, moldy food and certain fruits and vegetables, including some stems, leaves and seeds, are toxic to your pets.

10. Maintain your yard to keep fleas and ticks at bay.
Keeping your yard free from overgrowth, puddles and lawn debris helps to reduce the chance of fleas and ticks. Planting your garden with flea-repelling plants such as chamomile or lavender also is a natural way to help keep your pets safe from pests.

11. Play fetch with a toy bone instead of a stick.
When fetching a stick, your pooch accidentally could swallow part of the wood. Splinters can get stuck in its mouth and esophagus; larger fragments could cut the stomach lining and intestines or cause constipation. Play it safe with toys.

12. Avoid burning yard debris.
Burning trash releases chemicals that can lead to asthma and mouth burns, among other injuries, in humans and animals. Once the fire has been extinguished, the ash still contaminates the grass where your pets walk.