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Raising the Curtain


Coasting and moonwalking are center stage at the Jabez.

Nothing takes you back in time quite like a favorite song, and Augusta Amusements will kick off its 2019-20 season with tributes to two stars of yesteryear – the Coasters and Michael Jackson.

Cornell Gunter’s Coasters, appearing Friday, September 6, will take concertgoers on a nostalgic journey through the ’50s and ’60s. The rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll vocal group had a string of hits in the late 1950s, beginning with “Searchin” and “Young Blood.”

Other hits by the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers include “Yakkety Yak,” “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy.” Because their songs were imitated so frequently, the group became an integral part of the doo wop legacy through the 1960s.

Michael Firestone will present two performances in “I Am King, the Michael Jackson Experience.” The concerts are scheduled for Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28.

With his uncanny ability to sing and dance like Jackson, Firestone has become the most sought after MJ tribute artist in the world. He will perform renditions of some of the King of Pop’s greatest hits including “Bad,” “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Human Nature.”

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. Tickets, which cost $42.95 per concert, are available at augustaamusements.com or (706) 726-0366.

Planting Seeds of Inspiration


A fall garden tour will offer ideas to gardeners who want to turn their yards into peaceful sanctuaries.

Four homes in West Lake and two homes in the Cambridge section of Watervale will be the site of the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs’ fifth Peek-A-Boo Fall Garden Tour. This will be the first time that the bi-annual garden tour features homes exclusively in Columbia County.

The gardens on this year’s tour will include a wide range of horticultural interests, such as maple trees and unusual fruit trees; creative water features; a distinctive garden shed and a greenhouse built of vintage windows.

Tickets can be purchased online at eventbrite.com (Peek-A-Boo Fall Garden Tour) or at participating homes the day of the tour.

The tour benefits community education and beautification projects of the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs, which represents 17 active clubs with more than 500 members. ACGC has a rich history of service through projects such as Blue Star Marker, Gordon Highway Beautification, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and the Perennial Garden at Riverwalk Augusta.

Bill Lutin photo

If You Go:
What: Peek-A-Boo Fall Garden Tour

When: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday, October 4 and Saturday, October 5

Where: West Lake and Cambridge

How Much: $10

More Info: eventbrite.com

Now Hear This


Visitors to Sacred Heart Cultural Center have always been able to see beautiful works of art on display. Now they can hear about the city landmark as well with its new Sacred Heart Audio Tour.

The 30-minute tour details the history, architecture and significance of the building, and the personal stories of four people with special ties to the facility as a church and cultural center also are woven into the narrative.

The audio tour costs $5 per person and can be rented through the Sacred Heart Gift Shop.

BBB Clay Shoot


Bring your own gun (12-gauge or 20-gauge), along with ammo (100 shots per person) and protection for your eyes and ears to the Better Business Bureau clay shoot on September 27 at the Palmetto Shooting Complex in Edgefield.

Registration and breakfast begin at 9 a.m. and shooting begins at 10 a.m. A barbecue lunch and awards program will be held at 1 p.m.

To register, call (706) 210-7676 ext. 750 or email kchambliss@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.

The registration deadline is September 6.

That’s the Spirit


It’s good to have friends in lofty places.

After appearing in Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance, Augusta native Jamal Moore provided backup vocals for the pop star’s single, “Spirit,” which is part of The Lion King soundtrack.

From her album, The Lion King: The Gift that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart this summer, the single is available for download on all platforms.

The new live action version of The Lion King is a remake of the 1994 animated film.

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

Literary Loop

Lisbeth Salander — the fierce, unstoppable girl with the dragon tattoo — has disappeared. She’s sold her apartment in Stockholm. She’s gone silent electronically. She’s told no one where she is. And no one is aware that at long last she’s got her primal enemy, her twin sister, Camilla, squarely in her sights.

Mikael Blomkvist is trying to reach Lisbeth. He needs her help unraveling the identity of a man who lived and died on the streets in Stockholm — a man who does not exist in any official records and whose garbled last words hinted at possible damaging knowledge of people in the highest echelons of government and industry. In his pocket was a crumpled piece of paper with Blomkvist’s phone number on it.

Once again, Salander and Blomkvist will come to each other’s aid, moving in tandem toward the truths they each seek.

In the end, it will be Blomkvist — in a moment of unimaginable self-sacrifice — who will make it possible for Lisbeth to face the most important battle of her life, and, finally, to put her past to rest.

Walk Through Fire — Yola

Listen To This

“Majestic,” “vintage,” “spirit-country soul” barely scratch the surface when describing the sheer swagger of singer-songwriter Yola. Born and raised in a poverty-stricken, unsupportive, music-less home in the U.K., Yola’s heart blossomed and has now poured forth one of the most compelling and unique releases of the year.

Walk Through Fire is the appropriately titled debut album that, upon first blush, sounds like it could be her 30th release.

After scraping up enough dough, Yola made her way to the platinum streets of Nashville in 2016, where she was discovered by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Dan was so enamored and awe-struck by what he saw and heard that he assembled a team of musicians and crafted a recording space. The rest is legendary history.

An intimate, lush gathering of style and range, Walk Through Fire captures, reveals, articulates and defines the truest common thread that sews together rhythm and blues and vintage country swing.

The dust-covered and coffee-stained “It Ain’t Easier” is by far one of the most impactful examples of just how dynamic Yola’s range and emotional depth craft a sweet lather of perfection.

The album is a bonfire of delight, where experiential resonance waltzes with barefoot grit-soul. A perfect Indian Summer soundtrack that is best served with a sweaty glass of refreshment and a box fan.

– Chris Rucker

Counting Every Vote


The state has chosen Dominion Voting Systems to implement its new verified paper ballot system. Implementation of the new secure voting system will be in place and fully operational for the March 24 presidential primary.

Voters will still make their choices on a touchscreen machine, but instead of tapping a button that says “cast ballot,” they’ll click on a button that says “print your ballot.” The ballot will print out so voters can review it for accuracy before placing it in a scanner for tabulation. The paper ballots then will be locked in a ballot box for retrieval as needed for audits or recounts.

Nancy Gay, the Columbia County Board of Elections executive director, says the county has not received any additional information since the announcement was made about the new system. “It’s still all in the planning, rollout stages,” she says.

Some pilot counties will conduct their upcoming municipal elections with the new system, says Gay, but Columbia County will conduct the November municipal elections in Harlem and Grovetown under the old system. The next countywide election will be the March 24 presidential primary.

In addition to the new voting system, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and private cyber-security companies to provide network monitoring, cyber-hygiene scanning and cyber-security assessments. Many Georgia counties also have partnered with DHS to provide physical security assessments of their election offices.

Who’s Counting?

Garden Scene

Do you have 15 minutes to spend in your yard or a park? UGA Cooperative Extension agents are looking for volunteers to help count Georgia’s pollinators — butterflies, bees and other insects — during the Great Georgia Pollinator Census on August 23 and 24.

The census is designed for all ages to participate – individuals, families, garden clubs, schools, youth groups – and no experience is required.

During the census, volunteers are asked to watch a flowering plant for 15 minutes and count the pollinators that land on it. Identification guides and sheets to record findings are available online at ggapc.org.

As part of the census, Phinizy Swamp Nature Park (phinizycenter.org) also will hold a community pollinator count from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. Saturday, August 24.



Yabba Dabba Doo!


Augusta University will be one of only two public universities in Georgia to offer a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in animation.

Augusta University’s Department of Art and Design has a new draw. Starting this fall, the department will offer a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in animation.

The mastermind behind the program is A.B. Osborne, the new assistant professor of animation. “My goal was to find a place where I could build my own program in animation,” says Osborne, who has a master’s degree in animation from Savannah College of Art and Design. “That’s why it was really exciting to come here, especially with Georgia being such a hot market right now for both film and video games.”

However, he adds, it’s not just the production of films and video games that is thriving in Georgia.

“Cartoon Network is also here in Georgia, along with Bento Box Entertainment, which makes the show, Bob’s Burgers,” Osborne says, adding that Bento Box also animates the show, The Awesomes, which is written by comedians Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker.

“There are a lot of places where students from our animation program can go for careers after they graduate,” Osborne says. “I only see that getting better over the next few years.”

The only other public university in Georgia that has such a program is Kennesaw State University.

“Other public schools offer animation courses, but they don’t have this type of degree,” says Scott Thorp, the Department of Art and Design chairman. “Once the word gets out that we have it, I think it will be a magnet for us.”


The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

Literary Loop

Two sisters, one farm.

In New York Times-bestselling author J. Ryan Stradal’s latest novel, a family is split when the father leaves the shared inheritance entirely to his younger daughter, Helen. With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country and makes the company motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.”

Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, older sister Edith struggles to make ends meet. She can’t help wonder what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.

Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen’s is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home — if it’s not too late.

In this deeply affecting family saga, we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that’s often stacked against them. Resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we’re surprised, moved and delighted.

“Stradal’s writing is sharp and funny,” says Kirkus Review. “An absolutely delightful read, perfect for a summer day with a good beer and a piece of pie.”

Let It Glow


When the sun goes low, that runner’s high can kick in for participants of the Fort Gordon Glow Run. Designed for people of all ages and athletic abilities, the event will light up the night at Barton Field in a 5k Fun Run and 3k Fun Run/Walk event.

Runners and walkers are invited to participate in Fort Gordon’s only nighttime run of the year, an evening filled with glow sticks, black lights and music. Arrive early for the pre-party that includes live entertainment, face painting, Glow Zumba and more.

The 5k run begins at 8:30 p.m. and the 3k run/walk begins at 8:35. The events are not timed, and medals will be presented to all finishers at the end.

To register, visit fortgordonrunseries.com. Registration closes August 17.

Fight Cancer with Your Fork


You are what you eat. Just ask the registered dietitians at Georgia Cancer Center. The dieticians recently collaborated with local farms Clyde’s Fresh Produce and Adderson’s Fresh Produce to hold a farmer’s market for cancer patients this summer as part of the “Fight Cancer with Your Fork” series.

Cancer patients and Georgia Cancer Center employees will be able to sample dishes prepared from food grown at these local farms, as well as purchase the produce for use in their homes.

There will also be educational information available showing how a person’s diet can influence their risk of developing cancer.

The August market will be held noon – 3 p.m. Thursday, August 22.

Let’s Rock — The Black Keys

Listen To This

After pressing the pause button for five years, The Black Keys return with a simple truth: rock ‘n’ roll will never die.

The duo’s ninth studio release, Let’s Rock, comes off the heels of a much-needed hiatus that proves stripped down analog-blues is an essential and blended spool of shred-thread in the musical tapestry of popular culture music.

When The Black Keys hit the scene in the early 2000s, most naysayers tossed them in a bin of midwestern 70’s throwback rip-offs, but — make no mistake — these guys mean business, and they certainly take care of it.

As if anyone who can respect good-time rock ‘n’ roll needed proof, Let’s Rock is an invitation to taste the puddin’. A good bit of polish has been added since the old tire factory recordings, allowing an intentional and layered lush-scape of crunch and hum with authentic power riffs and soaring hooks.

From the opening track, “Shine A Little Light,” to the train track clacking “Fire Walk with Me,” this album is a hungry-man sized portion of pure American swagger. To Bob Seger I say, today’s music has indeed got the same soul. You’ll surely break a sweat listening to this record as we enjoy these dog days of summer.

– Chris Rucker

Flexing Her Muscles


Photos courtesy of Judy Jordan

Lincolnton resident Judy Jordan always led an active lifestyle. She owned a photography studio, raced sailboats and taught ballroom dancing. She also did interval training, shag dancing and Zumba. 

Then multiple orthopedic surgeries including three cervical, two knee, lower back and hip replacement operations piled up through the years. The surgeries – along with a colon cancer diagnosis in 2012 – left her in a state of depression and inactivity.

“For six years I didn’t do anything,” says Judy. “During the time I had cancer, I stopped exercising completely.” 

Her boyfriend tried to help her climb out of her funk by coaxing her to serve as a crew member on his boat during an Augusta Sailing Club race on Labor Day 2017. The experience turned out to be quite the wakeup call – but not the one she expected. She fell on deck, broke several ribs and landed in a rehab facility. “My doctor said I needed to get in better shape,” she says. “I started out slowly, and then my doctor said I needed to get a personal trainer.” 

Making Changes
Heeding her physician’s advice, Judy joined a gym in November 2017 and started doing cardio and weight training. She then decided she needed a little bit of internal motivation as well, so Judy, who turns 73 in July, took up bodybuilding.

At the urging of a friend, she entered her first bodybuilding competition, the Augusta Grand Prix Bodybuilding Championship, in August 2018 and placed fifth in the Masters Figure division.

“People think when they get injuries, they won’t be able to do anything again. And that’s not true. Life isn’t over because you’ve been dealt some bad things along the way,” says Judy. “Part of my journey is encouraging other people. They can change, but I just had to have that bigger goal to keep me on track.”

Judy started working with a personal trainer and nutrition coach in October 2018.

“My body has changed 100 percent. I started out at 146 pounds, and now I weigh 110 pounds,” she says. “My body is better now than it was when I was 20 years old. I have no pain in my joints, and I only take one medication.” Judy typically works out in the after-noons after she leaves her job as a special education paraprofessional at Greenbrier High School. Her work has been a large part of her healing process as well.

She had closed her photography studio when she underwent chemotherapy and radiation, but Judy found that during her recovery, she “couldn’t stand staying at home. It was depressing.” She started substitute teaching to get out of the house, and that led to her parapro position.

“I enjoy having something to do. Every day is not perfect, but there’s so much love. To see the students every day and what they’re dealing with – and still be happy and joyous – I realize I have no reason to complain,” says Judy. “Every day is a joy to get up and go to work with these kids. I need them just as much as they need me.”

Bodybuilding fulfills her need to fuel her competitive fire as well. Judy competes as part of a seven-member bodybuilding team. Her teammates range in age from their 30s to their 50s, and they often get together to practice their competition posing.

“Posing is a big part of how you score. As a team, we encourage each other, and we compete against each other,” says Judy. “It’s about encouraging each other no matter where you place.”

Gaining Confidence
In addition to the Augusta Grand Prix, she has competed in two more International Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation competitions – the Pro-Am Iron Eagle in Savannah in March and the South Carolina Bodybuilding Championship in Sumter, South Carolina in April.

She placed third in the Fit Body division in Savannah, and in Sumter she placed first in Masters Fit Body and second in Masters Figure. The Masters level is for competitors ages 45 and older.

Figure is a class of physique competition judged equally on symmetry, tone and beauty/stage presence, which includes the model walk, in three rounds. Judges are look-ing for women who have fit, toned physiques but are not necessarily proficient in gymnastics or another performance art.

In the Fit Body division, judges are look-ing for a more athletic physique without the muscle mass – think overly ripped or vascular shoulders or arms – of the Body-building division. Scoring is based on two rounds – symmetry, which is judged on balanced proportions where no one body part overpowers the rest of the physique, and muscle tone, which focuses on the overall conditioning of the body. “There’s a lot of pride to get up on stage at my age. Bodybuilding has made me feel more confident in myself, and I like the challenge,” says Judy. “I feel physically and mentally better. I have made a lot of friends. I enjoy the physical aspect of it and the support and friendships I’ve made.” 

Among the competitors, she has met doctors, lawyers, teachers, young mothers and other great-grandmothers like herself.

The spray-tanned bodybuilders wear custom-made, two-piece figure suits, which can be adorned with added effects such as rhinestones, sparkles and sequins, and high-heeled shoes. Jewelry is permitted as well.

“I never thought I would wear a bikini again,” Judy says. At the Sumter contest, she also bested about 100 competitors to win the Motivation Award.

“We had to write something about our motivation and what got us into bodybuilding,” she says. In her essay, she wrote, “This journey has taught me discipline and that hard work can improve anyone’s health at any age. So many times in life it is easier to take the path of least resistance. I plan to live my life as a healthy happy productive senior citizen sharing my journey with others of all ages.” Currently, she is in training for her next competition – a return to the Augusta Grand Prix Bodybuilding Championship in August. She normally does cardio for 25 minutes three times a week. At the end of July, how-ever, she will ramp up her cardio to 50 minutes five days a week to get leaner and to help her muscles show. “Competition isn’t for everybody, but anybody can get healthy and lose weight and get in that gym,” says Judy. “It takes a little dedication and determination, but it can change your whole life.” 

By Leigh Howard